My Grandmothers Peonies

Flowers have always held different meanings. It is said the flowers have their very own language. Individual types of flowers mean different things to each of us. Flowers have always inspired poets and artists. A single flower can take us back to a special place or time. Some happy, some sad. For me, my grandmothers peonies do it every time.

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When my grandmother moved to her apartment later in life, the only perennials that came with her were her precious pink peonies. She planted them in a line in the back of her building. I’m not sure how many years she had been maintaining her favorite plants but I do know that she moved them to several different homes. She would wash her dishes in a wash basin and then send me out with the ‘grey water’ to water the thirsty peonies. This was supposedly the secret to huge blooms. We have several of her still life paintings featuring her pink peonies in a treasured vase.

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Peonies put on quite a show!

As the years have gone by, those same peonies have been moved to more homes. My sister and mother both have some in their gardens. I think I need to dig up a piece for my garden to make it complete.

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Pink is one of the many colors.

What Is It About Flowers?

For me it can be peonies or columbine or field flowers. For you it could be daisies, roses or Lily-of-the-Valley. The thing is that it could be any plant for anyone. Something that sparks a childhood memory or the thought of a person or an event. For Erin Benzakein, Washington state flower farmer, it’s sweet peas. Sweet peas brought her right back to her own grandmothers garden and the times she spent there. That first summer, word got around about her fabulous bouquets of sweet peas and someone placed an order. She nervously delivered the flowers only to find the recipient plunging her face into the fragrant bouquet and she started to cry. Why? Because they brought her back to her childhood days in her grandmothers garden. This experience helped Erin realize that there was a place for her in her area as a flower farmer. Flowers mean a lot to people. Adapted from Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein.

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The delicate folds of a peony blossom.

Peony Care 

Peonies are a long lived perennial, capable of lasting for generations. Herbaceous peonies require very little care and once established will not need division for some 8-10 years. Obtain bare roots by mail in the fall or get them from a generous friend. Plant them in a spot that offers full sun. Provide adequate drainage and plenty of organic matter. Roots will do best planted just below the soil, about 2″ for Northern growers. Space plants at least 3 feet apart. Peonies benefit from staking to keep heavy blooms off of the ground. After peonies bloom, dead-heading keeps the plant tidy. Any flowers left on the plant will form interesting seed pods so it’s up to you. Foliage continues to add structure to the garden and the leaves of some cultivars turn fiery red in autumn.

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Ever photogenic.

Divide mature plants in fall with a garden fork. Cut if necessary with a sharp knife. Each new clump should at least have three eyes. Plant in vacant spots in your garden, pass some on to friends or start a peony bed. It’s best to refrain from picking flowers while the plant is getting established.

Peonies As Cut Flowers 

Peonies make some of the most magnificent flower arrangements! Bold and colorful. Scented and grand! How can you make the most of your peonies?

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Irresistible bouquets!

Harvest flowers in the bud stage. Not when they first put out buds but when the flower petals start to soften. Growers call this the ‘marshmallow’ stage. Immediately plunge stems into clean water to refresh them. Pick off any ants that you find. It is said that peonies have nectar naturally occurring on the buds that ants are attracted to and the ants then aid the flower in opening. Remove the excess leaves and arrange as desired. Peonies can be placed in small arrangements or used in large, over-the-top displays.

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In the bud stage.

If you would like to use your peonies for a special occasion, the stems with buds can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Farmers with proper floral storage can hold them for up to three months. Simply remove leaves, wrap in a plastic bag and paper towels. Lay flat in the refrigerator for best storage. Check on them occasionally. When you are ready to use them, re-cut the stems and place in warm water. Floral preservative can also be used. Buds will soon begin to open. They will be ready for your event within 24 hours. For more cut flower information, read Erin’s book above or try The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski.

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Making bouquets.

Peonies hold a special spot in my heart. Especially my grandmothers pink peonies. I’m sure that you have your own plant or flower that takes you back down memory lane. My husband seems to have started collecting rhubarb plants from various relatives. Please share what you love in a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! Also, check out the archives for other helpful gardening articles. Thanks for dropping by!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Memories…

A Gallery of Spring Wildflowers

Spring has been slow this year. I usually refrain from complaining too much about the weather but I have to say that it’s hard to ease into late spring when the heat is on in the house. When every other night your husband says he needs to build a fire to take the edge off! A few weeks ago, it barely got out of the forties on some days. Our Maine landscape is finally a lush green color everywhere you look! On a recent walk with my son I found that my neighborhood is full of spring wildflowers. Would you like to see a few?

