Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heading to Sunny California Tomorrow...

Early Summer on the Farm

We are heading for Costa Mesa, California for the Southern California Spring Flower and Garden Show tomorrow, so there will be a bit of delay in answering emails and phone calls for the next week.

All orders received by last night (4.21.12) that are not scheduled for later shipping are going to the post office tomorrow for mailing. Shipping is caught up and current - the website is a 90% certainly that all lily bulbs with an order button are still available - but listing a few alternate choices under "comments" (during checkout) is advised. Most varieties in stock are at "less than one-half case" levels now and a few could become sold out before we can compile orders and update the web pages.

Our next shipping day will be May 2nd and the next scheduled "Timely Tips" Newsletter will be emailed on Tuesday, May 1st with a Gladiolus Sale offer. If you are not currently signed up to automatically receive our newsletter, here is the link to sign up.

As with other other spring shows, we'll share noteworthy and interesting displays as time permits - so stay tuned.

Monday, April 9, 2012

These odd-shaped shrimp-red and cream flowers are long lasting.

Closeup of Eucrosia bicolor flowers.
Eucrosia bicolor (Amaryllidaceae) These odd-shaped shrimp-red and cream flowers are long lasting and have exaggerated long filaments.  Planted shallow together in one pot  and close together, they will happily form large clumps with new offshoots sometimes actually growing above the soil line. Leaves are very wide and freely produced for an attractive clump year round - being nearly evergreen - they make good houseplants in the northern regions. As individual leaves begin to yellow, simply pinch off and shortly a new leaf will be produced. 

In USDA Zones 9 and 10, they are best planted outdoors all year for easy care. In our more northern location (Northwest Washington State) we grow them in 4 and 6-inch pots and when an individual comes into bloom during summer it is brought into the house in a window, then placed back with it's siblings until bloom again. Bulbs may wait a year before blooming if large or bloom a couple of times a year if even small, seed-grown originally, so there is differing attributes which make them fun to grow as they can be unpredictable at times.

6 small Eucrosia bicolor bulbs planted in a 5 inch pot.
Do not leave outdoors if there is danger of frost, we lost an entire crop when the thermometer dropped to 32 degrees F. last fall.  They probably would have not been affected if the soil was drier, but the trays had just been watered.

On our trip to the San Francisco Flower and Garden show this past March, we stopped overnight on the southern edge of the Siskiyou Mountains for the night and although the bulbs were buried in the middle of the load, we lost the top layer when the temperature dropped to 27 degrees F.   Lesson learned:  Put the perishable food in the bulb trays if the temperatures are expected to be below freezing and keep the tropical bulbs in the insulated cooler to take into the room!  The pot shown here was planted about a month earlier with some bulbs sending up stems before leaves and others just sending up leaves.  They are a species bulb and will do as they wish, so don't be concerned should only leaves emerge first. 

WARNING: Do not use potting soil with "added fertilizer" or you may have a lovely crop of leaves, but not flowers. Fertilize lightly when the leaves are in active growth with a balanced formula, not one high in nitrogen.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Growing 'Tiny Piny' Eucomis - Planting Guide

'Tiny Piny' Eucomis bulbs bloom at about 12cm..

Potting up Pineapple Lilies (Eucomis) is easy, just use a gritty-type soil mixture (without any added fertilizer) that drains well.  Try to avoid bark-based products.

More diminutive than the species E. autumnalis that grows between 14 and 18 inches tall in my garden, the 'Tiny Piny' bulbs also need a much smaller bulb size to bloom (10/12 cm in circumference). During warm spring/summer days, you can expect flowering in about 9 to 12 weeks after planting if the weather stays warm.  These are suitable for growing a single bulb in a 4-inch pot or three in a 6-inch container for one year.  For longer term growing upgrade to a 10-inch pot for three bulbs, but be careful to not over water while the bulb is still dormant.
 Although you can also pot up the standard sized bulbs, they prefer at least a gallon of potting soil per bulb, same as our Lilium bulbs. 

