“May the Force be With You” Long Before Spring!
Article, photo and illustrations by Bonita Friedland
Imagine white NARCISSUS gracing the Christmas buffet table, HYACINTHS blooming in the kitchen on New Year’s Eve, pink TULIPS popping up in the foyer on Valentine’s Day.
No, you need not have a florist on retainer. In fact, with just a little timing and a minimum of care and cost, you can transform winter’s drab existence into something quite resembling the Chelsea Flower Show! Forcing bulbs for indoor joy is easy and the process is fun to watch. Instructions will vary depending on the bulbs you choose. Let’s start with NARCISSUS:
The easiest bulb to force is the PAPER WHITE NARCISSUS. It’s tender status requires no cooling period, so you simply gather your materials and plant. Begin with firm, unblemished, good-sized bulbs. A take-home instruction card is usually provided, which will indicate the length of time needed for blooming. Count back from the date you’ll want flowers to bloom, and you’ll know when to start. Since my instruction card indicates blooming will occur in 9 weeks, I’m starting my PAPER WHITES around December 12th in hopes of having blooms for Valentine’s Day.
- Use a shallow, watertight bowl or container—approximately 4 inches deep.
- Fill it with pebbles to about one-half inch below the top.
- Gently twist the bulb—pointed end up—into the pebbles, leaving three fourths of the bulb exposed.
- Plant your bulbs close together, but not quite touching. (A 7 inch container might hold approximately 6 PAPER WHITES.) Water to cover the base of the bulbs, and keep it replenished.
It’s fascinating to see the stems and leaves pop out of the bulb. Even if you miss your target date, the emerging shoots will still look attractive. A warm, sunny location will hasten blooming. To hold back a bloom, place the container in a cooler, not–so-sunny area. If stems get too long, and threaten to tip over, tie the plant at mid-section with a few strands of raffia.
Hardy bulbs, like TULIP and HYACINTH, require an extra step before youbegin. Since they need a cold period to encourage root development ,
you must provide a “mock winter.” Some bulb producers suggest that you simply paper-bag the bulbs and refrigerate for 8 weeks before indoor planting. I have used this method with HYACINTH. HYACINTH will grow well in water alone. You can use a special forcing vase, or a small carafe with a wide top. I have a wonderful Italian jardinière, with six holes at the top. I fill it with water and place the pre-chilled bulbs over the holes. In a matter of days, I can lift the bulbs to see the developing roots! The HYACINTH fragrance begins long before the flower fully matures. Prepare for the intensity!
Choose early-flowering varieties of TULIPS for forcing. A planting mixture of equal parts of potting soil, sand, and moist peat moss is essential. Choose a container with drainage holes, tall enough to allow 2 inches below the bulb for root development, and enough space above to cover three fourths of the bulb.
- Start with an inch of small pebbles at the bottom of the pot. Follow with 2 inches of soil medium.
- Place the bulbs, pointed side up, into the pot. If you place the flat side of the bulb toward the outside of the container, the lowest leaves will drape over the edge nicely.
- Cover with soil, leaving one-fourth of the bulb exposed. Water thoroughly.
- Place the pot into a paper bag and then refrigerate—or place it in an unheated garage—for approx. 12 weeks, checking regularly to maintain moisture. When shoots emerge, the plant is usually ready.
- Lift and check the bulbs for a good root system. Transfer the plant to a cool, dark spot in the house for one week, then place it in a bright, sunny location to insure vibrant colored blooms.
Unfortunately, forced bulbs are so exhausted after blooming that they most likely refuse to bloom again! But before they head to that compost heap, they will have given you, your family and friends, quite a delightful show!
For a printable copy of these directions, click here: Step-by-Step How to Force Bulbs
When celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in Tucson, our hostess decorated our plates with little bundles of herbs, each tied with a festive ribbon–sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme picked right from her garden. To begin our meal, she read what each plant represented.
Parsley removes bitterness.
Rosemary means love.
