Upright Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum 'Northwind')

How to grow and hardiness: Full sun, also drought tolerant. Hardy to Zone 4. Grows five feet tall.
This impressive switch grass cultivar hails from Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin.
'North Wind' has wide, green foliage and a strongly upright growth habit similar to that of 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora, 'Karl Foerster'), but it blooms later.
In September, the plant sports attractive narrow flower plumes held erect atop the foliage. Foliage and flowers become tawny gold in fall and this color persists through the winter.
This plant is my favorite switch grass cultivar - its strong vertical habit and vigorous growth makes this one of the handsomest of the switch grasses

Growing switch grasses in the garden

Panicum virgatum is a long-lived, warm-season grass.
Typically, it starts to grow in late spring, thriving in the heat of summer and flowering profusely in July or August. When the airy flowers open they are often attractively tinged with pink.
Switch grass cultivars are drought-tolerant once established, and they also tolerate soggy soils, which means they grow well in spots that are wet in early spring.
In his book, The Color Encyclopedia of Ornamental Grasses, Rick Darke, notes that self-sowing is usually minimal, but that it can be prolific on open moist soil. "This," he says, "can be valuable for naturalizing, but can be a problem when attempting to maintain uniform sweeps of clonal cultivars, since seedlings often differ noticeably from parents."

Ornamental grasses: maintenance

Established grasses are the ultimate low maintenance plants. Once a year all you need to do is give then an annual haircut early in spring.
Cut them back to within six to 10 inches of the ground. Use hedge shears and wear gloves - some species have very sharp edges.
Try to cut down the previous year's growth of cool season grasses as soon as the snow melts because that's when they start to grow. If you leave this job too long you could chop off the tips of the leaves.
When cutting these grasses down, leave about one-third of previous year's growth in place. The new growth will quickly hide the old plant material.
You can cut warm-season grasses right down to the ground if you like, but if you are doing the job late, be sure not to cut into the new growing tips. I like to cut these grasses down a little later because I find that the previous season's buff-colored foliage looks good in with the spring-flowering bulbs.
We have found the most efficient way to cut back the grasses in our large beds is to use a gas-powered hedge trimmer, which we rent for the job.
In some beds, we cut the grasses down in layers. This ensures that the dead plant material is nicely chopped up into mulch that can be left on the beds. In other beds, where the mass of dead material is just too much, we cut at the base and take the dead plant material away.

Blue Switch grass (Panicum virgatum 'Dallas Blues'):

How to grow and hardiness: Full sun, hardy to Zone 5. Grows 60 inches tall.
This stunning Panicum virgatum selection was originally found in Dallas, Texas, which inspired its name.
Although from a warm part of the country, 'Dallas Blues' grows equally well in colder regions. I've grown it in my zone 5 garden for five years now and it winters very well.
'Dallas Blues' grows into an upright clump of fountain-like, with foliage that's powdery blue. In early fall, each clump is topped with stunning reddish purple flower plumes. The leaves turn a copper color in fall that persists well through the winter.
Rick Darke notes that 'Dallas Blues' has a higher than average drought tolerance. I have it growing on a sandy-loam hillside that can get very dry, and it has survived severe drought with occasional watering.

Planting tips - when to plant, spacing

Ornamental grasses can be grouped into cool- or warm-season types, depending on when they do most of their growing.
Cool-season grasses: Like cool season lawn grasses, these ornamental grasses do most of their growing in spring when temperatures are cool and moisture is plentiful.
Cool season ornamental grasses such as blue fescue (Festuca species and cultivars) and feather reed grass (Calamagrostis species and cultivars), grow best at temperatures from above freezing to 75°F (24°C).
They start into new growth earlier in spring and tend to flower early, stop growth in the heat of summer, and resume when temperatures cool in early fall.
Warm season grasses: Warm-season grasses like maiden grass Miscanthus species and fountain grass (Pennisetum species and cultivars) require patience. They're slow to get growing, but thrive in temperatures from 75° to 85°F (24 to 30C°). Most come into flower in late summer or early fall.
The best way to deal with their spring tardiness is to surround them with tulips or daffodils for spring color before they get growing. Then as the grasses start to grow, they do a nice job of camouflaging the bulb foliage as it dies back.

Using grasses in the garden

Few plants are as versatile, carefree and dynamic as these grasses.
And yes, they do flower in subtle ways that grasses do - and they make wonderful companion plants for flowering perennials.
Grasses contribute a contemporary design edge that will jazz up almost any garden. They really deliver on low maintenance and high style.
The biggest misconception about grasses is that they are invasive and will take over your garden. In fact, most grasses sold for home garden and landscape purposes are well-behaved clumping types that won't misbehave.
Grasses are magical because they're never static. They emerge lush green early in the season, and by summer they've filled out and begin to plume or flower.
Through the season, they move with the slightest breeze and sound wonderful when the wind rustles through them.
In the fall, you get the later warm season grasses pluming and then changes of color to wheat, gold, flaming orange or copper.


To feed your naturalized bulbs, work a good organic compost or well-rotted cow manure into the soil when planting. Then add a 1-inch layer of compost as a mulch each fall.
Alternatively, apply a slow-release bulb food, such 9-9-6, when planting, and again each fall (sprinkle fertilizer over the planting area at the rate recommended on the label).
To maintain your bulbs, avoid cutting back leaves before they have yellowed to allow bulbs to regenerate for next year's flowers. Allow the leaves to grow for at least six weeks after flowering.
Avoid working soil in early spring just as bulb foliage begins to grow and avoid any use of lawn herbicides while the bulb leaves are still green.


For a flowering lawn, use early, low-growing bulbs such as crocuses, mini-daffodil cultivars such as 'Jack Snipe', 'Tête à Tête' or 'Quail', snowdrops, glory-of-the-snow, scillas and windflowers.
These bulbs create a carpet of color and will tolerate cutting back by the time the grass needs mowing.
Naturalize larger, later-blooming daffodils in areas where mowing can be put off for six weeks after they bloom, for example, along a country lane or shrub border.
A sprinkling of small early-flowering bulbs, such as windflower, crocus, scilla, snowdrop, glory-of-the snow or grape hyacinth, looks wonderful under deciduous shrubs and trees such as ash, birch, cherry, Japanese cherry, oak, fruit trees and profusely flowering crabapples.
Before leafing out, these deciduous trees and shrubs allow for plenty of sunlight early in the season when the bulbs need it.

Bulbs that multiply

The flower bulbs that spread well on their own tend to be the smaller ones.
They include windflowers (Anemone blanda), crocus, guinea-hen flower (Fritillaria meleagris), winter aconite (Eranthis), snowdrop, glory-of-the snow (Chionodoxa).
Also lovely are grape hyacinth (Muscari), daffodils and Siberian squills (Scilla siberica).
Many hybrid tulips, however, can't be counted on to spread: they look spectacular in the first year, but in the following years, their flowers often get smaller and sparser, or the plants disappear altogether, at which point, it's advisable to replace them.
For naturalizing, choose the smaller species tulips, which grow only 6 to 12 inches tall. Try the starry flowered white and gold 'Tarda', the cream and yellow turkestanica varieties, or the lovely canary yellow Tulipa batalinii 'Bright Gem'. They look wonderful at the edge of flower beds, in rockeries and in small gardens.

Designing a country garden

Attractive ways with natural materials:
Use local stone and wood. You might be able to reuse old wood or stone in your project. Natural stone is a perfect choice for patios, paths and walls.
Use what's on site if possible. If you've removed trees to build a house, the wood can make split rail fencing or a rustic arbor.
Incorporate found rocks or collect from surrounding properties. (Do this with permission only: sometimes farmers will often let you have rocks inexpensively or for free.) Rocks can line beds, outline paths or be used for retaining walls.
Use fencing to divide spaces into outdoor rooms. Open fences, such as wire, split rail or picket styles are appealing. (Board fences are too expensive and too closed in and suburban looking.)
If you need to keep wildlife out, use wire fencing set on round cedar posts. (To keep out deer, fences need to be at least 8 feet (2.5 meters) tall. Use vines to soften fences, e.g. hops, climbing roses, honeysuckle, grapes or clematis.

