Friday, July 18, 2014

The Illusive Lily How to Care for Asiatic & Oriental Lilies

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"...but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these." -Matthew 6:29.
Lilies are magnificent flowers that command attention wherever they are planted. Lily flowers are valued for their very showy, often fragrant flowers. At home in both formal and naturalistic settings, lilies also can be grown in containers.
Lilies are one of the truly great garden plants for their flower form, diversity, extended season of bloom, graceful stature, and reliable disposition. Their bulbs can be planted in spring for bloom the same year, or in fall for bloom the following year. The sequence of bloom begins in early summer with the colorful Asiatics, Martagon Lilies (also called Turk’s Cap Lilies), and pure white Lilium candidum, and then continues until late summer with other species Lilies and three tall, fragrant groups: Orientals, Orienpets (hybrids between Orientals and Trumpets), and Trumpets. They all make wonderful cut flowers.
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By carefully blending early, mid-season, and late varieties into your garden, you will enjoy their bewitching blooms and seductive scents from spring through frost.
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Planting

  • Plant bulbs in autumn. Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. The deep planting encourages the developing stem to send out roots to help stabilize the plant and perhaps eliminate the need for staking.
  • Note: Lilies do not thrive in Zones 9 to 10 without a period of refrigeration; they need a cold, dormant period.
  • For dependable blooms, lilies need six to eight hours of sunshine a day, yet they prosper in the presence of other low plants that protect their roots from drying out.
  • Water trapped beneath the scales may rot the bulb, so a well-drained site is essential.
  • Most of the popular varieties prefer acidic to neutral soil, but some are lime-tolerant or prefer alkaline soils (e.g., Madonna lilies).
  • Grow in soil enriched with leaf mold or well-rotted organic matter.
  • Dig a hole 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulbs are high and set the bulb in the hole pointy side up. Fill the hole with soil and tamp gently.
  • Space bulbs at a distance equal to 3 times the bulb's diameter.
  • Water thoroughly.

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Care

  • In active growth, water freely and apply a high-potash liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.
  • Keep moist in winter.
  • Apply a thin layer of compost each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch.
  • Water plants in the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
  • Stake tall lilies.
  • As flowers fade, cut back the stalks to the base of the plant.
  • After bloom, divide lilies. Replant using compost and bonemeal.

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 Pests

  • Gray mold is sometimes a problem, especially in a wet, cool spring or summer.
  • Viruses, spread by aphids, may be troublesome, although some cultivars are virus-tolerant.
  • Red lily beetles, slugs, and snails may occur.
  • Deer, rabbits, voles, and groundhogs may eat entire plants. Consider a wire cage for bulbs if this seems to be an issue where you live.

       

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil type: Loamy
Flower color: Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, White
Bloom time: Spring, Summer, Fall
Recommended Varieties
Of the nine divisions of classification, Asiatic and Oriental are the most popular with gardeners.
  • Asiatic lilies are the earliest to bloom and the easiest to grow. Hybrids come in pure white, pinks, vivid yellows, oranges, and reds; heights are from one to six feet. Intense breeding has erased much of the Asiatics' fragrance, but in spite of their lack of perfume, they are a favorite with floral arrangers.
  • Oriental hybrids bloom in mid- to late summer, just when Asiatic lilies are beginning to fade. From tiny two-footers to towering eight-foot-tall giants, Orientals are always a striking choice (the shorter ones are great for patio beds or container gardens). Adored for their intoxicating fragrance that intensifies after dark, Oriental lilies produce masses of huge white, pink, red, or bi-color blooms. They make wonderful cut flowers that will fill even the largest of rooms with their spicy scents.

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Credits
photos: J. Kopittke
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Love Lies Bleeding a Plant Worth Growing

DSC02116Love Lies Bleeding is an old fashioned Cottage Garden flower grown by our grandmothers but rarely seen today. It is an easy plant to start from seeds, just scatter them around your flower bed and soon you will see dozens of small plants popping up. It does not kike to have it’s roots messed with, keep that in mind if you decide to transplant. You will never find it sold in a local nursery, why I don’t know for it is a lovely and unusual plant to grow.

