Sunday, February 28, 2010

Forced Hyacinths: Don't Toss when they Fade

Hyacinths are among my favorite spring bulbs. They generally perform as well as daffodils do here. I force a few to give away and plant the rest directly in the ground after chilling for 12 weeks. 

Many bloggers show their beginning bulbs planted in soil, or in vase with water. Once the forced bulbs are done, most toss the spent bulb. I advocate saving the bulb to plant in the garden as soon as possible.
China Pink forced in water and stones, 2009
After these hyacinths bloomed, I cut each little floret off and left the green stem. I dug holes 6" deep and carefully sifted soil around the roots after I removed the small stones they were in for forcing in water. They settled into the ground with the stems buried about 2" and lightly watered. 
China Pink 2/25/2010, the same bulbs from forcing, 2009
Next year these should be fuller with larger florets after a season to recover.
It seems wasteful to just toss the forced bulbs when they'll come back well.

Blue Delft, third year after planting in the ground. 2/25/2010.
These were never forced; a cultivar recommended for planting, not forcing.

The ones above and some and white forced this year so far are the only blooms in my garden.

More of my favorite hyacinths follow, from previous years.
I expect to see them again this year, most have buds except for the ones that bloom latest.

Gypsy Queen, one of my favs, very strong grower with an unusual color.

Pink Pearl is another good performer, started in the ground or forced and planted out to recover.
Some of these were forced, some directly planted. I can't remember which. They are forming buds.

Top Hit, the second year after planting.
Top Hit is one that I've never tried to force but I've planted more of them over the years.
They bloom a little later. I noticed buds have formed now where they came up.
Second year blooms are not as pretty as the first. Third year, they usually catch up.

China Pink. I think 2009 was the second year for these, directly planted.
They have big fat buds now.

Blue Jacket, last to bloom and very strong.
These are just showing foliage now.

There are many information resources for forcing hyacinths available on the web. One of my favorite places to find information is
North Carolina State University Hort Department.

I read something yesterday In Helen Van Pelt Wilson's old book on Fragrance in the Garden that I had never realized. There are some hyacinths that are not pleasantly fragrant. Maybe they're like the paperwhites, some are unpleasant. That would explain why sometimes there are comments from people who think hyacinths are stinky. Maybe they just never met a really fragrant one.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Native Plant and Wildflower Pilgrimages

The time of spring wildflowers is coming, and very soon.  Two conferences are scheduled for Southwest Georgia and North Florida around the Apalachicola River Basin and the Land Between the Rivers that form the Apalachicola: Florida Native Plant Society Conference in May and Georgia Botanical Society Wildflower Pilgrimage in 2 weeks.

The Botanical Society Pilgrimage will meet in Bainbridge, GA. When I learned about it, registration had already closed. I'll share some field trip high points from the schedule:
Lower Flint River Float Trip, beginning south of Albany and ending in Mitchell County, limestone bedrock exposed from steep bluffs.

Bend in Flint River from a Bluff on Ichauway Plantation.

Exploratory Trip to Silver Lake WMA - Silver Lake was recently sold to the Georgia DNR by International Paper Co and covers more than 8,000 acres, including vast stands of undisturbed native groundcover along the shores of Silver Lake.

Angus Gholson Nature Park - I found a delightful video from the dedication of the park in Chattahoochee, FL

Wolf Creek Trout Lily Tract is a 140 acre Preserve owned by Grady County, the greatest expanse of the Erythronium umbilicatum anywhere in the world. Trout lily flowers may be seen along with terrestrial orchids and other native flowers.

Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee is 28 acres of lakeside gardens with Kurume and Indica alaleas, camellias, hollies and native plants.

Three Rivers Recreation Area, Sneads, FL where Florida meets the southwest corner of GA and the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers form Lake Seminole. The water spilling out of the lake forms the Apalachicola River. The schedule names many native animals and plants. Among the species expected to see in bloom is Calycanthus floridus.

Sweet Shrub, Calycanthus floridus from my garden.

Jones Ecological Research Center, Ichauway - the focus of the trip to Jones Center will be the longleaf pine ecosystem and a riparian hardwood forest. When I visit the Jones center, my interest is focused on the native azaleas and the Butterfly Garden. I'll show my pics of the native azaleas in another post.

