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Garden Ramblings, Issue #014
October 15, 2005
October 2005


Monthly musings on the garden scene

*********************************************************** If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend. ***********************************************************

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the Month
- Guest Article
- Bulbs for Spring Color
- Special Offers
- Useful Resources

 

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Hi

Welcome to the October issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the Nerine Lily.

The Guest Article this month is by Aurora Celonious and the subject is Orchids.

Bulbs that you can plant now to enjoy in the Spring are discussed in this next piece.

Now that we are in the Fall gardening season there are few reductions to be found, but I have discovered one or two. Details are below.

In the resources section I have mentioned just one website, and one that, as last month, I have known of for some time but did not realise that it contained so much useful information on gardening and landscaping.

If you want to keep up with all the news in the gardening world, you can read my blog Garden Supplies News.

Enjoy the issue.

Hugh

 

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Plant of the Month

Name: Nerine Lily (N. bowdenii), common names Jersey Lily, Guernsey Lily, and Spider Lily.

Description: Hardy bulbous perennial with strap-like mid-green leaves which usually appear just after the flowers from September to November. The pink flowers are composed of six narrow petals borne in loose umbels on top of 12-24 inch high stems.

Origin: Native to the Cape Province of South Africa.

Cultivation: Plant in August or April in any ordinary well-drained soil preferably in a sunny border against a wall. Leave undisturbed until the plants become crowded, then lift and replant, usually every four or five years. Propagation is by division or by taking offsets from pot-grown plants.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble free but a virus disease may cause mottling of the leaves.

Folklore: The Latin name Nerine is from the Greek word Nereis, the name of a sea-nymph. I have been unable to find any folklore relating to this plant apart from one suggestion that it is sometimes called the Jersey Lily after the actress Lily Langtry.

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The Beauty of the Orchid

Orchids make up an enormous group of plants, with around 25,000 species, and perhaps 60,000 hybrids produced artificially. Little short of a thousand new hybrids are added to the collection each year.

The word 'orchid' comes from a Greek word 'orchis' meaning 'testicle'. Theophrastos, the Greek 'father of botany' coined this word. He was the head of the lyceum in Athens and the successor of Aristotle. He led it for thirty-five years, i.e. up to his death in 287 BC. He called it so because he thought that the bulb resembled a testicle!

Given the variety of orchids that exist it's difficult to give a very exact description. All orchids have flowers that are symmetrical about their middle line. Most of the flowers are delicate and they come in almost every color imaginable.

In fact no other flower family enjoys so many different flower types as the orchid. In general those from Africa are white flowered and those from Asia are multicolored. All the flowers are beautiful, but they vary greatly in appearance depending upon what kind of insect or bird they are trying to attract.

The insect is encouraged to land on the lip of the orchid by a variety of sights and smells. There is, for example, an orchid called the Bumblebee Orchid that manages to both look and smell like a female bee, and consequently passing males cannot resist it! There is even a species, Bulbophyllum, that gives off a smell like rotting flesh to encourage flies to visit it and spread its pollen...

Orchids grow by various modes. Cool climates have orchids growing with their bulbs underground while in tropical areas they are attached to tree trunks. But they are not parasites, as they take no nutrition from the trees. These tree-growing orchids only attach themselves to trees for support, and take energy from sunlight and are called epiphytes (air plants). In Australia, orchids even grow on rocks.

The orchid is not merely an ornamental flower. It has many uses also. That is why it is so popular and is so widely cultivated. A prime example of this is the Orchid known as 'Vanilla'. As its name suggests, this is the flower from which the vanilla essence, the favorite of all pastry chefs, is derived. This Orchid is found in Mexico.

In Turkey they still make a famous dessert product that uses the bulbs of an underground species of orchid. This sweet food, that is usually eaten with a knife and fork, has a direct link with the original naming of the orchid - it is called 'salepi dondurma', which translates as 'fox-testicle ice cream'....

 

Aurora Celonious is the administrator and delegate of GT Flowers, your one stop source for all your flower needs. Visit us at: www.gtflowers.com

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Bulbs for Spring Color

We all look forward each year to the first signs of Spring in our gardens. The familiar procession of snowdrops, often pushing up their delicate heads through the snow, followed by sheets of yellow and purple crocus which are soon joined by daffodils in all their different varieties. Tulips and hyacinths complete the traditional display.

While Spring would not be the same without these stalwarts of the garden scene, in this article I am going to explore some of the other spring-flowering bulbs that are available.

The winter aconite (Eranthis cilicica) is both early-flowering and easy to grow to such an extent that, planted in the wrong place, it spreads widely and can become a nuisance. That said, its attractive yellow buttercup-like flowers provide a splash of color in February. The Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda) also blooms in February in shades of blue, mauve, pink and white.

Chionodoxa is another that flowers early in the year. C. luciliae produces a flower-spike with several light blue flowers each with a small white center. This variety blooms from late February to March. C. gigantea has larger flowers which are pale violet-blue also with a white center.

Grape Hyancinths (Muscari armeniacum) bear flower-spikes that resmble small bunches of blue grapes which appear in April. This is another of those plants that tends to spread so that once you have planted some bulbs, you will always have the flowers in your garden.

Fritillaria comprises a genus of 85 species of hardy bulbous plants several of which are now available to gardeners. Spring flowering varieties include F. meleagris commonly known as Guinea Hen Flower or Snake's Head. The bell-shaped flowers are white with purple chequered markings and appear in April. Flowering a few weeks later F. pontica has unusally colored green and purple blooms. While both of these grow to a height of 12-18 inches, F. persica with its dark plum-colored bells stands four feet tall. Another member of this family is F. imperialis or Crown Imperial which produces a cluster of tulip-shaped flowers at the top of a single 2-3 foot tall stem. What gives this plant its distinctive appearance is the tuft of leaves sticking up above the flowers giving the impression of a crown.

No Spring would be complete without the annual show of Bluebells. Now classified as Hyancinthoides, H. nonscripta has all blue flowers whereas H. hispanica commonly known as Wood Hyancinth produces pink and white bells as well as blue.

The bulbs described here are just a few of those that you can plant this fall in addition to tulips and daffodils to give some extra color to your Spring garden. Most of the bulbs mentioned can be supplied by Dutch Gardens, one of the merchants who regularly feature in our Special Offers section.

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Special Offers

Now that we are in the Fall gardening season there are less reductions available with most merchants just showcasing their wares. As always keep an eye on their newsletters for the latest offerings.

Dutch Gardens are offering free shipping on bulbs but you have to place your order by October 19th.

Brecks are offering reductions on bulbs and they are also featuring deer resistant bulbs for gardeners who are troubled by these animals.

Thompson and Morgan are encouraging you to order your seeds now and promise to include the most expensive packet for free. If your order is over $30 there is an extra $3 discount.

 

 

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Useful Resources

Recently I have been thinking about building an arbor in my garden and, while searching for plans, I came across About.com. I had been aware of this site before but I had not realised quite how comprehensive it was. There are separate sections on gardening and landscaping both of which cover all the basic techniques. New articles are added on a regular basis so, if you are looking for the answer to a particular question or want some new ideas, this is the site to visit.

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Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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