Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tips on Buying Best Cold Hardy Flower Bulbs

Buying flower bulbs to plant and grow is an exciting experience that begins in the fall and continues through the spring. Dutch flowering bulbs are usually delivered to American ports by the month of September for fall planting. Major Dutch bulbs offerings include Dutch Amaryllis and African Amaryllis; daffodil bulbs and the famous, Tulip bulbs.

Amaryllis flower bulbs grow the showiest blooms and are pre-cooled to force fast flowering in 3 weeks after containerizing. Dutch bulb importers of Amaryllis offer a larger variety of selections and more bulbs to tempt the buyers. The African growers of Amaryllis bulbs appear to be enslaved to the Dutch Amaryllis importers distribution network, however, the African flowers that emerge on the Amaryllis stems are superior in many respects to the Dutch Amaryllis. The African Amaryllis blooms appear to offer clearer colors, more compact flower stalks, leaves that grow as the flowers appear, and more numerous flower stalks and grow from smaller bulbs. The large array of bloom colors from amaryllis includes red, pink, lavender, orange, yellow, white, green, maroon, red stripe, white stripe, pink stripe, and bi-color. Double numbers of petals on Amaryllis flowers are fast growing to be very popular choices to buy, since the petal count is increased to 12, instead of 6 that grow on most Amaryllis bulb flower stems, looking very similar to a huge carnation flower.

Daffodil flower bulbs are important Dutch bulbs for fall planting, because of their reasonable market cost, the ease of planting, and the growing of flower stalks in the Spring in various colors of yellow, white, orange, and the rare pink daffodil. Daffodil bulbs are easy to naturalize to bloom again every year.

Tulip bulbs are a native flowering plant of Turkey, but long ago tulips were hybridized on a large commercial scale by Dutch bulb growers. The cost of Dutch tulips has not always been inexpensive to buy, but tulip buyers today still love the spring flower colors of red, pink, orange, yellow, blue, purple, white, and bi-color. Cities and government organizations anxiously buy tulip bulbs in huge numbers during winter seasons to grow in beautiful landscape displays for the Spring.

Agapanthus bulbs are often called ‘Lily of the Nile’, and Agapanthus grows profusely along the Nile River in Egypt, and the blooms captivated the ancient African plant explorers who dug the bulbs for shipping back to European gardens. Blue and white colors of Agapanthus rhizomes have been hybridized in recent years to intensify colors, and some Agapanthus plants are cold hardy down to zero degrees F., whereas, the older clones of native Agapanthus were considered to be tropical in nature and not very cold hardy, so they were not introduced for planting in more Northern locations until recently, when gardeners from more Northern States experimented with new Agapanthus hybrids and determined their cold hardy tolerance.

The Canna lily rhizome has been long considered to be tropical in nature, with very little cold hardy resistance. The early American botanist and explorer, William Bartram, wrote in his book, Travels, in 1773, the discovery of Canna indica in Alabama near Mobile, “Canna indica is surprising in luxuriance, presenting a glorious show, the stem rises six, seven, and nine feet high, terminating upwards with spikes of scarlet flowers.” Bartram also discovered the native Canna flaccida, growing near Fort Frederica, Georgia, located on the Island of St Simon’s. Canna lily colors are broad, red, white, pink, lavender, orange, yellow, speckled, bi-color and others. Some Canna flower growers plant cannas with variegated leaf forms that are striped with red, green, yellow, white, and pink. Dutch distributors of canna rhizomes still flood retail box store, garden centers with “Victorian-age” canna bulbs of poor quality; varieties that had declined, “run out”, 50 years ago, and they should have been discontinued and not presented to buyers at a garden center nursery.

Ginger lily rhizomes grow flowers with fragile, delicate blossoms – many looking like miniature orchid flowers. The foliage of Ginger lilies is interestingly variable, growing in colors of green, yellow, maroon, and stripes of yellow or white. Interest in planting ginger lilies has surged in 20 years, because of the realization that many ginger lilies are cold hardy, surviving temperatures as cold as zero degrees F. The foliage and the flowers are pleasantly aromatic.

Daylilies are actually not bulbs but rhizomes, but are sold extensively as daylily bulbs. Thousands of named varieties of Daylily bulbs have been easily hybridized by legions of backyard gardeners and the selection improvement and flower quality is absolutely astonishing. The improvement has resulted in growing double flower daylily, miniature daylily, cold hardy daylilies, and compact clumping or large clumping daylily plants. It is staggering to realize all these many colors – red, white, yellow, orange, purple, pink, and bi-color originated from an original native plant -a seedy, yellow daylily growing wild on the forest edge.

