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Flower

Whether you're planting bulbs, annuals or perennials, flower gardens add a beautiful splash of color throughout the season. While growing flowers is not difficult, there are many decisions that must be made prior to planting. The more closely these choices are based on meeting the needs of your plants, the more likely you are to be successful. Some of the most basic factors to be considered include light, moisture, soil quality and when to plant. Click on the information below to learn more.

Poinsettias Past Christmas

Christmas PoinsettiaWho hasn’t received a velvety, red-leafed poinsettia as a gift or purchased one or more for their home during the holiday season? And how many of those poinsettias survive the year to flower again next holiday season? Hmmm…

Long ago and far away when I was a school teacher, I was given a beautiful poinsettia by one of my darling, young students. It had obvious problems, planted in a small plastic pot filled with a dry concoction dominated by Styrofoam chips. Obviously, its grower didn’t intend for it to last into the new year. Ignorant of growing poinsettias but generally knowledgeable about what plants needed, we repotted it on the solstice, thereby saving the plant but loosing its blossoms.

With its rootball in a big new home filled with nourishing, compost-laden soil mix, our poinsettia thrived, though it never again blossomed. It seemed to grow best during fall and winter and over the years became something of a twisted bonsai with its circling branches decorated with spare green leaves. (more…)

Venus Fly Traps

Venus Fly TrapBy Kim Haworth

I know this will sound stupid, but I’m sitting in my office weeping into my keyboard because some damn fool stole my Venus Fly Traps. I adored them, and now they are gone. These adorable little plants did everything but talk back to me. All through the summer, they caught everything from yellow jackets to beetles to those big mosquito eaters. I would stop for my morning visit and see the leaves shaking furiously, accompanied by ghastly buzzing. The little plants held onto their pray like grim death. There were even some volunteer Sundews that grew in the same pots with the fly traps and they were absolute murder on the ant population. The little executioners captured everything except spiders, which I have the feeling were too smart to fall for their lures. I have never had plants that gave me so much pleasure, and now they’re with somebody who doesn’t know how to care for them.

It’s not like they looked great or anything. They were well into their dormant period so some of the leaves were black and withered, the saucer was green and scummy and the leaves that were left each held the remnants of a grisly meal. Why would anybody steal something like that? (more…)

Rose Gardening 101

Rose GardenRoses are one of the most popular plants in flower gardens and landscapes. From delicate tea roses to voluptuous Grandiflora blooms, roses delight all the senses. Roses also have a reputation for being difficult. But like anything, rose gardening is easy… if you know the tips and tricks of the trade.

Select a Site

Before planting your rose garden take some time to determine the best site. If possible, check out the site at different times during the day and different times during the year.

• Find a place with rich, well-drained soil. If this doesn’t sound like any spot in your yard, amend the soil with compost before planting.

• Roses prefer slightly acidic soil (6.0-6.5 pH is best). Don’t know your soil’s pH? Get a pH test kit and find out.

• Be sure your rose site will get plenty of water. Plan to install a drip irrigation system or use a garden hose to water regularly (see Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens).

• Roses need at least 8-10 hours of sun a day, so choose a site away from shade-inducing trees or houses. (more…)

Flower Gardening 101

Flower GardeningFlower gardening can brighten up and enliven any landscape. It can turn an ordinary garden into a colorful showcase or create a border that pops. Whether you choose an easy to manage perennial or a particularly touchy annual, growing flowers is a rewarding addition to any yard, garden or border.

Choosing Flowers

Selecting the right plants for your flower garden is often a matter of preference, but with so many species and varieties available it can be mind-boggling. Consider the following when designing a flower garden: hardiness, color, fragrance, height, time of bloom and size of plant. Do you want to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, or song birds? Or are you trying to create a work of beauty just for you?

It is also imperative to think about your growing space. Is it in full sun? Partial shade? Is your soil well-drained and loamy? Or will your plant roots have to fight through clay soil? (more…)

Growing Zinnias

Growing ZinniasEasy to plant from seed, growing zinnias is very rewarding with their full, rich colors and abundant blooms. Available in a wide variety of sizes, from miniatures to giants, and colors, from white to orange to pink and multicolored, zinnias will satisfy any flower-lover for several months every summer.

Site Preparation:

Zinnia is an annual warm season plant that likes full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow, however, and will tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Generous amounts of compost and organic matter will improve the health of your zinnias tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.

