Bridging Into Summer, Planning Now for Fall!

EARLY MAY IN THE GARDEN:

Now is the time when our ‘BRIDGE FLOWERS’ are beginning to bloom! That’s the name we have given a groups of special flowers that bridge the gap between the brilliant ‘spring splash’ and the colorful ‘summer sizzle’ flower display. Alliums, Eremurus, Dutch Iris, Calochortus, Dichelostemma and Triteleia are among the flowers that are in bloom now. Take a look around your garden and if your daffodils are over and you are waiting for your lilies to bloom, you garden is pretty dull at the moment. You might consider ordering some of the above mentioned flowers now for fall delivery, which will ensure you won’t have a lull in your garden next year. Ordering by July 1st also provides a discount on these items! Click here to get a glimpse of some of those marvelous and colorful ‘bridge flowers’!

 

Planning for fall color in your own garden:

If thinking about your garden in the fall brings images of colorful leaves on the trees but no other color, consider pest resistant grasses. Two in particular have become favorites in our garden and attracts the attention of our visitors. They are Muhlenburgia or affectionately called ‘Muley Grass’. There is a pink and a white form. For us, Muhlenbergia Capillaris or Pink Muhly Grass, blooms first, normally in October.

The white form, called “White Cloud” for obvious reasons, blooms about a month later, or in late October/early November.

They seem to be easy, clump forming, reliable and hardy to zone 6. When the breeze blows, they both sway and dance in the breeze and seem to say, “Look at me”! Order them now, plant them as soon as they arrive and you’ll have this amazing beauty in your own garden this fall, which will get better and better as year passes! (plus they go on sale soon! Watch for our email!)

Spring is arriving, stay healthy!

STARTING BULBS INDOORS

It remains cool here in Gloucester, VA but looks like we may have ‘turned the corner’ and it may warm up soon – thank goodness! But in the areas where the weather continues to ‘see-saw’ and remain unstable, we have had questions about starting bulbs indoors and which way is best. Here are some hints:

1. If you are starting lilies or gladiolus, choose deep pots because lilies make stem roots and having those stem-roots below the surface of the soil helps to keep the lilies standing when their huge flower heads form. Gladiolus also have a tendency to flop over if not planted deeply enough, so planting them in deep pots will also help them to stand up once they bloom in the garden.

2. No matter what you are starting, most summer bulbs benefit from bottom heat to get them going, so a heat mat under the pots will encourage their roots to emerge and the plant to begin to grow. Heat mats specifically for this purpose can be found at a good garden center. Here is one we offer in our catalogue.

3. If a plant doesn’t have enough light – that means daylight hours – they will ‘search’ for light, elongating their stems looking for the light. That’s the reason many plant get really tall when they are grown indoors. A ‘grow light’, which often comes with a stand especially created for growing plants indoors, helps give them enough light to keep the plants compact. If you start plants indoors often, acquiring one of the grow lights and stands may be worth the investment. I think most good garden centers have those available.

4. Once the weather is stable, you can then transplant the individual pots of bulbs to your garden much the way you’d transplant a perennial.

Good luck with this project.

GETTING HEALTHIER IN THE GARDEN

Yes, it has been a LONG, COLD WINTER and we have been STUCK INDOORS! Those of you who have had a lot of snow have gotten a ton of exercise from shoveling and bless your hearts for surviving through it all! We in the mid-Atlantic coastal states have not! The most exercise we got is from running to the car or to the building through driving, super cold rain or tippy-toeing across the ice! Now we are looking at our untoned bodies AND our gardens which are in need of help but NO ONE HAS TIME TO EXERCISE AND GARDEN!!! Exercise will help tone our muscles, creating more mass, which the experts say helps us live longer. We at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs think that one can get some good exercise AND help clean up the garden at the same time. While no one here is trained in the medical or physical therapy world, we do know that being outdoors, bending and stretching, if done carefully, helps keep our joints ‘well-oiled’ and our bodies more flexible, as long as we don’t overdo any one muscle group. We have also heard from the experts that getting our hands in the soil where beneficial bacteria reside help to improve our immune system. Here is a little video that we put together with thoughts about why we think being outdoors, stretching, bending and gardening will help us live longer, healthier lives. See our latest video on this here.

