- Author: Janet Hartin
European Flower Boxes Provide Beauty and a Welcoming Ambiance. Many European countries pride themselves on colorful displays of geraniums, ivy, and other flowers adorning window planters of hotels, restaurants, and even train stations. I had always marveled at their use, particularly by Austrians and Germans whose love of these colorful planters seems equal to their affinity for weiner schnitzel. What a surprise to find them plentiful in Ireland, as well! As I walked through Dublin (Read More) the last few days I noted the great care that both shopkeepers and plant care companies exercise in tending these lovely and delicate works of art. I walked by the same restaurant one morning and again in the late afternoon to find the same two horticulturists tediously fussing over a dozen or so planters sporting bright hues of blues, yellows, and reds with over twelve varieties of annuals. With plentiful natural rainfall, most are not on irrigation systems which reduces maintenance costs and time. I asked ‘Carol' (one of the crew) what she liked most about her job and she quickly answered “seeing smiles on so many faces from just seeing the flowers”. Well said! I hope these photos help brighten your day as well.
- Select a location where you can truly enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- Select a box that has drainage holes and line wooden boxes with plastic (punch holes to match drainage holes) to prevent chemical leakage from certain types of wood.
- Draw a rough sketch of what you hope your final box will resemble once mature.
- Select annuals that won't outgrow the space and that tolerate the sunny or shady microclimate and that require similar amounts of water (eases hand-watering).
- Select plants with a wide array of colors and forms. Adding trailing varieties with upright plants enhances the beauty and adds interest.
- Fill the planter box half-way with loose garden soil or compost. An alternative is to use potting soil. Avoid heavy soils with poor drainage. Moisten the soil until it resembles a well rung-out sponge.
- Take one last look before you plant by carefully setting your plants on top of the soil. Consider the final size of the mature plants to avoid overplanting.
- Once you're satisfied with your design, plant your selections at the same depth they were in their pots, gently tamping the soil around them for support.
- Thoroughly water the plants, making sure water drains through the holes.
- Water as often as needed the first few weeks after planting since container boxes dry out faster than garden plants. The frequency of irrigation can decrease as plants mature.
- Hand-weed and apply fertilizer as needed.
- Author: Catherine Bibeau
Two years ago I went to the Walker Canyon poppy superbloom twice; once when there were lots of people, and a second time early in the morning when there were very few visitors. It was unbelievably beautiful. I felt compelled to try to grow poppies one more time.
During a visit to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley last year (theodorepayne.org). I picked up several packs of California Golden Poppy seed and a few packs of red poppy seed. Last September I sprinkled all but one of the packs along the dry creek bed we'd put in years ago. I kept all the seed within the rocky confines of the creek.
Fast forward to this past winter. There was another superbloom in Walker Canyon. I saw that one as well, and somehow it seemed even more spectacular than the 2017 superbloom. I wished I could have a bit of that golden glory of my own to see every day. But all I had was a dry creek bed. Period.
And then – a tiny, unmistakable poppy leaf appeared from under a rock. Later in the day, it had the company of another tiny poppy leaf. I scrutinized the seeded creek bed daily, like a 49er examining his claim, hoping to find gold. During the following weeks more and more little poppy plants popped up. I was thrilled. But that's all there was. Plants. No little golden explosions of color. I thought “Well, okay. It's a start. Better than I've done before. Maybe next year.”
On March 15 at 11:29 a.m. I saw it: One lone Golden California Poppy atop a long, reedy stem. It wasn't open, but in my eyes it was the singularly most stunningly gorgeous and perfect flower that ever existed. It was every happy holiday, birthday, and special occasion all rolled up in soft petals of golden orange. I was sure it was smiling at me.
Poppies are wild flowers; they grow where they want, and regardless of how their seeds are placed, I am certain that when no one is looking, those little seeds get up and march to the very spot they think they should be. The strictures of a human plan cannot contain them; they are an expression of freedom in nature. If we are lucky, we get to witness that expression.
The golden poppies have been joined by red poppies, appearing somewhat later than the goldens. They are growing outside of the creek bed and have shown that their design sense is far superior to mine. Each of them is perfectly situated, their size and colors in a balanced palette I could never achieve.
Next September I will again seed poppies. But this time I will toss them into the breeze, rather than in a neat arrangement of where I think they ought to grow. The poppies know much better than I where they ought to be.
Cathi Bibeau is a home gardener, growing various fruits, seasonal vegetables and a few types of ornamental flowers. And now poppies.
- Author: Gail Nieto
As I wander around my yard, I am seeing many flowers that have bloomed and are now starting to look "dead." They are actually ready to go to seed. So I pinch off the spent flowers or "deadhead" to cause the plant to flower again. Deadheading is very simple. As plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem just below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. Repeat with all dead flowers on the plant. The plant will flower again in a week or two. Most annuals and many perennials will continue to bloom throughout the growing season if they are regularly deadheaded.
The plant's purpose is to seed and reproduce so when you pinch off the spent flowers, it will re-flower to produce more seeds. I cut or pinch off "dead" flowers on snapdragons, dianthus, violas, pansies, roses, and sometimes columbine. Other plants that will re-flower with this process are bleeding heart, phlox, delphinium, lupine, sage, salvia, veronica, Shasta daisy, yarrow, and coneflower to name a few. I usually let them seed out after one deadheading, but this can be done more than once during a growing season. I spread the seeds after the second flowering after the seeds pods have dried on the plant so they will return next year in more abundance.
