How to pollinate an Iris

Plant Sex.

Now that I have your attention, this post is all about taking a little pollen from one plant and dabbing it on the receiving part of another in the hopes of creating a unique new plant.

It’s essential to be able to identify the reproductive parts of a plant, and for an iris that’s not so easy.  Here’s your road map to get started. Find the beards. They look fluffy and inviting. Think of them as the red carpet, leading towards the door #1, the stamen and door #2, the stigmatic lip.  Those two structures are the necessary ones for the iris mating dance.

If you like to try your hand at hybridizing this spring, it’s easy.  Remove the stamen from one variety and rub it into or onto the stigmatic lip of another.  Wait  for about 3 days, if your efforts were successful, the base of the flower will start swelling and growing, eventually forming a fat, oval shaped balloon. Should your stalk break off the plant, don’t worry, just stick the stem into the ground and your pod will continue to mature! It will take about 6-7 weeks for the seeds to be ready for harvesting.

reproductive parts of an iris



Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

hummingbird in flight

Hummingbirds are always hungry and their favorite food is nectar, be it from the flowers in your garden or from a special feeder.
Please skip the food coloring! Some research suggests this addition is not a healthy choice for birds. The final word is still out on the subject, we suggest erring on the safe side. Choose feeders with prominent colors or hang out some of last years Christmas bows near your nectar feeders instead.

Nectar Recipe

Combine 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Bring to slow boil for 2 minutes. Cool before pouring into feeder. Excess may be stored in the refrigerator.

The Sides of March

Welcome spring! I hope you are here to stay.

As the temperatures are rising and the sun is smiling on the plants, it’s time to take stock and see which plants have survived this arctic winter. I think the part that was toughest on our plants were the really low temperatures in absence of snow (insulation) cover.  The hellebore in pots, for example, had a distinct dislike for that environment and are still sulking.  The potted heuchera, on the other hand, have started to leaf out.  It’s time to repot and trim, ruthlessly.
If your heuchera are in the ground, be sure to give them a good look over If they have heaved or have grown stalky, either replant them deeper or mulch well around their base.

Remove the ratty foliage and give your heuchera some breathing room – they will reward your efforts in no time with lots of nice, fresh, lush foliage.


Top row of potted Heuchera plants has been ‘de-rattified’.


Lenten Roses from Drab to Fab

Trimmed lenten rose plantsJust like cars, tools, and even people need regular
service, so do the Hellebore plants in our gardens.  Hellebore untrimmedAfter Mother Nature visits with freezing temperature,  lenten rose plants will look like this picture to the right.   Ratty, crispy brown foliage with hints of flowers just below. Your plants need your help!
Get the clippers or garden scissors, maybe your knee pads and go to work.
Giving your helleborus plants a hairtrimming helleborus cut is quite easy:
Bundle up 3-5 ratty looking stems and snip them off with your scissors somewhere close to the base of the plant. Go all around the plant, snip, snip, snip, until all that is left are the flowers and your plants should look similar to the picture on top, healthy and ready to delight you every time you walk past.
Enjoy your naked hellebore!

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

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

The Unmentionables

Garden SignNo matter how much I would like for the plants to look like their pictures, there’s always some with a mind of their own.

Let’s just get right down to one of the unmentionables.  Floppy plants.

How does one deal with it? One choice is to select varieties that behave, the other:
Plant cages and stakes, of course. How many plants are propped up in your garden?  If your garden is like ours, then most of the peonies have some form of support. So do some of the other perennials and, certainly, no respectable size tomato plant will be without a cage! There’s never enough supports around and eventually we just grab a stick, any stick and some rope to keep the unruly plants at bay.

If you’ve been down to the butterfly garden by the Tennessee Aquarium, you may have noticed the decorative plant supports designed and forged by Jeff. Surely, something along those lines on a little smaller scale could be a good fit for our humongous clump of Sedum Floppy Autumn Storm. So Jeff put his mind and arms to work. Last Friday, the UFO landed.  It’s perfectly sized and I love it.
And, it’s beautiful, don’t you agree?
Steel plant support

Plants that bloom in Winter

I was told ‘writing a blog is easy, you are good with computers.’ Right. It has not been easy, I have had to learn the difference between a page and a post and I am not sure I have really grasped that concept yet.

Right now, our garden is mostly brown. The best thing about it is the lush yellow flowers on the Winter Jasmine and the buds on the lenten roses – promises of beauty to come.
Here’s a short list of plants that liven up our garden in winter:

  • Helleborus (Lenten Roses)
  • They are represented twice in the pictures because I think they are are just awesome! Singles, doubles, all kinds of colors and patterns, there’s just no end to how much I like them. Completely care-free and tough once established, they will grow anywhere from Zone 4 to Zone 8.

  • Chaenomeles (Quince)
  • Flowering Quince delights with bright pink flowers on naked stems in early February here in Tennessee. Stem can be cut and brought in for forcing too. Be warned though, this plant has 1-inch long thorns that can really do a job on one’s arms when trimming or cutting, I guess it makes this a good plant to grow under windows! Hardiness Zone 4-10.

  • Erysimum (Wallflower)
  • This is a super tough and drought tolerant Perennial that comes in many colors, from loud orange to subdued lavender. No matter where it’s grown, it will form a lush, low mount and explode in color in late March, early April. They are hardy in Zones 6-10.

  • Jasminum nudiflorum (Winter Jasmine)
  • The cheery yellow flowers of winter jasmine make up for their lack of scent by opening continuously throughout winter. The slender green side branches of this sprawling, trailing shrub gracefully tumble over walls and rocks. Tiny leaves replace the flowers in spring. It’s sometimes confused with forsythia, however, these blossoms lasts much longer and are of a softer color. Hardy from zone 4 to 8, maybe even 9.

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