Amaryllis Blooms and beyond

Amaryllis blooms are spectacular no matter the colour and with a minimum of care, will bloom over Christmas and throughout the winter months. Native to tropical and sub-tropical locations, this bulbous plant is not winter hearty here, but provides us a much needed indoor blast of colour in the coldness of winter.

 

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

 

 

Garden centres sell the widest variety of bulbs, which they generally sell loose for your planting pleasure. Potted bulbs beginning  their rapid leaf growth are also found in garden centres, and a wide variety of other locations including grocery and big box hardware stores. While many people are familiar with this plant, the background, cultivation and care information is something not be commonly known.

Amaryllis Genealogy

Amaryllis is the common name used for the herbaceous , perennial flowering plants of the Amaryllidaceae family. The actual genus Amaryllis bulbs come from South Africa , while the genus Hippeastrum bulbs from South and Central America are what are commonly sold here in the Northern Hemisphere around Christmas time.

Amaryllis  of the genus Hippeastrum have a wide variety of colours, both solid and in combination as there are approximately 90 species and 600 hybrid varieties. These herbaceous bulbs begin by sending out 2-7 narrow, flat long strap-shaped, green  leaves and from there if conditions are right, the flower stem begins to grow.

 Amaryllis Bloom Kits

Amaryllis bulbs are sold, as previously mentioned, loosely in most garden centres as well as in kits. The bulbs when found in grocery store , or big box store floral sections,  are generally in a kit either already growing or with all the necessary ingredients to start your own  plant.

Kits include a large tuberous bulb, a plastic or ceramic pot as well as growing medium. I purchased several kits, one of which had coconut fibre pellet that had specific volumes of warm water needed to get the right texture for planting in its drab green plastic pot. However, I have learned form many sources that this fibre can remove nutrients from the plant itself so I chose to use a soil-less, potting soil, coconut fibre mix instead. The other kit had a bag of slightly moistened soil-less mix, that I add some of the leftover fibre to, as an additional means to help with water retention in the lovely white ceramic pot.

Growing requirements

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted in the centre of a pot only  about 1 in larger in diameter than the bulb. One kit I purchased had a poor quality pot that was far too large, and so a more suitable size was used instead. Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb should be above the planting medium, which should be firmly packed before watering. Water well and find it a good spot to begin growing.

Amaryllis bulbs love warm sunny spots, and prefer to out of drafts. My collection sits in my front window which faces south west and primary gets sun from late morning until about 5 in the evening. After that time, I pull the tray back form the window, to allow the blinds to go down and to keep the plants away from the cold that radiates in through the glass.

my new white Amaryllis

my new white Amaryllis

Feeding

Water lightly at first, until the stems begin to grow when watering increases and fertilizing is needed for strong plants and beautiful Amaryllis blooms. At this point  the use of high Phosphorous fertilizer is important. Phosphorous is the middle number on household plant fertilizers and is the most important for healthy full blooms. The nitrogen and Potassium, which make up the first and last of the NPK components of fertilizer, help the plant grow strong roots and ensure  good overall health. You could use  a 5-10-5 or 11-35-15 fertilizer or whatever you have with the higher middle number.In addition, as Amaryllis are hearty feeders, watering in the fertilizer every second or third week while they are in bloom,  ensures longevity!

Salmon coloured amaryllis

Salmon coloured amaryllis

 

Once the flower begins to open, experts suggest the plant then be moved out of direct sunlight to ensure the  blooms last longer. By removing some of the light, the metabolism of the flower/seed formation would  decrease and allow for maximum enjoyment.

Gardening in Winter

Gardening in Winter

While to many, thinking of gardening in  winter may seem to be a foreign concept, really the “thinking” is no different than ever, just the practicalities and chores are different. Now while we merely remember the plants we once had or perhaps look at photos, our outside gardening is limited to trimming and protecting the grounds we love

In fact as we dream of the upcoming spring, our thinking caps need to be on and our imaginations too get to run wild, while our gardens are fast asleep in the frozen ground(except for a weed or two!) . In many countries that experience winter in Dec-March, the temperatures do not take on the -20 C we here in Ontario have been experiencing this past week, but still experience the dormant periods most plants experience in the cooler weather.

