Category Archives: Bulbs

Preparing Your Perennial Garden for (gasp!) Winter…

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Winter is fast approaching, and it’s time to prepare your gardens for the long, cold months ahead. By spending a little time this fall preparing, you can insure a healthier start to next year’s  season. Here’s a checklist of fall activities to get them ready for winter before it gets too cold to comfortably work outside.

  1. In all areas, spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze.
  2. Dig and store tender summer bulbs, such as dahlias and canna lilies, after the first hard killing frost. Store them in wood shavings or crumpled/shredded newspaper in a cool, dry place.
  3. Stake and tie up any young trees or shrubs that may break under the weight of wet snow or ice. Use soft (but strong) ties around the bark of trees, as wire or twine can cut into the bark and cause serious damage. Place wooden tepees over shrubs growing under eaves where snow tends to fall off the roof.
  4. After the first couple of frosts, hosta and daylily leaves will pull up very easily. Doing the removal in the fall means that you don’t have to deal with a slippery mess next spring.
  5. To prune or not to prune perennials to ground level? It’s a good idea to leave some plant material for visual interest through the winter months; ornamental grasses and hydrangeas have attractive seed heads and always look gorgeous in the winter, especially sprinkled with snow. With the exception of hosta and daylily leaves, I choose to leave everything else for spring cleanup.
  6. Protect hybrid roses with rose cones or bark mulch piled over the crown of the plant after a hard freeze.
  7. Remove all weeds from your perennial beds, and add compost to create a good base for next year’s growth. Compost applied in the fall is better than the spring as it has had time to break down and release its nutrients into the soil.
  8. Move containers to a protected location when frost threatens. After a frost, remove soil and plants from containers and store ceramic and clay pots in a garage or basement. Place used potting soil in the compost pile. If the containers have perennials planted in them, consider digging a hole to bury the plant including the pot, or bury in leaves in a protected area. Potted perennials will not usually survive the winter if not buried/covered.
  9. Instead of raking and bagging the leaves to cart off to the landfill, shred leaves with a mower to create amazing leaf mulch which can be spread on the garden as a winter protectant.  The earthworms will love the food, and the leaves will eventually break down, adding nutrients to the soil. If you decide to cover gardens with unmulched leaves, do not apply a thickness of more than about 10 centimetres (four inches). Any deeper will smother bulbs and perennials trying to grow in the spring.
  10. Take pictures of your gardens to assist with your dreaming and planning for the next season after the snow flies!
  11. As you wind down the garden season, make notes on what worked and what didn’t work, to help you plan for a successful garden next year. You are more likely to remember key points now rather than next April or May.
  12. Join a local garden or horticultural society. Many organizations meet over the winter on a monthly basis and provide interesting speakers who can help chase away the winter blues and provide you with great ideas for your upcoming garden season.

Something’s eating my bulbs!

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

In an earlier post, I talked about digging up spring bulbs for planting them in the fall and about planting them. I didn’t talk about the little critters that dig them up. In addition to the usual tulip bulbs which disappear, I’ve had asiatic lily,  gladiola, and even garlic bulbs dug up. Most of them were eaten (except for the garlic). They don’t seem to dig up established bulbs, so what can we do to keep new bulbs where we want them to grow and bloom?

There are several strategies that fall into 2 categories–repellants and barriers.

Repellants

  • Blood meal – this also nourishes the soil naturally, so it’s a preferred one.
  • Urine – human male urine will deter most animals. Cat urine can be used in the form of cat litter.
  • Hot pepper sprinkled on the ground, although lately this treatment has been considered inhumane due to the pain that it causes the critter doing the digging.

Repellants will need to be reapplied when washed away with rain or after watering.

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Barriers

Chicken wire cages will be the most effective prevention. Just put a layer of chicken wire in the bottom of the hole, place the bulbs on top, put another layer of chicken wire on top of the bulbs and nothing will be able to get at the bulbs.

Another thing you can use is green plastic strawberry baskets for 2 or 3 bulbs.

The articles below will give more information about what you can do. Let us know how you make out!

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/bgen/protect-flower-bulbs.htm

https://www.adrbulbs.com/page/Squirrels-Deer-Pests

 

Spring Bulbs… What do you do with them?

