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Gardening with George Weigel

Answers to your gardening questions and other tips by George Weigel.

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:43:01 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2016

Poinsettia care, holiday bulbs, tool-winterizing and dying Japanese maples: This Month in the Garden

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 14:00:05 UTC


This month's gardening jobs include not killing your new poinsettias, starting a few winter-blooming bulbs, winterizing the yard tools, and figuring out why your Japanese maple is dying. Awash in poinsettias The entire year's crop of America's top-selling potted plant - the poinsettia - will change hands in the next four weeks. If you're in the market for one (or a few), look for ones with stiff stems, good balance and no signs of wilting or drooping leaves. Be wary of drooping poinsettias in water-logged soil. That's a sure sign of usually fatal root rot. Plants should be sleeved for the ride home. Even a brief period of cold can cause tissue damage on poinsettias. Remove the sleeve as soon as you get home. Poke holes in the bottom of the foil to let water drain out. Set a saucer underneath to catch drainage. Another option: remove the foil altogether and set your poinsettia - pot and all - into a decorative pot. Use a little Spanish moss or similar soil covering to disguise the double potting. Poinsettias do best in bright but indirect light and away from cold drafts and heaters. Behind a sheer curtain is perfect. Water when the pot is noticeably lighter and the top inch or so of the soil is dry. Don't let water stand in the saucer underneath the pot. Temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees are ideal. No need to fertilize unless you plan to keep the poinsettia for another year. Even then, fertilizing isn't needed until early spring. Winter bulb time Amaryllis, such as this 'Fairy Tale' variety from, is a plant that can easily be forced into bloom over winter  Now's also a good time to pot a few amaryllis, paperwhite and pre-chilled hyacinth bulbs if you want them blooming for Christmas and beyond. Amaryllis are bulbs the size of softballs that produce large, showy, trumpet-shaped flowers in assorted bright and pastel colors. Paperwhites are a type of non-winter-hardy narcissus (daffodil family) that produce foot-tall trumpet-shaped flowers of white or pale yellow. (Not everyone appreciates their scent, though.) And hyacinths are the same fragrant bulbs that grow outside in spring, except they're also OK with blooming ahead of time inside over winter if they're chilled ahead of time. (Check before buying whether ones you find in the store were chilled or not.) Hyacinths bloom primarily in rich blue or purple but also in white, yellow, pink and rose. Amaryllis works best in potting mix, especially if you're planning to grow them outside in summer to re-use in future winters. Paperwhites and hyacinths do fine growing soilless in marble-filled trays or in water-filled "forcing jars" or vases. It's not a bad idea to stagger-plant several pots over the next few weeks to ensure you'll have something blooming from late December right through early January. An alternative is to pick several different varieties that take differing amounts of time to flower. Amaryllis typically take 6 to 8 weeks between planting and blooming, while paperwhites take 3 to 5 weeks, and pre-chilled hyacinths take 5 to 6 weeks. Inside tip: Use a sturdy pot, especially for amaryllis. Amaryllis have thick stems and top-heavy blooms that will topple those cheapie plastic pots that usually come with "amaryllis kits." With all, turn the pots a quarter of a turn every day so they grow straight and don't lean toward the sun. Winterize the mower and garden tools  Now's a good time to clean the mower deck before putting the yard tools to bed for the winter.George Weigel  Before you get too far into holiday-decorating mode, put your lawn mower and garden tools to bed for winter. Drain left-over gas from the lawn mower, tiller and other gas-powered garden tools so it doesn't gunk up over winter. Change the oil, sharpen blades, and clean dried grass off the deck so the mower's ready to go in spring when you'll have a lot of other things to deal with. How about sharpening your pruners and cleaning mud off t[...]

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These native flowers light up the fall landscape: George's Plant Pick of the Week

Sat, 08 Oct 2016 14:00:35 UTC


This week's plant pick of the week is a pair of native asters, called aromatic asters, that are at the showiest in October.

Here's PennLive garden writer George Weigel's Plant Pick of the Week for this week:

* Common name: Aromatic aster 'Raydon's Favorite' and 'October Skies'

* Botanical name: Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

* What it is: A pair of native fall-blooming wildflowers with daisy-like blooms of blue-lavender that have yellow centers. 'Raydon's Favorite' is bigger and bushier, 'October Skies' is a third shorter and more spreading. Both are drought-tough and attractive to butterflies.

* Size: 'Raydon's Favorite' grows 24 to 30 inches tall. 'October Skies' grows about 18 inches tall. Space 2 to 21/2 feet apart.

* Where to use: A top choice for late-season color and pollen in a butterfly/pollinator garden. Clusters also look good in perennial borders, cut-flower gardens, and any sunny bed or bank. Full sun for best bloom.

* Care: Keep damp the first season, then water usually not needed. Scatter a balanced organic granular fertilizer over the bed in early spring. Snip off flowers after they brown if you're neat. Otherwise, cut the whole plant to the ground at the end of winter. Can be dug and divided in early spring.

* Great partner: At its best paired with a blue-tinted ornamental grass, such as big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass 'Sioux Blue' or switchgrass 'Dallas Blue' or 'Northwind.' Dwarf goldenrod is another sun-loving native that blooms at the same time.

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