Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Deadheading Bulb Flowers

The last several days I’ve been deadheading daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.

As the flowers fade I snip the stalk. I don’t want seeds to develop. You can see the seed head beginning to form on the daffodil as a bulge behind the flower. Ripe seeds could grow into a new daffodil. But, it takes 5 to 7 years to bloom – if you do everything right. Much better to buy bulbs or divide existing clumps.


Making seed saps the bulb's energy. I want the energy to go into the bulb so it can produce blooms next year. The leaves remain to nourish the bulbs. One year I folded and rubber banded all the leaves. Not only was it time consuming but I think it looked worse than yellowing leaves. I’m also not sure how much nourishment the bulbs got from those little knots. I don’t think anyone recommends that method today.

I planted perennials near some bulbs to camouflage the fading leaves. Lilies, asters, cone flowers, black-eyed susans, hosta and daylilies do a good job hiding the fading bulb foliage. Sometimes I plant annuals in front of the clump. I add a little bone meal or Bulb Tone.

I snip the cuttings into two to four inch pieces and compost them. They make colorful compost, don’t they?

(More information on growing bulbs from Ohio State University Extension, Purdue University Extension “Flowering Bulbs” .)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

PJM Rhododendron

PJM Rhododendrons are blooming all over town.

Named after Peter J. Mezitt, founder of Weston Nurseries, Massachusetts, this shrub has become wildly popular. And with good reason. It is easy to grow, winter hardy, the dark green foliage turns plum colored in fall and the spring blooms are a marvelous magenta.

I planted a small bush in 2002 in part shade. Now it is at least 6 feet tall and about 4 or 5 feet wide. It has never had any disease or insect problems. I sprinkle Holly Tone fertilizer around its roots after it blooms and lightly hoe it in. The bloom is a show stopper every spring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dividing Perennials

I divide perennials and pot volunteers in spring. It’s a spring ritual that is a little time consuming but very gratifying.

The following list of potted plants contains - plants that have spread too far:

- 4 ‘Sheffield Pink’ mum
- 3 'Clara Curtis' mum
- 1 Lily of the valley
- 10 black-eyed Susan
- 6 purple cone flower
- 1 tiger lily
- 3 rhubarb
- 4 periwinkle

plants that have produced too many seedlings:

- 5 Lenten Rose
- 5 Johnny Jump-ups

and a plant in the wrong place (too much sun):

- 2 large hosta

The plants that have spread too far were dug out from the edges of the main plant and potted. The seedlings were dug up and potted. The large hosta was completely dug out and chopped in quarters with a hatchet. Two pieces were planted in the shade in my garden. Two were potted.

I put the plants in pots with extra soil. I water them well – I mean really soak them until water runs out of the pot. I want to make sure the soil gets around the roots. I started dividing at the beginning of April. By now they all look good and are ready to be planted.

Except for the two hostas that I planted in my shade garden, all the plants are promised to other gardeners. I love being able to share plants with friends.

(More information on “Dividing Perennials” from Clemson University Extension.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Can you guess what I’ve been up to?

I like to spread all the mulch by the end of March. It’s not that March is a better time for the garden. It is a better time for this gardener.

The spring load of mulch arrived just this week. Perennials and bulbs are growing everywhere now. It takes more time to spread mulch carefully so plants are not smothered.

By the middle of April, I always feel rushed. This year I have vegetable area to turn over, edging to re-do, cool weather veggies to plant, soil to mix for pots, seedlings and cuttings to tend, supplies and annuals to buy, rocks and stones to move so we can re-build the bubbler fountain, several more perennials to divide and weeds to pull. Every gardener I know is in high gear right now.

This weekend I’ll be working at local public gardens. Rain is forecast for early next week. April is slipping away too fast.
("Mulching for a Healthy Landscape" from Virginia Cooperative Extension.)

BUT, it’s great to be outside working in the garden again. I’m trying to enjoy the spring garden between chores. If your eyes haven’t glazed over from all the great shots of April flowers linked to Carol's Bloom Day post, here are a few more from my garden.
Hyacinths and Brunnera.

Red tulips by the front steps.

White and purple hyacinths.


PJM rhododendron

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day – April 2009

I’ve been posting pictures of flowers blooming in my garden lately. Here’s one that I haven’t posted.

