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The Garden Mix




Nationally renowned garden expert Melinda Myers helps everyday gardeners find success and ease in the garden through her Melinda’s Garden Moments radio segments. Melinda shares “must have” tips that hold the key to gardening success, learned through her more than 30 years of horticulture experience. Listeners from across the country find her gardener friendly, practical approach to gardening both refreshing and informative! On this page, Melinda shares some more extensive garden tips, which expand on the information provided in her one-minute radio segments.

New tips are added throughout each month, providing timely step-by-step tips on what you need to do next in your garden! Visit Melinda’s website www.melindamyers.com for more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and answers to your questions.
Posts from September 2014


Vote for your Favorite Flower

There is still time to cast your vote for your favorite flower.

The American Garden Award program is your opportunity to vote for your favorite of several beautiful flowers bred for the home garden. Some of the most prestigious flower breeders have chosen their favorites to enter in the competition.
 
Celosia Arrabona Red is a plume type cockscomb and it was selected for its easy care, drought tolerance and long bloom.
 
Cuphea Sriracha Violet is heat tolerant and covered with unique violet blooms from spring through summer.
 
Illumination Flame Digiplexis is a foxglove hybrid with spikes of red-pink flowers with flaming orange throats.
 
Last but not least is Petunia Anguna radiant blue. This new hybrid has blue flowers with a white throat.
 
So visit www.Americangardenaward.com today and cast your vote.
 
A bit more information: The 2013 winner was Verbena ‘Lanai® Candy Cane’ with red and white striped blooms. Santa Cruz Sunset Begonia was the 2012 winner. This cascading begonia is perfect for hanging baskets, containers or mass plantings. This is the sixth year for this program. Check out information on previous winners and contestants at www.americangardenaward.com.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Prune Shrubs with a Purpose
Stop!  Don’t reach for those pruners without a plan in mind.
 
Prune shrubs to eliminate damaged or broken branches, control size or encourage more flowering, fruiting and improved bark color.
 
Remove damaged and diseased branches as soon as they are discovered. Disinfect tools between cuts with a 70% alcohol or 1 part bleach nine part water solution.
 
Pruning during the dormant season, when the leaves are off the plant, allows you to see the overall structure and make better pruning cuts.
 
Those in colder climates should avoid pruning evergreens in fall. Fall pruning exposes the once shaded foliage to the harsh winter environment.
 
Wait to prune spring flowering shrubs like lilac and forsythia until right after flowering. Spring blooming shrubs set their flowerbuds in early to mid summer. Pruning at other times eliminates the spring floral display.
 
A bit more information: Avoid pruning late in the growing season when you can stimulate late season growth. Make cuts at a slight angle above an outward facing bud or shorter branch. Remove a few of the older stems on suckering shrubs back to ground level.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Long Blooming Digiplexis Flowers
Looking for something new and exciting in your garden? Consider growing a Digiplexis plant in your garden or container plantings.

This relatively new introduction is a hybrid between foxglove, Digitalis, and a tropical relative Isoplexis. The plant grows about 3 feet tall by 18 inches wide and blooms from mid spring through the end of summer.
 
The tubular flowers grow on spikes and are sterile, allowing all the plant energy to go into vigorous growth instead of forming seeds.
 
Digiplexis attracts the bees and butterflies and makes a great cut flower.
 
Like its one parent foxglove it contains the same toxins. These may cause a rash and can be harmful, even fatal, if eaten. So keep the plant and the water cut flowers were displayed in away from pets and children.
 
Grow it in full sun to light shade with moist well-drained soil.
 
A bit more information: Though the digiplexis is only hardy in zones 8 to 11 it makes a showy annual in other areas. In fact, it was selected as the 2012 Plant of the Year at the Chelsea Flower Show and received the 2013 Greenhouse Growers Award of Excellence.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Managing Boxelder Bugs
Black and orange bugs congregated on the sunny side of your house in fall are likely boxelder bugs. They are not harmful to plants and people, but certainly are annoying.

The immature bugs feed on ground level vegetation throughout the summer. The adults move to female boxelder trees, a type of maple, and occasionally to other maples and ash trees to eat and lay eggs. Their feeding does not harm the trees.
 
The problem usually occurs when the adults seek a warm sunny spot, usually the side of your home, to warm themselves in fall. As temperatures cool they often find their way indoors through cracks and crevices. Repair and fill any crevices to keep these insects out of the house. Manage high populations by vacuuming as they congregate or spray the side of your house with soapy water. Test the siding first to make sure the soapy solution will not change the color of your siding.
 
