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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #265 - Pink Brilliant is just that, a wonderful Lily blooming this week.
July 23, 2016

Everything old is new again. A quote for which I could find no source. At Cultivate 16, that huge trade show we attended last week, I noticed several new versions of Celosia, particularly the crested Celosia cristata and spiked C. Spicata types. This annual flower has been around for years but it seems the plant breeders have discovered it anew. There were some wonderful ones with huge, brilliantly coloured crests and others with masses of fuzzy spikes. Most of the Celosia are very easy to grow, if a bit slow at first and are quite unfussy about soil types and conditions. I would venture to say that even they would be protesting the very hot and dry conditions that have been prevalent in my garden for several weeks.

The plant breeders develop new and interesting cultivars and then the marketing departments try to give them names that might appeal to the latest trendy gardeners. The crested one is supposed to look like brains and is being promoted with zombies and is called Armor Red and the other is Intenz Dark Purple. What will they call them in a couple of years when fashions change and they are still great looking plants. It’s at this point that the Assistant Gardener sometimes mutters something about me being old and grumpy. Not true, of course?

The question curse has descended upon my garden again. As soon as I answer a reader’s question I can go out in the garden and find the problem. Last week I told Colette that I had no Cucumber Beetles. Wrong! Those nasty bugs had not been seen in my garden for a few years but they have returned in abundance. A mild winter last year allowed the adults to overwinter farther north and make it to my garden in plenty of time to dine on my many Cucurbits. I’ve discovered that their larva live in the soil and eat roots and that they sometimes carry a bacterial wilt. Both of those could be a reason for my trellis full of wilted Cucumber plants. The Assistant Gardener is annoyed, she loves Cucumbers and I mostly grow them to satisfy that need. I now go out every morning with my needle nosed pliers and search in the big yellow blooms of my Zucchini and squish as many as I can find
and that’s often up to a dozen beetles in a large bloom. A complicating factor is the presence of a couple of honey bees in the same flower. Once the Cucumber Beetles leave the flowers and start to eat the leaves they are impossible to control mechanically because they fly away quickly if you try to catch them. They are quite slow and sleepy in the blooms in the morning. I think I’m winning but I’m not sure the Cucumbers will make it. The Melons, small flowers, few beetles and winter Squash, large flowers lots of beetles seem to surviving. Apparently these nasties have preferred diets even among the many cucurbits in the garden. Bring back harsh winters.

After I’ve spent several minutes crunching beetles, I look around to find something to brighten my morning. A hybrid Lily, Pink Brilliant, is lighting up the garden this week with its 6 huge pink and white blooms and the promise of more from the 10 or so buds that are yet to open. This Lily is an LOhybrid. That’s a cross between Oriental Lilies and the Longiflorum, (Easter Lily) types. It’s about 1.5 M tall with a very thick stalk and the best part, there is no damage from the nasty Red Lily Beetles. This is the only LOhybrid that I have and I must find some more to see if the resistance to Red Lily Beetles is found in all of these hybrids. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. The problem then would be having all of my Lilies bloom at about the same time. This particular bulb is planted where the latest drip irrigation system gave it some water a least twice during the past few weeks of drought. Most of the other Lilies have bloomed but the stalks have been shorter and the blooms seem to last for only a few days. Mother Nature really does like to keep me challenged.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Carolyn Asks? I have a Lilac and a Hydrangea that have been happy for a few years but this year they are looking very droopy and sad?

Ken Answers! It looks like the drought is getting to them. Your sprinklers are keeping the grass alive but not penetrating the soil deeply enough for the roots of these shrubs. With so little rain the deep reserve of water in the soil is gone. Put a soaker hose around them or just leave your hose dribbling and let it run for 2 or three hours so that you get sufficient water to penetrate the soil at least 40+ cm. On a typical soil 2.5 cm of water will penetrate about 20cm into the soil.

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