Monday, April 21, 2014

Removing Lily Flower Anthers To Lengthen Bloom Time

There are two main reasons to remove the pollen covered parts from a Lily flower.

Removing the small bean like anthers before they are covered in pollen will:
1.) prevent getting pollen everywhere which can stain both inside the flower and cloth.
2.) lengthen the bloom time of the flower.

Removing the pollen source will inhibit pollination and will lengthen flowering duration.

Lily flowers have various structural parts. Petals, which give the trumpet flower shape and encase inside male and female parts. It's important to know the difference.

Male: 6 stamens (thin filaments) and anthers which carry the pollen.
Female: The long stigma, style and ovary.
The sticky, fleshy stigma. In pollination, it accepts the pollen and fertilizes the ovary down the long style tube which connect them together.
In this photo, the filaments have had the anthers removed.
Once pollinated, an embryonic seed will develop at the base of the flower.

The trick to doing this is to remove the anthers at the end of long filaments inside the flower before they release the yellow powdery pollen.
Once the flower begins to open, gently remove the anthers either with your fingers, or better yet, with a pair of tweezers like above. The trick is not to get any pollen on the the petals nor bruise any of the petals trying to reach the anthers. Stigma's have a sticky coating to make the pollen adhere. Do handle with care. At this stage the anthers are long and quite fleshy. They have no pollen. Although, within hours they begin to change and release their intended purpose.
Here, 6 anthers are removed and you can clearly see they have no powdery pollen residue.

In my experience, the flowers last several days longer with this removal.
Don't worry, if the anthers bobble about and are full of pollen, it's a bit late but still doable.

Carefully wrap your fingers around the anthers, making sure you protect the stigma below and tease away gently before pollen is dispersed.  The trick is not to get any on the sticky stigma.

Do this as well with amaryllis and any other lily. Most florists and garden centres do this for you, but if you buy potted plants or cut flowers which are in bud, it'll be up to you to achieve a lengthier bloom time with this trick once the flowers open.
Have a go!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Amaryllis Blooming in Spring - Happy Easter!

I experimented with my Amaryllis this winter. As always, I re-potted it last November, whilst it was dormant.

 It leafed up, and flowered beautifully right around the Christmas season, but this time I did something different.
I let it be.

I lost two leaves in January, but two stayed green and grew quite in length without wilting and dying back. I left them, while they weigh heavily down and then propped them up by a window. Each watering, I added water soluble 7 7 7 fertilizer and let it dry between feedings. The bulb grew large, so I kept the leaves to give the bulb energy.

Lo'and behold, this is the result. New leaves and a flower bud...emerging in late March.
You can see the two longer leaves to the left are the originals from December. Three newer leaves were emerging last week when I had a hunch it was to re-bloom.

The bulb became large. Wanting to up-size the pot a bit, the bulb wouldn't budge without some force, which would either damage the leaves or the roots. So I left it.

I decided to remove last year's leaves and allow the plant to straighten.

I gather since it's spring, I have less light coming through the window, making the leaves and flower stalk stretched quite a bit.

Who says Amaryllis can only be enjoyed during Christmas? This one has bloomed in time for Easter. How fitting. Only three blooms, yet fully representing the Trinity on Easter. Fits in well with my Easter Lily, no?  :)  Happy Easter!
If I can manage it, I will try and do it again. Perhaps, it will flower 3 times in a year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Premature Spring Clean Up - Frost Protection

It happens every spring. A week or two of warm weather and out come the rakes and the pruners to tidy up the garden. Some tidy so well, as though annual planting season is upon us already. But, watch out - the unpredictable weather can reek havoc and cause some damage to tender shoots emerging from the soil.

Bulbs like these Narcissus and...

these Scilla are quite tough and don't need frost protection.

Plants not to worry about so much: Scilla, Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Crocus....spring bulbs are quite resilient to frosts and unexpected freeze ups.
Even when fully in bloom, Crocus close their flower petals overnight and are resilient to frost.
In my opinion, it's best to leave leaf litter and some of the major clean up for the end of April. Better to play it safe, than sorry.

What to do if your garden is all tidy and you have tender plant material that needs protection?

When you have perennials like this Sedum,...
...Aquilegia or...

...Brunnera, which have flushed a fair bit of new tender growth already, you may want to cover them overnight.
Given we are experiencing a late spring, the most worrisome plants are tender perennial shoots that have emerged close to brick walls or on south facing corners of the garden. These areas often warm up much faster than other areas of the garden and cool down quickly in frosty weather.

If your garden is in an exposed area, cover plants with newspapers, old towels, garden cloths, old bed sheets or put back all those leaves you bundled in bags and bins for refuse pick-up. Secure cloth, or newspapers with rocks or stakes. You can even use light tarping. Just be forewarned, heavy duty tarps can flap about causing more damage to young shoots - better to use light materials to cover up.

Lee Valley has a whole Climate Control selection of materials which can aid in frost protection. Here is an example:
Frost Blanket from Lee Valley.
On the upside, our brief cold snap has been accompanied with precipitation.  This is a good thing. Snow and rain protect the tender growth. Cold air and frost however are the culprits and damage plants.

From your household: you can use large bowls, large pop bottles and empty milk cartons with their tops removed. These are great ways to individually protect certain plants, instead of draping the entire garden with bed sheets..etc.

Be creative. Just don't do more damage to the plants than what a little frost may do.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Collecting Juniper Berries

Spring may sound like an odd time to harvest Juniper Berries, but in my experience, it's the best time. I have fond memories collecting Juniper berries with my father (just not the itchy arm part). Dad was a butcher by trade and avid cook of wild game. Juniper berries were used in ragouts, goulash and some hardy sauces.

When collecting, it's the darker, blue purple berries that you want.
These are last summer's fruit. You want 2 to 3 year old berries. They may be harder to find, yet these green/grey ones haven't ripened enough. They will be bitter and hard.

Best to leave these for next year's harvest.
Here you can see the difference up close. Rubbing them slightly before you pick them off the bush/tree, you'll see under the white coating their true colour. The darker, the better.
It takes two to three years for the berries to become blue. Don't be tempted to pick last year's berries in autumn when they start to get reddish/blue. Dad said juniper berries should be left on the evergreen overwinter. They have a more distinctive flavour, as apposed to collecting them in autumn. Perhaps the freezing temperatures have something to do with that. I'm not sure.
One of the best junipers to harvest from is Juniperus virginiana, like the one above. Also known as Eastern Red Cedar or Red Juniper. Berries are much larger and in some cases, the yield is double compared to other cultivars.

Juniperus virginiana is a sizable variety of Juniper. Standing sometimes 30 ft or higher. It has a more airy habit and very long branch network. Like all Junipers, it's evergreen foliage is quite prickly and can give off a rash when branches come in contact with bare skin. Usually, the berries are found within two feet of the branch tips. Quite easy to gather. You can also collect berries (actually cones) from Juniperus horizontalis cultivars. Especially native ones; in woodlands throughout cottage country. Their berries are smaller and yields may vary due to conditions, but they too are good for culinary uses.

Better to wear long sleeved shirts/jackets when handling the branches, just in case.

I like to wash/rub off the white/grey resin coating on the berries and then place them on a tissue and let them dry on a window sill or in a dry situation. Be sure they are firm. When washing, keep an eye on any berries that float. Floaters generally have holes or damage - toss them out. Those are 'duds' and have mainly a husk, with little flavour. Berries blacken and shrivel when fully dried.
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