Designing a country garden - guidelines

Proportion and scale: Design scale is always bigger in the country. Plant trees and shrubs in groups or lines. Avoid making landscape features such as patios, pergolas or decks too small.
Don't forget shelter from the elements: If you need to create a shelterbelt or windbreak with trees, don't crowd them at the house. Windbreaks provide best protection when planted to the north and west about 20 to 30 yards (20 to 30 metres) from buildings.
Be creative with your space: If you have lots of privacy, the "backyard" doesn't have to be the outdoor living area if the front is more congenial because it's sunnier or better protected from prevailing winds.
A patio on the east side, for example, might be an inviting spot for morning coffee, while a west facing courtyard allows you to enjoy evening entertaining and catch the sunset. If you can manage it, why not include both?
Create intimacy close to the house: Wide-open spaces are all well and good, but you want areas near the house to be inviting.
A courtyard, deck or patio, and pergola-covered spaces can all be used for outdoor living.
To soften and enclose these built areas, plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Avoid putting hard material (say a stone patio) up against another hard material (the house wall); try to have a planted bed in between.
Blend your landscape with natural surroundings: Beds, plantings and structures close to house can have a more cultivated or formal feeling, but as you get further from the house, allow the landscape to be looser and more naturalized.
Research which plants are native to your region, and plant as many native trees and perennials as you can. A wild flower meadow is ideal for an open, sunny spot.

Early spring garden jobs: In the flower garden

Don't be in a rush to remove winter mulch or to cut back evergreen plants such as lavender until temperatures are reliably warm.
Freeze and thaw cycles over the winter may given some of your plants the heave-ho. Replant any perennials that the frost has heaved out of the ground as soon as you can.
Cut back the previous season's dead plant material. Clean up old perennial foliage from last season (trimmings can go into the compost). Cut back ornamental grasses. (More details on this job and care of grasses.)
Remove winter protection of mounded earth from roses. Prune rose bushes before they start to leaf out. (More information on rose care.)
Resist the urge to start digging in your flower beds too early. You can damage the soil's structure. If you pick up a handful of soil, it should fall apart, not stick together like glue. When it's dry enough, you can start to dig beds and add compost or manure in preparation for planting. (How to get your soil ready for planting.)
Getting on top of the weeding now means a lot less work later. Weeds start growing vigorously early, so when you spot them, go to it because they are easier to pull out while their roots are still shallow in early spring.
Maintain edges. Grass growth is vigorous in the early spring garden, so edge your flower beds with a sharp trench between them and the grass to keep it in bounds. Repeat this job a couple of times through the season or installing permanent edging goes a long way towards having a lower maintenance flower garden.

Early spring garden guide: Around the yard

Start winter cleanup of the lawn when the grass is no longer sopping wet and planting beds stop being a sea of mud. Rake your lawn to get rid of dead growth, stray leaves, twigs and winter debris and let light and air to the soil level, encouraging the grass to grow.
Re-seed bare or damaged patches of lawn. Scratch up the soil with a rake first. Mix a shovel of soil with a couple of scoops of grass seed and spread in the patch you're fixing. Rake level and keep well-watered until seeds germinate and the new grass establishes.
Remove tree guards or burlap winter protection from any young trees or shrubs. Try not to leave tree guards in place over the summer. They keep rabbits and mice from nibbling on tender bark over the winter, but trees don't need them in summer. They don't allow enough air movement around the base of the trunk and that can promote rot of the bark.
Transplant any existing shrubs you want to move before they begin to leaf out.
Apply dormant oil spray to fruit trees, magnolias, crabapples and shrubs such as euonymus to control scale insects and other overwintering pests. Use this organic pest control method when the buds are swelling but the leaves haven't opened yet. Apply when temperatures are between 40 and 70 degrees F (4-21 degrees C).
Get your lawn mower checked and blades sharpened if you didn't get the job done in late winter. Sharp blades cut better and leave your lawn grass healthier.

Garden calendar

The best way to use the seasonal lists below is to consult and print them at the beginning of each season as a reminder of the jobs you should ideally do at that time of year.
With some garden tasks, timing is vital: transplanting and pruning. Leaving either of those tasks too late can create problems. If you prune a lilac too late in the season, for instance, you will cut off the buds that produce next year's flowers.
Likewise, you don't want to move shrubs or divide perennials in the heat of midsummer because the stress of the heat, dryness and the loss of roots will set the plants back too much.
Garden calendar season by season
Early spring - Cleaning-up after the winter
Mid-spring - What to do in the garden as everything starts to grow
Early summer - Jobs to do while your garden is still growing vigorously
Mid-summer - Gardening during high summer
Early fall - What to do as the season begins to wind down
Late fall - How to get your yard and garden ready for winter
Fall tree and shrub care - Important tips to help your garden trees and shrubs weather the winter

Daylilies - versatile and easy garden perennials

Daylilies are colorful, easy to grow and will shine in many flower garden conditions. In Greek Hemerocallis, their botanical name, means "beauty for a day" because each individual flower lasts only a day, hence daylily.
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So why grow a plant with flowers that last only a day?
Well, for one thing, an established daylily grows many scapes (flower stems) that produce a profusion of buds that keep the plants in bloom for weeks.
There has been a revolution in daylily breeding over the past few years, resulting in new colors and forms.
The plants are stronger with lots more flowers over a longer period of bloom. There are more than 50,000 registered cultivars.
Gardeners love them for their rainbow of colors (they flower in every shade except blue) and many shapes and sizes.
They make versatile garden plants too: you can have daylilies in bloom from late spring until autumn. A well-established clump produces many buds and new flowers daily for a month or more.
The plants are clump forming, herbaceous perennials with fibrous or somewhat tuberous roots. Grow them in well-drained soil, amended with manure or compost.
For best performance give them full sun, at least six hours of sun a day. If you plant them in too much shade, you'll get more leafy growth with fewer flowers.

Perennial geraniums – planting and care

Many perennial geraniums will grow in zones 4 to 8, and do well in full sun to part shade. When planting, give them enough room for the foliage to spread a distance at least equal to the mature height.
There are no special soil requirements, but drainage must be good. Moist, well-drained soil is ideal, but they will tolerate some drought. Easy to maintain, geraniums are rarely bothered by pest or diseases.
Depending on species and cultivar, plant sizes vary from a few inches to 3 feet tall and come in all shapes – mounds, mats, spreading masses and bushy clumps. Some, like 'Ann Folkard' will even climb and scramble within shrubs or large perennials.

Easy-care plants for your garden

There are plenty of great, easy-care perennials that can be star performers in your garden.
Larry Hodgson, a prolific gardener and author of the best-selling Perennials for Every Purpose has put together a good list of qualities easy-care perennials should have:
Longevity (90 percent alive and thriving five years after planting)
Resistance to disease and insects, so you don't have spray them
Don't need to be divided more often than every four or five years
Tolerance of a wide range of growing conditions
Cold hardy – no winter protection needed
Good tolerance of summer heat
Long blooming period, or foliage that's attractive all season
Won't take over your garden
Don't need to be staked.
That's a lot to ask of a plant. "In fact, it's surprising, says Larry, "how few perennials meet all the easy-care characteristics. Phlox, for example, meets almost all of them except for disease and insect resistance: keeping them mildew-free can be a summer-long nightmare."
He points out that some easy-care perennials like peonies need staking. Many otherwise ideal plants are either invasive – goutweed is a prime example – or tend to disappear after several years – such as lupines and shasta daisies

Flowering:June - July
Height:Up to 8' (2.5 m)

Escallonia is a native of South America. The leaves are deep, glossy green and the variety we have in the garden is evergreen.
The flowers are tubular with five rounded lobes. They come in a variety of shades of pink and red.
We have found that this shrub thrives in the garden although in more northerly locations it should be planted in a sheltered spot. It is a good hedging plant as it is fast-growing, evergreen and grows well in any well-drained soil.

Cherry Laurel

Height:Up to 20' (6 m)
The Cherry Laurel is an evergreen shrub with shiny and leathery green leaves.

It flowers in April, with white spiky florets growing along stems up to 10 cms long. These are followed by small black fruits.
This is a very useful shrub for hedging and screening since it is dense and fast-growing.
Cherry Laurel Water is made from crushed leaves and is used for medicinal purposes.

Callistemon - Crimson Bottlebrush

Height:Up to 6' (up to 2 m)

Callistemon is an evergreen shrub that was originally introduced from Australia but some species grow quite successfully in Britain.Callistemon citrinus will tolerate temperatures down to -5 degrees C so should be planted in a sheltered spot if there is a risk of temperatures lower than that. We occasionally experience lower temperatures here and those in our garden have survived. The leaves are long, narrow and leathery. The flowers are made up of brush-like crimson spikes (5 - 10 cms long, which as the name suggests, look just like a "bottle brush". A pretty shrub during the few weeks that it is flowering.