Daphnie x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’

I ordered the shrub from Bluestone Perennials. It arrived in a 4-inch pot holding the promise of heavenly scent. There was a slight aroma from the few blooms. (Do all gardeners go batty over the arrival of a new plant?)
I saw, or should I say smelled, one in a friend's garden last spring. According to Bluestone’s plant description, “Garland flowers are prized for their early spring bloom of exquisitely fragrant palest pink flowers in profusion.” It was an immediate addition to my “must have list”.

I did internet searches and found that this shrub sometimes succumbs to Sudden Daphne Death Syndrome. It also requires well drained soil. It may become infested with aphids, mealybugs, scale or fungal disease.

I bought it anyway. I can’t wait to plant it in the scented garden. The aroma is enough to make me try it more than once.

GBBD thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden. Have a look at what is happening in other gardens around the country and around the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Spring bulbs are blooming.


Happy Easter everyone.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose Helleborus orientalis ‘Royal Heritage’
In 2002, I planted two Helleborus orientalis ‘Royal Heritage’. I tried to pick a spot in the garden so I wouldn’t have to move them. I was more careful than usual selecting a place in the garden because I read that they are slow to recover when moved.

I chose a mostly shaded spot next to a garden path. The evergreen leaves show up well near the path during the brown winter months. The area is well drained and the soil is probably average. A little gardening luck and they have been happy there.

There is a difference in color between the two ‘Royal Heritage’ plants. One is a light pinkey/lilac the other is a darker purple. I’ve read that this color variation is not unusual. So if you plan to buy one it may be good idea to buy a plant in bloom.

The plants are not hard to care for. I haven’t watered or fed them since the first year.
I cut off last year’s leaves on February 23. I could see buds forming. The plants were full of buds by the beginning of March and in full bloom by the end of March. Flowers will last at least into May. This year I’ve potted some re-seeded plants for friends.

I’m delighted that I really got the right plant in the right place this time.
(More information from Cornell University.)

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Marvelous spring weather between rainy days, gave me a chance to spread compost this week.

I have a small compost bin and a pile of shredded leaves.

I removed the top layer of un-composted material from the bin. Then I shoveled the beautiful black gold into a wheelbarrow and spread it around the lilac/shade garden and pussy willow/sun garden.

When the spreading was done, I put the top layer of un-composted material back in the compost bin to start another pile. I’ll add kitchen scraps, garden waste, and coffee grounds throughout the summer. Last fall’s shredded leaves will be added when I need “brown” material. I’ll turn it with a pitch fork from time to time. I’ll add water when it looks dry.

Five wheelbarrows of compost didn’t go far. I’ll spread mulch next week. I put mulch and compost on the garden every year. The mulch also decomposes and improves the soil making it dark and loamy. I have reduced the need for fertilizer.

The plants are happy. The gardener is happy.

(Planet Natural’s “Composting 101” contains a lot of information on composting. This site also has organic supplies for sale. I have never ordered from them. If you have placed an order with Planet Natural, please comment and share your experience. )

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Cottage Garden

Cottage gardens are full of plants with a look of unplanned chaos. They give off an aura of natural profusion. The simple lack of design is deceptive.

Masses of color, plants tightly packed, season-long succession of blooms, plant height and light requirements, create a puzzle whose parts need to be carefully orchestrated. I love the challenge.

I have perennials next to evergreens, next to annuals, next to shrubs, next to vegetables. Some years the effect is better than others. Each year is different.

Two years ago part of the garden included cleome, liatris, coneflower, ornamental grass, coleus, holly, salvia, zinnia, canna, mums, pussy willow, hosta, dianthus, bleeding heart, dogwood, lilies, calendula, baby’s breath, hydrangea, snow-on-the-mountain, coral bells and a tomato.

Last year marigolds, asparagus and a profusion of snapdragons were added to the mix.

As the re-seeding annuals pop through the soil this year the work will begin. All the plants that come up in the paths will have to be moved or pulled. In order to get groupings of similar plants together, plants in the wrong place will have to be moved to a central location. Too many seedlings of a single plant will have to be potted and given away or composted. Empty spaces will have to be filled.

I plan to remove the ornamental grass and add sweet peppers, wax beans, parsley, radishes to the mix this year.

It’s an exciting gardening journey.
(More information on cottage garden design from Doug Green at Simple Gifts Farm.)