For even more ideas see the picture gallery below.
Now that Thanksgiving is over it is time to discard our pumpkins, corn stalks and fall decorations and redecorate for the winter season. Our flower planters make the perfect foundation to build upon. Here are some examples we have come across over the last few years. See if something inspires you!
An assortment of evergreen branches create the perfect filler to which we can add a vertical element. Red and yellow twig dogwood branches, corkscrew willow, or any branches spray painted red, silver, gold or bronze are excellent line forms to add height. A few lotus pods and colorful preserved leaves provide contrast and interest. A large beautiful bow can then be added creating a wonderful festive decoration for our front entrance.
A blue bow and blue painted branches repeat the blues of the front door and entry carpet.
Of course we can't control the weather, but a light snow provides additional interest. A nice wintery decoration.
Cones in a variety of types and sizes combined with some colorful fruits make wonderful accents.
Add branches with bright red berries for a splash of color.
For even more ideas see the picture gallery below.
The holiday shopping season is upon us, and as you think of the younger people on your list, consider some good tools, gloves, or books to get them interested in gardening! As gardeners, one of the most satisfying activities we can do is sharing our knowledge with kids to get them excited about growing flowers and vegetables. It is amazing how quickly children take to working in the earth with seeds and plants when given the opportunity. And what better way to ensure future generations keep planting beautiful flowers?
There are many flowers to choose from to get kids curious and involved in gardening. One easy and rewarding option is sunflowers. The seeds are big enough for little hands to grasp and plant, they are fast growing, and the flowers are big and bold. I distinctly remember growing a large crop of sunflowers as a very little child and being so proud of such an accomplishment... until my older sister decided to try her hand at "weeding" and pulled them all out! (Not our happiest moment - but she did finally get into gardening properly in her 30's.)
Here are some other flower suggestions for children's gardens:
Gomphrena - From a small child's vantage point, the cultivar 'Fireworks' looks like pink puffballs reaching toward the clouds - how cool is that?!
Spilanthes - Also known as "eyeball plant," a cultivar like 'Peek-A-Boo' makes it easy to engage kids - they're not likely to say no to going outside to pick some eyeballs!
Celosia - Commonly known as Cockscomb, the crested-type like 'Cramers Burgundy' is easy growing and good for cutting. Plus, they have the unique characteristic of looking like fuzzy brains.
And don't forget the vegetables! Even though we are flower-focused in our research, it is always nice to have a few containers or a small plot of edibles growing in the garden. It is great to teach kids about where their food comes from, and they might surprise you with what they eat when they grow it themselves. My kids got into the unexpected habit of chowing down on parsley and chives as a quick snack when playing outside!
Some kid-friendly choices include cherry tomatoes and cucumbers - both are fast growing and produce abundant fruit. While carrots are fun to harvest, we found that there's not much to see for most of the season. Perhaps try growing onions in a container; although they probably won't snack on them, kids will be able to see the large bulbs forming above ground, and might be more likely to eat them at dinnertime!
So whether for Christmas, birthdays, or other occasions, why not try gardening gifts? Remember that kids have short attention spans and quickly get frustrated when we give them things that don't stand up to use. It's important that they have success, so try to find real tools instead of just "toys." There are many quality choices out there that are functional, just built for smaller hands.
Whatever activity you choose, have fun and enjoy working in the dirt together - you'll be creating memories and perhaps even a life-long gardener in your child or grandchild!
This article appeared in the K-State Horticulture Newsletter and is worth sharing at this time of year.
As winter approaches, we need to start thinking about storage of the bulbs that will not survive Kansas winters. The bulbs of gladiolus, caladium, dahlia, tuberous begonia, calla lily, and canna lily need to be dug and stored so they can be planted next year. Actually, the storage organ of the above plants is not a true bulb. Canna and calla lilies are rhizomes, caladium and tuberous begonias are tubers, gladiolus is a corm, and dahlia is a tuberous rooted plant. All of these plants should be dug after frost has browned the foliage. Then, allow them to dry for about a week in a shady, well-ventilated site such as a garage or tool shed. Remove any excess soil and pack them in peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite. Make sure the bulbs don't touch so that if one decays, the rot doesn't spread. Dusting them with a fungicide before storage will help prevent them from rotting.
