Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: February indoor plant party

A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.

Sorry, I’m late to the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day party. I didn’t realize it was already mid-February. How could I miss it with Valentine’s Day right before? Well, everyone here has been sick since Christmas. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

There’s so much blooming in my red dirt world so let’s get on with the show.

Among my indoor plants, I’ve forced hyacinths, and I’ve also bought some small daffodils already doing their groove thing.

Hyacinths 'Delft Blue' Garden Bloggers Bloom Day
Hyacinths ‘Delft Blue’ I forced this fall and winter. Dreamy aren’t they?

All of my hyacinths performed wonderfully except the white ones. Most of them rotted. I prepared them the same way as the others. I placed them in paper bags in the garage refrigerator in late August because we don’t get that cold in Oklahoma at the beginning of winter–at least most of the time. I used paper bags because we occasionally store fruit in that refrigerator. I was super busy throughout fall, so I didn’t get them on vase until mid-December. I then put them in the bulb closet in my kitchen so they could start growing roots.

Bulb closet in my kitchen.
Bulb closet in my kitchen.

All of them rooted except the white ones. They just sat there. I watched for green shoots on top too, but nothing. When I pulled up the bulbs, they were rotten. I don’t know why.

Hyacinths mature at different rates when you force them, so I pull them out of the closet when the green shoot is about 1/2-inch high. Then, I place them in a sunny window. Before long, they turn bright green and begin to grow. You’re simply fooling the plant that it’s spring. It’s tons of fun and a good thing to do with kids. I usually get two months of bloom.

See those in front with the yellow tips? They just came out of the closet today. The vase on the left is modern. The turquoise one may be modern too, but it has the Tye type shape. It came from England.
The hyacinth tips were yellow until they sat in sunlight for a few days. Then, they turn bright green.

I gave loads of already-planted bulbs to family and friends at Christmas. They make excellent gifts.

I noticed Trader Joe’s already has plenty of forced tulips and daffodils. Go ahead and buy yourself some. They don’t cost much, and they make this period before spring seem shorter. I bought these daffs and slid the plastic pots down into my containers. I watered and enjoyed them until they bloomed out. Because they are planted in potting soil, I can transplant them outside for bloom in spring 2018. Daffodils are such strong growers that they transplant pretty well even when forced in potting soil. Other forced blooms, especially those in water, do not.

Forced daffodils from Trader Joe's.
Forced daffodils from Trader Joe’s.

After Christmas, Whole Foods put their amaryllis on sale, so I snatched up two I love. They bloomed just in time for Valentine’s Day. Who says amaryllis (hippeastrum) are just for Christmas?

I’ve also been obsessed with orchids this year. There is no easier plant to bring into your home. By the time you see the orchid in the store, someone has worked very hard in a large greenhouse to make it bloom. We visited an industrial greenhouse orchid operation when we were in California for spring trials. I have those photos, and I should write a post about it. Would you like that?

Greenhouse growers take your phalaenopsis orchid from a tiny cutting and eventually bring it to bloom. Then, all you need to do is sit it on a table or mantel and give it some sun every couple of weeks. Oh, occasionally, you water it too.

It’s almost a plastic plant!

For larger orchids, you can do the ice cube trick every other week to water, but even that’s too much for mini-orchids. The mini-orchids and the interspecific (mixed species) are my current favorites.

An interspecific orchid I found at a box store.
An interspecific orchid I found at Lowe’s.
A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.
A closeup of the blooms of an interspecific orchid hybrid. I love the yellow color too. So cheery on dark days.

I like how the minis aren’t top heavy, and the blooms on the interspecific ones, shown above, are truly spectacular. I found the minis at Trader Joe’s and the interspecific ones at Lowe’s. You just have to shop every couple of weeks because orchid stock seems to be replenished every week or so. I have a couple of larger phalaenopsis orchids too. I nearly drowned one of them, so I repotted it in orchid bark and stashed it in the greenhouse. It seems happier. Orchids like to grow on tree branches in tropical rainforests. They don’t like wet roots.