Sage brings wisdom.
Thyme gives courage
What a beautiful message to give one’s guests on Thanksgiving Day and made me grateful for time spent with good friends! May you also be filled with gratitude this coming Thanksgiving.
Would you like to learn more tips from Lynn? Go to the Month-by-Month Gardening Tasks page under Garden Corner and read her advice for what to do in November and early December to ready your garden for winter. Thank you, Lynn Pruitt! Your expertise is highly valued by all.
While I can’t take credit for this charming fall arrangement received as a gift from a dear friend, what made it especially clever was the use of the pumpkin stem inserted at a jaunty angle. If you make a Thanksgiving arrangement, try using the stem!
It’s Apple Season!
by Cheryl Buccelli
It’s apple season! If you’re from the Midwest, you’re probably nostalgic about apple season. It was a time to enjoy a trip to your local orchard with your family. With the growing interest in sustainability, many people are looking into cultivating apple trees on their own property. Fruit trees flower beautifully; they provide nutritious fruit, and offer haven to all sorts of creatures. Our local conditions are keenly suited to apple trees. Surprisingly a year old seedling can bear fruit in as little as three years. Apple trees can be planted from seed, but most people use a grafted tree. Grafting allows a much hardier root system to supply the tree, resulting in larger, higher quality apples. Grafting also allows the grower to dwarf the trees so apples are easier to pick. You may choose to purchase grafted trees, or graft your own. The Chicago Botanic Gardens offers a class on grafting in the spring.
There are a number of beautiful espalier apple trees in the Chicago Botanic Garden. Espalier have a great deal of ornamental value, they can also be space saving. If you prefer, go natural. Here we have an example of a non-dwarfed apple tree thriving in Lake Forest.
There are over 7,500 cultivars of the apple, there’s sure to be ones suited to your taste and location. Taking your time and doing your research will surely pay off. A wealth of information can be found on the Botanic Gardens website: https://chicagobotanic.org.
There isn’t a better way to enjoy the fruit of the season than harvested from your own backyard. Both for its beauty and functionality, an apple tree is a pretty sweet deal. Whether you grow your own, pick some at a local orchard, buy at a Farmers’ Market, or go to the store, try making an apple crisp. Here is a recipe to try.
6 tart cooking apples, peeled (4 cups
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup oats
1 stick of cold butter
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
dash of ground nutmeg
Pinch crumble together and sprinkle over apples in 9X12 inch pan
Bake uncovered at 350ºF for 30 minutes
By Cheryl Buccelli
For a printable copy, click here: Apple Crisp, by Cheryl Buccelli
Whimsy–The Sixth W!
We all can name the five Ws: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and WHY. Gardeners may want to add a SIXTH W to their repertoire: WHIMSY!
The dictionary describes whimsy as playful, fanciful, an object with a sense of humor. Every gardener wants to create a lovely setting that is a source of pleasure and pride. With study, planning, shopping, and planting, the scene is created. But there is usually more. Either by
design or happenstance, we can add something of ourselves. This “something” is what makes a garden unique and how we often remember the gardens we visit.
One of the many pleasures I find when I visit gardens is this unique quality. Frequently I find it in whimsy. I love a touch of whimsy!
Whimsy comes in many forms and can enhance any garden, if not overdone. It isn’t always obvious and that can add to the enjoyment of a venue. I saw it during June’s Garden Walk at Louellen’s garden with a touch of red in every planting area and in her “man in the moon,” aka “The Head Gardner.” Brian assigned a name to his bonsai and in my garden, I have clay pot “people” and colorful birdhouses.
Whimsy can include kaleidoscope spinners, funky animal and globe sculptures, topiaries, bottle trees, mosaics, unusual bird baths, a secret room, and…well, you get the idea!
We all would love to have photos posted on our web site of members’ garden whimsies. As creative as this group is, I’m sure there are great examples that everyone would enjoy. To get us started, the photo below is from Cindy Ramadan’s garden–both beautiful and whimsical! You get an A+, Cindy!