Although some people might consider this to be a tedious task, I enjoy being in my yard and “communing” with my plants. I encourage you to get outside and extend your summer flowering with deadheading!
Used coffee grounds are abundantly available for the asking at your local coffee shop. But just because the item is free, is it beneficial for composting?
Compost your coffee -
Coffee grounds add nitrogen to the compost, but as fertilizer they do not add nitrogen immediately to the soil. About 2% nitrogen by volume, used coffee grounds are a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich animal products. A study at Oregon State University showed that when composted, coffee helps sustain high temperatures in compost piles, in contrast with manure, which doesn't sustain the heat as long. When grounds made up 25 percent of the volume of a compost pile, temperatures stayed between 135 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks. High composting temperatures help reduce potentially dangerous pathogens and kill seeds from weeds and vegetables that have been added to the compost. In the OSU study two weeks was sufficient time to kill a significant portion of both pathogens and seeds. When composting coffee, remember that grounds are considered green material, so balance your mix by adding an equal amount of brown material, like dried leaves, shredded cuttings, or paper.
Using coffee as mulch -
Fresh coffee grounds are acidic, but used coffee grounds are neutral when added to the soil. The acid in coffee beans is mostly water soluble, so it leaches into the coffee we drink. After brewing, the grounds are between 6.5 and 6.8 pH, so they won't affect the soil acidity. Coffee grounds can be used as mulch. Adding this organic matter to the soil improves drainage, water retention and aeration. Coffee grounds also help keep slugs and snails away from plants.
An additional benefit of composting grounds is diverting them from the landfill. And recycling coffee shop grounds fosters interactions between community residents and local businesses.
For more on composting, and the benefits of recycling coffee grounds see UCANR Master Gardener Tip Sheet, Composting is Good for Your Garden and the Environment, and the links used as reference, below:
Composting With Coffee Grounds – Used Coffee Grounds for Gardening, from gardeningkowhow.com
Coffee Grounds Perk Up Compost Pile with Nitrogen, from Oregon State University
- Author: Susan Campbell & Michele Martinez
They're everywhere in Spring, and they're beautiful: Daffodils (genus narcissus). There are countless species, and thousands of hybrids. These perennials multiply in two ways: by bulb division (asexual cloning), where the resulting flower is an exact copy of its predecessor; by seed (sexually), developed in the seed pod behind the petals, where different new flowers will result. Few seeds will naturally pollinate and it can take about five years for a bulb to form and the first flower to bloom. Daffodils are toxic and non-edible. Squirrels avoid eating daffodils, as should pets, because of poisonous crystals in the bulbs and leaves.
Bulbs are one of the first flowers to appear as temperatures slowly increase. Daffodils will generally last three weeks before they begin wilting and dying back. After the flower has wilted, the flower can be deadheaded. This helps focus the plant's energy on re-building the bulb for next year's flower, rather than sending energy to the seeds.
Don't cut back the leaves until they've totally died back. Bulbs need time after blooming to gather and store energy for next year's bloom. Bulb experts encourage watering the withering plant in dry conditions. This will help the bulbs draw in nutrients needed for the next season. Once the foliage is completely withered it's safe to trim back to soil levels. If the flowers did not perform well, consider applying a low-nitrogen, high-potash (potassium) fertilizer after flowering. Otherwise, add bone meal.
Bulb growth includes the production of smaller bulbs. It's a good idea to separate the bulbs every three to four years, providing them with the needed space to encourage larger, healthy blooms. After the leaves have died back, dig up the bulbs and gently pull the clumps apart. Remove dirt and debris and allow them to dry in a cool ventilated area. Save them for autumn planting. While smaller bulbs may not produce for a couple of years, larger bulbs will provide new flowers next season.
During this time the bulb stores the energy it has gathered and lies in wait for the next growing season. As summer comes to a close, local garden centers begin carrying one to three different varieties of daffodil bulbs. Consider buying bulbs directly from daffodil growers -- either through mail catalogues or the internet. Here you'll find countless amazing varieties. Daffodils come in a many colors, including yellow, orange, white, pinks and corals. Similar to a brown onion, newly purchased bulbs should be dry but not shriveled. A bulb should not have any sprouting leaves or roots, nor have moldy soft spots.
Autumn is bulb planting time. Plant bulbs two to four weeks before first frost. Check packaging for planting instructions. In general, daffodils do best when planted in well-draining soil, in full or partial shade. Plant bulbs two to five times their own depth, three to six inches apart. Add a scant amount of bulb fertilizer to the soil, if needed. Wear protective gloves to avoid possible skin irritation.
During winter, the bulbs chill. This chill time is needed for the flower to bloom. With the advantage of cold winters, mountain gardeners can count on great daffodils each year. At lower altitudes, bulbs must be cured to experience the necessary chill time.
Bulb Curing Tips: Bulbs do best when cold-cured at 60 to 65°F, for 6 – 8 weeks. Gently separate clusters, trim roots, and allow bulbs to dry away from sunlight, about a day. A paper bag or other breathe-able wrapper is recommended. Refrigerator storage can work, but bulbs must be kept away from produce. Apples and other fruits emit ethanol gas that may kill dormant flowers. Bulbs kept cool and dry are ready for re-planting in late fall.
And the cycle begins.