Category Archives: Flower Gardens

Love Those Perennials!

I love perennials and this is the time of year most of them are bursting with color!  Unusual Rudbeckia, Salvia and Echinacea are some of my most loved sun perennials.   Perennials are considered  low maintenance plants, but as any perennial gardener knows, this does not mean no maintenance.  The biggest plus side is you don’t plant them every year, they last for years and they get better and better as they become more mature.

Most perennials need food, water, dividing and deadheading to keep performing well.  Perennials can be planted in the spring or fall when the weather is kinder to transplanting.  When planting them, amend the soil well with compost and add a couple of tablespoons of fertilizer (preferably a slow release organic fertilizer) in each planting hole.  This gives them a good jump-start.  Keep them watered well to begin with.  They need to get their roots established before they can withstand fewer waterings.  Some are more drought tolerant then others, so read your tag and let the plant tell you what it need.

Make sure you plant your sun loving perennials in the sun.  Several years ago I planted a beautiful sun-loving perennial bed loaded with beautiful plants like Joe Pye Weed, Echinacea, Hardy Hibiscus, Rudbeckia and others.  The trees have now grown up and the bed has become very shady.  These sun lovers are now lanky and have small blossoms.  They need their sunshine to thrive.  Later this fall these perennials will be lifted, shared, re-potted and…..probably put into a “new” sunny perennial bed.  As my husband would say “imagine that, another flower bed!”.

The same thing goes for shade perennials.  When shade plants are planted in too much sun,  the leaves burn, plants will stress and possibly die.  Here in our hot climate, if the tag says part to full shade, I will always put in full shade.  The intense sun rays will burn the plant in the middle of summer even in the morning.  Shade plants don’t have huge blooms.  They are generally more subtle, being smaller in size and not as bright with a few exceptions.  But you I can’t imagine not having plants like Heuchera or Hostas.  The whimsical airy flowers are slightly fragrant and charming.

Deadheading……..arggg…..Yes you should do this if you want BIG blooms.  When a perennial flower is left it will produce seed.  Producing seed takes energy.  Energy that is need to produce more flowers.  Unless you are wanting to collect the seed you should deadhead.  In other words, cut off the blooms that are past their prime.  Don’t just cut the top of the flower off leaving an unsightly stem, cut it off just above a leaf.  I prefer to cut down further where there is a bud.  I found some great little scissors that are perfect for deadheading.  Here is a link to check them out.  They are sharp and they spring back making it easier on your hands.  While this may seem tedious, if it’s done on an evening garden stroll weekly it can be conquered rather quickly in a few short minutes.

After the perennials freeze, cut back the dead growth about an inch above the soil level.  I like to spread a layer of mulch or compost for winter protection.  This acts a an insulator for the roots and lessens the chance of damage to extreme cold weather.  I have found my perennials come back healthier and sooner in the spring when I do this.

Keeping my perennial beds pretty in the early spring is easy!  While most of my perennials are sleeping,  I still have plenty of spring color splashed throughout the beds to keep spring bright and beautiful.  Pansies, primroses and bulbs are a bright and cheery site while the later bloomers are just peeking through the ground.  By the time the pansies and bulbs are finished for the season the perennials take a bold stand and bloom through the summer into the first frost.

Perennials are usually found abundantly in the fall as established plants.  Look for rich healthy growth and get them in the ground and enjoy them for many years to come!  Now, I’m headed out to do some perennial maintenance of my own!

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After the Daffodils Bloom……

We all love daffodils when they are blooming with their bright faces announcing its spring!  But what about once the leaves start to flop all over taking up space, flowers faded and gone.   We are ready  to pop in a few new annuals here and there, but the leaves!   Removing the leaves before they die back naturally will cause the bulbs to weaken and possible not bloom the following spring.  Flower heads can be removed (“dead-heading”), if desired, but leave flower stems intact to photosynthesize food for the bulb.  Once the leaves tips have started to brown and the entire leaf if yellow, which is usually around six weeks after bloom, the leaves can be removed without sacrificing next years blooms.

A simple solutions is tying the leaves up or braiding, my favorite.  Braiding gives a maintained look, while making space for new annuals to start their new home for summer color.  Simply grab a group of leaves and start to braid!  I like to tuck the braid end down at the base of the leaves to keep them even more tidy.  Once the leaves have become lifeless, I can easily toss the braid into the compost pile.  This is also a good time if I need to move bulbs or separate due to overcrowding.  The braids will mark where my bulbs are.  Overcrowding will happen about every 5-7 years.  Dig deeply with a straight-edged spade. Lift the entire clump out and carefully separate the bulbs. Do not pull bulbs apart with any force!  Either replant immediately  (add bone meal in each new planting hole) or store bulbs until September in a cool, well-ventilated dark area. Bulbs must dry before you can rub off roots and dead outer layers, approximately six weeks. Check bulbs for softness or rot during drying.  Share extra bulbs with your neighbors!  In September sidedress bulbs with bone meal for bigger blooms in Spring!