Pot up 3 bulbs in a 5 to 6 inch pot.

Note the "gritty" soil?  We like to add more Perlite to regular potting soil.
 When leaves begin to emerge, do not let the soil dry out completely — if it does, the bulbs will stop growing to wait for more moisture. They enjoy a warm, sunny location such as under a south-facing roof overhang, and as with their larger “cousins”, are long-blooming with seedpods adding to the show later in the year.  Hardy to USDA Zone 7 — they will go colder with an insulating layer of mulch, or you can
Standard sized Eucomis need to be about 16cm in size to flower.
simply lift the bulbs for winter or bring pots indoors to store in a frost-free location.  We have bulbs against our house in a slightly raised bed, Zone 7/8, protected from our winter rainfall of 50+ inches and they do well without any mulch but their own fallen leaves.  They begin to emerge in April, growing whenever the sun warms the bed.  The same varieties planted out in the open field are subjected to rain, snow and slush all winter and emerge about 3 to 4 weeks later as the ground begins to dry out.  (The image here shows a group of standard sized bulbs that have divided.  The center bulb produced a ring of offshoots over the past four years which have now grown to full-size.)

Plant new bulbs after danger of deep frost is past, and soil begins to warm (e.g. May in Seattle), spacing them 2 to 3 inches apart, covered with not more than one inch of fluffy, amended soil.  If desired, lightly mulch after top growth begins.  You can also start the bulbs in a greenhouse with plenty of natural light, but they do not “force” well over winter because of the lower light intensity. Established bulbs with a good root system can be moved even if they are starting to poke up sprouts in spring.

Don't forget to label and date your pots.
As with all Eucomis, flowering stems begin very tiny and continue to expand throughout summer.  Pineapple Lilies are long-lived and although they prefer to be left undisturbed, offsets can be detached from the mother bulb in fall, taking an additional two to three years before they flower.  Bulbs are guaranteed true-to-name, but not for failure to bloom first summer or for loss due to over watering or winter conditions.

Finished product. (Tiny Piny Ruby')

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Do you need to transplant established lily bulbs this spring?

[This question came up while we were at the Great Falls Home & Garden Show in Montana and we thought there must be others with a similar question.  Sorry we don't have photos for graphic instructions, but our lilies are not even poking up out of the soil because of the colder than normal weather in Western Washington State this spring.  Only the miniature Daffodil 'Tête-à-Tête' and Forsythia are blooming now.]

If you must move lily bulbs, Fall is the best time because they are completely dormant, but if circumstances require an emergency relocation from one spot to another it is still possible even when the lilies are up and growing.  Step number one is to dig the "receiving" hole first, that way you will never have plants "out of the ground" for too long, plus you are less likely to overestimate your physical capabilities or time.

Carefully, very carefully… dig around each sprout or stem, starting about 5 inches away and dig one shovel depth. Gently pull away soil with your fingers or a trowel towards the stem or sprout until you expose the side of the lily bulb, then dig all around, going deep enough to lift the entire clump out with the bulb in the middle.  You need to be careful to not break any underground sprouts from the bulb when you move them this time of the year.  Your job is more difficult with stems showing above ground, but it it still do-able.  Try to leave as much soil clinging to the bulbs as possible, both above the bulb around the stem roots and below the bulb where the basal plate roots that anchor the lily are located.  Do not try to "divide" a clump of lilies at this time because the stems and roots will be intertwined and you risk much damage.  If the entire clump needs to be moved out of the way of construction; try to set the entire root ball of bulbs and soil onto a tarp and gently move to its new location.

Do not leave lily bulbs out of the soil more than a day, transplant immediately. Adjust the new hole to be slightly larger and deeper than the mass of soil around the transplanted lily (or clump).  Add water to make "mud" in the bottom of the planting hole, allowing any standing water to drain, then slide the entire root ball into the space, back filling the edges and firming loose soil with your hands.  Do not water again until at least a week later or when the soil is dry two inches below the surface. If you over water at this time, the lower leaves will begin to yellow and drop off - a classic sign of over watering.  Since you have not “lost” any roots during the move, your lily bulbs will not even know they are in a new location.  Remember that if you break sprouts or stems, you've lost your bloom for this summer, however chances are good that your bulbs will not die, but simply take a year or two to recover.