How to Plant:

Zinnias can be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date, or they can be seeded directly into the flower bed after all danger of frost has passed. Sow directly into the soil and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 6-12 inches apart after they have sprouted. (more…)

Growing Sweet Peas

Sweet PeasA great climber that’s perfect for fences and trellises! Home flower gardeners are growing sweet peas for their fragrant scent and interesting blossoms. Easy to plant from seed, they add a splash of color to any garden, especially in cooler, wet climates.

Site Preparation:

Sweet peas like a rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate various conditions. Soak seeds in water for 2-6 hours before planting to improve germination. Sow directly into the soil, about 4-6 inches apart and cover with 1/2 inch of soil.

How to Plant:

Sow sweet pea seeds as soon as the soil can be worked for summer bloom. The seed casings are hard, so soak overnight for best germination. Sweet peas like full sun and cool weather, so they can tolerate wet soil and wet climates well. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. (more…)

Growing Sunflowers

SunflowerRemarkably fun and very hardy — perfect for kids! Home gardeners are growing sunflowers for their full, rich sunset colors and large blooms. Easy to plant from seed, they are available in sizes ranging from miniatures at 1-2 feet tall (good for edging) to 20 feet tall with 2 foot diameter blooms. They germinate easily and are fascinating and rewarding to watch, and provide fun seeds to harvest at the end of the summer, making them the ideal seed for children.

Site Preparation:

Sunflowers like a good, well-drained soil and will thrive in areas with full sun. It is not recommended to plant them in sandy soil, however, as they need a strong soil to support their tall, top-heavy plants.

How to Plant:

Sunflowers are very easy to direct-seed. Sow after danger of frost has passed, about 4-6 inches apart with 1/2 inch of soil covering them. If started indoors, use peat pots or pots made of newspaper that can be planted directly into the soil. (more…)

Growing Snapdragons

SnapdragonIn ancient times snapdragons (Antirrhinum Majus) were thought to have supernatural powers and offer protection from witchcraft. They were also believed to restore beauty and youthfulness to women. Growing snapdragons provides months of color ranging from pale pastels to vibrant reds and oranges. They are a favorite flower for cutting and fragrance. Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Plants grow 1-3 feet tall. Self-seeding annual.

Site Preparation:

Snapdragons thrive in the cooler temperatures of late spring and do best in sunny locations with rich, well-drained soil. Plants will not flourish where temperatures are high for long periods of time. Blooms will tolerate some frost. Under favorable conditions, snapdragons will self-sow in the garden.

How to Plant:

May be grown from cuttings or from seed. If planting from seed, sow indoors on the surface of the soil for 8 weeks before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days. For best results, sow in vermiculite and water from below. Plant outdoors after last frost. Pinch back young plants after 4-6 leaves have appeared to encourage a bushy habit and apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer for optimum plant health. Spent flowers should be picked often to encourage more blooms. If blooms become scarce, cut back plants drastically, then feed and water generously. Plants may need to be staked when young. (more…)

Growing Daisies

Shasta DaisyHome gardeners everywhere are growing daisies. The simple white flowers with yellow button centers are a symbol of purity and are perfect for cutting. Easy to grow, they are a favorite for beginner flower gardeners and are effective when planted in small groups. Perennial, 2-3 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Daisies like rich, fast draining soil, ample water and lots of sunshine. However, they are hardy and will tolerate poor soil conditions and partial shade. Work some old animal manure or compost into the soil to help promote abundant blooms.

How to Plant:

Easy to grow from seed, division or nursery stock. Plant directly into the soil 1/8 inch deep when a light frost is still possible. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days and plants will bloom the following year – after one seasons growth. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer early in the season to promote strong, sturdy growth. (more…)

Growing Roses: The Queen of Flowers

Rose Gardening

Home gardeners have been growing roses for well over 2,000 years. Loved for their beauty and fragrance, they are cultivated for a variety of landscape effects or for cutting. The members of the genus Rosa are prickly stemmed shrubs with a wide range of heights and growing habits. There are as many as 150-200 species and thousands of varieties, from miniatures (6 inches to 2 feet tall) to climbers that may grow 20 feet or more. Perennial.

Site Preparation

Roses like a good, well-drained soil and will grow best in protected spots with ample water and full sun. Plants require at least 8-10 hours of sunlight per day for optimum growth.

Tip: If you have a choice between morning or afternoon sun, it’s probably best to choose morning. This will help dry morning moisture from foliage quickly and prevent many plant diseases. (more…)

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