Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

Planting a flower bed with leftovers, or, “Happy wife, happy life”

 She said, “I want my yard to look like a landscaper lives here.”

I replied, “It does look like a landscaper lives here. Remember the cobbler’s shoes.”

 I plant a lot of flowers every spring.  Actually, I plant a lot of truckloads of flowers every spring.  This year was rather hectic because I had to plant flowers for all of my clients before our May 14 wedding which was followed by a two week honeymoon trip. When you consider the fact that I can’t really start planting until April 15, it looks like an impossible task.  I did it, though-mostly. Before leaving for two weeks, I placed all of my leftover plants in what I call my “hospital” and left instructions with my neighbor, Marilyn, to keep them watered.

 There is a flower bed in Dekie’s back yard that is in just the right place, separating the patio area from the rest of the yard. It was ugly, though, and grown over with all manner of iris, daylilies, poison ivy, and all manner of other stuff, including one calla lily plant which is a treasure. We dug out everything but the calla lily and mounded up lots of compost that I get from Mike Hutchins in Menlo, Ga. It looked like this:

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

Re working a flower bed with compost and an eclectic mixed border

The house was probably built during the late 1920s or 30s and has obviously been inhabited by numerous gardeners. Dekie said that when she moved in, she found rocks and bricks everywhere she looked or tried to dig. We decided that we would keep the tradition of the yard and use bricks and rocks that she had found for the borders. I had packed the back of the mini van with flowers and it looked like this:

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

Leftover plants in the white Dodge mini van

I use the mounded compost for almost every flower bed installation.  It is quick, easy, and it “really, really works.” There’s just something about growing in a raised bed that I like. After the compost is piled up, the earthworms go to work, tilling the good dirt way down into the existing ground. I tell people they can stick pencils in this stuff and grow erasers. It is wonderful.

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

A flower bed prepared with a mound of compost

Dekie and Speck, the coon dog checked out all of the plants as they were unloaded. Speck had a wonderful time sniffing the fertilizer.

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Dekie and the coon dog check out the flowers and fertilizer

Around the end of June, it is sometimes hard to find the material that you want for a flower bed. I was rather fortunate the day before to have a client complain that the dragon wing begonias in her window boxes were getting too big, so I took them out and replaced them with smaller plants.  I had cut the tops out of the dragon wings and they were ready to go into the bed for the background. I love dragon wing begonias. They are, in my opinion, one of the finest flowering plants to come along in a long time.

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Dragon wing begonia pruned and ready to plant

Since the plants had been sitting around for well over a month, they had grown sort of tall and leggy. Dekie took on the careful task of pruning each plant so that it could branch out and strut its stuff.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

Prune the leggy plants before planting even if it means losing a few flowers. You will be rewarded with many more.

When we cleaned out the bed, we were very careful to avoid disturbing the calla lily.  My mother taught me about callas and they are one of my favorite plants.

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

I love the way calla lilies grow and form clumps

We laid the dragon wing begonias out and tried to be very particular because they grow rapidly and become rather large. They will make a wonderful background for the bed.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I like to lay out the background first. Dragon wing begonias will do fine.

I had saved a few plants of white and purple angelonia.  We thought that they would go well between the dragon wings and the fibrous rooted begonias. This will make a terraced effect that is so nice to have. Since the plants had been in their containers for so long, we had to break up the roots so they will spread.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

Break up the root balls to provide for better root development and, therefore, better plants.

We set up an assembly line. I would dig the holes (which ain’t much trouble in that wonderful compost), Dekie would then drop in the time release fertilizer, and I would finish the planting. We were finished in very little time.

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

I always use time release fertilizer when planting

The planting was finished and my sweet wife was grinning. I will probably go back and mulch the bed with either cypress chips or pine straw, whichever gets left over first.