Colour:Mauve / blue
Flowering:July - September
Height:Up to 36" (100 cm)

Lavender is a pretty plant, often grown for its fragrant flowers which are dried for pot-pourris and scented sachets.The flowers are mauve/blue and grow on spikes, 4 - 6 cms long. The leaves are grey/green, long and narrow.Lavender is sometimes used for low hedging but does not last long and needs to be replaced after a few years. It likes a sunny spot but is tolerant of most types of well-drained soil.It is also used to treat ailments such as insomnia, anxiety and depression because it induces calming, sedative effects.If you are planning to pick lavender for drying, make sure to pick the flowers before they are fully open.

Some Thoughts On Planting Roses

Although all kinds of gardening is my passion in life, nothing but nothing gives me greater pleasure than my beautiful rose garden. They are just so stunning, and I do really love the colors and the amazing varieties which are available.
To get the best from your rose garden however there are quite a few important pointers to bear in mind, and I would like to share some of these with you.
When the spring comes and the ground is thawed it is time to start planting your rose garden. Roses have actually been a cherished aphrodisiac since biblical times, and have been around for over 3000 years. Despite this, they still hold a particular mystery and fascination, not to mention the fact that they look and smell fantastic.
One of the most important rules of growing roses is to plant the rose bush in an area that receives around 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day. It is also advisable not to plant too many trees or other plants around the rose bush, because many of these are likely to either mix with the rose or stifle it's growth. If you are replacing an old rose bush, approximately 1-1/2 cubic feet of old soil should be removed, and fresh soil added to replace it. When positioning your rose in the garden or landscape, make sure that you consider the growth characteristics of the rose in question.
To give you an example, place climbers and ramblers along fences, trellises, or next to arches or pergolas. This location offers them unrestricted growth and greatly increases the potential for some superb looking blooms.
Roses also look really beautiful in island beds mixed in with perennials, and miniature roses make great edging plants in front of the taller varieties. If you plant them singly, shrub roses can make excellent specimen plants, or they can be clustered to make a flowering hedge. You can also use them to camouflage unsightly parts of your garden.
Dig a hole large enough for the root mass, and loosen the bottom of the hole. I suggest that you should also add some bone meal which is a slow acting source of phosphorus. This leads to healthy root growth in the rose plant.
The plant should then be placed in the hole very carefully and the hole refilled with soil, making sure that the roots are properly covered. Water the rose plant well, and let it absorb the water before applying the final covering of soil. When this has been completed, water the plant some more and create a mound of soil about 6 inches high. The dome will keep the stems from drying out until the plant is rooted. Gradually remove the excess soil as the leaves start to open.
Special care should be taken with the planting depth, which varies considerably according to the climate you live in.
If you live in a colder area, plant a bit deeper and consult with other people growing roses in your area. If you are buying potted roses, you should plant them about 1 inch deeper than their potted level. The best time to plant roses varies depending on the winter temperature.
Where temperatures don't drop below -10 degrees F in either fall or spring, planting is satisfactory. If you live in an area where winter temperatures drop below -10 degrees F, spring planting is preferable. Plants should be planted in a dormant condition if purchased bare root, but container grown plants may be planted throughout the growing season.
Spacing of the rose plant is highly influenced by the temperature. In regions where winters are severe, the rose plant does not grow so large as when in mild climates. Taking this into consideration, hybrid tea roses should be spaced 1-1/2 to 3 feet apart, but large vigorous growers such as hybrid perpetuals will need 3 to 5 feet of space, while the climbers need from 8 to 10 feet of space.
If the winter temperature is below 10 degrees F, roses can grow healthily if proper care is taken, so the gardener must be prepared to endure that cold and probably wet experience. In colder areas, roses enjoy their last fertilization of the season by August 15th or thereabouts

Tips on dealing with the most common rose health problems

Black Spots On Leaves
This disease is commonly known as black spot. Black spots appear as circular with fringed edges on the leaves, and they cause them to yellow. The solution is to remove the infected foliage and pick up any fallen leaves around the rose. Artificial sprays can be used to prevent or treat this kind of rose disease.
Stunted Or Malformed Young Canes
Known as powdery mildew, this is a fungal disease that covers leaves stems and buds with wind spread white powder. It makes the leaves curl and turn purple. Spray with Funginex or Benomyl to treat this particular disease which could totally ruin your rose garden.
Blistered Underside Of Leaves
A disease of roses known as rust, it is characterized with orange-red blisters that turn black in fall. In spring it will attack the new sprouts, and this disease can even survive the winter. What you should do is to collect and discard leaves that are infected in fall, and also spraying Benomyl and Funginex every 7-10 days will help.
Malformed Or Stunted Leaves And Flowers
The one most likely cause of this is the presence of spider mites. These are tiny yellow red or green spiders which cling to the underside of the leaves. They will suck the juices from the leaves, but the application of Orthene or Isotox may help in treating this infestation.
Weak And Mottled Leaves Showing Tiny White Webs Underneath
This might be caused by aphids, which are small soft-bodied insects which are usually brown green or red. Often found clustered under leaves and flower buds, they suck plant juices from tender buds. However Malathion or Diazinon spray may help roses to survive these bugs.
Flowers That Do Not Open Or Are Deformed When They Do Open
Thrips could be the reason behind this deformation and unopened flowers, which is characterized with slender brown-yellow bugs with fringed wings thriving in the flower buds. They will also suck the juices from the flower buds, so therefore you should cut and discard all infested flowers. Using Orthene and Malathion will also treat this health problem with your roses.

Care of the Flower Garden

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health.
1. The essentials must always be given major consideration.
Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells. When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting out shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don't heap soil or mulch up around the stem. If you do, water will drain off instead of sinking in, and the stem could develop rot through overheating.
2. Mix and match perennials with annuals.
Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooms coming on.
3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms.
Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will make the plant produce more flowers. Just make sure that you don't discard the deadhead on the garden or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.
4. Know the good from the bad bugs.
Most garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.
Sowbugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other micro-organisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.
Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphids.
An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer.
Always prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted up to give you a new plant, so it won't be wasted.

Daylily planting and care tips

Planting: The best time to plant daylilies is in spring or autumn, but if you buy container-grown plants you can plant them out any time during the growing season. Just avoid periods of drought, unless you are prepared to water your new plants faithfully.
Improve your soil by working in some compost in before planting. Recommended planting distance is 18 to 24 inches apart. Your planting hole should be a little larger than the root mass.
The crown (band of white on the foliage) is the indicator for depth as this should be just below the surface. Set the plant so that the crown is no deeper than inch below the surface of the soil. Firm the soil after planting, using your hands (pressing or stomping with your feet can cause root damage).
Watering: Water plants thoroughly after planting, and continue to deep soak them at least weekly until established (about six to eight weeks). Although daylilies are drought-tolerant once established, consistent watering while they are budding and flowering will produce better-quality flowers.
Mulching and fertilizing: Mulch your daylily beds with compost in spring. Avoid giving daylilies high nitrogen fertilizers as this promotes more foliage growth at the expense of flowers. Fertilizers with 5-10-15 and 6-12-12 are low in nitrogen and provide good ratios of phosphorous and potash.
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Building the basic nosegay

Here are three basic ways to start a nosegay:

1. Start with a flower head that is already shaped in the basic nosegay form, such ashydrangea or Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

2. Start with the type of flower you have the most of and form the blossoms into adome.

3. Start with one perfectly splendid flower, which you will keep at the apex of thedome while building the rest of the nosegay around it (as best you can).

