LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Busy Times At Red Oak House

It is such a busy time at Red Oak House. So much is happening in the garden.  More on that later.

But first, this past weekend was filled with the gift of family. My sister, Sarah, brought my daughter, Rachel, from Dickinson, N.D., for the weekend. Sunday, my day started with brunch with my daughters and husband. They presented me with perhaps the nicest Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever received, a print of one of my daughter’s standout photographs of a wild stallion taken in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Then we had my mother and my sisters over for a picnic of fried chicken and the fixings on the patio and sat and visited, honoring the tradition much like so many across the U.S. Our good-natured husbands and my nephew, Ryan Walby, joined in on the fun, but dodged the picture-taking.

There are new blossoms in the garden daily. After company left, I completed the hard labor of dividing and moving daylilies as per my notes of last summer. There is already so much new growth on the daylilies that it is difficult to cut them back and dig them up, but this is what must be done. I make a mental note and confer with my sister, and we hope to confine our future dividing to fall instead. (Last fall, we were too busy settling our mother into her new apartment to get to it).

I brought a huge vase of lilacs into our bedroom and sent home a vaseful with my mother as this is perhaps her favorite flower.

New birds in the yard this weekend were the yellow warbler and a least flycatcher. This evening, I captured this charming one-minute video of the house wren adding material to the wren house. In this case, he is placing a blossom from the crabapple tree to pad his nest. I would have liked to have captured his song, but oh well …

Now it is time to turn attention to pulling off the rummage sale this weekend I’ve been planning for months. I’ve not held one for about 12 years, and the last time I said I’d never do it again, and this time I’m saying I’ll never do it again. It is nice to have the basement clean and tidy.  Wish me luck!

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — Spring Sights

Flowers and dogs. That’s what Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson has been seeing a lot of lately. Hurray for spring!

ERIC BERGESON: The Country Scribe — A Garden Tour

A brief tour of the gardens, yesterday … what a beautiful time of year.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery And Video — Winging It In Downtown Alexandria, Va.

Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson captured these images and the following videos while on a coffee walk Sunday morning.



RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Backyard Beauty

Backyards are bursting with beautiful color this time of the year as blooming flowers — the pride of many gardeners — take center stage. Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons captured these images — right in his own backyard. His reaction: “WOW!” Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — Spring Beauty

Spring is a time of renewal. These blooming flowers, which recently caught the eye of Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson, reminds us of that.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — Flowers Of Fall

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Who says summer is gone? Certainly not the flowers in the back yard of Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson.

DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Mum’s The Word

When I think of fall flowers, immediately the majestic mums come to mind. These are wonderful flowers that can become part of your landscape until the cold and snow arrives in November.

While mums have more frost tolerance than most flowering plants, once the mercury drops to the mid 20s, even the late ones surrender.

Mums come in a rich array of colors, including gold, bronze and mahogany. They also come in white, pink and red. Those plants developed at the University of Minnesota almost always put on a good show.

Chrysanthemums — better known as mums — are unique in that gardeners treat them as annuals or perennials. Early bloomers already are out in late summer while other kinds hit their stride in late fall.

Mums can be purchased at garden centers in either spring or late summer. Those bought in late summer should be treated as annuals. However, those purchased in spring should be treated as perennials.

After they end their season, spring-planted mums can be carried over winter in our gardens and will bloom the following year. If you have mums that you found on discount centers, toss them when they look shabby.

Today’s mums are more hardy than those available in the past. Most varieties that flower early (Sept. 1 through Sept. 25) are worth growing even as annuals if they survive two or more years. Hearty, well-grown plants that have been in full light, watered regularly and fertilized are stronger and are more apt to survive.

Spring mums are best planted in May or early June. Plants purchased at garden centers or greenhouses should not be planted until the danger of frost has passed.

Mums do well in most fertile soils. Plant them in a sunny area that is well-drained and high in organic matter. Plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart and each given 2 tablespoons of 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer. Work the fertilizer well into the ground, and be sure to water if the soil is dry. (If you need to water the plants during the growing season, do it from the bottom, not the top.)

To produce low-growth, sturdy, well-branched mums pinch back the tips of the shoots once or twice during the growing season.

Cool summers will result in earlier blooming, while hot summers may delay blooming by two weeks or more.

