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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Forcing Bulbs to Grow Indoors

If you’re unaware of what this process means, let me make it a bit more clearer. As the name suggests, forcing bulbs indoors means you are creating a suitable environment for the flowers to grow inside the house. Whether you’re planning on growing tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, snowdrops, muscari (grape hyacinths), chionodoxa (Glory-of-the-snow), or other types of bulbs, the basic growing steps will be somewhat the same.

Planting Bulbs in the Right Months
As we will be attempting to grow the bulbs outside their natural, normal growing cycle, you need to pay close attention to ‘when’ is the right time to plant the bulbs. Visit your local home garden center to pick up fresh and healthy bulbs for forcing. You can even ask necessary questions about forcing specific bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, or even daffodils, indoors. This way, you will have more knowledge as to how a particular bulb is grown indoors; perhaps you require a special kit, which includes pots, bulbs, and detailed instructions.

So your next question would be, ‘When should I start forcing the bulbs in order to enjoy them during the chilly months?’ Now, if you want these bulbs to bloom during the month of December, then start forcing them in the beginning of August. If you want the bulbs to bloom during the month of January and February, then start forcing them in the beginning of September and October, respectively. Now this calculation will vary depending on which type of bulb you are growing.

Choosing the Right Technique to Force Bulbs
It might come as a surprise, but growing bulbs indoors has more than one method. You can choose the old-fashioned method of potting the bulbs in the soil, try your hand at water forcing, or force them in pebbles and water. Take a look at the 3 different techniques to grow the bulbs inside the house, months earlier than they are supposed to grow outdoors.

Soil Forcing

  • This is the most common method used to force bulbs to grow indoors. Use a plastic pot instead of a clay pot, because when you add water to the latter, it dries out faster than the plastic pot. Plus, plastic pots weigh less and are inexpensive.
  • Add potting mix in with the bulbs. Depending on the size of the pot, you can add 3 – 5 bulbs at a time. Just make sure to pot them at an even distance so they don’t hinder each other’s growth.
  • The amount of potting mix to be added into each pot is about ⅔ full. After you’ve placed the bulbs in, fill the pot with more soil. The top of the bulb can remain exposed or covered (your choice).
  • For the next 2 months, we need to keep the pots buried outside in the garden. After this period, the bulbs will be ready for forcing indoors. Find an appropriate location to keep them where the temperature stays between 50ºF to 60ºF.
  • If the temperature goes higher than this, the leaves will grow too big for being indoors. After you begin to see the stalks of flowers, you can keep the bulbs in warm temperature.

Water Forcing

  • Apart from potting bulbs in the soil, you can even force them in water. To follow this technique, you require a hyacinth glass / vase which has a wide bottom and a tapered neck.
  • Fill the glass with water till the neck, and place the bulb on the wide opening of the glass. Here, you need to be very careful that the bulb doesn’t touch the water from the bottom.
  • So make sure there is at least ⅛” of gap between the bottom of the bulb and the water surface. Place the hyacinth glass in a cool, dark place, where it doesn’t get any sunlight.
  • Let the bulb stay there for approximately 4 – 5 weeks. After this time has passed, you can bring the bulb inside and begin to force it furthermore. What this water forcing technique does is help develop the root of the bulb to grow properly.

Water & Pebbles Forcing

  • Finally, you can try growing bulbs indoors with the water and pebbles method. For this, make sure the glass bowl that you use has no cracks, because no water should leak out.
  • As for including pebbles, you can use colorful stones and gravel for decoration. The different colors of pebbles makes the entire plantation very attractive.
  • While potting the bulbs, make sure that the bottom of the bulbs are properly secured inside the stones, as you don’t want them to move about inside. Add water into the glass bowl and stop before it touches the bottom of the bulbs.
  • This way, when the roots begin to grow, they will do so inside the water. And that’s what our goal is; to grow the roots in the water but not let the bottom of the bulbs touch it.
  • For the next 4 – 6 weeks, keep the bowl in an area where there’s no sunlight at all, preferably in the dark. After this time, you can keep the bowl in warm temperature which will force the flowers to bloom.

Way to Keep Cats Out of Flower Beds

Cats are usually quite free-spirited, wanting to roam around the world, without hindrance. Since they are pretty agile and can seem to jump over or squeeze into anything, they usually manage to get into your home territory quite easily. However, there are a list of commercial as well as homemade cat deterrents, that seem to work effectively in keeping them away from your flowerbeds.

1: Before you can implement any steps to stop the cat from ruining your precious flowerbeds, it is advisable to talk to the owner of the cat and know if it is domesticated. However, if you are that unfortunate a cat owner, it is recommended that you look into options like cat proofing your garden or building cat enclosures. Believe me, it will not only make your neighbors happy, but your cat will be safe as well. Building a toilet area for your cat, like a sand pit, is a great idea.

2: There are many commercial cat deterrents available in the market. Most of these chemicals contain the active ingredient, methyl nonyl ketone, which should not be used near food crops. Any of these can be used to protect your flowerbeds.

3: This is one method that I am sure will work, even if for a limited time. As soon as you see the cats near your flowerbeds, just squirt some water on them. Since cats HATE water, they will probably just get flustered and not come back again. There are certain motion-activated sprinklers, that use infrared to detect the animal and shoot a jet of water on it. If the cat belongs to someone you know, it is advisable that you tell them of the plan and assure them that you will not hurt the cat. This method is, however, severely limited by the fact that some weird cats might actually think you are playing with them!

