Resilient amaryllis sprouts through shipping bag! How to make them bloom again

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog amarillis pokes through bagA bud of 'Sweet Nymph' amaryllis from Longfield Gardens actually poked through its shipping bag. I guess I should have planted it right away. Photos by Doug Oster

So I'm organizing a boxes of garden books to review and I look down into another box to see this 'Sweet Nymph' amaryllis pushing its bud through the bag it was shipped in. I meant to plant them a month ago, but never got to it. This plant wasn't going to wait!

I was sent three bulbs to try from Longfield Gardens. First impression of 'Sweet Nymph' is that it might be unstoppable. The other two amaryllis bulbs are 'Cherry Nymph' and 'White Nymph,' are still dormant.

Amaryllis are one of the easiest plants to grow and make great gifts for gardeners. They can be bought already planted in a nice pot or the bulb itself can be purchased alone.

They offer some of the most beautiful flowers for the holiday season. For the first season the bulb has everything in it that the flower needs. Just give it a little water and the flowers will come.

The job of the gardener is to treat the plant right to get blooms next season. I've got about a 50/50 record for re-blooming. I never throw them away and they will bloom when they are happy. Sometimes that's every year, sometimes it takes three.

After the plant is done blooming remove the flower stalk leaving the tall, floppy foliage. Grow it as a houseplant all winter and start fertilizing in March. Mid-May it goes outside in the shade. Sometimes transplanting to a pot one size bigger will help. Keep feeding the plant every couple weeks through the season.

In August stop all watering and fertilization and bring the amaryllis back inside. I put mine down in the basement for six  to eight weeks until they go into dormancy. The leaves will turn brown, which feeds the bulb. Then bring the plant back to the windowsill add a little water and hope for buds to emerge.

I rarely get them to bloom at Christmas, but anytime they flower, it's wonderful. Usually it's about being too busy at the end of the season and not getting them into dormancy fast enough. Others never make it outside, are forgotten about and bloom after given a little water.

Here's a look at 'Sweet Nymph' planted right after I discovered it. I'll post a picture when it blooms. It will be interesting to see if the stalk will straighten. Another fun gardening experiment!

blog wrong way amaryllisI can't wait to see if this wrong way amaryllis will stand up straight again.

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All-America Selections announced. New impatiens immune to downy mildew disease!

Written by Doug Oster on .

Impatiens BouncePinkFlame-AAS2015-2Impatiens Bounce Pink Flame PPAF 'Balboufink' is one of the 2015 AAS winners. It won't succumb to downy impatiens mildew. Photos courtesy of All-America Selections

Winter is for dreaming about the garden.

It's always exciting when AAS announces their winning varieties for the season. Since 1932, All-America Selections has been testing plants and choosing their favorites..

They have trial grounds all over the country where new varieties are grown and tested. There's one in South Park run by my friend Denise Schreiber, the greenhouse manager for Allegheny County Parks. During the season you can stop by and see how next year's plants are doing. It's always fun to get a sneak peak at what's being grown.

Some of my favorite plants are AAS selections including 'Torch' tithonia (1951), 'Juliet' tomato (1999) and many more. The fact that they are grown in many different regions under a variety of conditions. Until this year all plants were started from seed, but now AAS has started testing plants which are propagated vegetatively. In some cases it's easier for growers to make more plants through cuttings and other techniques.

The first two winners grown this way are impatiens. Impatiens SunPatiens 'Spreading Shell Pink' and Bounce Pink Flame PPAF 'Balboufink.'

I've grown the SunPatiens series, it's performed well for me. Even though SunPatiens are bred to take more light than standard impatiens, I find them a perfect substitution in shady areas. They are immune to downy impatiens mildew, a disease which has become virulent across the country.

The Bounce series is also immune. They are bred to look like the Impatiens walleriana we normally grow as a bedding plant but will not succumb to the disease like walleriana does. The bounce series is named for its ability to return to form with watering after a dry period.

Pepper HotSunSet-2014AAS-logo1Pepper 'Hot Sunset' is an AAS winner that brings the heat and flavor.

There were 10 varieties grown from seed which also won this year. One regional winner which sounds interesting is a thick walled hat wax pepper called 'Hot Sunset.' It's brings the heat, but also offers great flavor, sets early and produces all season long. There are some other interesting peppers which won too.

Basil DolceFresca  AAS2015-1-crop1Basil 'Dolce Fresca' is another 2015 AAS winner. This variety is compact and pretty.

Basil 'Dolce Fresca' stays pretty all season and is compact, only reaching two feet tall maximum. After harvesting, the plant rebounds quickly and retains its compact shape. I'm always looking for plant like this which can be planted in corners and other tight spots in the vegetable garden. Basil is a wonderful ornamental plant too. I've grown them in hanging baskets in consort with flowers.