FRIEND OF THE GARDEN

We have so many people that we have become attached to because of their relationship with us and our gardens. Some are gardeners; some are artists and some are both. I’m not an artist and I have SUCH admiration for artists who actually use their talent so the rest of us can enjoy their creations, helping us to smile! One such person is one that I have never met! Brent met him at a conference and Brent shared with him my vision for this garden. He decided he wanted to contribute one of his creations to help with the message of ‘gardening WITH nature as opposed to AGAINST nature’. Because my garden used to be a big field where corn, wheat and soybeans were grown, there are ditches left by the previous farmer. In those ditches, cattails grow freely, so our friend, ‘Hap’, created a beautiful sculpture made of iron with cattails and with an amazing dragonfly! Here are images of his creation.

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If you come here to see the garden, you will find this right at the end of the Chesapeake Lounge Garden and right across from the Rock Garden. I had a lady tell me yesterday when I pointed it out to her that she had admired it before but didn’t realize that they were not real! Wow, what a compliment!
If you would like to get in touch with ‘Hap’, his phone # is 631/466-2075

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Severe Winter…Will Spring Ever Arrive? Frequently asked questions:

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Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ is one of the earliest daffodils to bloom and does not seem to mind being covered with snow!

Our winter has been one of the most severe in our memory.  Because of this, we are receiving many questions about what to do if we are expecting more severely cold temperatures and the leaves of bulbs and early perennials are already above ground.  Here are a couple of tips:

1.  If the plants that are in jeopardy are close together, you could cover them with a bed sheet or a type of landscape cloth designed specifically for this purpose.

2.  If the plants are spread out in different spots all over the garden, put a light covering like pine tags or wheat straw around the plant to help keep the strong drying wind from burning the foliage.  Try not to totally cover the top of the plant, however, because it wants light and air – even if it’s cold.  Most spring flowering bulbs usually don’t mind cold spring temperatures unless they get down to the single digits or below.

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Above, tulip bulbs have been placed on top of 6″ of compost. They are covered with 6″-8″ of more compost or mulch – this is the quickest way to plant bulbs without having to dig holes!

Another question we get this time of year is, “I just found my bulbs that I forgot to plant last fall…what should I do with them?  Can I save them until this coming fall?

Those bulbs have already been out of the ground for almost a year – they are probably pretty upset by now.  Depending on where you are and what the conditions are, here are a couple of tips:

1.  If you are where the soil can be worked or tilled, PLANT THEM AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!  The quickest way is to put 6” of compost on top of the ground where you want the bulbs to be; place the bulbs on top of that compost and cover the bulbs with 6” of more compost, pine bark mulch (small pieces), pine tags or top soil.  Since you are planting in the spring and not the fall, they will probably be a lot shorter because they haven’t had the normal amount of time to develop their roots.  Also, it is also possible that they have already aborted their blooms (because they thought they were never going to be back in the ground!), but hopefully, their green leaves will act as ‘solar collectors’ to help gather enough starches and sugars to be stored in the battery (bulb) that needs to be recharged – and bloom the following year.

2.  If you are in an area where the ground is still snow and ice covered, pot up your bulbs, using compost as a potting media, to help the bulbs begin to grow and develop roots.  Once the ground is workable, they can be transplanted into the spring garden.

A GOOD FRIEND OF OUR GARDEN

I think the relationship we have with friends is really important.  We may not see them often, but the connection is there.  Pat McCracken is just such a friend – one we see only once or twice a year.  We always knew that he was an amazing plant propagator and one who is passionate about plants.  We also knew he dabbled in ‘throwing pots’ in the off season – or at least, that’s what we thought.  We had no idea just how creative he was.  His creations seem to get better and better and are unique, imaginative works of art.  My garden is fortunate enough to be the recipient of his talents because he created an awesome detailed and ingenious sculpture made with 12 individual pieces of pottery that he put together, piece-by-piece for my ‘Bird and Butterfly Garden’.  It has so much detail that one must look at each piece to appreciate the intricacies!  It is entitled ‘Guardians of the Garden’.

He doesn’t have a showroom but welcomes visitors to see his creations at his North Carolina nursery.  Everyone needs a Pat McCracken work of art in their garden or in their home.  Here is his email address if you’d like to contact him.  epmaness@aol.com

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This is my beautiful sculpture, ‘Guardians of the Garden’, which was made by Pat McCracken. We hope you will come to see this one and perhaps make arrangements for him to create something just as unique but different for your garden!

