Poinsettias at the nursery.

Poinsettias

One of the best parts of my job is being able to visit the large commercial greenhouses, and one of the sights I look most forward to is the one presented to me by thousands of fresh poinsettias in the mid stages of showing their vibrant colors.

Starting with a close up
starting with a close up. The red is not really the bloom, but a modified leaf.

Yesterday (11/17/09) I went to Tommy Loder’s greenhouses in Centre, Alabama.  I had my camera with me because I knew what I would see, and I knew I would want to share the sight. 

Thousands of plants almost ready for Christmas

Keep up with johntheplantman’s blog and in a couple of weeks I will tell you just how to care for your Christmas poinsettias so that you will get the most out of them.

 And while I have you thinking about Christmas, I thought I’d tell you that you can give a story 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Enjoy the photos.

john

Continue reading “Poinsettias at the nursery.”

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God and cacti

This is maybe a little about plants and a little about philosophy.  A wonderful quote about God and cacti.  A little thought about blooming through adversity.

There’s a message here somewhere.

micro and macro
One day they just decide to bloom

I was to do a program on succulents.  I had the plants to show but I needed an intro.

I hadn’t come up with anything special and so, in a manner which I have found helpful before, I pushed the mental project to the back of my mind and picked up a book.

The book was titled “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay

The setting is South Africa during the early days of World War Two and

is written with the viewpoint of a precocious child

The passage that I opened the book to seemed worth sharing.  The child related the conversation between his mother and his new friend who was a German music professor and a world renowned expert on cacti and succulents.  I paid close attention because I have quite an interest in cacti myself.

The mother asked the old man about his belief in God

 The old man replied:

God and I have no quarrels, madame.  The Almighty conceived the cactus plant.  If God would choose a plant to represent him, I think he would choose of all plants the cactus.  The cactus has all the blessings he tried, but mostly failed, to give to man.  Let me tell you how.  It has humility, but it is not submissive.  It grows where no other plant will grow.  It does not complain when the sun bakes it back or the wind tears it from the cliff or drowns it in the dry sand of the desert or when it is thirsty.  When the rains come it stores water for the hard times to come.  In good times and in bad it will still flower.  It protects itself against danger, but it harms no other plant.  It adapts perfectly to almost any environment.  It has patience and enjoys solitude.  In Mexico there is a cactus that flowers only once every hundred years and at night.  This is saintliness of an extraordinary kind, would you not agree?  The cactus has properties that heal the wounds of men and from it come potions that can make man touch the face of God or stare into the mouth of hell.  It is the plant of patience and solitude, love and madness, ugliness and beauty, toughness and gentleness.  Of all plants, surely God made the cactus to his own liking.  It has my enduring respect and is my passion.”  He paused and pointed to the small plant in the jam tin which looked all the world like bunny ears.  “Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, such a little lady.  Two years I search to find her, now she grows happily in my cactus garden where her big ears listen to all the gossip.”

I love growing all kinds of different cacti.  They are easy and pleasing.  Then, every now and then they will put up a flower that will last about a day. 

That’s sort of what I do in my life.  I struggle and survive, I work at my particular art form and think, and then one day I get to bloom.  Pretty cool?

Thank you for allowing me to share Bryce Courtenay’s words

johntheplantman

How to deal with mums

How to deal with mums:

Ruth Shaw asked,

What do I do with my Chrysanthemums when they quit blooming?

 

mums2
Garden mums custom grown for a late October wedding

I am writing this with the expectations of being able to refer people to my blog instead of answering it six times a day.  You can plant and grow mums in the garden outside.  Here’s how it works:

 

mums3
In mid November, this mum has seen its better days

A lot of beautiful mums were sold in the months of September and October.  Chrysanthemums are fun to watch and grow. There is a trigger for the blooms on most plants.  Crape myrtles bloom with the effects of temperature.  Azaleas bloom after their flower buds have gone through a period of cold followed by a period of warmth.  (This excludes the Encore azaleas which are different—more about these in a separate blog.).