Orchids like to grow on tree branches in tropical rainforests. They don't like wet roots. Click To Tweet

When I started posting a lot of orchid photos on my Instagram account, I got questions about reblooming. Well, my friend, Shirley Bovshow, made a video on getting your orchid to rebloom.

Here are my thoughts. If you want to try for rebloom, great. If you don’t, just compost your orchid after it blooms. It’s no different than buying cut flower bouquets–they cost about the same–and orchids bloom for months.

I hear you. It’s–gasp–a plant, not a flower! Yes, but even plants die, and that’s ok.

I hear you. It's--gasp--a plant, not a flower! Yes, but even plants die, and that's ok. Click To Tweet

I repotted two of my orchids–including the unfortunate drowning victim–and put them out in the greenhouse for now. I’ll place them by a window in my bathroom come summer. We’ll see if I can get them to rebloom. I’ve never tried, but I never bought so many orchids before either.

Most of my February blooms are indoors, but I have a few outside too. My hellebores started blooming today in fact. I trimmed back the old foliage a few days ago and accidentally cut off two blooms. It is one of those things that just happens I guess. Some people in milder climates don’t cut away the old foliage, but here it looks so bad I do. That way, everything is fresh, unhidden and ready to bloom. I have more to trim, but as you can see, I need to cut back the ornamental grasses too.

We are supposed to have a high of 68F today. I think I’ll get out there and garden.

Just one of my ornamental grasses that needs cutting.
Just two of my ornamental grasses that need cutting.

Yesterday, I contacted Grooms Irrigation Co. and asked for them to come out and estimate what it would cost to expand the irrigation system. Since we installed it in 2008, I’ve added three or four more borders. I should get the costs soon and get started. I told him we needed it done before June and the daylily regional tour. Hopefully, since I contacted them early, they can get to it soon.

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day everyone, and thank you, Carol, for once again hosting us.

 

Growing amaryllis is easy

I like hippeastrum. What are hippeastrum you ask? We know them as amaryllis. When I write that I like them, I mean I’m a hipp-aholic. They brighten my house with their stately blooms before Christmas and after. Growing amaryllis is easy, and I want you to grow them too.

Plus, thanks to Longfield Gardens, I get to give one of my readers a ‘Red Lion’ amaryllis bulb of your very own. If you’re in a hurry and want to bypass the drawing, here’s a link to their bestselling amaryllis. Robin Haglund of Garden Mentors and Kylee Baumle of Our Little Acre are joining me in this fun giveaway. It was actually Robin’s idea.

We’re all sharing our personal experiences growing these easy and fun bulbs. Plus, we’re giving away a three-pack of Annie Haven’s manure tea as fertilizer. If you didn’t win in my last contest, here’s another chance.

A red amaryllis I grew last year.
A red amaryllis I grew last year.

I share a lot on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest about forcing bulbs and corms in winter because I really can’t stand the quiet season. I pretend that I enjoy winter all the way through Advent and Christmas, but once the tree is put away; the carols are sung; and Christ’s birth is celebrated, I become sullen and bored. Frankly, I wish I were a bear and could hibernate until mid-March when at least the crocus are blooming.

And, don’t even talk to me about Valentine’s Day. What a disappointment that is.

Hippeastrum 'Dancing Queen'
Hippeastrum ‘Dancing Queen’

Because winter is so NOT my favorite season, I play around with hyacinths, Iris reticulata, different Narcissus tazetta (paperwhites) and muscari. Plus, this year, I’m also trying to grow Fritillaria meleagris, ranunculus and freesias. We’ll see how those last two go. They have “special requirements.”

H. 'Elvas' (in front) and 'Apple Blossom' (behind)
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) ‘Elvas’ and ‘Apple Blossom’

Today, however, we’re growing amaryllis the easy way. First, we’re not forcing these bulbs to bloom. They are tropical, so they want to grow and bloom for you in your home They truly do. As I wrote above, they are really hippeastrum, but no one except British gardeners, who are good about all things botanical Latin, call them that. William Herbert, who was a British botanist, named them hippeastrum, which means “knight’s star lily” or something along those lines. I can’t find anywhere why, but a lot of amaryllis have star-like blooms. Perhaps, that was his methodology.