Even before attempting any of these methods, because you are building this bouquetin your hand, you will want to have all of the stems—flowers, fillers, fruit, andfoliage—ready. The circle you make by touching thumb with forefinger is your imaginaryvase opening. As you build your nosegay, the stems will be below this circle andthe nosegay will rise above it. All the stems hanging below your thumb and forefingershould be clean—because any foliage left on the stems would be beneath the watersurface when the nosegay is placed in its vase.The nosegay is best built in one hand while being added to by the other. Whicheveris your less nimble or “off” hand becomes the “vase hand.” Its job is to createthe circle and hold the flowers, while your other hand adds elements. With one handholding your burgeoning bouquet, you should never stop in the middle of productionto do a task requiring both hands. Laying down a nosegay midway through is a bigrisk—you may not get the flowers back the way you had them. I always try to be sureeverything is in readiness, so that once I launch into making a nosegay, I can proceeduninterrupted to its completion.If you cook, think of this as making a stir-fry in a wok. There is a lot of cutting andchopping to do beforehand, and you do not put the heat on until all of the ingredientsare arranged around you. This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Onceyou start cooking, a stir-fry is prepared quickly. Nosegays are the same.The cooking analogy ends here. Although most floral instruction books speak ofrecipes for floral design, I take a more improvisational approach. You never knowexactly what your garden will present. If you go to gather flowers believing you musthave three of this and five of that, you may be disappointed. Instead, you may findit more helpful to think of color and/or shape elements rather than specific typesof flowers. For instance, rather than insisting on three stems of pink sweet william(Dianthus barbatus), you must be willing to assess your options in case you find onlyone of good quality. One pink rose, one sweet william, and one pink annual pincushionflower (Scabiosa atropurpurea) will give you three forms in pink, and perhaps amore interesting final result. Be open to making midharvest adjustments.No matter which of the three basic nosegay construction methods you chose, it allgoes together in roughly the same way:
first, big flowers
second, filler flowers and delicate, easily broken flowers
third, foliage collar

The nosegay

The nosegay (Okay, Class, got all of that puerile sniggering out of your system?) is anauthentically antique form of arrangement meant to deliver what it advertises: a littleposy of flowers as important for its scent as for its beauty. The name “nosegay”—since you were wondering—comes from pre-Victorian London, where magistrates,court officials, and other persons of wealth, both men and women, would fashionsomething pleasant-smelling to carry in the crowded streets in an era when personalhygiene resources were severely limited. Should a person with a particularly fetidaroma approach, the bearer could bring the nosegay to the nose and inhale, where itacted as a filter. The nosegay was worn from a loop on the belt or carried.In Victorian times, nosegays started to be made for transmitting the language oflove, although their use in this way in other cultures predates the Victorian age inEngland. Flowers were included not for their beauty or their fragrance, but for theirmeaning. The name “nosegay” changed to “tussie-mussie,” which better suited thedelicate sensibilities of the prim Victorians, who would have shied at having a bouquetnamed after a body part, even one as relatively tame as the nose.It has only been in more recent times that the nosegay, while still giving a nod tofragrance, has become simply a lovely gift.The nosegay is a stepping-stone to bigger and better bouquets. Generally, nosegayshave a round outline when viewed from above and are domed when seen in profile.We do not need to be slaves to this description; it is just the basic shape from which towork. Tendrils and fluff floating beyond these perimeters are certainly allowable.Once you know how to make a passable nosegay, you can expand it or pare it downto suit your needs. Whether you include elements of floral language should dependon knowing if the recipient will get the message.

Basic Bouquets

Keeping floral arrangements simple is the best way to build yourconfidence as you begin to design with your own cut flowers. The more mechanicsyou assemble into an arrangement (floral foam, chicken wire, floral tape and the like),the more you have to hide your tracks to make the complex construction appeareffortless and natural. Taking a simple composition of one or two types of flowerswith one or two types of foliage in your hand, tying it with jute twine, and selectingan appropriate vase will always result in an outcome with more charm than an overlyambitious and obvious fabrication. Flowers in containers should look magical, andthe hand of the designer should appear light and easy, if it appears at all.

Emotional effect and meaning

“Cute” has to have the courage of its convictions. Merely cute is never enough to bememorable, and may, in fact, be annoying. If your taste leans toward cute, then youmust pursue “cute as a button” and nothing less. The inherent lightheartedness of acute flower arrangement is just one example of the emotional effect you may want tocreate with your garden and the bouquets you generate from it. Others see cute ascloying—those folks are jaded and cynical, the real flower snobs. Serenity, romance,festivity, intrigue are all states of mind evoked with the simplest combinations of flowersand foliage, in the ground or in a vase.An emotional response to cuteness is just one of a legion of emotions we can evokewith flowers, in this case inspired by flowers that are little and lovable. The oppositeend of the spectrum would be the maiming of flowers to evoke anger and hatred. HereI am remembering the unfortunate 1980s fad of sending a newly divorced spouseor ex-companion flowerless thorny rose stems—or, in the same vein, roses that hadpurposefully been left out of water to become limp, well beyond the point of beingrevived, and sprayed black. If one were the recipient of such a bouquet, there wouldbe no mistaking the message.In the back of the book you will find a list of the meanings of flowers, handed downthrough the ages in folklore or created in more modern times by marketing experts.The latter have both concocted meanings for flowers that never had them beforeand changed the significance of flowers that have historically carried a negative message.An example of this is the yellow rose. Traditionally it symbolized jealousy; therecipient was engaging in behavior engendering envy and insecurity in the sender.Sometime in the 1920s we began reading in advertisements that yellow roses werethe symbol of friendship; the sender either wished to become friends with the recipientor to state plainly their relationship. Suddenly yellow roses enjoyed a boost inpopularity.Herbs and cottage garden flowers were sometimes given their meanings based onhow they grew and were used domestically. The “doctrine of signatures” suggestedthat plants that looked like a part of the body would help that part when prepared formedicinal use, and thus certain plants became associated with the heart or anotherorgan that might have been perceived to be the seat of certain emotions.Plants that spread rapidly from seed or were tough and enduring came to symbolizehuman personality attributes—or deficits, as the case may be—in the language offlowers. For instance, alliums, the ornamental and culinary onions, because of theirstrong odor and ability to withstand many types of garden conditions came to symbolizecourage. Common sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), by virtue of the fact thattheir blossoms follow the sun as it makes its high arc over the summer garden, cameto be associated with loyalty.Romantic meanings for flowers gained currency in a time when lovers were oftenthwarted and controlled by the prevailing moral standards. Except with family andin the company of servants (both being situations thought safe from impropriety),young men and women having any social standing were not left alone together. Therewere chaperones abounding, and they could only be circumvented by carefully composednosegays, each flower and leaf fraught with meaning, pressed into the hand ofthe beloved secretly in passing, or delivered through a trail of servants, relatives, andfriends. Flowers delivered proposals and broke off engagements with the precisionof a telephone call and were always beautiful even if the intended message was mostdecidedly not. Only in our modern times have innocently grown flowers been madehideous to unmistakably convey darker meanings.

Color makes emotion2

Creating bouquets with mixed colors, as long as the relative strength of hue isthe same, always strikes me as festive and stimulating. Others prefer monochromaticcombinations, where tones vary only slightly from flower to flower; the effect is morecalming and, some would say, elegant. Depending on the context of such an arrangement,I might also find it boring. Still others might want the simple contrast of justtwo opposing colors—yellow and blue, purple and orange—to set in motion a pleasingvibration that will be bright but will not clash.Here are some color terms that you might find useful to know and that will helpyou better communicate your preferences.

secondary colors: Secondary colors are those three colors created by blending thethree primary colors together: green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), andviolet (red + blue).

spectrum: The spectrum is the immutable order of light wavelengths producingvisible color as sunlight passes through the earth’s atmosphere (red to orange toyellow to green to blue to indigo to violet). It starts with infrared and ends withultraviolet.

tint: A tint is created when white is added to a fully saturated color (for instance, red+ white = pink).

tone: Tone is the measurement of brightness (lightness or darkness). Violet has adark tone, yellow has a light tone. White and black are tonal extremes.warm colors: Warm colors fall into the red-influenced half of the color wheel andinclude all tones of red, orange, yellow, gold, and the hot pinks.

wavelengths: Color is created by light from the sun traveling through our atmosphereat various speeds. The shorter (faster = shorter) the wavelength, thebrighter the color. Red is fast (has a short wavelength), blue is slow (has a longerwavelength).

white: White is the combination of all color wavelengths and so does not appear ina spectrum.

Color makes emotion1

Nowadays color is the carrier of emotion, not the specific type of flower. Red is vividlypassionate and conveys the strongest statement of love. We may think first of redroses, but any bouquet predominantly red can carry the message of intense feeling.Modern red roses may be stiff and are commonly presented in a formal way, but abouquet of fiery tulips says the same thing: “I adore you, and your beauty renders mespeechless. I can only tell you with flowers.”Yellow, while gaining momentum as the color of friendship and sociability, is stillburdened by visions of jealousy and lost love. In the nineteenth century, yellow wasthe color that expressed having “the blues.” Although we now associate yellow withwarmth and cheer, as well as intelligence and a lively mind, this ancient burden ofsadness has never fully been transferred to blue. After the reign of the sunflower as adecorating motif in the 1990s, there is no getting around it: in our current age yellowis primarily thought to be the color of sunlight, stimulating our eyes and lifting ourspirits.Having “the blues” is a relatively modern concept. Blue is also the color of healingand serenity. It is the family of hues least stimulating to the color sensors in our eyes,and we can look at shades of blue for a much longer period than mixed tints of redor yellow. It is the traditional color of forgiveness (spouses in the doghouse woulddo better to send ten blue iris than a dozen red roses, whose color further might stirthe ire of a wronged mate), and when the merest touch of red is added, blue becomesthe color of enchantment, purple. Blue must be pure to photograph well, and thehuman eye is easily fooled into seeing blue where it does not exist, as in the feathersof birds.Creating bouquets with mixed colors, as long as the relative strength of hue isthe same, always strikes me as festive and stimulating. Others prefer monochromaticcombinations, where tones vary only slightly from flower to flower; the effect is morecalming and, some would say, elegant. Depending on the context of such an arrangement,I might also find it boring. Still others might want the simple contrast of justtwo opposing colors—yellow and blue, purple and orange—to set in motion a pleasingvibration that will be bright but will not clash.Here are some color terms that you might find useful to know and that will helpyou better communicate your preferences.