Caladium should be stored between 50 and 60 degrees F. The other bulbs mentioned should be stored near 40 degrees F. Finding a good spot to store the bulbs may be difficult. Some people place them against a basement wall farthest from the furnace and insulate them so the wall keeps them cool. (By Ward Upham, K-State Extension Associate)
On the same topic, also view this video from the Kansas Healthy Yards series -
Fall is the best time of year to plant peonies. These perennials are very hardy and long-lived, and do well in a wide range of conditions. Plus they are low maintenance, needing little in the way of extra care in the garden. If you have an old clump of peonies that are blooming well, there is no need to dig and divide them - unless there is a special reason you need to move them.
Should you need to dig peonies, do so after the plants go dormant in the fall. Cut the stems low to the ground and dig the roots out of the soil, handling them with care. You can see the "eyes," which are the buds that will grow into stems come spring time. After washing away the soil, you should divide the roots into clusters containing 2-5 eyes and some of the fleshy storage roots. Then remove any damaged parts and smaller roots, leaving 4-6" stubs of the big roots.
Just like when you're dividing your own peonies, if you are purchasing roots from a store, choose those that have 3-5 eyes. Make sure the roots look healthy with no fungal growth.
When planting, choose a sunny location. In garden design, peonies are best planted in clusters of three or more, or used as the backdrop of a flowerbed in order to make a bigger visual impact. It's very important not to plant the crowns too deep or the plants will struggle to bloom. The eyes should never be covered by more than two inches of soil! See more details in the K-State publication Peonies in the Garden. Mulch can add to the depth, so take care not to cover the plants too much with any material.
Peonies can take up to three years to produce a full flower display after dividing, so be patient. Once your plants have established, though, you can take comfort in knowing that you will be graced with beautiful blooms for many many springs to come.
For more information, see Peonies in the Garden, a complete guide to growing peonies. Also, Peonies for Commercial Cut-Flower Production offers detailed information regarding growing peonies on a large scale.
It's the end of the season. You didn't fertilize in August and September and things aren't blooming. Your flowers are tired. YOU are tired! We get it. So what is a gardener to do in the fall?
Pick one of these gorgeous fall days to clean up your annual flower bed. Pull the old plants out and add organic matter to the soil. (Find more tips about this in the K-State Horticulture Newsletter.) You also may want to consider planting pansies and/or violas now. This is a great choice for many reasons - first, you get some color now and later, as most pansies overwinter well in this area. Secondly, the beautiful blooms in the spring will keep you from wanting to plant heat-tolerant annuals in that spot too early next year. The pansies will be their most spectacular in May and you won't want to pull them out! Which is good news, because some of the best annual flowers (Vinca, Celosia, Lantana) shouldn't be planted until the soil temperature warms up. Late May will be the perfect time to put these plants in the ground so their roots aren't compromised by cool, wet soil. Your chances of having success with some heat-loving flowers are greatly increased by your patience!
So pat yourself on the back for being such a savvy gardener. And enjoy the winter break and the smiley faces of pansies in your garden.
The Golden Prairie district (comprised of Trego, Logan, and Gove counties in the western part of the state) has its flower trial garden in Oakley, Kansas at the courthouse. A few years ago the K-State county extension agent was interested in having a flower trial in the Golden Prairie district to help the horticulture clientele. The local county courthouse in Logan county was working to landscape the corners of the courthouse. During this time the extension office met with the commissioners to request one of the corners for flower trials. The rest is history as so many people all across the community have loved watching the flowers each year and deciding which ones they want to plant in their own flower gardens! This is the third year for the trials in this location and they have been a huge success. What a great testimony to the hard work and great research done through Kansas State Research and Extension!
