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Edition 10.44 Paul Parent Garden Club News November 4, 2010
featured quote

Featured Quote:

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener."
~J. C. Raulston

Paul Makes Wreaths

Wreaths are back for the holidays--and better than ever.
All wreaths are made in Maine to your order, to insure freshness. Wreaths are double-faced with fresh picked balsam fir, and are not machine-made.

Click here to order online.

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Allium/Ornamental Onion

These bulbs flower in late spring and early summer. They are native plants to the mountains of Asia, where they grow as wildflowers. Many of these wildflowers have been hybridized today to produce bigger flowers, different flower colors, and unusual flower shapes for your gardens.

Alliums are easy to grow and have very showy flowers that will give your garden a lot of character--but they must be planted this fall to bloom in the spring or early summer. These bulbs are very hardy and will tolerate harsh winter climate with lots of snow and cold weather.

Plant alliums in a well-drained soil where water never accumulates or puddles. The better the soil is conditioned with peat moss, compost, or animal manure the better the bulbs will grow and multiply. Good garden soil with plenty of organic matter will encourage bigger flowers on the plant and those flowers will bloom longer also. Rich soils encourage the bulbs to divide in the soil resulting with multiple flowers and more flowers each year.

Fertilize alliums when they come into bloom and again in the fall with a fertilizer like Bulb-Tone to keep them productive. Stay away from bone fertilizers, as dried bone meal will attract animals to dig in the garden where you just planted or fertilized these bulbs.

Alliums will grow best in a full sun garden, as they love warm soil in the early spring that will warm up quickly after a long winter. Soils should also be able to hold moisture during the summer, as that is the time of the year the bulb will divide and make more bulb plants in your garden. If your soil is on the sandy side, add organic matter when planting this fall.

Allium will also tolerate a bit of shade in the morning, but must have sun during the heat of the day--from 10 AM to 4 PM. Allium bulbs are planted deeper than most bulbs in the fall and should be covered four times the height of the bulb with soil. Example: if the bulb is 1 inch high you, must cover the bulb with 4 inches of soil, so make the hole 5 inches deep when planting.

Allium flowers are referred to as ornamental onions because of the unusual smell of the flower; in fact all parts of the plant will smell like onion. The flowers grow in the shape of an umbrella, with a rounded top, sides and hollow center or underside. The flower head is made up of up to 50 or more individual star-shaped flowers that grow less than 1 inch in diameter. The flowers will grow 1 to 8 inches wide, depending on the variety you choose. The flowers will grow on tall, strong stems reaching 12 to 24 inches tall--but the larger flowering types can reach 36 to 48 inches in height. Flower colors range among white, yellow, pink, lavender, red, blue, and purple.

The foliage is medium green and strap-like, nothing exciting to look at, so focus on the flowers. Plant the bulbs in groups for the best show of color and remember that the smaller flowering varieties are inexpensive. The larger flowering types are more expensive but worth the price. These larger flowering types need a special place in your garden as they are very showy. When possible, keep plants out of windy areas as the flower is top-heavy--and heavy winds can break the flower stem.

Allium makes a wonderful cut flower and is used by florists when available. When the flower dries, the seed head can also be used in arrangements. These flowers are loved by honey bees for their nectar in the spring, so be careful around them.

My favorite varieties of large types are Allium 'Globemaster' and Allium giganteum, for their 4 to 8 inch diameter flowers on 3 to 4 foot stems. The smaller types look for are 'Purple Sensation,' 'Sphaerocephalon,' 'Unifolium,' and 'Moly.'

Fritillaria imperialis /Crown Imperial Lily

This stately spring flowering bulb is related to the lily and will make a stunning accent plant in your spring garden. The flowers form on stout stems that will grow up to 4 feet tall. The foliage is deep green and glossy, growing in a whorl at the base of the plant and then again on top of the flower stem like a crown, hence the name 'Crown Imperial' lily.

The flower is in the shape of a bell about 2 inches long and forms just below the whorl of leaves on the top of the stem. Each stem will make 5 to 7 of these "bells" that are yellow or orange, dangle down and ring in the arrival of spring. There is a slight problem, as the flowers have a slight skunk-like odor to them, so do not plant them up against the house near a window! Don't let this stop you, as the plant is magnificent and the smell is minimal.

Plant Fritillarias in a well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Adding compost or animal manure when planting will pay off with a much stronger plants in the spring. Just remember that all types of bulbs will not tolerate wet soils, clay type soils or gardens that stay wet (especially in the spring), as the bulbs will rot while in the ground. As long as the garden where they grow has moisture during the summer it will thrive. A sunny garden is highly recommended to keep the flower stem shorter. Lime the garden regularly to prevent the soil from getting too acidic.

This is a big bulb with a slight depression in the top. I always like to plant bulbs with a slight bowl shape to them slightly tilted to one side to help keep water out of the depression. The stem will grow up straight but this slight tilt prevents the bulb from rotting during a wet spring.

Plant 3 to 5 bulbs in groups or even more, for a wonderful show in your garden. Stems are very strong and wind will not be a problem. Plant with tulips and the squirrels will stay away. When planting, be sure the bulb is covered with 4 to 5 inches of soil in the garden and use Bulb-Tone fertilizer when planting.

Because the plant is related to the lily, you will have to treat the plant with Bayer Tree and Shrub when it begins to develop, as it can be damaged by the lily beetle. Fertilize spring and fall for the strongest plant and to help the plant divide in the late summer.