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, "Happy wife, Happy life" I'm listening

The flowers are planted. My new father in law said, “Happy wife, Happy life” I’m listening

 It was time to clean up the pots for recycling and then to water the plants in. I planned to use my syphonex (which is a wonderful way to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose), but I thought this may just be a job for Sunday. I like to use liquid fertilizer along with the time release to “fine tune” the plants. I think I will introduce you to the syphonex next week. It is one of the best gardening tools I know of.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I've found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

The syphonex is the best, easiest, and most accurate way I’ve found to apply liquid fertilizer through a hose.

We set up the wonderful flower bed sprinkler. It is built out of pvc pipe with rain bird irrigation nozzles. If you want one, you can read about how to build it here

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

a handy home made sprinkler with pvc pipe and rain bird irrigation nozzles from Home Depot.

I’m learning about this married life. I liked the flower bed all right, but more than that, I really liked the smile on Sweetie’s face as she said, “Well, that’s a start”

********

You may also wish to check my article which tells about what happens when you prune a plant. See “The basics of pruning”

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

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?

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Summertime care for Knockout roses

Knockout Roses and summertime maintenance.

Over the last few years nothing has affected the color of our landscape like the Knockout rose.  Originally this rose was praised as “maintenance free” (and it is, to a point) but we have learned that there are certain tricks to getting the most out of the plant.  Read on—

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

After over 30 years as a landscaper and plant grower, I have learned that there is no such thing as “no maintenance”, only “low maintenance.” The Knockout rose is definitely in the low maintenance category.  After the first beautiful flush of bloom, the plant begins to fade.  This is because the first blooms have been pollinated and the plant is busy with its inherited job of making seeds.  This shows up as dead blooms and an overall dropping of the early spring petals.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

Here’s what is going on.  The flowers have been pollinated and are in the process of making seed pods.  There is a chemical produced in the plant that slows down the next blooms so that the seed pods can mature.  In order to fool the plant that it needs to make more flowers, the seed pods must be removed.  This is called “deadheading.” All serious flower growers know about deadheading and I talked to Judy about her Knockout roses the other day about it.  Judy said that cutting off each spent bloom took a lot of time and trouble.  It started me thinking about the best way to accomplish the job.

My feeling on the deadheading job on the roses (and the way I do it on the job) is to combine the job of deadheading and cosmetic pruning into one operation.  I start by looking down into the plant to isolate the stems which have mostly spent blooms.

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

In performing my task, I am trying to promote new growth and more flowers.  I want to be careful to leave any new growth which looks like this:

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this--with lots of flowers.

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this–with lots of flowers.

If I reach inside the plant and cut the stem (directly above a new leaf node) I can not only get the plant deadheaded in less time but also cause the stem to branch out and make even more flowers than before.  You may read about some of the principles of pruning in this article onhow to prune a jade plant.”  The principle is the same. I carefully cut a stem in a manner that performs two tasks.  Here is what I cut.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

After this cutting, the old stem will branch out and form new growth which will develop more flowers and will, again, look like this:

New growth on the Knockout rose

New growth on the Knockout rose

The process is really rather simple and you probably won’t mess up.  You can cut the stem short and get more branching at the top of the plant or you may wish to take out a larger cutting which will let more light inside the plant and increase the later flowering even more. You may wish to try deadheading on all of your flowers, especially marigolds and petunias. It does make a difference in the number of flowers you will get.

An application of a high phosphorous plant food or fertilizer will also help the plant to flourish and produce even more flowers.  Maybe use something with an analysis of 15-30-15 or a similar ratio.  Liquid feeds are fine and it doesn’t hurt to pour it all over the leaves as well as around the roots.  The upside for liquid is that it works faster.  The downside is that it doesn’t last as long.

Time release fertilizers such as Shake ‘n Feed or Osmocote will work well and last the entire season.  You need to scratch these into the soil or pour them into a small trench around the plant for full effect.

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

You may wish to read my article on fertilizer here.

Another article on pruning Knockout roses

And an article on pruning crape myrtles is here.

Every now and then you may get fungus on the roses, and sometimes aphids will set in.  I suggest a combination fungicide/insecticide which you can purchase at any good nursery.

Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation on your property with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

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?

Or the traditional print edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

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