black: Black is the absence of any color wavelength and does not appear in a spectrum.

color-sensitive cells: There are three types of color-sensitive cells in the humaneye, all known as cones, each responding to one of the three primary colors.Rods detect only differences in tones (amount of light as compared one color toanother).

color wheel: A color wheel is a circle of colors formed by taking a linear spectrumand connecting the ends. This wheel helps us visualize which colors are in whichprimary groups, what harmonizes and what contrasts.

contrasting colors: Contrasting colors are those colors that lie on opposite sides ofthe color wheel from each other (for example, orange and purple).

cool colors: Cool colors fall into the blue-influenced half of the color wheel andinclude all tones of blue, purple, violet, and green.

harmonious colors: Harmonious colors are those colors that are adjacent to eachother on the color wheel (for example, purple and blue).

hue: A hue is created when black is added to a fully saturated color (for instance,blue + black = navy blue). This term is often used interchangeably with shade.

pastel color: A pastel color is created when a saturated color is diluted by 50 percent(or more) white.

primary colors: The three primary colors—that is, those basic colors found in theirpure form in nature—are red, yellow, and blue. All other colors are combinations,tints, or hues of these three colors.

saturation: Saturation refers to the intensity of a color. The more pure a coloris, the greater its intensity or saturation. The level of saturation is changed in gardensby blending colors with lighter, darker, or variegated companions.

Summer’s flowers and fruit

When your own garden cannot produce enough flowers for a truly stupendous partywithout itself being too much diminished, how nice it is to turn to the farmers’ marketsfor an extra bunch of this or that, or to find a type of flower that is pleasantly earlyor late for its season, making an unexpected appearance. Thanks to farmers’ markets,beautiful arrangements are assured with flowers picked at the perfect time that havenot been stressed by being shipped great distances.Summer is when the annual plants step to the forefront of our gardens. Whetheryou grow them in rows in a cutting garden, sprinkled throughout perennial bordersto invigorate the summer doldrums, or in mixed containers as color spots on terracesand patios, many annuals yield excellent cut flowers. The stalwarts of the basicsummer planter—marigolds, petunias, lobelia, alyssum, coleus, creeping zinnias—allmake reasonably good cut flowers, although not phenomenally long lasting.In mid-to-late summer we start to see the beginning of the harvest from thoseplants that provide berries and fruit for cutting. This group includes the berried St.John’s worts, such as Hypericum ×inodorum ‘Elstead’, and the first clusters of grapeson Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’. Branches of apples or pears carrying immature fruit arewonderful in summer bouquets. Even the vegetable garden can be utilized, includingleaves of Swiss chard (excellent in water but not long lasting in foam) and the flowersand ripening pods of scarlet runner beans. The seedpods of the wild perennial sweetpea (Lathyrus latifolius) are in several ways more appealing to cut than the short-livedflowers—you keep this determined weed from spreading by seed, and the attractiveslender pods have a much longer vase life than the flowers do. I also suggest growingthe hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) both in the vegetable garden and as a decorativeelement in a mixed perennial border.The hyacinth bean is named for its large flowers, but these are rarely harvested touse fresh because the following bean pod, which is shiny and dark purple, is so veryshowy. When growing this plant from seed, be aware that not all of the plants will beequally decorative, due to natural genetic variation. The seedlings that will producethe most prolific purple pods will often show purple coloration on their stems andpurple veining on their leaves. These are the plants to keep. Thin out those youngplants that are all green, as their eventual pods will be dull in color (sometimes noteven purple at all). The cut pod stems will last more than two weeks in fresh water anddo not like cold storage. The pods develop at the height of summer’s sun and heat,and if held in a cooler will quickly mildew.Summer is the main wedding season, so it follows that it is also the season of anniversarycelebrations. Summer parties are often held outdoors either at homes or atcommercial spaces featuring well-tended gardens. Some think that special occasionsheld in gorgeous gardens do not need the further adornment of floral arrangements,but why should this be? Why not add to the opulence and festivity of an event byhaving floral bouquets at key locations—a nosegay in the powder room, a bombasticbouquet on a buffet table, a standing champagne cooler bursting with flowers markingthe entrance to a pathway, or a welcoming display on a guest book table.Not every garden has an adorable handcrafted chapel on the premises, but at KinzyFaire, the garden of Penny Vogel and Millie Kiggins, Millie has built a memorial chapelhonoring her grandparents, who were the original homesteaders of the propertyoutside of Estacada, Oregon. When the garden has guests the chapel doors are open,and the tiny church (seating fifty if all are good friends) houses the garden’s guestbook, which you are expected to sign if you want to be invited back. The Victoriantable is an ideal spot for a summer bouquet, arranged in colors that are enhanced bythe warm tones of the wooden walls. All of the flowers and foliage can come right infrom the surrounding garden (after proper conditioning, of course).

Roses for your garden

Having been fairly disrespectful of modern roses as garden plants thus far, I do embracetheir value as cut flowers. The Hybrid Tea roses we grow in our gardens tend to havebetter fragrance than their greenhouse counterparts and will occasionally producemore than one rose per stem, making them look more casual. Let me recommend afew English, Hybrid Tea, and Floribunda (cluster-flowered) roses for cutting:

‘Betty Prior’: (Floribunda) Single row of petals, bright pink.‘Chrysler Imperial’: (Hybrid Tea) Elegant big red flowers, handsome buds.
‘Double Delight’: (Hybrid Tea) Part of the delight in question is the fragrance.White flowers lightly or heavily tipped in red, red tints expanding as the floweropens.
‘Europeana’: (Floribunda) Neon red—screaming.
‘Fair Bianca’: (English) Fully double, fresh whipping cream color. Deep muskyfragrance.
‘Granada’: (Floribunda) The color of a tequila sunrise and full complex perfume.
‘New Dawn’: (Climber, Hybrid Tea) Silvered pink oval buds, produced in masses.
‘Prairie Moon’: (Hybrid Tea—Griffith Buck) Ultra winter hardy, fifty petals of buttercreamyellow.
‘Prospero’: (English) Fully double, dark purple flowers, strong fruity fragrance.Glory in a blossom.
‘Sheer Bliss’: (Hybrid Tea) Refined flower, cream touched by varying degrees ofpink, lovely fragrance. Exquisite buds.
‘Sunsprite’: (Floribunda) Ruffled, cheerful bright yellow flower, lemon notes in thescent.
‘The Pilgrim’: (English) Dense, fully double flower, strong but not strident yellow,good fragrance.

