Fragrant Blooms Banish Winter Blahs

In the depths of winter, there is nothing quite so lovely and transporting as the natural fragrance of flowering plants. The heady scent of Lavender conjures sultry summer days in the fields of southern France. Jasmine and Gardenia can carry your spirit to a tropical garden where warm breezes blow. And Paperwhite Narcissus summon spring in a southern garden. As winter settles over much of the country, enjoy the escapes these beautiful, carefree plants can provide indoors until it’s time, once again, to return to the garden.

Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ in Woven Basket

 

Paperwhite ‘Ariel’ Kit in Glass Vase

 

Gardenia in Embossed Metal Cachepot

 

Jasmine in Grapevine Basket

 

Scented Geranium Duo

Amaryllis: Trumpets of Winter

Written by Tovah Martin

Illustrations by Michelle Meyer

Reprinted with permission, excerpted and adapted from the December 2001/January 2002 edition of The Gardener magazine.

Gardening is not, in general, overburdened by foolproof flowers, but Amaryllises are as  close as you’ll come to foregone conclusions. Tuck an Amaryllis in a pot at the proper time of year, and chances are that in eight weeks you’ll see big, luscious blossoms —no cold treatment, no fuss, muss, or bother. In the realm of houseplants, these South American natives are a dream come true.

They’re embarrassingly easy, and I wouldn’t be without several Amaryllises staged about the house, planted in a staggered sequence for a long season of bloom. Because in winter who wouldn’t welcome big, bright blossoms? There’s nothing discreet about an Amaryllis, and that’s just what we crave in winter.

This particular brand of midwinter drama is a fairly recent affair. The history of Hippeastrums in cultivation is lengthy, but their presence in the trade has been brief. (Hippeastrum is the proper botanical name for the plants that we call Amaryllis, although botanists ousted them from that genus decades ago.) Like the true Amaryllis, A. belladonna, Hippeastrums are members of the Amaryllidaceae family. Beyond technical botanical differences, Hippeastrums differ in their region of origin. Amaryllis belladonna, with cheerful red, 4″ wide, tubular blossoms in late autumn and early winter, is native to South Africa. Hippeastrums, on the other hand, originate in South America, with species scattered through Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

A handful of Hippeastrum species arrived in Europe late in the 17th century, and though they tended to have thinner petals and didn’t boast the broad trumpet look that we associate with today’s Amaryllises, the species’ flowers were flamboyant. And for plant breeders, they held great promise.

The first hybrid appeared in about 1799, when an enterprising British watchmaker took H. reginae (5″ long, bright red flowers) and bred it to H. vittatum (striped red-and-white 6″ flowers).

Amaryllis undoubtedly reached the U.S. not long after they arrived in Britain, given that bulbs are able to withstand long journeys intact. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that they had any presence, commercially speaking. Moreover, until the 1950s their popularity was restricted to the southern U.S., where they were used primarily as bedding plants. They worked well in that capacity, providing color when other bulbs were in a lull.

At some point around the 1950s, someone saw the potential for Amaryllises as indoor plants. Breeding for this purpose progressed by fits and starts for quite some time, but 20 years ago hybridizing suddenly became frenzied. As a result, petal and flower size increased substantially, and the color spectrum has expanded similarly, moving beyond the longstanding palette of white, pink, and red. Not only have oranges and peaches appeared (my favorite is ‘Nagano’), but picotee-edged, striped, streaked, and flowers with throats of contrasting color have also shown up in greater numbers.

On their normal schedule, Amaryllises grow for eight to nine months after flowering, typically slipping into dormancy in September. They then require a nine- to ten-week dormancy period before beginning the cycle again. In Holland, where Amaryllises have traditionally been hybridized and grown, the October harvest makes it difficult to produce flowers by the holidays. That’s why South African hybrid Amaryllises are also popular.  There’s another solution to the desire for early blooming plants: smaller flowering types, which tend to bloom more rapidly than their outsize kin. This explains the downsizing of a flower that everyone worked so hard to inflate. The so-called miniatures aren’t actually smaller in stature than regular Amaryllises—the overall size and the length of the flower spikes are virtually the same, sometimes even greater than the large-flowered types. But the blossoms are one-third the size.