Last summer I pruned one plant into a tree that grew 6 ft. tall and got so heavy with ropes it split into.

 

 

 

 

In most of its range, it is planted as a summer annual. In temperate regions, (zone 8-10) plants can be started indoors in early spring and transplanted outdoors after the last frost. In zone 9b the arid dessert of Las Vegas, once started it becomes a perennial plant. The plant can be grown either upright or as a spreading annual or short-lived perennial. In the picture below I grew seeds in a hanging basket and the florets spilled over almost to the ground. The plant has yellowish green leaves and long ropes of

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drooping, crimson tassel-like racemes of tiny flowers in summer and autumn.   In most of its range, it is planted as a summer annual. In temperate regions, plants can be started indoors in early spring and transplanted outdoors after the last frost. Love lies bleeding seeds grew in and around my garden pot.

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A. caudatus can grow anywhere from 3 to 8 feet in height, and grows best in full sun. It can handle a variety of conditions, both humid and arid. It is easily grown from seed.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

4 Essentials for Attracting Hummingbirds

The essentials to attract these adorable little winged creatures is the same essentials for humans. Give them good food, plenty of water, comfortable surroundings and a secure habitat.

Food
There are three ways to provide tantalizing food for hummingbirds: through plants, feeders and insects.
  • Plants: Hummingbirds feed frequently on nectar-rich flowers, and planting flowers specifically to attract these flying jewels is an easy way to make any yard a perfect hummingbird habitat. While the color red is very attractive to hummingbirds, the most important factor is that the flowers must produce plenty of nectar. Bleeding hearts, impatiens, petunias, salvias, bee balm, columbine, cannas, viburnums, honeysuckles and many other flower, tree and shrub species will attract a variety of hummingbirds. Birders who prefer non-red flowers can add an instant touch of attractive color with red or purple gazing balls that will attract hummingbirds as well.
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  • Feeders: Nectar feeders are one of the most common ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard. A wide range of feeder styles is available, including gel packs, inverted tubes and saucer dishes. Feeders may come with wasp, hornet and ant guards, and they are often colored red to help attract hummingbirds. Commercial nectar concentrates and mixes can be used or birders can fill their feeders with a homemade hummingbird nectar recipe.
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  • Insects: While hummingbirds are most well known for their fondness for nectar, they also eat a large quantity of insects, including spiders. To attract hummingbirds to backyard insects, avoid using pesticides or insecticides that will kill off this food source and choose flowering plants that are also attractive to insects.
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Water
Not all birds will visit feeders, but they are all attracted to water. Hummingbirds prefer moving water sources such as sprinklers, fountains, waterfalls, misters and drippers. They will often perch in a spray or fly through moving water to cool off or bathe. Water sources should be kept fresh and clean, and positioning the water near nectar-rich flowers will make it even more attractive to hummingbirds.

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Shelter
When they aren’t feeding, hummingbirds look for perches to rest and preen. Providing perches such as slender poles, clotheslines, thin vines, trellises, wires and multiple levels of shrubbery will give birds suitable shelter. At the same time, because many hummingbirds are very aggressive, they will prefer perches that also have good fields of view to protect their territories. Position perching plants and shrubs near food sources for the best results in attracting hummingbirds.

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Nesting Spots
Unlike many backyard bird species, hummingbirds will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. Instead, they build their double-lined, cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs, though bolder birds may build their nests along wires, clotheslines or poles. Providing sheltered, safe areas of native plants for the birds to nest will make a backyard more attractive. Birders can also supply suitable nesting materials including fine cotton, small lengths of string and animal fur to attract nesting birds.

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Like all backyard birds, hummingbirds are wild animals with basic needs. Birders who understand how to attract hummingbirds by satisfying those needs can be rewarded with dozens of beautiful hummingbirds in their backyard.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Birds Want In a Birdhouse?

