Celebrating the Seasons

February 2008

Celebrating the Seasons

Forcing Blooms Indoors

Chase the chill of winter away with beautiful blooming branches — indoors! Even when it's still freezing outside, trees and shrubs, which formed plump buds during the previous year, are ready to unfurl their floral flags. You can get these beauties to herald in spring long before its time, with a technique called “forcing.” Young branches are cut and brought indoors, tricked by the warmer temperatures; they slowly open to reveal blossoms. It's simple to do and here's my... >>more

Dreamy Corn Chowder

Nothing speaks of summer like corn, but this time of year we're dependant on the frozen stuff. Just like forcing branches, however, there are ways to make the most of summer foods in the winter. This easy-to-prepare, velvety chowder will hit the spot, and quickly become a favorite in your home, as it is in... >>more

Growing Green

More people are becoming acutely aware of protecting the earth, and the “green” revolution is sweeping the country. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are a reality. Organic gardening is on the rise and the research suggests it's here to stay. If you are looking for ways to “green up” your life here are simple tips to help you get started. Stay tuned for more tips on going green in the garden in upcoming... >>more

Giving Houseplants A Boost

Is your favorite houseplant flourishing or flagging? It might be getting too big for its britches. Transferring to a larger pot is a good opportunity for pruning the roots, which is the secret to a well-kept and happy houseplant. It sounds severe, but by trimming the roots and the tops, the plant spends... >>more

Send Your Ideas!

Do you have any tips to share? Are there topics you'd like me to address?
E-mail me at celebrating_seasons@garden.org

Gabby Gardeners

Question: I have had a lilac bush for 4 years now and it still isn't blooming. It looks good — just no blooms. Is there anything I can do now? I live in zone 5.

Answer: Be patient. Sometime lilacs take years to finally bloom. However, there are some steps you can take to encourage them:

  • Make sure your lilac gets full sun.
  • Limit feeding the plant. Lilacs don't appreciate a lot of fertilizer. However, they often respond to an application of phosphorus.
  • Old trick: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 ounces of Epsom salts and water the plant when dormant (early spring or late fall).
  • Buds are formed the year before, so be sure to prune immediately after blooming so you don't cut off the flowering wood for the next year.

Question: Over the last 5 to 6 years, several of my clematis plants have developed wilt each summer. Strangely, not all my clematis are affected. I have one clematis that is planted next to a wilted clematis, yet it seems to be thriving. Is there any way I can prevent this disease and treat the affected clematis?

Answer: I've got some good news and some bad news. Unfortunately it sounds like some of your plants have “clematis wilt.” It's one of the few problems that affect clematis, yet it is quite common. The good news is that plants that have wilt can recover. Wilt is spread by fungal spores so it is important to keep the plant and surrounding ground clean of plant debris, even in the winter. The disease doesn't affect the plant's root system so you may be able to eradicate it by cutting the wilted stems to the ground and as close to the roots as possible. Make sure to remove the cuttings and do not place them in the compost, dispose of them by burning.

Question: I've heard you say that you enrich the soil with “magic” ingredients. Can you tell me the ingredients and when is the best time to enrich?

Answer: Every spring and fall, I amend the soil with compost, peat moss, and manure (usually sheep manure I get from a local farmer), which work like magic to replenish and keep the soil alive with nutrients. I spread liberal amounts of each (no more than 3 inches total) on top of the soil and till it in about 12 inches deep, which gives my plants a natural boost right from the start.

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