Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba)
These tiny, pretty pinkish-white flowers are one of the first blooming woodland natives to make an appearance in early spring. They are happy in partial shade with nutrient-rich soil, and can withstand very mild drought.
I was admiring this patch yesterday afternoon when the gardener saw me and stopped to chat.
Spring is finally here.
Yes, it’s such a relief. I’m bursting with excitment!
Pointing to a tidy woodland garden coated in leaf mulch: I’ve got to clean this mess.
No way! I regularly stop by your garden to see what it’s doing and it is always beautiful!
What is it with gardeners? Every single one I have ever met is quick to apologize for the “wretched” state of their garden. People, your gardens are beautiful. And if you need a reality check just take a look at my street garden and get over it already! It is completely destroyed with last year’s fence in shambles and making it’s way across the sidewalk with large dog turds and assorted random garbage peppering the space. The poor crocuses are barely visible. Am I sweating it? Well maybe a little. But a few hours on what promises to be a warm Sunday afternoon with a pair of gloves and some clippers and it will be back in action!
Question: I bought several cheap bags of daffodils and tulips on clearance this past December but didn’t get them into the ground on time. Spring is right around the corner, can I still plant them?
Don’t toss those bulbs! Despite all the fuss about proper planting times, most bulbs are hardy little packages that can be saved with some minor intervention. Heaps of bulbs are hard on the wallet — off-season specials are a smart way to create an endless parade of spring blooms on the cheap. Of course, some bulbs are on sale for a reason, so choose firm, plump bulbs and leave shriveled or moldy bulbs at the store.
Dutch bulbs such as daffodils and tulips require some chill time before spring planting. Daffodils require approximately 12-16 weeks, while tulips call for a lengthy 14-20 weeks. Stash your bulbs bare inside mesh or paper bags and pop them into your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Keep them away from apples or other ripe fruit since the ethylene gas they emit can cause your bulbs to rot. Take a peek every once and a while to be sure they haven’t mummified in the bag — good ventilation is key. Don’t freak out if they start to grow gnarly sprouts — a living bulb is a good bulb! And if they do nothing: that’s okay too.
To give your bulbs an added edge, try pre-planting them into containers of potting soil. Chill in an unheated garage, cold cellar, or shed and water them now and then to help form roots right in the pot.
Try and wait until the minimum chill time has passed before planting your bulbs out in the garden. Needless to say, you stand nothing to lose if they have to go outside early. Most bulbs won’t survive a year in regular storage so better late than never. Bloom time is bound to be off schedule this year, or won’t happen at all. No worries, your plants will reschedule themselves and produce heaps of flowers next spring.
Guest post by Emira Mears
I saw a comment pop up on an old post of mine from last May about Lilacs that I thought I would pull out and do my best to address here. The comment, or rather question was about a healthy seeming lilac bush that doesn’t seem to be producing much in the way of blooms (or perhaps any). I did a bit of research into this as lilacs are one of my absolute favourites and I do worry a bit that the lack of hands on care that I give our lilac will result in a decline in the plants health. There have been (and continue to be) a lot of plants we inherited in this garden that I need to learn more about. Anyway.
From the reading and web searching I’ve done I can contribute the following info and a few more questions for any of you out there who have more knowledge or tricks up your sleeves:
- Lilacs apparently don’t need heavy pruning but can do with a bit of thinning out. I know that my own bush sends off suckers and and new shoots a few feet away from the main bush as well as in the centre clump, pruning back some of these will apparently help the plant thrive as it is a heavy feeder or nutrient sucker so cutting back on some of the greedy shoots is a good idea. From what I’ve read I was a bit unclear as to when one should do this, so I’m not sure if it’s a Spring prior to blooming thing or a Summer post-blooming activity. Do chime in if you know. (And I should mention everything I have read has specifically pointed out a need to not over prune, so don’t go too nuts).
- Cutting off finished blooms is apparently one way to encourage a healthy crop of flowers the next year. Now if you’re not getting any flowers that won’t help, but I do know that this is something I have not done at all really, but have now logged into my garden journal for this June/July to take care of.
