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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
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Easy bulbs for forcing as Christmas presents


The Dutch Flower Bulb Industry has developed many varieties of bulbs that you can purchase now and force into flower after the holidays. Let me tell you about them and how to care for those bulbs until you're ready to start growing them, as most of them can be stored until the holidays are over. These Dutch bulbs will also make wonderful Christmas presents for your favorite gardener. The most popular of these flowering bulbs is the amaryllis, and it takes no special talent to grow one in your home.

Here are a few things you should know about selecting the best bulbs for forcing. The bigger the bulb is, the more flower stems it will make and the more flowers each stem will also produce. The larger the bulb is, the larger the flowers will also be on the plant, and the time they bloom is also increased. Your local garden center will sell these big jumbo bulbs for only a couple dollars more than the fancy pre-boxed bulbs.

When you buy the pre-boxed bulbs you are paying for the box, a small pot, a small bag of peat moss, and a small bulb that will normally produce one to two stems with 2 to 3 flowers per stem. The large jumbo bulbs will produce 3 to 4 stems per bulb and each stem can and will produce 4 to 5 flowers per stem. These jumbo bulbs should be planted in an 8-inch pot--and use potting soil, not just peat moss, as a growing medium. You will need the larger size pot to produce a better quality plant. The more soil, the better the plant will grow. Jumbo bulbs have a better chance of re-blooming the following year for you also.

If you like the convenience of a prepackaged bulb, do yourself a favor and open up the box and look at the bulb before you purchase it. What you may find is that the bulb inside the box has already started to grow in the box and the flower stem has made a flower inside the box also. This is caused by heat in the store where you purchase them, so open the box, and inspect it first before purchasing it. To prevent the bulbs from sprouting keep them in a cool place like your basement and don't plant them until you're ready to give them away or force them. Air circulation and temperature is the answer to keeping them from sprouting. If you purchase boxed bulbs take them out of the box until you're ready to give them away or plant.

The Dutch have also made available a pre-cooled hyacinth bulb that you can grow in soil or in a nice hyacinth vase of water. The hyacinth vase filled with water is a wonderful to watch them grow, as you are able to watch the roots develop below the bulb and the foliage and flowers form on the top of the bulb at the same time. When you buy the hyacinth vase, buy several extra bulbs at the same time and keep them in the vegetable crisper so they will stay dormant and not dry up before you're ready to plant them. Once the bulb has finished flowering toss it on your compost pile as it will not re-flower the following year if planted in the garden, and then place another bulb in the vase for color all winter long. A small version of this vase is also available for forcing crocus bulbs into bloom using the same method.

I know that most of you have planted paperwhite or paper-yellow bulbs in soil or stone bowls before--but if you want to have multiple plantings, you must purchase the bulbs now and store them in your vegetable crisper. The flower buds will dry up inside the bulb if not kept cool but the foliage will form with no flower buds and you will be very disappointed with the results. Once planted, keep the container of bulbs in a bright window on the east or west side of your house; south-facing windows get too warm and the foliage will grow very tall and fall over. Keep bulbs well watered at all times, and when they finish flowering toss out the bulbs as they will not re-flower.

Also available this year are the new pre-cooled tulip bulbs in a clear container like a round egg container that will hold the bulbs in place. Now you can watch them grow roots and foliage--and in time, the flowers will form on top of the foliage. All you have to do is add water, sit back, and watch the bulbs grow--a perfect gift for housebound gardeners during the winter. Just be sure to keep the bulbs dry and cool until you're ready to start the growing the bulbs. Some of these items are limited so start looking for them now and you will not be disappointed this winter.





It is time to pot up spring flower bulbs for winter color


I know that at this time of the year you're very busy preparing for the holidays and the last thing you need to do is plant bulbs in pots, BUT.... If you can take one hour of your day, and pot up spring flowering bulbs now, in 8 to 12 weeks (that's the middle of January to the middle of March), you will have pots of flowering spring bulbs on your kitchen table in bloom for pennies on the dollar when you compare the price from the local greenhouse or florist. Because of the season, all bulbs are on sale right now, so purchase bulbs for the garden and for potting and save money!

