I may have committed sacrilege with the “stinking rose” last week: I planted it. The stinking rose is another name for garlic, and the recommended time for planting is around the time of autumn’s first frost, which hasn’t yet happened and isn’t in the immediate offing. In fact, to my way of thinking, I got my garlic in a little too late this year, only because I couldn’t decide where to plant it.
Once a garlic clove is planted, it starts to grow roots and usually pushes a few leaves up out of the soil. Come winter, those leaves might die back; then again, with snow cover, they might not. Other gardeners fear that dieback of leaves in winter will hurt the plants but I’ve never noticed any such bad effect. A little mulch over the plants in early winter should allay any such fears.
The more leaf growth you get from garlic before long summer days initiate bulbing, the bigger the resulting bulbs. And the more root growth that garlic makes, the more nutrients can be taken up to fuel more leaf growth. That’s why I plant garlic as early as possible, often in August. I want my plants to get started making roots as soon as possible.
Come spring, roots are in place and ready to nourish new leaves. The earlier I plant the year before, the more roots the cloves have in spring and the bigger the bulbs I harvest in summer.
Speaking of hardy bulbs possibly brings me to amaryllis, that gaudy, humongous flower more correctly called by its true botanical name, Hippeastrum, and so popular around Christmas-time. About now is when we are directed to let our potted amaryllises (I might as well use the common name) dry out and experience some cool temperatures for a few weeks. Kept thi way for a few weeks, the bulbs can be awakened in a couple of months with warmth and water to bloom again for Christmas.
Amaryllis Myth Number One is that the leaves dry out once watering ceases. The leaves never dry down, despite the assertion of so many “authorities.” I’ve let my amaryllises go without water for weeks; the leaves become flacid but remain as green as ever.
I learned what seems to be Amaryllis Myth Number Two when another gardener recently showed me his lush-growing amaryllises growing as perennials amongst other greenery blanketing a slope. Amaryllis is not supposed to be hardy outdoors where winter temperatures drop lower than zero or 10 degrees F. These were (and true Amaryllises, as opposed to Hippeastrum, definitely are). Ground cover, whether snow, mulch, or other vegetation, as well as microclimate can have great influence on how cold temperatures plummet to just a few inches below the ground.
I’m not a big fan large-flowered amaryllis so am more than willing to risk planting mine outdoors. I have a bed along the sunny, south wall of my house which has become a dumping ground for miscellaneous plants. Perhaps I’ll plant it there. Perhaps I’ll plant it in my blueberry bed in which also allegedly non-hardy gladiolus bulbs have been coming back year after year for over two decades. Either way, I won’t be seeing those gaudy, large amaryllis blooms at Christmas-time; if they survive, they’ll bloom in spring.
I had pretty much given up on fresh blueberries for the season -- after all, it’s past the middle of September. And especially this year, since everything began early, with the first blueberries ripening about the middle of June. Yet Deb came strutting into the kitchen this morning, especially proud of the overflowing bowl of blueberries and raspberries she was carrying.
The blueberries were of the variety Elliot, and they were delicious. The secret to nonstop blueberries all summer long is to plant a few varieties ripening at different intervals throughout the season.
I’ve sometimes asserted that anyone with some sunny ground who does not plant blueberries is a fool; I’d like now to extend that assertion also to raspberries. Like blueberries, the raspberries you can grow taste better than any you can buy because they can be picked truly ripe and can be of varieties selected for flavor rather than for commercial attributes. My favorite varieties are Caroline, Fallgold, and Cuthbert. Another plus for backyard raspberries and blueberries is that they needn’t be doused with the pesticide sprays to which most commercial raspberries and blueberries are exposed.
One more reason to grow raspberries and blueberries: They’re easy. Mine get mulched in autumn and pruned in spring. To fend off birds, I also cover my blueberry planting with a net, which I’ll remove within a couple of weeks, by which time I expect the blueberries really will be finished for the season.