Thanks to your patronage the Holiday Green Sale was a success. Hope to see you next year.
From Our Gardens to Yours,
A Healthy and Happy New Year!
While there is some concern that this year’s lack of really cold weather may affect this project, two of our more common yard plants are great and vigorous forcers that should still work well. Forsythia (especially) and Flowering Quince are about as dependable as you can get. All you need to do is cut several branches that show lots of plump flower buds and put them in a container with warm (100 – 110° F) water in a somewhat cool location. Bright, but indirect, light is best. Wait about 7-14 days for the flowers to open. (Since you won’t know in advance how long this will take, consider starting new branches every other day during this period so you’
ll have a prime specimen to show!)
Branches from fruit trees (including crab apples) are almost as easy to force as those from the shrubs above. (This is a great time to prune them, anyway!) Give them a little more time (up to three weeks). Azaleas and Rhododendrons, and other woody plants (honeysuckle, dogwood, spirea, redbud, magnolia, etc.) may well take even longer (up to a month –
or more) to encourage them into flowering. (Do remember to start forcing branches over a period of time, as suggested above.)
Some special treatments (see below) for your long-term and/or recalcitrant bloomers may be necessary, but success is well worth it. Good luck!
- Cut (or recut) your branches on an angle. You may cut very long or shorter branches. However, if the stems are larger than ½ inch in diameter, split open their bottoms with a sharp scissor up to about an inch (or gently mash them with a hammer.) This helps the branches absorb water.
- If it was below freezing when the branches were cut, immerse them (full length) in cold water overnight. (You could do this with any cut branches, but they don’
t always need it.)
- Cover the branches in the vase (loosely) with a plastic bag to prevent them from drying out.
- Remove any buds that might be under water and change your water regularly to prevent rot.
- If you are trying to force a branch that you expect will take more a long time to show results, add some kind of floral preservative (recipes vary, but usually about 1-2 T sugar, ½ t chlorine bleach or Listerine, and some (3-4 T) acidic solution – such as lemon juice, vinegar, or 7-Up –
to 1 quart water.)
- To speed up flowering (at the expense of how long blooms will last) put them in a location that is somewhat warm (over 70°). (Make sure to check that they always have plenty of water.)
So, did you know —- ?
How should you choose the best plant for your home?
How can you keep the plant healthy for the holidays?
You can preserve specific varieties of garden plants…..
that you enjoy …. that do well for you…. that are becoming rare.
You can easily pass these varieties along to friends.
And – you can save money: you won’t need to buy as many seeds next spring!
Many garden flowers and vegetables have seeds that are very easy to save,
Some of the easiest flowers include….
Cleome (spider plant) marigolds hollyhocks poppies
morning glories Cosmos Zinnia Nasturtium
….and anything that has a nice dry seed head or pod, such as Lunaria (money plant/silver dollar/honesty)
You can also save the seeds of a variety of herbs and vegetables (note: these must be ripe or the seeds will be immature and will not germinate), such as…..
Beans Squash Melons Cucumbers Peppers Peas Dill Cilantro Okra Eggplant Tomatoes (*see below)
Unless you want to experiment, don’t try to save the seeds of hybrid plants (anything that you have planted that is labeled as an “F1 hybrid.”) Plants grown from such saved seeds may be quite different from their parents; you will not get what you expect.
If the flower/fruit/pod is dry, it is easy to break it open and shake out the seeds. Clean out as much extraneous vegetable matter as you can, and lay them out flat on a white paper towel for a day or so in a dry place (No taking chances on rotting!)
If you have a ripe fruit/vegetable, you should carefully remove the seeds and wash them thoroughly. Rinse them several times, removing as much non-seed material as possible. Lay out, in a single layer, on a white paper towel, and let dry thoroughly in a cool, dry, place (not in the sun) for at least a week, or until they feel very dry.
*Tomatoes need special treatment. Squeeze the seeds out of their cavities into a bowl, and rinse lightly. Then, add a cup of water, and put the bowl into the sun for about a week. Every day or so, pour off the fermenting muck on top of the dish, and make sure there is plenty of water for this (essential!) fermentation to occur. At the end of the week, the viable seeds will have sunk to the bottom of the dish, and you can proceed to rinse and then dry (and store) them .
You can store your seeds in plastic bags, pill or film bottles, paper envelopes – in short, anything that will keep them protected and dry.
Put them in a dry and cool place. If possible, keep them out of bright light as well. (It isn’t necessary to refrigerate the seeds – in fact, many parts of the refrigerator are too humid for good storage; keeping them in a cellar can work well. Do not freeze!)
Label your seeds. Write both the exact variety (and the date collected) clearly on your packet.
Wouldn’t you love to have gorgeous flowers blooming inside your home when it’s snowing outside? It’s easy!
Forcing spring bulbs is a terrific way to accomplish this – and now is the time to get started on this horticultural project.
Buy some bulbs at your local garden center – daffodils and grape hyacinths are particularly simple to force, though tulips, hyacinths, and many other “minor bulbs” also work well. Plant them
(densely, for best show) in a pot: use a fairly light soil and provide good drainage (pottery shards are good.) Water the pots very well, and place in a cool dark place (like a bulkhead or unheated garage.) Leave them there for at least two months (watering lightly perhaps once a month, if the soil is dry and unfrozen.) And – that’s it!
After this time (say, in snowy February or March?), start bringing the pots into the house. Place them in a warm sunny place and water well. In a few weeks you’ll have wonderful blooms.
If you don’t want to go to this effort, you can even more easily force paper narcissus (just in pebbles and water, with no cold treatment.) Or – just buy some hyacinths now and place them in the vegetable bin in your refrigerator (onions are bulbs too!). After a few months, you can force them in a hyacinth vase or other suitable container – a fabulous
and fragrant display to brighten up the waning days of winter.