Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lily Bulb Review - 'Gizmo' (Easter x Oriental)

This photo will be on the cover of our Fall 2013 catalog.    
One of my favorite pure white lilies, and the best white to come along in years, 'Gizmo' is a hybrid cross of the familiar white Easter Lily found in stores in spring and selected Oriental Hybrids.  (Easter weekend reminded me that I'd forgotten to publish this post.)  

Bigger in flower size than 'Casablanca', more tolerant of heat, and with a stronger stem to hold up its heavy flowers, this impressive variety is a good choice for areas with warmer summer temperatures that may cause heat stress in purebred Orientals. 

Blooming later than many OT (Orienpets) 'Conca d'Or' and 'Flashpoint'—two of my other favorite lilies—and most of the Orientals like  'Siberia', 'Star Gazer', 'Muscadette' and 'Acapulco', it makes a good "end of season" show in my garden.  Scent is more akin to Orienpet Hybrids, not the sweeter, spicy scent of 'Casablanca', but it's not overpowering and doesn't become obnoxious to the senses after 10 to 14 days of indoor floral use. 
'Conca d'Or' in the garden.

Officially, bloom time begins mid-July and the first year average height is 3 feet or more, but last summer's bulbs were still blooming at the very end of August due to our wet, cold summer and were pushing 5 feet tall in our southern field.  In the garden, with light shade, stems can be 6 feet tall the second year, so give them room to reach for the sky—no low overhanging branches.

A note to consider however is to be sure and place enough soil over the top of your bulbs when planting, because this baby will make a terrific amount of stem roots in even average soil.  In fact, our crew tends to groan whenever there is a block of 'Gizmo' in a row during harvest, because they are far more difficult to process while bulbs are cut free from stems.  We wait until lily leaves are turning yellow to dig, indicating that the bulbs are mature and firm enough to harvest, but even with matured leaves, the 'Gizmo' bulbs are rock solid and will not "let go" easily. 

Luckily, we do not plant all bulbs of a single variety in the same field because they need to be scattered throughout the farm to make the early fall harvest easier.  We only dig what is needed during the rush in October to fill orders.  The rest of that fall harvest is actually finished up in winter, often up to Christmas week, weather permitting, for the spring catalog and early Flower and Garden shows.

Pollen-bearing anthers.
Plant in a triangle of three bulbs for best effect, but space them at least 10 to 12 inches apart.  This wider spacing will allow the stems to fully show off the flowers without crowding.  Because the flowers are white and if you are using overhead irrigation, you might wish to pick off the pollen-bearing anthers when the flowers first open to avoid yellow stains on the petals. 

See how the anthers are beginning to open up in this closeup of 'Purple Lady' and that you can actually see the individual pollen grains beginning to dry?  Simply pull anthers off with your fingers before they begin to unfurl. (Our oldest son called these "antlers' when he was 4 years old, much to the surprise of garden visitors.)

P.S.  If entering a stem in competition, pick just as the bottom flowers are starting to open and do not remove the pollen or you will most likely lose points during judging.  Do not cut more than 1/3 of the leafy portion of the stem though, lilies need their leaves to rebuild the bulb for next year's flowering.—Dianna

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Weeder Geese" at B&D Lilies

Tufted Roman Geese checking the future lily field
behind the portable electronet fence.
Eight feathered workers joined the field "payroll" last year.  They are Tufted Roman Geese, considered a lightweight bird, and on the "critical' watch list because of the low number of known breeding pairs.  American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: Roman Goose
Tuffed Romans are not as noisy or grumpy as the more vocal Chinese breeds, but during mating season and the rearing of goslings, ganders naturally become more "hissy" and vigilant.  Romans lay a fair number of eggs per year, take good care of their families, and are excellent "weeder geese".

Our geese love poking throughout the lily field for chickweed, clover and other goodies during mid to late August while the stems are tall and the understory weeds are tender.  Large clumps of chickweed or clover mean trouble on the harvesting belt, which can "ball up", and a take a great deal of time to untangle from the lily stems and bulbs, stopping the entire operation.

Massive clumps of Chickweed in our field is not necessarily a bad thing however, because those succulent clumps indicates good soil fertility.  Chickweed pulls out easily for the table (in salads) or for Anne Marie's confined flock of chickens in September, when our resident pair of  Bald Eagles are perched above the creek next to the chicken run, watching for spawning salmon.  Busy days in fall can bring a bit of a thrill—or shudder—when you look up in the Alder trees to see an Eagle calmly staring down in your direction, perhaps only 30 feet away.

Much more docile when the days turn stormy in October, our flock of geese will wait patiently under our grape kiwis (Actinidia), looking upward, for ripe fruit to drop from wind gusts.  A tug here and there by a determined gander on a low branch will sometimes yield a prize, but the "shaker" never seems to make it to the harvest before the other geese scramble in to scoop up the sweet tidbits.

New coyote fence being constructed last summer.

Coyote protection is important.


During the day, a portable electrified mesh fence controls grazing geese and discourages coyotes.   At times, this temporary fence borders the 6 foot security fence where the birds are tucked in at night.  We leave the electronet fence active 24/7 should a nose get too close while testing the barrier, because coyotes seem to need constant reminders.

When we installed the night time pen, a 2 foot layer of hardware cloth was stapled to the bottom fence rail and placed lower than ground level.  This barrier discourages digging under the fence and the addition of both a "hot" wire and "ground" wire at the top rail is for additional security.

The section shown above, bordering our veggie garden, will be finished before Dianna's order of 15 Ancona duckings arrive in May.   With our irrigation ponds, salmon spawning creek and high winter/spring rainfall, slugs and snails can be a problem that ducks are more than happy to control, plus they also lay tasty eggs, so its a win-win solution for natural pest control.

As the summer progresses we'll share photos of our waterfowl earning their grain.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dianna finally gets to use her Christmas present, a new bulb planter!

Just hooked up; the seat covers haven't even been removed.
Wahoo!  It arrived the day after Christmas, but it wasn't until now that our soil was dry enough to try it in the field.  Custom ordered by my husband, Bob, and designed  by a company in Wyoming, it is even painted in my favorite shade of blue.  No more hands and knees crawling in the cold spring ground!  Because I was so excited to take its portrait yesterday, the little extras aren't shown—a larger removable hopper, cup holders (for water, not beer), or the basket for supplies.

Although not completely "automatic" because we like to keep an eye on the spacing and planting depth, the design allows us to sprinkle smaller stock and bulblets within the rows and save space in the field.  Planting stock,  lily bulbs sized 12/14 cm to 16/18, are dropped down cylinders in two rows about eight inches apart from a rotating carousal, with the larger bulbs (18/20 and up) simply dropped individually by the operators while the tractor slowly moves forward.  

Our soil is rich bottom land, without rocks, so there is a tendency for the opening plow to go a little deeper at times, but it allows Bob to make easy adjustments whenever there is a "soft spot" and so the bulbs gently fall onto fluffy soil, without any danger of bruising.   We-use and re-purpose everything on the farm, nothing is specialized and the more uses for an item, the better.

So, guess who just received a 50 pound box of seed potatoes last week?

Yep, there is a piece of open ground just to the west of the lily field and all it needs is a light tilling after the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.