Posts tagged peonies

Long-lasting flowers

    The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith: Early in the spring we took Mom lilacs.  The wonderful scent wafted all the way down the hall in her apartment building.   The next week apple blossoms popped out to mix with more lilacs.  A bouquet of iris followed a couple of weeks later.  Iris don’t exhibit a pungent aroma, but the double blossoms are stunning.  Last week we took peonies.  There’s no escaping that fragrance! Mom loves having admiring visitors just follow their noses to her living room.  

      Have you ever picked a bouquet of flowers only to have them wilt within hours?   Cut the stem at an angle with a sharp knife or garden scissors. Choose fresh blooms as they’ll last longest.  Try a preservative. There are some non-commercial preservatives you can use to maintain healthy and happy blossoms.  Flowers need sugar for survival and growth as well as disinfectants to inhibit fungi and bacteria growth.  One tablespoon of sugar with ¼ tsp. of bleach mixed in a vase full of water is a good home remedy.    ¼ tsp. of citric acid (available in drug stores) per one gallon of water is another option.  Keep the vase filled with fresh water. Avoid using chemically softened water or extremely hot or cold water.  Shun direct sunlight and direct heat, i.e.  keep the vase off the top of the refrigerator and T.V.  A challenge at my house is keeping vases away from the cats who view fresh greenery as a delicacy, to be gobbled up and then regurgitated.  An upside down plastic berry basket in your bowl or vase will aid in holding the flower arrangement in place if you don’t have a flower frog handy. 

         Two year old Charlie feels he’s Great Grandma’s designated flower delivery man.  Our quest there is keeping the vase upright so we don’t leave a trail of water all the way down the hall.  But, no matter how flowers get to their destinations, fresh cut, home grown bouquets are almost as good as a tomato plucked fresh from the vine or a box of chocolate covered cherries.

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Assessing the beds

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

Euoooooooo!  I sure don’t like little four legged critters running unexpectedly across my feet!   Now I ‘m not afraid of little four legged critters.   I just don’t like them not giving me any warning.

               A chipmunk apparently had plans to create a winter habitat in a pile of leaves under my peony bushes.  The little fellow and I had to come to an agreement that he and I are not sharing that space at the same time.   I’m raking the leaves out of the way to eliminate the unwanted habitat and potential damage to flowers and shrubs in the bed.  Removing diseased leaves and branches at the same time will help reduce diseases next season. 

My peonies are going to stay all together this year.   They seem to be doing fine.  I am going to move the Iris though.  They’re located in a rather out of the way bed and will be much too beautiful in the spring to not be enjoyed.  Iris can be dug and divided right now and do not need to be planted deeply in the soil but do need to be kept moist after transplanting. 

But then the decision must come, where do  I transplant them.  Now is a perfect time to pour a cup of coffee, wander through the gardens and assess the beds. Examine each bed from several angles.   Be critical. Keeping a seasonal pictorial journal using a digital camera is such a great idea.  Pictures don’t lie:  do you need more height, more color, more  diversity?  Several Master Gardeners routinely keep a garden log.  Now, you may not want to be as involved in your gardens as a Master Gardener, but even placing some markers next to your plants and keeping your purchasing receipts provides a record of what you bought when and from whom in case the plant(s) is performing fantastically or not so much and you want to add or eliminate that species. 

Trees and shrubs can be transplanted now, too.  If a “honey do” on your list involves moving a large tree or shrub, a word of advice is to telephone One Call and determine where your underground utility lines are located.  Safety first is always a great motto.
Did you know that weeds often set their seeds in the fall for the coming year?  Continue weeding until Jack Frost arrives and plan next spring to plant a ground cover where weeds now reside. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Composting ideas

