Upper South

August, 2005
Regional Report

Divide Virginia Bluebells

A mass of spring-blooming Virginia bluebells is one of the glories of the shaded native plant garden. Even if you only start with a few nursery-propagated plants, they can soon fill a large area if they are divided and replanted every couple of years. Growing best in moist woodland soil, perhaps along a shaded stream, bluebells should be dug up and divided while dormant in summer. They grow best in soil enriched with plenty of compost and bone meal.

Cut Gladiolus for Bouquets

Few flowers are as easy to grow as gladiolus, plus they make almost instant bouquets. When cutting the flower spikes, leave as much foliage as possible because it contributes to the growth of the corm and next year's flowers. Cut spikes on a slant, using a sharp knife or straight-edge razor (with a handle, of course!). Although usually considered too tender to overwinter in our area, glads survive quite well most years, so choose a site where they can remain permanently.

Make Fresh Tomato Salsa

Salsa made fresh, not cooked, is a whole different taste experience. Known as "pico de gallo," or "beak of the rooster," it's fast and easy to make. Combine 2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes with 1 cup chopped scallions or onions, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 or 2 seeded and minced jalapeno peppers, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley), and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or with grilled fish or chicken.

Order Spring-Blooming Bulbs and Garlic

Bulb-planting time is just around the corner, so study bulb catalogs, then place your order. Choose a variety of bulbs to give you bloom from late winter through late spring. Consider some of the giant alliums, which are real showstoppers in the garden. At the other end of the spectrum are the diminutive early bloomers, like dwarf iris, snowdrops, and crocus. For something unusual in the garden, try some of the fall-blooming crocus, or colchicum. Garlic is easy to grow and should be planted in the fall, too.

Collect and Save Seeds

Seeds can be gathered and planted in late summer and fall from many old-fashioned flowers, such as love-in-a-mist, hollyhocks, dame's rocket, larkspur, and spider flowers. You also can save seed from some herbs, such as dill, fennel, and lovage. Species and open-pollinated varieties will come true from seed, but seed from hybrids won't produce the exact same plants. Clip the browning seedheads and place them upside down in a brown paper bag. Label the bag with the plant's name, close the bag, and place in a warm, dry place. As the seeds ripen, they will fall to the bottom of the bag. Gather them and store in a clean envelope, labeled with the name and date.

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