“Chase” the dream!

hammockOne of the great things about being part of a bulb business is that we’re so seasonal. The seasonality of this industry gives you time to breathe, focus, and reflect. Back in “the old days”, we were busy 6 months of the year, and although now we joke that we’re busy 13 months of the year, there are those times that daily operations drops to a dull roar and we have time to dream our dream…

 

To create an educational garden that teaches visitors how to incorporate bulbs, corms, and tubers with other perennials, annuals, tress and shrubs in an earth friendly, chemical and pesticide free manner, therefor preserving the Chesapeake Bay that we live on. This garden is now know as our 8+ acres display garden called The Chesapeake Bay Friendly Teaching Gardens, 20+ garden themed “rooms” that are meant to educate and inspire all who visit.

Henry, Jack, Van and Katherine with veggies '12This garden is well underway, but as with any garden or home for that matter, the process is never ending. Our Children’s Garden, where we hope to spark the gardening spirit into our future gardeners, has raised beds with a vegetable garden. Kids can see, touch, taste and harvest vegetables at eye level. There are watering cans where they can practice watering and small gardening tools where they can dig and feel the dirt with their hands. But we need it to be a child’s dreamland!

IMG_4629Our Patriotic Garden (all red, white and blue) is meant as a tribute to those who paved the way with their blood, sweat, tears and lives to make our country free. If it were not for them, who knows…would these words be typed today without scrutiny? And one thing missing is a sculpture to reflect upon, a flag pole that our nations flag may wave and even a cross to bless the garden in which it rests.

IMG_5984Our Music Garden has grasses that make sound when when they sway in the breeze, and plants that have a musical name, like Tulip ‘Chopin’ or the group of plants known as “Rhapsody in Blue”. But real music like soft classical, soothing instrumentals, toe-tappin’ country or spirited rock classics can lightly fill the air. And this music system would also be a way to communicate with our visitors in case of an emergency.

There are others, but all of these dreams takes money.

Our bulb business has been funding the growth of this garden 100%. And it has become a large part of our budgeting. We’ve discussed turning the gardens into a foundation, allowing us to take on a volunteer team, and relieving the business of the financial burdens. But, we have also applied to be a part of the Chase Mission Main Street Grants where Chase Financial is dividing $3 million among lucky small business throughout the country. With your vote, we can qualify to receive some much needed grant funding for our dreams.

YOU CAN HELP US CHASE THE DREAM WITH CHASE’S HELP! ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS VOTE!

We need 250 votes by the middle of November. And a simple click is all you need to do. Just visit this website to vote! Please vote and help us to achieve the dream we’ve been dreaming all of these years! And in advance…thank you!

Dynamite Dahlias!

Hoo-WEE! Have you seen the Dahlias
in the garden lately? They take your breath away!

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These natives to Mexico and Central America are showstoppers! They bring more pleasure to your garden than almost any other Summer bulb! And it’s almost funny to call them “Summer bulbs”, as they most certainly are Summer blooming. However, these beauties seem to slow down a bit when Summers get hot and humid and the days get longer.

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But in the early Summer and early Fall they perk up and become the center of attention! With darn near every color imaginable, Dahlias are like the Tulips of the Summer garden. Deep darks, light and bright, and anything in between. And the shapes they come in are even more varied!

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Tight balls of color, spiked and sun-like, rose-like, doubles, singles, pinwheels, you name it!

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When the days are warm and the nights are cool is when they are happiest! So, right now in VA, they almost seem to smile!

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Want more smiles? Remember to deadhead Dahlias. If you do so, they will be fooled into thinking that they have not yet made a bloom and will create more! “Cut and Come Again”, Brent calls them. And speaking of cutting, they are great cut flowers!

Now that you love them, here’s the bad news. They will be available for sale from us in January! But check out our Spring 2013 selection and take notes on what you like for next Spring!

Serenity in a Wild, Wild World

As I sit here in a quiet office (as brief as I know it will be), the occasional Twitter post and most of the online news organizations are all a-buzz with negativity. Around here, Fall can be a hectic time of the year as the Fall bulb shipping and planting season is upon us. So, the last thing I need, or anyone for that matter, is having all of the world’s problems shoved down my e-throat!