Chrysanthemums respond to a phenomenon called “photoperiodism”. This means that their blooming is regulated by day length (photo=light + “period”).  Mums grown in an unregulated environment will bloom naturally in the fall.  They will develop their vegetative growth in the summer months and then form flower buds in August and September.  There are many different varieties that bloom earlier or later.  The professional growers will produce several of these varieties in order to extend the selling season.  For seasonal mums at the nursery, rooted cuttings are planted in pots somewhere around the first of July and are “pinched” to form branching until about August 15, timing depending on variety.  The fully branched plants are then grown out into the specimens that you see at nurseries, grocery stores, and flea markets.

Poinsettias also set their bloom by the number of hours of daylight/darkness.

Florist mums are grown differently.  Special and fancier varieties are grown in a greenhouse in which the light may be regulated.  This is commonly done by pulling a shade cloth over the plants at a certain time of day.  The production of florist mums is highly specialized and takes quite a bit of knowledge, talent, and educated labor.

Chrysanthemums are perennial plants and should grow and return anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line.  I’m not quite sure how far north they will survive, but they do will here in north Georgia and my mother grows them in Kingsport, Tennessee.

When your chrysanthemum quits blooming cut off the spent blooms.  Cut the tops of the plants down to 2/3 of the plant’s original size.  Keeping in mind that mums like lots and lots of light, prepare a space in the garden.  Due to photoperiodism, you will want to find a place that is not under or near a street light or other long burning outside lighting fixture.

Shake the pruned plant out of the pot and look at it.  Most growers will put two or three or more plants in the pot, depending on the pot size.  You may divide these if desired, or you may just choose to plant the entire plant as it comes from the pot.  If you wish to divide the plant, carefully slide a butcher knife between the individual plants and cut the root ball.

It is important that you break up the root ball of the plant so that the roots will grow out and into the soil instead of remaining in a tight ball that is caused by the flower pot.  Don’t be afraid to be a little rough with the roots.

The rest is easy, dig a hole, add some organic material, add a teaspoon, more or less of  Osmocote,  cover the roots, pack the dirt down, and water when needed.

For growing out the following spring, you should cut back the dead stems from the year before and watch the little plants grow.  Prune the plants around July 1 and then again around August 1-15.  This will encourage branching which will give you more blooms.  During active periods of growth, fertilize the plants every couple of weeks with a little liquid feed.  This will supplement the effects of the Osmocote.

I found out by accident one time that you should leave the dead stems all winter and remove them after the plant starts to grow again in the spring.  This seems to insulate the new shoots from the cold.

Florist mums that have spent their lives either inside a greenhouse or in another warm environment may not do as well as the garden mums.  If you take a plant out of the warm house and plant it outside in the winter time it won’t have time to become acclimated to the cold and will probably croak. These plants will probably do better if kept in a warm, bright window until spring.

By the way, did you know that you can bonsai a chrysanthemum?  I think there is a chrysanthemum bonsai society.  I’ve never done it, but I have seen some beautiful pictures.

Enjoy the planting

Grow it.

John P. Schulz

How to treat a butterfly

 

How to treat a butterfly (for Tina):

by john p. schulz

 

  • On Building Stepping Stones
  • Concrete and Abstract

 

stepping stones
Hand made stepping stones with imbedded ferns

Suddenly and unexpectedly captivated

The two young girls stopped their play

Noticing the wrinkled ancient gardener

As he added interest to the garden path.

 

They stood in their shorts and sandals

Their long hair hanging down

And watched as the old man pressed a flower

Into a freshly poured cement stepping stone.

 

“Will the flower stay in the cement?”

One asked

“No” replied the gardener.

“I will take the flower out

when the cement dries.”

 

“And what will be there, then?”

The other girl asked

The gardener thought about it

“The essence of the flower will remain.”

 

The girls thought about it

Jessica asked:

“Can you put a butterfly in it?”

“Yes” the gardener replied

“Can you find a butterfly?”

 

The two girls looked at each other and disappeared

Returning as the gardener was mixing fresh cement.

