Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A caller asked about a poinsettia she bought that had droopy leaves that watering didn’t correct. If you have a poinsettia with droopy leaves water it thoroughly but if it doesn’t recover within a few hours, then you have some other problems. Often poinsettias bought from a chain store have been subjected to several stressors. They may have been sleeved in plastic, subjected to long warehousing and transportation times in the sleeve, or have been stored in colder than optimal temperatures. The natural reaction by the plant in trying to survive is too droop its leaves and curl them in. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes not. Setting them in a sunny window so that the soil and their roots warm up sometimes helps. Don’t set them over a heating duct but do keep an eye on them since exposure to sun will cause them to take up lots of water and they may need another drink sooner than usual. We had that situation here in our greenhouses yesterday. After how many days of cloudy weather, the sun came out and really warmed up our greenhouses. Everyone was on water patrol to make sure all the plants got a drink!
Remember that poinsettias do best in cooler temperatures and, being desert plants, don't like to be watered frequently. A quick test for watering is to just pick up the pot and feel how light the pot feels. If it feels heavy it doesn't need to be watered. People ask us all the time how often to water but there is no easy answer. If it is sunny out and the plant is actively growing, it will take up water much faster than if it overcast or cloudy.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
After the plant has bloomed, give the plant a rest by placing it in a cool room with limited watering. After a month, repot if necessary ( they do like to be slightly root bound). If you need to pinch it back, do it in March or April when the new growth begins.
Friday, December 14, 2007
This is another great winter plant, not only because it blooms in the winter but the blooms are numerous. It can be a little fussy and most of the information I have been able to gather indicates that most people just pitch the plant after it has finished blooming.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
There are several reasons the bulb may not rebloom the second year including not enough dormant time, or leaves were removed before the plant stored enough energy over the summer. In this case make sure to let the plant get enough sun and fertilizer during the actively growing months to let it store enough energy to bloom. When you do need to repot, you may notice little bulblets. You can plant these and follow the above directions, but amaryllis bulbs take several years to get big enough to bloom, but it will be worth it!
Friday, November 30, 2007
Here are some other interesting facts about poinsettias compiled by the University of Illinois:
The Paul Ecke Ranch grows 80 percent of the poinsettias grown for the wholesale market. The poinsettias that Countyside grows come from several different sources. We get them as cuttings and start planting them around July 4th!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Your summer annuals are history and the fall containers are looking a little sad. What next for the container at your front door or the window boxes? Why, evergreens and berries for a delightful winter display.
If you’ve been to downtown Crystal Lake, you may have noticed the new hanging baskets on the decorative street lamps. Kim Hartman of the greenhouse staff designed those containers and has a few tips for you to make your home as attractive this winter. I spent some time in the "Elf House" with Kim this week and watched the staff at work.
Friday, November 16, 2007
In a somewhat interesting side note to tropical plants, especially the pond plants: The hardy lotus and the arrowhead that I have in my pond entered their dormant phases starting in September while my tropical plants showed no effects of the early frost we had in September or the cooler temperatures since then. When I had tropical lilies, they continued to bloom well into October. I have to admit they are awkward to overwinter and do take up a lot of room in the house, but I think they are totally worth it.
Often when you change the environment for any plant, cooler temps for warmer, less humid indoor temps or brighter light conditions for less bright, the plant undergoes some amount of stress. The first reaction to this stress is loss of leaves. After the plant readjusts to its new environment it will put out new leaves that are acclimated to its new surroundings.
One thing that you need to watch for when bringing in plants is insects and/or insect eggs. For hibiscus plants we recommend that you strip the plant of its leaves before bringing it indoors so that you leave any eggs outside. Keep an eye out for aphids, white fly, scale, mealy bug, mites and thrips. These are chewing insects that can be controlled using systemics or insecticidal soaps. Systemic insecticides come in either granular or liquid forms and are applied to the soil. The plant’s roots take up the insecticide and move it up to the stems and leaves. When the insect takes a bite of the leaf it ingests the chemical and dies. Insecticidal soaps are topical and are not harmful to pets. Ann Larson in the greenhouse also recommends using the True Value cleaner that we sell. This is applied topically with a paper towel or rag. After killing the adult insects, any eggs that they laid will hatch in two weeks, so you need to make several applications.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I hope we all have been enjoying this gorgeous weather, because as we all know it won’t last forever. I have a PJM rhododendron growing near the Endless Summer hydrangeas that croaked earlier this summer and the yews that formerly grew nearby. Rhododendrons and azaleas are broadleaf evergreens that require a little TLC in our climate. A bit more on that later.