Elephant Ear bulbs are very variable, some growing into bulbs and others into rhizomes. Gardeners have always been fascinated that the Elephant Ear plants grow large in the landscape into huge clumps with that unforgetable tropical appearance. Great interest in Elephant Ear bulbs has resulted in recent years by a nationally tested demonstration that Elephant Ear bulbs are cold hardy enough to survive temperatures of zero degrees. Curious leaf patterns appear on hybrid Elephant Ear plants, and the extensive variegated patterns that appear on the leaves add a stunning, mysterious attraction from their random markings and splashes of yellow, white, and maroon on the surfaces of various leaf sizes, some large enough to hide the body of a mature man or small enough leaf to place in the palm of the hand. Elephant Ear bulbs can grow as large as the human head or the size of a quarter. Offset bulbs are abundant from Elephant Ear bulbs in the fall as the plants grow dormant to regrow when replanted in the spring. In the wholesale trade of Elephant Ear bulbs, it is a common practice to divide them into two major commercial categories, the Alocasia, and the Colocasia, based on many taxonomical growth characteristics.

Crinum Lily bulbs offer to an adventurous hobbiest or gardener an antique garden bulb selection that has been reintroduced as improved crinum clones by the brilliant inductiveness of chemist, Lester Hannibal of Fair Oaks, California. Lester Hannibal back crossed and intercrossed many native crinum lily species to offer the gardener an excellent, cold hardy crinum, an “interspecific hybrid”, that can be grown as far North as Philadelphia, PA, zone 6, and to survive intense freezes of below zero temperatures. Many of Lester Hannibal’s crinum flower hybrids were a re-creation of obsolete but popular commercial crosses that were made by Cecil Houdyshel in the 1930’s, but largely improved upon from the original “Powellii” forms with clear, white and pink colors, an increase in the number of flowers in the umbel, extended flowering periods, an eliminatio of drooping flowers, an intensification of fragrance and early flowering after sprouting from the germination of the seed. The “milk and wine” crinum lilies were named, because the flowers were white (milk) and wine striped colors. Crinum colors are burgundy, red, pink, white, greenish-yellow, and orange. Crinum bulbs increase by growing into clumps of multiple offsets from the central mother bulb, or by planting the seed of some cultivars or species.

-Rare, Hard-To-Find Flower Bulbs of Merit-
Many rare minor flower bulbs are unavailable to buy anywhere, except by possibly exchanging plants with collectors and hobbiest. The Amazon lily, Encharist grandiflora, blooms with six white, daffodil like petals, and a green or glowing yellow cup radiating from the center. This delicate flower can be remembered from days past for its wonderful charming fragrance. The Bird of Paradise is known for the two tropical forms, the Strelizia reginae, the most common: brilliantly colored flowers with orange, red, and blue glaring blossoms; and the Strelizia nicholae that grows large, showy, white flowers. The Blood Lily, Scadoxus mutliflorus, forms baby-head sized globular flowers with red filamented petals and radiate fragile threads of red that are affixed to the to the center of the bloom, great for container culture. The Red Butterfly lily, Odontonema strictum, won the perennial plant award of the year in Florida in the year 2000, and butterflies and hummingbirds flock to visit the fiery red spikes, beginning in mid-August and continuing until the first hard freeze. The Calla lily, Calla palustrus, has been hybridized with many other Calla lily species to grow into many splendid colors, but the new hybrids are not as popular as the white, fragrant, winter-blooming, Calla aethiopica; and the yellow calla, Calla aethiopica. Clivia lilies, Clivia minata, are choice heavy shade-requiring plants that produce gigantic clusters of orange flowers, cup shaped, with a yellow throat, and often will re-bloom two or three times from large bulbs. The Gloriosa lilies, Gloriosa rothschildiana, a climbing vine that clothes itself with recurved, star-like flowers that are favored and admired by florists and flower arrangers, because the blooms last so well. The Inca Lily, Alstomeria aurantiaca, has become naturalized in America, as an escaped bulb from the tropical jungles of Peru. The Alstromeria flowers last well as a cut-flower, and waxy, greenish-red funnels begin blooming vigorously in the spring. Lycoris are a charming group of flower bulbs that called “Spider Lily”, and they bloom in floral colors of pink, yellow, white, and red, Lycoris radiata, which is the most widely grown. The Pineapple Lily, Eucomis bicolor, grows into flowers that are shaped like miniature pineapple fruits in colors of white and rusty-red. Scilla flower bulbs are grown in large numbers as bedding plants, many Dutch varieties are small and make good cut flowers, but the best cold hardy Scilla is the Scilla peruviana that forms and grows into glowing, purplish-blue flowers that either grow as well as bedding plants, or containerized plants. Voodoo lilies, Amorphophallus bulbifer, are strange and bazaar leafy bulbous plants, both in leaf and flower, with a suggestive look of snakes, cobras, and other vermin that may be lurking beneath the leopard-spotted menacing leaves. Zephyranthes are called “rain lilies”, and softly bloom in colors of pink, Zephyranthes grandiflora; yellow, Zephyranthes citrina; white, Zephyranthes atamasco; and a mind-numbing number of Zephyranthes bulb mongrels that are distributed by a retired breeder in San Antonia, Texas, who apparently has nothing better to do, than paralyze all the worlds earnest taxonomists into the task of assembling the records of his Mexican-American bulb-children lineage into a staggering Encyclopedia publication.

