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

 

 

 

Time To Divide Your Bearded Irises

Spring brings so many pleasures!  Warmer weather, longer days and the bonus…flowers.  Spring bulbs put on their show, then come the irises and peonies.  What a disappointment when there are no blooms!  How can you ensure plenty of late spring color?  Possibly it’s time to divide those over grown bearded iris!

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Irises of all kinds are a standard for most perennial and cottage gardens.  They seem to take care of themselves, only requiring some dead heading after bloom.  Japanese and Siberian iris have thinner foliage and more matted, stringy roots.  Bearded varieties, on the other hand, have roots called rhizomes.  They are hardy for as low as zones 3.  Their large blooms bring drama and vibrant color to the landscape.  The spear shaped foliage offers a contrast to the usual mound-like foliage of other perennials.  Dwarf iris, a smaller type, are great for rock gardens.  Just provide a sunny spot for them.

Bearded iris.
Bearded iris.

In addition to promoting blooms, dividing bearded iris can eliminate weeds that grow in the middle of the plants.  This situation can turn the iris roots into a matted mess and the roots can wither or even die off over time.  Division also gives you the opportunity to propagate more plants.  The best time for dividing is in late summer or fall when the plant is in a dormant state.  Seeds should not be allowed to form because they tend to sap energy from the roots.

A weedy mess!
A weedy mess!

To divide the iris, plunge a garden fork in under the clump.  Pry them gently from the ground.  The rhizomes may come free easily but if not, cut them apart with a sharp knife.  Better Homes and Gardens magazine actually recommends sterilizing your knife with a 10% bleach solution between cuts.  This may seem a bit unnecessary but can cut down on disease.

Plunging the fork into the ground.
Plunging the fork into the ground.

At this point, weeds can be pulled from in between the roots.  Some sort of grass had taken over mine.

The iris are ready to be divided.
The iris are ready to be divided.
A healthy iris rhizome.
A healthy iris rhizome.
Trim foliage to 4-6".
Trim foliage to 4-6″.

Cut all foliage to about 4-6″.  This is generally called fanning.

Rhizomes.
Rhizomes.
This will amount to 3 or more clumps.
This will amount to 3 or more clumps.

Next, weed the area that you have excavated.  Plant some of the rhizomes in a shallow hole.  These roots do not like to be covered with soil or mulch.  Place some soil around the roots.  It’s okay to plant them with their ‘shoulders’ sticking out of the ground.

Depending on the size of your bearded iris clump, you may get three or more new clumps to replant.  They can always be given to a friend or used to expand you garden space.  By placing an iris in every part of your landscape, you will increase your bloom power throughout the yard.

A bearded iris in full bloom!
A bearded iris in full bloom!

Bearded iris benefit from a yearly topdressing of compost.  If you are feeling generous, add some granular fertilizer.  Otherwise, the iris in your garden will require little from you.

Some of the iris even smell like citrus!
Some of the iris even smell like citrus!

Bearded iris can suffer from rot from time to time.  These soft, hollow roots should be removed and destroyed.  Borers can also be an issue.  If you see any holes in the rhizomes, be sure to destroy any of the fat, white worms if you see them!

Burgundy is a nice contrast.
Burgundy is a nice contrast.

We have 3-4 different bearded iris on our property.  They make stunning additions to bouquets and pair well with peonies.  Bearded iris go good with allium and lupine.  The color variations are seemingly endless.   If you have iris that are suffering in your gardens, why not divide them this fall season?  They will repay you next spring with a bounty of blooms!

Iris in the landscape!
Iris in the landscape!

Hope you learned something about bearded iris this week!  I know it seems like spring is a long ways away but this is the time to do these seasonal chores.  As always, thank you so much for joining me!

Hilary|Everlongardener