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardenerspring-3118899_640

Your spring flowering bulbs have given you much pleasure during their bloom time. You have cut off the spent flowers to allow the leaves to photosynthesize and provide nourishment to  the bulbs. Now, tulip,  hyacinth, and daffodil bulbs have all died back. You have 2 choices of what to do. Leave them in the ground for next spring, or dig them up and replant them in the fall. You may want to put them back in the same spot or move them to another location.

Dig Them Up Sometimes

If you find that your flowers aren’t doing as well as they did the year before, or are getting too crowded, then they can benefit from being being dug up for replanting.

When you dig up your bulbs and separate them, you will find they have multiplied. Discard any spent or diseased ones, clean them up and let them dry out. Store them in a cool dry place, making sure they aren’t touching each other.

I always find that I have more bulbs than I know what to do with. These can be potted up and brought out in the  middle of winter for an early taste of spring.  See Fine Gardening’s Planting Spring Bulbs in Containers.

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Replanting

In the fall, when it is time to replant them, prepare the bed by digging down to a depth triple the diameter of the bulb. Add organic material and a little bone meal. You can also use specialized bulb tools to make individual holes. See Canada Gardener’s How and When to Plant Bulbs.

If you wait to dig them up in the fall, the leaves will have died back, making it difficult to know exactly where the bulbs are. By making sure you have marked the site where the flowers  were,  you won’t miss any when you dig them up.

By digging up and replanting my bulbs, including tulips, I have had them to enjoy for many years.

The Right Way to Plant Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants

by Lee Edwards, Master Gardener

The task of planting is among the many tasks avid gardeners faces every season. Therefore, we’ll focus on the proper way to plant trees, shrubs and plants thereby reducing transplant stress while promoting lush, healthy, plants and root growth.ecology-2985781_640

1. Dig A Proper Hole

To achieve the correct hole size that allows a plant, tree or shrub’s roots to stretch out, dig a hole wider than the width of the plant’s container; about two to two and a half times wider, and as deep as but not deeper than the container’s depth. Then, water the hole.

2. Remove Plant From Container

Ease the plant from its container, gently pushing up from the bottom. If roots are densely packed outside the container (rootbound), loosen the roots before removing the plant. Do not pull on the plant’s trunk, stem or branches when removing from the container, as this may severely damage the plant.

3. Inspect and Prune

Once out of the container, inspect the plant thoroughly. Prune damaged, girdling (circling), dying roots, and suckers. Water the roots, wrap with moist paper, and place in a shaded area away from the wind until ready to plant (same day). If you plan to plant in a few days, cover the paper with mulch and water thoroughly.

For bareroot plants, prune, completely wet then wrap roots, and keep shaded until roots are fully hydrated. For burlapped and dug plants, cut away burlap/wires, prune, wet then wrap roots, and keep shaded until ready to plant.

4. Prepare Soil

gardening-690940_640.jpgSoil is important. Use the soil that was dug from the hole and amend it as needed; for example, add loamy soil to clay soil to ease denseness, or organic matter to sandy soil to slow the soil draining quickly. Ensure the soil is suitable for the plant being planted with sufficient nutrients to satisfactorily support and sustain the plant.

5. Plant Properly

The depth a plant is planted is important. If a plant’s crown is too far below soil level, stunted growth or crown rot may occur. A crown planted too high above soil level may cause sunscald and unnecessary drying out.

Place the plant in the pre-dampened hole and spread out its roots. Make sure the roots sit on firm soil with the crown slightly above soil level to safeguard the crown from sinking below soil level after watering. Fill the hole halfway with soil and tamp down with your hands. Water thoroughly to remove any air pockets. Fill the hole with the rest of the soil and create a shallow, bowl shape at soil level around the plant. Tamp down firmly.

6. Water and Mulch

To reduce transplant stress, water the roots slowly and thoroughly allowing the water to completely sink down and around the roots. Add mulch as needed to maintain moisture then water again. For the next six weeks, regularly water taking care not to allow the soil to dry out.

Have Fun Gardening!

Lee Edwards is a Realtor, Master Gardener, and co-owner of Avid Gardeners-a Garden Consulting & Maintenance Company. She enjoys spending time with her family and best pal, Sir Max, along with reading, gardening and writing articles for online publications.