A bit more information: Removing the tree is not guaranteed to solve the problem. Adults can fly and may find their way to the sunny side of your home. Better to seal the house to keep them out or learn to live with these annoying pests.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Harvest and Enjoy Edamame (Soy)
Get the best flavor and nutritional value from your homegrown edamame, also known as edible soybeans, with proper harvesting and care.
 
Harvest soybeans when the pods are plump, green, rough, and hairy.  Check frequently and pick when the seeds are fully enlarged, but before they get hard and begin yellowing.  Waiting too long to harvest the seeds reduces the flavor and quality.  
 
Since the seed-filled pods usually ripen at the same time, you can pull up the whole plant and harvest the seeds from the pods, while sitting on a chair in the shade.
 
Use them cooked or uncooked as a snack or as a fiber rich ingredient with other vegetables and meat dishes. Many gardeners eat them right out of the pod like peanuts.
 
Boil or steam the pods for 4 to 5 minutes, cool under running water and pop the seeds out of the pods. Use immediately or freeze after cooking.
 
A bit more information: These nutritious legumes help promote overall health, reducing the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  Plus, the high fiber in soy helps fight colon and some other cancers.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Add Color to the Fall Landscape with Asters
Add some color to your fall garden with Asters.
 
Brighten up your container gardens with a few of these fall beauties. Or create fall containers filled with asters, ornamental grasses and pansies.

Set them in a pretty pot on your front steps to welcome guests to your home. Or place on decks and tabletops as a seasonal centerpiece. Move them into the garden as they fade. Or add to the compost pile where they can eventually help improve your garden’s soil.
 
Use asters to replace fading annuals or fill in voids in your garden. They grow and flower best in full sun with well-drained soil.
 
Asters are hardy in zones 4 to 8, but can be grown as an annual anywhere they are sold. Leave the plants intact for winter to increase overwintering success. Northern gardeners often cover the plants with evergreen boughs or straw once the ground is frozen.
 
A bit more information: The plant taxonomists have been at it again. The plants we commonly call Aster have been reclassified and names for these new groups include Symphyotrichum, Ionactis, Eurybia, and Doellingeria.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Eco-friendly Crabgrass Control

 
Reduce crabgrass problems in your lawn and garden with a few basic lawn and garden care practices.
 
Crabgrass is an annual weed grass with a small fibrous root system. The wide grass blades lay flat on the ground. Each fall they release hundreds of seeds before dying.
 
Crabgrass thrives in hot dry weather. Reduce the problem in your lawn by mowing high and often.  The taller grass shades the soil, preventing many weed seeds from sprouting. Leave clippings on the lawn and fertilize at least once, preferably in the fall, to help your lawn grass outcompete the weeds.
 
Pull the plants in the garden before they set seed. This will reduce the number of weeds you’ll be fighting next year. Mulch the garden with shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material. The mulch will help prevent many of the weed seeds, including the crabgrass, from sprouting. It also helps keep roots cool and moist.
 
A bit more information: If cultural control measures have failed, you may consider the organic pre-emergent crabgrass killer made from corn gluten meal.  Apply in spring about the time the forsythias are in bloom.  These chemicals prevent seed germination.  This means both the weed and good grass seeds will be affected.  Wait until late summer or fall to reseed or overseed treated lawns. And as always be sure to read and follow label directions carefully.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Starting Roses from Seed
Expand your garden and have a little fun by growing a few plants from the seeds of your favorite rose.
 
Collect the rose hips, those berry-like fruit on your roses, as soon as they are fully colored. Cut open the rose hip exposing the seeds. Soak the seeds 12 to 24 hours, drain and mix with equal parts of moistened sphagnum moss and vermiculite in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for at least three months.
 
You can begin planting the seeds anytime after the chilling period is complete. Plant seeds in a container filled with a mixture of sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Keep the mixture warm and moist. Move to a sunny window or under artificial lights as soon as the seeds sprout. Then transplant seedlings, if needed, after they form two sets of true leaves.
 
Just remember seedlings may not look like the original plant.
 
 A bit more information:  You can also start new roses from cuttings. Take a 6 to 8 inch cutting from a healthy stem. Remove any flowers and buds. Dip in a rooting hormone and plant in a well-drained potting mix. You’ll have roots in about 3 weeks. Keep in mind you cannot propagate patented roses. These rights belong to the breeders that introduced the plant.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Fall Webworm
 
As you drive through your community in late summer or fall you may spot webby nests in the branches of apple, ash, birch, cherry, sycamore, walnut and willow. These are the home of the North American native fall webworm.
 