Hyrbidizers are continuing to expand not only flower size but also the spectrum of colors. The push is on to create a true golden yellow. And blue might be in the future, too.

Getting the Best Flowers

Amaryllises are as close as you’ll come to no-fail flowering houseplants, but they still have their druthers. Achieving the first spike can hardly be avoided—they’re so eager to blossom, in fact, that Amaryllis bulbs often arrive with the snout of a flower bud poking out of the bulb. Even if that spike has made progress, it always straightens out and greens up when you get it potted.

Soil is not a big issue, although a well-drained potting medium is preferred. Much more crucial is proper watering. Over-generous watering when you first pot an Amaryllis can cause bulb rot and poor root development. Better to let the bulb dry out between drinks.

Plant Amaryllises so the top quarter of the bulb is exposed above the soil level. Firming the bulb into the soil helps prevent the plant from tipping over when balancing a full head of flowers. Potting in a clay pot also anchors plants. Staking the stems is another good preventive measure.

I always assumed that Amaryllis spikes stretched long or stayed short depending upon environmental conditions—longer spikes being the result of too much heat and too little light. But in fact certain varieties are bred for longer spikes (though it’s true that any Amaryllis grown in a dark corner with the heat cranked high will get leggy). A distinct, long-stemmed breed has been developed to fuel the cut flower trade. Furthermore, all Amaryllises tend to make shorter flower spikes late in the season.

A temperature of about 55˚-60˚F is ideal for keeping your flowers in prime condition. This will prolong a spike’s bloom for roughly six weeks. Then there’s always the promise of further spikes to come: as many as two or three are typical if you continue to water the
bulb regularly but sparingly.

After blooming finishes, the growth cycle begins. Rather than struggling to keep your Amaryllis content indoors, you might as well entertain it outdoors in the garden, watering and fertilizing the bulb as you would any other garden plant. Reduce water around Labor Day to provoke dormancy, and when colder temperatures arrive in autumn, bring the bulb back indoors, storing it in a cool (but not cold—45–50 degrees F works well), dark place. Then begin the potting-blooming-growing cycle once again.

Sounds simple and easy. All the same, I often have trouble coaxing Amaryllis to bloom for the second time. I always assumed that the fault lay with inattentiveness on my part during the busy summer months. But Thomas Everett eased my conscience.  Apparently, he experienced the same problem, and in his Encyclopedia of Horticulture he explains that, unlike other bulbs, Amaryllis roots are accustomed to growing year round. However, the bulbs are cut clean for shipping. Everett’s theory is that the effort of regrowing roots often precludes flowering in the second year. So, there’s always year three and beyond.

I’m never without an Amaryllis in winter. Every year there’s another shade, or a different spin on the same theme to try. Something with more green in the throat, or with more petals — there is always some new temptation waiting to lure me in. And I’m willing. An Amaryllis in winter is worth a whole brigade of spring bulbs.

 

 

Memorable Host & Hostess Gifts

Set your holiday table in style, or send a favorite host or hostess any of our charming botanical or botanically themed decorative accents. All are distinctive gifts that make for memorable gatherings. Holiday colors abound in our array of living greens, fresh-cut flower bouquets, and a treasured collection of Italian-made ceramic serving pieces. From tabletop to sideboard, and living room to kitchen, these festive accents bring the beauty of nature to all your seasonal celebrations.

Scroll below to choose your favorites.

Mini Red Cyclamen Quartet in copper-colored ceramic cachepots

 

Holiday Euphorbia Trio in ceramic cachepots

 

Handcrafted Woodland Ceramics made in Italy by Italian artisans

 

Christmas Colors Holiday Bouquet

 

Mini Orchid Quartet in 3″ white ceramic cachepots

Front Door Decorating

Share the joy of the season with family, friends, and neighbors when you decorate your front door for the holidays. Using beautiful evergreen wreaths and garlands, you transform your front entrance into a beacon of holiday cheer. Annual planters also help create a festive look outside your home by making beautiful use of the decorations Mother Nature provides for the winter months. Take advantage of variously colored and textured evergreens, bright red winterberries, pine cones, seed pods, and colorful twigs. Scroll below for a bit of inspiration and to see some of the products we offer, and telegraph a little cheer around your neighborhood.

