Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Barley Twist - antique furniture!

Ornate Antique Oak Barley Twist Stool
One of my weaknesses when it comes to antiques, and I have a few, is late 19th century oak barley twist furniture.  The smooth deep patina and the soft gentle curves is so sexy. Really! The first antique furniture I ever bought was a barley twist - and I've been hooked ever since.  I can't imagine the time, patience, and experience it would have taken to be able to hand carve the curve just right. Many an apprentice were probably driven made by their woodworking masters with this design! Even looking at how these are made on lathe makes me crazy. See these videos if you like. 

Aka Rope Twist, Barley Sugar Twist, Sugar Twist.  

To me it's just heavenly.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

For the love of Tulips

I love tulips. They add a nice pop to the garden mixed in with daffodils in the springtime. Everyone recognizes the flower and it's an easy choice with lots of variety.  Thank you to breeders out there making lots of hybrids!  Tulips can be simple, large, showy, charming - dramatic in mass, or just a pop with a few.   I'm a bit of a lazy gardener - so tulips have always posed a challenge for me. I've amassed a large selection and learned a few tips to ongoing success.
I like that I'm planting flowers that originated in Persia and Turkey. There was a tradition of wearing a this flower in your turban - so  Europeans named tulips using the Persian word for turban. At one point in the 17th century bulbs sold for exorbitant prices. Would you think of paying $150,000 for a bulb? Well that's what they were doing during the Dutch Golden Age - during Tulipomania!  While all "new" flowers command a premium for some period of time, this mania was dramatic and historic. Luckily prices came down! 
Ten years ago I decided that I "needed" a spring display of daffodils and tulips. Today I still have a great set of daffodils that have multiplied from the original planting - and  I've replaced the tulips several times.  I didn't realize how much deer and rabbits love tulips! Also I guess there is a reason that commercial buildings and park systems use tulips once and then rip them out as trash. Although Tulips are a perennial, they can be a challenge to keep year after year. Each subsequent year the flowers diminish even with care. Large varieties, those really interesting sexy tulips that I love, need replanting every few years. However, small types usually multiply and spread on their own. Well this brings me to my first lesson learned. 

A distinctive tulip shape - colored edged, melded tones, single color beauties

My #1 tip for success with tulips is a process I fondly call "Tulip Rescue."  Several times during late spring I stop by shopping malls and even Michigan Ave to rescue the tulips as they are being removed.  I can easily make a deal for the bulbs with the grounds crew.  In some cases, spent tulips are given away for free. Garfield Park Conservatory has often been the site of their own "Tulipmania" - in 2012 they had two days of giving away free tulips from all the Chicago Park planting and a great variety. 

Second interesting thing I've learned is that tulips do best were there are very dry summers - in the picture at the right are some red tulips that have bloomed steadily for many years. These are up against the house, and under the eaves. There are no other plants in this bed other than spring bulbs (and weeds :)  ). So I never water here plus no fertilizer; no nothing. I have found it very hard to grow anything here at all - yet the tulips love it. For tulips that remain in the ground after blooming, do not place annuals or perennials planted over the tulip bulbs; expecially plants that are very thirsty. All that water reduces tulip life. Since I have only a few places for flowers I mix it all up which  this means that I'm choosing to reduce the lifetime of the tulips. Too much water during summer and fall can lead to fungus, disease, and rotting. Hence another plus to having a tulip rescue process to replenish the bulbs each year.  

Early in the spring I apply bulb fertilizer when I see the plants emerge.  I also spray with a deer/rabbit repellent product.  I'll use deer repellent 2-3 times more than is recommended on the label in the springtime. If I don't the deer nibble off the tulip buds with precision!  Once feed and protected, I sit back and wait for the blooming to begin!  I am most fond of the appearance of the inside of the tulip! Scroll down and just take a look at the symmetry and beauty of these tulips. 