Reblooming an Amaryllis Bulb

By Sharleen Pratt, Master Gardener (in Training)

sharleen amarllyis
Amaryllis Bulb in its 3rd Year

Amaryllis bulbs are a wonderful winter flower! They never disappoint and are easy to grow over the Christmas season. They come in many dramatic colours. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the bloom, so it is always a good idea to spend a little more to get a good sized bulb.

They are prized for their exotic trumpet-shaped flowers that sit on top of leafless stalks or “scapes”. They are native to Peru and South Africa. The bulbs were brought to Europe in the 1700s. In warmer climates, they have been known to bloom for 75 years.

In Canada, we generally buy new bulbs each year, but did you know that it is possible to keep these bulbs from year-to-year and it is relatively easy to get them to re-bloom. Below is a simple guide to what works for me, but I have also attached a few reliable articles. The methods are a little different, but with the same end result.

 

HOW TO GET YOUR AMARYLLIS TO RE-BLOOM

  • Wait until the amaryllis finishes blooming.
  • Remove the wilted flowers and allow the stalk to die back a little to feed the bulb, then cut it down. Leave any leaves as they also help to feed the bulb.
  • When all chance of frost has past, take your amaryllis outside in the pot and place it in a protected area. It is best to choose a spot that gets morning sun rather than the scorching sun of the afternoon.
  • If you wish, you can also remove it from the pot and plant it in the garden. I tend to leave it in the pot as I find there is less chance of infection from disease.
  • During the summer months, feed it with an all purpose fertilizer about once a month. To be honest, I don’t always remember to do this! If we have a really hot summer, you may actually get another bloom during the summer season. I had this happen two summers ago.
  • Around Thanksgiving, before a hard frost, remove the bulb from the ground or the pot.
  • Cut all the foliage back, close to the bulb.
  • Dry the bulb well (this is important), outside if it’s sunny or in a nice sunny window.
  • Once it is good and dry, put the bulb in a brown paper bag and store it in a cool, dry place. I store mine in the back of the garage up against the house.
  • Leave it for at least 6 weeks.
  • Bring it back in, pot it up in good potting soil. Don’t use a pot that is too large as they like to be snug. Remember to leave the top 1/3 out of the soil.
  • Put in some good supports, fertilize with an all purpose fertilizer at ½ strength, keep it watered but not too wet and ‘cross your fingers’.
  • Indirect light is best until you see some growth, then move it to where you normally keep your amaryllis.
  • You may find that you will get leaf growth first, but eventually you should see a stalk emerge.
  • I have found that you tend to get flowers closer to the end of January, which is a real treat in the middle of winter. If you prefer to have them earlier, start the process before Thanksgiving.
  • Good luck!!

For a slightly different method, check out this article by Sonia Day who writes for the Toronto Star. Or, check out this article written by a Master Gardener from Guelph-Wellington.

Perennial Plant of the Year 2018: Allium ‘Millenium’

Adapted from perennialplant.org allium millenium

Allium ‘Millenium’ has numerous virtues to add to the landscape setting and will not disappoint.  It boasts low-maintenance,  dependability, and is not invasive.

Soil: Grows best in well-drained soils.

Uses: Full-sun gardens–where its sleek structure can complement many other growth habits. Cut flowers retain a blush of their summer color.

Unique Qualities: Allium ‘Millenium’ is a butterfly magnet. The plant is interesting through multiple seasons for both foliage and large, gorgeous blooms. Reseeding is much less a problem than in other alliums.

Maintenance: Allium ‘Millenium’ is subject to no serious insect or disease problems. Deer and rabbits usually avoid ‘Millenium’.  Alliums are bulbs that are available in stores for fall planting.

Growing best in full sun, each plant typically produces an upright foliage clump of grass-like, glossy deep green leaves reaching 10-15” tall in spring. In midsummer, two to three flower scapes rise above the foliage with each scape producing two or three showy two-inch spherical umbels of rose-purple florets that last as long as four weeks. Alliums are sometimes avoided due to their reseeding behavior. Fortunately, ‘Millenium’ exhibits 50% reduced seed production, raising less concern for self-sown seedlings.

