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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where Art Thou, Tubers?

My back deck is a shady place. This makes it a lot more user-friendly than one in the sun, given Maryland's hot and muggy summers. Spring and fall, the maple shading it has sparse leaves, making it usable for even more time.

Despite the shade, I need to have flowers. I have tried all kinds of things, usually settling for a combination of houseplants being happy outside, flowers that struggle to bloom in the shade, some vines to hang down. Usually I sue a combination of perennials that I can later place in the garden - coral bells or ferns or lady's mantle - and annuals, such as impatiens, fuchsia, or begonias.

This year was the year of the begonias - not the bedding ones I've used in the past, but nice tuberous begonias. I had company at the start of the season in April, so I bought a couple of large hanging baskets in full bloom.  They were gorgeous until last week when the first frost hit. Actually, one was. The other was a little ragged, but a trooper after I, um, missed the hook in trying to rehang it. A two story fall took a bit of its lushness away, but it did its best to recover.

I have 5 railings planters that I put up to hold flowers that will attract hummingbirds to the flowers and the feeder. I decided to use tuberous begonias - despite the outrageous cost. I ordered than early to start inside, but they did not ship them when I ordered them, so it took foooooreeeeveeeeer for them to grow and flower. The blooms were really beautiful, but they did not fill the planters as I hoped. Late into the season, I added some foliage begonias - beautiful leaves. I thought the flowers would be nothing, but although small, they were lovely. The nursery said I could bring them in as houseplants in the fall, so it was worth the investment.

So today was the day to transplant the foliage begonia into pots. I'm concerned that the pots don't have the kind of drainage I want, but at this point, getting them into the pots was the priority. They bring a great texture to the living room, and I am hoping they will like the diffuse light. I struggle with having enough light anywhere inside to grow plants, so I just try to keep them alive until they can go outside once again.

The there's the Cape Primrose plants. I have had them for a number of years- started with a lot, and they grew to a dividable size. I painted a bunch of pots purple, and gave about half of the plants away to friends. They are supposed to bloom like crazy, but in my dark house, blooming was not on their agenda. My guys hate them; the leaves are not much to look at, so without blooms, they have not added much to the inside decor. I planted them outside again, and now, when the first came, they are blooming like mad. And their blooms are spectacular. Nearly as flamboyant as orchids. So despite telling the guys they would not come in again, I transplanted them to pots. So tomorrow I am off to Home Depot for a light fixture to add some light to a corner of my office, where I hope they will do OK until the spring!

So, with the begonias and the primrose out, I started searching the soil for the tubers. Each planter had one - but I could only find two our of five. Where did the others go? The plants started to die back well before the weather changed. But I thought the tubers would still be fine.

With just 2 tubers, I may not have much next year. But I am going to try.

The plants in the hanging basket should have tubers as well. An on-line guide said to take the tubers out of the soil, remove any remaining dirt, and then let them dry out of several days, Once dry, place them in separate paper bags (to isolate any disease from the other tubers ) and then place in a box in a cool place. I have store tubers in sawdust before, but not used this method. I'm giving it a try - and hope that next year I will have beautiful blooms early in the season, if not quite as many!

This year Copyright 2010,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


My grandmother on my father's side loved pink, baking, and annual geraniums. Her patio at the rear (but street side) of the cottage at Bay View, a Victorian summer community in northern Michigan, had pink geraniums. To me, they are happy flowers - old fashioned and bright. My gardening has also focused on vegetables and perennials. Few annuals make it into my plantings. But I have always had geraniums somewhere - annual as well as perennial.

Before I was married, I had an apartment with a front deck that I lined with a series of window boxes filled with pink geraniums, dusty miller, and trailing blue lobelia. I added trees in pots, and enjoyed the deck a lot.
After buying our present home nearly 18 years ago, we immediately tilled a large vegetable gardens - and soon after I added three planters, the only ones amid the raised beds, and planted red geraniums.

One reason I don't use annuals much is that I have limited funds, so I rather have plants that will come back year after year. So the perfect annuals for me are geraniums, because you can just pull them up at the end of the season, brush the dirt off the roots, and put them in a dry box or paper bag and leave them there all winter! This is seems absolutely impossible.

I took up my large pot of red geraniums to avoid the frost earlier this week. They were big and vigorous, and still blooming. I felt like a killer. It didn't feel right. But I did it because I knew it was this or death by cold. I placed them in a box - albeit one too small, so it has to be replaced - and out them in the garage. This is the third or fourth year for these 3 plants (every few years I forget to take them up and therefore lose them, which is why they are not 17 years old), so I know they will be alright.

Next spring, I will clip them back and plant them - and they will bloom again. I'm sure my Gram would be pleased.

   Copyright 2010,