Friday, February 27, 2009

Prune Roses for a Great Summer Show


Nichole asked last week about how much to prune roses. There are lots of thoughts about this, but it's hard to kill a rose bush with pruning, so don't be afraid to jump right in.

There are several reasons to prune roses. First, it is important to cut out all the dead wood. Pruning makes it easier for the plant to put out new, young stems for healthier flowers and branches. Shaping your plant can prevent problems from branches rubbing against each other, and it gives the bush a more appealing appearance. Good air circulation around the branches can stem off problems like powdery mildew as well, which can be a big problem, especially in areas that receive a lot of rain or regular irrigation on the foliage. Just as a side note, if you water your roses with a sprinkler, make sure to do so in the morning so the sun will be able to dry off the leaves quickly. If you have a choice, drip systems are better for roses.

It's important to start out with pruners or loppers that are nice and sharp. You don't want to leave a ragged edge behind as that is an invitation for diseases. Also, you'll probably want to consider a pair of thick gardening gloves. I have a pair of thin leather ones I use for tasks like this to protect myself against thorns.

Start trimming at the bottom of the plant, taking out dead growth, spindly branches (less than a pencil width), and branches that go toward the center of the plant. Make all of your cuts at a 45 degree angle a quarter inch or so about a bud that faces outward to encourage growth away from the center. Also, don't forget any branches that might be coming from below the graft.

Another note, if you have cane borers in your area, use a drop of white school glue on the cut points to seal the cuts.

Now, there are a several different types of roses. Some bloom on new growth, while others bloom on last year's wood. This means once those canes have been bloomed on, they won't produce blooms again the next year.

There are also bushes that bloom repeatedly on the same wood for several years. These still need to be pruned for shape and to remove any dead wood. Some like Bourbons and Portlands should be pruned this way before growth appears, then pruned harder after the first flowering of the season when you see where the blooms are appearing. Miniature roses should only be pruned for shape and health too, since they rebloom on older wood.

As for how much to cut them back, that depends on the type of roses you have and what you want them to look like. Some people prune dramatically every spring because they like the formal tight appearance. I prefer a more flowing look in my cottage garden, so I didn't trim at all the first year except to cut dead wood. This year I need to trim them back more as some of the canes are stretching over five foot. A good rule is the rule of thirds. Trim back a third of the growth to encourage new growth without stressing out the plant or sacrificing summer blooms.

If you aren't sure what kind of roses you have, it is a good idea to watch your plant this year to see what they are doing.



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Friday, February 20, 2009

Flowers to Add Fall Color

Last time I discussed bulbs that bloom is late summer as opposed to the usual spring bloomers. A couple of readers wanted to know when to plant their summer and fall bloomers, and the answer is: it depends. Bulbs or corms for plants that are cold hardy can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. This includes lilies, summer-blooming daffodils, gladiola, allium and the like. More tender bulbs need to be held back a bit before you plant them. Examples include dahlias, caladiums and calla lilies. These can go into the ground a month or so before the last freeze is expected, since they usually take several weeks to develop the root systems and push up above the soil line. Keep an eye out though for late freezes and make sure they get some kind of protection from frost if they pop up before summer has come to stay.

True fall bloomers are often only available in mail order and will arrive in summer. The beauty of this is that they bloom in a matter of weeks, so the gratification comes along soon.

Now, for bulbs, tubers, and corms that bloom even later than those mentioned last week.

Colchicums are commonly referred to as autumn crocuses. This plant pushes up leaves in the early spring that die back in early summer. In the fall they produce white, pink or purple crocus-like blooms. These corms should be planted as soon as you get them as they may begin to grow before reaching the soil otherwise. They prefer full sun to part shade. They are a good choice to plant with vinca, and should be planted in clumps 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface.

Another choice is a corm called Showy Crocus. This plant produces white or blue blooms in September or October. They prefer well draining soil and do well in full to partial shade. Show Crocuses are best massed in a perrenial bed in a grouping of 25 or more.

Another great plant is magic lily, which I wrote about last summer.

Cyclamen is another option. you've probably seen it in the grocery store floral department around Christmas time. In warmer climates it booms during the winter. In Utah it is a late-fall bloomer. Some cyclamen are spring blooming, while other varieties are fall blooming, and both go dormant in the summer, so early planting is a good idea.

