Hydrangeas – Part 2

As promised, here are some pictures of my hydrangeas that are now in full bloom.

My largest Hydrangea bush

Close up of large Hydrangea

This bush had one pink bloom on it…

Single pink bloom

…weird, huh?

Formerly pink Hydrangea

This one was a pink Hydrangea when it was planted 2 years ago, and bloomed pink last year too.  Here is a close up:

Close up of formerly pink Hydrangea

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

It is funny how the Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms white but changes to a pink tinge as it ages.

Lady In Red Hydrangea

And, finally, my Lady in Red lacecap Hydrangea.  This on will continue to bloom most of the summer.

I hope you have enjoyed my Hydrangeas as much as I have.  Soon, I will be showing my Crepe Myrtles, which have started blooming surprisingly early this year.

Have any of your Hydrangeas changed color since you planted them?

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Hydrangeas – Part 1

First off, let me apologize for it being so long since my last posting.  I have been trying to post three times a week, but last week got rather hectic.

I have been thinking very hard about what I wanted to post.  I was walking around my yard yesterday and realized most of my Hydrangeas are about to bloom.  So, out came the camera (of course).  None of my Hydrangeas have opened up completely, so that is why this is part 1.  When they get fully opened, I’ll post part 2, that will be full of pictures of their beauty.

Bigleaf Hydrangea - Lavendar

Bigleaf Hydrangea – Lavendar

Pink Bigleaf Hydrangea – New Blooms

I actually have several different Hydrangeas in my yard, as they are one of my favorite flowers.  I have two of the regular bigleaf varieties with the mophead flowers.  One blooms lavendar and the other was still pink last year.  We shall see if it stays that way or not. I have not added any lime to the soil to raise the ph, so it may not stay pink.  These bloom once a year, in the spring.

Lacecap Hydrangea – ‘Lady In Red’

I also have a bigleaf variety with lacecap flowers.  This one is called ‘Lady in Red’.  It has beautiful blue flowers, but the name comes from the red stems on the new growth.  This one will bloom just about all summer.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

I have several oakleaf Hydrangeas too.  Their flowers grow in a cone shape and are white. They also only bloom once a year in the spring, but can really brighten up a shady area.

I have several panicle Hydrangeas that I have rooted from a very large bush I had.  Last year I had to move the large bush, as the trees around it had grown so large, it was not getting any sun and would not bloom.  While oakleaf Hydrangeas and most bigleaf Hydrangeas will grow in shady areas, panicle Hydrangeas must have a good bit of sun to bloom.  The pancles I have are still too young to bloom, and the large one I moved did not survive.  Hopefully, in a few years, I will begin to see blooms on the young ones.

I think most of my Hydrangeas should be fully opened by next week, so look for some updated pictures then.

What is your favorite color of Hydrangea?

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Dividing Hostas, Bulbs, Tubers and Liriope

I have been asked the question, what time of year should I divide my Hostas, bulbs and Liriope (Monkey Grass)?  I will tell you up front, I am really bad to divide my plants when it is most convenient for me.  That is not always the best time for the plant, however, according to the experts.  Here is what I have found to be the suggested times for dividing your plants that spread.

Dividing Hostas:  It is generally recommended that the best time for dividing Hostas is in the late summer or early fall.  This gives them a chance to recover before the cold sets in and protects newly divided plants from the worst of summer’s heat.  However, they are a very hardy plant and you really can divide Hostas at any time during the growing season.  If you choose to divide them during the spring or summer, be sure to replant them carefully, mulch them well and keep them watered, until they have had time to fully reestablish their roots.  Those are some of my Hostas at the top of my page.

Bearded Iris

Dividing bulbs and tubers:  Spring flowering bulbs should be divided in September or October.  This is sometimes difficult as they have disappeared from view by this time.  You may need to mark the area where they are located while they are blooming, to be able to find them again in the fall.  Summer flowering bulbs can be divided in early April or late fall.  Tubers, like Bearded Iris, are best divided soon after they flower.

