Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter transplanting

After a few weeks of sinus woes, trying to hook up a new tv and sound system and watching an ever expanding waistline, I decided that I had to get outside. Today was the perfect day. Sunny, 60s, wonderful.

Moving plants is a good job for mid-winter. This is the best time to transplant most plants because they are now dormant. I have a long list of plants that I want to move this year. I started out with a rose called 'Lavender Pink Parfait.' According to the Antique Rose Emporium, this rose grows about 2 - 3'. Yeah right. Mine is at least 4 feet tall, positioned in the front of a border and looking totally out of place. I've wanted to move it for years.

Sorry for the terrible photo - I forgot to set the camera to autofocus.

The first thing to do is to prune it severely. I cut out all the dead wood and cut back the healthy canes within one foot of the ground. Pruning the plant will make it easier to deal with and also reduce stress on the plant when it starts to put out new growth in the spring.

Now it is time to dig it up. Carefully slide a shovel or spade all around the plant and gently move it back and forth to loosen the root system. You can usually tell when the plant is free from all roots. Lift it carefully out of the hole with the shovel.

Clean up the plant by removing all the dead wood and weeds that might be growing around it. You know those tree saplings that always pop up in the middle of the rose and are impossible to remove? Now is the time to pull them out.

The new planting hole should have been dug first. I add a bucket full of compost and good soil to ammend the new hole.

Place the rootball in carefully and fill the soil in around it. If, by chance, the soil fell away from the roots when you dug it up, don't worry about it. Just carefully spread the roots out and cover them with soil. Water it well after planting and tamp down the soil to eliminate any underground air pockets.

Last, but not least, mulch around the plant with leaves or pine straw.

Here we have a slightly different situation. This is hydrangea 'Tardiva' which has produced offshoots that can be dug up, removed and planted elsewhere.

I was anticipating a frustrating job with this because I thought it was going to be difficult to dig between the main plant and the offshoots. Fortunately the roots gave way fairly easily and it wasn't problematic at all. However, they came free without retaining any of the rootball. This always makes me nervous but really all you can do is plant it immediately and water it well. This has happened numerous times and the plant is usually okay. I ended up with three extra plants. I planted the larger one and potted the remaining two.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Almost there...

The amaryllis I wrote about a few weeks ago is about to bloom!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gardening books for Christmas

It is almost 75 degrees here today with a balmy breeze and storms predicted for tonight. I spent some time out on the patio with the cats reading and enjoying the weather. And speaking of reading, I got some great gardening books for Christmas. Michael spoils me rotten by whittling down my Amazon Wish List every year (or maybe I've just been a really good boy). Here is my haul this year:

The Gardens of Russell Page by Marina Schinz - I would hope that all avid gardeners will have read Russell Page's classic 1962 book The Education of a Gardener (if you haven't, shame on you!). The influential garden designer created fantastic gardens all over the world. Sadly, many of them are no longer in existence. This book profiles some of the ones that are still remaining. It is a gorgeous book and the photographs are fantastic.

The Garden at Hidcote by Fred Whitsey. I've never been to Hidcote or even England for that matter but when my feet do touch English soil one day, this will be one of my first destinations. I have read a lot about Hidcote and its creator Lawrence Johnston but never anything in this much detail. I can't wait to start this one.

Shade: Ideas and Inspiration for Shady Gardens by Keith Wiley. Our garden is getting shadier so I need some inspiration. I'm determined to solve the problem with the area behind the garage this year so maybe this book will give me some ideas. The photos are wonderful.

Easy Container Gardens by Pamela Crawford. I stumbled upon this book while browsing at Barnes & Noble while we were on vacation. Great illustrations for dramatic containers.

American Horticultural Society Pruning & Training by David Joyce. When it comes to pruning, I need all the help I can get. I've heard great reviews about this book and I'm happy to have it in my collection. I'm sure it will get a lot of use.

I got some other books as well. 80 Years of Oscar by Robert Osborne. I'm crazy about the Oscars and I try to get this book every five years when it is updated.

Cookbooks are always on my list! Baking is my forte but I do want to learn to cook everyday food. Martha Stewart's Cooking School is supposed to help. In the meantime, I'll still be making desserts. I'm sure Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella will be a fun diversion when I need a break from learning how to make that frittata from Martha.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seeing the garden through a new lens

I have a new camera lens, a wide angle Sigma 10-20mm, a lens that I've needed for a long time. I just can't get used to the idea that a good lens cost more than my camera did. You might take a look at these photos and think that I got myself a dud but it is just our weather. It has been foggy, dark and wet all week here and I just heard today that we are officially out of the drought. I love all this rain but I'm wondering - does it help the plants any during the winter? Probably.

All of this rain and a head cold has kept me inside this week but I'm feeling better and couldn't wait to get out and try out the new lens.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let it snow!

This morning the news programs were talking about the crazy weather across the nation. New Orleans got snow as did other parts of the southeast. We got snow too. It arrived late and was brief but I had never seen it coming down so thick. I didn't pay much attention to the weather until I started gardening. In my observations, when we do get snow, it is usually in late January or February. Snow before Christmas is rare but our weather has been colder for the past month and it is usually mild this time of year. I personally love it!

(Click on the images for larger views)

Some of the trees and shrubs still have leaves so this made the snowfall different and more interesting.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The fascinating amaryllis

Do you grow amaryllis during the holiday season? I always buy one or two and I really enjoy watching them grow. It amazes to see the big fat bulb sprout and start to grow rapidly before exploding into a massive bloom. Most amaryllis are sold with the advertisement of being in bloom by Christmas. This has never happened for me and my blooms are always late. This year I decided to order a bulb from the reputable John Scheepers Inc. I selected "Floris Hecker" which is supposed to be "velvety red" and very floriferous. The red ones are my favorite. The bulb arrived much later than I expected and there is no way it will be blooming by Christmas day. That doesn't really matter that much to me because flowers in January are always welcome.

If you have never grown an amaryllis, they are very easy! You can buy them already in a pot or if you choose to pot it up yourself, choose a pot that is only an inch or two larger than the bulb. Plant it so that the neck of the bulb sits out of the soil. Place it in a warm sunny area like a south or west facing window (temperatures in the 70 degree range are ideal). Keep it watered well and it will start to grow. In about seven or ten weeks, you should have blooms. The plant can then be moved to a cooler area, out of direct sun, so that the blooms will last longer. It is advisable to stake the tall stalks so that they won't topple over.

Amaryllis can be saved for next year although I confess I've never had success with this. The bulbs can be planted outdoors in the spring and grown there until fall when they need to be dug up and brought indoors. When the leaves begin to yellow, cut them back and store the bulb in a dark place for six weeks before bringing it back out and starting the cycle over again.