See you in the garden,
Do deer invade your garden? While they look pretty and remind us how lucky we are to live surrounded by nature with acres of open lands nearby, no one wants deer to ruin their plants. Here is a recipe for home-made, natural, and inexpensive deer protection.
Recipe for Deer Protection
1 Tablespoon Tabasco
2 cups water
Mix eggs, Tabasco, and water in blender (or with a whisk but mix very well.) Then put mixture in a gallon sprayer and fill to the water line with more water.
Spray plants with mixture. There is no smell and no residue. Do this every 2-3 weeks.
by Connie Maines
BAKE THAT BOUNTY!
When your neighbor brings you a humongous zucchini, try making it into bread. Honest, it’s much better than carrot cake or banana bread!
(Makes 2 loaves)
Preheat oven to 350o. Grease 2 pans heavily with butter.
Using a mixer, thoroughly combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Add the following and mix well:
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring/extract
- 1 tablespoon almond flavoring/extract
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups peeled, grated, raw zucchini
- OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
Divide the batter into the two greased loaf pans. Bake in upper 1/2 of preheated 350o oven for 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10-15 minutes with pans tipped to one side, then tip them to other side to cool for another 10-15 minutes. Loaves should then be able to be removed when pan is gently inverted. Let loaves continue to cool on one side — but they are delicious still warm!
Enjoy! And, thank Marge McClintock for the recipe!
Click here for a printable copy: Zucchini Bread
We may think “Irish” in the month of March, but if you’re thinking Irish gardens, you can visit these beautiful spots year-round.
Here’s a sampling of some you might enjoy:
- The National Botanic Gardens – Dublin
- Powerscourt, Enniskerry – Wicklow (about 35 minutes from Dublin)
- Mount Usher, Ashford – a short drive from Dublin
- Garinish Island Gardens, Bantry Bay – Cork
- Kylemore Abbey Walled Garden – Galway
Submitted by Nancy Stack
“A tussie mussie? What is that?”
by Terry Wright
It is that time of year to pull out your arts and craft supplies to make a tussie mussie! “TUSSIE MUSSIE! What is that?” It is a small floral arrangement often held in your hand or a small vase and given to someone special. You might see it adorn someone’s hat or attached to a dress. The tussie mussie can be traced back to the middle ages and was most popular during the Victorian Age. According to some, tussie mussies were held near the nose to avoid bad odors. Some called these small bouquets “nosegays.” It was named tussie mussie by the queen of England in 1840. Proficiency in floral arts became a vital part of every young lady’s education during that period.
The Tussie Mussie is an opportunity for you to express your love, concern, sympathy, emotional support and congratulations to your loved ones with a small bouquet of flowers and herbs. This bouquet can be made with simply the choice of flowers you enjoy or if you want more meaning to your bouquet, you can pick flowers that are known to symbolize what it is you want to convey. For example some flowers symbolize friendship, some flowers symbolize love, joy and good health. My favorite rose is yellow, which can tell someone the joy they bring and the friendship you share.
Here are meanings of many of the flowers you love:
Red Roses Romantic Love
White Rose A new baby or innocent debutante
Yarrow Healing, cure
Forget-me-nots True Love
Bleeding hearts Fidelity
Bridal Wreath Spirea Victory
Mandeville Reckless, thoughtless
January–A Time to Organize!
by Denise Schlax
The month of January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of gateways and journeys. He is often pictured looking both forward and backward at the same time.
January is a great month for getting organized and preparing for spring.
Here are a few tips!!
1. Leave snow in place as an insulator. If you must move it to prevent a plant from breaking, do so gently. Do not attempt to remove ice.
2. Bring spring flowering branches inside for forcing. Good choices are forsythia, pussy willow, jasmine, and flowering quince.
