Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs!

Oh how time flies...

Our last bulb shipment finally came in for the park and what do I see?

Snow - whatelse?

Last year we installed a mere 65000 bulbs in the park over a period of two months. If you take into account that I have one co-gardener that is 16250 bulbs each per month.

This is why I'm in shape.

This year we decided that although the display looked amazing last year, there was no good place to put another 65000 annual and perennial bulbs. We knocked it down significantly.. and somehow still ended up ordering 55000 bulbs.

November is going to be stressful.

At least all of our crocus has been taken care of. We tried everything from hot sauce, to deer off, to dried blood. Surprisingly the dried blood almost worked. Most of the squirrels would sniff around and jump back as soon as they sensed the blood. While others... well I guess nothing bothers some squirrels. The biggest problem with this is that dried blood is water soluble and the weather in the northeast here has been wet (or snowy) to say the least. Reapplying it as often as necessary just isn't practical for the amount of area we have. We do cover plantings with netting as well. Netting has worked well for things like tulips and anything else that is fairly large or deeply planted. But with Crocus, the corms are just too small and the depth too shallow, its too easy for the damned rodents to get their little paws through.

In some regards bulbs are the nail in the coffin at the end of the season. An entire summer of planting, pruning and dragging hoses all over the place is nothing compared to putting in a large bulb display. It may seem like the season is over and you don't have to put as much effort into the garden as everything goes into dormancy, but there is nothing worse than fighting the arrival of winter as you try to get all of those bulbs in the ground. There is something to be said about planting something two seasons before it will sprout. There seems to be some sort of shared anxiety throughout the winter as you wonder if those damned tulips are ever going to bloom. They will, they do every time. But the difference is made in not being able to see the bulbs establish themselves until spring.


I complain, but all the hard work will pay off in the spring.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn's here.

Sometimes I wonder if fall may be the best season in our garden.

You want flowers, we've got flowers. We've got Spireas still in full bloom, Day lilies, Russian sage, Montauk daises, Cone flowers, Agastache. Psh, some gardens aren't even that colorful in summer.

(Photo won't rotate right for some reason, you'll have to turn your computer.)
We have Asters (2) that I salvaged from work last year and were devoured by wildlife this year. In generally I really don't like asters, but these were such a clear blue color. We planted some in shade and they really stood out (and never really bloomed right, but that's what shade does.) I wish I could remember the variety off the top of my head... I guess I'll have to check the records and get back on this.

You want berries. We've got berries. The weirdest purple berries you've ever seen on a plant. Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a U.S native. This plant still isn't all that common in the trade. I know the flowers aren't the showiest but there are early defoliating varieties now so I can't see why more people wouldn't want these weird purple things showing up in fall.

How about some color. Fall color, regular color.. whatever....


 Aah. Look at the sun shining on that Hibiscus.

 Leucothoe fontanesiana, also known as Fetterbush or Doghobble. I took this cutting in the spring. Hopefully it will be a real shrub soon.


While the Spireas may still be flowering, they're also doing fall color change. This one had some nice red patches.

I've wanted to put in some fall blooming bulbs. I put it off for this fall, but with seeing this color display, I don't even think fall bulbs are necessary. But.. then I look at pictures like this and realize that it probably wouldn't hurt to put them in eventually. They're just too stunning.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Magical Mums!

Magical Mums! (As posted here.)

Nothing quite conjures up images of fall like a fresh planting of Chrysanthemums. Geraniums and Begonias might rule the summer garden, but mums remain the queen of fall blooming plants. Chrysanthemums have been culturally significant throughout the United States and Asia for centuries. From ancient emperors to homecoming queens, it seems everyone has held this fall flower in high regards.

Texans in the early 1930’s created a very unique football tradition involving these cushiony beauties. I spent a few months in Allen, Texas during high school, and I was completely flabbergasted when I arrived at my first football game to see hundreds of teenage girls wearing large ribbon flowers glued to their shirts. Now, after noticing that the school mascot was an eagle, I was having serious difficulty figuring out why these fake flowers were so popular. I later found out that these corsages were called football mums and that they can be a sign of social status or team spirit. Guys generally give football mums to their girlfriends, and the girls wear them pinned to their blouse. In return, women are expected to give a garter, which is a smaller version of the football mum that is worn on the arm. Although the modern football mums only vaguely resemble flowers (they’re normally silk and loaded with ribbons, streamers, and the like), traditional football mums were actual flowers. Certain varieties of Chrysanthemum can be very large, and they hold value in the American floral industry for their long life as a cut flower.

Asia has a totally different outlook on Chrysanthemums. In China, Chrysanthemums are legendary. As the story goes, an elderly emperor sent twenty-four children on a dangerous journey to a faraway island. It was said that the island contained a rare flower that would provide eternal life if picked by children. When the children arrived at the island, all they found were golden Chrysanthemums. Needless to say, the emperor did not find eternal life, but he did like the flower so much that it became a national symbol of nobility and elegance. Today mums can be found on the 1 yuan coin used throughout China.

Mums reached the shores of Japan in the 8th century, where it was also adopted as a national symbol.  These flowers were seen as a symbol of longevity and good fortune and are found on the crests of many noble families. In fact, the highest order of knighthood the Emperor could award was the “Supreme order of the Chrysanthemum.” This title was rarely bestowed upon anyone who was not of royal blood. By the 9th century new types of chrysanthemums were being bred in the imperial gardens. Japan also celebrates National Chrysanthemum Day, also known as the festival of happiness. Mums are referred to as one of the Four Gentlemen plants thoughout Asia. These plants represent the four seasons. Among these are Orchids (spring), Bamboo (summer), Chrysanthemum (autumn), and Plum blossom (winter).

Not everyone sees mums in such a positive light. Europeans consider mums to be the flower of death. European florists use Chrysanthemums in funeral arrangements since they are reliable and long lasting bloomers.  This tradition has led to a negative association with the flower.
If you are tired of seeing Chrysanthemums and want to see them in a totally new light, check out Longwood Gardens this fall as they have the largest Ozukuri Chrysanthemum in North America. The plant is 11 feet wide and has over 990 blooms. Unfortunately this plant is dwarfed by Japans largest Ozukuri Chrysanthemum which has over 2,220 blooms.