Ravishing roses

Whether you grow modern Hybrid Tea roses or old garden roses, you will want toget the best out of them when you harvest for the house, and in addition to all of theirfoibles as garden plants, roses have very specific needs when they become cut flowers.Rose addicts generally fall into two camps: those who love the barely opening budand those, like me, who swoon at the feet of a fully double, completely open blossom.Both styles have special requirements for their handling.The roses arriving from florists are generally greenhouse types that would notsurvive long in gardens colder than zones 8 to 9. Even in the balmier regions ofCalifornia these roses are grown under glass to completely control their environment—after all, this is a cash crop. It is hard for U.S. rose growers to compete withgrowers in South America. Roses love light, and at the right elevations at the equator,the flowers of a cultivar like the red rose ‘Forever Yours’ will have gigantic flowersatop stems like Louisville Sluggers. Aside from the politics and environmental considerationssurrounding imported flowers, one cannot deny the amazing size of Southand Central American roses.Here are a few of the greenhouse rose varieties I know to be remarkable:‘Black Baccara’: This is as close as the breeders have come yet to a naturally blackrose. The outer guard petals are deeply dark, but as the blossom unfurls, itreveals interior petals more burgundy red. I once did a stunning bridal bouquetfor a young woman in love with red, including open blossoms of ‘Black Baccara’,‘Charlotte’, and ‘Opium’ roses, and the blended shades of red were divine, as allhad the same dull sheen of old velvet.‘Blue Bird’: Rich lavender in color, this is a much improved version of good old‘Sterling Silver’, which, after all these years, is still grown by a few Californiagrowers. The lavender roses tend to have a fulfilling fragrance. Unfortunately, forgenerations lavender roses have been known to attract mildew diseases, both inthe greenhouse and the garden. More than fifty petals.‘Charlotte’: If you want a truly red rose, ‘Charlotte’ is hard to beat. Mild fragrance,but a satiny sheen to the opening interior surface of the petals loads these flowerswith drama. This is a rose blossom that does not get huge, which can be a goodthing. The bigger the bud, the higher the price.‘Cool Water’: Another improved lavender rose, this one has paler color than ‘BlueBird’, and very round buds. The color is highly affected by climate, and youwould not know that a stem of this cultivar grown in Oregon was the same as astem from Ecuador.‘Katrina’: If you like pink roses, this is one to special order. ‘Katrina’ has longelegant buds of creamy pink, with the color intensifying at the petal edges. Thisis a long blossom, and slow to open.‘Opium’: The shape of this rose is boxy rather than elongated, which is an indicatorboth that the open petals will be slightly ruffled at their edges and that there willbe many of them. ‘Opium’ is a rich dark shade of red, striking the middle groundbetween true red ‘Charlotte’ and dark ‘Black Baccara’.‘Sahara’: This rose is the color of sand, beige and cream and even slightly peachy,and exquisite. The flowers unfurl from the tips outward, revealing a stronglyspiraled center. The blossom opens fairly quickly but will hold itself at perfectmaturity for at least a week. Thick, old rose fragrance. If I were getting marriedagain tomorrow, this is the rose I would have, combined with ‘Queen of theNight’ tulips. Oh, yummy.‘Skyline’: This is my favorite yellow cut rose. The color is buttery and soft. ‘Skyline’has lots of petals and stays beautifully in the plump bud stage for several daysbefore opening. Light fragrance.

Selecting tulips for their vase life

Certain groups of tulips last longer than others. The Parrot and Viridiflora groups,which can take many days to develop their strongest colors, are especially long lasting,often exceeding ten days. Parrots are bizarre to some, with their scalloped andragged edges. No matter how vivid their color will become, they hang on to randomgreen patches for many days, hence their longevity. Viridiflora means green flower,and all of this group maintain a green stripe on the outside of each petal, helpingthem look showy and fresh.The Fringed group, named for the ¼-inch-long edging of fine fringe surroundingeach petal, also have a good vase life, with large blossoms on tall, slender stems.Some of my favorites that have been successful at the Clackamas Community Collegecutting garden plot are these:
‘Estella Rijnveld’: (Parrot) This flashy, fanciful flower is wildly serrated, and thecolor is red and white like peppermint candy.
‘Groenland’ (syn. ‘Greenland’): (Viridiflora) This is one of the original greenstripedtulips; in this case, bright spring green divides the rose-pink petals.
‘Maja’: (Fringed) The soft yellow color of this thickly fringed tulip is creamy andrefined. The flowers are large.
‘Queen of the Night’: (Single Late) Mentioned earlier, these flowers are amazinglydark, making a perfect small cup. They are among the latest tulips to bloom.
‘Shirley’: (Triumph) The white flowers of ‘Shirley” are indeed a triumph of subtlety.They appear creamy white to start with, edged on each petal by the thinnestpossible line of purple. As the flower ages, this widens and bleeds into the whitebackground, giving the mature flowers a flamed-in-purple look.
‘Union Jack’: (Single Late) This tulip is what ‘Estella Rijnveld’ would look like ifshe were not a Parrot type. The flower is a large chalice of pure white randomlyflamed with true red.

Classifications of Tulipa hybrids

For the most part, we Americans have not the vaguest idea how to help tulips givetheir best. First, let us consider their many types. In 1996, the Royal General BulbGrowers Association of the Netherlands adopted a classification system for the differentspecies and cultivars of tulips. These are the most significant divisions when itcomes to tulips’ use as cut flowers:Single Early: Single-flowered cultivars, limited color range, short-stemmed, easilyforced, early flowering.Double Early: Double-flowered cultivars, short-stemmed, limited colors, easilyforced.Triumph: Single-flowered, stems of medium length, flower in midseason. Thesecultivars were originally created by crossing the Single Earlys with the SingleLates and therefore have a wider range of color than the Single Earlys.Single Late: One flower per stem, long-stemmed, late flowering. This group nowincludes those tulips in the superseded Darwin and Cottage groups. Wide rangeof colors.Darwin Hybrid: Single-flowered, long-stemmed, flower in midseason. Result ofcrosses of the old Darwin group and Tulipa fosteriana.Lily-flowered: Single flowers, one per stem, flowering in mid-to-late season, flowershave pointed, recurved petals. Stem length varies.Parrot: Single flowers with fringed, curled, and twisted petals. Mainly late flowering,with stems of variable length. Longest lasting of the cut tulips.Double Late: Also known as peony-flowered. Much more double than the DoubleEarlys and available in a wider range of colors. Late flowering and long-stemmed.Rembrandt: Cultivars with “broken” flower colors, striped or marked with brown,bronze, black, red, pink, or purple on a red, white, or yellow background.Breaking from a solid color is caused by a virus spread by aphids. Usually longstemmed.The broken color becomes genetically stable when the broken tulip isused in hybridization. Once a tulip bulb becomes infected, it will always producebroken flowers. In Holland, it is against the law for broken tulips to be sold.Outlaws, how sexy!Fringed: Single-flowered cultivars, petals finely fringed at the edges, late flowering,variable stem length, range of colors widening. In the best cultivars, the fringe isa different or lighter color than the body of the petal.Viridiflora: Single-flowered cultivars colored with some green on their petals evenwhen fully mature. Late flowering; stem length varies.Other species: This class consists of all other species and their cultivars. Theseare often cultivated in small quantities but deserve special attention due to theirunique characteristics. Many are excellent rock garden plants.

