Tidewater Gardening August 2006

Consider Species Tulips

     Fall bulb catalogues have arrived in the mail and if you go to the local garden center, the fall bulb sales displays are out. Can fall bulb planting be far behind? I am always amazed by the countless varieties and types of hybrid tulips that are available. Early season, mid-season, late season, Darwins, Emperors – it can become overwhelming when trying to make choices for plantings.
      The drawback with they hybrid tulips is that they have to be replaced every few years. Are you looking for an alternative tulip? Would you like a tulip that naturalizes well? The answer lies in the selection of species tulips.
      Species tulips are different than hybrid tulips. They perform best in rock garden-like locations. They require full sun, and well-drained, almost gravelly soils that drain quickly between rains. When preparing the site, amend the area several inches wider and deeper than the bulbs will occupy with sand or gravel.
      Planting on a gentle slope or in a raised bed assures good drainage. Plant the bulbs 5 to 8 inches deep.
      Species tulips are smaller in size than their hybrid relatives. Most grow just 4 to 12 inches in height and do not like the competition of other plants around them. Species tulips spread by self sown seed or stolons. Their foliage is attractive. Many have foliage which is mottled or gray to blue green in color.
      Species tulips offer more in the way of bloom. Many have multiple blooms per stem, some have up to 7. Species tulips can be used with other spring blooming plants such as pasque flower or grape hyacinth. Siberian iris and crestediris also make excellent planting companions. Species tulips are also suitable for containers.
      There are a number of species you might like to try. Tulipa batalinii has soft yellow, fragrant flowers appearing in early spring. It grows just 5 inches tall.
      Tulipa clusiana grows 10 to 12 inches tall and blooms in early spring. The flowers have a white interior with crimson central star and a pink exterior. It naturalizes very well. Tulipa greigii comes in pink, yellow, orange, red, buff, cream, and apricot. It grows 8 to 12 inches tall and blooms in mid-spring. The blossoms are large; 4 to 5 inches when fully open.
      Tulipa kaufmanniana grows 6 to 8 inches tall and is available in a wide variety of colors. It also blooms in the early spring. Tulipa linifolia grows 4 to 6 inches tall with brilliant red flowers.
      Tulipa pulchella is a tiny plant growing 3 to 5 inches tall. It has violet purple fragrant flowers in early spring. Tulipa saxatillis naturalizes readily. The flowers, lavender-pink with a yellow base, appear mid-spring. Plants grow 6 to 8 inches tall.
      Tulipa sylvestris grows 10 to 12 inches tall with fragrant yellow flowers. Flowers occur 3 to 7 per stem.
      Tulipa tarda flowers are yellow with white tips. Plants grow 4 to 6 inches tall. This tulip is easy to grow.
      Tulipa turkestanica has cream colored flowers occurring 3 to 5 per stem. Flowers appear in early spring. Plants grow 5 to 8 inches tall.
      All the species tulips listed are hardy in our planting zone. Many more species tulips are available just waiting for the opportunity to grow in your garden.
      As I mentioned, many of the fall bulb catalogs have arrived in the mailbox. Start selecting your favorite bulb varieties now by searching out bulb catalogs and order your spring-flowering bulbs now. A good guideline to use is ‘biggest is best’ in regard to bulb size. Be careful about so-called “bargain” bulbs as they may be small or of inferior quality. It is important to plant autumn-flowering crocus, sternbergia, colchicum, and other fall-flowering bulbs as soon as they become available at garden centers.
      Crocus and sternbergia need full sun; colchicum can be planted in areas receiving light shade. Also plant bulbs of the hardy amaryllis or magic lily in August as soon as you receive or purchase them. They will produce foliage in the spring that dies down by late summer. Clusters of six to nine lily-like, pink flowers borne on 3-foot stalks appear in August. The bulbs will live almost indefinitely and grow better if not disturbed.
      If you are one of those adventurous souls who like to keep geraniums over the winter you can make geranium cuttings in early August to start plants for winter and spring indoor bloom. To get flowers in the winter months, you may need to install some fluorescent tubes over the bench or shelves where you grow your plants.
      To make cuttings, use the tips of branches about 4 inches long. Cut off the bottom leaves and stick the cuttings about one third their length in a moist, sand-peat mixture. Roots will develop rapidly, and new plants should be ready for potting in about four weeks.
      August is still “bug time” in the landscape. Most insect pests on ornamentals are not serious enough to warrant control. However the hot weather in August brings out red spiders mites. Inspect roses, evergreens, and marigolds in particular for pale-green coloration. Hold a white sheet of paper underneath a leaf and briskly tap it. Tiny, crawling mites will drop onto the paper if they are present on the leaf.
      If infestation is light, discourage mites with a forceful, direct spray of water from the hose. Severely infested annual plants should be removed and destroyed. Mild infestations can be controlled with an insecticide like Safer’s soap or similar bio-rational material.
      Oriental poppies can be safely planted, transplanted, or divided this month. Plant these hardy, long-lived perennials in well-drained soil in full sun.
Take cuttings of favorite annuals or sow seeds in pots for winter flowering indoors. The following bedding plants root easily: coleus, impatiens, wax begonias, and fuchsia. Plant calendula, ageratum, marigold, stock, impatiens, and snapdragon from seed.
      Order peony roots now for planting in September. Plant about a month before the average first frost date in your area. Planting should be completed before the first killing frost occurs.
      Powdery mildew diseases attack a great many ornamentals, most often in late summer when the days are warm and nights cool. Some mildews, particularly those on roses, apples and cherries, also are increased by high humidity. Prevention by proper cultural techniques is the first defense.
      Grow resistant varieties; space and prune plants to improve aeration and lessen shading; water early in the day and at the base rather than on leaves; and reduce nitrogen applications to avoid excessive, late-season growth.
      When we think of fall flowering perennials, chrysanthemums usually come to mind. But let’s not forget Stonecrop sedum Sedum spectabile. This plant is a succulent, pest-resistant perennial which grows about 18 inches high. Flat clusters of magenta-pink flowers open in late summer, attracting both honeybees and butterflies.
      Since its flower heads turn reddish-bronze and persist into winter, this easy-to-grow plant can be the backbone of the fall garden. The flower clusters are also attractive in dried arrangements. The cultivar `Autumn Joy’ is outstanding.
      For dried winter arrangements, flowers with petals in bright yellow, orange, pink and blue colors preserve best. Red and purple become darker and less attractive; white flowers usually become buff or tan in a short time.
      While you are busily enjoying harvesting the vegetable garden don’t forget that you can prolong the season. The middle to end of August set out your fall transplants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. You can still direct seed lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots and turnips into the garden. They may be a little slow in germinating because of the high temperatures.
      Try lowering the soil temperatures by covering the seed bed with a floating row cover like “re-may” or some other shading material. Try one more planting of green beans in early August for a fall picking and also plant your fall edible pod peas like “Sugar Snap” and “Sugar Ann.”

     Happy Gardening!!!