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Storing Summer Bulbs

by Timber Press on November 18, 2014

in Gardening

Written by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, authors of What’s Wrong with My Plant?, this post originally appeared on their blog.

Storing Summer Bulbs

Glorious flowering bulbs of summer can light up your garden all through the warm summer months. Some, like tuberous begonias and dahlias, bloom all summer long. Others, like gladiolus, cannas, and crocosmia, have a more definite and shorter season of bloom. All are among the most flamboyant of summer flowers. They come in a brilliant rainbow of colors, many provide much needed height, and all add interesting texture and form to your garden. Oddly, though all those mentioned above are called bulbs, none has a true bulb. Instead of real bulbs they have a variety of underground storage structures like corms, tubers, or tuberous roots.

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If you live in a cold winter climate, you need to dig up most of your summer flowering bulbs in autumn before hard freezes occur. Unlike spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus, these summer blooming bulbs are tender and will be killed by winter cold. You should dig up tender summer flowering bulbs in the autumn before hard freezes occur. Then you divide them, store them through the winter somewhere where they won’t freeze, and re-plant them in the spring. Garden jargon calls this process “lifting” the bulbs.

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Dig them up, shake off as much of the soil as you can, and set them on newspaper in cardboard boxes to dry for a time. When the little bit of soil clinging to them has dried out, brush away the soil and store them in labeled paper bags until time to plant again next spring.

A couple of tips for success:

  • First, never store bulbs in plastic bags. Plastic bags don’t breathe, and they trap humidity. Both conditions promote bulb diseases. Put them in paper bags.
  • Second, dust them with sulfur after you’ve cleaned them up and before storing them. A good way to get them dusted is to put them in a zip-top plastic bag (only temporarily!), add a tablespoon of dusting sulfur, close the bag tightly, and shake. You should wear a face mask to avoid breathing the sulfur dust into your lungs and you should wear gloves to avoid getting it on your skin. Sulfur is a mineral element, mined from the earth, and is routinely used in organic gardening practices to control fungus disease. It is a relatively safe product but some people can have allergic reactions.
  • When your bulbs are well coated with sulfur, put them into a paper bag, label the bag with the kind of bulb, the name of the cultivar, and the date, and store your summer flowering bulbs in a cool, dark place through the winter until you can plant again in the spring. Dusting with sulfur prevents fungus spores from germinating as bulbs in storage can easily become infected with blue bulb mold, a fungus disease.
  • If, in spite of your best efforts, some of your bulbs become moldy while in storage, throw them away. Don’t plant them. And don’t keep them near your other bulbs. You’ve heard how one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel. Same goes for bulbs. You don’t want one rotten bulb to spoil all the rest.

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All images: Steve Trudell

Guidelines to help you avoid the dark side of mushrooming from the authors of Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest.

Ask most Americans or Canadians what proportion of mushrooms are poisonous and likely they will say it is high. This leads to the common perception that eating wild mushrooms is a risky business on par with being a movie stunt-person or jumping motorcycles over large canyons. Although it is certainly true that mushrooms can, and do, kill people, the data show that such occurrences are both rare and nearly always preventable. Nationwide, of the many calls to poison control centers in the U.S., only about one in 200 involves mushrooms and, of these, the vast majority involve incidents where there are no symptoms—usually a child was found chewing, handling, or even just looking at a mushroom and the parents panicked.

So who gets poisoned and why? The simplest answer is people who don’t know what they are doing eat mushrooms that they shouldn’t. Thus, if one invests a bit of time learning some basic mushroom identification and maintains a conservative attitude in deciding what to eat, mushroom-hunting and -eating (mycophagy) can be a perfectly safe and rewarding pastime.

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The Cultivating Garden Style author shares her tips on how to create a garden that reflects your personality.

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Turmeric is known as a fugitive dye: with exposure to sun and washing, the color will fade from bright yellow to lighter, less saturated shades. All images: Tristan Davison

Turmeric is known as a fugitive dye: with exposure to sun and washing, the color will fade from bright yellow to lighter, less saturated shades. All images: Tristan Davison

Some of the easiest natural dyes for the beginning dyer to work with are in your kitchen cabinet. They are fun, nontoxic natural dye materials to get you started with the world of color.