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Although I love designing flower gardens and growing a yearly vegetable garden, there’s something about the flowers that appear every spring. As if spring is not really here until we’ve seen our favorites. Like these flowers above, called Bluets or Quaker Ladies. Probably the first to appear in May. Within a ten minute walk from my house I found such diversity that I couldn’t stop trying to capture what I saw. Many of these spring wildflowers go by several different names. I will be using common and scientific names throughout this post. A few of our wildflowers have been introduced from abroad years ago and have naturalized here.

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Euphorbia growing along the road.

Introduced from Europe in the 1800’s, Cypress Spurge or euphorbia cyparissias, is not in a traditional flower form. Each yellow umbrel is made up of many clusters of petal-like bracts. This vibrant, low growing plant has been cultivated into countless varieties over the decades. As a cultivated perennial, it can make a huge show in a home garden.

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My little protected area of Lady’s Slippers.

Since our land was cleared years ago, the Lady’s Slipper orchid was only spotted on occasion. Now, with parts of the forest going untouched, our small patch has grown to be a tiny grove of flowers. Each plant grows two leaves and only one stem with a flower.

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A rare patch of white flowers.

Last year, we had a rare appearance of two white Lady’s Slippers. I don’t think we will have any this spring. These stunning jewels of the forest get their name from the flower resembling a woman’s shoe.

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Lady’s Slippers on the side of the driveway.

I can’t recount how many times I’ve tried to photograph these unique blooms. If you ever get a chance to walk the trails at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens this time of year, you will find several breathtaking displays of Lady’s Slippers. I’ve never seen so many in one place. If picked or over-collected, these frequently spotted orchids could easily slip into the rare category over time. For more specific information on our Maine orchids, go to Lady’s-Slippers in Maine. You never know what you might see on a hike in the Maine woods!

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Dainty wild blueberry blossoms.

Once I passed the blueberry field, I noticed that our low-bush blueberries were in bloom. A flower with a sweet promise of blueberry pies, muffins and jams. Our local blueberry fields put on a continual color show. Right now, the fields are green and white. Soon the blooms will turn into tiny green berries that will ripen in August.

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Purple violets.

At my neighbors farm, the ditch was full of purple violets. One cluster after another, untouched by the weed trimmer. Violets come in several colors including, white, yellow and blue. There are many different kinds of violets making it hard for the untrained eye to identify them. In times past, a small bouquet of purple violets could mean love or faithfulness and white might signify innocence, purity and chastity. I’m not sure what a fistful of dandelions means but I receive this all the time a small person I know!

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The fragrance is overwhelming!

Lily of the Valley holds many memories for me. The scent is strong and can transport you mentally to another place and time. This spring bloomer can make an excellent ground cover but will take over any flower bed. They are often found at the base of old steps or a stone foundation. Pull individual stems from the plant to create a tiny, aromatic bouquet!

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Happy forget-me-nots on the roadside.

I’m so drawn to blue flowers! Forget-me-nots love to lace their way through moss covered areas with dappled light. Often, they can be spotted along the edge of a brook. They can be found in shades of pink and white also. I can’t tell you how many bunches I’ve picked. Forget-me-nots work wonderfully with bleeding hearts. Each flower has 5 petals and a bright yellow eye. Multiple flowers rest atop each stem. These small blue blossoms make excellent flowers for pressing.

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Blue bead lily.

This blue bead lily or Clintonia borealis, can be found hiding in among forest trees. A perennial forest plant named for the blue berry that appears after blooming. Each flower stem will have 3-6 lily like flowers bloom from it. Once established, the blue bead lily will grow in clumps to make a nice show of yellow long into June.

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Star flower is from the primrose family.

This fragile woodland plant is such a dainty spring wildflower. Almost insignificant until you get closer and find it has a delicate beauty about it. This North American perennial blooms in May and June and travels by rhizomes.

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A native rhododendron.

I have rarely seen the native deciduous rhododendron. I happened to capture this recently. Rhodora, rhododendron canadense is a member of the heath family. It prefers bogs and rocky slopes. For some great information on this wild shrub, go to Rock Gardening Maine Style. I would love to see this naturalize near my gardens but it probably won’t happen. If you see one of these, be sure to take a few pictures.  I won’t say that it’s rare to spot the rhodora, but I don’t see it often.

