A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Speak the language of flowers this Valentines Day

Thinking of getting the one you love flowers this Valentines day? If red roses just aren’t your thing, consider making a bouquet with flowers and herbs that have as much meaning as red roses, but say a whole lot more.  Roses come in a wide range of colors and we all know that red symbolizes love and passion, but did you know that lavender roses mean love at first sight? Here are a few alternative rose colors and their meaning.

Pink: Admiration, Appreciation, Grace and Gentleness.

Yellow: Joy, Friendship and Falling in love

Orange: Desire and Enthusiasm

Roses are not the only meaningful blossoms. Check out some these popular blooms, potted plants and herbs to add to your Valentines bouquet.

Aloe: Affection and Healing

Basil: Good Wishes

Calla Lily: Beauty

Chrysanthemum: Happiness

Daisy: Hope and Innocence

Delphinium: Saintly

Fern: Sincerity

Hydrangea: Understanding

Lavender: Devotion

Lily: Purity and Beauty

Orchid: Love and Beauty

Queen Ann’s Lace: Protection

Tulip, Red: Declaration of love

Violets: Loyalty and Virtue

Yarrow: Everlasting love

Design tips for the perfect floral arrangement:

When choosing flowers, always select healthy, fresh stems.  Avoid any flowers with browning edges or limp stems.

Once you bring your flowers home, place in water. Recut a 1/4″ to an 1″ to reopen the stems to take up water.   You will cut more depending on your arrangement size and remove any lower leaves on the stems. Use warm water in container and add a floral preservative.

Choose a color palette of no more than three colors in varying shades and tones.  Depending upon the size of the arrangement.  Too many colors can look too busy.

Choose flowers with a variety of shapes  to mix together.  Large round heads, and smaller clusters of flowers, mixed with tall spiked blooms will give your design good depth and dimension.    

Select container, whether it is a vase or a bowl shape you want to design the arrangement no larger than one and a half sizes taller than the container.

Add filler for extra dimension.  Having an arrangement filled with luscious blooms is just not enough.  Add a little greenery, like Baker fern, Pittosporum foliage, and even Eucalyptus seed heads in between flowers.  Add some drape around the base of the  arrangement.

Change water daily and keep arrangement out of the direct sunlight in a cool environment.  This will keep your bouquet fresher longer.

 

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Planting and Caring For Amaryllis

Well, I did it again…I forgot to plant to plant a few Paperwhites and Amaryllis bulbs I purchased a few months ago.  It never fails I always buy a bunch of Paperwhites and Amaryllis with the intent of planting them all winter long so I can have a little springtime indoors.  If you are like me and this has happens to you, you may be wondering if the bulbs are still viable.  If the bulbs are over a year old and haven’t been stored properly chances are they may not be.  Bulbs stored in a paper bag with peat moss or wood shavings should stay dry in a cool dark environment.

Here are a few easy tips on planting Amaryllis and Paperwhites bulbs…

They are big beautiful bulbs and extremely easy to grow. Cultivars are available in a wide range of colors, various shades red and white, even deep pinks and salmon, they have large multiple single blooms on one stalk or they are available in double flowered varieties as well.  Paperwhites have beautiful clusters of white star shaped flowers that are extremely fragrant.  One of my favorite varieties is ‘Ziva’, they have large flower umbels and sturdy stems.

When choosing Amaryllis bulbs make sure the bulb has a large circumference, that will give you the largest showy blooms. All bulbs should be firm to the touch and not spongey. You also want to make sure the bulb has no greenish or soft powdery looking spots, that indicates bulb is moldy.

You generally don’t need a large pot to plant Amaryllis bulbs.  A 6”-8” pot is sufficient, I like using terra-cotta. It’s simple natural look doesn’t compete with the beautiful flowers.  They also look great in glassware.  I have a ton of glass jars that I use for terrariums always at the ready.  Both Amaryllis are Paperwhites are so easy to grow in soil and decorative stones.

When planting the bulbs always use fresh potting mix, place a little soil in the pot, covering the bottom place your bulb inside and fill in around the bulb with soil to about there.  Leave the upper portion or neck of the bulb exposed.

