Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garden Cleanup - It’s never too early to begin!

•Work while the weather is pleasant
Those of us who have seen a few more winters appreciate warmer soil under the knees or the opportunity to spread chores out over a longer period of time. On the home farm, we do not generally have enough time to clean the garden until after our fall bulb harvest and shipment is completed in early November, but we do start by cutting back any lily stem that has completely browned by early September. When the lily leaves have turned from green to at least yellow-green over most of the stem, you can safely cut them back to just above ground level. Do not pull stems out of bulbs as you risk doing serious damage to the bulb. Until stems are fully brown and crispy, there is enough moisture in stems to tear tissues within bulb centers, opening up the possibility of rot over winter.

• Reduce the possibility of spreading fungus spores
Some areas have been very wet and cool this spring and summer and the pesky fungus Botrytis has been a concern for more than one gardener this year. Any stems/leaves/flowers that show tell tale brown spots should not be added to the compost, but rather sent to the trash. Fungus spores typically are not damaged by the low heat of compost piles and could still be active should you spread the finished product in your garden. These spores do not "contaminate the soil", but rather tend to live on the surface over winter, so it is a good idea to clean leaves from not only lilies, but also roses and peonies at summer’s end.

• Removal of spent blooms helps bulbs to grow larger next season
In commercial production, the bulbs are planted in long rows. The last 3 feet of each variety is allowed to open flowers for photos and to check the planting stake is correct and then the flowers are removed to encourage the largest growth possible for the season. Everything a lily bulb needs for flowering in a given year is already present, and as the stem elongates, the scales that make up a bulb are slowly depleted. Once flowering is completed, your lily begins the task of rebuilding itself for next year’s growth, the reason why you do not want to allow seed pods to develop (which saps strength) or cut off too many green leaves needed for photosynthesis.

• Freshens the appearance of your garden
Simply removing faded flowers once a week can lift spirits and improve the look of your garden with very little time or effort. Cutting off the top of each stem, leaving all leaves below where the bottom flowers helps to camouflage maturing stems very neatly and directs attention to other shrubs and perennials nearby. Again, when the lily leaves have lost their green color, you can safely cut them back to the ground to begin preparing your garden for winter.  The stem in the clump of lilies to the right is just beginning to mature; only the top portion has turned from green to yellow.  If you wish, clipping back the yellowed section for neatness will not compromise the bulbs' ability to continue to manufacture food.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lily Bulbs planted upside down? No worries.

Every shipping season there seems to be a bit of stress with new gardeners worrying about the correct way to plant lily bulbs.  Well meaning friends and even a few garden columnists may offer an assortment of tips and tricks for "getting their lilies to bloom”.  The reality is that a mature bulb, no matter what its size or how it is placed in the hole, already has the flower safely tucked inside and is programmed to grow. 

Planting bulbs on their side to keep the center spot where the old flowering stem had been from “filling up with water” only works for one season, because next year this same bulb will have pulled itself upright and there will be a new "center hole", and the practice will not correct already poorly drained soil.  Carefully making a mound of soil at the bottom of the hole to "spread out the roots" is another questionable amount of work. On the home farm we do not use a mechanical planter for small lots of bulbs, but rather simply open a furrow with the tractor, then place two bulbs side by side with a couple of inches of space between them every 6 to 8 inches apart, depending on bulb size.  New workers would fuss and set each one carefully upright but when the tractor went back over the row to cover the bulbs with another attachment, soil thrown over the top would push the bulbs onto their sides and even upside down – much to the distress of the person who had just carefully placed them in the row.

Remember the Blog post of  Growing Lily bulb “babies” in recycled mulch. (updated 8.23.11)
(You can click on any image to make it bigger.)
The left photo shows the entire clump of plants dug out with bulbs attached.  Flowers and leaves are where the sprouts emerged from the peat moss, the bare stem with no leaves was in the topmost section of dry peat, and the cluster of roots and bulbs at the bottom were deeper in the pile where moisture had been retained.  In the image on the right, the bulb on the left side was upside down and so the stem curled out of the bulb and turned to grow upright.  If not disturbed then the contractile roots between winter and next spring would have turned the bulb right side up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

‘Conca d’ Or’ Lily Bulbs – Garden Review

Planted next to finch feeders and photographed in our display garden for their March 2003 issue, Sunset Magazine featured ‘Conca d’ Or’ for its garden worthiness.  Then as well as now, it has proven to be an outstanding lily and has spread its way around the world for long-lasting flowers and impressive stature. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fragrance in Gardens, Good Scents & Bad