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Buttercups are now emerging from the lawn.

Buttercups are often considered a troublesome weed in a lawn or garden, but along a country road they are lovely. We will never forget the old childhood question about liking butter! But who doesn’t like butter? Our common buttercup, Ranunculus repens, is in the Ranunculus family. If you’ve ever battled it’s tenacious root, you know how tough these guys are. The flowers petals are very shiny and bright. They make excellent flowers for pressing.

These are just a handful of flowers that we see in our area. There were plenty more that I haven’t spotted yet. If we are able to look beyond the cultivated garden beds, we can see a whole world filled with some of the tiniest flowers. Many of our wildflowers are protected so find out before you pick! Plant names change over the years so if you know that one of these names has been changed, just give me a shout. I’ve been playing around with a new site called Go Botany. This is a wonderful new website for plant identification especially for New England. The site is easy to use and helps you quickly find individual plant types by category. It has the capability to identify over 1,200 native and naturalized plants. I also utilize an older book called Spring Wildflowers of New England by Marilyn Dwelley. I hope you have enjoyed taking a walk with me this week. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to share these treasured blooms with you. Thank you for coming along!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

5 Early Spring Blooming Perennials

The month of May brings a flurry of color to the garden. The first snowdrops, the patches of blue scilla, then the daffodils and tulips start to open. Thrilling and fleeting, spring bursts with color. On the heels of the spring bulbs comes the earliest of the spring blooming perennials. Here are 5 easy spring perennials perfect for any garden!

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Perennial plants are a cost effective way to achieve flowers year after year. Many plants can be obtained once and carry on for years. One aspect of a great perennial garden is continuous blooms. If your garden is bare in early spring, try a few of the these plants. Some you will know, some may be new to you.

Hellebores

Probably little known to some home gardeners, hellebores can be the earliest to bloom. This blooming perennial is hardy in zones 5-8 and can bloom in winter in milder climates. Where the ground freezes, such as in Maine, hellebores bloom in early spring. Foliage is leathery and dark green. It’s long lasting blooms come in shades of green, white, pink and more.

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The green-mauve hue of this hellebores blossom.

This perennial is among the most unique of blooming plants. Blossoms last for a long time, remaining seemingly unchanged over a period of weeks. If you have a shady wooded site, this may be the plant for you. Clusters along a woodsy path would be perfect.

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The light green brings a refreshing change to the garden.

Common names include ‘Christmas Rose’, ‘winter rose’ and ‘Lenten rose’ because of it’s capability to bloom in winter in some areas. Even though the word rose is used, it is not related to the rose family. Not always among the more common greenhouse perennials, hellebores are becoming more widely available. They happen to be very photogenic and a gardener could easily get suckered into obtaining one in every color!

Brunnera

If you love Forget-me-nots, you’ll really go head over heels for brunnera (Siberian Bugloss)! A perfect addition to a shady border, this plant comes with solid green or variegated foliage. I prefer the variegated because it adds so much contrast. It’s frosted appearance really pops in darker settings. Mix a few in with a stand of hosta plants for an amazing display.

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Brunnera looks like forget-me-nots.

Hardy for zones 3-8, this plant can fit a wide variety of applications. With it’s heart shaped leaves, it looks so different than many common garden plants. This shade loving perennial starts blooming in May and carries on through June. After blooming, the foliage remains for the rest of the summer. The height only reaches 12″, so it won’t block any of your later plants.

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The gorgeous contrasting leaves.

Because of their low growing habit, brunnera makes a great ground hugging plant. They can also be grown in a container and used for cut flower arrangements.

Creeping Phlox

This ground cover perennial may seem pretty common but what a beautiful flower show in spring. Also known as ‘Moss pink’ or Phlox Subulata. Creeping phlox is easy to care for and once established can provide years of spring blooms. Winter hardy in zones 3-9, it comes in an array of colors from white to pink and purple. Perfect for naturalizing on a banking or in a rock garden. Plants thrive on a rock wall or in poor soil.

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The cheerful pink flowers of creeping phlox.

When flowers emerge, they turn into masses of bright blooms. As flowers fade, the garden is left with handsome evergreen foliage. When the plant matures, simply trim older stems that stop putting out flowers. If left unattended, weeds can be a problem so pull any grass that appears under the plants. Bloom time is around Memoral day here in Maine. Plant along the front of Forget-me-nots, ‘Basket of Gold’ alyssum or ‘Snow in Summer’.