Turmeric is a tropical plant that yields an orange-yellow spice from its dried, ground root. Turmeric dye creates a bright yellow. You can use the ground turmeric root available in powdered form in the spice section of your market. Or if you live in a tropical area, you can easily grow the turmeric plant for dye material; using freshly grown turmeric root will create an even stronger dye color. You process turmeric root either by cutting it into small pieces, then grinding or pureeing it, to create a bright and satisfying dye.

As an easy and rewarding beginning project, consider dyeing an old piece of natural fabric or a seldom-worn cotton, silk, or wool garment you have in your house. There’s something magical about transforming a familiar object into something stunning and new with a dramatic color change. Examples could be a piece of reclaimed linen fabric that you turn into a vibrant yellow tablecloth, an old white wool sweater that is freshened with a bright yellow hue, or a plain cotton shopping bag you want to make more colorful.

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How to make a mini gabion

by Timber Press on October 22, 2014

in Craft, Design

All images: Kelly Fitzsimmons

All images: Kelly Fitzsimmons

Gabions, which are metal mesh baskets that hold rocks or concrete, have historically been a tool employed by the likes of civil engineers. But these industrial building blocks have come into vogue for uses beyond securing structures and edifices.

Today, gabion cages are regularly put to use in garden design as an alternative to other retaining wall materials. Additionally, smaller versions can become footings for arbors, benches, planters, or even the foundations of modern water features. On a small scale, you can create a candle holder or base of a planted centerpiece that captures the gabion look and construction.

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Informal, quirky, and engaging characterize this garden style.

Cottage gardens hold near-universal appeal, as they are often the gardens of our parents and grandparents. Born of necessity, the cottage garden was the original homesteader’s paradise. Always an overflowing, informal place where chickens might mingle with kids and bikes and vegetable patches, as well as the occasional artistic work of a neighbor or the homeowner, the cottage garden remains a lively place where there is always something going on.

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Cultivating Garden Style author Rochelle Greayer shares her strategy for design inspiration.

Who wants a cookie cutter house anymore? No one I know. It is much more fun to let your character and taste shine through. We express our personal style every day in the choices we make: clothes, home decor, food, and products we buy. As far as I am concerned, a garden is just another room of the house, another place to define and dress however you see fit. There are many ways to gather and organize motifs, moods, and samples in order to get in touch with your taste and personal style. Here are some of them.

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02 Hydrated and Dehydrated

(L) These deeply channeled leaves of Tillandsia aeranthos curl inward on themselves, demonstrating an unhealthy state of dehydration. (R) Tillandsia aeranthos in a normal, healthy state of hydration. Plants can be fairly easily restored to a hydrated state by soaking them for several hours. Images: Caitlin Atkinson

There are so many different ways to water a tillandsia that it’s easy to get confused. In addition, it’s widely believed that tillandsias don’t need any water at all. But all plants need water and light to photosynthesize, and tillandsias are no exception.

There are essentially three methods for watering tillandsias: misting, dunking, and soaking. All three methods work to different degrees—the right method to adopt is the one that best suits you. Taking the time to understand each method will enable you to make confident decisions about how and when to water your tillandsias.

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Print this graphic and more at  Timber Press on Scribd.

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Olives, woody herbs, and the parchment remains of spring flowers cling to a rocky, sun-drenched Cretan hillside.

Drought-tolerant shrubs in an easy-to-care-for scheme for a sunny spot.

Picture the warm tones of the Mediterranean landscape: red-brown soil and sand-coloured rock blend with low-mounded shrubs adapted to withstand the summer sun, heat, and exposure. To resist desiccation in times of drought, some have small, tough leaves while others sport silver foliage. Colourful flowers appear in spring and early summer, before water is in short supply and shrubs assume a more parched appearance. Some of these blooms appear on the shrubs, while others emerge from bulbs growing between the shrubs. They all add a light, vertical dimension to the planting.

In the glaring Mediterranean midday sun, the landscape becomes less defined as a haze of grey, green, and sand blankets everything. In early morning the mounds of woody stems and foliage become more defined, each one taking on its own unique soft colouring. The landscape is full of aromatic woody herbs, and their pungent fragrance drifts on the warm air. Scent is as an important quality of this style of planting.

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