Place in a warm sunny window, once they start to push some growth lightly water. Once they are actively growing let plants dry between waterings.  In 7-8 weeks you’ll enjoy these beautiful long blooming flowers. Plant now and throughout the winter months. Be careful not to over water your bulbs, this is a common mistake.  Overwatering can soften the bulbs and promotes mold growth.

Here are a few easy tips for Amaryllis care post blooming…

So your Amaryllis bulbs have stopped blooming, what do you do now.  It is possible to keep the bulbs and force them to flower the next year.

Cut off flower and the stalk, leaving 1-2″ above the bulb, keep foliage.  The leaves providing essential nutrients that are stored in the bulb for the next years growth cycle.  Keep in a sunny location and continue to water when soil is dry. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a water soluble houseplant food.

In mid may put plant outside in a shaded location, and don’t repot.  Bring indoors at the end of summer.  By then leaves will turn yellow. Cut back to the crown of the bulb.  Now it’s time to give your plant a rest, let it go dormant for 6-8 weeks.  Place plant in a cool place…55 degrees is ideal, in a low lit room and don’t water.

In November repot and place plant in a warm sunny window and water regularly, be careful not to overwater until leaves appear.  Buds and blooms are soon to follow in time for the holidays

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Feeding Birds In The Fall

Watching birds in the garden in summertime is one of my favorite pastimes, now that fall is here some birds plan their migration to warmer climates and some even make stopovers from far northern regions to the south. So what should we do to accommodate our feathered friends that are passing through along with the native residents as we prepare for winter?

Make sure to clean out feeders from the spring and summer. Make any repairs if needed. Tighten any loose screws or replace hooks. Don’t forget to clean out any grime and old food.

Keep a steady supply of food In the feeders. For the many birds that remain in the region they are preparing for winter. That means they need foods higher in protein and fat. Seed mixes that include hulled peanuts, nyjer, white millet and black oiled sunflower seed are ideal for a wide variety of birds.  Suet cakes are another great food source.  They have a higher in fat content and calorie count than seed. During the winter months birds tend to burn more calories staying warm. According to the national wildlife association ” Suet is considered a high energy food because it consists of fat that has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein.”

In addition to using feeders birds can feed naturally in the garden. During the fall birds don’t need to rely on feeders as their primary food source. They feed on the natural resources like berries, fruits and seeds. My garden is a flutter of bird activity this time of year with a variety of Sparrows, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Finches, just to name a few. They are enjoying a bountiful garden. Plants like Viburnum, American Beautyberry, and Winterberry Holly are filled with berries now. Ornamental grasses are another great food source for their seed heads.  The Finches love to feed on the seed heads from the Echinacea, Lavender and Rudbeckia plants in the garden. One thing I have noticed through the years is that my Bridal Wreath Spirea seems to be a popular source for a variety of Sparrows. They flock to it all season long. It may be the seeds they are feeding on or the shelter it provides.

Providing shelter for birds is equally important as feeding.  Keep feeders in a sheltered location away from potential predators. According to the Humane Society Of The United States, “Place feeders twelve feet from a brush pile, evergreen tree, or bush. Birds can quickly fly twelve feet to reach the safe cover, yet predators cannot use it to hide within striking range of the feeder. ” You can also pile leaves around the base of the tree to provide shelter on the ground as well.

Water is essential for birds. We have experienced a very dry summer in Pennsylvania that has turned into a very dry fall. Keep birdbaths filled with clean water. As the winter and freezing temperatures approach make sure water doesn’t freeze over. Use a birdbath de-icer or heater to prevent water from freezing.

Have your binoculars ready! Fall is a great time for backyard bird watching. You may be surprised with the different species of birds that are migrating through your yard from the north to south this time of year.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN, VIDEO

Garden Minute: Overwintering Tropical Plants

tropical

As a horticulturist and grower I love to collect many types of plants, especially during the summer. Once the threat of frost or hard freeze approaches during the month of October I am always sad to see the end of the growing season. Now is the time to take inventory of my tropical plant collection, since I don’t have a greenhouse, or a sunroom, and prepare the indoors for the many plants that are going to spend the wintertime indoors.