Click here for more information on transplanting bulbs during summer, written last year...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shipping, Stem Roots & Potted Lily Bulbs

Since the weather across the USA is becoming milder, our main shipping season begins next Monday and unless you have requested later delivery, expect to receive your order within the next two weeks for planting.  A few varieties are now sold out, so please consult our website before mailing in a new order.  If there is no price or "add to cart" button, that variety is no longer in stock for this spring. 

Washington State Orders.  The weather here in western Washington state is still not settled - which is very unusual for this time of the year - so if you are in our local area, you may want to keep your bulbs in an unheated area for a few days until the weather cooperates with a dry planting day.

Worried about frost?  Freezing temperatures while the bulbs are underground is fine - a few degrees of below freezing temperature will usually not harm lilies that have already emerged.  You might see a few browned edges on the leaves, but they usually will grow out of it.  Lily bulbs like to put down new roots while the soil is still cold and if you wait until the time to "plant tomatoes", they will not have the time they need to grow anchoring roots before putting up a stem.

Basal Plate roots are contractile roots, they actually will
 pull the bulb down to anchor against wind. You can tell a
contractile root because it appears to be slightly "wrinkled".
Bulb roots.  The stem roots (just below the soil surface) are the "feeder" roots, those produced at the bottom of the bulb (Basal Plate) are "contractile roots" that keep the bulb from tipping over in wind.  If your garden is subjected to wind on a regular basis, the cells within the stem become tougher so they do not snap but the roots have a bit of "bend" to allow the stem to move from side to side without breaking.

If you plant very late in the spring, those stem roots are slower to grow but the warmer temperatures will cause the stem to be shorter overall - which can be a good thing, because a taller stem is more likely to need staking if the bulb is not firmly anchored in the soil. Also, if plant much after May 1st, you will have shorter stems this first year and the lilies will bloom much later than usual. See "3 Mistakes to Avoid" for more information about roots on lily bulbs.

Planting in containers.  You must still plant at the regular depth in pots for the lily bulbs to produce the proper number of stem roots.  A container at least 8 to 10 inches deep is recommended, even if there is only an inch of potting soil below the lily bulb - lilies can do with a reduced number of basal plate roots the first summer, but must have enough soil covering the bulb to grow stem roots or they will not be able to take in nutrients easily.  Do not plant with only a light covering of soil, intending to "fill in later" because that method will not encourage feeder roots if the portion of stem that should be underground is hardened off by the sun.

Fertilize with a balanced formula fertilizer when the sprouts first emerge and again when the flowers begin to open.  Avoid liquid fertilizers with a high nitrogen content or you will have nice green leaves at the expense of the flowers and future growth.  Excessive nitrogen weakens lily bulbs and can cause rot in Orientals.  Rose and Tomato foods are well loved by lilies.  In midsummer you can "topdress" - spread around the stem - an inch or so of well rotted manure, POOpeas or compost to give the lilies an immediate feeding.

Keep the containers out of high wind for best results, or place them where any tall stems can be supported with a stake or fence.  Pounding three pieces of rusty iron Rebar (for reinforcing concrete) around the outside of large pots sitting on the ground or on gravel paths/driveway can be a last minute solution to keep the container from tipping.  If you leave the iron tall enough above the rim of the container you can then make a "cage" for support.

We like to use large fiberglass double-walled pots (18" - 24" across) because they help to better regulate heat and cold and it is easy to plant bulbs at the proper depth.  Being fiberglass, the pots are easier to move around the patio and the added insulation helps to protect the bulbs over winter.  One gallon of potting soil per bulb is recommended, so a 24 inch container can easily hold 6 to 9 large lily bulbs and still have room for trailing annuals around the outside edges, to create a more finished, "mini garden" look for your containers.