By Laura Lukes, UC Master Gardener of Butte County, March 16, 2018.
Forty years ago, Brown and her husband Jeff moved to the home on that property, and she began to work her magic on an enormous expanse of St. Augustine grass shaded by native oaks and sycamores. Over time, she's transformed it into a patchwork of plants that provide flowers and greenery for bouquets and floral displays throughout all four seasons of the year.
On a brisk afternoon in late February, Brown led a tour of her Cutting Garden as a part of the UC Butte County Master Gardeners 2018 Spring Workshop Series. The garden was bursting with color and texture from stands of daffodils, narcissus, hyacinth,and anemone. Forsythia and “Shoebutton” spirea were in bloom, as were redbud trees and giant camellias. Trees in the family fruit orchard were showing off their blossoms.
Workshop participants were given a valuable list Brown had prepared titled “Cut Flowers for Most of the Year,” annotated with useful commentary and helpful hints.
Brown began the tour with a short history of her interest in flowers, which started when she was a child, planting nasturtium and sweet pea seeds with her mother. When Brown and her husband moved to the rich earth of their Chico home after gardening in decomposed granite in the Hollywood Hills, Brown set out to “learn flowering plants,” most of which did not grow in Southern California. In those days many interesting shrubs and perennials were found only in catalogs and purchasing them meant paying steep shipping fees.
Creating floral arrangements for weddings meant pre-dawn buying trips to the San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart. Acquiring a resale number and Market Badge gave Brown behind-the-scenes access which made all that driving worthwhile.
Despite the dazzling variety of Flower Market offerings, Brown really prefers fresh and seasonal, just like what is on tap at our Farmers Markets. For example, roses are entirely unnatural at Valentine's Day, and they represent a large carbon footprint in the energy required to grow them in greenhouses and fly them from South America. Greenhouse flowers come with a high use of chemicals, like fungicides, to keep them perfect in those humid growing conditions. But tulips and anemones, beautiful flowers which bloom naturally in February, come in Valentine's Day colors of red, white, and pink too.
Brown scheduled this workshop in February precisely because many people think it is an unlikely month for finding local flowers suitable for use in arrangements. She emphasizes that the category of cut flowers includes bulbs and branches of flowering trees and shrubs as well as annuals and perennials.
Before Valentine's Day there is a very early spirea in bloom, along with branches of wild plum with its fabulously delicate white blossoms. Branches of this plum, together with those of the purple-leafed plum with pink flowers, make a wonderful arrangement in a vase on their own. Another benefit of using spring branches, even before they flower, is that they add height and contrast to a bouquet.
Earliest spring also marks the onset of flowering bulbs. As Brown notes, “Bulbs are sort of a secret bonus garden. They bloom while the perennials, biennials, and roses are dormant and the earliest annuals are just getting ready. They can slide into spaces between things that will be mostly covered up when the other plants wake up and grow.” Some of Brown's favorite early-blooming bulbs are daffodils, narcissi, anemones, hyacinth, and leucojum (often called snowdrops). Freesias and allium, along with ranunculus (one of the very best cut flowers), will strut their stuff in March. Like the many types of daffodils blooming from very early spring to late spring, some tulips can start in February while others bloom late in April.
Though the very best cutting flowers will last about a week in an arrangement, many other flowers will look fine for a special occasion or over a weekend.
After the tour of her garden, Brown used cuttings she had prepared earlier to fashion sample arrangements, and invited us to make our own. Brown sums up her cut flower efforts with this blessing: May beauty, fragrance, and variety lighten your spirit beyond the life of the blooms. I finished the tour of her Cutting Garden with a lovely posey of my own, determined to sew some felt pads (brilliant idea!) into the knees of my garden jeans.
Note: For more information about the Master Gardener Program and Workshops, please visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/bcmg/.
Questions? Plant problems? Call the Master Gardener Hotline at 530-538-7201 and/or visit our website Hotline page at ucanr.edu/p/49588.
By Carolyn Melf, Butte County Master Gardener, November 11, 2016.
At this time of year bulbs are appearing at nurseries and big retail stores as well as in the garden catalogs that arrive in your mail box. Many bulbs (like tulips) need to be chilled for 8-10 weeks in your refrigerator before replanting for blooms the following spring. Consider growing bulbs that are better suited to our warm climate. They are easier to grow, most are perennial, and they look their best in warm temperatures.
Since most failure with bulbs can be traced back to problems during planting, give yourself time for proper planning and planting. Plant in November to early December in our mild climate urban areas (zones 8 and 9). Bulbs must be planted at the correct depth, usually in a hole 3 times as deep as the size of the bulb. Fertilizing with a bulb booster (such as 4-12-8) or with organic bulb food is a good idea: place a few grains of the fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, cover with a fine layer of soil so the bulb does not come into direct contact with the material, and then add the bulb and fill the hole with soil. “Which end of the bulb is up?” you might wonder --- usually the pointy end is up, and the roots face downwards. But some bulbs are long and narrow, making it difficult to tell which end is the top. You can plant such a bulb on its side – growth will respond to gravity with shoots growing up and roots growing down. After covering the bulbs with soil, water the planted area well. Moisture must be present 6 to 8 inches below the surface to encourage root growth. Finally, avoid walking on the bulbs and compacting the soil.