Selecting and growing narcissus

In climates of zone 9 or lower, where the ground stays cold throughout the shortwinter days, narcissus bulbs should be planted in the autumn. Their roots will growin most soils—they are quite adaptable in this regard—and the top growth will wantfull sun when it emerges in early spring. The very earliest to bloom, such as ‘Têteà-tête’ and ‘February Silver’ are tolerant of deciduous shade situations, where thesun reaches the ground in the winter and spring while they flower, before tree leavesblock the sun. The large standard daffodils will also naturalize in this respect, but Ifind these flower better (bigger blooms) in a low-water, full-sun situation.Narcissus bulbs have a dark brown papery covering and are fairly large, often havingmore than one “nose” or growing point. Each nose will produce at least oneleafless flowering stem, which will emerge from the bulb at the same time the foliageis developing.As with lilies, we need to remember that the generation of next year’s flower isdependent on the maturation of this year’s foliage, so do not harm the foliage as youare harvesting the flowers. If you want a few of the straplike leaves to enhance the cutflowers, just be sure to never take more than half of the foliage emerging from onebulb. If you leave a few flowers in your daffodil patch, deadhead the spent flowers butleave their stems—this too will produce carbohydrate for the bulb. Allow the flowerstems and foliage to die back at their own pace. This phase of a daffodil’s life cycle canlook unsightly and is the reason daffodils are often grown in their own garden areaor interplanted with other perennials that will hide old foliage with their new leaves.Twisting the declining foliage into a knot interrupts the flow of nutrients to the bulb,and we must overcome our urge to tidy the leaves in this way.A close perusal of the classification system given earlier reveals a wealth of variationin bloom time, stem height, and flower shape. Here are a few of the narcissusI know to be either reliable, long lasting, pleasantly fragrant, or pretty, if not all ofthose things. Please refer to the system of classification to decipher the letters inparentheses.‘Actea’: (Y-YYR) This is the earliest of the “pheasant’s-eye” type to bloom, andalthough listed as a mid-to-late-season bloomer, it consistently blooms in mygarden in early-to-mid season instead. Has a round profile and is quite showy.Poeticus division.‘Ambergate’: (O-O) The orange-on-orange daffodils are still rather rare, and thislong-cupped beauty plays to the back of the house (as the theater people say).Blooms late.‘Clare’: (Y-Y) I bonded with this little bulb the first time I saw it in daffodil judgeJean E. Driver’s garden. It is a jonquil type with wonderful poise. Even thoughit is only an inch wide, it has great presence—looks a person right in the face.Fragrant, too. Mid-to-late-season bloom.‘Eastertide’: (Y-Y) A handsome, sturdy double flower, with the fractured yellowtrumpet evenly infiltrated by equally bright petals. This is a large flower on astrong stem. Blooms in midseason; Double division.‘Fragrant Rose’: (W-GPP) In addition to being delightfully perfumed—as the namesuggests—this is also, to my eye, the narcissus closest to truly being pink—also asthe name suggests. Blooms mid-to-late season. Long Cup division.‘Geranium’: (W-O) Carries multiple flowers on each stem, making fragrant clustersof orange and white. Excellent in the ground or in containers for a grand springshow. Tazetta division; blooms midseason.‘Mary Copeland’: (W-O) Double daffodils can look sloppy and just plain odd, butthis tidy example from 1913 is a symmetrical burst of white petals interspersedwith fractured remnants of its orange trumpet (can have flashes of gold). Thewhole is swathed in a cloud of lovely perfume. Blooms in midseason, from theDouble division.‘Minnow’: (W-Y) Although this is in the Tazetta division with some of the tendernarcissus, ‘Minnow’ is tough, flowering at less than ten inches tall and thus perfectfor nosegays. Blooms midseason.‘Misty Glen’: (W-GWW) This pristine flower is in the Long Cup division. What ismost impressive is how long each flower lasts, both cut and if left standing in thegarden. Blooms mid-to-late season.‘Mrs. R. O. Backhouse’: (W-P) This is the eldest (1921) of the allegedly pinktrumpeteddaffodils, still widely grown because it is reliably long-lived with a fineflower. Blooms mid-to-late season; Long Cup division.N. jonquilla ‘Simplex’: (Y-Y) This is a selection of Narcissus jonquilla with many ofthe fine characteristics of the best jonquils: it has a fruity fragrance, rushlike foliage,round flower stems (rather than oval with a raised ridge down each side), andthe ability to flower well in warm-winter areas. Early-to-mid-season flowering, inthe Jonquilla division, of course.N. poeticus var. recurvus: (W-YRR) This is the latest-blooming daffodil of them all,capable of flowering to the end of May. If I could have only one narcissus, thiswould be it. This is the true “pheasant’s eye.” Lovely naturalized in meadows.N. tazzetta var. orientalis: (Y-Y) Also known as the Chinese sacred lily, this tendernarcissus is easily forced for bloom at the Chinese New Year. Prettier fragrancethan others of the Paperwhite strain of the Tazetta division. Multiple flowers perstem.‘Professor Einstein’: (W-R) Although this long-lived bulb is said to have a red cup,I find it to be more orange than red. It blooms in midseason, and the trumpet issomewhat flattened, giving this daffodil a distinctive appearance. Oddly, it is inthe Long Cup division.‘Proxy’: (W-YRR) Similar to N. poeticus var. recurvus, but with larger flowers.Blooms very late, in the Poeticus division.‘Thalia’: (W-W) Some find the scent of this clean white flower (usually with at leasttwo blossoms per stem) to be the best of the genus. It is too intense for me. Thefascination of this exquisite flower, however, is not in dispute. Triandrus division;blooms mid-to-late season.‘Waterperry’: (W-YPP) This jonquil-type flower (with multiple flowers per stem)has the charming habit of changing its trumpet color as it matures, so a wholerow of ‘Waterperry’ is visually active. Named for the Waterperry School ofGardening in Oxfordshire. Blooms midseason.

The narcissus

It fills me with a sense of wonder to think a flower so entrenched in our collectivepsyche could be available to us in such a wild abundance of variations, and from afairly limited gene pool of just fifty species. Of course the color palette is limited:white, cream, all shades of yellow, orange, peach toward—but not quite at—true pink,with the occasional green or red eye. (My comment about peach and pink will ignitea blaze of protest from the daffodil cognoscenti. I am ready for it. Being a clematiscollector myself, I know what misstating and misunderstanding colors is all about,blue in clematis being a relative thing.)Let us be clear: all daffodils and all jonquils are in the genus Narcissus.

A hydrangea renaissance

When your cutting garden is becoming too shady for roses, you can replace them withhydrangeas and be just as happy. A partial-shade cutting garden can be built aroundthis versatile plant.Generally speaking, there are two types of hydrangeas mainly used for cutting:the mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla [Hortensia Group]) and the peegee hydrangeas(H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ and near relations), although other kinds are sometimesseen, and many more are sure to follow as Japanese forms of Hydrangea serrata provetheir worth in the trade. The lacecaps (Hydrangea macrophylla var. normalis [LacecapGroup]) are widely grown in gardens but do not have the vase life or impact inarrangements that the mopheads do, and they dry poorly. The conversation herewill confine itself to using the mopheads and peegees as fresh cut flowers and dryingthem, as there seems to be an infinite market for them, and the mophead group comesin the widest array of colors.I spoke of tulips as being unruly, and so are hydrangeas, but for different reasons.Although the peegees are fairly stable as to their color—opening cream and fadingto pink—the mopheads are anything but. The soil pH tells them what color to be,even if they are genetically predisposed to be pink or blue. Acidic soil—called soursoil—with a pH less than 7 (which is neutral) will give you hydrangea heads shadingtoward blue, and pink hydrangeas will shift to lavender. Alkaline soil—known assweet soil—with a pH higher than 7 (the pH scale ranges from 1 through 14), makesblue hydrangeas lean toward pink, equaling more lavender shades. It is possible tohave both pink and blue on one plant, depending on where the roots wander andwhich fertilizers have been used in the garden.This makes hydrangeas a challenge to grow, as it takes several years for the plantsto settle into your soil and show you what their true color will be in it. Again, enjoythe ride, as the plants may produce some gorgeous transitional colors, never to berepeated. Once a plant is well established, you can easily—but not quickly—modifythe color. If you want a pink hydrangea to be pinker, give it calcium carbonate, orgardener’s lime, to further sweeten the soil. For bluer blues, use aluminum sulfate.Overall, mophead hydrangea colors (and this goes for lacecaps, too) range frompurple through any shade of blue; lavender, which tends to be a transitional color;dark to bright pink and cream with a pink outline; reddish—I say it this way becausesometimes a hydrangea beginning its season some other color ages to red; and white,the white being more stable, although as the blooms age the white becomes green orpink, depending on the sun exposure.

Lilies as cut flowers

When harvesting lilies, a gardener needs to decide whether the plant will be treatedas an annual, in which case the whole length of the stem can be cut to the ground, oras an herbaceous perennial, when only half of the stem length should be taken. Liliesyou expect to return to the garden year after year need the leaves on the stem tocontinue creating food for the bulb even after the flowers have been removed. If youdo not care if the plant reblooms next year, you can be more savage.Once the stem has been cut, only the leaves that would be underwater should beremoved. The upper leaves remaining on the stem will provide nutrients for theunopened flower buds and will help them mature normally as the cut stem ages.In many flower shops you will see all of the leaves below the terminal flower budsremoved, but this is a misguided practice. The remaining buds will not developproper color; if they do open the flower will not approach the typical size; most likelythe buds will drop.Lilies, especially the Asiatic and Oriental hybrids, are quite long lasting; each openblossom should last at least four to five days, and new buds will be opening as theolder flowers fade. The entire stem can last for more than two weeks, as long as thewater is kept fresh. Removing the anthers increases longevity and prevents the pollenfrom staining the flowers or anything else.Last, lily stems can be cut anytime after the lowest bud, which will be the firstto open, is showing its true color. It is better to wait until this first bud is cracking,meaning the tepals are separating along their seams and tips. You can easily tear thetepals if you try to separate the seams by hand. If you need to force lilies open for aspecial event (white lilies of any type are notoriously slow to mature), place the stemsin a solution containing two tablespoons of regular granulated table sugar (sucrose)per quart of warm water. Place the vase or bucket of lilies in a plastic bag so the liliesare completely covered and cinch with a twist-tie to create a warm humidity cloudaround the stubborn lilies. Lilies can be kept in this sweetened solution overnightif necessary, but do not leave them in sugar water for more than twenty-four hours.If the buds are still not open, replace the sweetened water with plain warm water,changing it every few hours until the lilies finally open.

