Wednesday, June 7, 2017

When to buy versus when not to buy.

There's been no real not to move from where I am. We've put our house up on sale and as such, I've let my neighbors come over and dig out what they want in the plant collection that I've attained over the years. My neighbors know my babies are rarities, specialty plants that haven't gotten the chance to bloom because I keep moving them around every year, not happy with the way my garden is growing. I thought I would start from scratch at the new house, build up what I want in the garden with actual goals. In the city, it's a little harder to do. I find I fuss a lot. I'm not sure how I'll deal with so much open space. So with the move comes the drudgery of digging up what I have (that's green right now) and giving it to my neighbors, who are more than happy to take my plants off my hands.

When to buy versus when not to buy; that is the question to which there is an actual answer. This is the time of year when people plant. They want to get out of the house, into the garden center and they plant flowers. Now here's the real catch; if you walk in the perennial sections (plants that come back every year), you'll find a lot of spring bloomers up and going. That's from April to June. And then those flowering suckers drop off, remaining green for the rest of the season. Everyone's routine problem is going into the greenhouse and buying magically what looks like it might remain for the rest of the year. What you see blooming now when you walk into the greenhouse is what is flowering now, not later.

If you are out in the garden late July, early August, and I mean sitting and enjoying the garden, you want to buy during that time with the bloomers of that period (which is late summer, early fall). There's June/July bloomers, some of August, but I find those have a short life of a month before they drop off, become green. Sometimes like the  Salvia 'may nights' (commonly known as Sage/ the one in the picture is caradonna I think?), you can lope off the blooms when they're finished and by the end of the season, they'll give you another flowering. But most aren't so generous with a double flowering season. Just be aware of that when you walk into the greenhouse, of the time of year you're buying and that perennials are seasonal bloomers that revolve around a 2 month period. That means you need to go to the garden center during the time that you want to sit outside and stare at your flowers blooming. Not at greenery.

Personally, I like my end of season bloomers. I get more out of them in the July/August/September period and that's when I shop. Outside of my Peonies, my garden is usually the ugliest in the earlier spring. Well, outside of this poppy that I had, which I happily gave to my neighbor upon the announcement that I was moving, I tend not to have any spring bloomers. And honestly, Garden Centers could use a little help during the July/August/September period when Clientele drop off and all they see is the landscapers picking up orders. It's nice to give them something to do and make their days interesting, other than moving plants around, unloading trucks and otherwise, picking the ever loving weeds out of plant pots. Support your local garden centers. By doing that, you're supporting your local growers and they have it tough. If you don't support them, who will and where will our growing industry be in ten years? It's that much of a precarious balance.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tulips . bulbs, big holes and the lazy gardener.

Now here's something no one will tell you. That the ever loving secret to having a great bulb spring garden is to dig big holes around your plants in the fall and dump a huge box of fifty bulbs into it. This hole has to be deep enough that you could bury your pet hamster in a shoe box and still have some substantial room around it. You don't want the squirrels to get these bulbs, they'll just make a meal plan out of your entire garden and you'll have three times more squirrels than you did last year (man those buggers can breed).  Take big chunks of colour, solid ones and throw them together, don't mix the colours in the holes. when you spread out the colour, it gets messy and you want that big bang for your buck kind of deal. Big colours bring big impacts and it looks really sharp when you cluster it all together.
 No whites. White washes everything out, even when it's put along side vibrant colour. Do it in big splashes of colour but add no white because then all you'll see is white and green. And unless you have some sensational ever green garden with hedges and deep dark greens bouncing off the lighter ones of the tulips, all you're going to see is a blah of white on green, which plays a huge disappearing act in the spring. After looking at white snow all winter, do you really want to wash your garden out with white?
Don't bother soldiering your bulbs. Dump those suckers in. I take great satisfaction in knowing I angrily dumped the box into the ground and still had them all come up the same direction. The bulbs will right themselves. They almost never ever need help to grow. A plant will find the surface.

In another subject of bulbs, Daffodils are a nice bright contrast against your pinks (ick, not against reds, bleh) AND DON'T USE THE WHITE ONES. The squirrels don't like them and leave them alone so if you have a huge problem with the animals getting happy, you're either not digging them deep enough or leaving traces of bulbs on the surface. That's like marking treasure with a massive X. DIG HERE FOR FOOD.
 Source your bulbs. Buy from a garden center. Generally, they sell better quality bulbs but you can buy online in bulk. Bulk is good, bigger is better, especially late in the season, where you're pushing November and the garden centers need to get rid of their bulbs. They often put them on sale once they start pushing into the Christmas junk/tree push and once that starts, the bulbs quickly go on sale. Don't buy Alliums. unless you couple them with some interesting early spring plants, they're generally over priced bulbs that have a real threat of not coming up at all.

 Have one cool looking bulb in your garden. Plant it in one cluster amongst your generics. These stand out more if they're around more solid colours. If you put more of a mess of different colours, your eye visually cannot pick out the coolness of these bulbs and they get lost in the masses. Also, (lots of don'ts here), don't go beyond three colours. Do things in odd numbers in the garden. Threes are a good bunch to plant in. Threes or groups of fives (I'm talking holes here). And make your holes interesting. Make them long, angle them. Make three diagonal holes that are long, space them up but make them parallel. Have your holes curb around your garden, accent the shape of the garden they are sitting in. There's nothing more boring than having a circular bulb pile come up in the garden. Be interesting, be different. Get creative with your shovel and hole digging skills.
Take pictures. Choose your angles. Bulbs are incredibly boring to photograph and they almost always make the picture incredibly boring because their colours are so vibrant, that you can't pick up anything like high lights and shadow. So get down in the dirt, point your camera angle up and make the sun an aid in high lighting that colour by being able to see through it. Bounce it against the background of your blue skies, accenting the bulb colour in a good way to give it a nice back drop. There's nothing worse than (like above picture) the house is the backdrop. Stick to these easy suggestions and you'll have big bang for your bucks. Bulbs like this stay for a long time and keep on giving, long after they're gone. Oh, and on a final note, cut those stems once the peddles drop. No point in seeing those ugly stems anymore. Spring is offically over. bring on the summer.