Holly and Greens Garland and Wreath

These handsome and traditional decorations hail from Oregon where members of a family-owned firm harvest holly from their own groves then combine it with the fresh-cut foliage of locally grown evergreens and Ponderosa pine cones. The sweet and tangy fragrance of these lush greens will fill a room with the classic, all-natural scent of Christmastime.

Huckleberry Crescent Ring

The rich, warm tones of Huckleberry add vibrant holiday color to this beautiful and inviting wreath. Arrayed on a gold-colored metal ring is a crescent of fresh Manzanita overlaid with red Huckleberry stems and finished with a burgundy satin bow.

Canella Berry Door Greeter

Welcome all who stop by your house with this eye-catching arrangement of holiday reds and greens. Freshly harvested, lush branches of fragrant Noble Fir, Incense Cedar, and berried Juniper are accented by clusters of red Canella berries and pine cones, then topped with a bright bow edged in gold.

Winter Containers

In the planting on the right, we feature live Chamaecyparis ‘Boulevard,’ paired with Dogwood stems and topped with frosted Pine Cones. The container on the left combines gold-rimmed Euonymus ‘Aureomarginatus’ and Chamaecyparis ‘Sungold’ complemented by berried Juniper stems. Both containers are brightened by Winterberry stems.

Touch of Gold Decorating Greens

For those who enjoy a DIY project, we offer boxes of freshly harvested greens that are ideal for filling outdoor containers and window boxes. Our Touch of Gold collections include gilded Nigella, Flax and Lotus pods to add sparkle to your decorations.

Growing Citrus Indoors

The benefits and delights of growing Citrus indoors are numerous. For starters, these small trees with glossy green leaves are lovely to look at. When in flower, the scent of their blossoms is pure heaven. Then, of course, there is fresh, homegrown fruit to enjoy. A few easy tips will help you succeed in maintaining a healthy and productive Citrus plant.

When you receive your plant, do not be alarmed if it begins to drop flowers, fruit, and/or foliage, as this is the plant’s reaction to being shipped. Citrus plants need at least 4–6 weeks to acclimate to a new location and this acclimation can take longer if the plant is receiving less than 6 hours of direct sun per day. During this time, DO NOT fertilize the plant, as this will cause further stress. Once the plant is acclimated—which means the plant is able to produce and maintain new growth—you can begin fertilizing according to our recommendations mentioned below.

The juice of Key Lime (Citrus aurantiifolia) gives a sparkling tang to pies as well as Mediterranean, Mexican, and Asian recipes. (It will also spruce up any drink from ice-cold water to something stiffer.)

In most of the United States, these plants must be grown indoors, at least during the winter. Fortunately, their rootstock will keep them a manageable size (to no more than 4–5′ in a container), so they can summer on the patio and spend the winter in a greenhouse, an enclosed porch, or near a sunny, south-facing window. Move the plant outdoors in late spring if you’d like, but wait until the weather is warm and settled.

Gardeners in Zone 10 and warmer can grow Calamondin Orange and ‘Meyer Improved’ Lemon outdoors. ‘Meyer Improved’ Lemon is hardy in Zone 9 as well. Set the pot outdoors in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot, increasing the exposure to sun and wind each day. Check the moisture of the potting mix and water thoroughly if it’s dry. At the end of one week (give or take a day or two), your plant will be ready to go in the ground. Choose a spot for your plant that receives full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun each day) and is protected from drying winds. Planted in the ground, our Citrus will grow approximately 10′ tall.