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

Sitting here by an open window listening to the acorns hitting the deck makes me smile.  1968 was the first fall we lived here in the country and my goal was to be the ultimate country person.  I diligently gathered buckets and buckets of walnuts and laid them out on a raised screen on the porch to dry with the intent of enjoying our own homegrown crop.   Imagine my surprise when I discovered a pair of squirrels dashing on and off my porch:   I certainly made their day!  I don’t dry my own walnuts anymore.  Nor do I make my own apple butter.  It was unbelievably delicious with literally bags of sugar added to the vat of apples and spices.  I don’t do much vegetable gardening anymore either, although there’s almost nothing better than your own fresh tomatoes and sweet corn.    My favorite daughter’s fledgling first garden was widely successful.  Maybe they’ll share with me next year as they’ve already planned for a bigger and better model.    The kids learned about eating peas from the pod and running to the garden to fetch a ripe tomato or ears of sweet corn for dinner.  When we clear the garden this fall we’ll amend the soil with composted horse manure.  Using the compost should eliminate the need to use any chemical fertilizer.

The beautiful weather today provides me the opportunity to cut down my peonies to prepare for Old Man Winter.  I’ll add a little mulch now and in a few weeks some of that composted horse manure to the entire bed as I lay it to rest. 

Composting is an inexpensive and an efficient use of biodegradable material.  Composting is so easy and can be inclusive of almost anything from horse manure to leaves, vines and grass clippings.   Why send your ”yardy” material to the landfill?  Let it decompose in a secluded area of the back yard and recycle it back into your flower and vegetable beds.  Linn County Master Gardeners will be happy to provide you with a plethora of information on composting.  Call the Horticulture Line at the Linn County Extension Office in Marion at 319-447-0647. 

 

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Dividing perennials

Two workshops  on dividing perennials are scheduled this week and in September…

 

 Culver’s Garden Center & Greenhouse in Marion is planning a free seminar to help homeowners and gardeners learn to divide common perennials.  

 

Share the Love: Dividing Perennials will be  Tuesday, Aug. 26.  from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in Culver’s Greenhouses, 1682 Dubuque Rd., Hwy 151 East. The free seminar will focus on how to divide perennial plants that have outgrown their space or for use in other locations. 

 

People interested in attending the free seminar are asked to call (319) 377-4195.

 

Also, Brucemore has scheduled a workshop on fall perennial division in the Brucemore Formal Garden on Wednesday,  Sept. 10,  at 6 p.m.  The Brucemore garden staff will demonstrate tips and techniques for successfully dividing a variety of plants, including peonies and lambs ear. 

 

Dividing perennials each fall helps to maintain a healthy garden while providing an opportunity for distributing favorite plants to other parts of the garden or sharing them with friends. Participants should wear gloves, bring a spade and/or fork, and be prepared to dig and split plants from the garden. Each participant will have the opportunity to take a small piece of Brucemore home with them.

 

There will be ample opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from the experts at the end of the workshop. Admission is $10, or  $7 for Brucemore members. Space is limited. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online at www.brucemore.org by September 9.

 

Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site and is located at 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

 

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Lazy days of summer

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

LUV having the windows open!  LUV keeping the air conditioner off!  LUV sitting on the deck without bugs!  LUV having to mow the lawn only once a week!  It’s August.  Summer is winding down.  The cicadas are singing.  The robins are readying for their southern migration.  Soon we’ll experience the vibrant burst of burgundys and yellows and oranges.  School starts in a couple of weeks.  Are you ready for some football? 

            How are you going to tend your garden and yard for the rest of the lazy hazy days of August? 

Now is a great time to tour your yard looking for bare spaces or…….a good excuse to