 

weed Geranium

weed Geranium

While the gardens may be dormant, January and February are the few months where gardeners are not, but certainly do less physically demanding chores and store up their energy for the upcoming spring. Personally after the Holiday season ends, I turn my focus to my poor neglected house plants before the seed catalogs come pouring in.

Indoor Gardening Chores

While house plants are in a slow growth period as well, due to lower UV light levels even in a sunny window as well as generally cooler temperatures and humidity inside tend to slow down their metabolism, transplanting is not recommended. After having said that, I must confess I occasionally do that if the plant/pot ratio has gotten out of hand for a few sad struggling plants, knowing full well they will probably not get a new lease on life come spring and the busy outside garden season.

Here is my rough list of chores to accomplish in February and March. While this list is not as extensive as it could be, it serves as a starting point for you to jot down your own and keep you in the gardening in winter mode… knowing soon the first buds will form, plants will come to life and spring fragrances will fill the air!

cottage planter in January

cottage planter in January

 

 

Inside plants

-water sparingly and put humidity sensitive plants on gravel to provide extra humidity

-cut off dead/dying leaves and top up soil

-re pot leggy plants in to larger pots or cut plant back and put in original pot

-check for gnat flies/ treat with yellow sticky pads

 

Relocated garden tubers/plants

-check any plants brought in from outside to ensure no bugs are present and treat if necessary

-trim dead/dying leaves and top up soil

-check Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, begonia tubers for rot or dampness

-cut out any spots and ensure shavings/newspaper wrappings are dry and plentiful

Seed supply and propagation equipment

-check seeds harvested from last summers plants

-ensure they are still dry with no mold or mildew formation

-collect propagation trays, labels, soil less mix, seed dispensers etc.

Gardening tool tune up

Brave the cold if need be and gather all spades, trimmers, trowels etc from the garden shed and clean, sharpening and repair them.

 

Pruning

Gardening in winter also includes getting shrubs ready for spring. Despite the cold, February is a good month to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Even shade, flowering and fruit trees can all be pruned  now, but spring flowering plants such as Forsythia or Spirea as what you will actually be pruning   flower buds  along with the new leaf growth.

Any pruning of these plants should not be done until after spring flowering is complete .Of course pruning a branch of spring flowering shrub from the back will do  little to ruin the overall look in spring  but allow you to force the blooms on it and give your winter gardening a preview of things to come.

 Odd and Ends

There are many odds and ends that still require our focus as the uneven temperature fluctuations of winter create hardships for plants and birds. Remember to keep your birdfeeder (s) full of yummy seeds.

Then of course, you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea or coffee while you daydream and plan with your gardening catalogues.

 

 

Planting Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

While there are many things I have posted on that can inspire others to garden, paint, research their favourite flower, just to name a few, one activity that much of the Northern Hemisphere has in common in the fall is planting spring flowering bulbs. My last post gave brief information on bulbs and their origin, leading to this more factual information on the steps to actually planting bulbs and corms.

 

corm

corm

bulbs

bulbs

 

Tulips are merely one of many bulbs, along with Hyacinths, Daffodils and Narcissus that are the most widely known bulbs. The structure of a bulb’s interior is composed of fleshy, modified leaf like layers, which would be easily visible if it was cut in half. Corms such as crocus and gladiolas may look similar to bulbs, but they are basically thick stem like tissue.

Whether you choose true bulbs or corms, be certain they are winter hardy.  Remember then, to provide the proper temperature for  vernalization to take place. Vernalization is derived from the Latin word vernus, or spring, and is the required exposure to cold winter weather which allows the plant to grow and flower. If you live in a warmer zone than an 8, where the temperature outside will not provide the required temp of 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 Fahrenheit), then forcing bulbs in your fridge is a good option. Instructions for this will follow those for gardeners who will be planting outside in the flower beds.