‘Meyer Improved’ is a hybrid between a Lemon and an Orange, which makes it a little sweeter than regular Lemons. It’s also a prolific bearer. You’ll enjoy the heavenly scent from luscious blooms followed by fruit in midwinter.

Since Citrus plants are heavy feeders, we include a nutrient spray and a slow-release fertilizer with all varieties. For the nutrient spray: Once your plant has acclimated to its new home (about 4-6 weeks from receipt of plant) and when it is warm enough to spray your plant outdoors in your area, add all of the product to 4 oz of water in a spray bottle (not included). Move the plant to a shady location and spray the leaves. Avoid spraying the blooms. Apply weekly until gone. For the slow-release fertilizer: Once your plant has acclimated to its new home (about 4-6 weeks from receipt), uniformly spread complete package contents on the soil at the base of your plant. Do not mix with water or apply to foliage.

Prune Citrus at any time of the year except winter. Pinch growing tips and cut back leggy branches to help a spindly tree fill out. Suckers (shoots growing from below the graft or emerging from the soil) should be cut back as soon as they’re noticed.

To learn more, watch our short video “How to Grow Citrus Plants” below.

Learn About Hardiness Zones

If you’ve spent any time on our website, or read any of our catalogs, you’ve likely encountered the term “hardiness zone.” We’d like to de-mystify this term a bit, and explain how location should play into your selection of plants.

What Is a Hardiness Zone?

Using historical temperature data, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided the country into 13 hardiness zones, ranging from 1 (coldest) to 13 (warmest). Each of these zones is further divided into “A” and “B” for greater accuracy, with A being colder than B. Click here to see the USDA’s hardiness zone map. These zones are defined by average annual minimum temperatures. For example, a zip code in which the average annual minimum temperature is between -15 and -10 Fahrenheit is assigned to hardiness zone 5B.

The idea behind the map is that a gardener may look up his or her hardiness zone and use it to identify plants that will thrive in their area. For example, a gardener in Northwest Connecticut (hardiness zone 5) may confidently plant a variety that has been rated hardy to zone 4 but would generally not plant a variety that is rated hardy only to zone 6, because the zone 6 plant is not likely to survive the typical winter in that area.

How To Find & Use Your Hardiness Zone on WhiteFlowerFarm.com

First, go to www.whiteflowerfarm.com. At the top of our home page, just under the Search box, click on Find Your Hardiness Zone and enter your zip code in the box that appears, then click on Look Up. When the page reappears, your zone number will be listed at the top of the page (in the spot previously occupied by Find Your Hardiness Zone). As you navigate our site, use the filters on the left side of the page to narrow down a listing to display only plants that will thrive in your zone.

If you choose a plant or plants that are not considered hardy in your zone, our site will offer a gentle warning at checkout. This is not intended to dissuade you (in fact, plants can sometimes be “pushed” to grow outside their hardiness zones), but we wish to help you avoid any possible disappointment if a plant fails to perform well due to a climate mismatch. Please be aware that we cannot honor our usual guarantee on plants that have been shipped outside of their suggested hardiness range.

Sometimes Hardiness Ratings Include “S” or “W” – What Does This Mean?

When listing the hardiness range of a plant, we often “split” the warm end of the range—for example, you might see a plant listed as Hardiness Zone: 3-8S/10W. In this instance, the 3 refers to the “cold hardiness” of the plant—all else equal, this variety should overwinter successfully in zone 3. The 8S refers to the humid Southeast (the ‘S’ being for ‘South’) and the 10W (‘W’ for ‘West’) to the comparatively dry Pacific Coast states of CA, OR, and WA—this plant can tolerate zone 8 temperatures in the South, and zone 10 temperatures on the West coast. In Northern climates, summer heat is not typically a consideration.

So to summarize—a plant listed as 3-8S/10W should successfully overwinter in zones 3 or warmer, tolerate humid heat up to zone 8, and tolerate dry heat up to zone 10.