We received an email the other day from a customer who buys from us at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle each February.  She wrote, 
"I have had stupendous success with the bulbs I purchased from you at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and would like to plant more!  (The fragrance I smell while working in my garden almost makes pulling weeds enjoyable.)" [Thank you Jan]
I do believe that people who garden are more in tune with all their senses.  We love pleasing color combinations, the whiff of a delightfully scented plant, the crackle of autumn leaves underfoot - or the crunch of a newly graveled path -  ripe berries, juicy and warm from the sun and what gardener can't resist touching foliage or flowers?  I drive my husband, Bob, crazy in fabric or clothing stores because I need to feel all the textures - he thinks I'm nuts, but oh well.  After many years of marriage either he has adjusted or I've "trained" him (smile) because he simply rolls his eyes nowadays and takes care to point out, "You missed one."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LATE blooming lily bulbs, 3 new hybrids

Many professional lily hybridizers in the past 2 decades have focused only on lily bulbs that bloomed early and were of a standard height for the cut flower market.  Lilies that bloomed late were ignored or discarded. As a result the gene pool has suffered from the lack of wide diversity that is important for creating unique varieties for the home garden.  (Varieties are shown above from left to right.) 'Goldfinch', 'Las Cerezas' (The Cherries) and 'Katydid' all bloom late, plus are tall - suitable as an accent plant in your garden. 

Bob recently visited hybridizer, Len Sherwin, in his home state of Wyoming to get a first hard look at the labor of love that Len has imparted for over 35 years to his garden lily selections.  Len worked a shipping season with B&D lilies 20 years ago, so our ties run back for many years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Growing Lily bulb “babies” in recycled mulch. (updated 8.23.11)**

Discard pile outside packing room
Peat moss and shavings from stored bulbs is piled outside the packing rooms, ready to use as summer time mulch to reduce weed germination and to help increase the “organics” in a new flower or vegetable bed.  Scales and broken bulbs, dirt from the packing room floor, discarded paper labels and just about anything else save for plastic and large pieces of wood is in the mixture.  In April, after most of our shipping is finished, this dry "mulch" is spread over top flattened cardboard boxes on areas that Dianna wants to plant that fall or the next spring.

Occasionally (as in the picture here) not all bulbs are removed from a case before dumping them onto the pile - perhaps the bulbs were deemed too small to sell, were mechanically damaged or too few in number to plant back.  When we lived in town, our neighbor would come over to poke through the discards to see what goodies he could find to nurse back to health - and he had a marvelous garden from our leftovers, which made a good photography subject.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Colors Shifting in Asiatic Lilies?

Lily petals are composed of several layers of color cells.  As the sun "bleaches" out the topmost cells, the color just below is revealed.  This is the reason why your blossoms might look slightly different daily or even vary somewhat from year to year.  Blossom color is influenced on how intense the sun might be during flowering.  This is especially evident with lighter pink Asiatic or Oriental lilies that could appear nearly white when opening during very hot weather.  In full hot sun the flower buds can be lighter than normal but the same cultivar in a shady area could be darker in color, even during the same summer.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Batty bats at 1:15AM

We were sound asleep when the “intruder” alarm suddenly went off this morning – jolted awake by the high pitched siren outside our bedroom wall; strobe light on the house for emergency personnel to locate us quickly, plus the subsequent phone call from the monitoring company.
The security system agent was asking whether to dispatch the authorities, but we soon realized that it wasn’t a motion detector in the house that triggered the alarm but rather our shipping building.  Since the outside lights were now on and there was no exterior evidence of foul play, we suspected an alarm malfunction; Dianna stayed on the line while Bob did a perimeter check.  There have been alarm breakdowns before over the past 10+ years but this was the only time it affected a single structure.
The  72’ long building used for processing orders has Dianna’s art studio and hat storage at one end, the bins and shipping line in the middle and the far end on the right houses box storage, packaging equipment and one of the bulb coolers.  No windows were broken; no doors were open and Bob wondered if an animal was trapped inside because he could hear a slight “scratching sound” at the door near the keypad.  Oh great, is “Edward” the neighbor cat, locked in and panicking?  Or was it something bigger?  In the middle of the night it’s easy to imagine everything from Coyotes, to Cougars to Bears – Oh my!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Plant Talk by Valerie Easton

Valerie Easton is a marvelous Pacific Northwest garden writer, author of several books and a devotee of B&D Lilies.  Click to view her latest blog post about lilies. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What to do about moles this summer?

Click updated mole trap info to go to our website.  Our latest newsletter triggered email questions about how to control those moles already in the garden, so we've just added an external link to a trap manufacturer in Oregon whose product is quite effective. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Newsletter e-mailing soon

Hello everyone, our next Newsletter is emailing at 7AM Eastern time tomorrow, if you were thinking of registering - don't delay, do it now!   Confirm your subscription by clicking on the return e-mail and receive the (hint, hint) "Double Bonus" Offer from B&D Lilies.