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Pink is the most commonly seen color of creeping phlox.

Some may be hesitant to use creeping phlox because it’s so commonly seen in cemetaries. I have to say that it fits perfectly into the home garden as well. Growing creeping phlox can be a solution to problem areas and can be a low maintenance choice.

Bleeding Heart

One of the old-time favorites of the cottage flower garden. Often seen by the foundation of farmhouses, this blooming perennial is the glory of the spring garden. Bleeding heart or (dicentra spectabilis) can be a large, fountain of color, making quite a splash. Then, as the summer heat rises, the plant actually dies back. This makes way for the next round of garden color. Bleeding hearts self seed readily and love shade or dappled light. Bloom time varies but usually happens in May.

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Stunning white bleeding heart plant!

Old fashioned bleeding hearts come in pink and white. Both add so much to early spring beds with their long arching stems. These flowering plants are extremely hardy and fit well into spring bouquets. If you don’t have a bleeding heart in your shady garden, maybe it’s time to borrow a bloomer from your grandmothers garden of old! There are later dicentra varieties that flower in the summer and have a lower, more compact habit. I think the early bleeding heart is my favorite though. It’s a classic!

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Bleeding heart with Solomon seal.

Solomon’s Seal

When it comes to blooming shade perennials, this early bloomer really stands out. This sweet white flower can be used as pretty vase filler. As the stems of Solomon’s seal rise up from the ground, they grow straight up them arch gracefully. Even as the flowers fade, the plant adds structural interest to the garden for the rest of the season. Notice how well it goes with the bleeding heart pictured above.

Solomon’s seal is an elegant addition to any shady garden.

Solomon’s seal or polygonatum, is a must-have for the shade garden. Once established, this plant spreads slowly but is easy to propagate by division. This is a quiet participant in the garden but stands up under poor conditions. White dangling blossoms turn into black seed pods for further garden interest. If you’ve never seen Solomon’s seal, give it a try!

These are just a taste of the perennials that offer early spring blooms. These 5 can be found at most large garden centers. If you have gaps in your bloom times, why not plant a few of these colorful flowering perennials? This way you will see continuous color in your garden from early spring right through to fall! Here at Everlongardener we have been dodging the black flies while planting much of the vegetable garden. The weather has been a bit of a roller coaster of temperatures. It may hit 90 today! Enjoy your week and happy planting!

Hilary|Everlongardener

DIY Pressed Flower Notecards

Ever since I was little, I’ve been pressing flowers in the summertime.  Every dictionary and encyclopedia we had was jammed with Queen Anne’s Lace, roses and just about any other wild flowers I could get my hands on.  Nowadays, I have my trusty 5 year old helper to assist me with all of my crafty projects.  With some blank cards and pressed plants we were ready to make some DIY pressed flower notecards!

In August, we went out to the garden to find flowers for pressing.  Not all flowers work well for this.  Look for flowers that have single petals.  You can even plant ahead for your future projects.  We like cosmos, nasturtiums, lobelia, individual hydrangea blossoms and French marigolds.  Pansies, daisies, borage, California poppies, delphiniums and ferns.   The possibilities are endless!  In fall, we collected various fallen leaves to press also.

On a dry day, pick the freshest specimens.  Fully opened flowers work best.  Bring a basket and scissors with you into the garden.  Press them as soon as possible to prevent wilting.

Pressing flowers last summer!

If you don’t have a real flower press, any heavy book will do.  Make sure that you use sheets of paper under and over the flowers that you press so they won’t bleed in the pages of your books.

Checking to see how our flowers turned out.

We were excited to see how our sweet little blooms did, sandwiched between the layers!  Like tiny jewels, our pressed flowers were adorable and glowing with color.

Make a flower garden picture!

Using a glue stick, we carefully placed the tiny flowers onto the cards.  Use your imagination!  Patterns, abstract, wherever you want to place them.  Pressed flower creations can even be framed under glass.

Position flowers where you want them to go.

Tweezers are very helpful.  But, these little fingers were eager to participate!

Add some foliage to your flowers.

Because we pressed foliage along with the blossoms, the cards have a very natural look.  Like miniature flower gardens ready to send in the mail!

Autumn leaves can be used too!

The colors of these autumn leaves really stayed true!

Cut clear plastic to fit cards.