We realize this is complicated; the problem is that the USDA zones are really not sufficiently specific. For example, our nursery in Connecticut is in the same hardiness zone as Taos, NM—a climate that could hardly be more different than ours. Furthermore, there are innumerable other variables that may determine how a plant fares in a given site. We find that customers, over time, gain a good understanding of which plants do and don’t work for them, and that this understanding is much more helpful than a strict reliance on hardiness zone. When in doubt, please contact us—our customer service team is extremely knowledgeable and ready to assist.

Different Types of Amaryllis

We start the holiday season with over 70 Amaryllis varieties, including Singles, Doubles, Nymphs, Small-Flowered Varieties and Cybisters in a dazzling range of colors. Our Amaryllis bulbs are the top size commercially available (larger than what is generally seen at retail stores) and have been fully prepared at the proper temperature. Given warm temperatures, strong light, and water upon arrival, they will put on a spectacular show that will brighten up even the gloomiest winter day. Scroll below to see the wide range of varieties and colors available.

The 5″ double red blossoms of Amaryllis Fanfare® are very flared, very full, and very ruffled.

South African Amaryllis produce the same large, richly colored blooms as their Dutch cousins, but on an earlier timetable. Because bulbs grown in the Southern Hemisphere mature sooner in the year, we begin filling orders in October, and South African varieties will bloom about 6-8 weeks from receipt, often in time for the holidays.

Cybister Amaryllis produce delicate blooms that look more like wildflowers or dragonflies. These reliable growers will delight you with their colorful yet exotic flowers.

The blooms of Cybister Amaryllis (varieties of the South American species Hippeastrum cybister) look like exotic tropical birds but the bulbs are as floriferous and easy to grow as their bigger cousins. The dramatic Cybister Amaryllis naturally make smaller bulbs and flowers.

The vibrant coral flowers of ‘Sunshine Nymph’ are detailed with pink undertones and white stripes.

Nymphs are a distinctive, carefully-bred class of Amaryllis with exceptionally large and heavily petaled flowers on very strong stems. As the photos confirm, blooms are nearly as wide as the pots they grow in and each stem is guaranteed to produce four flowers, a rarity among doubles.

These red-and-white, lightly ruffled blooms of ‘Spotlight’ take center stage and light up even the darkest winter days with white lower petals that are etched with dark orange flecks and soft brushstrokes.

Amaryllis flowers come in a variety of colors, or even shades of colors. These types are known as bicolor Amaryllis. Bicolor means the Amaryllis flower has two colors on the same bloom.

As iconic as its Hollywood namesake, ‘Marilyn,’ this perfectly proportioned beauty turns heads with voluptuous double white flowers and faint green undertones.

Double Amaryllis are popular for good reason. Their shapely blooms and rich colors light up a cold day like nothing else we know.

These enormous, open-faced, solid pink blossoms of ‘Lagoon’ cast a spell of tranquil beauty.

Amaryllis flowers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including single-flowered varieties. This means they have a single layer of petals that form the flower.

To learn more about Amaryllis, watch our short video below, ‘How to Pot and Care for Amarylls.’

 

It’s Cleanup Time!

The garden staff is busy cleaning and carting away spent annuals, and the foliage and faded blossoms of some perennials and shrubs.
Faded annuals, and the foliage and spent blossoms of some perennials and shrubs have been pulled out and are ready to be carted away.

Here in northwestern Connecticut, the fall foliage show is nearing its peak, and in some places, the leaves have begun to fall. They rustle at our feet as we go about our rounds. This is Nature’s way of telling us it’s time to clean the garden.

Clearing out beds and borders means different things to different people. Some gardeners clear every last leaf and past-bloom plant from their gardens while others find reasons to leave everything as is until spring. We fall somewhere in the middle. We believe that maintaining a healthy garden and nutritious, well-structured soil requires different cleanup rituals for different garden spaces. At the farm, here’s how we go about it:

The spent flowers of a Zinnia are beginning to develop mold. Those will be cut and discarded, but for the time being, there is a certain beauty in decay.
The spent flowers of a zinnia are beginning to develop mold. They’ll be cut and discarded, but for the time being, there is a certain beauty in decay.

