Get Your Hands Dirty!

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Dahlias! (step-by-step instructions on dealing with the tubers)

Now that we’ve had our first few frosts here in the Northeast and November is fast approaching, it’s time to bring your dahlia tubers in for the winter months. If you haven’t already, you will need to cut the plant back so that only 6 inches of a stem stub remains. Using a pitchfork, pierce the soil about a foot from the stem stub and begin to loosen the soil by gently rocking back and forth with the pitchfork. Once unearthed, the tubers can be stored in paper bags (mark the variety on the bag) in a cool dry place.

May is a good time to plant the tubers back into your garden beds. Select a spot in your garden with well-balanced and composted soil that receives full sun throughout the day. I use tomato cages around the dahlias to support the plant as it grows. Some varieties can reach up to 8 feet in height! Tag each cage with the name of that particular flower. Do not water as there is plenty of moisture in the soil at this time of year. Over watering will cause the tubers to rot in the ground.

The first leaves of the plant should poke through in a week or two. When the first set of leaves is about eight inches to a foot high, I pinch out the center bud to encourage the plant to form multiple stems. This will produce a greater quantity of flowers per plant. As the plant grows, delicately train the stems to grow within the tomato cages.

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Now that we are all dahlia experts here, I thought I’d provide a brief history and some fun facts…

The dahlia is national flower of Mexico. Dahlias were first spotted in Mexico in the 16th century. The flower was used by the Aztecs to treat epilepsy and the hollow stems were used as water pipes. In later years, the Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent “plant parts” to the Royal Gardens of Madrid. From there, the plant made its way to Belgium, Italy and England where other species were developed.

The dahlia is is not scented but like most plants that do not attract pollinating insects through scent, they display brightly colored petals in a vast range of hues. One of the greatest joys of gardening is harvesting and arranging the fruits of your labor. Dahlias make excellent cut flowers and look radiant alone in bud vases or alongside zinnias, celosia and snapdragons. Happy gardening!

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Before & After

Introducing…. The JBL “Before & After” series!  Here is one of our favorite examples.

This parterre garden belongs to a 200-year old coach house turned single family home on the Old Post Road in Connecticut. In order to match the patina of the original structure, we gathered brick from three sources and had them tumbled in sand to round-off the edges. The brick bones of the garden are articulated by rows of baby boxwood and act as a border for a mix of old-fashioned flowering perennials including – alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), nepeta (Catnip), artemisia, delphinium, Siberian iris and phlox. Espaliered apple trees adorn the garden walls.

To see more images from this project, click here:

http://jeanbrookslandscapes.com/gardens/connecticut-country-estate/

As we enter into New England’s warmer months, here at Jean Brooks Landscapes we are busy on site building and installing our carefully conceived designs. Through a thoughtful and inspired design and budgeting process, we can help you create the garden of your dreams. We hope you will call us.

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Good morning, crocusus!

Some little friends popped up to say hello this morning!It’s so lovely that even in a (semi-) urban area like Central Square, we’re still pretty immersed in nature.

Cultivation and harvesting of crocus was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete. Frescos showing them are extant at the Knossos site on Crete as well as from a comparably aged site on Santorini. This particular soft purple variety with tangerine stamen is called “Bonte.”

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Spring on the Banks of the River Charles

Ladies and Gentlemen, behold one of the first signs of Spring: The daffodil!

For those of us taking cues from nature (not gauging our seasons by the calender), March is full of promise. Early buds blooming, birdsong and butterflies. With daylight savings only ten days away, the promise of extra sunlight is already upon us.

Look for the pussy willow, tiny little pops of lavender and yellow crocus.

A favorite of mine (a la my grandma), “When willows bloom, Spring looms!”

So be patient, fellow New Englanders. Spring is upon us.

 

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More Flowers in January

HELLEBORE!

There hasn’t been too much snow in this New England winter so you won’t have to search very hard. You’ll find them blossoming quite naturally and heartily right through the soft snow. The flower is so hearty in fact, that the petals remain on the flower for months! Yes, it is needless-to-say, hellebore are highly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period; the plants are surprisingly frost-resistant. Many species of hellebore are ever-green or have a chartreuse or greenish-purple flowers.

 

 

 

While they are commonly mistaken for wild roses, the hellebore is in the Ranunculacae family and has five petals. Some species are poisonous and several legends surround the flower. During the Siege of Kirrha in 585 BC, the flower was reportedly used by the Greek besiegers to poison the city’s water supply. The defenders were subsequently so weakened by diarrhea that they were unable to defend the city from assault. Who’d have thought such a sweet and lovely specimen could cause such damage!?

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Snowdrops in January!

Always an early bloomer (and a welcome sight), we spotted these confused little Snowdrops poking through the ivy in January! Part of the Amaryllis family, “Galanthus” translates to “milk-white flower” in Latin and is a worthwhile investment to any garden. Planted in large clusters, snowdrops have a dramatic effect and you won’t have to worry about deer or rodents getting to them.

Here at Jean Brooks Landscapes, we use Snowdrops in rock gardens, under trees and shrubs, in lawns, or along woodland paths. Maybe you’ve passed on them in the past for their simplicity but there are actually over 75 varieties of Galanthus so think again. You will be richly rewarded…

After a long New England winter, nothing matches the excitement of getting a glimpse of the first flower which is more likely than not, a sweet little snowdrop.