New Hydrangeas for 2011

Big Beautiful White Blossoms of the Annabelle Hydrangea
Big Beautiful White Blossoms of the Annabelle Hydrangea

Hydrangeas have become one of my favorite perennials for many reasons.  The large white blooms of the Annabelle remind me of my Grandmother’s large flower garden which was always bursting with color and heavenly scents.  I loved to pick a bouquet to decorate the dinner table.

The range of blue, violet, and pink hues that are available in newer hybrid varieties are breathtakingly beautiful.  If you don’t like the color, add a little aluminum sulfate to the soil for a deeper blue, or add dolomitic lime for a pink flower.

Hydrangeas are hardy and fairly easy to grow given the right conditions. There are new varieties available each year.  2011 varieties include Hydrangea Macrophylla Konigstein which is a deep red; Hydrangea Macrophylla Lemmonhoff, a pink to blue variety depending on acidic level of the soil; Hydrangea Paniculata Phantom, which will produce beautiful creamy white blossoms all through the summer and into fall; and Schizophragma Brookside Little Leaf which is a climbing variety that will bloom all summer long as well.

There are literally hundreds of different types of Hydrangeas so it’s not hard to find a type that works well for any growing conditions.

For a complete guide to growing Hydrangeas, check out the Encylopedia of Hydrangeas.

Easy Growing Siberian Irises

Purple Siberian Irises
Purple Siberian Irises

If you’re looking for an easy way to add color and grace to your garden, Siberian Irises are a great choice.  They grow in poor soil and tolerate wet, shady areas as well as drier soil and sunny areas.  In other words – they’re very adaptable.

The tall, graceful, grass-like foliage adds height and structure to the flower beds.  The blooms are smaller than bearded irises and Siberian Irises don’t sport a beard at all.

Siberian Iris are native to Europe and northern Asia.  They’re available in an array of colors including purple, blue, yellow, pink and white.  The Caesars Brother Siberian Iris is very popular and is especially hardy.  As with all other irises, the rootstocks or rhizomes are toxic if ingested, so keep them away from children and animals.

Siberian Irises are especially beautiful by a water garden or in low -lying areas where it may be difficult to grow other less tolerant perennials or shrubs.  They are resistant to deer and groundhogs, and aren’t as prone to root diseases and iris borers, like the bearded irises.

Siberian Irises multiply quickly and should be planted in an area that is large enough to allow for growth, and can be planted up until the end of the summer.  Plants should be divided after they bloom in early summer.  They’re great for sharing with friends and family, who will love to receive a few plants for their gardens, after the irises have spread enough to outgrow their location.  Irises are a perennial that can be handed down through generations, allowing the whole family to enjoy the dainty, colorful blooms for many years to come.

Bearded Iris Flower – Spin Off

Reblooming Iris Flower - Spin Off
Reblooming Iris Flower - Spin Off

It could be called a late bloomer, since it is about 10 days later than the others, but then again, some haven’t bloomed at all yet.

The Spin Off is rightly named, I’d say, with the striped white and purple beards.  It is not as tall as some of the others that get the same amount of sun and water, like the Mother Earth, but it’s just as splendid.

A heavy rain last night knocked most of the irises over, even the ones with a single bloom and the Spin Off has just one bloom as of yet.  I suspect that it will produce a few more before it’s done this time around.

Winter Sowing Vegetable Garden – The Results

Lupine seeds were sown in January.

Last January, after watching a Grow With Kare segment on Channel 11 where they were demonstrating a way to start seedlings in the middle of the winter – in a snow bank no less – I decided to try it out.  Eleanor (my soon-to-be-mother-in-law) and I planted 2 types of parsley, carrots, Painted Daisy and Lupine in recycled take-out plastic food trays.

Winter sowing is an easy way to start seedlings.

We added several inches of potting soil, the seeds and a thin layer of soil, then watered them really well.  We poked holes in the top and the bottom of the trays to allow for moisture release.  Then covered the trays, sealed them with duct tape and set them out in the raised bed garden frame (just to keep them from blowing away.)

Winter sown seeds in January, 2010

We had plenty of snow in the months of January and February so they were covered with snow for several months.  The month of March was very mild, warm and snow-free.  By early April, I could see that most of the seeds had germinated and were doing very well.

So far, I think winter sowing is a great way to get your seedlings started.  It requires very little effort to maintain once you get them planted.

Other years I’ve tried starting seedlings indoors and I’ve had a little success, but winter sowing is definitely easier since you don’t have to water and provide 18 hours of lighting to keep them going.  You also don’t have to guess what type of spring weather you’re going to be dealing with – you can let Mother Nature decide when the seeds get started.  And because they are outside the entire time, you don’t have to bother with hardening them off before planting them in your garden.  Next year, I plan to do both the winter sowing, and spring sowing, which is starting annual seeds outdoors at the end of March (for Zone 4 gardeners).

Carrot seeds sown in January are doing really well in May.
Carrot seeds sown in January are doing really well in May.
Winter sown parsley is about 1 1/2" high