Thursday, January 5, 2012

The 2012 Perennial of the Year is...

Jack Frost, "Brunnera macrophylla",  a.k.a. Siberian Bugloss

  • Gorgeous
  • Low-maintenance
  • Shade loving
  • Striking foliage
  • Contrasting tiny blue, yes blue, blossoms
  • Versatile
To become Perennial Plant Association plant of the year, Jack Frost was selected from over 400 other plants by the trade groups educators, plant breeders, horticulturists and others. Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan introduced it in 2000.

Jack Frost's silvery foliage has dramatic dark veins that will add lovely texture to your shade garden.

His tiny blue blossoms have long stems that are perfect for your spring bouquets.

    Be always at war with your vices,
    At peace with your neighbors, and
    Let each new year find you a better man (person).
    ~Benjamin Franklin

    Caring for Lovely Amaryllis

    If a loved one, friend or Santa gifted you an Amaryllis bulb, you have been given one of the easiest flowering bulbs.  Native to South America, Amaryllis "Hippeastrum" has huge lily-like blooms in a
    wide variety of colors. This tropical beauty is for indoor use only in our climate.

    Before Planting
    • First, if you can't plant the bulb right away, keep cool, and keep the bulb cool (around 45 deg F).
    • You can plant it any time between October and April. It will bloom about 7 to 10 weeks later.
    • Soak the bottom of the bulb for a few hours in a bowl of warm water. 
    • Be gentle with the fragile roots.

    • Some bulbs arrive with potting soil. If not, any indoor or container soil or compost mix works fine. Choose a pot that is only a bit larger than your bulb, they like tight quarters.
    • Treat yourself for a succession of stunning blooms by planting an Amaryllis bulb every two weeks.
    • Make a hole deep enough so that the soil will reach the area where the bulb narrows.
    • Gently place the bulb in the hole and press down on the soil to keep the bulb in place. Amaryllis grow very tall. Now is a good time to put supports in the edge of the pot, avoid hitting the bulb.

    • At first, water it thoroughly, once from the top and from the bottom if possible.
    • Unless the soil dries out, your Amaryllis won't need more water until you see the green stem. Water it once a week, gradually giving it more water as the stem, leaves and flower bud grow.
    • When to water? Check the top inch of soil, once it is dry, add just enough water to keep the soil moist.
    • Remember that too much water will make the bulb rot.

    Location: Amaryllis are tropical plants that enjoy warmth (around 68 degrees) and direct sunlight.

    • Initially the bloom will look green, then the true color of the flower will appear.
    • Generally, the bulbs will flower in 10 weeks when planted in December, closer to 7 weeks when planted in April. 
    • Most Amaryllis have 4 blooms. Once the first opens, the others will open within a few days.
    Extend your Blooms
    • To help your flowers last longer, remove the plants from direct sunlight to an area that is about 65 degrees F. Sunlight and heat shorten their beauty.
    • WARNING: The pollen can stain. Use something to protect your hands and catch the pollen when you clip off the stamen.

    Bring it back next year:
    1. Cut the plant back to the top of the bulb when the stem sags. Take the bulb out of the pot, rinse the dirt off and allow it to dry. Store the bulb in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place for atleast 6 weeks. The crisper of your refrigerator is fine UNLESS you keep apples anywhere in your refrigerator. Apples release a gas that sterilizes Amaryllis bulbs. Anytime after 6 weeks your bulb can be planted following the steps above. You should plant it 8 weeks BEFORE you want it to bloom.
    2. When the bloom dies, cut it and the green lump which is where a seed would form. Continue to water and fertilize it for the next 6 months. It should grow new foliage. Once the leaves begin to yellow in late summer, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb. Stop watering and move it to a cooler place to imitate its dormant period for 6 weeks. Plan to thoroughly water it 8 weeks BEFORE you want it to bloom and continue with the steps above to force it.

    If your bulb doesn't growth any leaves or stem, gently squeeze the potted bulb under the dirt. If the bulb is not firm, it may have rotted. Add it to your comopst pile. Make sure your next bulb doesn't get as much water.
    If your bulb grows leaves, but doesn't flower, it needs more nutrients and growing time. Give it the care outlined above and it should bloom next year. Some bulbs may not have the strength to produce the flowers.
    Good luck with your lovely Amaryllis.
    New Year's eve
    is like every other night;
    There is no pause in the march of the universe,
    No breathless moment of silence among created things
    that the passage of another twelve months may be noted;
    and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening
    that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.

    ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Scituate's Observatory & January's Night Sky

    Scituate is very lucky to have a great Seagrave Memorial Observatory tucked away right on Peeptoad Road. Visit them on a clear Saturday night between 7 and 9 pm.

    January 1-5 - Quadrantids Meteor Shower has up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak between January 3 & 4. The darkest skies of the first quarter moon are shortly after midnight and best for viewing away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes.

    January 9 - the Full Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 02:30 EST.

    January 23 - the New Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 02:39 EST.

    I think the true gardener is a lover of his flowers, not a critic of them.
    I think the true gardener is the reverent servant of Nature, not her truculent, wife-beating master.

    I think the true gardener, the older he grows, should more and more develop a humble, grateful and uncertain spirit. ~Reginald Farrer, In a Yorkshire Garden, 1909