Flowers for Late Winter and Early Spring—part one of a series

I love to watch the progression of winter into spring by noticing the flowers as they appear while the season progresses. This year I kept a photo-log. I was happy to find that even though I’m not well enough organized to keep the dates, the camera is. I started on February 1 with the first daffodil that I saw:

happy February

My morning welcome on February first. Daffodil bulbs should be planted in November

Walking up by the meditation garden I noticed that one of the hybrid Lenten roses (helleboris) had bloomed. February 8

hybrid lenten rose

Hybrid Lenten rose in February. These shade-loving plants may be planted any time of the year. They are evergreen. (helleborus)

On February 12 a flash of red caught my eye and I decided that, even though it is not a flower, it is a source of early color so I have included the nandina berries.

nandina

A nandina bush may be planted any time of the year. The berries usually show up around the first of November

The weather this past spring was exceptional and things seemed a bit different in the flower world. In Rome, Georgia, where I live, I’ve noticed over the years that the “tulip magnolia” (magnolia soulangeana) only shows a good bloom every four or five years. The freeze usually gets them—but this year, 2017, I saw this magnificent specimen in bloom on February 14

soulangeana

This magnolia is deciduous (not evergreen) and it blooms in the spring before producing leaves. “Tulip magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana)

A flowering quince at the end of my driveway is somehow still alive after being totally neglected through a drought and bumped repeatedly by my truck bumper. It was in bloom on February 17.

quince

The flowering quince is an easy-to-grow shrub that was probably prized by your great-grandmother. Don’t plant it near a traffic area

Another of the hybrid Lenten rose plants bloomed on 2/23.

hybrid helleboris

There are a lot of varieties of this plant. Some of the new ones can be a bit pricey but they are all lovely–and easy, easy. They love shade.

It had been hanging in there all winter out on the porch but with the coming of warmer weather my prized double orange pansy was showing off on February 24.

double orange

The double orange pansy started showing off as the weather got warmer.

My wife received a nice camera for Christmas and she presented me with a high definition of a beautiful daffodil. I played with it a while and got this composition. February 24

bring your own sunshine

A pretty daffodil for the end of February. photo by Dekie Hicks

My February photos started the month with daffodils and right at the end of the month I took this picture which I titled “spring cluster.” February 26

spring cluster

More daffodils to finish off the month of February. They just make you happy, don’t they?

My wife, Dekie, showed me a plant languishing in the corner of the yard and told me that an old lady had given it to her years ago and that it was special. We dug it up, put it in some good dirt, and gave it some tender loving care. The plant rewarded us with lots of pretty flowers and we were able to identify it as a flowering almond. March 1

flowering almond

Flowering Almond may be grown as a bush or trained as a small tree. It is related to the peach and the cherry

I saw a bright glow of flowers on a protected lorapetalum bush on March 2

lorapetalum

Lorapetalum is colorful and easy to grow. It seems to bloom shortly after pruning most of the year.

The red azalea in the back yard showed off on March 3 with a nice grouping of flowers. I knew it was early and I was right. A freeze zapped the blooms a couple of nights later.

azalea morning sun

The first week of March is too early for azalea blooms in north Georgia. Sure enough, the cold zapped the blooms. Oh, Well, maybe next year.

The pansies that I planted in the meditation garden last October were there all along but on March 22 I noticed that they were really going to put on a show. My grower had shown me a new variety of pansies developed for hanging baskets. I thought I would try it on a hill side and I was rewarded with quite a show. March 22

march meditation

The drifts of pansies performed well this year.

I went by to see my friend Marilyn on March 23. Her hillside was covered in the beautiful old-fashioned pink phlox. Now, I would love to know the history of this plant. I know that Marilyn got it from Granmaw Sue but I knew Sue for many years and she was elderly when I met her. Granmaw sue had at least five acres of flowers and she loved to share. Maybe she lives on in the hillside planting. Phlox subulata, March 23

Marilyn's phlox

I used to see this “creeping Phlox all over the rural south. Not so much, now. You have to get it from an old lady to be successful.

