Is a Bigger Iris a Better Iris?

Size and  of iris rhizomes and length/quantity roots has nothing to do with ability of the plant to bloom, it’s more a function of different varieties and time of year and overall growing conditions. East coast and mountain grown rhizomes are generally smaller overall then west coast rhizomes. Oh Lord. look at my dirty nails. I seem to sport gardeners manicure near every day that I am out in the garden!!!   I hate wearing gloves.

Iris rhizomeThis picture shows a rhizome of blooming size in early spring.  Note, it’s only about the size of my thumb (I have smallish hands). How do you know it’s blooming size?  There’s 2 ways to tell.  One is to count the fan leaves, include leaf scars when counting. Most varieties will need 7-13 leaves for bloom.  The other indicator of maturity is the presence of baby shoots or nubs near the top.
So to answer the question “Is bigger better” I have to offer a strong “no”.

Iris – When to Plant or not to Plant

The answer is……  it depends on where you live and whether you want to have flowers the first season after planting.

Generally, iris can be dug, divided and planted all year. Many people plant them in late summer and fall.  At that time single rhizomes are the largest and the weather in most parts of the country is very suitable for the plants to settle in.  Minimal intervention from gardeners is needed as fall brings plenty of rain and cooler temperatures.

In my garden, I divide and move them when I get around to it.  The main disadvantage in planting too late in the spring is a delayed bloom time and first blooms may not look their best. Iris blooms not quite their best, however,  still look awesome!

Spaceage Iris Bloom

My space-age iris seedling in bloom

Growing Citrus Trees from Seeds

Meyer LemonsMy mother-in-law sent some Kumquats (C. japonica) and Meyer Lemons (C. × meyeri) fresh from her garden.  They were beyond delicious!

You are probable familiar with Meyer lemons, their sweeter, less acidic flavor is a favorite for lemon cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade. Kumquats, on the other hand, may be a type of fruit that you have passed up.  Bitter centers and huge seeds!  Yuck! NOT!

Kumquat fruit may look like a mini orange but unlike oranges, when eaten raw, one eats the peel and outer flesh only.  The whole fruit can be eaten cooked and is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.lemon2

Best of all, both of these delicious fruits can be grown from their seeds.  It’s easy peasy as one of my friends likes to say. The most important (and tedious) part is removing the fibrous coat from the seeds. I use a sharp knife to peel away the white coat and end up with the naked seeds (top).

All that’s Citrus Seeds in Potleft to do is pucitrus seeds in pot covered with plastic bagt them in a pot and cover with a plastic bag.  The bag holds in moisture and has to be removed once the seeds start to sprout.

It will take about 6 weeks in 65+ degree temperatures until sprouts appear.  Once there are a couple of leaves, I transplant my future citrus trees into small pots (3-4 inch size, front) after about 6 months, the seedlings are ready to move along into a quart size pot (back) and, hopefully, in about 3-4 years time, fresh Kumquats and Meyer lemons will be ready for harvest.

Citrus Trees

Citrus Trees from Seeds

Iris plants after a hard freeze in USDA Zone 7

Have you taken a walk in your garden lately?

This winter has brought us quite a few ‘firsts’ in our garden.  For those readers living in the northern states, plants that are hard dormant are a fact of life.  For us, however, this January was the first time in 20+ years that I have seen hard dormancy in many plant species in our USDA Zone 7 garden.
It’s a scary sight to unaccustomed eyes. On a warmish day, one may be quite tempted to pull back leaf cover and maybe even dig a little.  Just a little, to check if plants are still there. Trust me, they are.  Give them a little time and they will pop right back up and will thank you if you have not disturbed their roots.  But even if you did dig a little, they will most likely pop right back up as soon as the sun comes out.

I couldn’t resist and dug a little in one of my beds.  ALL the greenery had completely frozen and disappeared from these iris plants in January – look, they are peeking back out already.

