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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #144 ---It's Tulip time, plant them now for a glorious spring.
October 05, 2013

I do love my spring flowering bulbs. I even enjoy planting them, now. Each smooth, solid bulb feels good in my hand and I can imagine the colour and beauty that is trapped inside just waiting for me to give it the proper conditions to burst forth. As I dig each hole I roll the bulb over in my hands and appreciate its inherent beauty, before I tuck it in for its long winter’s nap. Each and every type has its own charm and place in the garden. Tulips are very near the top of my list. Nothing else gives such a burst of colour in the spring. The many different varieties allow for amazing displays of colour that can change several times over the course of the season. Plant early and late season types in the same location and watch as the colour of that bed changes as the season progresses. Plant lots of them and do it now. My front garden has over 1000 Tulips. It leaves me breathless in the spring and it stops traffic.

While cleaning up the many beds for the winter, I was removing the dying leaves from a Daylily that we call #9. The name’s a bit of a long story. I was stopped in mid cut by an unusual sight. Amongst the yellowing leaves there were two thick green stalks. #9 was putting out fresh flowering scapes in the first week of October. I can only hope that the extended warm weather that we have been experiencing, continues long enough for these unexpected delights to develop and bloom. Discoveries such as this continue to make the hours spent in the garden a never ending joy.

Dahlias are one of those wonderful but infuriating flowers. They continue to produce more and bigger blooms as the weather cools and the days grow shorter. Their very best blooms are often produced the day before that killing frost renders them a blackened mess. They are too big to cover and protect so we just have to enjoy each day that they are with us. The upside is that they make wonderful cut flowers. We can go into the garden each fall day and cut another bouquet of these richly coloured delights. If today is to be their last day, at least we will have those wonderful blooms on the kitchen table for a few more days. Mine have grown well this year and my lack of attention to them, means they have been flopping and falling over. Next spring I will steal my friends idea and plant them in Tomato cages and then they will stay upright and well behaved all season with little further effort from me. When the frost does finally knock them down, it’s time to go and dig up the mass of tubers. Dig wide so as not to stick your fork through any of the tubers. Dry them a bit in a warm sunny spot and then retire them to that magical, dry, 7° C spot, in your basement to spend the winter.

Time to answer a few questions. If you have a gardening question just ‘reply’ to this newsletter and send me your query. I try to answer most of the questions and the ones that I answer here are those that I think will have the widest interest. You can also find the latest garden updates on the front page of I try to change it every few days so check back often.

Anita Asks? I have a variegated geranium with green and white leaves.?? Some of the leaves have become completely white.? My husband thinks it is getting old and turning white like old peoples hair.? Could I take cuttings of this plant and produce a plant with only white leaves?

Ken Answers! No! Great idea but white leaves equals no chlorophyll. No chlorophyll equals no plant life. But it might be fun trying.

Carol Asks? Which perennial plants would you recommend for container planting?

Ken Answers! Very few perennials survive the winter in containers. Some people will haul their containers into the garage and cover them with blankets or straw. Seems like a lot of work to me. If the container is big enough then very hardy perennials such as Hosta might survive.

Carol Asks? When is a good time to really trim back a pussy willow tree? Can I do it now? Every Spring I cut and give away the lovely stalks but the tree is getting too tall.

Ken Answers! You can prune the pussy willow at any time without hurting it. If you prune it hard now you will have very few flowering stalks to enjoy in the spring. Prune it just after the catkins have finished and the new wood that grows will develop the buds for next year.

Susann Asks? Happy Autumn! My Canna's are starting to look really shabby... can I just cut them down till our first frost or, is the bulb still getting nourishment?

Ken Answers! I spent some of yesterday pulling out perfectly good Geraniums. Our October heat wave is keeping things alive much later than usual and we have to start the cleanup some time because the heat wave will probably end with a snowstorm. Dig the Cannas and store them now, their rhizomes are not going to improve over the next few days.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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