After you have positioned all of the pressed flowers, it’s time to make sure they are not going to be crushed.  By using clear contact paper or laminating sheets, you can ensure a beautiful card that someone can treasure for some time to come.  They will adore their virtual bouquet!

Pair your card with an envelope.

Feel free to make your own cards and envelopes if you have the skill.  Blank cards and matching envelopes can be purchased in most craft or art stores.

Our finished cards, ready to send!

This project has made me look forward to next years flower gardens.  What to plant and what to preserve.  What crafts do you like to save for winter snow days?  This is an excellent nature craft for kids.  I hope it gives some inspiration to you!  Thanks for checking it out!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Fall Garden Cleanup Tips

To clean up your garden beds or not to clean up?  Just ask anyone, you’ll get a different answer!  Believe it or not, fall garden cleanup can be a heated topic.  I’ve been surveying different people and there are some strong feelings out there!  Today, I’m going to lay out some practical tips for fall garden cleanup that will help you get a head start on next years garden.

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Perennial Gardens 

On both sides of the fall garden cleanup debate, there are solid pros and cons.  As a gardener for hire, I’ve always cleaned up customers gardens because it’s so hard to cut down all of the properties in the spring.  Fall cleanup does not eliminate spring cleanup.  But, it makes spring garden maintenance so much easier.  For my personal gardens, I have always done some cutting. There are just so many things to do at that time of year-getting veggie gardens planted, making customers gardens presentable and cleaning and edging my own beds.

It's a messy job!
It’s a messy job!

On the other side of the coin, leaving perennial gardens as they are through the winter can have some benefits.  Standing plants can provide food and shelter for birds.  Bees can have a continuous food supply until they are ready to go to sleep for winter.  Some tender plants are given a bit of extra protection from the debris left in the garden.  Gardens covered in plant matter are also excellent for preventing erosion.  Flower heads covered in snow or frost are gorgeous to look at and make spectacular photo ops!

Leaving flowers can provide food for the bees!
Leaving flowers can provide food for the bees!

In one of my clients gardens, I left the gaillardia.  It’s still blooming and I can leave it as long as I want.  As long as the weather stays mild, the flowers will slowly continue to bloom.

Many perennials still put out blossoms.
Many perennials still put out blossoms.

You may not want to leave any flower seed heads that will overtake your flower garden.  Any plants susceptible to powdery mildew or other pests should be removed from the garden.  This can be very important for organic growers who try to prevent problems before they happen.

November blooms!
November blooms!

If you do choose to cleanup, cover any sensitive planting with mulch, leaves or boughs.  This is very worthwhile if there is little or no snow cover like last year.

Fall is also a time when you can get some weeding done that may have been overlooked in very summer months.  I was listening to a podcast from A Way To Garden with Margaret Roach and Ken Druse.  I totally enjoyed their practical approach to fall garden cleanup.  One tip that they shared about fall weeding was that caution should be used because the soil gets disturbed and weed seeds can fall in the freshly cultivated dirt.  Ken was recommending cutting the seeds off of the weeds if you couldn’t do anything else.  His blog 7 Fall Cleanup Tasks You Shouldn’t Skip was filled with some great info.

A great chance to deal with weeds!
A great chance to deal with weeds!

Vegetable Gardens

I would say that most vegetable gardeners like to cleanup spent plants as soon as they are done.  Fall cleanup is so much easier than dealing with a bunch of dead, mushy plants in the spring.  What an advantage you will have if your veggie beds are ready to be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.  Crops such as carrots, beets and the like can be put in right away.

When you remove plants, you also have the opportunity to sow seeds for fall harvest as I have outlined in Plant Your Fall Garden Now and Fall Garden Harvest.  Succession planting can add tons of food to your table.

Dead flowers covered in ice, great photo op!
Dead flowers covered in ice, great photo op!

Some plants should be removed to prevent further diseases and pests.  In our area we deal with tomato blight.  Since this problem is airborne and spread through plant tissue, it is vital to get rid of any parts of the diseased plant or even the fruit.  We actually put our plants in the trash. If placed in the compost, they can just make the situation worse.  So, even though it pains me to send plant matter to the local dump, it is a must in this situation.

Any plants with heavy pests should be destroyed.  Don’t think that a killing frost or winter will do away with those pests!

Seed heads left in the garden create winter interest!
Seed heads left in the garden create winter interest!

Annuals

I would say that the majority of gardeners pull dead annuals out of pots and the ground in the fall.  There’s usually no hope of rejuvenating most annuals. Before I pull plants such as cosmos or calendula, I always collect or scatter seeds over the garden beds.  This way, there is a good chance of reseeding for next year.