The visit to Seminole State Park will be the Gopher Tortoise Trail. The trip leader will discuss plants and animals in both sandhill and wetland habitat. I showed a gopher turtle burrow here in the fall when we discussed native grasses.

Trillium Gardens, Tallahassee is a 7 acre privately owned preserve. Among the native plants there besides wetland plants and other wild flowers is the rare Torreya taxifolia.

Torreya at Jones Center

Florida Caverns State Park supports a Coastal Plain mesic hardwood forest and wildflowers. Among the flowers are southern columbine and blue phlox.

Native Columbine at Jones Center

... and more field trips highlighting native plant communities, native trees, shrubs and wildflowers -- led by botanists and local plant specialists.

Link to Florida Native Plant Society Conference. Registration closes May 9

One of the attractions will be Bailey White, author and NPR favorite, speaking on The Joys and Horrors of Inheriting an Old Family Garden. Ms. White is from Thomasville, which she refers to as being from 'a small town in Southwest Georgia' so that it won't sound as if she's bragging.

Rooted in History, Forever Blooming

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rolling in Daffodils

They're just beginning here, daffodils: Little Gem, King Alfred, some tiny narcissus that I don't know the name. Others are budding. The late ones like Baby Moon and Hawera just have foliage; some are not out of the ground.

Do you ever see a bed of flowers that you'd just like to lie down and roll? That happens frequently here. My faithful helper Buffy just can't contain herself when the sun is bright and there are blossoms.

Buffy, Buffy

When I'm trying to naturalize bulbs in the lawn,
I like to put them at the ends of flower beds where they can be
missed by the mower until the ripening foliage matures.
Other times, I put them in rough lawn like in the third pic above
and just leave the grass unmowed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bermuda Conehead, or Persian Shield?

I never heard of Bermuda Conehead until I was searching for more information about blooms on Persian Shield. According to MoBot, "Flowers appear in short cone-shaped inflorescences, thus giving rise to the less frequently used common name of Burmuda conehead. Genus name comes from the Greek words strobilos (cone) and anthos (flower). Synonymous with Strobilanthes dyeriana."

Persian Shield is a much more dignified common name, I think, bringing to mind the lovely colors of the leaves in summer gardens. The colors are faded and the leaves are small on potted Persian Shield after a winter inside. The flowers are not significant, but are a pleasant surprise when few other blossoms are appearing in late winter.

I looked back to see earlier posts about Persian Shield. My oversized alphabetical label cloud showed only one post for Persian Shield. When I thought to look for Strobilanthes, there were a dozen more. Then I looked for more pics in my online storage:

I've started cuttings of Licorice Plant to grow with Persian Shield. 

A pot of saved lavender pentas will yield cuttings for the coming season.
The daylilies in this photo have dwarf purple blooms.

Gaudy combo: Persian Shield hides the bare stems of Lycoris, in September.
Strobilanthes dies to the ground here in winter. The Lycoris foliage is green all winter,
a good disguise for the dead stems. Below is a pic of a row of Lycoris foliage this week:

Persian Shield with \'Lullabye Baby\' daylily
In previous years, Persian Shield has returned in Spring without fail.
The freezes this winter make me fearful about their fate this year.

The little cone shaped flowers are a winter novelty. 
Persian Shield loves humidity. The leaves get crispy in low humidity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bring out the Big Guns: Artillery Plant is Everywhere!

It's one of those little seedlings that 'looks like it could be something' until it grows bigger and starts shooting little seeds everywhere when you brush against it. It's even still cute when the little white flowers bloom. Don't wait! pull every little plant as soon as you recognize it. Artillery Plant is just one thug in the garden now. Davy of Davy's Garden has a list of weeds in a recent post that are actually wildflowers, but names some as nuisances, like Thistle and Blackberry.

Right now my biggest thugs are Artillery Plant, Florida Betony and Chickweed, all winter weeds. Unsightly, so I pull as many as I can. Hot sun will take care of them in time, if you can't get to all of them.

There's an ongoing war with Catbrier, or Smilax. Not only does it have briers and is green year around, it forms tubers underground, some as big as a large sweet potato. Break off a piece when you are digging and it makes a new plant.

What are your worst enemies, weedwise?

Oh, forgot to add the link to the Florida Weed photo site.
Top Ten Nasty Weeds

A Step Back in Time

I located a CD with older photos that haven't been on my blog. It is important to look back sometimes and see what has grown, what has disappeared, or what is still struggling and may need removing.