Usually, the original plant will die, however small shoots will form at the base and will provide flowers the following year. Cover plants with coarse mulch such as straw but leave tops on plants to catch snow. Don’t use leaves, which mat.



DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Giddy Glads, Part 2

Glads are a wonderful addition to any garden as we discussed in a recent column on this wonderful flower. There is so much information, though, so we want to devote a second column to glads.

Glads are more effective and easier to care for if they have their own exclusive bed in the garden. If grown for cutting, the glads can be planted in rows in the vegetable garden where they are easier to care for, including weeding.

Glads begin their growth from an underground stem called a corm. Each summer, the old corm shrivels and dries up. One or more corms are produced during the growing season, which are cured and stored over winter.

The quality of the corms determines the quality of the the blooms. Buy corms from a reputable source. Corms with high centers and that are plump are better than large, flat thin ones. The thicker the corm, the higher the quality of bloom.

Glads can be planted anytime from early May until mid-June. Spacing plantings one to two weeks apart will provide continuous bloom throughout the summer.

Glads can be planted either in rows or informally. For cut flowers, you can have rows 2 to 3 feet apart. For small home gardens, you can plant them 18 inches apart, says former North Dakota State University Extension horticulturalist Ron Smith.

In general, plant deeper in sandy soils and shallower in heavy soils. Deep planting anchors the stem and helps resist wind damage. You also can plant the glads against a chicken wire fence.

A word of caution: Be sure the corms are upright when planted.

Varieties should be labeled as you plant. If you don’t have the correct name, list the color. This will help you keep them separated when digging time arrives in autumn.

Colors such as white, yellow and pink are usually vigorous and may multiply faster than the dark colors such as purple, rose or smoky. If left alone, the lighter, more productive colors will eventually outnumber the darker ones. This may give the impression that the glads have “changed colors” to primary shades.

Lack of moisture can cause shorter spikes, smaller florets and smaller corms for next season. An inch of rain per week is needed. Mulches help conserve moisture and include straw and compost.

If thrips are a problem, dust plants with Sevin or similar powder. Thrips also can overwinter in corms, so dust them prior to storage. Thrips are minute, have wings and might be referred to as thunderflies, storm flies, corn flies and corn lice.


DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Delightful Daylillies

Even if your green thumb is really the finger of death, don’t worry. If nothing else, you can grow daylillies that not only thrive but will be the talk of the neighborhood!

Daylillies grow spectacularly even with neglect. They have few insect or disease problems. One of their only drawback is that they have to be divided often, which means you must find a home for the excess plants. And if you don’t spread out the “wealth,” people will soon be locking their doors in fear they will come home to a boxes of daylily roots.

Daylillies have been in the garden for as long as gardeners have been planting. There are about 32,000 daylily cultivars. Most of us are familiar with the old-fashioned orange and yellow kinds, which have gone feral and can be found in ditches or any other places. Even these old varieties have a place in our gardens.

The scientific name for daylily is “Hemerocallis,” a combination of the Greek words for day and beauty. The lily-shaped flowers, some of which have “eyed” blooms with a dark-colored ring in the center of the blossom,  last but one day before fading. Flower color varies, running the entire spectrum of the rainbow except blue and white. These come in a blend of colors or two contrasting colors.

There two kinds of daylillies. One kind dies back to the ground in the fall and goes dormant. They do well most places. In the deep South and other warm places, evergreen daylillies are raised. These will stay green all winter but will brown up if planted in a colder climate such as the Midwest.

With protection, evergreen varieties can survive and bloom even in the North. Many evergreen varieties have more colorful flowers than the dormant kind.

Daylillies are the easiest of perennials to grow. For starters, plant roots in full sun or light shade in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH from 5.5 to 7. The soil should be cultivated to make it loose and friable. Water after planting the daylily roots. To ensure large blooms, water continuously once blooming stars.

Daylillies should be divided every four years. When dividing, dig up in clumps with a garden fork or shovel. Since the roots can be very tough, use a sharp shovel or large knife and split the clumps into two, three or even four pieces. Gently pull groups of foliage from the clumps. Cut leaves off about 6 inches above the crown.

Daylillies can be divided at various times of the year, although more gardeners prefer to do this about a month or so before the ground freezes.

There are many favorite daylily cultivars, but “Stella de Ore,” which blooms from early summer to fall, is one of the best.

All in all, there are so many varieties, so there is no reason to be bored in your garden!