FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Edgecombe Garden Club met Feb. 1, 2012 in the Fountains of the Albemarle.
Sheila Sidway, a Nash County Master Gardener and Rocky Mount Garden Club Horticulturist, spoke on “Horticulture Tips.”
Sidway offered a wide variety of tips, including:
1. Find out the outside temperature by listening to crickets. Count the chirps made in 15 seconds. Add 37. The sum is the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.
2. If you get blue in the winter, turn your blues to a fragrant paperwhite. It will beat the blues by bringing the outside in.
3. If you cut branches with flower buds (liked flowering quince) and soak them in a tub of warm water for an hour or so, they will force much more readily. It softens everything and cleans them.
4. Paperwhite bulbs only require water and a sunny spot to sprout. Put them in rocks or gravel for support. In four to six weeks, you will get a wonderful flower. If forced in water, discard after blooming. If forced in soil, plant them in your garden as weather permits.
5. A Cornell University flower research program found giving paperwhites a cocktail will help them to be sturdy and stand upright. Pop the bulbs in water and gravel. Once plants are about two inches tall, replace with a mixture of 1 part water to 40 per cent distilled alcohol (like gin or vodka), or mixture of 7 parts water to 1 part alcohol, or mixture of 10 parts water to l part rubbing alcohol. Use one of these solutions when you need to add more water to the container. This will prevent your paperwhites from getting leggy and falling over.
6. If temperatures are down to 30 degrees F., pansies and violas do just fine. If you know for 10 days or more it will be 30 degrees, cover them with a sheet or whatever. Keep watered when it is really dry. Dead head them. Lower stalks will have seed pods. Remember they are heavy feeders and use a liquid fertilizer such as any All-Purpose 10-15-10, or try an organic kind such as Liquid Kelp 0-1-1.
7. Avoid feeding house plants so much during cooler temperatures. They need sort of a dormant time. To help them breathe, clean them using a damp soft cloth.
8. Be a real dead-heading enthusiast with African violets. Use a soft paint brush to whisk them off.
9. Buy any size crepe myrtles. Prune them in February. If you do “crepe myrtle murder,” thin by breaking off little brittle branches that appear. Spray dried flower pods gold and silver for wreath making.
10. The Chinaberry tree originated in China and is called “China bead tree,” too. Make a very attractive necklace out of it. Since they smell dreadfully when boiling, boil them outside on a gas cooker until the whole pulp is off. You will have beads with scalloped edges that look like a piece of wood. There is an opening you can put a needle through. Use a dremel tool on the few hard ones. One in a natural finish almost 100 years old was purchased in Charleston. Some are dyed with different colors and some multi-colored. Strands can be strung on a fishing line.
11. Keep Valentine arrangements fresher longer using a 50-50 lemon-lime soda with water and a dash of bleach to kill the micro-organisms. Pinch off leaves that would be under water in the vase. It will help keep most any cut flower arrangement.
12. Cut asparagus plants’ fronds back now. To get them to grow the best size, let them grow two or three years before beginning to harvest them.
13. In the winter start a rooting bed. Build one with wood or cinder blocks. A child’s old vinyl swimming pool can be one.
14. Now, check your irrigation system for needed repairs. Buy outdoor furniture on sale in an off season.
15. After your amaryllis finishes blooming, cut off the flower stalk but leave the foliage. The leaves help reinvigorate the bulb so you will have many blooms next year. Treat it like an ordinary houseplant until next fall. Then cut back the foliage, put it in a dark place, and stop watering. About a month later, bring it out, begin watering, place in a sunny windowsill and presto, a whole new generation of flowers! Another option is to plant outside in spring. In our area April 15 is the average usual date of the last frost.