This pest attacks more than 100 species of deciduous, those that lose their leaves in winter, trees and shrubs. The pest is a green and yellow caterpillar that spins its nest near the ends of the branch. These worm-like insects eat the leaves on the branches near their webby nest.
 
Fortunately this is a cosmetic problem since it occurs late in the season and only a few branches are affected. Keep your plants healthy and they’ll be better able to tolerate the feeding. Several natural predators and parasitoids help keep the populations in check.
 
You can knock the nest out of the tree with a stick or a strong blast of water if desired.
 
A bit more information: An organic insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is effective against young caterpillars. Apply it to the leaves surrounding the webby nest early in the season. As the webworms eat the treated leaves they stop feeding and eventually die.
 
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Dividing Spring and Summer Blooming Perennials
Late summer through early fall is a great time to dig and divide overgrown spring and summer blooming perennials.
 
The soil is warm, air much cooler and the plants will have time to adjust to their new location before winter.
 
Dig and divide plants that have stopped blooming, flopped over, or have a dead center. Use a sharp spade shovel or garden fork to dig up the plant. Cut the clump into 2, 4 or more pieces. Remove the dead center and add it to the compost pile.
Some gardeners use two garden forks back to back to pry the clump apart. I prefer a sharp linoleum knife or drywall saw. Though some fleshy rooted plants like daylilies and willow amsonia may require a hatchet or machete.
 
You can replant one piece back in the original location after amending the soil with compost. Use other divisions in other areas or share with friends.
 
A bit more information: The old adage “Divide spring blooming perennials in fall, fall blooming perennials in spring and summer blooming perennials in spring or fall” is a good guideline. But experienced gardeners have all stretched these limits. Sometimes necessity and your schedule determine when you divide perennials. Proper post-transplant care will give your plants the best chance of survival no matter when you divide them.
 
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National Acorn Squash Day
Bake it, broil it, microwave it or stuff it– acorn squash that is. And if you didn’t grow your own, visit the Farmer’s Market and buy it.

Acorn squash is typically acorn shaped, dark green with longitudinal ridges. They are ripe when the fruit is a solid deep green and the rind is hard. Use a knife or pruners to remove the fruit from the vine. Leave an inch or two of stem attached to the fruit, if possible, for better storage longevity. And be sure to use any blemished or frost damaged fruit as soon as possible.
 
Store this and other winter squash in a cool, preferably 50 to 55 degree, dry location. Place the fruit in a single layer spread out to avoid fruit from touching. The better the air circulation the greater the storage longevity and less likely one rotten squash will affect its neighbors. If space is limited, don’t pile more than two high.
 
A bit more information:  September 7th is National Acorn Squash Day. This member of the squash family contains vitamins C, B6, A, thiamine and more. You’ll get the best nutritional value and flavor by harvesting it at its peak.
 
For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
 
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Bluestem Goldenrod
Add some bright yellow to your late summer and fall garden with Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia).
 
This plant is also known as wreath goldenrod and naturally grows in open woodlands and bluffs. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and is native to 32 states in the continental U.S. and 3 Canadian provinces.
 
Bluestem goldenrod grows about 18 to 36 inches tall and wide and works well in native gardens, woodland gardens, borders, meadows, cottage gardens and more. The cluster of bright yellow flowers occur along the stem and attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden.
 
Grow the plant in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Bluestem goldenrod tolerates clay soil and once established, it is drought tolerant. This fall bloomer is basically pest-free and the deer tend to leave it be.
 
A bit more information: Fireworks goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’) is a popular ornamental cultivar. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8 and grows best in full sun with moist to wet, well-drained soil. The plume-like flowers that top this 2 ½ to 3 feet high plant resemble fireworks.

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Eco-friendly Control of Thrips
Poorly developed flowers, stunted plants and silvery streaks on leaves are indications thrips may be feeding on your plants.
 
These tiny insects have file-like mouthparts they use to puncture the outer surface of leaves, stems and flowers and suck out plant sap. They are very small and difficult to detect. Hold a white piece of paper under the plant and shake. Or remove the petals of damaged flowers, place in a sealed jar with 70% alcohol and shake the jar to dislodge and detect the pests.
 
Control is difficult and often not needed as the damage is discovered after the thrips have finished feeding.

Provide the proper growing conditions and care for your plants. Avoid excess nitrogen that promotes lush succulent growth these pests prefer. And remove spent flowers that tend to harbor the insects. Manage weeds in the garden and keep thrip-susceptible plants away from weedy areas where the pest populations tend to be high.
 
 
A bit more information: Beneficial insects like predatory thrips, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs and some parasitic wasps feed upon plant damaging thrips. Invite these good bugs into the garden by planting a diversity of plants and avoiding persistent pesticides. Visit the University of California IPM online for more details on this pest.


