Horticulture Report: Winter Flowers

Mid-Winter MadnessErica carnea…..Winter Heath

A dwarf evergreen shrub native to the European Alps which persist even under the snow. It often blooms at Christmas (“Winter Beauty”). Flowers are borne individually on the stem in masses of bell-shaped blossoms. Colors range from creamy white, rich pink, to deep ruby red (“ Ruby Glow”). Plant in well drained humus-rich soil. It needs partial shade in hotter areas. Prune yearly to prevent “legginess”.
Height 12-18”, spreading to 3 feet, so give it room.  USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 10

“They are adorable, these clumps of winter heather. Actually they seem to welcome the snow, for it enhances their sweet complexions.” Beverley Nichols, Down the Garden Path

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Water-Wise Gardening

Russian sageThe City of Ashland has created an informational  website to help reduce water usage in yards & gardens.

Click here to visit the site:
Water Wise Landscaping in Ashland

Once you’re at the website click the tabs located at the top of the page to view the following features.

Start with Garden Resources which is the gateway to the site. There you will find the table of contents: Getting Started, Irrigation, Design and Maintenance.

Garden Tours & Garden Gallery showcase local properties and supplies the viewer with visual examples of water-wise plantings.  Within each photo there is a white box; click the box to obtain detailed information regarding the plant.

The Plants is organized by Firewise,  Lawn Alternatives, Drought Tolerant Plants, Ornamental Grass, Deer Resistant Plants, Screens & Hedges. Each category presentsa list of plant suggestions. You can also search for plants based on: plant type, size, color, sun requirements, soil type and blooming season.

The Watering Guide provides watering guidelines, watering tips and common irrigation challenges.

This well designed site contains vast amounts of plant information, check it out and be inspired!

by:Carlotta Lucas

Winter Flowers

Narcissus papyraceus, one of a few species known as “Paperwhites,” is a perennial bulbous plant native to the Mediterranean region (USDA zones 9-10). Paperwhites produce white flowers in bunches which are strongly fragrant and they are easy to force to bloom indoors for winter flowers.

Paperwhites only need three inches of room for their roots to grow, so shallow containers like glass vases and ceramic bowls are ideal containers.  It’s fun to scout around antique stores, second hand stores and garage sales for unusual planting containers to display these fragrant flowers indoors.  They make wonderful gifts, too.

The planting medium only needs to provide support for the plants and be suitable for the roots to grow through.  And because Paperwhites are usually discarded after flowering  the planting medium doesn’t need to supply any nutrients, so Paperwhites can be planted in soil, pebbles, tumbled beach glass, glass marbles or small gravel.

Plant Paperwhites bulbs with the top inch above the soil/pebble “soil” line. For a full display plant bulbs close together, almost touching. If planted in soil add just enough water to moisten the soil. If planted in pebbles, rocks or marbles, add enough water to just cover the bulbs bases. The goal here is to have the very bottom of the bulbs touching the water to encourage root growth, but not covering the entire bulb which can cause it to rot. Place the container in a sunny bright location and in a week or two roots will appear, after which the buds and blooms develop quickly. It is fun to watch the daily progress.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites

My friend gave me this large basket she was taking to Goodwill, so I lined it with a plastic trash bag, filled it with potting soil and planted 20 Paperwhites in it the first week of December.

Carlotta Lucas

Christmas Cactus

 Scientific Name: Schlumbergera

A Christmas Cactus in full bloom makes an extraordinary gift for gardeners, and non-gardeners, alike.  With proper care a Christmas Cactus is very long lived.  Mine is almost forty years old and still provides an amazing display of flowers every Christmas season.

Christmas Cactus Care:

Light/Temperature:  Prefers a warm location with bright indirect sunlight. Shade it from intense sun and keep the plant away from heater vents, fireplaces and cold drafts.

Soil:  Plant in well draining potting mix made for succulent plants. Its ideal soil is composed of equal parts of garden loam, leaf mold or peat, and clean course sand.

Water:  A Christmas Cactus is a tropical succulent, it is NOT a true cactus, therefore it requires more water than a true cactus. Its watering needs vary with air temperature and humidity, but in general keep the soil just barely moist throughout the year. But, do not over water or the stems will get flabby and droop,  and don’t under water either or the stems will be shriveled and limp. Note: if your plant tends to dry out and/or wilt frequently, then it’s time to re-pot it into a slightly larger container.

Fertilizing: Supply plant with a weak solution of houseplant fertilizer every two weeks.

Flowering:  The secret to good bud production is cool temperatures and extended darkness.

Cool temps: The best temperature for bud development is 55F-61F degrees for a period of 6 weeks.  Start providing cool temps in November for Christmas blooming.

Extended Darkness: The plant also needs 12 hours of darkness every night for 6 weeks.  You can accomplish darkness by covering the plant with a cloth each night or move it into a dark area overnight.  For cactus to bloom at Christmas time, darkness treatment should start in early October. Then, when buds start to appear increase its light exposure.  Do not move the plant when it starts blooming, because it is sensitive to location during this time.

Color:  Flower colors ranges from pink, white, yellow, salmon, fuchsia, red and any combination of these.

Rest time:  In February, after it has bloomed, the plant should have a rest period, so during this month water it sparingly and stop fertilizing.

Re-potting:  A Christmas Cactus blooms better if slightly pot-bound, so re-pot only when needed every 3-4 years.  Re-pot the plant into a slightly bigger pot in the spring when it is not in bloom.

Propagation:  Propagating Christmas cactus is easy. Cut a y-shaped segment off the tip of the plant, this cutting should have 2-3 joined segments.  Allow the cutting to dry for a few hours and then plant it in moist peat & sand soil mix, insert about a quarter of its length below the soil surface. Place it in a well-lit area, avoid direct sunlight and water it sparingly to prevent rotting.  In two or three weeks the cutting should show signs of growth at the tips of its leaves, these are usually reddish in color. Once it has rooted transplant it into a pot.

submitted by Carlotta Lucas