Bulbs can be planted almost until the ground freezes, but early to mid October planting allows time for the bulbs to settle before the cold winter starts. There are many things to consider when planning what and where to plant, but with a few basics, anyone can have lovely spring blooms!

 

planting info

 

SUNLIGHT

Despite the deciduous trees having no leaves in the spring, shade from buildings and evergreen trees is still a factor to consider. With a shadier area in the front garden both at home and at the cottage, I was concerned about how this would impact the blooms there. After a bit of digging, into books, I found that bulbs labelled “early flowering” were the best for this situation. Really this classification of bulbs is not based on a specific family, genus or species, but the fact that they bloom and flower with less UV rays than other plants…hence the early designation. I other words, these bulbs, that require less UV are better suited to shadier areas.

SOIL

Bulbs sleep all winter, blanketed in soil, until the temperature there has chilled them for approximately eight weeks below 10 degrees Celsius or 50  degrees Fahrenheit, long enough for their growth cycle to begin. This is an important factor to consider as with planting any annuals or perennials.

If your soil is sandy , like at the my cottage, any natural compost, peat moss, cocoa fibre  or organic aged manure  that can be worked into the soil  will help provide a more even moisture content  throughout the winter in to spring. If the soil is too dense, these additions can also break up the clumps that often prevent adequate drainage.

Basically you need to add anything natural that will help lock in moisture and provide nutrients. Adding clay soil to offset the sandy is good, or vice versa, but remember to ensure nutrient levels are high.

Organic matter, in addition to being a good additive for improved soil fertility, also provides food for earthworms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. These creatures break down the soli and its nutrients so they can be absorbed well by the forming bulb roots and all plants as they grow.

 NUTRIENTS

Certainly the better flowing nutrient laden soil is better for both spring and summer flowering bulbs. In addition to augmenting the soil itself, the addition of blood or bone meal, provides a boost to the bulbs themselves.  Approximately ¼ to ½ a teaspoon can be added to the hole around each planted bulb.

Blood meal as a dry powder made from animal blood that provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. In addition, spread on or slightly below the ground level, the scent is a deterrent to small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Bone meal is crushed bone that provides higher amounts of phosphorus which is good for root growth, but it may in fact attract animals looking for bones.

A good soluable general fertilizer 10-10-10 can also be added to the soil and then watered or dug in again when the bulbs begin to shoot out of the earth.  This can be mixed with the blood or bone meal and should be in the soil down to below the level of the bulbs being planted.

LOCATION

Again, the sunny spots will probably produce the best blooms with early flowering bulbs the best selection for shadier areas. Evergreen trees will shade all year round but do help even out the soil temperatures close by, evening out extreme fluctuations that can damage bulbs. In addition, spring bulbs planted on a slope will tend to bloom earlier than bulbs in a dip or gulley as warm air rises and cold air tends to settle in lower areas.

PREPARATION

Beyond the soil preparation, there are a few basics that can be prepared in advance. Collecting clean spades and trowels as well as blood/bone meal or other fertilizer helps cut down on the actual planting time. Also knowing the location to plant, whether it is in an existing garden or part of a new garden design, and proper spacing of all bulbs to be planted, is vital for enhanced garden design and good spring growth.

METHOD OF PLANTING

There are basically two methods of planting, both of which require the gardener to know the depth of planting. As a general rule of thumb the bulbs or corms are planted with the fine tip up and to a depth of approximately 3x the height of the bulb itself.  Checking the package or growing directions at the nursery will also help. Good gardening practise is also never to plant in even numbers as it seems odd number produce a more natural look.

 

1. Using a spade or small shovel, one large hole is dug at the required depth for the assortment of bulbs requiring that depth. Using a tape measure or judging by eye are the basic way of measuring the depth. Then a small bone /blood meal or natural fertilizer is spread lightly in the whole before placing bulbs.

 

grouping in one large hole

 

If space allows for any smaller bulbs/corms to be planted, once the bigger bulbs are partially buried, spread more nutrients and add those buds.