Blooming at a time when most of our garden begins to decline in the tired excess of the season, ‘Millenium’ offers much needed color.  It is truly an all-season plant that offers attractive shiny foliage spring through summer and caps off the season with its crown of perfectly round rose-purple flower umbels.

The Soil in Your Garden

by Christine Freeburn – Master Gardener

For the plants in your garden to be the best they can be, you need to start with the best soil you can make. Enhancing your soil with compost and manure is the best way to do this.

Soil provides physical anchorage for plants

You need your soil to have enough texture to hold your plants without being so heavy that it strangles them.

You should know what your SOIL TEXTURE is.  To do this, you can try this simple test:

  • fill a quart jar one third full with a sample of your soil
  • dig down into the soil to get a sample
  • fill the jar with water, put the lid on tightly and shake well.

As the soil settles, you will be able to see different layers.  The bottom level is the sand portion.  Next will be silt. Silt has larger particles than sand, but smaller than clay.  Last will be clay.

The amount of each that you have in your soil will determine what type of soil you have….clay, sandy, silty or any combination of these. The best soil is sandy loam, which is about 60% sand and 40% clay.

This will also tell you how your soil deals with water….does it drain well or hold and stay wet longer.

You can amend your soil to improve the texture, but it is a constant challenge. Sometimes it is better to accept what type of soil you have and grow plants that prefer a sandy soil or a clay soil.

Soil supplies water and nutrients to plants

When you water, water the soil and roots of your plants, not the leaf portions. Water is absorbed through the roots and channels up into the leaves.

pH

Another thing you should know about your soil is it’s pH…is it acidic or alkaline. pH has a scale of 1 to 10, with acidic soil have a low number. Most plants like 6.0 to 7.5. This is where they can best absorb the nutrients in your soil. You might have heard that plants like rhodendrons prefer acidic soil, which would have a lower pH.

Knowing the nutrients in your soil is important also. You can send away to Guelph University to get your soil tested, however that can be expensive. You can use an inexpensive soil testing kit also. It will also test for pH.

There are 3 big nutrients and these are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. You will be familiar with them as the three numbers on fertilizers. Many fertilizers are synthetic, however you can get organic types.

Nitrogen is for leaves and greening of your plants.NPK-01.png

  • fish emulsion
  • blood meal

Phosphorus is for bloom

  • bone meal

Potassium is for roots and overall health of plant

  • wood ash
  • composted seaweed

Other natural fertilizers

  • animal manures – make sure they are well composted or they will burn your plants or be full of weeds
  • manure tea – dilute manure in water, let sit for a week, then water plants
  • comfrey tea – another good nutritional source
  • epson salts – put a tsp in hole when planting

Know your soil, it’s texture, pH and nutritional content

Grow the plants that will thrive in those conditions or be prepared to make amendments

Soil is a living thing which needs to be enriched on a regular basis

Compost and Topdress

Planting a Flower Patio Container – Things to Consider

by Pat Freistatter

Location of Container

  • Sunlight – how much sunlight will the container will receive – afternoon sun is hottest – choose plants for those light conditions

Viewing Container

  • larger leaves with coarse textures and tall spiky grass can be viewed from a distance and make a visual statement
  • fine textured plants invite you to look more closely at the detail
  • a taller pot may be needed if you want the flowers to be viewed from afar

Container Size and Material

  • Container needs to be big enough to hold enough soil for the growing season
  • Fiberglass or plastic pots do not dry out as fast as clay and other porous containers.
  • Three to seven 1 cm holes need to be drilled into the bottom of container for adequate drainage.

Soil Mixture Contents

  • Materials such coconut husk fiber and sphagnum peat moss help retain water
  • Black earth (humus), composted manure, perlite, lime, and fertilizer support plants throughout growing season.