Liriope

Dividing Liriope (Monkey Grass):  You can divide Liriope anytime of the year, as it is a very hardy plant.  It will have the least stress if you divide it in the spring after the last frost or in the fall before the first frost, but will do fine in the heat of the summer if you keep it watered well until it has time to reestablish new roots.  As you can see above, we have some concrete blocks that help slow the water rushing under our deck.  They are not very attractive but they serve the purpose.  I divided my Liriope last year (in the middle of the summer, of course) and planted it in the openings of the blocks.  I am hoping they will get big enough to cover most of the blocks.  At least they do soften the hard edges some.

How do you know when your plants need to be divided?  For bulbs, I found the following chart on Garden services.com:

Bulb                      Years to Divide
      Tulips                         3 - 5
      Daffodils                      3 - 6
      Hyacinths                      2 - 3
      Lilies                         4 - 6
      Surprise Lily (Lycoris)        3 - 5
      Iris (Bulbous types)           3 - 6
      Alliums                        4 - 8
      Crocus                         seldom needed
      Grape Hyacinths (Muscari)      seldom needed

I have never divided my surprise Lilies (I have had them for about 8 years), and they have not slowed their blooming.  As a matter of fact, they just keep popping up in new places!  My Iris, however, have to be divided every few years.  When you notice they are blooming sporadically, you will know it is time to divide them.

Hostas really do not have to be divided unless they have overfilled an area.  I have Hostas in my yard that have been there close to 10 years, and still come back beautifully every year without being divided.  The same goes for the Liriope.  I divide Liriope and Hostas only when I need some to plant elsewhere, or when I have friends that want some.

All these plants are wonderful to share with friends and family.  I had not realized until the last few years that I had instilled a love of gardening in my daughter and being able to share the plants in my yard with her and my daughter-in-law is a true joy to me!  So, next time you are ready to divide your bulbs, Hostas or Liriope, don’t just put them all back in your yard, share the joy with others!

Do you enjoy sharing the plants in your yard with others?

Growing Tomatoes In A Container

Don’t you just love tomatoes?  Fresh, ripe, homegrown tomatoes?  In my opinion, there is nothing better!  The tomatoes you get in the grocery don’t even come close.  I even bought some tomatoes recently from a small, roadside vegetable stand, where the owner assured me he got them straight from the grower in Florida.  They still were not as good as homegrown.  I believe it is because the tomatoes grown for sale are a variety that can withstand the shipping and handling they have to go through.  Those varieties just do not compare in taste to a good Better Boy, Rutgers or other old fashioned variety (like my Papaw grew).

“I have no gardening space”, you say?  Well, what about a patio?  Even most apartments have some type of small, outdoor space.  As long as you have that, you can have home grown tomatoes!

Newly planted tomato

Start with a large pot, at least 12″ to 16″ deep, and make sure it has drainage holes.  Fill pot to within a few inches of the top with potting soil.  I use a mixture of 1 part Scotts Miracle-Gro Potting Mix to 2 parts regular potting soil.  This saves me some money and perks up the power of the potting soil.  I then tap the pot on the ground a few times to settle the soil and make sure there are no large air pockets.  You want the soil to fill in around the plant.  Make a hole in your soil that is a little larger than the pot your plant is in and deep enough to plant the tomato plant about 2/3 of the way up the stem.  If you look at the tomato stem, you will see it has what looks like fine hairs all the way down.  These will develop into roots if they are below the soil, making your plant a lot stronger.

Then trim off the leaves on the bottom 2/3 of the plant (this should leave at least 2 or 3 leaf stems at the top).  Carefully remove the plant from it’s pot by holding it near the soil and turning it upside down.  If it doesn’t release easily, tap the pot a few times (or squeeze it a bit if it is a soft sided pot).  The roots should then release into your hand.  If the plant appears to be very root bound (large mass of tangles roots), just gently work the roots loose just a bit to give them a chance to start growing out instead of around.  Now, place the tomato plant in the hole you prepared and fill the soil back in (remember, you are planting it very deep), pressing the soil carefully in around the plant.

I now add a little bit of time-released fertilizer to the top of the soil (I use Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Smart Release) and then water thoroughly.  Place your pot in full sun (at least 6 hours of sun a day) and keep it watered regularly.  You don’t want your plant sitting in water (the reason for the drainage holes) but you also don’t want it to dry out completely.  If the weather is mild, you can probably get away with watering every other day.  In the hot summertime, you will need to water daily, or even twice daily if your pot it not very large.  I also add a little more fertilizer each month during the growing season.