  • create a new bed or add plants. How about peonies?  Choose a spot with sun and drainage.  Plant the “eye” (bud) about two inches deep.
  •  Or dig and divide your (or your neighbor’s—with their permission, of course) overgrown iris, poppies and other spring blooming perennials.  A good rule of thumb is to move spring blooming flowers in the fall and fall blooming flowers in the spring. 
  • Plant a tree!  Fall planting takes advantage of favorable soil temperatures and moisture conditions that promote the root growth needed to sustain plants through their critical first year in the landscape. 
  • It’s best not to prune now.  Pruning will stimulate unwanted late season growth.
  • Think fall flower arrangements.  Invest in a Burning Bush, a Bayberry Bush or a Red-twigged Dogwood.  All have colored stems that will stand out in dreary winter landscape. And those reddish branches create an outstanding compliment to fall groupings of gourds, pumpkins and dried flowers.
  • Mid-August through mid-September is the best time to repair, replace or start a new lawn.  Lawns with fifty percent or more weeds should be replaced.  Always purchase quality lawn seed.  All grass seed mixes should contain several varieties of bluegrass, fescue and rye grass.

So, get up off that couch.  Get out in the yard.  Enjoy this great time of the year.

 

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Milk and honey

       The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

    

       It’s a sure sign of spring when the scent of a bouquet of lilacs wafts covers every inch of a room.  And then the sweet smell of peonies penetrates throughout the whole house around Memorial Day.  Now it’s summer and Honeysuckle’s  milk and honey permeates my yard.   We take flower filled vases to Great Grandma as often as we can.  She enjoys them so much and we all want them to last as long as possible.

You can create a lovely bouquet by:       

·         Selecting  flowers that are just coming into bloom

·         Cutting  the stems at an angle

·         Choosing a clean vase and clean flowers

·         Using an upside down plastic mesh strawberry basket to hold cut flower arrangements in place.              

·         Keeping the vase filled with fresh water.

·         Not using chemically softened water.

·         Keeping the arrangement out of direct sunlight and heat, i.e., not on the top of the fridge or T.V.

·         Using a floral preservative for a long lasting arrangement.   Floral preservatives supply sugar for survival and disinfectant that will inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Create your own preservative:

·         One TBL. of sugar and ¼ tsp. of household bleach is a good source of preservative.

·         Tonic water or lemon-lime soda (not diet) at one part soda or tonic water with two parts water works well. 

·         Citric acid, available at drugstores can be used, too.  Use ¼ tsp. per gallon of water.

  Any combination of color and scent is certain to brighten a day.  Enjoy!

               

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Iris garden secrets

Blue intermediate iris known as \

   You can’t help but learn something when visiting Wanda Lunn’s garden. The Cedar Rapids woman has one of only two display gardens in Iowa for the Historic Iris Preservation Society, and she readily shares her 50-some years of gardening knowledge.

 

   Wanda’s garden is a combination of historic and modern varieties of iris, intermingled with hundreds of daylilies and other perennials. The oldest iris are generally less showy, with smaller blossoms than more modern versions.

    Wanda has hundreds of visitors to her gardens every summer and is willing to share the secrets of her success. One misconception she wants to change is the notion that iris are difficult to grow in Iowa. Wanda shows that is anything but the truth. Given adequate space (enough “breathing” room) and proper sunlight, the plants thrive.  She doesn’t fear the iris borer, either.

    The borer doesn’t affect smaller intermediate and dwarf iris, she notes.

    Eggs hatch when temperatures reach 70 degrees, so as long as foliage is cleaned out before then – either in late fall or early spring – the borers shouldn’t be a problem on larger iris either, she said.

    Late freezes made last year a poor one for many plants, but Wanda said the iris, especially, are making up for it this year.

    Iris bloom only once on the “mother” plant, she explains. They then either reproduce or die. Those that didn’t bloom last year will bloom this year, along with their offspring.

    Anyone with spare time this weekend, or next, has the opportunity to see the resulting splendor in Wanda’s garden in northwest Cedar Rapids.

   Wanda notes that she has over 80 DIFFERENT clumps of dwarf , intermediate and miniature tall bearded iris blooming right now. Her garden will be open for those who want to see these rare, earlier iris bloom on Memorial Day, Mon. May 26 , from  10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

   In addition, she has hundreds of stalks right now on the tall bearded iris clumps that will be blooming next weekend, including more than  200 different cultivars in several categories: Historics, modern ruffled, amoneas, broken colors, plicatas and multi-colored.

