Archives > August 2017

Planting Fall Bulbs

As difficult as it is to think about, autumn is creeping up to us.  The cooling weather of September & October is a perfect time to plant fall bulbs for an early spring flower show.  It’s best to plant spring bulbs about 6-8weeks before regular hard frosts settle in. The reason these bulbs need to be planted in the fall is because they need a period of vernalization, or dormancy in very cold temperatures for 16 – 18 weeks to develop their roots properly.  Oh lucky us – our winter is more than happy to cooperate!

The types of flowers that grow well from bulbs in the Edmonton area are:

  • Allium – round purple, pink, or white firework looking displays atop a stem anywhere from 10” – 36” tall.  Depending on the variety, alliums are long lived and don’t require frequent replanting.
  • Crocus (Chysanthus) – these short 2-4” colorful flowers often show up while there is still snow on the ground.  They naturalize easily and don’t need to be replanted very often.  Remember, these flowers close up at night.
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus) – early blooming white drop-like looking flowers on short plants go dormant in the heat of summer, plant in groups of 10-25.
  • Daffodils – have a longer life span, likely needing replanting every 4 or more years.  If they get too thick they will need to be divided as foliage turns yellow.  Deer don’t like daffodils. Yay!
  • Tulips – come in a huge array of colors and in some unique styles.  Most tulips need to be replanted every 1-2 years, remember that tulips also close up at night.

Fall bulbs tend bloom in the following order, so, to have a succession of bloom, plant some of each.  The dates relate to our central Alberta climate.

  • Crocus & Snowdrops  – as the snow is melting
  • Daffodils – in early to mid-May
  • Tulips – mid to late May
  • Alliums – bloom in late May and into June

Plant bulbs in soil that drains well, all of the above bulbs love a sandy loam where the plants will receive at least 6 hours of sunshine a day in the spring.  The well draining part is very important – bulbs hate to be soggy wet, they will rot if they remain wet for too long.  Note the instructions on bulb packages, different cultivars require different depths, but a rule of thumb is to plant them 3 times their largest diameter. Some people recommend putting a bit of sand or gravel at the base of the hole, but assess the drainage of your soil before you do this.  Cover the bulbs up well with soil.  There is no need to water but remember to give them a good drink in the spring.

Remember to plant the bulbs with the pointed end up and plant in groups to keep the plantings looking natural. As the blossoms fade, remember to deadhead them so they don’t go to seed.  Keep the leaves on, so the energy produced can be directed to growing and maturing the bulbs further.

Have fun planning for an amazing color display in Spring!

Sources:  https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/bulbs/snowdrop/information-about-snowdrops-and-when-to-plant-snowdrop-flower-bulbs.htm, http://landscapealberta.com/fall-bulbs, http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/bulbs.html, http://ottawacitizen.com/life/homes/top-5-picks-for-spring-flowering-bulb, http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2010/9-15/bulbs.html, http://www.canadagardener.com/how-and-when-to-plant-bulbs/

Caring for Cannas

Caring for Cannas

Cannas have become very popular container flowers over the past few years. Standing tall & stately, Cannas add height and structure to containers and garden spaces with their variegated leaves and brightly colored flowers.  Cannas are easy to grow – here are some details on what kind of environment they like, how the care for them, and how to keep them over winter.

Location:

  • Since they are from the tropics, they love to be in full sun locations (east, south, or west).
  • Cannas don’t like wind, so avoid areas that have wind exposure – the wind will shred their leaves making them look like they just went through a lawn mower.

Watering:

  • Cannas like to be evenly moist, not wet.  Being over wet will cause them to rot.
  • This is a good thing to remember when pairing other plants for a container – remember to keep like minded plants together.
  • Fertilize weekly with a well balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 or ‘Nature’s Best’.

Deadheading

  • Cannas have many blooms on one stalk.  They bloom in succession, so take off the old blooms because they tend to look ratty if you leave them on.  When you take the old blooms off, it permits the plant to focus its energy on continuing to bloom.
  • When the stalk of blossoms is done, cut the entire stalk off.  It will not rebloom from that original stalk; again this focusses the growth to more stalks and more blooming.
  • There will be multiple stalks growing at one time, so you needn’t worry about not having any more plant life left in your container if you cut down the bloomed out stalk.

Overwintering:

  • Cannas can be kept indoors over winter as a houseplant.
  • Cannas can be overwintered in a dark, cool, dry place in their original pot, or in a smaller pot.  This is what we do:
    • we let our cannas have one exposure to frost
    • then we cut it down to about 3-4” in height
    • place the pot in a dark, cool, dry place
    • keep them very slightly moist, as in give them a little water every month; maybe 1-2 cups
  • In the middle of February, bring the Canna into the light, give it a little water and it should start shooting up new growth within a month to grow for spring.

Sleeping Beauties – Flowers that Close Up at Night

Plants are amazing in their complexity and habit.  There is an intriguing collection of plants that close up at night – a phenomenon called nyctinasty.  Nyctinasty is thought to protect pollen and nectar or to protect the plant from cool, chilling temperatures.  Sometimes this tendency confuses people into thinking that something is wrong when they close up during the day under low light conditions.  Here is a list of these little tricksters so you can be on the lookout for them:

Annuals: 

  • California Poppies – simple 4 petaled flower that closes up in low light
  • Gazanias – pollinated by butterflies during the day, fold up in low light
  • Hibiscus – blossoms open for  just 1 day and then close at night; usually do not reopen
  • Morning Glory – bloom in the early morning, close at night, blossom lasts 1 day
  • Osteospermum – also known as African Daisies
  • Oxalis – also known as a purple shamrock with delicate white flowers, foliage folds upward
  • Portulaca – also known as Rock Roses, a native of South America butterfly attractor
  • Talinum – whimsical pink flowers on spires atop chartreuse foliage that folds upwards at night

Perennials

  • Sanguinaria – white daisy-esque flowers with yellow eyes

Bulbs

  • Crocus –  close on cloudy and rainy days
  • Tulips –  close on cloudy and rainy days

Sources: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/plants-open-sunlight-close-dark-28050.html, http://www.livescience.com/34569-why-flowers-close-at-night-nyctinasty.html, http://www.finegardening.com/love-plant-oxalis-triangularis, https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/tulips/OpenCloseAns.html