Iris plants after hard freeze

A Day in the Life of a Backyard Nursery Owner

One of my friends asked “What do you do in your business when it’s not planting time?”

mhmhmhmzzz.  The list is long.
Today, I started by watering the plants and misting the cuttings in the greenhouse.  Then I swept the greenhouse floor and turned into plant detective.  I looked for critters such as aphids and spider mites and any signs of diseases that love infesting greenhouse plants.

Next, I finished printing shipping labels and getting packages mailed out. While doing so, I noticed that I was out of the Tennessee Shipping Notification certificates that are required for plant shipments.  So the remainder of the morning was spent on printing and filling out a, hopefully sufficient,supply of the certificates for the spring 2014 shipping season.

After all that tedious work, first a lunch break and then a little fun activity:  Looking through one of the suppliers catalogs and the availability list.  Next, checking the business budget to see how much money is available for purchasing. Happy Dance, followed by a call to the broker to order some more new products, followed by another happy dance when the desired items are still available.
Then checking and answering emails, printing out paperwork for orders that will be shipped tomorrow.  Pulling and packing products.
In between: Looking at Facebook. Answering the phone. Making coffee.  Making Tea. Running a load of laundry. Knitting a few rows.

Finally, just enough time left in the day to write this blog post and then I am off to an evening yoga class.

OH, you’re wondering what I may have selected?

Honestly, it wasn’t easy.  the catalogs are always so beautiful and the selection is difficult. Maybe you know exactly what that feels like?  My focus today was a few more edibles, particularly interesting edibles that won’t be on the shelves at the local box store.

Look for these new plants in our online store Edibles section later this month.
Hardy Kiwi, Goji Berry, Haskap Berry, Seedless Red Grapes, and Seed Potatoes.

I am planning to do a potato tower this year. The last time I tried with store bought potatoes and it was not a success (despite how well the planting looked when I started out).  I have learned why and will share my experiences when the time comes to start the tower for the 2014 season.

Potato Growing Tower



Triple flowered brugmansia Papa’s Girls

It’s been a busy and super cold week here at the Green Thumbs Galore nursery in Tennessee.  The greenhouse heater has been running near constant to keep all the tender new cuttings happy.  What are we propagating, you ask?
It’s brugmansia (angel trumpets) time in the greenhouse.  Our brand new introduction, Brugmansia Papa’s Girls – a triple cream angel trumpet, is rooting along.  I guess i could have picked a better week to start cuttings but since I want to be able to have plants ready for shipping in March, I had to start them now.

Here’s a picture of the flowers on this new plant, I wish you could put your nose up to the monitor to get a whiff of the heavenly citrus scent of this bloom!
Brugmansia ‘Papa’s Girls’ (Jarrett, 2014)

 Brugmansia Papa's Girls

Are my plants dead?

My plants here in Tennessee had completely forgotten what a hard freeze feels like.  Last week, they all got a reminder. When I walked around this morning, they were showing off their displeasure with those arctic temperatures. Do your plants look like this too?

Frozen plantsDead.  They looked DEAD!
After a deep breath, my brain said “Remember, these are perennials!”
My eyes took over and yelled “They still look DEAD!”

What to do? First I looked below the brown and crispy leaves of the Hellebore.  Lo and behold, there are little buds and green sprouts. For the more woody perennials, I took out my trusted plant tester – my fingers – and felt the stems.  Stems that feel cool to the touch are alive, dead stems feel warm.  Go ahead, go outside and feel some of your plant stems, pick up a dead branch from the ground to feel the temperature difference between a live and dead branch.  Hey, isn’t that cool?

Now I just have to remember to be patient and let the plants do their thing.  Resisting the temptation to cut back all the unsightliness is difficult, very difficult.  The time for trimming will come AFTER the plants sprout out for good this season.
Pass me the knitting needles for a bit longer.

Frozen Plants second look

Plants are not dead.