   She also has several colors of peonies, several colors of Siberian iris and a multitude of other late blooming spring bulbs and perennials on the one-third acre lot. To see those plants in bloom, her garden will also be open to the public  from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. May 31 and Sun. June 1.

  

    Wanda and her husband live at 526 Bezdek Dr. NW, just off E Avenue. Look for more on Wanda’s iris garden in the Community section of The Gazette.

 

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Lightning bugs eat WHAT??

Who doesn’t like lightning bugs, the quintessential sign of summer? Of all that I learned at Saturday’s Winter Gardening Fair, my favorite tidbit is another reason to love this beneficial beetle. The next time my kids ask what lightning bugs eat, I’ll know, thanks to entomologist Donald Lewis, whose session, “The Good, the Bad and the Buggly,” was one of three workshops I attended at the gardening fair.

Here’s more of what Lewis, from Iowa State University’s extension, had to say.

On earwigs:

It’s a myth that earwigs crawl into a sleeping person’s ears to lay its eggs and they don’t burrow into your brain (whew!) Their name comes from a habit they had in the damp castles of Europe of crawling into the white wigs of the castle’s inhabitants and then wandering into the wig-wearer’s ears. Of more relevance to our time,  earwigs, identifiable by pincers on their tailend, are both beneficial, as they feed on decaying matter, and a pest, as they also nibble on foliage.

White grubs and Japanese beetles:

White grubs are the larval stage of various types of June bugs. Most of those in Iowa are the “masked chafer,” and more and more, the dreaded (editor’s note) Japanese beetle. The grubs live in lawns and chew the roots off grass. Secondary damage is done when raccoons and skunks scavenge for this “land shrimp” and tear the turf to get at the grubs. Moles, by the way, don’t indicate that your lawn has grubs. Their favorite meal is earthworms. There are various chemicals to rid lawns of grubs and to spray on the adult beetles, but just getting rid of the grubs won’t eradicate problems with the adults, because even if your lawn is grub-free, adult beetles – Japanese beetles, at least – can come from far away to dine on your roses, raspberry bushes and 350 other types of plants. Hand-picking the adults works best when done early in the season, as their chewing releases a scent to other Japanese beetles of where to find their next meal. Lewis said what you do with them after you pick them off is your choice: hammer, etc. Mine is to knock them into a container of soapy water. If you use plain water, they can swim around for several days and be none the worse off for your trouble.

Slugs:

 Aha! This is where the lightning bugs come in. Placing copper strips or pennies in your hosta – a favorite target of Iowa’s gray garden slugs – hasn’t been proven to prevent the slugs’ damage. But lightning bugs, in their larval stage, prey on slugs. Lightning bugs also eat other insect larvae and snails. What a beneficial beetle!

There was so much more I learned at the gardening fair. From Linn County Master Gardener Lu Barron – you might know her as one of our Linn County Supervisors – I found out why my peonies might not be blooming. Too much shade, too much competition from other plants, buds nipped by a late frost or too much nitrogen fertilizer are among the possible reasons. I also learned the best way to plant peonies – with eyes 1 to 2 inches below the soil line.

All of the presenters undoubtedly put quite a bit of preparation into their sessions, but I don’t know of anyone who had more work to do than Master Gardener Nancy Sutherland, who labeled and bundled dozens and dozens of tiny dried flowers so each of the attendees at her “Everlastings” workshop could leave with a whole box to take home and examine. Sutherland and other Master Gardeners can be found at the Lowe Park demonstration gardens in Marion, as soon as the weather warms.

Finally, what a great presentation by keynote speaker, Melinda Myers! Some of my previous posts (including excerpts from my interview with Melinda, if you want to hear her for yourself) address her topic of attracting butterflies and birds to your garden.  But I think my favorite quote from her speech was about how to get children interested in gardening. “Even if you don’t enjoy them, bugs get kids in the garden,” she said. “And the creepier the bugs are, sometimes, the better.”  

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