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

Turn Overgrown Front Door Plants Into Nice Topiaries

Sylvia had asked me to deal with the plants by her front entrance some time ago. It seems that the blue point junipers were getting a bit out of hand. I like blue points but they take either a lot of room or a lot of care. There’s definitely not much room in this yard.

Overgrown junipers at the front entrance need tending to. (blue point juniper)

Overgrown junipers at the front entrance need tending to. (blue point juniper)

Randy and Sylvia live on Pear Street which is a tightly-built and tightly-planted gated community. The plantings are nice looking at the moment but, in my opinion, there are way too many plants for the area. I think that sooner or later someone will have to either shape or move a lot of the plant material. I definitely question the planting of a number of Bradford Pears.

Bradford Pear in the wrong place

Bradford Pear in the wrong place

Back to the job at hand, we discussed the design that we were looking for. I had told Sylvia that I could only do the job when I “felt like it” and was in the proper mood. The time was right. We decided that the tops of the pruned plants would be in line with the top of the brick pillar supports. I set my pruning shears down and stepped back to study it.

Determine where the top of the finished topiary will be in reference to the front porch.

Determine where the top of the finished topiary will be in reference to the front porch.

The first cut was major, after due deliberation we just went in and whacked off the top of the tree.

Start the topiary project  by cutting the top of the tree to the desired height.

Start the topiary project by cutting the top of the tree to the desired height.

After the top was gone, I chose a second level that was approximately one third of the distance from the top to the bottom. I started shaping to this part of the concept with my hand pruners. I love the Golden Mean.

Trim the tree to basic shape with hand pruners

Trim the tree to basic shape with hand pruners

We continued cutting until the basic shape became clear.

The topiaries begin to take shape.

The topiaries begin to take shape.

It was time to smooth up the cuts and to “polish” the topiary. The motor pruners are a perfect tool for the job. I always try to keep the blades well-sharpened.

polishing the topiary with motorized hedge trimmers.

polishing the topiary with motorized hedge trimmers.polishing the topiary with motorized hedge trimmers.

I stepped back to check on the progress. A little more tipping and touching up would finish the job. The client was happy and that is important to me.

The finished topiary project. The trees will now need to grow in over time.

The finished topiary project. The trees will now need to grow in over time.

The plants will need easy trimming two or three times a year. They should look really nice by this time next year. We are basically using a bonsai process to shape them and to keep them shaped. Try it on one of your plants—it’s fun.

*************************

You may enjoy the article on pruning an overgrown bonsai

And here’s another article on tree-forming, landscaping from the inside-out.

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?

Zinnias In The Garden

It seems like every year I pay attention to a particular flower in the garden. Last year was the year of the cone flower (Echinacea) and the year before that I fell in love with the Dragon Wing Begonia.  This year I have noticed zinnias.

A bed of seed-planted zinnias in August

A bed of seed-planted zinnias in August

It’s not that I have just noticed the existence of any particular flower or plant, it’s that I have lent more appreciation to the particular species. Most of the ladies for whom I garden (including my wife, of course) ask for cut flowers to be available as much as possible.

One day, earlier in the summer, I was having a garden planning conversation with Patsy. She said, “I remember flowers that my grandmother grew for cutting—I can’t recall the name, but they were big and they smelled bad.” I couldn’t call the name, either, and we laughed at our mutual mental block.  The very next time I saw Patsy, we looked at each other and simultaneously said, “zinnias”.

Growing zinnias gives cut flowers in many vibrant colors

Growing zinnias gives cut flowers in many vibrant colors

Joel Todino, (who is one of the most dedicated vegetable gardeners I know) and I have had several discussions on the theory of “WTLD” which stands for “Whatever The Lady Desires.” We both understand the beneficial effects that adherence to this theory has on our lives. I also added into the discussion a quote from my father-in-law, Bob Hicks: “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” In case you are wondering how this applies to zinnias—Joel’s wife wants cut flowers and she loves zinnias.  Therefore, Joel grows zinnias every year.

Zinnias for "Whatever The Lady Desires"

Zinnias for “Whatever The Lady Desires”

At the front of his vegetable garden, Joel tills up a bed about eight feet wide and twenty feet long. In the late spring he opens up rows and plants lots and lots of zinnia seeds. The seeds are cheap and they grow quickly. Other older gardeners have informed me that one may purchase new zinnia seeds or also save the seeds from one year to the next.

In August, Joel’s zinnia bed looks like this. Look at the long stems just right for flower arrangements.

Some zinnia varieties have long stems which are ideal for cut flower arrangements

Some zinnia varieties have long stems which are ideal for cut flower arrangements

While visiting my younger clients (younger being under 60) I have noticed that they like zinnias also. The difference, though, is that instead of growing the plants in a flower bed from seed, they purchase the plants from the nursery. An August visit to Home Depot found the following:

 four-inch pots of zinnias at Home Depot

four-inch pots of zinnias at Home Depot

The larger pots of zinnias seem to be a popular item. I also noticed one in my wife’s back yard garden. I guess I should pay better attention to WTLD.

 Larger pots of zinnias at Home Depot

Larger pots of zinnias at Home Depot

I would bet that if your grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother had a flower bed she grew zinnias.

 Thanks 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?

Here’s an article on Joel in his garden in February:

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