Remove dead annuals.
Remove dead annuals.

Leaves

Most of the clients I’ve had over the years have had professional leaf removal.  I have always strictly concentrated on the flower beds.  Some say to leave the leaf litter to make a habitat for creatures.  Leaves do make a good mulch but they take years to decompose.  Since we live in the woods, it has been important to rake the leaves away from the house.  Too many ticks reside in these piles of leaves, mice too, for that matter.  We have had a bumper crop of acorns and leaves this fall.  In my opinion, if creatures need a habitat, they can live on the other 9 1/2 acres that we own!  This week, I was reading the Garden Rant blog and laughed out loud as I read their explanation of why you should get rid of leaves in your gardens.  Very realistic advice!

Coreopsis in the afternoon sun.
Coreopsis in the afternoon sun.

In the past, when I worked with a group of woman gardeners, we were taught immaculate gardening techniques.  We left nothing, not even footprints!  We worked at many public facilities and immense private properties.  Constant upkeep was vital for appearances and to keep our customers happy.  The home gardener has the choice of how far they will take their fall garden cleanup.  It is a satisfying feeling having the fall chores done, a warm fire crackling in the stove and snowflakes dropping out of the sky!

Still a few flowers left!
Still a few flowers left!

Feel free to weigh in (comment below) on the great fall cleanup debate! Remember that we all garden differently and have diverse backgrounds.  I’m so happy that you joined me this week here at Everlongardener!   You are welcome to subscribe in the sidebar for the weekly blog.  Join me on Instagram for daily gardening pictures!  Thank you for reading these fall garden cleanup tips!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Plant Bulbs Now For Spring Color

After a long winter, what is one of springs greatest joys?  The spring color of fall planted bulbs!  We go out searching every day for that first crocus or snowdrop, anxiously awaiting any sign that warmer weather is coming soon!  The key is to plant bulbs now for spring color!

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Bulbs are relatively easy to grow.  Give them the right location and soil conditions, and you can have many years of bulb flower power.  If you are just starting out in flower gardening, bulbs may be a fool-proof place to start.  With so much variety, colors and types, the options are endless!

Bright yellow tulips!
Bright yellow tulips!

Uses In The Landscape

There are so many ways that you can use spring bulbs in your home landscape.  A rock garden can be a fine home for a few early bulbs nestled into the crevices.  Small plantings of scilla, crocus or dwarf iris may do the trick.

Grape hyacinth.
Grape hyacinth.

Naturalizing spring bulbs is a fabulous way to have a show of color in drifts on your property.  Daffodil, scilla or grape hyacinth are a natural choices here.  As long as the bulbs are not crowded by invasive weeds, bulbs can be planted on the edge of the woods and across meadows.  Bulbs can be planted in an informal way, rows are not recommended.  Dig random holes with a spade and place 4-5 bulbs in each hole.  Each year they should multiply.  Dividing larger clumps every few years is also helpful with establishing the desired look.   Another advantage of planting a distance away is that when the foliage dies back it won’t be that visible.

Daffodils naturalized along a roadway.
Daffodils naturalized along a roadway.

If you want to see cheerful little flowers when you go outside, try planting some near your entry to your home.  This will really dress up you doorway and add that ‘curb appeal’!  Mix with pansies or violas for stunning color contrast.

Pink Impression tulips, mass planting at local business.
Pink Impression tulips, mass planting at local business.

Add bulbs like tulips and muscari to your existing perennial borders.  The beauty of this method is that when the foliage of the bulbs is dying back, the foliage of the perennials is starting to emerge, disguising the ugliness a bit.

Salmon Impression tulip.
Salmon Impression tulip.

Container growing is a way to grow spring bulbs without taking up garden space.  If you are an apartment dweller, planting a display of spring bulbs in an attractive pot or barrel to place by your front door could be a space-saving solution.

Bulbs ready for planting!
Bulbs ready for planting!

In times past, bulbs were often used in more formal, geometric gardens.  Picture ladies in Victorian times taking a turn around the garden, inspecting all of the exotic spring bulbs their gardeners had planted the autumn before.  If you have the space and ambition, this can make your spring garden a real showpiece!  There are so many showy tulips that would be great candidates for this type of garden.  A visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in April or May is unbelievable.  The colors and shapes are astounding!