It is probably best to use a plastic or fiberglass pot for your tomato, as clay or wooden pots tend to dry out too quickly.  The DH has several 5 gallon buckets that he has drilled holes in the bottom of, and we use those for tomato plants (and sometimes cucumbers).

You might ask what is the best variety to grow in a pot?  Well, most varieties will work, however, the ones that make a larger plant may need to be staked or caged to keep them from falling over.  You can purchase tomato cages for just a few dollars and set them around the plant, either in the pot or around the pot, depending on pot size.  Also, the new varieties of grape tomatoes, as well as the ‘tommy toe’ tomatoes, will do well in pots.

So, enjoy your home grown tomatoes and come back here and let me know how they turned out.  I would love to hear!

What vegetables would you like to grow in pots?

Shade Gardens

A friend recently asked me what kinds of plants are good for a shady yard.  Several came to mind right away as most of my yard up near the house is shady.  In my shade gardens I have Hostas, Hydrangeas, Strawberry Begonia, Azaleas, Columbine, Phlox, Spider Lilies, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Bleeding Hearts, Japanese Maples and Rhododendron.  (I love the Spider Lilies, as they surprise me by showing up overnight late in the summer).  These are all perennials, do very well here in Zone 8A and give me color from spring until fall.  I also have Rosemary and Chocolate Mint growing in the shade. You do have to be careful about the Columbine and the mint.  Both can be invasive (the mint is the worst), but I have both of these growing in an area that we have trouble keeping the weeds out of, so I am really hoping they do take over and choke out the weeds.  I have also found there is one type of Hydrangea that does not do well in shade and that is the Paniculata type.  The plant does well, but you won’t get any flowers in the shade.

Azalea

When I was asked this question, I decided to do some research and found that there are a lot of perennials that will thrive in shade and, when combined, can give you beautiful color all summer.  Besides those listed above, you can plant Astilbe, Daffodils (and other blooming bulbs), Virginia Blue Bells, Brunnera, Hellebore, Pulmonaria, Lenten Rose, Lupine, Primrose, Jacobs Ladder, Snowdrops, and an unknown called Tiarella or Foamflower.  Caladiums are considered shade loving perennials, but in my area, I have to dig them up before the first frost and replant them the next spring.  There are several shade loving shrubs beside Azaleas too.  These include Yews, Sweet Bay, Boxwood, Cherry Laurel and Holly.  There are also some herbs (besides Rosemary) that do well in shade, like Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, Basil and Thyme.  If you want to try to grow vegetables in shady areas, stick with those that are grown for their leaves instead of their roots or fruits, such as Chard, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Spinach and some leafy lettuces.

One other thing I didn’t know is that there are over 2500 varieties of Hostas.  You could have an entire Hosta garden with all kinds of beautiful color!  I may have to start a new bed…hmmm.

I never had realized before just how many shade loving perennials there are.  Be sure to check with your local nursery to see which of these plants will do well in your area.  They may also have suggestions for other plants that do well in shade.

What is your favorite shade loving perennial?

Preparing a New Bed

A friend of mine will be moving soon and it got me thinking.  When you move to a new place, you want to do things to make it your own, whether it is a new house or a previously owned house.  You want it to be your HOME.  One of the ways to do this is in the yard.  New flower beds, vegetable beds or raised beds are great ways to put your own touch on your new yard.  They are a lot of work, though, so you may want to start out small and make them larger a little at a time.  This is especially true if you don’t have a rotor tiller.  A tiller can make quick work of breaking the ground for a new bed, and they can be rented.  But there are other options if you don’t own one. You could build a raised bed.  Raised beds are wonderful if you have really bad soil or just are unable to break up the soil you have.  In our area we have a lot of clay in our soil, and that makes it hard to break up…even with a tiller!  So my vegetable garden is in a raised bed.  Another option if you don’t have a tiller, is to make your bed a little at a time.  I have started beds very small, with just a plant or two, and then increased the size of them over the years.