Salvia SummerJewelWhite-AAS2015-2-cropWho wouldn't want white flowers like this is the garden? Salvia 'Summer Jewel White' is tough and prolific.

Another plant I'm intrigued with is salvia 'Summer Jewel White.' I saw red and pink varieties of this plant last year, they were beautiful and prolific. This is a great way to get a tough sun lover with white flowers in the garden.

All of the winners will be available locally or through the Internet. Adding something new to grow along side old favorites is one of the fun things about gardening.

The AAS website has a complete list of this year's winners and every plant which has ever one the coveted title of All-America Selection. You might be surprised to find how many of your favorites are listed. I love to look through the older listings to find plants which have gone out of fashion. I know any plants which capture my attention will perform well in the garden.

There's also an AAS display garden at Schenley Plaza which I did a story and video on last season. Spending time in that garden is a great way to get ideas for your own plantings.

Winter is for garden dreams, planning and making lists for next year's season. There are plenty of cool AAS winners to consider.




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Beautiful winter rose garden at Renzie Park

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog renzie4A rose hangs on to its flower in the dead of winter at the Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum in McKeesport. Photos by Doug Oster

The Renziehausen Park Rose Garden and Arboretum in McKeesport is one of Pittsburgh's hidden treasures.

It's one of the greatest collections of roses in the country, yet many locals don't even know it exists.

I visited the volunteers of the Garden Club of McKeesport recently for another story and was compelled to walk through the garden even though it was 27 degrees.

They have an unending passion for this place and embrace visitors who want to know more about this historic garden. The stone walls which surround the plants were so well built by the WPA craftsmen in the 1930's, they have never needed to be repointed.

In the garden the roses stubbornly hold on to their blooms. The frigid temperatures have taken their toll, but buds and flowers still show color. Many of the roses have pretty hips which add to the beauty in the garden.

In the butterfly garden milkweed seed pods release their progeny in front of bright orange winterberries. And 12 foot tall Coreopsis tripteris reach towards puffy white clouds.

It quiet, beautiful and something every gardener should see.

Come back again in early summer to see the spectacular show these roses put on and spread the word about a garden that should be anything but secret.

Blog rezie1An over all look of the garden which was first planted in the 1930's.

Blog renzie10Rose flowers make a spectacular show, but so do the left over hips.

Blog renzie8I love the color of these rose hips.

Blog renzie6In the butterfly garden milkweed releases its seed in front of winterberries.

Blog renzie7Tall coreopsis tripteris reach towards puffy white clouds.

Blog renzie2I wonder what color this blossom was before the cold got to it.

Blog renzie15Backlit by the low winter sun, these roses still look beautiful.

Blog renzie13One rose stands alone against the cold.

Blog renzie16These holly trees took a beating from last year's polar vortex, but have come back nicely with the help of garden volunteers.

Blog renzie11I can't wait to visit again in the early summer and see these plants in their glory.



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#SettingtheSEEN: Our Favorite Things Show!

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. But now, it's time to shop 'til you drop for the upcoming holidays! Check out this week's special "Black Friday" edition of Setting the SEEN: Our Favorite Things Show! Sara and I have some great ideas for items to check off of your wish list!

Follow @NatalieBenci on Instagram and @NBSeen on Twitter to keep up with #wheresNataliePG

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Beautiful kale persists through the winter

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog kale persists'Redbor' kale provides much needed color in the winter. Photos by Doug Oster

blog tight redbor kalea

blog garden sunriseWinter sunrise reveals the beauty of the winter garden.The soft orange glow of a winter sunrise illuminates what's left in the garden.

These are the mornings I'm so glad flowering kale got planted at the end of the season. My favorite is 'Redbor.' Originally bred as a food crop, gardeners saw it's beauty and used it as an ornamental. The plant is deep purple, tree like in it's growth habit and thrives in the cold.

Often times the plants will overwinter, bringing color to the garden through spring. What happens then is amazing. Surviving plants put on cheery, little yellow flowers which are set off by the purple foliage. Once they flower and put on seed pods, the plants die.

There are lots of different types of flowering kale. The most popular only get about a foot high and come in shades of pink, purple and white. I've actually seen plants for sale this late in the season. Hahn Nursery had some and if you poke around there might be other places willing to sell them cheap. A container planted inside and then put outside near the house in a protected spot could provide color all winter.

When the starts align in my garden, the pansies live though the winter too. I've got some orange flowers surrounding the 'Redbor' in pots. Their flowers are tired right now, but still add much needed color during the off season. An extended thaw will bring them back to their former glory and if they make it to spring will start to flower in full force.

I'm lucky enough to have an unheated greenhouse and found six flats of pansies at a nursery (cheap) which will happily thrive in their until spring.

Even though most gardeners need the break that winter provides, it's nice to have a few little things to keep us going through the snow.

blog beautiful pansyThese pansies have seen better days, but will perk up during a thaw.


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