3. Protect perennials from freeze damage by covering with Christmas greenery as an extra layer of mulch.
4. Brighten cold, gray days with blooms you have planted in decorative inside pots using chilled bulbs that have been stored in your refrigerator for several weeks at about 50 degrees. You can also plant bulbs that don’t require chilling, such as paper white narcissus.
5. Begin to sow seeds in indoor flats for spring planting.
6. Add cooled fireplace ashes to your compost pile.
7. January is the perfect month for making a landscape diagram of your existing garden and begin planning for your next season’s design.
8. Don’t forget to feed the birds!
The Williamsburg Kissing Ball
Illustrations and Directions by Bonita Friedland
My last house had a front porch that simply demanded a hanging planter. Every SPRING I would stuff as many semi-shade loving specimens into the pot, along with every kind of tropical hanging vine I could find. For FALL, I replaced the annuals with chrysanthemums and aster, along with ornamental kales and long strands of Boston ivy. But bleak was my WINTER until I discovered the “Williamsburg Ball!” Known in Williamsburg, Virginia as the “kissing ball,” this hanging sphere radiates with variations of fresh evergreens, pinecones, and on occasion, fruits such as apples, limes, nuts, and pomegranates–whatever! Weatherproof ribbon adds the finishing touch.
One year, my Williamsburg Ball lasted well into SPRING. I had removed the red ribbons, but couldn’t bear to take down the still green ball. To our surprise, one day we noticed a little wren flying back and forth from the ball. Yes, there was a little nest inside the kissing ball! The ball soon began to turn rusty brown, but how could I remove it? I’m sure the neighbors wondered why this dead Christmas decoration was still hanging on the front porch!
Step 1: To start your KISSING BALL base, you will need a block of OASIS (florist foam) and some CHICKEN WIRE. The OASIS should be roughly one-third the diameter of the finished ball, so a finished ball of 18” requires a 6” square of OASIS. Clip the sharp corners of the OASIS and soak it in water for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Take a flat piece of chicken wire and carefully form it around the soaked OASIS. Lock it together with pliers. The OASIS is fragile when wet, so handle with care. Add a long piece of wire to the top. This wire will be used to hang the ball while you work, so make it longer than you eventually will need. Find a place to work on your ball. I did it in my unfinished basement and tied it to one of the ceiling pipes. Keep it at eye level while you work. Now add another long wire to the bottom of the ball. (This wire will eventually hold the bow and ribbon strands, so make it long enough to allow for the branches that will be radiating from the base.)
Step 3: Assemble your various evergreens on a table under the hanging base: SPRUCE, YEW, BOXWOOD, HOLLY, BALSAM, PINE, etc. (Use pine sparingly, since it has a tendency to give the ball a “wild” appearance.) Cut your greens to approximately 8” and push the freshly cut end into the wet OASIS to a depth of 2 inches. Place one at the top of the ball, one on each side, and then one on the bottom. Then continue skipping all around the ball to keep it even, until no OASIS or CHICKEN WIRE can be seen. Periodically step back from the ball to monitor the shape, keeping it round.
Step 4: Now that you have an actual ball, you can embellish it with pinecones, bows, fruit, etc. To secure a pinecone, wrap a wire stick around the middle, making sure the wire is hidden under the appendages, and push it into the ball. To secure nuts, hot glue each walnut to a thick wooden skewer and push it into the ball. Keep the ball snug: the pinecone should not be sticking out, but part of the sphere. Apples, pears, pomegranates can be prepared with wooden skewers and pressed into the ball. Fruit will periodically need to be replenished when it starts to look bad.
Step 5: Attach a large bow with streamers to the bottom wire for a festive touch. Hang the ball in its final location, but before you cut the excess top wire, take a walk to the street to determine if you need to make adjustments in height.
For printable directions, click here: http://deerpathgardenclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/The-Williamsburg-Ball.pdf
BE A BRIGHT BULB!
Try planting daffodil and other bulbs beneath your hosta leaves. When the daffodil or other bulb leaves start to become unsightly, they will be hidden under the emerging hosta leaves in the spring.