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Amaryllis Year After Year Show

Many of us around Christmas time plant these big beautiful bulbs.  Caring for them and getting them to bloom is fairly easy and we enjoy the show.  But what happens to these bulbs after blooming time.  Some will toss the bulbs just because they don’t know what to do with them and some, more than likely the gardeners in us will save them trying to get them to bloom again.  Unlike most forced bulbs, Amaryllis can bloom again and again if we take the proper steps.  Fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer once a month until early autumn.    If you have your plant outside during the warm months bring it in before frost.  Stop watering the potted Amaryllis.  Cut down the foliage, uproot the bulb from the planting medium and  store it in a cool, dry, dark place for eight to 10 weeks.  They need a nap!  I like to keep them in a brown paper bag in the cellar.    After nap time, it’s time to replant the bulb in fresh potting soil.  Water thoroughly, fertilize and in no time you will have new leaves emerging with blooms not far behind ready to bloom.

Happy Frog Potting Soil

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Long Winter’s Nap, Not So Long

I love this time of year when I can settle down with a good book or seed catalog, near the crackling wood burning stove.  Casper (the perfect cat) nestles into my lap, my dog Sage warming my feet and wanting more attention then the cat is getting.  Inside projects are getting finished that got pushed aside for several months of the year for gardening chores.  I love winter months.  But the real side of me is still yearning for those warmer winter days here in Southern Utah.  Freezing by night and comfortable by day.  These are days I gather leaves, turn compost and will be on the look out for that first narcissus to poke its leaves through the cold hard ground.  Sometimes we get an early bloom at the first of January on the Southeast facing side of the house.  What a welcome sight and a sweet fragrance they put off.  This is the time when I take mental notes of what needs to be done, what I aspire for next year and what beauty I can add to the garden or flower beds.  I watch over my fruit trees seeing what branches need to be removed due to old age or wind damage.  It’s time to prune the grape vines and make grape-vine wreaths with the long spindly cuttings, feed those hungry birds that depend on me for their winter food.  The vegetable garden still has many living things that require watering during dry spells such as the leeks, garlic, and the greens that are under row cover.  One can get so much enjoyment walking through a winter garden, you just have to look a little deeper.  A garden gives so much this time of year and asks hardly nothing in return.  Not much care required.  A break from weeding and what seems like constant watering.  With a root cellar full of a bountiful harvest from summer  saying,  job well done and all the fresh greens we can eat from under protective cover in the garden during the cold winter months gives us satisfaction until new spring crops.  I spend much of my time in the greenhouse this time of year.  It won’t be long before hundreds and sometimes thousands of little pots will be sprouting there first little leaves so green and healthy.  The first session of early crops were just started from seed this week such as brocoli, kohlrabi, kale and other greens.  The smell of the citrus blooming while the Meyer lemons are almost ready to pick entices me to come back soon to the greenhouse.  Who says winter is dull.  It’s only as dull as we make it.  Grant it, I don’t live in a very cold climate where the snow drifts make it impossible to visit the garden.  I think a winter garden should have interest and a mysterious side to it. 

This is such a great time to plan your next years garden.  This year I will be planting only heirloom varieties in my vegetable garden and careful planning will ensure I don’t miss a beat.  Sketch out your garden.  Include crop rotation, succession plantings, leave room to try a new variety this year, add some interest to your usual planting by adding herbs here and there.  Go walk through your garden and get inspired.  Plan on the best garden ever!  Try new flowers in your flower garden, pop some in your veggie beds.  Add veggies to your flower beds for even more interest.  I love to see Tuscan Kale grown amongst pink, red or purple flowers.  Eggplant is such a colorful and outstanding accent. What a better way to make an edible flower garden.  I love perennials, but you can’t beat some old-fashioned heirloom flowers like ‘Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate” over the garden gate!  Try some new long-term shrubs this spring for next years winter garden like dogwoods popped in a few places.  Their beautiful red twigs on cold winter days add so much visual color to an otherwise bleak garden.  Choose shrubs that have berries through the winter time like Winter Berry, Holly or Snowberry.  They are great summer time fillers, but flashy winter time thrillers.  Enjoy winter, embrace it, because spring, summer and hard work are just around the corner!

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Filed under Casper the Cat, Flower Gardens, Gardening, Heirlooms, Life on the Farm