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Making Flavored Vinegars
Liven up your meals and extend your garden enjoyment with flavored vinegars. Gather glass jars and bottles free of nicks and cracks. Use non-corrodible metal or plastic screw on caps or new pre-sterilized corks. Wash and rinse thoroughly then sterilize the bottles by immersing them in boiling water for 10 minutes. You'll fill the bottles while still warm. Place 3 or 4 sprigs of washed fresh herbs in each container. Wash the herbs and blot dry. Then dip in a 1 teaspoon bleach and 6 cup water solution, rinse with cold water and pat dry. Heat the vinegar to about 190 degrees and pour over the herbs in your warm clean jars. Leave about ¼ inch of space between the vinegar and jar opening. Wipe the rims and attach the lids. Store them in a cool dark place. Allow to sit for 3 to 4 weeks, strain and rebottle. A bit more information: Don't stop with herbs. Try creating fruit flavored vinegars. For more details on this and safely preserving your garden harvest, click here. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Drying and Preserving Hot Chili Peppers
Don't let those hot chili peppers go to waste. Use them fresh, preserve or give as gifts. Chili ristras are not only decorative, but a traditional way of drying and storing hot red chili peppers for future meals. Create your own ristra with cotton string, red chili peppers and a series of knots to secure the peppers onto the string and eventually the twine. Or dry your peppers in a dehydrator or on a foil lined cookie sheet in the oven. Wipe the peppers clean and spread in a single layer. Speed up the process by slicing through the peppers or dicing into smaller pieces. The peppers are dry and ready for storage when they are dark red, shrunken, but still flexible. Thoroughly dried peppers can be crushed into flakes. Or try canning, freezing or pickling a few peppers to enjoy throughout the winter. And be sure to wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly when you're done. A bit more information: Always label peppers at harvest. Some hot peppers, like Hungarian half sharp peppers, look just like the banana pepper. Try using separate harvest pails or labeled plastic bags to separate the sweet and hot peppers. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Landscape Plans & Planting Records
Fading plant labels and disappearing tags can make planning and maintaining your garden a bit challenging. Avoid these frustrations by writing it down. Use a piece of paper and sketch out the shape of your garden. Don't worry about the artistic value or scale. Right now you just want to capture the general location and name of the plants in your garden. You can fine tune the design when time allows. Write the name of the plant at its approximate location. Or better yet use numbers for each plant and create a list to accompany the plan. You may want to record additional information about each plant such as where it was purchased, when it was planted and the like. If you still have the plant tags you may want to keep these for future reference. Place them in a page protector or container or attach them to the garden map. A bit more information: Put your cell phone camera to work. Use it to take pictures of your garden, plants and tags throughout the season. It is a convenient way to record the information while in the garden. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Tips for Proper Tree Planting
Fall is a great time to plant trees. Follow these important planting tips to insure the health and longevity of your plants. Make sure the root flare, the place where the roots flare away from the trunk, is at or slightly above the soil surface. Dig the planting hole the same depth as the distance between the root flare and bottom of the root ball. Digging deeper can result in the soil settling and creating a water collecting depression around your tree. Roughen the sides of the planting hole to avoid glazed soil that can prevent roots from growing into the surrounding soil. Water thoroughly whenever the top 4 to 6 inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist. Spread a 2 to 3 inch layer of wood chips over the surrounding soil. And pull the mulch away from the trunk of the tree to prevent rot and disease. Wait a year to fertilize your newly planted tree. A bit more information: No need to stake most newly planted trees. Staking should only be done for bare root trees, trees with large canopies and small root balls, and those exposed to high winds. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Every now and then I watch "Ted Talks" on YouTube. I came acoss this post and I wanted to share it...call it my "Monday Motivation!"
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Colorado Blue Spruce
Colorado blue spruce are a favorite tree of many gardeners. Their bluish green needles and pyramidal shape are a nice addition to the landscape. But several diseases can kill branches and distort their beauty. One such disease is Needle cast. It's usually not deadly, but it ruins the beauty and screening value the trees provide. Promptly remove and destroy infected branches to help slow the spread of this disease. Disinfect your tools with a one part bleach and nine parts water or 70% alcohol solution between cuts. Make sure your trees receive sufficient water during dry periods, mulch the soil and give them plenty of room for light and air to reach all parts of the plant. Copper containing fungicides are listed as effective against needle-cast and some formulations are considered organic. Proper timing and thorough coverage are critical for effective control. A bit more information: One of the other common disease problems on blue spruce is cytospora canker. There is no effective chemical control. Removal of diseased branches, mulching and proper watering can minimize the damage. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Moss in the Lawn