When you're out shopping look for bulb displays at the garden center and box stores, as they are in the Christmas sales season and bulbs are the last thing they want to think about right now. Think SALE! This is what you want to look for: daffodils, tulips that bloom in April (not May-flowering types because they will grow too tall when potted for forcing), hyacinths and all the dwarf or miniature minor bulbs. Look for crocus, grape hyacinths, scilla, chionodoxa, snow drops, snow flakes, leucojum, allium and dwarf daffodils, as these are the easiest to force into bloom for your home when the ground is covered with snow and you're craving flowers for the kitchen table.

Here is what I want you to do--check the bulbs to make sure they are firm; if you gently scratch into the bulb skin covering you will see white flesh, not brown or soft tissue. If the bulbs are dried out, leave them there and look somewhere else for good bulbs for forcing. Here is how many bulbs you will need for potting. For small bulbs, use 4-inch pots and plant 7 to 10 bulbs per pot. For more color use a 6-inch pot and plant 12 to 15 bulbs per pot. Bulbs will vary in size; when you place them in the pot you can determine how many will fit comfortably in the pot without jamming them together bulb to bulb, give them 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch between bulbs when potting.

For larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths use 6-inch pots and put 5 to 7 bulbs per pot, for 8-inch pots use 7 to 10 bulbs and if you want lots of color use 10 inch pots and use 10 to 15 bulbs per pot. Again the size of the bulb will vary and bulb count per pot will vary on size of the bulb.

You can use your old pots from plants you purchased for the garden this spring, as long as you wash them before potting them up with the bulbs. Take a bucket, fill it halfway full with warm water and add half a cup of bleach to kill anything growing or living on the pot. All you need is a quick dip in the mixture, wash off any soil attached to the pot and rinse in clean water and you're ready to plant. Shallow pots are best; something in the 6 inch height range--it will take less room where you force them. Shallow pots are also called azalea pots or bulb pots and can also be purchased at your local garden center or feed and grain store if you need pots.

Next, fresh potting soil Like Black Gold, Fafard, or Espoma potting soil is best, NOT topsoil--potting soil! Now add 1 to 2 inches of potting soil to the pot and place the bulbs in the pot in so there is room between them and they are arrange to be evenly spaced. Most of the time the point faces up; if you're not sure, ask the sales person for help. Now cover the bulbs with soil and firm the soil around the bulbs to keep them from moving in the pot. Leave 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of space in the pot so you can add water--don't fill to the rim of the pot with compacted soil, you need room for watering. Large bulbs like daffodils may stick out of the pot a little bit, so don't worry--they will be OK. Water well and let the excess water drain out the drainage holes and then water again to make sure that all the soil is wet and let drain. Use a plant label or mark on the side of the pot with a magic marker what you planted in the pot--it will come in handy later when you want to bring them inside for forcing. Also write the date you planted them, so you will know the growing time in the container.

Now move the pots to an unheated building like your garage, tool shed, on the stairs leading down to your basement (as long as the bulkhead does not face south), and you can also place them under a porch up against the side of the house. This will keep them cold and out of the winter weather but the pots have to be on the floor where it is cold, not on top of a bench. Next, cover the pots with a couple inches of straw for a bit of insulation and extra protection if the weather gets real cold while in storage. I cover the straw with a strip of burlap on top to hold it in place and keep the area clean. Check the bulbs every couple of weeks for water and keep the soil moist at all times. Roots will become visible in just 2 to 3 weeks growing out of the drainage holes.

Now, small and minor bulbs will be ready to bring inside the house in 6 to 8 weeks and the larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths will take 12 weeks to mature. Now you do not have to take them out all at the same time, just take a few pots out at a time so you can enjoy them longer. Move the pots to a nice sunny window to stimulate foliage growth; once you notice flower buds developing, move them to a cool spot in your home and away from hot sunny windows so the flowers will last longer.

