So come on down and introduce yourself and learn how you can improve you landscape, garden and home from advice given by one of the five Best Landscape Designers in Los Angeles.
Forcing bulbs to bloom is all about fooling Mother Nature into believing that spring has sprung. It’s not difficult or time consuming and the results can be extraordinary. All it takes is the right bulbs, a glass vase or pot, some rocks, water or potting soil and a few minutes of your time.
The process of getting bulbs to grow (forcing) occurs when you create a situation inside that replicates what Mother Nature does outside. If you decided you want to bring some garden beauty indoors, make sure you select the appropriate bulb.
The most common bulbs for forcing are narcissus, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and amaryllis. Generally, irregularly shaped bulbs (tulips, freesias) force best in soil, while regularly shaped bulbs (paper whites, crocus) do best over water. Forcing in soil is more foolproof than water, and all bulbs can be forced in soil. You can buy special vases for forcing hyacinths and amaryllis. You can also buy complete kits. Once you know how it’s done, you’ll want to find unusual containers for forcing bulbs.
Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, because the worst that can happen is that the bulb won’t bloom or it rots, but the joy of seeing a plant grow and blossom is well worth it. So be brave and fool Mother Nature, she won’t mind!
- Ethanol alcohol, which is found in most hard liquors, can act as a growth regulator and keep paper white narcissus shorter and more compact during forcing. Use plain water the first seven to 10 days. Once the green shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall, replace the water with one part alcohol to seven parts water. Foliage will be more compact, but with blooms just as large and long lasting as usual.
- Pre-chill bulbs (except amaryllis) in bags of damp sphagnum moss or damp potting soil in the refrigerator. Label bags.
- Choose firm bulbs with no soft or rotten spots.
- Plant tulips with the flat side of the bulb facing outward. Choose single early tulips. They are easiest since they are programmed to bloom early anyway.
- Pot amaryllis two weeks apart for a succession of blooms. With amaryllis, the bigger the bulb the better.
- Discard bulbs after bloom or plant them outside.
- Change out the water weekly if it becomes murky.
Instructions For Forcing
- Force in water in a forcing vase. Fill water to just below the bulb. Never let a bulb sit in water.
- Chill 12 weeks in the forcing vase until roots fill the vase and shoots are 2 to 3 inches tall. Remove from the refrigerator and place in a sunny location.
- Weeks to bloom: Two to four.
- Tips: Chilling period is critical for hyacinths to bloom. You don’t have to choose the largest bulbs. Flower spikes can get top-heavy, so be careful vases don’t fall over.
- Force in soil. Cover bulbs with 1/2 inch of soil. Water.
- Chill 10 to 15 weeks in the refrigerator.
- Weeks to bloom: Three to five.
- Tips: Pack bulbs tightly together with the flat side facing outward. Single early varieties work best. Tulips are the most time-consuming to force.
- Force in a special vase in water. Don’t let water touch the bulb.
- No chilling necessary.
- Weeks to bloom: Four to six.
- Tips: Start in a warm, dark place, then move to the light when the stalk is 2 to 4 inches tall. Flowering stalk can be top-heavy, so add pebbles to the vase. Choose the biggest bulbs.
- Force over water in special vases or on a bed of coarse gravel. Plant pointed side facing up.
- Chill 12 to 15 weeks in a paper bag or forcing vase.
- Weeks to bloom: Two.
- Tips: Pack corms tightly together in a low vase. (Corms are technically swollen, underground stems, but are also known as bulbs.) Hybrid crocus perform better than the smaller species types.
- Force in water on pebbles or in soil. Fill the container with water to just below the bulb. The bottom of the bulb should just be in contact with the water. In soil, pack bulbs in tightly for a nice display of flowers.
- Chilling period: None required.
- Weeks to bloom: Five to seven.
- Tips: Use a container that is twice as wide as high. Place in a cool spot until buds show color, then bring to a sunnier spot to bloom. They can get top-heavy, so be prepared to tie floppy leaves to a bamboo stake.
- If bulb rots: Water level is too high. The water should just be touching or barely below the base of the bulb and not covering it.
- If bulb fails to bloom, bud doesn’t develop properly or flowering spike is very short: Not enough chilling. Most bulbs, except narcissus and amaryllis, need to be kept at 40 to 50 degrees F for several weeks.
- If foliage gets too tall: Bulbs have been kept in the dark too long or did not receive enough sun when growing. An east or south-facing window is ideal.
For more information about forcing bulbs, Google, “forcing bulbs California, or check out California Bountiful – one of the resources for this blog.
While our mild Mediterranean climate makes it possible to plant year-round, with the soil still warm and the rainy season ahead of us, now to the end of January is Southern California’s prime planting season.
The reason is simple; the weather has cooled enough to make life less stressful not only for us, but for our new plants. Plants need time to grow roots so they can find necessary moisture and nutrients and with the sun low in the sky, moisture doesn’t transpire as quickly from leaves or evaporate from the ground.
But don’t expect to see a lot of action because most of the growth is below ground. While cooling days may shut down top growth, roots will grow in a soil still warm from summer. In spring, you’ll see dramatic results as the leafy growth explodes, thanks to all those new roots. It’s a hard-to-beat combo: less stress, root growth and rain.
What to plant
It’s easier to list what NOT to plant:
- Subtropical and tropical plants such as avocados, bananas, citrus, gingers and hibiscus will do better planted in warming, rather than cooling, weather because they do most of their growing then.