Vegetable Gardening Tips for You

download-14Gardening as a hobby or leisure activity helps in relieving stress. It helps to clear one’s mind after a hectic work schedule. If you have a small backyard or a front yard, you could grow a vegetable garden or even a flower garden. In a vegetable garden, you can grow seasonal vegetables and fruits. It is an excellent idea to harvest your own vegetables when food prices are soaring. When you have your own vegetable garden, you can also be sure of the quality of the vegetables and ensure that they are organic.

Tips for Vegetable Gardening

The first and foremost thing you need to do is to landscape or design your garden to practice crop rotation. Crop rotation will ensure prevention of infectious diseases that may spread from one plant to anothe. You can plan which vegetables you want to plant. If you are an amateur, you could always get the help of a professional.

Once you have decided to develop a vegetable garden, till the soil, remove the weeds, add natural manure, and till again. Wet the vegetable patch for several weeks and till the patch again before planting the saplings. This process helps inhibit the growth of weeds.

It is not possible to have a continuous year-round supply of the same vegetables due to seasonal variations. However, if you want to harvest the same type of vegetable for a long period, practice interval planting. This means that you will sow the seeds/saplings of a particular type of vegetable in batches (ten saplings every ten days). This way the vegetables mature at different times and you have a continuous supply for a longer period of time. Consult a professional to learn which plants can be used as interval crops in your area.

If your backyard is spacious, opt for group cropping by dividing the garden into blocks. This way you could plant vegetables of similar varieties and have almost the same harvest dates. Else you could plant two or more varieties of vegetables that have different harvest dates to prolong the season of any one vegetable.

One oft-forgotten rule is to not grow large batches of a vegetable that cannot be stored for long and has to be consumed immediately.

If you have grown saplings of any vegetable in a different patch and you now want to shift them, ensure that you transplant only the best saplings (ones that are disease-free, stocky and strong). Please avoid saplings that are “leggy” and weak.

If you buy saplings from a nursery, select ones that are free of insect damage and are healthy.

Once the saplings are transplanted, ensure that you water the saplings with water-soluble “starter fertilizer”. You could purchase the fertilizer from a nursery. Mix two tablespoons of water-soluble fertilizer with one gallon of water. The transplanted saplings need to be drenched with a cup of this solution on alternate days. Remember to water the base of the transplants regularly.

Vegetable gardening is a hobby for some, while it is a livelihood for others. Whether it is a hobby or a profession, the gardener has to resist the temptation to plant too many plants. Keep your garden weed free and irrigate it everyday.

Ways to Plant Potatoes in Your Garden

Potato is one of the most staple foods in the human diet, which is loved by people of all age groups around the world. These crops grow underground, but they are not roots. These plants belong to the group of storage stems, which is labeled as tubers. They come in more than hundred varieties, and the white (very light brown) and red-skinned ones with white flesh are commonly found in home vegetable gardens.

Tips for Planting Them

Potatoes are very easy to grow; you just need to have a little bit of patience. Of course, you need to take proper care of seed tubers or potatoes; these can be obtained with the help of garden companies’ sites on the Internet, or you can directly buy them at local garden centers.

Always use certified seed tubers that grow well, and not those that you get from the nearby supermarket. Once you receive them, open the packet and spread tubers over a tray, and keep them aside in a ventilated room for a few hours. The ones that are free from blemishes are considered to be the best.

The first thing you need to know is that you are expected to plant potatoes at the right time as they prefer cool weather. Taking into consideration that they take two to three weeks to emerge from the ground, you should plant them accordingly. When to plant these tubers depends on the weather. Check the freeze/frost probability for your state. You are expected to plant them, about fifteen days before the last predicted freeze date of 28 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for your state. You may plant them a few days later, as well. If you have kept the seeds in the refrigerator, a week before your planting date, take them out and place them in a bright warm window for about a week.

Potatoes can grow in different types of soil. Well-drained soil is considered to be suitable to plant them. They should not be planted when the ground is icy. They can grow in cool soil and light frost, but the growth will not be satisfactory until the soil warms up a bit.