Also a great option for warmer climates is amaryllis--typically associated with Christmas. Mine will only bloom in a pot inside, but if you live in the South, you may find this a terrific addition to you fall garden.

On an unrelated note: If you are experiencing a nice break from winter weather, now is the perfect time to prune rose bushes and other woody plants that need a hard pruning. Doing this before the spring leaves come on will prevent the bush from putting valuable strength into producing leaves on a branch you will later remove. I need to tackle not only my roses, but my Russian sage and butterfly bushes this weekend.



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Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Time to Consider Summer-Blooming Bulbs

A few weeks ago fellow yourLDSneighborhood blogger Danyelle mentioned she had great spring color between her crocus, daffodil, and tulips, but wanted to know more about flowers that would come back year after year later in the season. Since she's a zone six like me, I started doing some research, since I'm all about perennials. These summer show stoppers can be found as bulbs, corms, ryzomes, tubers, or roots.

Summer flowers can include gladiolas--granted, actually marked as zone eight and above, but I'm willing to risk losing some each summer for their mid-summer show.

Summer blooming daffodils are also available out there. Mine were planted late in the season, so I'm hoping for a nice show this summer. Planting and growing conditions are similar to spring-blooming daffodils.

Lilies grow from three to six feet tall, bloom mid-summer, and are hardy from zones 4 to 9. They come in a variety of colors and put on a great show.

Daylilies like Stella de Oro--a yellow blooming variety that is one of the most common types, grow six to twelve inches tall and have a spreading habit. They like sun to part shade and grow in zones 3 through 9. they come in all kinds of colors and get their name because the flowers are only in bloom for one day, but the plant rebloom and often has multiple blooms on it at once. Another advantage is that this is a great low-water plant for areas that are missed sometimes, though you don't want to put off watering for too long.

Dahlias don't handle frost or freezing well, so they either need to be purchased and planted again every spring in zones 7 or colder, or they need to be dug up in the fall and stored and again, replanted in the spring. There are litterally dozens, if not hundreds of varieties available from ones that grow only six to twelve inches tall, to small tree varieties. They come in single blooms or double, in bloom sizes from three inches to dinner-plate sized. Almost any color imaginable can be obtained, and they don't return true from seed, but are tubers or rhyzomes that create offsets for propagation.

Begonias are also a great choice in warmer climes. They grow from twelve to eighteen inches tall and can be purchased in many colors. They can be started from woody cuttings or propagated from seed. These grow as perrennials in zones 8 to 11 and will bloom repeatedly through the growing season as soon as danger of frost is past. They can also be purchased nearly anywhere that sells bedding plants in the spring if you live in cooler areas.

Caladiums have heart-shaped leaves and bloom in a variety of colors. They generally grow to two feet tall, and can be started indoors up to eight weeks before the growing season begins (yes, that means soon!). These tubers should be planted an inch deep in loose soil and prefer partial shade, and protected from strong winds.

And don't forget alliums, which you can learn more about here.

Fall choices are also available, but I'll discuss those next week.



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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Call for Stories

My friend Danyelle Ferguson and I are collaborating on a book currently titled, Missing: One Lost Sheep. I'm currently searching for stories of ways people helped you or people you know while they served missions, or how you or people you know helped support missionaries. These MUST be true stories and can take many forms.

For future chapters, we'll be looking for experiences you might have had with family, friends, neighbors--almost anyone else you might come in contact with. Please send any stories to me at Heather at HeatherJustesen dot com.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Who is the Gunny Sack Man?


Ever tried to convince your kids they needed to clean their rooms or something awful would happen? I've heard of everything from taking the offending toys and/or clothes and holding them for ransom (tried it myself--it didn't work very well) to tossing the clothes onto the drive way so the kids would have to pick them up on their way in from the bus after school. I'm not sure that one worked for the frustrated mother, either.

Well, in Holly Remkes' tale of The Gunny Sack Man, we learn about two little girls who are always making messes. When their mother gets totally frustrated about their inability to keep their room clean for five minutes, she tells them about a man who comes to kids houses to check and see if their rooms are clean. If it's a mess, he'll sneak in while they're gone and eat all of the toys and clothes on the floor. If their room is clean, he'll leave them each a treat or other present under their pillows.

When asked about her first book, Holly states her mother told her the story of The Gunny Sack Man when she was a little girl, and she has used it with her own children, finding it a great way to motivate them to take care of their own messes. The rhyming text perks the ear and cute storyline are bound to interest all of your little ones to take care of their things in record time.