Business is business. Life is life. There will always be the battle of good versus evil. And as dreary a message as this may sound, what it has reminded me of is our slogan, “Plant Bulbs and Harvest Smiles!”

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To springboard off of the familiar phrase “Stop and smell the roses”, I think it’s time that agendas be set aside, for leaders to practice “servant leadership”, and to stop and plant bulb gardens! 

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Who wouldn’t feel more like letting bygones be bygones, laying their issues aside and coming to peaceful terms while sitting in the garden?

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So, join me, people! Rise up and then sit back down again in the serenity of a garden!

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In the 10 minutes that it took to write this much, walk the garden and snap these pictures, I’m at peace. So, take a load off, come and sit a spell, cop-a-squat, and take in what God has provided for us. Let the pressures of success go and let the peaceful sounds of the Fall breezes take you away. Let’s all take some time to stop and smell the…I mean, Plant Bulbs and Harvest Smiles! 🙂

Bulbs Can “Psych Out” Your Senses!

Maybe you were part of the generation that experienced the phrase “Psych!” more than you ever wanted. For example: “Hey, look, your fly’s down….PSYCH!” It was the cooler, more modern, yet still immature way of saying “Made ya look”.

The definition of being psyched out is “to get excited enough to temporarily lose mental control”. Between you and me and the fence post, I never quite liked being psyched out. But using certain bulbs properly can cause you to be psyched out in a pleasing way by allowing them to play with your senses. In this case, we’ll talk about how they psyche out your eyes.

It’s true that most people are never satisfied. The grass is always greener. When it’s winter, you can’t wait for summer. When it’s summer you can’t wait for winter. The same is true for some gardeners who have all sun. They wish they had shade. Or gardeners with full shade want full sun. But, you can create these little pockets of shadow and even highlight an area with brightness with your bulbs and plants. Let’s see an example:

Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis

Illusion of Shadow using Oxalis

 This is the dark, almost merlot colored Oxalis regnellii var. triangularis with its delicate and bright pink flowers “psyching out” your eyes and creating the look of shadow amidst this small garden of mainly light colored plants. It makes this shrub look slightly taller and limbed up as it seems to be acting as the shade created by the shrub’s height. And the flowers create little pink stars that shine out of the darkness.

Caladium Candidum Sr.

Illusion of light with Caladium Candidum Sr.

 This is Caladium candidum Sr. planted along the base of a tree that provides a lot of actual shade, and the dark mulch and dead leaves under it make this darkness more pronounced. But, “psych”, the brightness prevails as the Caladium seems to be plugged into a 110 outlet, glowing and easily upstaging the tree as the focal point of this corner garden!

Both Shade and Light using Caladium

Bright Caladiums offering up some light to a darker, shady place of respite.

 Here are a couple of chairs in one of the few places in our Chesapeake Bay Friendly Gardens that actually has shade for you to enjoy. In the bed behind it are the darker Caladiums ‘Kathleen’, ‘Red Flash’ and others. Left as it is, this dark spot would hardly be noticed, possibly having you miss the fact that two dark chairs are under this cover. But with the addition of the lighter Caladiums ‘Candyland’, ‘White Diamond’ and, again, Candidum Sr., an illusion of light draws your attention and brightens up this otherwise dark area.

Sensory Overload

I dare you to try and focus on one area of this garden!

Most Caladiums do well in the shade, but only the light colored ones really should stay in the shade or they’ll burn. Think of it this way, darker skinned people don’t sunburn as easily as fair skinned folks. Same with Caladiums. So, it’s great to combine varieties of them into the shade to emphasize the dark area or brighten it up at the same time! Here are a number of varieties playing havoc with your senses! Shown here are ‘Florida Red Ruffles’ (far upper right), candidum Sr. (brightest spot), ‘Kathleen’ (side right), ‘Red Flash’ (close up), and others creating dark spaces that are contrasted by the bright leaves around it. ‘Red Flash’ plays both roles with its dark green leaves with deep red veins and it’s bright white spots that, just like the Oxalis above, seem to create a starry illusion amongst the darkness.

So, the next time you’re walking around the garden, look for dark spaces that could use a bit of brightness or a bright area that could use the contrast of a dark leafed or flowered plant. Then sit back and get yourself psyched up about the show you’ll see!