Tulip bulb.
Tulip bulb.

What Do Bulbs Like?

Generally, most bulbs prefer well drained, sandy garden soil.  Soggy, wet soil is not recommended here.  Full sun is a good idea although partial shade is fine.  If you are doing a woodland planting, the soil may be compact and full of roots.  Dig a hole with a spade and remove all roots.  Add some compost or peat moss in with the bulbs.  Then apply some bulb food.  Bulb fertilizer is usually sold anywhere bulbs are sold.  I like to use Bulb Tone.

A flood of flower bulb catalogs!
A flood of flower bulb catalogs!

What To Buy?

It seems like when fall hits there is no shortage of spring bulb catalogs in the mailbox.  Every hardware store and garden center seems to have a bulb display.  There are many reputable companies out there to order from.  It is extremely easy to swooned by those glossy color photos of spring bulbs in bloom.    Fedco seeds offers a modest collection of bulbs.  There are many large companies such as John Scheepers, Van Engelen Inc. (a wholesaler) and k. van Bourgondien to name a few.  For something a bit more interesting, try floret.  Erin Benzakien, a cut flower grower, offers a wide range of gorgeous spring bulbs.  If you live where bulbs are available for purchase, choose plump, firm bulbs.  Make sure that you can see what you are buying.  Avoid moldy, bug-infested and shriveled bulbs.  They have endless bulk deals at the big box stores, just be sure you are buying healthy bulbs for the best results.

Tulip bulbs.
Tulip bulbs.

A List of Bulbs

There are so many bulbs to choose from.  This is just a quick list to get you started with bulbs.

Crocus are among the first to peek out of the ground in spring.  Coming in shades of purple, yellow, white and bi-colors, the possibilities are endless.  Perfect for existing gardens or naturalizing.  Spring blooming crocus work well in sun or part shade.  Plant 4″ deep and 4″ apart.  These should multiply quickly.  Great early bee food too!

Daffodils happily growing in a friends garden.
Daffodils happily growing in a friends garden.

Daffodils come in so many shapes and sizes.  All in the narcissus family, you can find large cupped, small cupped, multi-flowered, double, miniature and trumpet.  It’s a huge list.  You could be easily overwhelmed by a few pages of a bulb catalog.  Terrific for naturalizing , daffodils can find a place in any home garden!  Plant them 6″ deep.

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Tulips come in endless colors, shapes and varieties.  Parrot, double, mid-season, late-season, large, small…you get the picture.  Many tulips are great the first year then somewhat of a letdown in following years.  This is because often tulips are bred for looks not longevity.  Try to pick perennial types like Darwin tulips or species tulips.  Species tulips are very closely related to their wild ancestors.  Although they are shorter than the usual tulips, they put on quite a show in my garden!

Digging with a blob planting tool.
Digging with a bulb planting tool.
Placing the tulip bulb in the hole.
Placing the tulip bulb in the hole.

Squill or scilla come to us from Mediterranean regions.  With their shades of blue, purple and white, they can appear to look like a blue sea if planted at a distance.  Great for naturalizing, rock gardens or borders.  This early bulb likes to be planted 5″ deep and 4-6″ apart.

Muscari.
Muscari.

Grape hyacinth or muscari looks a lot like it’s name.  Little clusters of grapes!  Coming in purple, lavender, pink and white, there can be a place for muscari in every landscape.  Plant along with tulips and they will mark your tulip spots all season.  The foliage lasts all summer and is not unattractive.  Place muscari in the same holes as the tulips for a wonderful contrast at bloom time.

Snowdrops are the first to bloom out of the spring bulbs.  They thrive in sun or filtered shade.  Lovely in drifts throughout the landscape.  They like well drained, sandy soil.  They must be 4″ deep and 2-4″ apart.

These are just a few spring bulbs from a long list.  Just a few things to get you started or maybe a little nudge to get you to add to your existing plantings!

With a little bit of forethought and not too much work, you can make a bulb display that will definitely be something to look forward to.  This fall, I’ve added to my daffodil patch, replenished the tulips and added a few more crocus.  Nothing major but certainly something to think about through the winter!  We’ve had some cooler weather this week.  It even snowed yesterday!  I’ve got the hoop house ready and I now have a thermometer to keep track of high and low temps.  Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week.  Don’t forget to check me out on Instagram and Facebook!  Maybe you will pick up a few spring flowering bulbs on your next shopping trip!

Hilary|Everlongardener