Dianthus is one of my favorites. It is pretty hardy and there are so many colorful varieties. I think it is interesting that the dianthus (pinks) is related to the carnation that we are all so familiar with in flower arrangements. I think I planted these dianthus plants in November and they over-wintered very well. April 2

april dianthus

There are many varieties of dianthus. They will tolerate cold but seem to decline in the heat of summer. Then they return in the fall.

A long time ago I lived in a house that had an old, hand dug well in the back yard. The sides of the well had been bricked up and the well was no longer used, but it was a garden accent. A purple oxalis plant languished in the sorry dirt next to the well. It died every winter and then I noticed that in the spring it poked its head back up and tried to grow again. One year I potted some up and treated it right. It rewarded my efforts with a show. April 4

purple oxalis

A hardy perennial, it will withstand much abuse. Needs bright light Some people call its green cousin “shamrock”.

My final offering for this first part of the series is the iris. Now, talk about a survivor, this is it. We had a big stand of iris in the yard and wanted to thin the plants out. I dug them up and piled them up next to the fence where they stayed, neglected, for about two years. Last September I grabbed a shovel full of them and threw them on the side of a hill in the still developing meditation garden. They thanked me for finally paying attention to them. Here they are on April 8

iris and sky

The iris is a survivor and thrives on neglect. It needs dividing periodically, so share with your friends.

Some time in the next two or three weeks I will post another installment of this series. It’s a good activity for a rainy day. Thanks for visiting

Johntheplantman

Share this with your friends.

john

Trucking Buddies find Giant Insects

An accidental visit to the lovely Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville was most interesting. After viewing the bonsai show we walked through the  gardens. One of the most striking exhibits was of “Big Bugs”—sculpture by David Rogers. If you like bugs there is some fun information on the Cheekwood website (Click Here).

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

I enjoyed studying the praying mantis and then looked off in the distance to see what looked like space invaders from War of the Worlds.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

The garden path meandered through lovely flower plantings. I was delighted to see this sign which backed up my practice of telling people that an electric fence is, indeed, appropriate in the landscape garden.

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

The gardener had even set out a special sign to give a reason for the fence. I didn’t need one. I knew.

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

We walked on, enjoying the lovely day.  And then I came across the “space men” which turned out to be a granddaddy long legs spider.

giant spider

I think the sign said that this is not really a spider

I realized that I had been enjoying the signage and that perhaps I should share:

Is a daddy longlegs really a spider?

all about daddy longlegs

The artist, David Rogers, took good advantage of the reflective qualities of water as he placed his dragonfly in just the right spot.

9

giant dragonfly over a lake

giant dragonfly over a lake

And, of course, there was a sign for the dragonflies.

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I had seen sphinx-like statues in other gardens. This one commanded a nice view of the shade garden

Garden Sphinx

Garden Sphinx

And a sign that told me some things I hadn’t known:

about the garden sphinx

about the garden sphinx

One of my favorite pictures was this one of Sweetie in a bird cage. What they say is true, “The caged Sweetie didn’t sing.”

Yep, a caged Sweetie don't tweetie.

Yep, a caged Sweetie don’t tweetie.

For David Rogers’ website, CLICK HERE

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

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?

Update on “Country Formal Cutting Garden”

I had a chance to visit the Todino’s cutting garden this week.  The tulips were showing of. If you saw the earlier article, I showed the varieties and the planting method for colors and for early, mid season, and late blooming.  That article is here:

Image

A couple of weeks before the above picture was taken, Dekie and I stopped by and planted some snapdragons that will fill in after the tulips.  I had found some rather nice plants at Lowe’s

Image

Here’s a picture of Dekie helping with the planting. I’m still suffering mobility issues because of the cancer treatments. I don’t know what I would do without Sweetie and her wonderful helpful attitude.  

Image

I’m liking the way the overall garden is looking these days.  I plan to plant several colors of coneflower in the center of the bed for summer bloom and a few dahlias for fall.  We’ll see. It is a wonderful experiment, though.  I really don’t think I can mess up.

Image

 

Do you have suggestions for a cutting garden? 

Progress report, I only have two more radiation treatments after today.  Yay for that.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman.

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?

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

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