Follow the Sun, and take note of where the sun plays upon the rooms in your home. Most tropicals prefer warm, bright surroundings, but some can do well in moderate indirect and even low light, depending on the variety of plant.  Temperatures in the 60 -70 degree range during the day are ideal.  Temperatures above 80 degrees can cause poor air circulation, which can lead to insect problems down the road.

hibiscusTry and be selective when deciding what plants you want to over winter. Take serious inventory of your potted tropicals and bring in only what you have room for.  If you want to overwinter a flowering tropical such as hibiscus decide you have enough light for the plant to continue actively growing and flowering during the winter.  If not, consider cutting the plant back approximately 1/3 and let it go dormant. Do the same for tropical vines, Dipladenia and Mandevilla vines.  If you are considering bringing in annuals, like geraniums, lantana, or coleus, find the sunniest location and modestly cut back, and or take cuttings from them. Tropical foliage plants such as Boston Ferns, Peace Lily and varieties of Palm are great to over winter, because they enhance the beauty aa well as the air quality in your home.  Succulents aside from being a strong trend in home design are the easiest to maintain and can adapt to, not only bright indirect light, but moderate light as well and require little care and water.

IMG_0085Transplant any plants that have outgrown their pots over the summer.  Select a container with proper drainage holes and a slightly larger diameter than the pot the plant is currently in. Keep plants away from any forced hot air, like heating vents and any severely drafty windows.  You also want to increase humidity in your home.  Don’t worry it sound a lot more complicated than it actually is.  Simple take a saucer filled with crushed stones and keep the stones moist. Another trick I use often is grouping my plants together if space allows.

Allow plants to dry thoroughly between each watering, this helps to minimize fungus gnat problems that may arise from the soil.  Be sure to hose down the plants with water and an insecticidal soap before you bring them indoors. You want to be sure to clean off insects that may be hiding out on your plants.  Add a granular systemic insect control to the soil every 4-6 weeks to ensure your plants stay insect free and healthy.

Overwintering tropicals can be a fun project for the winter months.  It will keep your hands in the soil and your passion for gardening all year long.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Fall Into Your Garden And Plant This Season: My Top 3 Things You Must Do This Fall

IMG_20801) Refresh your garden this fall and plant cool season veggies, these include a wide assortment of lettuce and cole crops. Cole crops are vegetables in the brassica family, such as broccoli, kohlrabi, mustard greens, kale, just to name a few. These crops have the shortest growing season and tolerate a light frost from time to time. They can be planted now and ready for harvest beginning in October through November, even the early part of December.

Below are some of my favorite cool season veggies to grow right now! General rule of thumb is; If you like and you eat it, then grow It!
Arugula
Broccoli
Cabbage
Spinach

2) Create a festive harvest arrangement. Cool season annuals, like ornamental cabbage, mums and fall pansies are a great way to add fresh color to tired container gardens. For a bit of height and drama add an ornamental grass, or wild branches. Complete the arrangement with a few mini pumpkins and gourds strategically placed in the container garden. These few techniques will take your container garden from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

3) Add shrubs to give your garden winter interest. Too often the garden is forgotten in the winter and void of color. Adding these three shrubs you can bring your garden to life this winter season. Ilex verticillata Winterberry Holly, is a deciduous holly covered with red berries. Grows 15 ft tall. Zones 3-9

Hammamalis sp. Witch hazel is another deciduous shrub that blooms late winter to early spring. Its delicate threadlike petals range in color from yellow, red to copper orange. Grows 15 -20 ft. Zones 3-9

Hardy Camellia is an evergreen shrub that blooms in late winter, early spring. Its rose like flowers range in color from pale pinks to fuchsia. Grows 10 ft tall. Zones 6b-9

Fall is a great time to get outdoors before the winter chill hits. I hope some of these ideas inspire you to do so.

 

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

April Gardening To Do List

bicolor tulipsApril showers will bring May flowers, but don’t let that stop you from getting out to the garden.

What you need to do this month in your garden.

1) Divide and transplant perennials, like iris, daylilies, shasta daisies and phlox.

