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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Disappearing columbine

The columbine that I planted about three years ago usually starts coming up in March, but it hasn’t started growing this year. Could something have killed it?

Although it self-seeds, columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Although it self-seeds , columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Columbine (Aquilegia is the botanical name), with its lacy leaves and bell-shaped flowers, is a nice addition to spring gardens. It’s a relatively short-lived perennial, however, that owes any sense of longevity to a habit of prolific self-seeding. The original plant may last only two or three years. Continue reading

Prune azaleas soon after they bloom

Our azaleas are too large and need to be trimmed. When is the best time to prune them?

AzaleaIn general, azaleas rarely need pruning, but if you find you need to reduce the size of the shrubs, the best time to prune them is right after they finish blooming. The buds for this year’s azalea blooms began forming last summer, so if you prune now, before they bloom, it means you are cutting off many of the flowers before you have a chance to enjoy them.

Southern Living garden writer Steve Bender, who edited the new edition of the Southern Living Garden Book, suggests this method for pruning azaleas: determine where the height or width needs to be reduced. Then, using hand pruners (or loppers, if the branches are thick), reach in and cut back individual branches to different lengths to create a mounding shape. Do not, he admonishes, use hedge trimmers to shear azaleas. Besides looking boxy and unnatural, this results in flowers and foliage that grow only on the outer portions of the shrubs.

Two other notes from Steve’s advice, which you can read here:

-If you do the job at the proper time, you can cut evergreen azaleas back pretty hard – even back to bare wood — and they should survive and flourish.

-If yours are the ‘Encore’ type of azaleas, which bloom in spring and again in late summer or fall, prune right after the spring bloom.

Daffodils can be early risers

It’s mid-January, and the daffodils in our yard are already starting to come up. The shoots are about 3 – 5 inches above the ground. Won’t they freeze when the temperature drops?

DaffodilsIt’s not unusual for the shoots of early-blooming daffodils to begin pushing up through the ground, even as early as January – the same time as the crocuses. Cold weather may slow their growth, but it won’t kill them. This time of year, the worst that could happen is that the weather turns warm and stays warm enough long enough that the daffodils bloom. The flowers might then succumb to a snap of extreme cold, but if buds have not begun to show color, they should be fine.

There are several daffodil cultivars that bloom in late winter, and planting those types can extend the blooming season from late winter into mid-spring. Among the early-blooming favorites are cultivars called ‘Sweetness,’ ‘Jetfire,’ ‘Barrett Browning,’ ‘February Gold,’ and others.

When shoots do begin to pop up, daffodil experts say they benefit from a light dose of bulb fertilizer, scattered lightly around each clump or spread over the surface of naturalized areas. Fertilizer can burn new leaves, so if it gets on the foliage, wash it off right away.

Callas’ beauty can be fleeting

QUESTION: My calla lilies, which are supposed to be white, are blooming, but the blooms are green! Otherwise, the plants look healthy. In fact, I’ve noticed in the past that they form seed pods. Is something wrong with them?

Calla lilyCalla lilies are lovely flowers, and easy to grow in containers or in the ground. The most common varieties produce white, yellow or pink flowers. That flower is technically the spathe, which wraps around the spadix, where the actual flowers grow. When the spathe turns green, it’s going through its natural life cycle on the way to making seeds.

Susan Bryant at Lakeside Callas in Dandridge, Tenn., explained that the spathe turns darker as it matures, and the outside of the spathe begins to turn green and to close up, with seeds forming inside.

“It starts turning green and closing up after a few days,” she said. Heat and lack of moisture might cause it to close up sooner. If you don’t watch them every day, it’s possible to miss the blooms.

You can cut the flower stalk off after it blooms, which will help the bulb grow larger. The foliage stays green and adds texture and interest to perennial beds. If you allow the seed pods to remain, let the seeds ripen and plant them in a pot indoors to grow over the winter, then put the new bulbs in the garden next summer.  It will take two years for the new plants to bloom, Bryant said. The offpspring may be a different color from the parent.

Callas prefer moist, well-drained soil and grow well in full sun, but they tolerate a bit of shade. In colder climates, the bulbs may need to be dug up and stored over the winter and replanted in spring. Gardeners in Middle Tennessee generally find that bulbs survive the winter in the ground.