When they finish flowering, remove the flowers but allow the foliage to continue growing for a month so the bulbs can rebuild their energy. Now put the pots of foliage in your basement until April and keep them moist. When the weather gets nice, plant them in your garden and next year they will bloom at their regular time. Plant as one unit in the garden and sink the root ball 2 inches deeper into the soil. Fertilize with Bulb Tone or compost and do not cut the foliage until it begins to turn yellow in early May. This is something you can do--and you will thank me later when the color arrives in your home. Give it a try this year and enjoy the winter full of potted bulbs. You can do this--yes you can!!  Enjoy!





Indoor bulb gardening


Forcing bulbs to bloom inside the house is a wonderful, easy way to get through the cold gray days of winter while adding fragrance and color to your life indoors. If you plan ahead, you can have red tulips for Christmas Day, pink and white hyacinths on Valentine's Day, and the fragrance of springtime in your home all winter long.

The term "forcing" refers to inducing a plant to produce its shoots, leaves or flowers ahead of its natural schedule and out of its natural environment. To force bulbs, you need to mimic and compress the process the plant would undergo outdoors naturally in the garden.

Small-sized bulbs, such as snowdrops, scilla, muscari, chionodoxa, and crocus can be forced just as easily as larger bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. Early blooming varieties are better suited for forcing than others. It's also important to select varieties that don't grow too tall.

Narcissus (paper whites) hyacinths, amaryllis, and lily of the valley will grow indoors in water. You can use a bulb vase or a shallow dish filled with clean pebbles or marbles to stabilize the roots and to support the bulbs above the water. Just wedge the bulbs among the pebbles, close to each other but not touching, and cover the pebbles with water. Allow air space between the top of the water and the bottom of the bulb to prevent rot.

For other bulbs, half fill a shallow container with . Fill this layer, small end up, with as many bulbs as will fit in your pot without touching each other. Then add more soil between until they are completely covered. With hyacinths, amaryllis, and narcissus, allow the necks to protrude slightly.

After planting, place the pots in a cool, dark place, such as a cool cellar, garage, tool shed, the bulkhead stairs leading down to the basement, a barn or unheated building or refrigerator to initiate root and shoot growth. If necessary, set boxes, pots or black garbage bags over your potted bulbs to keep them dark during the cooling period. Keep the soil moist through the rooting and cooling period. After five or six weeks, the roots and growth should emerge.

Then move the bulbs to a cool location indoors. The bulbs should be placed in indirect lighting and should not be allowed to dry out. Forcing will take about 12 weeks for the early blooming bulbs (snowdrop, crocus, and daffodil) and about 16 weeks for tulips. The potted bulbs should be placed in indirect light and should not be allowed to dry out.

Feed weekly with a half-strength solution of a good houseplant fertilizer. Turn the pots every couple of days to help the flower stems grow straight and strong. When the foliage and buds are well developed, move the pots to a bright, sunny window in the house. Once the flowers begin to open, take the plants out of direct sunlight to prolong the bloom. Keep potted bulbs as cool as possible and they will last longer. Then sit back and enjoy the early breath of spring indoors!  

When flowers fade, cut the blooms only off the plant. Treat the plant as a potted houseplant for 6 weeks so the foliage can rebuild the energy it took the plant to make the flowers originally. Now place the pot of bulbs in the basement and stop watering so it will go dormant. Plant in your garden in the spring as you would new bulbs from the nursery. They will bloom the following spring at their normal flowering time.






Autumn in New England (Music by Vivaldi)

Autumn in New England

(Music by Vivaldi)



 "My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view. "

"H. Fred Dale"


Preparing your roses for Winter


Before you get caught up with all the holiday activities, here are a few final things to do in the yard and garden. The weather is still favorable to work outside now and the time spent in the garden can save you time and money--and save your plants from winter damage. There is nothing more frustrating than losing plants during the winter, because we did not know how to protect them properly--especially plants we worked so hard to develop this past season. Knowledge is power in your garden and here are a few things that will help you and your plants to have a better winter.