I put on an application of bulb fertilizer as the flowers start to fade.  After the tulips have finished flowering, I cut back the flower stalks but allow the leaves to die back naturally.  For rescued tulips, I cut off the old bloom/seed pod and plant in the ground with a little fertilizer and then allow leaves to die like others. Cutting off the bloom puts more energy back into the bulb. It gets a bit messy with the dying leaves, but with continual flowering in the garden there are other focal points. I let the old leaves stay until they are really yellow - about 5-6 weeks. Finally I cut those off too.  

In the fall, I mulch the whole garden which I think helps the tulips. In the spring, as the tulips begin to emerge I hit them with bulb food again. With this process - I have been able to get  3-4 years of blooms from bulbs.  Alternatively it is recommended to dig up bulbs each season and keep them in a dry cool space until the next season. I've never had enough energy for that...

I'm closing with a shot of a little garden. This is under a large oak tree and is shady most of the year. However, in the springtime I can get a few tulips and daffodil to bloom adding a nice pop!

Happy Gardening;

Today I'm singing "Tip-toe Through the Tulips"

Teresa Marie

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Overwintering annuals - great rewards

This week I will start planting the containers that will go by my front door and on my back porch. I have been known to go a bit crazy with container gardens, but this year I promise restraint :)  The most fun will be the containers with Corn by the front door - lots of drama and I hope people are thinking "is that corn?" 

Luckily for me, a few years ago I started overwintering my containers and so now I have lots of great plants to start with already.  I regularly overwinter the following plants:
- Geraniums
- Tender Grasses (See this blog post on grasses)
- "Spikes"
- Coleus  

It all a started with the Spikes. I'm sure you have seen these available at your garden center - fairly small and not so expensive. They are "pushed" as accent plants for containers. My problem was that everything else in the container would always grow so fast - that in a month or so, the Spike Plant was lost in the growth.  So, one year I decided to put that container into the basement and keep it over the winter. The Spike survived and today I have the very large specimen plant you see in the photo. It's turned into a focal point for my garden (not where it's placed in the photo.) And it still stays in a container.  Take a look below at how brilliant these little spikes can become! It's hard to tell but this is a 14 inch white pot, and the spike is now about 3 1/2 feet tall!  Check the size relative to the garden bench.

Impact of Overwintering Annuals (In containers)
Left side - as purchased, Right Side - after 3 yrs overwintering

Here are a few of my lessons' learned from over wintering annuals in containers. 

  • Insects - check the container carefully for insects and if you need, spray with insecticidal soap (a few times over a week or so ) before bringing inside.
  • Light - If possible place plants near a sunny window or I have a friend who uses grow lights (I'm to frugal to do that!)  
  • Pruning - I cut back the annual (except in the case of a spike type plant) to reduce foliage to perhaps 1/3 or 1/2 the final summer size. This depends on your light. It's got to get cut back so it won't get leggy and stressed.  I cut back a few weeks before I want to put it inside the house.
  • Re-potting before winter - I try to take the plants out of the container, check the soil and perhaps amend, then put them back in the same pot. I'm not 100% of this step, sometimes I just haul it inside as is!
  • Fertilizer/Water - as you would for your house plants. I try to fertilize a bit more aggressively as the spring gets closer. This corresponds to more light and my plants get a boost before I push them back outside. 

By early spring, your Coleus could be over a foot tall.  Impatiens can be overwintered too and they can get very large. Geraniums grow easily indoors in containers; I minimize flowers and really cut these back for winter.  Geraniums and coleus I prune back a few times during the winter to get branching and prevent straggly growth. The coleus I also start from these cuttings.

So just think -it's easy to do, you get to garden all winter, it saves money, and you have awesome plants early in the season.  So as you plan your garden in the spring - think about what you can save over until the fall. Or if you are reading this in fall, think about what you can try to save. 

Don't worry if the first time or the plant you chooses doesn't survive the winter. Trial and error happened with me too. :)

Listening to the birds sing today!

Teresa Marie