Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forcing Spring Bulbs

hyacinths-a bulbous plant of the lily family, with strap-like leaves and a compact spike of bell-shaped fragrant flowers. Native to western Asia, hyacinths are cultivated outdoors and as houseplants.

Forcing a hyacinth bulb will cause it to grow and bloom earlier than it normally would and allow it to grow in a different environment.  I Bought a vase and bulb for mom one Christmas and got it started for her. She enjoyed watching it develop roots and finally bloom. So I bought a "kit" last year at a discount store and wasn't sure if the bulb would bloom because it looked really dried out. I figured if it didn't bloom at least I would have another vase! But to my surprise it started to bloom while we were on vacation and now is in full flower.

Spring flowering bulbs add color indoors in late winter. Hyacinths also have a wonderful sweet scent. One of the simplest methods is to force the bulbs into a vase filled with water instead of soil. Special containers, called hyacinth vases, are shaped like an hourglass. The bottom portion holds water while the top supports the bulb as it grows. As the name implies, hyacinth bulbs grow well in these vases but you can also use them for crocuses or narcissus varieties.

Things You'll Need

*Hyacinth vase
*Bulbs (prechilled)

If your bulbs are not prechilled this process takes a little longer. Unless they are marked as "prechilled," most flowering bulbs require a period of 35-45 degrees F. order to root and flower.(This simulated winter is not required for amaryllis or paperwhites, which can be potted up according to package directions, watered, and set out in a bright spot.)  The length of time needed for chilling varies by type. In general, smaller bulbs like crocus, grape hyacinths, miniature daffodils, iris, and tulips are easy to force. Large, fragrant hyacinths are also easy. 

Although it's not hard to fool Mother Nature, you can't hurry the process. Forcing most spring bulbs into bloom requires eight to 15 weeks of chilling, though there are varieties that can be ready for prime time in just two to three weeks. When chilling bulbs in the refrigerator, store them away from fresh fruits and vegetables that can emit ethylene gas and damage the flowers developing inside the bulbs. Chill potted and bulk bulbs in closed paper bags.

Chilling and Blooming Times
  • Daffodils: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Tulips: 10-16 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Crocus: 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari): 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Iris reticulata: 13-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus): 15 weeks of chilling; 2 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Hyacinth: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.

Whatever type of flower you decide to force, buy the largest size bulbs you can find. The bigger the bulb, the more flowers. Also, be sure the bulbs are firm, free from nicks and bruises, and that the roots haven't sprouted yet. 

Fill a hyacinth vase with water to the waist. The waist of the vase is where the vase narrows near the middle.

Set the flower bulb in the vase so the bottom of the bulb is just touching the top of the water. The bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

Place the vase in a dark 50 degree Fahrenheit room for four to eight weeks, or until the roots develop. Add more water to the vase as needed to maintain the water level.

Move the vase to a 68 to 70 F room near a brightly lit window once the roots are formed and after the stalk begins to emerge from the top of the bulb. Continue to replenish the water level as needed.

Rotate the vase every two to three days so the stalk grows straight and doesn't lean toward the light. Move the vase away from the window so it receives bright, indirect light once the flowers open, as this helps prolong bloom.

You can use other vases if you don't have or can't find a hyacinth vase you can use another container, just be sure to position the bulb so the bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

My surprise bloom!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Late Winter, Early Spring Pruning

Here are some of my early spring gardening chores. Living in  Coastal  Carolina springs comes early often in mid to late February! Of course this year seems to be a bit of an exception.I did get a little done between ice storms!

Knock Out roses are ideally suited to the climate of South Carolina because they have been bred to thrive in heat and humidity while resisting the diseases that typically plague roses in those conditions. Knock Out roses are hybrid shrub roses that are self-cleaning and do not require traditional rose pruning, making them very low maintenance. South Carolina is made up of USDA zones 7 and 8 and Knock Out roses need little protection from winter weather conditions and can be pruned in the early spring.

Knock Out Roses do not require regular pruning but bloom production and plant vigor can be increased with moderate pruning in late winter (Prune mid-to late February near the coast to mid-April in the mountains, and light pruning in summer in Carolina climates). The best way to judge when to prune is to look at the buds; when they begin to swell, it's okay to prune.

Pruning keeps the plant healthy. It promotes new growth, removes dead, broken or diseased canes and trains roses to a desired shape. Pruning encourages flowering, either more blooms or larger blooms, and is essential to keep modern rose varieties blooming repeatedly all summer long.

Every three years prune excess foliage from Knock Roses in late winter or early spring. Concentrate on shaping the bush at this time. Remove small amounts of dying foliage all year long in order to allow the roots to concentrate on healthy growth.

Mondo grass and Liriope

Mondo grass is a popular ornamental plant used to border flower beds or function as its own dramatic focal point. Though not technically a grass, this plant is actually part of the lily family. Because mondo grass can outgrow its planting location, it is important to contain it before it crowds out other plants. Prune at the appropriate time of year to ensure reduced harm to your grass.

Mondo grass takes a couple of seasons to fully spread if you are planting the plant as ground cover. Typically, during this time the plant does not need any pruning unless you want to cut off any damages or diseased leaves.

The grass thrives in regions that have mild winter conditions. It is for this reason that it should not be pruned in the late fall or winter months. Pruning causes shock to a plant, which makes it more vulnerable to the elements. Choose a time in the early spring to prune. But don't wait too long. For newly planted mondo grass that you would like to promote growth, you can mow the grass once a season. However, the tips of the grass will have a ragged look that is generally not aesthetically pleasing. Mondo grass that grows out of its planting location can either be pruned back or transplanted.

Liriope is a mounding grass-like plant that also produces central flower stalks that are colored purple in the mid-summer months. It is a warm season plant that is heat-resistant and drought-tolerant. In the late fall or early winter some of the grassy blades will turn brown and die back. Trimming the liriope plants removes the dead portions and stimulates the remaining ones to develop new growth. Liriope plants should be trimmed at least once every year while they are still dormant.

Cold weather can leave liriope (monkey grass) in tatters. Flower bed edging & borders can become overgrown and unkempt if liriope is not kept compact. The best time to trim is January-March. If you can adjust a lawn mower to highest setting, it can be used to remove all of old greenery. New sprouts have not emerged yet and will not be harmed by mower. If you wait much later, trimming by hedge trimmer/shears after checking to see how tall new sprouts have grown. Make cuts just above these sprouts.

Cut the liriope back to 2 to 3 inches high using pruning shears, or by mowing it with a lawn mower set to the same height. Rake up all of the liriope trimmings and dispose of them in the trash or place the clippings into a compost pile to decompose. If the trimmings are infected with disease or pests, do not place them into a compost pile.