One of the most popular plants for the garden is the rose bush and for many of us, losing plants after the first winter that a rose bush was planted in our summer garden is tragic. The result is discouraging, and instead of increasing the size of the rose garden to add new varieties and colors, we replace the dead plants with perennials or annual flowers. Growing rose bushes is a lot of work but the reward is incredible as the plants produce the most sought-after flower in the world.

Here is what I want you to do in the next couple of weeks. Don't panic, because you still have time. Purchase a bag of bark mulch or compost, a bale of straw, or go down to the beach and collect sea weed and place it in your garden, but not on the plants yet. Right now the mice are still looking for a place to make their home for the winter and organic plant insulation will attract them to your garden and they will eat your plants during the winter. I want you to wait until Thanksgiving to create a mound of material around your plants.

Step one is to NEVER prune your roses in the fall of the year! Your plant is covered and sealed with strong bark that helps prevent moisture loss caused by winter winds and sun. Every time you cut back a branch from your plant, you are creating an opening for moisture to escape from the plant--resulting in branch die back or plant kill. If you live in a climate where winters get cold and temperatures dip down to the teens or colder, spend under a dollar a plant to give them additional protection by spraying them with an anti-desiccant sealant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt-Stop. Before you use your insulation around the plant around Thanksgiving, apply the anti-desiccant product. That is something you can do now while the temperatures are above freezing during the day. Anti-desiccants sprays need 4 hours to dry on the plant when temperatures are above freezing to be most effective.

After Thanksgiving, build your mound with the product you have chosen to use to protect the plants for the winter. The mound should be 12 to 18 inches wide and high around your plants, and in the shape of a Teepee. If you live near the seashore or the rose garden is in a very windy location, you can also use a burlap bag to cover the plant for extra protection. NEVER use a plastic bag to cover your plants, because the bag will trap the daytime heat, causing wide temperature swings that will cause early sprouting during winter warm spells. Burlap is porous and breathes, allowing the heat to escape from around the plant and keep the plant dormant. After Christmas, recycle your Christmas tree and cut the branches from it so you can lay the evergreen branches against the plants for additional protection; as the needles dry, the smell will give your early garden great fragrance--and those fallen needles also become great organic matter to improve the soil around your roses.

Potted roses should be stored in your garage, tool shed or under your deck for the winter. This protects the plant from the winter weather but keeps it dormant. Plants stored inside an unheated building will need to be watered well before they are put away for the year and adding a bit of additional water during the winter to keep the roots moist. Those left outside under a deck or porch should be watered well and laid on their side to prevent the pot from filling with water and creating a ball of ice around the roots during the winter. Plants left outside should also be treated with an anti-desiccant before put into winter storage. If the weather gets nice out during mid-March bring the containers outside so the plants can gradually adapt to the changing temperatures. You don't want your plants to begin to sprout in the garage or tool shed as the days begin to warm up, and then have the new sprouting buds hurt by cold weather.

Now, the pruning of the rose bushes should be done in the early spring. Always wait until the baseball season begins in your home town--not during spring training. Prune to control the size of the plant, remove any branches that dried out during the winter and turned brown, also remove any small shoots or suckers that have formed at the base of the plants. Keep the most vigorous branches, as they will produce the most new growth during the summer and more flowers for you to enjoy. I also like to apply the anti-desiccant spray on the plant again in the spring after pruning to seal up the cuts made on the plant and hold moisture in the plant until it is ready to grow. If you're only making a few cuts on the rose bush and have no anti-desiccant spray left, just light a candle and drip some wax on the cuts you just made to seal the plant until it is ready to grow and care for itself. Make your cuts at an angle so rain and watering can roll off the branches to prevent rotting of the stems.