True lilies: It’s all in their bulbs

True lilies are distinct plants with characteristics demonstrably different from other flowers grown from bulbs, such as tulips, narcissus (daffodils and jonquils), and the ornamental onions (Allium). Lilies do not have a protective papery sheath holding and protecting the interior layers (in tulips this is called the tunic). Lily bulbs have overlapping scales exposed to invasion by fine clay particles in unamended soil, particles that can hold water, rotting the bulb. This explains why true lilies love quickdraining sandy loam. They should be planted in beds where gardeners will not tread over them while they are dormant, which would work heavy clay down into the deep soil layer where the bulbs are. True lilies form roots along the buried section of stem that emerges from the bulb and grows up through the soil with the flower buds atop—known as stem roots. There are also roots at the base of the bulb, gleaning water from the earth, and these
lowest roots also adjust the depth of the bulb by contracting to pull the bulb lower if the clumsy gardener has not placed the bulb to its liking. (Don’t you wish all plants were self-correcting?) The stem roots, growing between the bulb and the soil surface, absorb nutrients and brace the heavy flower stem. Thus most lilies have two sets of roots that perform separate functions, with the deepest roots providing water from down where moisture levels are relatively consistent, and the upper stem roots spreading laterally to provide stability. Pretty smart. But the real brains of the operation is the bulb’s basal plate. This is the woody disk at the base of a dormant bulb that generates the contractile roots and holds all of the scales in their upright, overlapping configuration, like an artichoke’s leaves. The flower stem pushes its way up through the scales directly from the basal plate. Also, the basal plate houses the plant’s unique DNA. Whether the lily you grow is a species or a hybrid, the basal plate contains the bulb’s identity, passing it along to the scales, to the baby bulbs (bulblets) that form from the plate, to bulblets that form at the junction of the stem roots and the flower stem, and to the tiny bulbs (called bulbils) that
form above ground at the leaf axils in some species. The basal plate also provides the genetic information in the pollen on the anthers and the eggs (ovules) in the ovary. In short, the basal plate tells every part of the lily how to look and what to do. Thus, when buying lilies, you should know that getting big bulbs is only part of the successful equation. Always examine the basal plate of the bulb you are selecting. In dormant bulbs it should be dry and woody. If it is spongy or has brown pithy areas, it is afflicted by basal rot (usually a botrytis fungus), and the whole bulb should be discarded. The contractile roots that may have been left on the bulb should also be firm and dry. Darkened wet roots on newly purchased bulbs should be pulled off; they are starting to decay and that decay can spread.

The Meanings of Flowers-2

Throughout the ages, emotions and personified characteristics have been attributed
to flowers, and these have endured to modern times. The language of flowers, reaching
its height during the Victorian era, is simple yet magically articulate. Flowers
keep secrets, and they don’t lie, but in a few cases, as in the case of yellow roses,
twentieth-century marketing has stepped in to make a flower more politically correct
and therefore more salable.
Galax urceolata: encouragement
Gladiolus: love at first sight
Grasses (ornamental): submission
Gypsophila paniculata: everlasting love
Hamamelis ×intermedia: reconciliation
Helenium: tears
Helianthus annuus: loyalty
Helleborus ×hybridus: tranquillity
Heuchera: challenge
Hyacinthus: rashness, sport
blue: asking forgiveness
red: playfulness
white: loveliness
yellow: jealousy
Hydrangea macrophylla: thanks for understanding
Iris: wisdom, valor
Ixia: happiness
Jasminum sambac: amiability
Lathyrus odoratus: good-bye, departure
Lavandula: devotion
orange: hatred
white: virginity
yellow: gaiety
Limonium sinuatum: remembrance
Lonicera: generosity and devotion
Magnolia denutata: sweetness and beauty
Molucella laevis: good luck
Myosotis sylvatica: true love, memories

The Meanings of Flowers-1

Throughout the ages,emotions and personified characteristics have been attributed
to flowers, and these have endured to modern times. The language of flowers, reaching
its height during the Victorian era, is simple yet magically articulate. Flowers
keep secrets,and they don’t lie, but in a few cases,as in the case of yellow roses,
twentieth-century marketing has stepped in to make a flower more politically correct
and therefore more salable.Yellow roses were traditionally the symbol of jealousy,but sometime in the 1920s they became associated with friendship instead.
Acanthus mollis: artistry,having artistic talent
Achillea millefolium: healing
Aconitum napellus: need to beware
Adiantum formosanum: sincerity, secret love
Agapanthus campanulatus: secret love
Alcea rugosa: ambition
Allium: courage and faith, patience
Alstroemeria: wealth and prosperity
Amaranthus caudatus: hopelessness
Anemone coronaria: unfading love
Angelica gigas: inspiration
Antirrhinum: deception
Aquilegia: folly
Arbutus unedo: only love
Armeria maritima: sympathy
Artemesia ludoviciana: dignity
Aster novi-belgii: daintiness
Astilbe: I’ll be waiting for you
Calendula officinalis: joy
Camellia japonica: admiration
Centaurea cyanus: celibacy
Chaenomeles: temptation
Clematis: cleverness and intellect
Cleome hassleriana: desire to elope with me
Consolida ambigua: fickleness, haughtiness
Convallaria majalis: sweetness
Cosmos bipinnatus: modesty
Cyclamen persica: resignation and good-bye
Cytisis: humility
Dahlia: instability
Delphinium elatum: well-being
Dianthus barbatus: gallantry
Dicentra spectabile: elegance
Digitalis purpurea: youth
Eremerus stenophyllus: endurance
Eucalyptus: respect
Euphorbia marginata: persistence
Eustoma: calm
Filipendula rubra: uselessness
Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’: worthyof praise
Forsythia .intermedia: anticipation
Freesia: trust
Galanthus nivalis: hope

A philosophy of gardening

Both garden design and floral design are about creating a dramatic big picture while simultaneously focusing on the intricate details. Just as we feel our senses to be alive in a garden, we often enter floral shops with our eyes, noses, and fingers aquiver with the possibilities therein. Alas, in the floral shop the objects of our attention may be shut away in coolers, prolonging their life but removing us from their beauty and perhaps even deceiving us about the freshness of what we want to buy. In your own cutting garden, you can create—or improve upon—floral and foliage combinations that have intrigued you in others’ gardens or vases. The garden and the vase walk hand in hand. As I add plants and various inanimate objects of admittedly dubious artistic value to my own garden, and as I amend and evolve my overall design, I keep four criteria in mind:

1. The new plant must be something I either collect or can use for cutting. (These two clauses used to be reversed in preference, but somewhere along the line I became a plant nerd.)

2. The plant or garden art in question should express a sentiment reflecting my personality, personal history, or a sympathetic creative impulse.

3. If the plant can benefit the birds I encourage to assist me in organic gardening, so much the better.

4. The plant in question should not be too vigorous or invasive even with consistent harvesting for floral design purposes. If I had a larger garden, there are plants I would grow that are too rambunctious for a small city garden. But if you truly love a plant that gets big or spreads, grow it and be happy.

Try writing

a priorities list like this one for yourself. Think about how you want your garden to function, which seasons you will be most active in it, who else besides yourself will want to use it, and how it will be used. Do you want to cut flowers from your garden for your house, and how often?

Roses as ornamental woody shrubs

There are hundreds of books about growing unblemished Hybrid Tea rose blossoms,and the many stupifyingly boring tasks that must be repeated over and over, each

month of each year (or so it seems), to reach and maintain a level of perfection. These plants are sometimes not winter-hardy, so extra research is necessary to find those that

are. Modern roses are heavy feeders, and will need, at the very least, a heavy mulch of well-rotted manure twice a year. Hybrid Tea roses are susceptible to fungal diseases,the big three in North America being black spot, powdery mildew, and rust disease.There is mounting anecdotal evidence that spraying with manure teas and other types of organic concoctions to change the pH of the leaf surface will act as a preventative for such ills, but any of the common recipes must be applied regularly (every ten tofourteen days during the growing season), and these are not curative potions.Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses must be pruned at least twice annually, with a third to a half of the plant cut back in the autumn so that winter winds do not rock the plant and thus allow cold air to get at exposed roots and freeze the graft union.The second prescribed pruning is much “harder,” meaning that only canes twelve inches in height will remain. This hard pruning is usually done in the City of Roses,Portland, Oregon, between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, when the stem buds have started to swell and you can cut precisely. What a bother. If there is more cold weather after the false spring that lured you out to prune your roses in the first place,you can bet on tip dieback on the newly bestumped roses, making them even more diminished and weakened.Although they come in a truly vast array of colors, many of the modern roses no longer carry the divine scent associated with them. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy about the latest Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses; whether they were meant to be broodmares in an Ecuadorian greenhouse or for fussy gardeners who want just the right color, roses are expected to be flower-making machines. Their plant does not have to look good, and now the roses themselves no longer have to smell good.Which brings me back to the fact that rosebushes are woody shrubs. We should expect more than a time-consuming spoiled brat of a plant. Most other flowering woody shrubs have multiple seasons of interest, are hale and hardy, and grow best in association with other plants. All roses used to be like that, and without too much looking we can still find the crиme de la crиme of old garden roses, some of which make very fine cut flowers and certainly equal any modern rose in beauty.