- Roses and deciduous fruit trees, such as apples and peaches, are more available during the January-February bare-root season
Just about everything else in the landscape benefits from fall planting: trees, shrubs and ground covers, especially those from similar Mediterranean climates. And California natives, which are often difficult to get going at any other time of the year, are a natural for fall planting.
Some annual flowers and vegetables grow only in late fall, winter and early spring, so they need to be planted sometime soon. Good choices in cool-season bedding plants include annual African daisy, sweet alyssum, calendula, Canterbury bell, English daisy, Iceland poppy, larkspur, lobelia, pansy, annual phlox, ranunculus, stock, sweet pea, sweet William and viola. Ornamental cabbage and kale are two bedding plants grown for foliage, not flowers. In shady spots, try primroses and florist’s cyclamen.
It is also time to plant spring flowering bulbs. (See September’s Thought’s & Fancies.)
I know it sounds too good to be true, but no-mow grass is real. In fact, it’s been around since the 1930s, came to market in the ‘60s, but with improved cultivars it’s only been the last few years that no-mow has become popular. This has come about due to the demand for low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally friendly ground covers. I can attest that it’s for real, an excellent alternative for the usual residential grasses, as I am currently planting it in several of my residential landscaping design projects.
The Fineleaf Fescue Species
The “fineleaf fescue” species is the grass of choice among “grassy” ground covers for slopes, median strips, golf course roughs, cemeteries, and for industrial, commercial and residential landscapes. There are four distinct species, and any number of commercial varieties have been developed for specific growing areas of California and for different amounts of sun and water.
Is It Really Grass?
When I suggest no-mow, the usual question I get from clients is, “Is it real grass?” Yes, it’s real grass, reaches 2 to 6 inches and grows sideways for a clean and uniform look. Once the seeds have taken hold and the turf is established, it will provide a beautiful looking lawn that requires very little maintenance!
But as there are a number of seed varieties, tailored for specific climates, irrigation, sun and use, I suggest you contact a knowledgeable professional before you proceed to rip out your existing lawn and replace it with no-mow.
Although no-mow fineleaf fescues require less water than typical mowed lawns, to survive in California they must be irrigated during the summer months. Irrigation may be stopped after the first significant rain of the fall-winter season and should be restarted only after the chance of further rain disappears in spring.
The recommended mowing height for fineleaf fescue lawns is 2 ½ inches. Mowing every 2 to 3 weeks is usually sufficient. Left unmowed, the grass will grow to a height of 6 to 12 inches, with most leaves drooping to one side or the other. It’s important to keep the grass from growing near or around landscape trees and shrubs. Tall, dense grass abutting trees and shrubs may provide a thick layer of continuously moist mulch that can promote fungus and crown rot. To prevent disease, keep grass at least 2 feet from tree trunks or shrubs.
One advantage of a no-mow fineleaf fescue lawn is that it needs less nutrition than usual grasses. If the soil is highly fertile, a no-mow lawn may never need to be fertilized. On average soils, the lawn may need no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. The best time to fertilize is October, before the rain arrives.
Sod vs. Seed
Because no-mow fineleaf fescue has extremely slow seed germination and seedling growth, this creates a challenge for weed control at early stages of turf establishment. There are many options to deal with the weed control and eradication, which your nursery or landscape consultant can advise you on.
However, now that producers are offering fineleaf fescue sod, in the long run, sod may be a better economic choice over seeding, considering weed infestation, seedling disease and seed wash out, all of which can affect seedling establishment.
This is the one question that I am forever being asked by both my current clients, whenever they’re considering a make over, as well as prospective ones, who have just bought a house and want to re-landscape or have children or a dog and need to reconsider their environment.
It’s also a very valid question because landscaping can be a substantial investment and it makes financial sense to know if that investment may pay off in the event the home is ever put on the market.
I recently read an interesting article at Buzzle.com that examines these considerations so I thought I would share their POV with you. What follows is a truncated and personalized version of that article. For the complete version please check out their website above.
What the Experts Say
According to Buzzle’s experts, a well-maintained landscape in the front and backyard will add 15% to the selling price. Also, well-landscaped homes sell 5 times faster than any other home.
To continue reading … Eva’s Note & News
It’s summer and it’s time to move outdoors and enjoy our fabulous California weather. But unless you have a patio, or a terrace, a pergola, gazebo or some other form of “hardscape” the best you will be able to do is to sit in a ch air in the grass and watch Rover bound across the grass.
“Hardscape” as it is defined in the dictionary is, “the nonliving or man-made fixtures of a planned outdoor area” and because I’ve been asked by a number of people how one goes about hardscaping a landscape …
Continue Reading “Eva’s Notes & News“.
I am super excited to share a few things with you guys. One I am gathering a lot of contact right now to begin to put out there about garden, landscape, and just overall plant and outdoor yard maintenance. I hope there is plenty of interest in my tips. I welcome your comments and suggestions on topics you are interested in. As for my recent happenings I will be at the LA convention center October 2nd and 3rd joining my dear friend Ricardo of Ricardo’s Nursery (you can find out more about his nursery here) for the Home Remodeling & Decorating Show. I will be sharing lots of tips on garden irrigation, planning and design. I hope you will be able to come out and visit us. You can purchase tickets here. I am also working on a new project I am excited about more details to come. Till next time happy gardening everyone!