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.


What to buy your favorite rose gardener for Valentine’s Day

'Miss All American Beauty' rose I saw at FiLoLi in California.
A perfect red rose probably 'Don Juan' who died here in 2011.
A perfect red rose probably ‘Don Juan’ who died here in 2011.

Bill and I were discussing romance this morning, and he asked me what I thought was romantic. You know I love roses, but not a icky, chemical-laden bouquet with no scent. Thinking about traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, reminded me that it’s also a great time to compile a list of gifts for rose gardeners. Tools aren’t just for Christmas, and I bet your sweetheart would rather have a garden tool than a bunch of mass-produced, red roses for Valentine’s Day. If you do want to buy him or her flowers, check out Debra Prinzing’s Slow Flowers in coming months for local flower growers. While Slow Flowers won’t be up and running in time for St. Valentine’s Day, you will soon have a resource to find American-grown flowers throughout the U.S. That’s something to cheer about! In the meantime, if you want to know more about the flowers you place in your vases, check out Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, and you’ll never look the same way at cut flowers ever again. I still buy cut flowers, especially in winter when I can’t cut from my own garden, but I source mine from Whole Foods, and I ask questions about where they were grown. This isn’t just an issue of chemicals, but also, the people and countries who grow and harvest cut flowers.

Instead of a bouquet, why not buy a new rose bush for your love’s garden? Give him or her a gift certificate to a local rose grower. We have Roses, Inc. in Green Country, located near Tulsa in beautiful Broken Arrow. My love may be a red, red rose, but you too can find the rose of your dreams there. I found two David Austin roses already this spring. I’m trying to resist, but I bet eventually I won’t.

All winter I dream of my roses . . . what and how I’ll feed them; how they should be pruned; who is sick, etc. Yes, even with 90+ bushes, I know who is ailing. ‘Buff Beauty’ is one. She hasn’t looked this good since 2010. Why? The summer of 2011 was brutal, and disease has been a bigger problem in recent summers. I don’t spray, and I don’t use chemicals. Instead, I try to grow more disease resistant rose varieties, and I use roses in a mixed planting, excluding one bed on the side of the house. I need to work in that bed soon to get better airflow in it. I think I’ll be forced to dig up ‘Buff Beauty’ this year. We shall see. If you’d like to read more about growing roses organically, try this information from the British National Trust. While their growing conditions are quite different, the information regarding planting and disease is still spot on.

'Buff Beauty' rose from 2010.
‘Buff Beauty’ rose from 2010.

When thinking of roses, I also always think about tools to prune, feed and water my beauties and the rest of my garden each spring and summer. I hope and pray Rose Rosette Disease has departed, and I’ll have a banner year. Of course, we need rain desperately so how good the year is depends upon that too. You can water, but you can’t replace rain.

My favorite loppers are made by Fiskars.
My favorite loppers are made by Fiskars. Here, I was trying to cut away winter damage on my Japanese maple in the front garden.

Taking care of roses isn’t hard. The main work is early in spring. Having the right tools is essential.

  • I think everyone knows I write for Fiskars, but if I write about a product and include it in an article for them, you know it’s one I use all the time like my Fiskars Garden Bucket Caddy. Gardeners keep tools in all sorts of things from totes to mailboxes in the garden. However, I’m a five-gallon bucket kind of girl–they are spread throughout the garden, and I require a good compartmentalized carrier that fits like a belt around my bucket’s exterior. I’m rough on garden tools, and I need something strong. I also garden on a hill, and those floppy totes will roll down it if I’m not careful. Plus, I like to carry around a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol to clean pruners between roses. There’s some thought that gardeners are spreading RRD and other diseases due to a lack of hygiene and the Rose Rosette Virus.
  • The interior space of the bucket also needs to be empty for my favorite tools like DeWit’s Dutch Hand Hoe and my small Fiskars PowerGear® loppers. In the pockets of the caddy, I also want a good pair of shears and some floral snips. Short loppers reach in between rose canes, and I use the hand hoe to work the soil around the rose’s roots and to move away mulch before feeding roses.
  • A long-handled pair of loppers like Fiskars Quantum ones are essential for pruning climbing roses and large old heirlooms. These loppers are super sharp. I’m surprised the Mafia doesn’t use them for enforcement purposes.
  • Rose food is a tool too. Instead of ordering Mills Rose Magic this spring, I’m trying either the Dark Forest or Prairie Gold compost from our local Minick Materials. Compost always benefits the soil, and Minick lets you buy whatever amount you need. I’m planning on a dump truck load. I’m not kidding. I garden over an acre, so that’s not as surprising as it sounds. I’ll add some alfalfa pellets to the roses as I work in the compost. I don’t think I’ll do any other feeding this spring, and I’ll watch my plants over the summer. If our drought continues and high temperatures threaten, I’ll spray everything with some manure tea or Sea Tea from Gardenville. If you don’t have farm animals like chickens, you can buy manure tea from Haven Brand.
  • Pruners. Pick those that feel good in your hands. Don’t buy the cheapest ones you find. Felco is an obvious choice. So are the Fiskars Quantum pruners. I think if you have several roses, a good pair of pruners will save your hands.
  • An aluminum ladder to reach the rose canes of climbing roses is essential. Just remember not to prune climbers until after they’ve bloomed. That’s when they put on their greatest growth. If you prune beforehand, you’ll reduce the number of blooms.
  • A good trowel to shovel in compost or manure.
  • An excellent watering wand like this one from Haws. I know it’s pricey, but it’s about the same price as cut roses during Valentine’s Day shopping. Haws produces an entire line of watering tools that don’t break and are made specifically for gardeners. Just remember to unhook your wand and drain your hoses before cold temperatures come. In Oklahoma, that can be every other day in winter so don’t forget. I still need to water things in the greenhouse so I do a lot of hooking and unhooking. I use quick-connects.
'Miss All American Beauty' rose I saw at FiLoLi in California.
‘Miss All American Beauty’ rose I saw at FiLoLi in California.

Now, your average or even passionate gardener don’t need all of these things, but they sure come in handy. Buying one or two tools–or a rose bush–for your love  would be the perfect thing for Valentine’s Day–if they’re a gardener, that is.