His hands old and wrinkled but strong

One girl’s hands soft and smooth

Cupped under her chin

Holding a treasure.

 

The gardener, putting his hand to his back

Straightened up, his eyes smiling

“And what might you have in your hands?”

“Why it’s a butterfly” she laughed

“I caught it. It’s beautiful”

 

He gently held out his hand

“And you want its essence in the garden?”

She looked down at her hands.  “I think so” she said.

 

And after a pause, she asked:

“Will it die?”

“Of course” the old man said

“But I don’t want it to die”

She clasped her hands a bit tighter.

 

The old man cocked his head to the side

“It will only live for a day, anyway”

She looked down at her hands

“And how long will its essence be in the cement?”

 

He turned and looked all around the garden

“It should be there for years” he replied

She followed his gaze around the beautiful garden

“He will be here for years?”

A nod

“He will die tomorrow anyhow?”

A nod

 

The girls looked at each other

They looked at the cupped hands

They looked up at the cloudy sky

And the smooth young hands opened up

And the girls watched

As the beautiful butterfly found a wind current

And sailed away.

 

“He only gets one day.” She said

How to Plant Pansies

pansy vase

It’s pansy planting time here in the southeast.  We are busy cleaning up the spent begonias and petunias before they turn to mush in the next week or two.  Then we replace them with pansies.  Glorious pansies.

I like pansies for several reasons:

  • They brighten up the winter landscape.
  • They seem to be hardy enough to survive the harshest winters.
  • Pansies not only offer a beautiful flower, but they offer it when not much else does.
  • A bed of pansies will offer a wonderful show of color when it matures in the spring.
  • They are nicely fragrant and offer a source of cut flowers for inside.

Actually, with these flowers, the more you pick, the more you get.

When I was a teenager, in the late fifties and early sixties, I can remember my grandmother and my mother purchasing pansy plants.  They didn’t come in six packs or pots like they do today.  They were sold bare root, wrapped up in bits of moist newspaper or in paper towels like the ones that were available at the gas station for washing windshields. (Of course, at that time, you didn’t have to wash your own windshield, either, you drove up to the pump, said, “give me two dollars,” and they pumped your eight gallons of gas, washed your windshield, and checked your tires and oil.)

Pansies later started appearing in stores in six packs, usually 36 plants to a flat (tray).  Now they are in all sized containers and are available 18 plants to a flat, in round 4 inch pots, and in larger sizes.  I find that it is cost effective to go with the six packs as you get twice (or more) plants for the money and that means they can be planted thicker for less money.

When buying pansies, I look for the following:

  • First, ask when the plants will be delivered and meet the truck.  Get them fresh from the nursery. This gives the nursery (or big store) less time to mess them up.
  • Look at the plant, not the bloom.  Look for plants that are stout, not stretched out.
  • Pull a random plant out of the container and look at the roots.  They should be white and well formed.  Do not buy plants with brown roots.
  • Look for indications of grey, powdery mildew.  Avoid any that show this fungal disease.
  • Remember, unless instant gratification is too slow for you, bigger is not always better. They will grow.

When you purchase the pansy plants, also ask for a package of Osmocote.  This is a time-release fertilizer that I use religiously with my bedding plants.

 

osmocote

 

The technique for planting is basically the same as with any bedding plant.

  • Choose a location with as much light as possible, preferably use a prepared bed.
  • Space the plants 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • Dig a hole that is approximately half again the size of the container.
  • Sprinkle in a half a teaspoon of Osmocote.
  • Chop up the dirt from the hole and fill it back in.
  • Mulch with pine straw or wood chips and water them in
  • That’s it!!
  • You will find that if you pick the spent blooms (deadheading) and/or pick for cut flowers, you will get an increased yield of flowers.

It doesn’t hurt when the plants are freshly planted to pour a little liquid feed over them. Use something like Peter’s, or Hyponex.  I really like Schultz’s plant food (no relation).

Enjoy your pansy bed.  The only hard part is when you have to pull them out in the late spring to replace them with summer annuals.

Grow it!!

John P. Schulz

11/8/09

 

 

 

 

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