Archive for October, 2012

Planting Bulbs 101 as seen on KDKA’s Pittsbugh Today Live

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Sir Winston Churchill daffodils


Planting bulbs is a leap of faith. There’s no instant gratification, but after a long winter, nothing can compare to the beauty of their blooms.

There are thousands of choices and I’m obsessed with double daffodils. Above is Tahiti, it’s just one of the many I plant every season. ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ is another favorite, it’s a multi flowered double that’s late blooming, long blooming and smells like gardenias. I plant them around seating areas in the garden. Every year I seem to sit down a little bit more often in the garden. It’s nice to have the fragrance of ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ as company.
I’ve experimented with many ways to plant and I’ve settled on the bulb auger as the easiest tool to use.

Bulb auger

It’s just a giant drill bit and when attached to a drill it makes bulb planting pretty easy and fun. We all start with the short handled planter pictured (below left); I refer to it as “cruel and unusual punishment for gardeners. Plant ten bulbs with it and then wonder what you’ll do with the other 90 from the box!

Planting bulbs right now doesn’t give us the instant gratification that many garden tasks offer, but after a long winter there’s nothing like seeing snowdrops or crocus blooming. They might not be around long, but the flowers provide welcome relief from the bland surroundings of the season.

This essay shows the power that bulbs can have. It’s about a little pocket of crocus my mother planted in the late 60′s, and my last look at the flowers.

If you ever get a chance to watch Rick Sebak’s Cemetery Special, there’s a segment on Lake View that includes me explaining how the flowers affected me. It’s where my grandparents are buried and they have a place there called Daffodil Hill.

I’ll plant the big three; daffodils, tulips and crocus, but there are many different bulbs to consider. Here’s a list of my favorites-

Snowdrops an early bloomer, I plant them close to the house and have seen flowers as early as February 15th. My first planting was a gift from a reader who thought I would enjoy them. These little white flowers would be lost in June, but are the star of the show as one of the first flowers in bloom.
Chionodoxa (glory of snow), blooms with the crocus, if deer resistant and forms a colony over the years. ‘Pink Giant’ is one of my favorite cultivars.
Hyacinths are beautiful and wonderfully fragrant. One bloom can fill a room with the aroma of spring.
Alliums come in many shapes and sizes but are probably best known for their globular purple blooms. I like to mix white blooms with the purple.
Fritillaria is a wide ranging genus that offers something different in the bulb garden.

Asian lilies offer amazing early summer blooms and many are intensely fragrant. They are easy to grow and will provide more blooms each season when planted where they are happy.

I like to buy bulbs locally when I can find what I want. Right now, I pay retail, but as the season progresses nurseries will mark them down. By Thanksgiving the price drops to 50 percent, then down from there. As long as the ground has not frozen solid, you can still plant. One year I put in 1000 grape hyacinths in January and it only cost $11.

When ordering online, use a reliable bulb house, my favorites are Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Old House Gardens, White Flower Farm and Dutch Gardens. If you see an ad for bulbs and it seems too good to be true, it is. You’ll be shipped small bulbs that won’t reach their potential until seasons to come, if ever. The best bulb catalogs tell you how big the bulbs are.

Plant some bulbs now, you’ll be so happy you did in the spring.

Bringing plants inside as seen on KDKA’s PTL

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

A braided hibiscus tree will live for years moving inside in the winter and back out in the summer.


Don’t let all those plants out i the garden die with the first freeze. You can keep many going all winter.
Regardless of what plants you bring in, it’s a good idea to give them a week in a “halfway house,’ like a sun porch.
It’s a good place to watch the plant’s health and see if any hitchhikers in the form of pests pop up.
Probably the most popular plant to bring in and out is the tropical hibiscus. When it comes inside, it will usually loose all its leaves. But then will put more on. It’s just reacting to a change in light.
Herbs are great to bring in, tender house plants and even peppers.
I showed a habanero which I’m hoping will ripen up.
If you see signs of pests use an organic control like insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.
The plants will enjoy time in front of a window. South facing is best, but not essential.
Enjoy growing an indoor garden. These plants will be ready to go back on the the garden when the weather breaks in May.

Growing hops as seen on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

One of the uses for hops is brewing beer. The perennial vine is easy to grow in our area.


Hops is a perennial vine which can be grown easily in our area. The hops and vines I showed on PTL are grown organically at Soergel’s Orchards.
In the fall, tubers are planted in good soil improved with compost. In the spring, plants started in a greenhouse can also be used.
Keep the plants watered and they will need support to climb.
The harvested hops can be used during the brewing process or just dropped into a beer to improve the flavor.
The Northeast Hop Alliance offers lots of resources for growers.