Alliums are ornamental cousins of onions that aren't usually bothered by animals. Globular clusters of white, yellow, pink, red, blue or purple flowers are carried on stalks that rise above the foliage. They come in a variety heights, as well as colors, and can blend into any garden.
Crinum, a tall member of the amaryllis family, is topped with a circle of trumpet-shaped flowers, usually white, pink or a combination of both. Plant so the neck of the bulb is just above the soil and give it plenty of water while it is growing.
Gloriosa Lily is a tuberous perennial with red and yellow lily-like flower heads. It can sprawl and scramble through other plants, climbing by means of tendrils at the ends of its leaves. Plant 1 to 2 inches deep, and 10 to 15 inches apart, in rich soil.
Watsonia has tallspikes of tubular blossoms which come in shades of red, orange, pink and white. They begin blooming in late winter and carry on into the spring.
By Carolyn Faulkner, Butte County Master Gardener, October 18, 2013
For many gardeners, fall brings with it the excitement of selecting and planting spring-flowering bulbs.
The term “bulb” is commonly used to describe a wide range of plants that have underground structures in which they store their nutrient reserves. These reserves allow bulbs to survive and bloom from year to year, if conditions are right. Knowing the differences among the five bulb types can help you determine when and where to plant them.
Of the five bulb types, the most common are the true bulbs. The best example of a true bulb is the onion. The rings you see when you slice an onion in half are actually leaves modified to hold food for the bulb when it is dormant. Garlic too is a true bulb. Common flowering true bulbs include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, amaryllis, lilies, and Dutch iris.
The third type of bulb is the rhizome. These have elongated underground stems which sometimes emerge above the soil surface. Some of these stems are thick, while others are the thickness of a blade of grass, but all produce leaf growth from the top, and roots that emerge from the underside. Examples of rhizomatous bulbs are bearded iris, cannas and calla lilies. The cattail is a rhizome. Unfortunately Bermuda grass and mint are also rhizomes, and their small underground stems allow them to spread easily and become invasive.
The fourth type of bulb is the tuber. Tubers are also underground stems, but not the base of the stem as in a corm. Tubers have multiple “eyes” (buds) and most of them prefer filtered sun. The potato and yam are tubers. Begonias, cyclamen and anemones are all examples of flowering tubers.
The fifth type of bulb is the tuberous root. These are roots that form around a central stem. The sweet potato is a tuberous root which is where it differs from the yam. Some examples of flowering plants that have tuberous roots are dahlias, agapanthus and day lilies.
The depth that each bulb is planted varies according to the type: some (like rhizomatous bearded iris) can be planted just below the surface, while others (like tulips) require deep planting of up to eight inches. Because bulb depth varies so widely, it is important to check sources before planting, but the general rule of thumb for plantingspring bulbsis toplant two to three times as deep as the bulbis tall.
Bulbs to plant in the fall for late winter and spring blooms include tulips, daffodils, crocuses, Dutch iris, and many types of lilies. Bulbs to plant in the late winter and early spring for summer flowers include dahlia, canna, begonia, and gladiolus. Light fertilizer can be applied just as the bulbs begin to grow.
Most bulbs like full sun, but there are some exceptions, such as hyacinthoides (bluebells) and many daffodils, which bloom in early spring before trees leaf out.
Most bulbs are perennials, and many do well in containers. Most bulbs prefer well-drained soil, but exceptions include the Summer Snowflake (Leucojum), Camassia quamash, and Lilium lancifolium (the orange tiger lily), cattail and (of course) the Water Lily, all of which like damp, even soggy, conditions.
Once bulbs have bloomed, do not cut back their leaves until they have turned yellow and are obviously dead. The bulbs require these leaves to manufacture carbohydrates and store energy for the next year, through photosynthesis. However, the flower stalks can be cut back to where the foliage begins. It is important to apply a complete fertilizer after bloom in the spring, spreading around the base of the leaves, and to continue minimal watering. Once leaves have been removed the bulb can be dug up and stored in a dark dry cool place or simply left in the ground. Be careful not to over-water. Unless your bulbs are among the water-tolerating exceptions, too much water will cause the bulbs to mildew or rot.
A helpful chart for bulb planting can be found at http://ucanr.edu/sites/sacmg/Sacramento_Bulb_Planting_Schedule/. Keep in mind, however, that our Butte County winters tend to be colder than those in Sacramento./span>