You can learn more about the book and the author, or order a copy of your own at Holly's Web site. The Gunny Sack Man is a 64 page, full color picture book. ISBN #978-0-9776332-9-6, it was published by Read It Again Publishing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Enter for a Chance to Win an Uplifting CD


Anne Bradshaw is hosting a contest featuring musician Sara Lyn Baril. The prize is a copy of her debut CD of sacred music - Thy Healing Hands—Songs of Comfort and Peace, produced by Greg Hansen and distributed by Sounds of Zion.

Pop over to Anne's blog to learn how to qualify for this great music!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Boston Ferns Need a Little Extra Care


Boston ferns are one of the older house plants around and have been popular since Victorian times. This relative of the sword fern, which grows naturally in Florida, add lush charm and beauty the the house unlike any other plant. There are several sizes available from "Dallas" which is a msall spreading variety perfect for a dish garden, to "Bostoniensis," which is a large variety with long, elegantly curving fronds. The first ferns to be propagated in the United States were grown in Florida.

Often used as patio plants, these beauties love humid, sunny spaces, but don't tolerate frost at all, so much be brought inside when it starts to cool off in the fall. Because these plants don't always do well inside where the humidity and light are less, they often begin shedding fronds, leaving piles under the pot. Because of this, many people don't try to buy them a second time. I know I killed one early in my marriage because when I placed it in the humid bathroom, it didn't get enough light. With regular watering and proper care, however, these plants will thrive inside.

As I stated, Boston ferns love lots of light. They should be placed near a window, preferably east or west facing. daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees, and nighttime temperatures of 55 to 65 degrees are optimal. Remember also that higher in the room the temperatures are warmer, so you might want to test the temperature if you hang the plant from the ceiling. Otherwise a plant stand or table might be best.

Humidity is the other key to having your fern thrive. Most homes don't have anywhere near enough humidity, especially during the winter when the heater is running, so it's necessary to add extra humidity. Misting the plant at least daily can make a difference, but when the droplets of water dry, the humidity is gone. Another option is to place the pot in a large saucer filled with gravel and then filled with water. This provides humidity directly around the plant. Another option is to buy a humidifier for the room where the plant stays. For them to do well, the humidity around the plant needs to be at least 40 percent, but 50 percent is optimal. There are other benefits around the house to having a higher humidity, so using the humidifier can provide countless benefits.

Growth of new fronds slows to a halt in the winter, and the plant should be watered often enough that it just begins to dry slightly between waterings. When new growth begins to show in the spring, the soil should be kept moist, but not soggy, and you should fertilize bi-weekly through spring, summer and fall and monthly in the winter. Adding some dissolved epsom salts to the water is said to be beneficial as well. It is suggested that you shy away from chlorinated water, and use distilled instead, as chlorine can be harmful to the plants. Also, they do best with 12 to 16 hours of sunlight each day, so if you have access to a grow light, it wouldn't hurt to give the plants a little boost each evening during winter months.

It is not necessary to repot your Boston fern usually unless you are trying to make the plant grow larger or plan to split the root ball. Remember, the plant will grow to fill the pot, so pick the size you eventually want the plant to be. There are two ways to split the root ball. The first is to use your fingers to separate the mass, the second is to use a sharp knife to cut the root ball in half. The knife is usually less stressfull for the plant, so use this method if you can. Expect some die off of leaves after splitting the plant, as it is going to be somewhat stressed. go ahead and cut off any dead or dying fronds.



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Monday, February 2, 2009

BIAM challenge results

Well, Tristi's challenge is over and the results are in: my word count for January is 14,430. It's not what I would have liked, but with other distractions, I'm happy enough. I actually finished my book, though I need to rework the last couple of scenes and I managed to edit most of the manuscript this month.

I also edited my previous work and sent it to critiquers. I'm waiting for the last one to come in, but I've made notes or corrections from the rest of them, so if I could wiggle my nose and get three or four uninterrupted days in a row, I could surely have it ready to submit.

Seeing as how that's unlikely to happen, I'm shooting for late this month--squeezing as much time as possible to edit around my EMT class reading and studying--which I figure will take roughly twenty-five hours a week outside of class time. *sigh* Thank goodness the class will only last another five weeks.