Remove Most Annuals

For starters, we remove most annuals. In general, these plants are easy to spot because after the first hard frost, many of them, including impatiens, begonias, and coleus, have withered and turned brown. If the spent foliage and blossoms on these plants are free of mold and disease, we put them in the compost pile. If we see traces of powdery mildew (zinnias are often afflicted), downy mildew or other diseases, the plants are put into trash that’s hauled off the property. Keep in mind that any mold or disease that’s allowed to stay in the garden will overwinter and reinfect new growth in spring.

Some annuals argue to be removed a bit later in the fall. “If the Cosmos or verbena bonariensis are still green and self-sowing, I will leave them until later,” says nursery manager Barb Pierson. “Plants like Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun,’ which can overwinter here, will be left until spring. Kale is pretty late in the season, too.”

Cleaning out the beds beside the store. Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' bows out after an exceptional summer performance.
Cleaning out the beds beside the store, Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ bows out after an exceptional summer performance. (Because the plant is sometimes hardy in our zone, some gardeners keep it in to see if it returns in spring.)

Clean Out the Vegetable Garden

In the kitchen garden, Pierson removes all vegetable plants, paying special attention to any varieties, such as tomatoes, that may have fungal leaf spots and mildew. Afflicted plants must be completely removed and put into the garbage (or carted to the dump) or the same afflictions will plague next season’s plants. “Most vegetable plants are best removed unless you are growing fall lettuce or other cold crops here in New England,” Pierson says. “If we plan to plant tulips in the raised beds for a nice spring show, this is the time to do it. If we don’t plant bulbs, we will remove any soil that comes up with the vegetables and add fresh soil in spring. Compost can be added in the fall if it is fresh, but we prefer to do it in the spring because we use fully composted material. Each spring, we replace the top 1/3 of soil – at the least – for best results. Mulching can attract digging rodents so we don’t mulch the beds during the winter months.”

Perennials & Shrubs

In the perennial garden, our methods vary. In the shady beds near the store, our gardeners clean and clear away dead and dying foliage. They cut back ferns, hostas, astilbes, and ligularias. Why? One year, when they let the decaying leaves lie, they discovered that the cushy, warm environment attracted critters who dug around and sometimes nested in the leaf mulch. That would have been all right except the critters didn’t stop at the mulch. They burrowed into the roots of the plants, inadvertently killing a few, and those had to be replaced the following spring.

Browning fern foliage being yanked out and hauled away.
Browning fern foliage is yanked out and hauled away.

In areas where critters don’t pose much of a problem, Pierson and many others believe that the decaying leaves of most deciduous trees are beneficial to the garden. For starters, they form a natural leaf mulch that provides insulation for perennials and shrubs. Oak leaves, which are waxy and don’t easily break down, are particularly good for insulation. Mounding them around perennials and shrubs protects the plants from seasonal temperature swings. Pine needles are another fine insulator, and they’re especially good for acid-loving plants including rhododendrons and azaleas. Leaves that break down more readily such as maple, ash and birch leaves add organic nutrients to the soil, and help improve soil structure.

The foliage of Phlox 'Robert Poore' is covered in powdery mildew. The plants need to be cut at the base and removed or the mold will return in spring to re-infect the plants. It won't inhibit the blossoms, but it's not much to look at.
The foliage of Phlox ‘Robert Poore’ is covered in powdery mildew. The plants need to be cut at the base and removed or the mold will return in spring to re-infect the plants. It won’t inhibit the blossoms, but it’s not much to look at.

As with annuals and vegetable plants, it’s important to note that any perennials or shrubs that exhibit mold or disease should be cut back, and the spent foliage and blossoms should be carted away to the trash (not the compost pile). Plants like Perovskia (Russian Sage) should not be cut to the ground, Pierson says. “The most important thing to remove is the foliage – not the crown or stems – so I would say remove leaf litter and prune stems as you would for that variety, in general 3-4” above soil level.” Some of the perennials and shrubs most commonly affected by powdery mildew include peonies, monarda (bee balm), phlox, and roses. As with vegetable plants and annuals, if you leave afflicted plants in the garden, the mold and disease will overwinter and reassert itself in spring. The mold won’t interfere with blossom production, but it will detract from the beauty of the foliage.

