Invitation to see Walter Reeves at a live broadcast

Walter Reeves will be broadcasting live from the 14 Annual Georgia Home & Garden Show Stage on Saturday, February 12th from 6 am – 10 am at the Gwinnett Civic Center. We will have room for 45 people to come and sit in the audience while Walter does his show. He lets people interact with him and bring questions/dying plants and such with them. This is an invitation to 45 Master Gardeners to see Walter. You will then have free admission to the show too once it opens up at 10 am. Since space is limited, this offer is on a first come, first served basis. Please respond to marlene.gillman@gwinnettcounty.com or call Marlene at 678-377-4010 if you are interesting in being one of the guests to Walter’s show.

Overwintering Tropical Water Lilies

The beautiful water lilies that graced your pond with blooms this summer need special care this winter. They are tropical in origin and will not
become dormant to survive our winters unless you live in Zones 9 or 10. There are several methods for over-wintering these plants. One will be  just right for you!

The key to successful over-wintering is the following: It is extremely important not to place the water lily into the pond before Mother Nature
is ready for it. This means DO NOT place the plant into the pond before the water temperature is at least 70 degrees F even if the air temperature is high! Cold water will bring about the demise of the plant and negate your hard work and patience.

The simplest and most successful way to insure survival of these tropical plants is storage in a greenhouse. There they will over-winter nicely in a tub or other container. The object is just survival not plant growth, so container size is not crucial. Provide only 10% to 20% of the space that you
allotted to the plants in your pond. Do not fertilize them. Next year, when the minimum water temperatures reach 70 degrees F, it will be safe to repot and replace the water lilies into you pond.

Very small plants may be over-wintered in an aquarium. For this method, a viviparous lily (one that makes new plantlets at the leaf node) works best. The goal with this method is to keep your lily alive without too much growth.

The small new plantlet should be separated from the parent plant no later than the middle of October. Use a 4” or 6” plastic pot without drainage holes or plug the holes on the ones you already have. Pot the plantlet into it. Place the potted lily into a 20 gallon or larger aquarium. Place a fluorescent grow light over the top of the tank. This must be placed as close as possible to the tank top. The aquarium water will need to be kept warm with a heater. Water temperature should be 70 to 75 degrees. Too high temperatures will encourage too much plant growth and too low temperatures will result in an unthrifty plant for the spring season. When spring arrives and the water temperatures are 70 to 75 degrees, the plant may be potted into a 10 quart or larger container and set into the pond for you to enjoy.

Not everyone has access to a greenhouse or an aquarium, if this is a problem for you, another method is available. This technique is used by plant propagators. It will work because of the lifecycle of the tropical lily in its native habitat. Around the end of September which is the end of the growing season for lilies in our zone, skip the last fertilization. The plant will become stressed (hungry). This stress results in a tuber. Allow the plant to remain in the pond until all the leaves are dead. This is a process that may take several frosts to accomplish. Now search under the crown of the plant for a hard tuber. Successful storage of our lily depends on finding this hard tuber.

There may be a very large tuber about the size of a baseball or a very small one about the size of an acorn. There may also be several small tubers growing around the larger one. The smaller tubers are more likely to produce good plants next spring than the larger ones.

Let the tuber air-dry for a few days if it still has root or stem tissue attached to it. A callus will have formed to protect the tuber from dehydration. The debris will snap clean from the tuber. Wash the tuber and place it into a jar or plastic bag filled with distilled water and then store it in a cool,  dark place. The temperature should be around 50 to 65 degrees F.

Check the container each month. If the water is discolored or foul smelling, replace it with fresh distilled water. If you used a hard tuber and took care to clean it properly, it should survive the winter.

Looking Forward to Spring Ephermerals

Once again the spring ephemerals are carpeting the forest and woodland floor only to be quickly admired and sleep again until next year. Spring ephemerals (i fem’ ur als) are plants whose glory lasts but a few days but the memory of their haunting beauty will remain with you for months come. You will find yourself looking expectantly for their return the following spring. These native wonders emerge before the trees leaf out as they must acquire enough sunlight to produce seed and store energy before the forest canopy fills in. Then they fade away until next year. Let’s walk gingerly along an imaginary path and enjoy the fleeting beauty of spring’s earliest wonders.