If the question of how deep to plant them is lurking in your mind, then you should remember that the holes made to plant these seeds should be around eight inches deep. You are supposed to plant your whole or cut seeds, six to eight inches deep in good, rich soil. A minimum distance of three feet should be left between two rows of potatoes, and there should be a distance of twelve inches between two consecutive seeds within each row.

How Your Crop Can be of Better Quality?

If your crop was affected by scab (rough ugly patches on its skin) in the past, then you will need to toss a few dry pine needles beneath your seed tubers, as this will surely help to avoid scab. Remember, it is necessary to move your potatoes to a different section of the garden each year, in order to prevent further scab infection. Choose a sunny location. You may add some fertilizer to the soil in the upper portion.

These plants might take one to three weeks to emerge from the soil. This period may vary according to the warmth of the soil and the weather. Once the plants grow about a foot tall, take a hoe and make a continuous heap of soil, about six to eight inches high, along the entire row of plants. This procedure is known as “hilling”, which ensures that they will grow deeply under the soil, away from sunlight, which would make them turn green. Potatoes will be bitter, if the inedible green parts are not discarded. You need to water the growing plants evenly and regularly, because a dry period after a rainy spell might cause some varieties (especially Yukon Gold) to develop a hollow core.

Potato beetle is another big problem. The deep orange-colored larvae and pale orange-colored adult beetles feed on its foliage and can destroy it. This might reduce your harvest considerably. You are supposed to examine the undersides of leaves and whenever you notice beetle’s yellow eggs, you should crush them. Larvae and adults, when small in number, can be crushed. To control widespread infestation, you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It is very safe to use, and it won’t affect the nutritional value of the crops.

About eight weeks after planting (the period might vary according to the variety used), you can begin to harvest the new ones. The plants will start blooming, and you will be able to dig the entire crop, once the foliage dries and dies back in the fall. Store these crops in a cool, dry, and dark place, but first, let the outer surfaces of the freshly dug ones dry a bit. For this, you may spread them in a dry spot, but remember, you should not spread them directly under the sun. For example, you may spread them in a garage or shed for a couple of days.

Growing potatoes in bags and tires are some innovative ways of growing them indoors. These can be helpful for people, who dwell in cities, and do not have garden space. Freshly harvested crops taste better than any that you’ll buy at grocery stores. Planting them is indeed an easy task, and it is fun to produce good quality ones in your own garden.

Tips to Indoor Vegetable Container Gardening

Having home-grown vegetables for lunch or dinner is a very satisfying experience. However, not everyone has the space to create a vegetable garden, especially city-dwellers who live in apartments. In such cases, vegetable container gardening is a very good option. Firstly, it lets you grow your own vegetables, and secondly, you can be sure that the vegetables you are eating are fresh and healthy. Doing this is actually quite easy, and if you choose the right vegetables and herbs to plant, along with the proper containers to plant them in, you can have a thriving vegetable garden, indoors.

When you decide to grow your own vegetables indoors, you should choose only those that thrive in small spaces and produce a good yield. You should also select the containers and decide where to place them, so that your vegetables grow better.

Choosing the Right Container
It is very important to choose a container that provides good drainage, and is big enough to support the weight of the plant. Containers made out of terracotta, plastic, or wood, work well for this type of gardening. However, you can be innovative and use old plastic bottles, plastic milk jugs, old, chipped teapots and sugar bowls, or empty cans, as containers. You can also use wooden boxes and crates, as well as empty barrels. Just make sure that these containers provide adequate drainage, otherwise there will be water logging and the plants will rot.

Choosing the Right Soil
After you have decided the containers that you will be using, it is time to select the soil. Any good-quality potting soil can be used. It should be fairly lightweight, with a good mixture of sand and soil that will allow easy drainage. Clay soil should not be used as it absorbs too much water, which results in the roots of the vegetables receiving very less air. Organic compost should be added to the soil mixture so that the plants receive adequate nutrients. Good-quality potting soil can be purchased from any gardening center or local nursery.

Choosing the Right Vegetables to Grow
Always select vegetables that thrive in small spaces. You can grow green salad leaves like lettuce, endive, spinach, and rocket leaves, or vegetables like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, vine tomatoes, baby potatoes, chilies, and beans. These plants do not require too much sunlight, and hence grow well indoors. Many dwarf varieties of plants like gherkins, baby corns, and snow peas, are also great for growing in a container. Other vegetables that are easy to grow and thrive in containers are squash, eggplant, radishes, beetroot, peppers, and cucumbers.

Taking proper care of your vegetable garden is very important if you want healthy vegetables. Place the containers in a spot where they can get a little sunlight, like in a balcony or patio. Also, water and de-weed them regularly. Indoor vegetable gardening can be very rewarding and fun, and you can have home grown vegetables to eat.