2) Fertilize Trees and shrubs.

3) Prepare garden beds for spring planting.  Add compost and begin planting spinach, potatoes, onion sets and other cole crops.

4) Cover and protect tender plantings from frost and freeze with row covers.  

5) Begin in late April to harden off
your vegetable seedlings http://gardensonthego.com/hardening-off-seeds/  to prepare for planting outdoors.

6) Begin feeding and apply a systemic fungicide for roses to control blackspot when roses begin to show leaf growth.

7) Plant pansies and spring container gardens.http://gardensonthego.com/spring-into-gardening-with-containers-2/

8) Prune nonflowering shrubs and lightly shear evergreens.

9) Clean up perennial beds, cut down dead stalks and cut back ornamental grasses before they push growth.

10) Cut back butterfly bush.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Growing Micro Greens

Micro Greens are a mix of sprouts from a variety of greens  and herbs that range in flavor from sweet to spicy.  Researchers have found that micro greens have 40% more nutrients than fully developed greens.  These nutrient rich greens are extremely easy to grow and can grown indoors all year long.  They make a great addition to any sandwich, soup or salad.microgreens1

I planted some micro greens a few weeks ago and decided to use plastic take out containers that have a lid.  I liked this method because I get to reuse a recyclable material.  The lid on the container is an added bonus as well cause it creates a mini greenhouse.  Last year when I  originally posted this blog I used regular terra-cotta pot, it works just as well.

Fill the container with seed starting mix. I prefer a bagged Organic potting mix formulated especially for seeds,  Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix.

Pre- moisten the soil.  I always find it easier to have the soil moist rather than dry.  When seeds are sown in dry soil and you water seeds can float to the surface.  Directly sow seeds in the soil in rows.  Cover seeds with soil.  Be careful not to over water, this may cause damping off, a fungal disease causing seedlings to break down after germination.  Only water when soil is thoroughly dry.

Close container to create a greenhouse like habitat.  If too much condensation builds vent or open lid during the day.

Seedlings stretching toward the light
Seedlings stretching toward the light

Place in south facing window…If you need more light I would highly recommend adding an artificial light source   I also recommend turning your seed trays to avoid phototropism.  

Harvest greens in 2-3 weeks.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Forcing Bulbs Indoors

DSC_9471Spring can’t come fast enough for myself and my friends who love to garden. Forcing bulbs indoors during the winter is the perfect excuse to get our hands dirty and do some gardening. Here are a few things to remember if you are planning to force flowering bulbs.

Fooling mother nature is not as hard as you think. To force spring bulbs in January and February you have to plan in the autumn. If you have purchased already bulbs you may notice that the package is labeled “prechilled”. if they are not chill bulbs for approximately 10-15 weeks at 35-45 degrees depending on the type of bulbs. Place bulbs in a cold dry place, like an unheated basement or even a refrigerator. Once they are planted blooming occurs in 10-12 weeks. Amaryllis and paperwhites don’t need to be prechilled, they prefer cooler temps to set roots and flower in 6-8 weeks.

1. Plan ahead. Purchase bulbs in fall from a local nursery or garden center. Look for bulbs that are “prechilled” to save yourself some time.

2. Planting. When bulbs are ready to plant use an all-purpose potting mix and a pot that is twice as wide as it is deep with drainage hole. Fill pot half way with soil. Place bulbs in pot. The number of bulbs you plant is determined by the width of the pot. Leave space between each bulb to allow room for growth. Lightly cover top of bulbs with potting soil leaving the tips of the bulbs above the soil. Water in bulbs.

3. Re-locate once bulbs have been chilled and begin to show green tips place in a warm sunny location.

4. Check watering occasionally keeping in mind that bulbs do not like heavy wet soil. Make sure soil dries between waterings.

DSC_9455Growing bulbs in water.

If you are planting in water add stones to help stabilize the bulbs when they set roots. If you are using a bulb forcing jar you don’t need stones. Leave the neck of the bulb above water,.

Remember when forcing bulbs to schedule the time you want the bulbs to bloom. For January bloom time be sure to chill bulbs in September. For February and March bloom time chill bulbs in October and early November.