In 2003 I planted a long stream of daffodil bulbs, starting uphill with jonquilla 'Sweetness' and changing to the tazetta 'Martinette' as I came downhill. According to the experts, Martinette was ideal for my climate. Within about three years, they had disappeared. Sweetness has done quite well and has an occasional bud opening to show what lies in store for March.

Martinette with scattered muscari, 2004.
Muscari has performed poorly in this garden,
even the cultivars like starch hyacinth, recommended for the south.

Sweetness in the foreground, above.

At the end of the daffodils, 'Queen of Night' tulips did very well that year.
That was one of the last years that tulips were happy here.
Maybe it was that the gardener got tired of the chilling involved and
the possiblity of voles and tulip fire ruining the plan.
This year would have been fine without chilling, I think.

Daffodils look very promising this year. Some of the yellow large cupped have buds, a few  have open buds. Some of the later cultivars are just peeping out of the ground. Besides Martinette: Fruit Cup, St. Kerverne, and Quail have mostly disappeared. Places where I've planted mixed daffodils, some have persisted very well, but I can't verify all their names.

Reliable performers here include Ice Follies, Thalia, Juanita, Erlicheer,  Sailboat, Ice Wings, Jack Snipe, Hawera and Tete a Tete, to name a few. 

Factors like sunlight, drainage, lack of rainfall and nutrition may have cause some losses. There are some Little Gem blooming now that did much better after  I moved them over into the sunshine.  Minnow can be petulant, usually blooming after I dig and move them again.

Tete a Tete, 2004. They're just coming up now.

I'm looking forward to every bloom.
What daffodils are you expecting in your garden, come Spring?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Five Things New in my Garden This Year

Dave asked us to name five things that will be new to our garden this year.

1. Berm, formerly Live Oak Stump. The hollow 10 foot stump fell over when I cut the Confederate Jasmine that was holding it up last summer. Just what I didn't need in the heat of July was a new bed, but circumstances of the old vine covered stump just made it so.

Top soil and gin trash cover what remains of the stump.
Three big stones were plucked by machine from other beds. I moved smaller stones with
hand trucks.

In place now are two lavender crape myrtles next the stones, two dozen Tahiti daffodils, 5 clumps of Muhly grass and a host of violas. When the violas fade, lavender Lantana montevidensis will take their place. Sticks mark where two beautyberries will enhance the Muhly. Wish I would have a persimmon.

2. Improvisational Carpentry. A Red Cascade rose next to a rustic arbor I constructed needed additional trelliage to try to keep it growing somewhat vertically rather than horizontally along the ground. I've already completed that task. Details are in an earlier post here: Rose Arbor.

I can hardly wait to see blossoms again.

3. Rain Garden: We removed an ancient bed of Spirea, Nandina and Wisteria. When we were done, an excellent place just to the west of it looked to me like a perfect Rain Garden site as I developed the slope above it. I'm working on it, starting with some native Iris.

4. Strawberry bed -- started last year, never developed well. Eight of the 11 original plants survived the winter so far. I so want to pick strawberries. The huge timber in front of it needs moving to the back (north side) when the right machinery is available.

5.  Blue shades bed. There's a bed that has lots of blue (hydrangeas, agapanthus, larkspur, hyacinths blooming in opposite order) and some red (amaryllis) that needs mediating. I don't want a red, white and blue bed. The amarylllis may move along elsewhere and make room for some maroon and peach. Requires much standing and staring.
I potted up 5 more bulbs of Agapanthus last week. I am crazy about these flowers.

There's also a shady bed that needs aucuba hiding under some shrubbery elsewhere moved to join one already there. That won't be new, just adjustment. All the shady beds have new plans awaiting final decisions. New notions occur to me daily.

What will be new in your garden for the coming season? 
Be sure to link to Dave's post by Friday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

High on Hyacinths; Promise of Spring

Forced hyacinths are hardly finished blooming inside before
the ones outside are blooming.

All pics in today's post were taken today.

Mixed hyacinths planted in Fall, 2009

'Delft Blue' planted 2007; super returns.
'Little Gem' on the hill.

King Alfred. Sissy planted these prior to 1972.

Magnolia Stellata 'Leonard Messel'

... and another freeze is coming, midweek. Low of 24F degrees predicted for Thursday night.