Colours and size of plants

  • White flowers catch your eyes and help other darker colours jump out
  • A variety of leaf shapes and sizes increase drama and interest in your pot

Plant soil and moisture requirements

  • All plants in container need to have same moisture requirements – don’t mix plants that like dry conditions with those that prefer wet feet

Structure

  • Thriller – tall centre
  • Filler – plants around thriller
  • Spiller – plants that spill over the edge of the container

Note: if the back of your container will be up against a wall, then the taller plants should be at the back 

Container Maintenance

  • Check planter daily to ensure it doesn’t dry out
  • Fertilize container every couple of weeks with water-soluble fertilizer
  • Remove dead flowers to encourage re-blooming.
  • Empty and wash out containers at end of season

After Bloom Care Of Spring Bulbs

by Deb Gordon

Nothing signals the rebirth of a garden more to a gardener than the first splash of colour from spring bulbs. The fresh green colour of their leaves and their colourful palette of blooms are a welcomed sign of the departure of winter and the awakening of life in the garden with all the hope and expectations that they may bring. Be it tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths or alliums these early bloomers all have one thing in common. They are all true bulbs and being so means their continued lives depend on letting them become dormant through the cold winter, allowing them to bloom in the spring and die back naturally in order to complete their life cycle. This ensures the bulb’s good health so it has the ability to endure freezing temperatures throughout the winter, produce optimum blooms for the gardener to enjoy the following spring and continue to do so for years to come.

The only drawback for growing these bulbs is waiting for the leaves to die back. Unfortunately it takes weeks for their leaves to wither and die. Especially with larger leaved bulbs like tulips and daffodils, the appearance of their dying foliage, long after the blooms drop or fade, can detract from the beauty of an early summer garden. Premature removal of the foliage is tempting in order to keep the garden neat and tidy however there are consequences to doing so. Take tulips for example. They grow and bloom using the food that they have stored in their bulbs from the previous year. Once this food is spent, the bloom drops and the foliage starts to die. During this post-bloom phase, the leaves, through photosynthesis, produce the food that is stored in the bulb to enable it to survive the winter and grow and bloom in the spring. Photosynthesis is a process where the energy in sunlight is harnessed and used to convert carbon, oxygen and water into sugars. Because leaves of all plants are the primary location for photosynthesis to occur, cutting off the leaves prematurely deprives the plant of the ability to restore the energy in the bulb for its future healthy growth and its production of those beautiful blooms.
So what are some of the options for a gardener to choose in order to keep a  more pristine-looking garden?
When blooms start to fade and petals drop, tidying up the garden at this time is easily accomplished by cutting off the stems of the flower. This will still allow the leaves to continue to absorb the sun’s rays. The time is right to remove the leaves once they have withered, turned brown and can be tugged gently away from the bulb. Wait another week or two if they are not separating from the bulb easily.
The following suggestions may help to avoid the distraction of the dying foliage.
  • Dig up the bulbs and replant new ones in the fall. This can be costly in time and money. This is done routinely in publicly sponsored gardens.
  • Transplant the tulips post-bloom to another bed to live out the foliages’ dying days then replant the bulbs in the fall. This requires an extra bed just for this purpose.
  • Choose a variety that have narrower leaves which might be less distracting.
  • Conceal the withering leaves.
Strategic planting of the right combination of perennials around your bulbs may be the answer to successfully camouflaging the unsightly foliage while still allowing them to complete the restoration of energy in the bulb undisturbed for next year’s growth. Annuals and summer blooming bulbs are also other options. When choosing perennials to use, consider the rate at which the plant matures. You want the bulb to be centre stage while it’s in full bloom, the perennial just starting to appear above ground and then mature as the tulip leaves start to yellow and wither.
Although the rate of maturity is important, also consider foliage type, colour, and bloom times when choosing these perennial plants.
Hostas, tall drooping grasses, and taller ground covers are examples of perennials that are idea lfor concealing a tulip’s dying foliage. Remember that placement is key. If you are planting bulbs in the fall around hostas, make sure you plant the bulb just inside the dripline of the hosta just under the leaves. Bulbs go in front of the drooping grasses.
There are combinations of perennials listed at Cornell University’s website.
Researchers at Cornell University actually tested and listed plant combinations to see which were successful at looking good and growing well together. They have great photos of these plants and bulbs at different stages of their growth.
Just remember to check the hardiness zone and growing conditions of some of the suggested plants (if choosing) to ensure they will grow in your zone and growing conditions. The research took place in Ithaca, New York with a USA hardiness zone of 5.
If you’ve been discouraged from growing or adding more spring blooming bulbs to your garden due to the lingering foliage that never seems to go away, these suggestions will hopefully encourage you to do so. The early visual impact is rewarding and will trigger feelings of hope and excitement of the wonderful things to come.