Fertilizer is applied in April when you begin to notice that the buds are beginning to pop and green foliage is forming. You can also begin to apply your first application of a systemic insecticide to the plant so it has time to move up the roots of the plant and get established in the new shoots that develop. That way you're ahead of the insects before they get a chance to get established on the plant. I also like to apply All Season Oil and a dormant fungicide to the plant to control any overwintering insect eggs left on the plant in the fall and disease spores from last year. This is most effective once you have pruned the plant in the spring and are getting the garden ready for the new season.

I don't care what people tell you about growing roses, it requires work, but the end results are well worth the effort. If you have never planted roses before, give it a try next spring but prepare your soil properly and choose a location with sun all day long, that's the key! If you're new to growing roses, ask for a gardening book about roses for Christmas and read up on how to grow them during the winter so you're ready when spring arrives. After the holidays, go on the internet and sign up to receive the new rose catalogs in the mail, so you can select the color combination for your garden. Those catalogs will also be full of additional helpful information when you get ready to plant the garden. If you follow these easy steps you can remove from your vocabulary to following phrase, "I never promised you a rose Garden because it is too much work." Can you imagine Valentine's Day without roses? Now imagine your garden with rose bushes growing in it; imagine cutting roses from those plants and placing them on your dinner table this coming summer. You can do it and you will enjoy your time in the garden with your rose bushes. Enjoy.








Pecan Cranberry stuffing
















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Just after World War II ended, US building construction came alive once again. Homes were built to help returning service personnel. With the buildings came landscaping. Whether it was winter or summer, the weather was always a factor. But horticulturists knew that some plantings would not make it through the hot or cold windy weather and drought that was destined to arrive. A gardener by the name of Dr. Luther Baumgartner developed a chemical mix that he felt would reduce evaporation from foliage. Luther experimented with his invention at a nursery in Hawthorne, NY and it worked. He was able to get a well known Chemical Co. to bottle his formula which he called Wilt-Pruf. He sold his new product to his neighborhood nurseries to help them protect their plantings. Wilt-Pruf became successful almost overnight, so Dr. Baumgartner sold his Wilt-Pruf to a company in Connecticut who was familiar with the lawn and garden distribution process.

The chemical formula being used back then was a bit difficult to use for several reasons. It was sticky, difficult to clean up, could not be frozen, and had a limited shelf life. A company in Pennsylvania produced many agriculture sprays using pine resin as their base material and they felt they were a natural to make Wilt-Pruf. After extensive experimenting and testing, Wilt-Pruf was now ready to be produced, bottled, stored, and shipped from this company in Pennsylvania. Not only was Wilt-Pruf a very useable garden spray, but Wilt-Pruf also boasts being organic, biodegradable, and non-hazardous. It has an indefinite shelf life and is not damaged by freezing.

Now that Wilt-Pruf was in demand throughout the country, a distribution system had to be determined. New ownership was necessary and the product was sold to its present owner over forty years ago. Sales representatives were hired and lawn and garden distributors were solicited to sell Wilt-Pruf to garden centers and other retail outlets.

 Now Wilt-Pruf was entering a new era. Gardening was growing by leaps and bounds. Wilt-Pruf has been accepted nationally as a much needed plant protector during periods of water stress. It is being distributed by some of the country's largest lawn and garden distributors as well as many highly professional smaller garden supply stores. Wilt-Pruf is currently in demand overseas with customers in England, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea.

Wilt-Pruf spray dries to form a clear transparent and flexible protective coating without interfering with plant growth or materially affecting respiration, osmosis, or photosynthesis. Ultraviolet rays from outdoor daylight react with our film polymer which produces a continuous flexible film which forms a coating similar to having numerous bed sheets on a bed. When the top sheet is removed there are still many more sheets left. The same phenomenon is true with Wilt-Pruf. As the outside layer wears off with the sun, wind and rain and powders away, another layer has formed. This process continues until all layers have worn off which takes three to four months and sometimes longer depending on climatic conditions. Wilt-Pruf is the only horticulture anti-transparent that has the ability to provide this long lasting protection during severe periods of water stress.


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  Written by Paul Parent                         Produced by Christine Parent

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