POTPOURRI for May
May 1, 2017 | View PDF
What has happened to this year? It is almost half gone and what else is half gone are all the winter annuals we have enjoyed since at least November or December. We need to begin planning this month for summer replacements for these flowers. The nurseries and garden centers have suddenly brought in huge inventories of flowering plants and shrubs. Also, there are great selections for our herb lovers, who want a head start by purchasing plants rather than waiting to germinate seed.
Let's talk about sowing seed into the garden for blooms, texture or culinary uses. May is the month to sow many flower seed for summer bloom. Many flowers, such as cosmos, zinnias, and cleome spiker flowers prefer to be sown directly into the garden rather than planting in trays or flats and then transplanted. I place good sterile top soil on top of the garden soil which is cleared of weeds. Then, just sprinkle the seed on top of the loose soil, and tap with a rake. Water daily if necessary to keep ground slightly moist and wait about 10 days or more for germination. The seed packet should note this year's date for the best germination. When the seedlings appear you may have to thin them after they have shown 4-6 leaflets. I try to thin 2 out of 3, and may scoop these and immediately transplant in another spot. Now just allow them to grow, adding some light liquid fertilizer and then when 6 inches tall, add osmocote. And voila, flowers will appear about 6 weeks after sowing. This is certainly a much cheaper alternative than buying packets or trays for $2.00 or $12.00. But some of us get impatient and want instant gratification. The bottom line is to make sure you have the right plant for the right spot in the garden.
And speaking about bulbs such as narcissus and daffodils, we must let the leaves die back or the blooms next year will stunted bloom heads. It usually takes about 3-4 weeks for the leaves to turn yellow and be flush with the ground. If you want to cut them off at this point, then that is ok. As much as the deep south loves the gorgeous blooms of tulips, we have to treat them as annuals and yank them out of the ground and purchase new bulbs next fall.
However, I have a friend from Troy who has every year the most beautiful tulips, and this year was no exception. He allows the foliage to die back, very much like the drill in daffodil culture. Then he lifts the bulbs out of the ground, puts them in sand in the bottom of a brown paper bag with a tad of insect dust for the remainder of the summer. In late fall, he puts them in a refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks before planting. He also is a primitive artist and has done creative paintings on boards, driftwood, and even corrugated tin. His subjects range from tulips, and of course other southern primitive subjects. You see Mr. Lowery's art at different shows throughout Alabama and he signs the works, Wally.
PLANT OF THE MONTH Hyacinth Bean --Dolichos lablab
When I went to one of the nurseries last week, I noticed there were many lime leafed potato vines in stock. This sighting brought forth memories from five years ago when I last grew the Hyacinth Bean. What an arresting vine with long strands of purple flowers, and dark green leaves similar in shape to kudzu. Probably the seed would need to be ordered, and soaked overnight before planting. A show stopper of a vine, it is fast growing and perfect if you need a quick screen. The seeds are formed on long dark burgundy velvet pods, which can be saved and the seed replanted year after year. The flowers resemble tiny sweet peas which are lavender, purple and white. I highly recommend this vine. In fact, I am going to order the seed today.