 

smaller bulbs above

 

2. This method is similar but uses a small trowel or a bulb planter. There are short handled manual bulb planters that require you to be on your hands and knees and many long handled versions where you stand and use your feet to force the tool in to the ground.

 

bulb planter

 

 

 

 

 

There are many of both types available at local garden centres, many of which have the depth scale right on the tool. Again, nutrient supplement is added to the whole once the soil is removed, before the bulbs are added.

larger bulbs in place

best individual holes

small bulbs indiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL STAGES OF PLANTING

After bulbs have received their nutritional supplement, been spaced properly in depth and between each other, soil is filled in around them. Then mulch on top will provide an extra measure of winter protection and keep the temperature and moisture levels more constant. Finally a thorough watering will ensure the ground there has adequate moisture for the  bulbs to get started once there is a spring thaw.

REFRIGERATOR BULB GARDENING

If you can purchase at garden centres or by the Internet, spring bulbs that require vernalization, never fear as your fridge is near! There are many articles on what is called forcing bulbs and sometime the misconception that they have to actually be frozen.

Basically the easy version is as follows:

-good soil

-pot 13-18 cm deep  ( 6-9 inches)

– few inches of soil in bottom so bulb is ad required depth

-add bulb and cover well (with nutrients to be watered in later)

-water thoroughly

-put in a plastic bag with one end open for ventilation

-place in the back of the fridge

-check on it every week to ensure it does not get too dry

-after approximately 6-8 weeks  there should be small shoots

-bring out of fridge in to partially lit room for a few days

-water with fertilizer and then bring to a brightly lit room or window ledge

-enjoy!

Final thoughts

Remember, while many things seem to go wrong, bulbs are very forgiviing. In fact, once I planted my bulbs upside down and although it took some extra time, they did bloom. Only when I thinned them out a few years later, did I realize the pointed tip was facing down!  🙂  Happy planting!

Holland  Commercial Tulip Farming

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

 

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

Inspiration can come to us from many things with results we may least expect out of the clear blue sky! Who knew this would happen for me recently when my garden’s rising shoots were the beginning of a new plant and a new idea that had never crossed my mind. While gardening guru I am not, certainly I have lots of experience in the field, in weeding lawns, gardens and wondering what that funny coloured bug was. As I type even now the question pops up… what words of wisdom could I share?

Wisdom, learning and sharing garden thoughts, joys and failures, certainly connects us and often makes us see the world from a brighter place. If nothing else it can make us look outside of ourselves, breathe a little deeper and relieve stress even for just a short while!

Spring’s bloom is a time to enjoy nature’s beginning without worry. After all, do plants stress about wearing the season’s latest styles, or if their blooms are big enough? No they just grow and provide pleasure for us and food for assorted bugs and often provide the inspiration needed for us to start our very own growth.

While seeing buds bloom and shoots grow might not be what inspires some to branch out, for some reason it was the muse I needed for a new start. Whether my blog takes off in any way to be as lovely as a flower is yet to be seen, but certainly it is my hope.

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

So far it may seem like yet another site, but I hope to peak your interest of gardens and nature with pictures, facts, hints and inspirations…all with a sense of fun! Certainly most of us can all use more fun in our stress filled lives and as we dream, plan and work in our lives and gardens. In fact, where would we be without all those parts of our lives…how could we bloom where we are planted, to quote an old saying.

Speaking of blooms, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are up and ready to burst! Despite the unusual weather…from shorts in March and early April to parkas the next day, the poor defenceless plants and bulbs have survived! In fact, with the last of the snowflakes finally leaving us this week and the sun’s warming rays, there is a glorious crop of spring flowers along city streets and country roads and in awakening fields.

Spring’s bloom in the field of my country estate has tiny violets and other wild flowers coming to life. As I write this looking out over my garden, masses of deep purple and red tulips are just waiting for a bright sunny day or two to open. Okay, 1.8 acres does not an estate make, and the Ottawa Tulip Festival has nothing to worry about, but my tulips are lovely as you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there are flowers everywhere….just keep your eyes open…and enjoy!