Storing Tender Bulbs

GladsWPTender Summer-blooming bulbs are some of the brightest, flowers to enjoy. Of course, this beauty comes with a small “fee”…we must provide a comfortable place for them to rest during the Winter. These bulbs would turn to mush if allowed to freeze: Gladiolus, Cannas, Elephant Ears, Dahlias and others.

In lieu of buying new each Spring, you can dig and store the bulbs/rhizomes to enjoy them again and again. You will find that they are so easy to take care of, you must add to your collection each year and give offsets to your friends. They will LOVE you for that! Essentially, the storage practice is the same for most bulbs and rhizomes. Gardener have developed their own ideas of what method works best for them. Check out the Tender Bulb Storage playlist on our YouTube Channel for various means of safe storage.

Many gardeners prefer to use peat moss as their primary storage media. I AGREE! Sphagnum Peat Moss (available in a compressed bale) keeps the bulbs very protected, separated, dark and dry while allowing them to retain their internal moisture. My favorite method is to insert a plastic bag into a Banker Box (cardboard file storage box with a removable lid). BankerBoxI line the bottom of the bag in the box with Peat Moss, add a layer of freshly dug, prepared and dry bulbs, then another layer of Peat Moss. I continue this process (not allowing any of the bulbs to touch) until the box is full. This method keeps the bulbs very organized. At this time, I either fold the top of the bag over and cover with the lid, or leave the sides of the bag over the box edges and place the lid on. The reason I use a plastic bag to line the box is because it will be stored in either a basement or garage (that doesn’t freeze) and I would prefer to not have insects or other critters residing in the Peat over the Winter.

When you watch the videos, you will find that there are many opinions about how to go about storing. THREE points I would like to make:

•  I prefer to dig the bulbs and then lay them out on newspaper in a protected, dry area until the foliage dries up, then cut it off.

•  For easier excavation in the Fall, add excessive amounts of organic material such as Pine Bark Soil Conditioner, Organic Soil Conditioner or Cotton Bur Compost when installing them in the Spring. The soil will be perfect for maximum performance of your plants AND it will be easy to remove them when needed.

•  It is not necessary to remove all of the garden soil. If, however, you are removing them when the ground is slightly muddy, you will need to hose them off and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing.

One final tip, be sure to bring them out in early Spring (you can even jump-start them indoors in containers) so they will begin to break dormancy.
The Garden that is Finished is Dead

Pruning in KC

The rules about timing for shrub pruning will vary from state to state. The main reason is because temperatures and other environmental factors play a role in the development, growth habit and overall stability of all plants. In particular, the stress level of a kempt shrub should be taken into consideration prior to causing it that great deal of injury. By injury, of course, I Raffaello_Sorbi_Pruning_the_rosesmean regular pruning. In essence, and according to the plant, that is exactly what it is…an injury. The reason this is an important fact to understand is because plants expend quite a bit of energy to repair their wounds as fast as they can. An open wound is an invitation for insects and diseases.

Keeping this in mind, the WORST times to trim are:

when the shrub is blooming, when the shrub is stressed, when the shrub is setting Spring flower buds and when the shrub is beginning to store energy for the long winter “nap”.

When can you prune which shrub? It is easy to decide, IF you keep the Pruning Schedule handy. This schedule is for the Kansas City area.
Please pay attention to the specific notations for many of the plants, as well. If you have questions, please email me, I would be happy to help!
Happy pruning and Happy Summer!

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The Garden that is Finished is Dead

Help with Hydrangeas

Gorgeous Hydrangeas! Who doesn’t love them? Some varieties thrive in the shade and some appreciate full sun. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, too. There truly is a Hydrangea for everyone! My head spins at the number of the breathtaking varieties we offer…the hoop house is overflowing. Visit soon for the best selection.

Once your new show-stoppers have had time to settle in, it is time to start thinking about the pruning care that they will need in order to to receive maximum bloom heads. Be sure to save the tag because, similar to Clematis, Hydrangea care depends on which species or variety you have.

I will break it down for you as simply as I can. 

FIRST there are those which bloom on OLD WOOD (last year’s growth). If this type is pruned or cut down after the beginning of August, buds will not set for the following year and you will be very disappointed. Hydrangea species that will generally fall into this group are H. macrophylla (Bigleaf Mopheads or Lacecaps) and H. quercifolia (Oakleaf). There are a few in the Bigleaf group which bloom on new AND old wood, but it is better to treat them as old wood exclusives.

When pruning the Bigleaf and Oakleaf types (like Gatsby Gal™ pictured to the right) in the Spring, remove DEAD stems ONLY. This will be done after the plant has begun to leaf out and the dead stems are obvious. Generally, this group will bloom in the Spring/Early Summer and can be safely shaped immediately following…but not past July.

There are a few exceptions to the Bigleaf group. Probably the most popular variety is called Endless Summer™ (pictured above). This lovely creature continues to bloom all season long when spent flowers are removed (deadheaded). These specialized varieties will regenerate bloom buds which are damaged or removed. In addition, Endless Summer™ will provide you with pink OR blue blooms depending on how acidic your soil is. A neutral soil will create a more violet color of bloom.  They truly are stunning.

THEN there is the group of Hydrangea which bloom on NEW wood.  H. paniculata (no pruning in Summer) and H. arborescens (no pruning in Spring) fall into this category.
It is not necessary to prune the H. paniculata type every year, but you WILL want to prune the H. arborescens (‘Annabelle’ is a popular variety) in late Fall or Winter down to about 18-24″ (taking them closer to the ground produces weaker stems).  Be on the lookout for Invincibelle™ Spirit…the first PINK H. arborescens…she is remarkable!

There are many new, gorgeous varieties of H. paniculata AND most of them can handle quite a bit of direct sun.  Look for varieties such as Pinky Winky®, Quick Fire® or Bobo® to jazz up your landscape beds.

As always, if you have other questions, feel free to drop me a line!

Enjoy your new found favorite plants!

The Garden that is Finished is Dead