We like to leave the seed heads of Echinacea in the garden. Birds feed at them, and they also look lovely dusted in snow.
We like to leave the seed heads of Echinaceas (Coneflowers) in the garden. Birds feed at them, and they also add winter interest when dusted in snow.

As you cut down bee balms, phlox and peonies, keep in mind that there are other perennials and shrubs you’ll want to keep. While ornamental grasses can be cut back in fall (leaving 6” of growth to protect the crowns), the argument for leaving them until spring is that they look quite lovely dusted in snow. The seed heads of Echinacea and the berries of Ilex verticillata (winterberry) feed the birds as winter sets in. The pods of Asclepias, the flower clusters of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Eupatorium, and the seed heads of Echinaceas (Coneflowers) all provide winter interest.

Purple kale won't be taken out of the garden until a deep freeze. For now, the intense color adds beauty to the autumn landscape.
Purple kale won’t be taken out of the garden until a deep freeze. For now, the intense color adds beauty to the autumn landscape.

So clean as much or as little as you choose depending on the types of plants you have in your garden. But whatever you decide, it’s time to grab your rake and pruners, and spend a few days in the glorious autumn weather putting your garden to bed.

In one of the display gardens, the bright lavender blossoms of the autumn-blooming Colchicum have popped up amid a sea of lime-colored Sedum 'Angelina.' We won't be cutting these!
In one of the display gardens, the bright lavender blossoms of the autumn-blooming Colchicum have popped up amid a sea of lime-colored Sedum ‘Angelina.’ We won’t be cutting these!

Climbers in the Garden

Elevate your garden design by incorporating climbing vines and plants into beds and borders, or by using them to soften fences, walls and wellheads. Smaller climbers, including some Clematis varieties, can be used to add vertical interest to container pots or to skirt the trunks of deciduous trees. We offer all of these plants for fall-planting because autumn’s mild weather gives them a chance to settle in under stress-free conditions. They develop root systems before going dormant for winter. When spring comes, they’re poised to begin growing above ground, and they have a nice head start on vines and climbers planted in spring.

Clematis Rosemoor™ Gardini™

When you hang the name of a Royal Horticultural Society garden on a new introduction, it had better be good. Clematis Rosemoor™ Gardini™ is better than good. It comes from Raymond Evison’s superb breeding program on the Isle of Guernsey. Its showy 5″ purplish-red blooms appear on old and new wood, which means flowering is almost nonstop from early summer to fall.

Dawn & Dusk Rose & Clematis Collection

Stunning aerial liaisons can be arranged by pairing two different vines or climbers. We especially like deep purple Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ with the blush pink, double-flowered Climbing Rose ‘New Dawn.’ The Clematis clambers up the Rose’s thorny canes and obligingly places its flowers next to those of its host. When the two are at their peak in early July, the display is pure magic, and both generally offer some repeat bloom through summer. ‘New Dawn’ is sweetly fragrant and disease-resistant, especially to black spot, the bane of many Roses.

Clematis Petit Faucon™ Gardini™

Unusual blossoms made up of 4 slender, twisting petals in vivid purple blue with contrasting yellow anthers appear over a long season on this compact, non-clinging vine. At a mature height of 3-4’, it’s ideal for containers, or for climbing over shrubs. Winner of the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Climbing Hydrangea

Hydrangea is a valuable genus of some 100 species of shrubs and vines grown for their large and very showy flower heads. Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, or Climbing Hydrangea as it’s more commonly called, is a vigorous deciduous vine from Japan and Korea whose heart-shaped foliage and large white clusters of June flowers make it an attractive covering for a wall, fence, or large tree.

Rose ‘William Baffin’

Climbing Rose ‘William Baffin’ has yet to receive the attention it deserves. It bears semidouble, deep pink flowers in abundance in late June, with recurrent bloom well into fall. It is also exceptionally vigorous and hardy, the only recurrent climber available to gardeners in Zones 3 and 4. It’s destined to become one of the most enduring Roses of our era.