Rhododendrons, azaleas, and boxwood fall into the category of broad leaf evergreen, as opposed to evergreens with needles. The broadleafed evergreens usually prefer cool climates and acidic soils. They grow really well in the Northwest. Sacramento, CA (my hometown) touts itself as the "Camellia Capital," another member of this family that is not hardy here. Because they do not go dormant in the winter, they are subject to dessication, a fancy word for drying out and must be protected. They do prefer shadier spots in the garden and should be planted in protected areas. Late in the fall, spray with Wilt-Pruf and/or wrap with burlap. The Wilt-Pruf puts a waxy coating on the leaves that keeps them from drying out.
Winterizing roses actually begins in August, when you should do your last fertilization and stop dead heading. My roses continue to bloom as well but I am opting not to cut them but instead am allowing them to form rosehips. This tells the plant that it is time to quit growing and get ready for winter. Any cutting done now will produce weak, spindly stems that will not survive the winter.
It is too early to put on rose cones, since most roses would need to be pruned to fit into the cones. Instead you can use rose collars. The collars wrap around the base of the plant and are back filled with black dirt or garden soil. The whole purpose of either the cone or the collar is not too keep the plant from freezing, but keeping it cold after the ground has frozen. This way the odd warm-ups we sometimes have in January or February will not trick the plant from coming out of dormancy prematurely.
Other News from C’Side
We have all been busy transforming the store into a Christmas wonderland. Our department is in charge of the artificial trees, wreaths and garland and we have lots of new styles this year. Our wine tasting this year is Friday, November 9 and our open house is November 17 and 18. Hope to see you soon!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I am now spending some time doing fall clean-up. There really isn’t much to do at this point, except rake leaves, skim leaves out of the pond and work on killing some of the perennial weeds such as dandelions that seem to be ever-present. We don’t recommend cutting things back in the fall, so that’s one more thing to cross off the list. Plants shouldn’t be cut back until they are really dormant, which doesn’t happen until late November or even later and who wants to be outside then when you could be snuggled up to the fire with a hot toddy.
Another plant that did not perform as expected were the caladiums I had planted behind my pond. I have a small amount of perennials planted behind the pond but since I use a lot of tropical plants in the pond I wanted to carry that same theme into the background. I had planted white variegated hypoestes, an annual that is also sold as a house plant, in mass and then the white caladiums behind that. The caladiums just never grew and then I think our rabbit ate what was there. (She also cut quite a wide swath through the hostas back there and is now confined to quarters.)
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Mum History-- The Chinese wrote about chrysanthemums as long ago as the 15th century BC. It was cultivated as an herb and was believed to have the power of life. The mum appeared in Japan around the 8th century AD and they were so taken with it, they incorporated a single flowered chrysanthemum into the crest and official seal of the Emporer. The mum finally made it to the West by the 17th century. Since then it has been hybridized to the plant we know today. The National Chrysantheum Society (proving once again there is a club for everyone) divides bloom forms into 13 types but basically they can be summed up as: cushion, daisy, pompon, and spider, quill or spoontip. The spider or quill types are not hardy in our zone and the spoontip is the closest one.
Early, Mid or Late Bloomers-- I was a late bloomer myself. Really, I feel like I'm just coming into my own (and I'm 50) but that may be because my kids are all off at school and Mr. Ross just asked for a divorce BUT lucky for you mums bloom alot sooner than that, although is is all relative and dependent on the weather.
We list our mums as early, mid, late or season extenders. Mums are short day plants, meaning they bloom when the days become shorter (like we needed to be reminded of that!). The early mums will start to bloom around 1 September with the season extenders not blooming until mid to late October. Warm weather in August can delay bloomtime by a week or so. However, once opened warm weather will shorten the life of the bloom, while cooler, overcast weather will lengthen it. As long as the buds are not open, frost will not hurt the bloom.
Most people I think use mums as annuals but if you want to use them as a perennial, here are a few tips: 1) Do plant them as soon as possible. Don't put them in a container, then plant them in the ground at the last minute; 2) Do plant them in a sunny location in well draining soils; 3) Do use a fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen when planting, but once established (i.e. next spring) fertilize monthly. Phosphorus is stimulates root growth, which is important any time you plant, but especially in the fall. ; 4) Do water thoroughly once a week until the ground freezes, usually in November; 5) Don't cut them back in the fall. Leaving the stems on provides winter protection. Also, mulch if you remember; 6) Left to their own devices, mums can get quite tall. Cut them back by about half no later than 30 June.