- Soil conditions: limey. Or so says the reading I’ve done. You can spread dolomite lime or other limey additives in November in my climate (zone 8ish/BC west coast).
- Dividing or moving: Here’s where my big questions come in. I’m a bit worried about the location of my own lilac (between a healthy growing laurel hedge and a garage as seen in the photo there) and that lack of sunlight due to the physical constraints (it does face south so still gets lots of sun) will eventually cause it to suffer. If I wanted to take some of the offshoots and move them to a different spot in the yard, when would be the best time to do this? Or, say if I wanted to move the whole bush?
If any of you have any other tips for healthy lilac blooms do pass them on. I know I’m keen to do all I can to keep those gorgeous beauties bountiful each May.
A constant stream of questions comes flooding through my inbox on a regular basis. I try and answer as many as I can but it’s quite an arduous task. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should start answering these questions publicly where everyone can benefit from the information or add their own thoughts and experiences to the mix. Please forgive me. I can be a little slow at times. This first question comes from an advice column I began writing last year for the now defunct and sorely lost Budget Living Magazine.
Question: I get orchids as gifts all the time but promptly kill them? How do I care for them?
Orchids have cultivated a reputation as difficult, but your plants are probably Phalaenopsis or moth orchids, a trendy gift-store variety that are surprisingly living room friendly.
The secret to indoor gardening is all about approximating a plant’s natural habitat in your home. Moth orchids are tree-dwelling jungle plants native to tropical regions where the air is steamy and warm. Setting up a tree in your living room is not necessary!
Grow It: Your plant will be comfortable away from direct light in a room with a steady temperature around 70º F. If you are comfortable so is your orchid. Grow your plant in a terra cotta pot with holes in the bottom and specially prepared orchid bark for good drainage. Give it a weekly 30 second dunk, pot and all, in a lukewarm bath. Allow the top of the soil to dry out between baths to avoid over-watering. Orchids thrive on lots of humidity. A simple humidity tray will do the job of fancy gadgetry. Line a leak-proof tray with an inch of aquarium gravel or river stones. Add water to just below the surface of the rocks and set the orchid pot on top without pushing the pot into the rocks. Constant “wet feet” can rot the roots — the trick is to provide a warm sauna rather than a long soak.
Go Further: Moth orchids are unique in that they can rebloom on the same spike. Most other orchids bloom only once per year. To encourage another round, cut dead flowers off just before the next joint on the stem. You should see new buds in 8-12 weeks. Once the flowers have gone, cut the entire stem off close to the plant base. Your plant will flower again before next spring. Enjoy!
For More Information
1. Wilma & Brian Tittershausen. Gardener’s Guide to Growing Orchids: A Complete Guide to Cultivation and Care, London: Anness Publishing Limited, 2001.
2. Orchid Lady
Living room gardeners needn’t be limited to corner-store variety orchids. Paphiopedilum, aka ‘slipper’ orchids (not to be confused with the cold hardy North American Lady’s Slipper) are an exotic tropical that produce a stunning, solo blossom sometime between late fall and spring. Each bloom lasts as long as 2-3 months and many varieties have dramatic, mottled foliage providing interest in between blooms.
Grow It: In the wild, Paphiopedilums (Paphs for short) grow underneath trees where they received indirect, filtered light, making them the perfect match for those of us cursed with small windowed apartments. Look for yellowing leaves as a sign of too much light. Repot your paph every two years with light and airy orchid bark. Give your plant a quick soak, pot and all, in room-temperature water. The bark mix should never dry out but should not be constantly soggy either. Choose a hardy hybrid variety like ‘Maudiae’, or ‘Gold Dollar’.
Check out The Orchid Mall to find a local vendor or The American Orchid Society for more information.
See more photos of my favourite paph: Paphiopedilum Maudiae ‘Claire de Lune’ x Minnie May – How’s that for a race horse name!