Wisteria Lavender Falls

Wisteria is a genus of deciduous vines whose lovely, fragrant flowers and almost overwhelming vigor make them useful in a wide variety of settings. Wisteria Lavender Falls, originally grown in Oklahoma, is an outstanding variety that has blue-violet, 9–20″ cascading racemes that have the scent of grape jelly. The really exciting part is that they reappear several times during the summer.

Forcing Crocus Bulbs—Big Performance with Little Effort

By Ann Travers
White Flower Farm Editor

Few plants deliver such enjoyment in the middle of winter with so little effort from you. Their perfect, diminutive blooms create a composition that’s pure magic.

4 Easy Steps

1. Start with good stock. Purchase top-quality bulbs from a reliable source. We offer an array of Crocus varieties and several mixes designed to provide loads of bright blooms.

2. Planting your bulbs. Use any pot you like to hold Crocus bulbs you plan to force, as long as it allows room for root growth—about 3-4” of space below the bulbs. Pots equipped with drainage holes are favored because they reduce the chances of overwatering bulbs. If you choose a pot without a drainage hole in the bottom, you’ll have to water your bulbs more carefully because bulbs that sit in soggy potting mix will rot.

To pot the bulbs, begin by placing soilless potting mix (available at garden centers) in a plastic tub or bucket. Slowly add water and stir until the mix is evenly moist but not soggy. Add the moistened mix to the container until the pot is about ¾ full. Set the bulbs root-side down on top of the mix. Space them much more closely than you would in the garden—they should almost touch. Then add more mix. Cover the bulbs completely with a ½” layer of mix. Water thoroughly after potting.

3. Chilling the bulbs. To force Crocus bulbs into bloom, you must first encourage them to produce new roots by keeping them cool and moist in a location with temperatures above freezing and rarely rising above 40° for a period of 12-15 weeks. This process simulates the natural conditions that cause Crocuses to bloom, shortening the chilling period (“winter”) by a few weeks. When the pots are brought out of cold storage, the bulbs think spring has arrived and quickly sprout and flower. It’s that easy—the bulbs do most of the work.

The easiest way to chill bulbs is to put them outdoors and let nature do the rest. To insulate the bulbs from rapid changes in air temperature and from freezing cold, bury the pots in a pile of dry leaves held in place by a plastic tarp or in a pile of mulch, such as bark or wood chip, and cover the pile to prevent the formation of a frozen crust. You also can chill bulbs in a cold frame if you’re lucky enough to have one; a cold basement; an old refrigerator; or an unheated garage (provided the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing). Please note: If storing in a refrigerator, make sure there is no fresh fruit inside. The ethylene gas released by fruit can interfere with flower development.

Please note that moisture is as important as temperature in the successful chilling of bulbs. Check the potting mix in the pots every few weeks and water thoroughly when the surface is dry to the touch.

Toward the end of the recommended rooting time, begin checking the pots for signs that the bulbs have rooted. If you see fleshy white roots poking through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots, the bulbs are usually ready to bloom. If you don’t see roots, give the bulbs more time in cold storage. Don’t judge readiness by the appearance of shoots from the tops of the bulbs; without roots, the bulbs won’t flower properly.

4. Bringing the Bulbs into Bloom
At the end of the chilling period, bring the pots out of cold storage and set them in a bright window in a cool room (one where the temperature stays below 65°F). You’re likely to find that the bulbs have produced white shoots during cold storage. Sunlight quickly turns them green. Water your bulbs when the soil is dry to the touch.

Most Crocus bulbs will bloom 2-5 weeks after they come out of the cold, heralding spring with their bright colors. When the blooms fade, we usually recommend that you toss the bulbs on the compost pile. If you keep them in a sunny window and continue to water them, forced bulbs can be planted in the garden after the threat of hard frost has passed, but they won’t bloom well again for at least 2 years.