2018, July 2018, Plant-of-the-month

Pinks

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Some of us are old enough to remember pinking shears, scissors that cut in a zig-zag line. I remember my mother having a pair, although I don’t remember her using them, or just what they were for. Maybe they helped keep cloth from fraying? Anyway, their use isn’t important to this blog entry, although I’d be interested to know if anyone out there can enlighten me. But Dianthus, the plant commonly known as Pinks, (Carnations are also Dianthus) have petals that look like they have been cut by pinking shears, thus the name. They have a sweet scent and come in all shades of… well… pink, from deep red to so pale they are almost white.

The name Dianthus comes from the Greek meaning “Zeus Flower”, and in the language of flowers symbolizes boldness. Varieties include some that form mats no higher than 4 inches tall, to others that reach 18 inches. Carnations grow even taller. Some are Annuals, some are Perennials, and some, like Sweet William, (which is also of the same family) is a biennial. They love sun and are deer resistant. Modern varieties will bloom for weeks, but the foliage is lovely to look at even when there are no flowers, especially those with blue green leaves. (which is most of them.) Deadheading, alas, is imperative to keep their blooms coming.

There is a Dianthus for everyone and I urge you to give them a try if like old fashioned favorites.  To see pictures of some of the possibilities, click here.

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February 2018, What to do in the garden

Forcing Witch Hazel

One of the great things about some plants is that you can trick them into thinking that it’s time to bloom weeks ahead of their natural blooming schedule. This is called forcing. Nurseries that grow flowers for flower shows do it on a grand scale, even forcing trees so that they will be in blossom early. It’s complicated if you get into it that seriously, but a few plants are so easy to force that anyone can do it.

The timing is important. You can’t cut any old branch at any old time and expect it to do something. Most plants need a certain number of weeks of cold in order to flower. So you need to know approximately when that particular plant will be ready. In the Northeast, the late winter / early spring-blooming Witch Hazels are ready in early February. (See last week’s blog post for descriptions of the various types of Witch Hazels.) By this time the buds have begun to swell, and you can sometimes see the tiniest bit of color showing where the new petals are about to emerge from.

At that time, all you need are some sharp pruners, a vase of water, and a warm room. Cut several branches, put them in the vase of water, and wait. In a few hours to a few days the room will be full of sweetly scented blossoms. Tada!

Life is good.

 

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Cut a branch of Witch Hazel with a slanted cut, like in the picture, and put it in the water.
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A day or two later, the buds will begin to break open.
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A week later, it’s a party!

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Witch Hazel