Moss gardens are a beautiful trend in the gardening world. But for many gardeners moss in the lawn and garden is a source of frustration. Moss, like other lawn weeds, is an indication of poor growing conditions. This unwanted plant thrives in shade as well as compacted, poorly drained, acidic soil. Correct the cause and you will eliminate the problem for years to come. Improve drainage and reduce compaction by adding several inches of compost or other organic matter to the top 6 to 8 inches of soil. Core aeration of the lawn can also help with compacted soil. Increase the light reaching the grass by having a certified arborist thin the crown of overhead trees. Only use lime if a soil test indicates your soil is too acidic. There are moss killers on the market, but if you don't eliminate the cause you will be fighting this weed for years. A bit more information: If it is too difficult or impossible to eliminate the cause of the problem, consider embracing moss as a part of the landscape. Many gardeners pay money for the very plant you are trying to eliminate. Add a few steppers for a walkway or add a few stones and call it a moss garden. Many gardeners in your situation have quit fighting the moss and embraced it as a groundcover. In fact, you will see moss for sale from several gardening sources. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Poor Garden Harvest
Blame it on the weather. This could be one cause for a poor garden harvest. Late spring frosts can damage the flowers preventing pollination. Cool wet weather reduces bee activity and extremely hot dry weather can also prevent flowering or cause blossom drop and all can reduce our harvest. But we also can be the culprit. Overfertilization promotes lots of leaves and stems and discourages or prevents flowers and fruits. Growing plants in too much shade can also prevent flowering and fruit production. Some plants need a male and female or two different varieties to insure pollination, fertilization and fruit production. Don't let all this dissuade you from growing your own produce. Just do a bit of reading and be sure to check the plant tags and seed packets when planning your garden and purchasing your plants. And if things don't work out – just blame it on the weather. A bit more information: Not sure if you have a male or female plant? Take a closer look at the flowers. Female flowers contain a swollen vase-like structure called a pistil. Male flowers have long, thin filament or pin-like structures called stamens. Some flowers are "perfect" and contain both the male and female parts. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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New Ways to Display Pumpkins
Fall is pumpkin time. Find new ways to display these fall favorites. Scoop out the inside and use it for a planter. Fill with potting mix - you'll have a biodegradable pot for the compost pile when finished - or set a planted container inside. Try an ornamental cabbage, short ornamental grass or trailing pansies like cool wave for a fun fall container. Or carve an opening in the side of your pumpkin after removing the center. Create a fall or Halloween display inside. Use faux moss, figurines and your imagination. Scoop out the insides of small pumpkins and use them for vases to create a fun fall centerpiece for your table. Or use them as soup bowls for butternut squash or your other favorite fall soup. Or leave them intact and set them in your container gardens to fill voids or add some fall interest to your plantings. And add a few to your indoor planters as well. A bit more information: Large pumpkins and squash make great additions to the fall garden. Set them in voids, in containers or on top of hanging baskets that are a bit thin on top. For more ideas, visit http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/projects/pumpkin-decorating-1009#slide-10 For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Plant Some Animal Resistant Bulbs this Fall
Don't let flower hungry wildlife stop you from planting spring flowering bulbs. Plant a few animal resistant bulbs in your garden this fall for added color and beauty next spring. Start off the season with a few minor bulbs. Winter aconite and snowdrops are some of the first bulbs to appear in spring. Mix grape hyacinths with daffodils to double your flower power and pop in some Siberian squills for a bit of blue in the spring garden. Try little Tommies, botanically known as Crocus tomassinanus. Garden catalogues claim and I have found them to be resistant to squirrels. Daffodils are well known for surviving hungry animals and now there are lots of new varieties to choose from. And don't forget to try some alliums you may know as ornamental onions. There are small and large flowered varieties and those that bloom in spring, summer or fall. A bit more information: Consider Camassia with blue flower spikes that resemble hyacinth, but tolerate partial shade. Snowflakes (Leucojum) Autumn crocus (Clochicum), Fritillaria and of course hyacinths are a few other animal-resistant bulbs. Southern gardeners need to select low chill varieties or use precooled bulbs if their winters are too warm for forcing spring flowering bulbs into bloom. For more gardening tips, how-to videos, podcasts and more, visit www.melindamyers.com
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Making Flavored Vinegars
Drying and Preserving Hot Chili Peppers
Landscape Plans & Planting Records
Tips for Proper Tree Planting
Colorado Blue Spruce
Elizabeth Kay on National TV!
Elizabeth Kay on National TV!
Moss in the Lawn
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