679798f16451d033f7cf18a7a28f68abWhy provide birdhouses? Habitat loss has driven some species away from former nesting areas. The right house can bring birds back home. "Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to our birds," said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of the conservation group Born Free USA. "You can help offset some of these threats by creating habitats in your backyard and community and get the whole family involved."
Birds' needs are straightforward: food, water and shelter. Bird feeders and birdbaths help provide the first two. Birds that can inhabit your birdhouse range from tiny sparrows to large crows.  According to Debbie Arrington at the Sacremento Bee The world of birdhouses is divided into two parts: cute, decorative, often whimsical creations that appeal to humans; and functional nesting boxes that the birds will actually use.
This would explain why all my cute, whimsical birdhouses are devoid of birds. The bees love my cute empty houses. Now after writing this blog I am on my way to building better birdhouses, for I love my birds.
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What birds want in a birdhouse?
Avian experts have spent decades researching that simple question — with a view to what makes the birds feel welcome, not necessarily what makes the prettiest backyard ornament.
Western bluebirds, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, tree swallows and other house-hunting species will flock to plain, unfinished wood boxes — as long as they have the right location and dimensions.
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They've got to be functional,". "We have a lot of cavity nesters, but not a lot of trees. ... If you put a box up, they'll find it." Be patient with a new home — it may take more than one season for birds to find their house.
The entry hole's size and the box's location are crucial, Hopperstad added. "If the hole is too big, it invites predators; rats and possums take the eggs. If the box is placed too low, snakes will get inside. Too big a hole also invites other (species of) birds to raid the nest. It's a bird-eat-bird world out there."
Wrens are the easiest to please; they don't mind people. But for their home, they need a small entry hole — only 1 ¼ inches across — to keep uninvited guests out.
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When choosing a location, put some distance between the birdhouse and the bird feeder or bath. There's too much feathered traffic around feeders and baths for young families to feel comfortable.
Aged wood. Most cavity-nesting birds prefer weathered natural wood; it mimics tree trunks where they would otherwise nest. Use lumber at least 3/4-inch thick to help insulate the box from hot or cold weather. Rough, raw wood on the inside of the box gives babies a foothold to scramble up to the opening, so don't paint or smooth the interior. A few square inches of wire mesh or recessed grooves below the doorway also are helpful to baby birds trying to climb up.
Cozy space. Think of a hollow tree; that pocket is snug and deep. Cavity-nesting birds like their houses that way, too; 5 by 5 inches at the bottom is an ideal dimension for most species, with a depth of 5 to 6 inches below the entry and an overall height of 10 to 12 inches. Robins like an open-faced box — almost like a shelf — with no front wall.
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Single occupancy. While martins like apartment complexes, other birds are territorial about their nests. They want a home of their own without noisy neighbors.
Slanted roof. That allows rainwater to run off easily. Make sure it extends over the entry.
That weathered look. Often, birds won't use a new house until it shows some age. Weathering also softens up the wood, making it easier for young ones to grab hold, so leave the house up year-round. A painted, decorated birdhouse may be cute, but unvarnished cedar, pine or redwood will get more use.
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If you paint your birdhouse, birds aren't picky about color, but stay away from black or dark colors that absorb heat. Use nontoxic stains or varnishes.
A few extras. Proper ventilation and drainage are important to a happy feathered home. Make some slits or small holes just below the roof's eaves to let air in. Add some small drainage holes in the floor, at the corners or along the walls. A flip-top roof or side panel makes it easier to open the box for cleaning.
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No perch necessary. Most cavity-nesting birds can cling to the outside of the box without aid, especially if it's natural wood. Perches actually help other birds or predators who may harass the nesters.
Nesting materials. Most songbirds won't reuse a nest the following year (although they have no problem reusing a house), which means they need new stuff each spring. Among favorite materials to line a new nest: moss, twigs, feathers, pine needles, shredded bark, soft grasses, yarn scraps, small pieces of fabric and hair (human, dog or horse).
Maintenance: Once a year, take the box down and clean it out. Remove the old nest. Scrub with a stiff brush and a mild bleach solution to kill mites or other parasites.























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