Besides the 'Crown Imperial' Fritillaria you will find several varieties that grow smaller but are just as beautiful. I love one called Fritillaria meleagris or sSnake head, because the flowers look to be covered with jewels. The flowers are 1 to 1 3/4 inches long, pink, and have a purple checkered look (bearing some resemblance to snake skin). The pink spots are shiny while the inner spaces are dull purple that cover the bell shape flowers. This variety can be planted in partial shade.

Fritillaria pyrenaica will grow 12 inches tall and is the hardiest variety in the family, often forming dense clumps of flowers. Flowers grow 1 inch long and are checkered black-tinged, purple bells that flare out at the tip to show a green interior. All Fritillaria are rodent-proof and not eaten in the garden. Smaller varieties can be planted in wild flower gardens with great success and they will multiply. Enjoy.

Winter Care of Summer-Flowering Bulbs

What do we do with all of our summer-flowering bulbs during the winter months, if they are not hardy enough to stay in the ground? It's simple, we bring then into our basement for the winter, and this is how you will prepare them to keep them healthy.

Begin when Mother Nature produces a killing frost in your garden and your bulb plants turn BLACK. Now cut them down to the ground and dig them up. Shake as much of the soil off the bulbs as possible but do not wash them clean! Set bulbs in your garage or tool shed for a few days until the soil on them has dried completely. Once you have dug them up, do not leave them outside or any additional frost will kill the bulb by freezing it.

I want you to buy a general purpose Rose and Flower Garden Dust and dust all parts of the bulb before storage. This dusting of the bulb will help to keep it protected from any over wintering disease and insect's problems.

Glads are easy; just look at the bulb closely and you will see that there are now two bulbs piggy backing together. The top bulb is the one to keep and the bulb on the bottom was the original bulb that you planted and which has now transferred all of its energy to the new bulb on the top--it must be discarded. Dust the good bulbs and store them in a pair of old panty hose that you will hang from the rafters in the basement. The panty hose will breathe well and keep the bulbs healthy until you plant them in the spring.

Dahlias: the bulbs will look like a clump of potatoes and should not be divided until you are ready to plant in the spring. Dust the bulbs and store in boxes on the floor or in a crawl space where the temperature stays around 50 degrees. Place one inch of peat moss or compost in the box and set bulbs on the material, being sure that bulb clusters do not touch each other. Cover the bulbs with 2 inches of organic material and then cover with newspaper, never with plastic--plastic will sweat and wet the covering, causing rotting of the bulbs.

Tuberous begonias and callas: Clean any parts of stems still attached to them and make sure that where they were attached has dried well, with no soft spots. Dust well and store in a box of peat moss or compost kept on the floor. The floor will stay cold and that will help keep bulbs dormant better. Separate bulbs 2 inches apart and cover with newspaper.

Canna lilies: these will store best if put in containers filled with peat moss or compost standing up like it grew in your garden. If the plant grew in a pot, just cut the stems at the soil line and place the pot on the floor in the basement. Garden grown should be dusted before being potted in organic matter. Keep them as far away from furnace or heat source as possible, and do not water until you are ready to start growing in March indoors or directly in the garden in early May.

Elephant Ears: Dig bulb and clean of any leaf stems still attached to the bulb. Dust the bulb and store in a pot filled with peat or compost and place on the floor covered with newspaper. Make sure the bulb is dry before storing it for the winter and bulb faces up. Repot in soil during March for a jump start on the season.

Freesia, ranunculus and anemone: these should be cleaned of any stems and dried well in the basement before storage. This will take longer than the other bulbs to dry and harden. Ranunculus will look like a mini bunch of bananas about 1 inch long. Freesia and anemone look like a bunch of dried up raisins and are hard. These three can be stored in a small box on the floor with a bit of peat or compost mixed around them to keep them apart and from touching. Dust them by placing them in a small paper bag, add the dust, and shake to cover the bulbs. These three bulbs can be forced into growing indoors right after the first of the year by potting them and growing on the window sill. Flowers will form in April and May if they are potted, or you can wait and them plant in the ground in May for summer color in the garden.


Ireland Tour

Join Paul Parent for a garden tour of the Emerald Isle!

Tour includes the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara National Park, Brigit's Garden, Muckross Gardens, Bantry House & Gardens, Kilravock Garden, Garnish Island, Annes Grove Garden, Lakemount Gardens, Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, Heywood Gardens, Powerscourt Gardens, Dublin Castle, Dillon Gardens and much more.

Click here for details.


This Week's Question:

Who proposed the turkey as the official United States bird?

This Week's Prize: Healthy Garden, Healthy You, by Milo Shammas

Milo takes us through a storytelling journey of soil health, plant health, animal health and how they directly relate to human health.

BONUS: 100 easy-to-grow plants, their growing instructions, and their direct human health benefits and disease prevention properties.

Last Week's Question:

Sorry - we repeated the previous week accidently.

One winner per question - we choose winners from the list of those who answer correctly. Winners must be newsletter subscribers. We'll ship you your prize, so be sure to put your address in the form in case you win!

Autumn Fruit Dip

This is perfect for dipping freshly picked apples or pears into!

What You Need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces vanilla yogurt
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch allspice

Step by Step:

  • Beat the cream cheese in a small bowl until very smooth and creamy.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Spoon into a serving bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least three hours.
  • Serve chilled.

Yield: 2 cups of dip


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