Coir in an amaryllis bulb kit isn't worth using in my opinion.
The coir in an amaryllis bulb kit isn’t worth using in my opinion.

As for growing, I think the best way to grow amaryllis is in potting soil. I’ve grown them on pebbles and in water, but soil has the best results. If you buy a kit at the nursery or Target, you’ll get a pot and some coir that must be rehydrated. If you want your plant to bloom again next year, substitute good potting soil. Then, throw that coir onto the compost pile. Although kits are fun, you can save yourself a lot of money putting together your own basket or other container with pretty amaryllis and moss. I use my containers year-after-year.

I seem to be on a completely natural kick this year. Usually, I force some plants in fancy bulb containers, but greenhouse terracotta felt right this winter.

Here’s how to grow amaryllis:

Buy the largest amaryllis bulb you can find. Open the kits and look if you must. Online sources always ship nice, large bulbs.
Buy the largest amaryllis bulb you can find. Open the kits and look if you must. Online sources always ship nice, large bulbs.

Pick the largest bulb you can find, but note that some unusual varieties will be smaller naturally. If you want a unique bulb, you may need to order online, and there is still time to order your own amaryllis. After seeing some white doubles on Pinterest, I bought three ‘White Nymph.’ They are up and growing. I hope they bloom by Christmas, but I have several others that I’m waiting to see after the holidays when I’m bored out of my skull. Cybister-type hippeastrum are especially interesting. One year I grew ‘La Paz.’

Hippeastrum 'La Paz', one of the more unique varieties of amaryllis.
Hippeastrum ‘La Paz’, one of the more unique varieties of amaryllis.

Take the pot and fill it up over halfway with potting soil. Set the bulb down on it gently spreading its roots over the surface of the soil. Then, put soil up to the shoulders of the bulb. Water the soil around the bulb gently. Don’t get water inside the bulb if possible.

Place amaryllis bulb in container and gently spread its roots if possible. Don't worry if the bulb has already sprouted and started to grow.
Place amaryllis bulb in container and gently spread its roots if possible. Don’t worry if the bulb has already sprouted and started to grow.

You can also place pebbles or moss around the bulb to give it a finished look.

Place stones or moss around the bulb to give it a professional look.
Place stones or moss around the bulb to give it a professional look.

Also, build in some support from the beginning. Otherwise, your beautiful flowers will fall over onto the ground. This year, I’m using bamboo sticks and green twine to support mine. I think it looks nice with the moss and stones. Last year, I bought copper amaryllis supports, and I liked them too. Amaryllis grow extremely fast once they get started. However, they can be unpredictable about when they plan to start. That’s why it’s important to like them not just for Christmas.

As they grow, turn them everyday. That way, they will grow straight and tall. If they start to lean toward the light, just turn them again, and they will straighten up. Some people suggest a quarter turn each day, but I don’t have time for that.

Amaryllis in terra cotta pot with bamboo and twine support
Amaryllis in terracotta pot with bamboo and twine support.

Now for the contest. Just comment below and join my subscription list–the button is on the sidebar–and I’ll pick one comment/signup with a random number generator. You can also follow the directions on Robin and Kylee’s posts for two more chances to win. This contest is only open to the continental U.S.A. The contest runs through Midnight November 30, 2014, the first Sunday of Advent. Speaking of Advent, we’ll also be sharing our amaryllis every day showing their growth and bloom throughout the Advent season. Look for them on Pinterest–I made a special Pinterest board–Twitter, Google+ and even maybe Facebook with the hashtag, #AmaryllisAdvent. Please share yours too. Maybe we’ll create an amaryllis movement!

Some of my amaryllis at the warm end of the greenhouse. The gift hippeastrum are in the red pots. I put dark stones on top for decoration.
Some of my amaryllis at the warm end of the greenhouse. The gift hippeastrum are in the red pots. I put dark stones on top for decoration.

Seriously though, I hope you’ll either order a bulb online, or rescue one of those sad boxes from the box stores or your local nursery. Consider, also, giving already-growing amaryllis as gifts–that is–if you can part with them.