I forgot to take some pictures so hopefully when I get to work tomorrow we'll will still have some left and I'll add them later.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
The Harvard Community Garden germinated as an idea in 1999 when Dave Trumbell and Werner Heidtke got together with Kasey Murphy from the UI Cooperative Extension Service in Woodstock. The first garden was planted in 2001 and it has grown ever since, with the strong support of the City of Harvard and lots of community volunteers. Today, the garden sits on land donated by the City of Harvard and produces over 4,000 pounds of food for the Harvard Food Pantry.
The University of Illinois Extension Service helps coordinate the volunteers at the community gardens, gives cooking demonstrations at the food pantry and teaches nutrition classes. This government organization is funded by three sources: the federal government, the state and the county, hence the name "coopoerative." It is, I believe, an under-used resource in most communities. Originally founded to serve the agricultural community by taking the research done at our land grant universities and making that technology available to farmers, they soon realized that rural homemakers also needed information about nutrition. While still serving agriculture, they also focus on serving urban communities. The Master Gardeners volunteer to answer gardening questions and the extension staff does community outreach. A product of the 4-H program myself, I am an avid supporter of the extension service and hope that you take advantage of what they have to offer.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Most of us think of bulbs only in the spring when we see crocus or tulips blooming in our neighbors’ gardens. I can’t tell you how many people we get at the store in April wanting to buy bulbs already in bloom and they are disappointed to learn that crocus and other bulbs are planted in the fall. We usually have a small amount of blooming bulbs ready to plant or use indoors. This is an expensive way to get early color in the spring. With a little planning you can achieve the same effect for a lot less money.
There are quite a few bulbs that can be planted this fall as soon as the soil temperature drops. Using a technique called "layering," you can extend the blooming period in a small space right through fall. Because different bulbs need to be planted at different depths in the soil you can plant over top of a lower layer of bulbs. The chart shows the depths that bulbs should be planted. Basically, a bulbs should be planted at a level 3 times as deep as its length. Thus, a crocus bulb that is 1" long should be planted about 3" deep in the soil. Remember to plant the bulb pointy end up and root end down.
To layer the bulbs, dig an area as deep as the biggest bulbs you will plant. Place those bulbs at the bottom, cover with dirt and then with some bulb fertilizer or bone meal. Then plant the next layer, cover with dirt and fertilizer. Continue until you have finished. Be sure to water in thoroughly. Bulbs put down their roots in the fall. This technique can also be used to plant up a container to force for next spring.
There are a variety of bulbs that can be planted to get color through three seasons. Within the daffodil and tulip families there are early, mid and late season bloomers. Alliums bloom in late spring or early summer. Lily varieties bloom early to mid summer. I have autumn crocuses and colchicums blooming now in my garden. I first saw the autumn crocuses in London one September and have enjoyed them ever since. The stamens from these plants is harvested for the pollen, which is saffron, the ingredient in pealla. The colchicums, which are often called crocus but aren’t, have huge, elaborate flowers. Several bulb varieties are even deer resistant, including daffodils, allium, grape hyacinth, lily of the valley, scilla, and fritillaria.
When planning your garden, make sure to leave room for bulbs for color that begins early and can last through all three seasons.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
For orange varieties which are less acidic -- Jubilee -- medium size, beautiful and cherry tomato Sungold (not heirlooms)
I also trial other varieties, but MUST have these.
Guess the best thing about heirlooms is the taste. The downside is they ripen later than most hybrids.
Donna also says she is looking for seeds for a red bell pepper called ' Vidi '. Not a better tasting red bell out there. Great for roasting.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
And speaking of vegetable gardening, it is not too late to do a late season planting of cool season crops, such as lettuce, cabbage, brocolli, spinach and swiss chard. And we've done some of the work for you by starting these last month and they are now available in House 5. So if your veg garden is looking a little shabby after the rains we had in August you can revitalize it in time for fall.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
hakonechloa. This grass is almost chartruese in color and takes part sun to part shade. Its floppy nature gives it almost a water-like quality and would look good in a dry stream to give the illusion of flowing water. I do have to give credit where credit is due: I saw this at Craig Bergman's garden center many years ago and now work with Kim Hartmann who used to work there. What a small world!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
If you have thought about adding a pond to your garden but decided it was too much work and/or too expensive how about adding a water feature instead? A water feature can range from a bird bath to a water-based container garden. Water features are available as kits or you can do it yourself with a few commonly found items. They can be above ground or even in the ground.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
To add a little pop to the garden this time of year, consider either the rudbekias, Black Eyed Susans, or the Gallardia, with its yellow and orange flowers.