The first thing you need to do is decide where you want your bed, how big it will be and the shape.  A great way to do this is to take your garden hose and use it to mark the edges of your bed.  This way, it is easy to make changes in the shape.  Once you have your shape you can mark the outline on the ground with a shovel or a hoe.  Then you will want to check your new bed location several times during the day to determine how much sun it gets.  This will help determine the plants you will put in there.

The next step is to prepare the soil.  First the ground must be broken up, then you want to remove as much of the current growth as possible, especially if you are creating the bed in an area of grass or other heavy growth.  Then, check with your local nurseries or county extension office for the best additives for your soil.  With our clay soil, the biggest problem is making sure it does not compact back to the hard brick it was when you started your digging and adding enough nutrients for the plants to thrive.  I use a mixture of top soil, composted manure and mushroom compost, in about equal amounts, and mix this in with the existing soil.  This gives the soil a lot of nutrients, as well as keeping it loose enough for roots to develop.  Once your soil is prepared, it helps to lay down a layer of weed fabric. This will help discourage those unwanted weeds from creeping back in.

Informal Perennial Bed

Now you are ready to plant!  If you are like me, you may just start sticking plants here and there and develop the look as you go.  But, if you want, you can make a drawing and mark where you want your plants before you start the planting.  This is good if you have a lot of plants with which to fill your bed.  I like to start with a few plants and let the bed develop over time.   That allows me to add plants that are given to me, as well as ones I find when I am shopping.  It makes for a much more informal bed (like the one above), but that is the way I like it.  If you want a formal bed, you will want to get plants of varying heights.  If your bed is against a wall or fence, plant the tallest plants in the back and bring them down to the shortest in the front.  If you can walk all the way around your bed, plant the tallest in the center and go out to the shortest around the edge.  Follow the directions on the plants you have chosen for the spacing and choose plants that are compatible with the location of your bed (full sun, part sun or full shade).

For planting, cut an opening in your weed fabric and dig a hole in your prepared soil that is about twice the size of the plant’s pot.  Carefully remove the plant from the container (unless it is growing in one of those wonderful biodegradable pots, then you just plant the pot and all!).  Loosen the roots at the bottom of the plant, place it in the hole and fill the excess dirt back in.  You want to be careful to make sure you do not bury the plant any deeper in the soil than it was in the pot. That could cause the plant to rot, on in the very least, not grow well.  Then sprinkle with a good time release fertilizer.

Once the plants are in, you will want to add mulch to your bed.  This will help retain moisture and deter weed growth.  Then water your new bed using plenty of water, so that the moisture soaks down to the roots.  You will want to water every couple of days for the first few weeks until the plants have become adjusted to their new homes and started making new roots.  After that, watering will depend on the amount of rain, the temperature and the type plants you chose.  Follow the directions that came with the plants.

New beds will be nice and neat, but not completely full when you first plant them.  If you have planted a perennial bed, you might decide to fill in with annuals for a few years until your perennials mature and fill the bed on their own.  This will give you a big, full and beautiful flower bed from the first year on!

What is your favorite perennial plant for your flower beds?

Planting Time!

Well, this has been a beautiful day, as was yesterday and the day before!  We are having such wonderful early spring weather that I have planted my vegetable garden early.  If we have a threat of frost, I’ll just have to make sure to cover everything.  Although I am not worried, we barely had frost here in the Southeast during the winter, no reason to expect it now.  So I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and beans on Saturday and they are looking very happy.

Basil

The seeds I planted just a week ago are starting to sprout up in the greenhouse.  I have a tray of Basil, a tray of Cockscomb and a tray of Zinnias coming up already.  I will let them get a bit taller and stronger, then thin them or transfer them to pots.  My husband laughs at me because I can’t throw away the plants I take out when thinning and wind up with pots of things all over the place.  But they make great giveaways, which you know I like to do!

Now is also the time to get out those plants you took inside for the winter and give them a good ‘haircut’.  Remove dead leaves and stems, move pot bound plants to larger pots and add a good time release fertilizer to them all.  In your yard, it is time to clean up debris from the winter…remove leaves, trim plants that die back in the winter, fertilize and put out new mulch.  Whew!  It’s a lot of work, but it will give you wonderful results.  Your yard will look like a postcard!

So, roll up your sleeves and get to it.  There is a lot of work to be done! 🙂

What springtime chore do like the least?