The garden is located at
710 W 2nd
Oakley, KS 67748
For more information, reach the Extension Office at 785-671-3245
Each year the K-State flower trial researches new plants that sometimes thrive and sometimes die in the Kansas climate. It's great information to know, so a major part of what we do is transferring that knowledge out to the ornamental horticulture industry and general gardening public. Now that the season has come to a close, let's take a look at what the professionals and Extension Master Gardeners were buzzing about the most from 2014!
Front and center in the flower trials were the 'Big Bounce' and 'Bounce' Impatiens. And WOW did they ever impress! These hybrids are disease resistant against Impatiens Downy Mildew and will likely play a large role in replacing the "standard" Impatiens walleriana that were frequently planted in shady areas up until the recent outbreaks of this disease. The cultivars performed very well in the landscape in full sun and also in pots in the shade. They have a very high density of flowers on the plant that rivals the most florific petunia or other garden annual.
Master Gardeners are always asking what hummingbirds and pollinators flock to the most in the trials, and this new Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' had them very intrigued for those reasons. It's definitely best suited for container plantings where people can inspect it up close. This plant will appeal to those gardeners who are looking for something a little unusual to add to their collection.
Cannas, Cannas, everywhere! New seed-propagated 'Cannova' colors were easy growing and strong performers. The 'Happy' series of vegetative Cannas also impressed, with some cultivars showing very nice flower/foliage color combinations. All these Cannas stayed compact at about 36" in size or less, so they worked in both the landscape and large containers.
Petunias are always one of the largest groups in the trials each year, and it would be a very long post indeed to talk about all the new ones. But one that stood out as groundbreaking is 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm.' The small flowers looked almost like a Calibrachoa but the vigor and color impact was all Petunia - by July the container was no longer visible due to the blooms reaching all the way to the ground! It's got a beautiful and unusual blue color, too.
The Geranium 'Glitterati Ice Princess' was one of the most vigorous variegated Geraniums we have trialed. All the Geraniums struggled a bit in the early cool weather, but this one held its own and looked great through September.
The Scaevola 'Surdiva' series is already on the Prairie Star list, and the newest 'White Improved' is a fantastic addition. It had a very nice compact growth habit and the plants were packed with white fan-shaped flowers that made a full circle around the stem. It looked great in the landscape and in containers.
Since every year is different on the prairie, these will all need to be tested again before they can be added to the Prairie Star list -- but so far there seems to be some exciting new flowers coming to the market that we can add to our color palette!
Even though we are easing into cooler weather, your patio planters of annual flowers do not have to lose their color. Now is the time to choose some plants that will continue to decorate your space for the fall season! You don't necessarily have to start from scratch, but rather remove any tired annuals that have passed their prime and replace the voids with some better looking options. Chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses, flowering kale, pansies and other cool-loving plants are great when planted alone or in combinations.
Ornamental peppers offer some nice late-season bursts of color with their foliage and/or fruits. There are many good dark-leaved varieties like 'Black Pearl,' while the All-America Selections winner for 2014, 'NuMex Easter' puts on a great show with its unique orange and purple combination.
We love the ornamental sweet potato 'Bewitched' - it's hard to get a more perfect plant for Halloween! Combine this spooky-looking foliage with a pumpkin or orange chrysanthemum and you have a fantastic decoration for your front entry. Other non-plant items can also go in your pots: ornamental gourds, decorative corn, and arts and craft items celebrating autumn, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Involve your kids and grandkids - get creative and experiment with some fun fall displays!
Ornamental millet can also be used in fall containers. Their foliage provides good color, plus the bold seed heads offer some unique texture. Leave the plants out over winter to provide a natural bird feeder. Small birds enjoy the millet seed.
Lastly, remember that the color of the container can be as important as what goes in the pot! The plants in the picture below are all various shades of green, but when they are combined with bright colorful pottery it makes a very eye-catching display. The same can be done with autumnal hues.
An example of a city that successfully transitioned containers from summer to fall plantings is Greensburg, KS. This picture was taken before the infamous tornado hit and wiped out much of the town, but the community businesses always put out pots of summer annuals. When fall arrived they added some pumpkins and mums, but left the geraniums and sweet potatoes in tact. Easy and effective at adding color and beauty!