Hepatica americana, Liverleaf, is one of the earliest harbingers of spring. It bears dainty 1/2” white flowers blushed with pink or deep blue. The flowers are born on stalks which leap into view directly from the plant’s center. You will find fine hairs growing along the stalks. The leaf cycle is interesting as before the new leaves unfurl, the blossoms are often bursting into bloom. The leathery leaves will then open to bask in the sunlight. Once established, the Liverleaf will blanket a woodland floor. You will need to look carefully to admire its beauty; however, as this miniature plant never reaches more than 6 inches tall.

Further along our woodland path we find our next attractive ephemeral, the Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet, Erythronium americanum. Trout Lilies are said to acquire their name from the speckled leaves which are reminiscent of the speckled skin of a trout. It generally grows in colonies of dozens to hundreds of plants and will spread prolifically on underground runners. Small yellow to brownish flowers may be hidden beneath the leaf litter on the woods floor or may be too pale to be easily noticed. Once you recognize the leaf pattern, there will be little doubt as to the plant’s identity. They are found frequently near streams, rich woods, or on wooded slopes, Erythronium americanum will bloom from March to May on 4 to 10 inch plants that sport the often pale-colored one inch flowers.

The exceptionally flashy Jack-in-the-Pulpit, rising heads above the Trout Lily and the Liverleaf, is terrific and found in moist woodlands. Its coloration varies with deep purple, red, brown or white stripes on its slender green spathe. Also known as Arisaema triphyllum, Jack-in-the-Pulpit displays its unusual hooded “pulpit” on tall stems. Standing 1 to 3 feet, it exhibits only two or three leaves with each leaf consisting of three glossy green leaflets, hence the triphyllum portion of it name; tri meaning three and phyllum meaning leaf. This is one woodland native that boldly announces its presence. Clusters of red berries appear under the wilted spathe and provide food for passing wildlife.

While enjoying your stroll down our woodland path, you will most likely be tempted to “bring a little piece of this or that plant home” with you. This is not a good idea. Many our ephemerals are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Others are sheltered in Georgia by the Georgia  Department of Natural Resources. Also, most wild plants do not transplant well. They are growing in conditions that are often difficult to duplicate in the home garden. Native mycorrhizal fungi exist in natural habitats. These fungi are critical to successful growth of many ephemerals and wildflowers. Commercial propagation makes many of these plants available for you to purchase at garden centers or nurseries without damage to them in their native habitat. Be responsible! Purchase your plants from nursery-propagated stock from reputable, licensed mail order  catalogues or at specialized nurseries.

Stay alert on your next outdoor excursion and you will surely find one of these beauties to mystify you. Once you recognize them for what they are, ephemerals will captivate you. Have fun and choose from any number of outstanding native ephemerals that are available commercially.

The Winter Garden Planning and Planting for the Southeast – Book Review

The Winter Garden Planning and Planting for the Southeast
By Peter Loewer and Larry Mellichamp

Perquisites for growing a beautiful winter garden are planning and choosing the plant species for impact or subtleness. Walk through The Winter

Garden with authors Peter Loewer and Larry Mellichamp. See the beauty of opting for planting trees because of their bark texture, color, or  structure that will catch your eye in the bleak months of winter. Choose pods, fruits, plumes, and berries to add sparkle to the dreary landscape and pizzazz to holiday centerpieces and wreaths.

You will not miss the profusion of summer flowers when you select from a large variety of winter bulbs or winter-blooming herbaceous perennials. No garden would be complete without fragrant plants for “…fragrances can reach across the decades like a physical link, reminding us of an eventful time now long forgotten.”

There is no excuse not to have an array of winter blooming trees, shrubs, and vines. Many of these are the heralds of spring! They will lift your spirits and brighten the dark days of winter. It has been said that the “glitter of green leaves is like the sunlight on water.” Evergreen foliage with a  glossy look would do just that…shimmer and reflect light.

There is an abundance of trees and shrubs, herbaceous plants, ornamental grasses, and ferns from which to ponder and make your selection. Start by making a list to plan your garden. Add color, visual structures, garden ornaments, living sculpture, night lighting, and water. Voile! The Winter Garden with interest and appeal!

Oh yes, don’t miss reading this book for all its
wonderful descriptions and glorious pictures.