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An hour in the life of a crocus, a feast for insects

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog flying right useA honeybee covered in pollen flies from on 'Pickwick' crocus to another. Photos by Doug Oster

The warmth of the spring sun shining on a patch of 'Pickwick' crocuses unfurled their blossoms inviting a host of insects to feast on pollen and nectar.

There were European honeybees, native bees, flies, hoverflies and things I couldn't identify. Some would enter from the side, pushing through the purple striped petals. Others flew into the center, crawling around inside covering themselves with pollen. The tiny flowers vibrated until the insect flew off with its bounty.

It was amazing to see how many different insects were lured to the flowers.

It's a good lesson for us gardeners, to spend some time observing the garden. You might be surprised at what you see, I was.

blog antanea

Blog  fly on side

Blog bee poking head out

blog hover behind

Blog tight crocus bee inside

blog fly on crocus huverfly in background

 

 

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Hyacinth love

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog hyacinths tight 414Hyacinths fill the garden with their sweet fragrance. Photo by Doug Oster

hy woodstock main'Woodstock' is one of my favorite varieties.The intoxicating fragrance of hyacinths fills the air in late afternoon as the flowers give up their greatest gift.

Spring wouldn't be the same without hyacinths. I have them growing along the sidewalk which leads to the front door.

Cutting one or two blooms for a vase fills the house with the wonderful aroma too.

They are easy to grow, come back for years and come in many colors. I never met one I didn't like and they all go together. Like most bulbs they need decent garden soil and should be allowed to dry out in the summer.

Consider that when scouting for a planting location.

'Woodstock' is one of my favorite varieties. Beet red, double flowers fill the stem. Of course they also smell like heaven.

If you didn't plant any bulbs in the fall, you might be able to find some for forcing at a good nursery. Those bulbs can be planted indoors to be enjoyed in several weeks.

Put hyacinths on your planting list for the fall, they make spring smell sweeter.

blog hyacinths wide 414Hyacinths are a great spring blooming flower. Photo by Doug Oster

 

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Heirloom bulbs are perfect for an old house

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog best pickwick'Pickwick' crocus was released the same year my house was built. It's fun to grow things from that era. Photos by Doug Oster

blog sidways pickwickWhen I discovered 'Pickwick' crocus was released in 1939, the same year my house was built, I had to grow it.

It doesn't hurt that it's one of the most beautiful flowers in the early spring garden. 'Pickwick' is also readily available at local nurseries in the fall. Like all things in the garden it's ephemeral, often only lasting a few short days when temperatures rise.

I'm always adding bulbs from the pre-war and WWII era. I think it's interesting to plant things which were grown when my house was new. To me the bulbs compliment my old Tudor house. When they bloom, I'm the only one who knows about the connection, unless I happen to have a visitor. Then they'll have to endure the history tour. Good friends don't mind, others might get a little annoyed, but that's the requirement for seeing the spring garden.

One of the coolest bulb catalogs is Old House Gardens, run by Scott Kunst. His catalog is a wealth of information and heirloom treasures which will fill your garden with character and beauty. I can shop by date on the web site, which is perfect for what I'm doing. 'White Triumphator' is a beautiful tulip from 1942 which fits the bill for my spring garden.

Even though we are inundated each season with new improved varieties each season, cultivars which stand the test of time are always a must for my garden.

There are plenty of spring planted bulbs in the Old House Gardens catalog too that work for me. 'Kidd's Climax' dahlia from 1940 produces large pink and yellow blossoms. Dahlias are the queen of the summer garden. Often times people don't plant them because the don't want to lift the tubers at the end of the season. It's a easy garden job, and once you've figured it out you'll be storing lots of bulbs and tubers like I do. I'll cover how to save them at the end of the season.

I also have my eye on 'Blue Rhythm' iris from 1945. It won the 1950 Dykes Medal, the highest honor an iris can win. The blossoms are bluish purple and offer a lemony fragrance.

Growing plants from the same era as my house was built is fun twist to gardening. Old House Gardens has bulbs dating back to the 1500's, maybe even earlier. You can certainly find something which will work in your garden.

blog tight pickwick

 

 

 

 

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Record low temperature predicted for tonight, don't panic in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

mystery lettuce under row coverEven though it won't get cold enough to kill things like lettuce, a floating row cover will make the plants happier. Photo by Doug Oster

There's a possibility temperatures will reach a record low of 21 degrees tonight and that could adversely affect some plants in the garden. Don't panic though, most of these plants have seen this many times over the years.

Lets start with things we're not worried about and/or couldn't really protect anyway. Most shrubs and trees will be fine. Things like azaleas and rhododendrons shouldn't be affected along with dogwoods and pines. Magnolias and fruit trees might get the worst of it. In my garden, both are too big to do anything about, so all I can do is cross my fingers. If the magnolia has started to bloom, flowers might get zapped and if not, the buds stand a chance of freezing out.

For spring blooming bulbs, I won't do a thing. They have been through this for centuries, worse case scenario there will be some bud blast and loose the blossoms for the season. This is most likely to happen on daffodils.

I'm not worried about pansies or violas either, they should be able to take the cold.

Most of what I'll be protecting is in the vegetable garden. Peas and greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and more won't be killed by these temperatures, but will be happier with a little protection.

The easiest thing to use is a floating row cover. It's a spun bound translucent fabric which is so lightweight, the plants themselves can hold it up.

Since soil temperatures have warmed up, I'm not too worried about one night of cold. We should reach 50 by tomorrow afternoon. Lets hope that's the end of the really cold weather, but don't forget, we'll get frost all the way through May.

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Secrets in the daffodil patch; spiders and flowers beyond yellow trumpets

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog secrets spider 3Secrets are revealed when you get close to the flowers. This tiny spider tried to hide behind a daffodil petal. Photos by Doug Oster

The forest is filled with scrawny deer, tired and hungry from a brutal winter. But even though they are starving, the four legged thieves turn their noses up at daffodils, that's one of the reasons I grow so many.

I love yellow trumpets, but their are countless other colors and flower forms to experience.

Spring is officially here when the daffs begin to bloom, but the season can be extended by choosing early, mid and late season varieties. I enjoy the subtle differences each one offers. It's fun to get close to the flowers, and when you do, surprises can happen. As I was cutting bouquets I saw a tiny spider jump behind a petal, hoping not to be seen. I slowly laid down on the soft, cool soil with camera in hand. The close-up lens was perfect to capture the tiny hairs of the hidden spider's legs.

My connection with daffodils goes back to 1967, when I visited the graves of my grandparents at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. Behind me were thousands of flowers in bloom on Daffodil Hill. The area was started in the 1940's with an initial planting of 100,000 bulbs. I was profoundly affected by those flowers and when I moved to Pittsburgh, told my mother I would create my own Daffodil Hill in memory of my grandparents. I'm a long way off from 100,000 bulbs, but I'm working on it.

I had the honor of being in Rick Sebak's Cemetery Special talking about Daffodil Hill and how it changed my gardening life.

Here's a look at many of the early flowering daffodils in my garden. I'm looking to add more each season, this is the time to decide where I need more. I'll shoot some pictures so when fall planting time comes around I'll know where to plant them.

When I see the flowers in bloom, I always remember that day in 1967 and smile thinking of my grandparents.

blog secrets pink daffI've recorded the cultivars of every daffodil I've planted. They are tucked away in garden journals so in this garden it's all about enjoying the flowers not the names. I love this pink throated beauty.

blog double yellow daffDouble daffodils might be my favorites.

blog secrets whiteThis patch was here when I moved in, I think they are an old fahsioned favorite called Mt. Hood.

blog secrets 2It's fun to see al the different variations in daffodils.

blog secrets bridalGet close to the flowers and really take a good look.

blog secrets daffodil 1Daffodil season signals the "real" start to spring.

blog secrets orange heartThis one is also a favorite.

blog secrets still tightOne trick to extending the season is planting varieties which bloom at different times.

blog secrets yellow and orangeSimple, elegant and beautiful.

blog tight bridal daffsFor some reason flies are attracted to this variety.

blog white and orange doubleAnother cool double daffodil.

blog secrets daffodil overallThere's nothing wrong with yellow trumpets. These are some of the toughest and most beautiful daffodils in the garden.

 

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