4: A great way to keep the cats off the flowerbeds, is by spreading peels of lemon, orange, or grapefruit on it. For some reason, cats seem to have a developed distaste for citrus smells. Drops of citrus oil or coffee grounds also seem to do the job just as well.

5: By installing a fine garden netting over the soil in the flowerbed, you can ascertain that the cat does not dig away the soil. Placing it an inch or two above the flowerbed ensures that they are not walking on it either. You can also try spreading pine cones, by adding it to the mulch on the flowerbeds. Since cat paws are sensitive, they would usually avoid such places. Alternately, you can cover the ground with rough-surfaced rocks or use the branches of a thorny plant.

6: Most gardeners around the world have the ‘perfect plant solution’ and it involves planting certain plants in the garden that repel cats. Marigolds are a great option in this case. Not only do they look good and are fairly easy to grow, but they also possess a scent that keeps cats away from the flowerbeds. Plants such as geranium, pennyroyal, rue, lavender, garlic, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, and other strongly scented plants are also unpleasant to cats. A weed originating in Europe, known as ‘coleus canina’, deters the presence of cats, by emitting an odor offensive to them (but not to humans).

7: High frequency sounds emitted by ultrasonic devices usually send the cat running, while causing no distress to your ears.

Flower Garden Layout Design Ideas

Laying a flower garden requires some forethought, your creativity, and basic gardening skills. But, you don’t need a degree in landscape designing to proceed with the same. While planning a flower garden layout, certain criteria should be considered like location, yard space, adding flower beds, finalizing flowering plants, and design tips. And to make your project simpler, make a rough sketch of the layout including the plant placement and color pattern.

Decide on the Location

The actual garden layout and the flower varieties to be planted depend on where the area is located. A sunny yard with fertile and well-drained soil is excellent for maintaining a garden. While any piece of land can be made into a beautiful flower garden with some effort, it is better to grow flowers in a suitable area. If possible, try to avoid a shady and damp location. For a shaded garden, the flower options are limited. In fact, colorful blooms look more vibrant in a sunlit garden.

Layout of a flower garden largely depends on how big is the area. So, yard space and total area of the flower beds should be considered first. Later, you can decide the plant types and their position in the garden, based on their height, flowering time, and color.
You can also add trellis, stone paths, and alike garden components. What about including a garden pond with colorful fish and water lilies? Depending upon your personal preferences, finalize the color scheme and flower cultivars.

Designs for Flower Beds

The flower beds should be wide enough (about 5-7 feet) so that you can have better planting options. Each bed can be demarcated from the other by straight or curved lines (as per your choice).
A formal garden looks elegant with straight lines. But, if you want something out of the box, select five types of varied colored flowers that bloom at the same time. Plant them in a five-petaled flower shape, with each flower variety representing a petal. Believe me, this pattern looks awesome in a home garden.

Why Choose Annual Flowers?

Annuals complete their life cycle in one season, i.e., they grow, flower, bear seeds, and die in the same season. They are most preferred for planting in bedding schemes, rather than growing at the borders. You can create a different flower bed in each season by planting annuals. Another advantage of selecting annual flowers is that they are available in a wide range of colors.

Some of the best choices are geraniums, spider flowers, Brazilian verbena, and daisies. You can design a color scheme by planting different annual flowers in the same bed. While doing so, make sure that the plants in one flower bed bloom at the same time. Annual flowers also serve as great space fillers before the perennials start blooming.

Biennial and Perennial Plants

Biennials develop their leaves in the first season and bloom in the next season. Then they shed their seeds and die. They are best planted at the borders and the hedges along with perennials. The most preferred biennials for flower gardens are foxgloves and hollyhocks. Perennial flowers are long-living plants, which bloom for a short duration (about 3-4 weeks) in each season. You can select perennials that flower at different times, so as to make the flower garden look lively. This way, there will be blooms in the garden throughout the year, irrespective of the season.

Other flowering plants include bulbs and climbing vines. Bulbs are very easy to grow and maintain in the garden. They flower in one season, remain dormant for a while, and again flower in the next season. Some of the stunning bulbous plants are tulips, daffodils, amaryllis, and snowdrops. If there are trellises, you can give a different look to your garden by growing climbing vines. Flowering vines like morning glory and hyacinth bean can be planted based on the color scheme of the surrounding area.

Garden with a Lawn

This idea is for a large sized garden, where you have sufficient room to incorporate a green patch. For lawns, ornamental grasses are maintained for enjoying greenery in all seasons. Once planted, they continue to grow for many years, provided that proper care tips are adopted. In short, a lawn requires less maintenance than a flower bed.
For people who have limited time for garden care, a lawn garden adorned with ground cover and flower beds is a perfect option. You can also include evergreen shrubs on the lawn boundary.

You may consider using containers and/or raised beds in the center of the lawn or in the borders. Fill the empty space with potted plants and your garden will definitely look complete. If interested, try experimenting theme-based flower garden design ideas. You can focus on a particular theme, like a butterfly garden, rose garden, summer garden, and proceed accordingly.

Flower Bed Design Ideas

Before you start making flower beds, first decide on the kind of flower garden you want. Do you want a modern garden with clean structured design or a free-flowing country-style garden. If you live in a cottage or ranch, a country-style garden will look great. For a country-style garden, the flower bed designs can be more free-flowing and unstructured. Flower bed designs are basically of two types; flower bed borders and island flower beds.

Island Flower Beds: For island flower beds, the flower beds are individual beds which are planted in isolation with single colored blooms or different flowers of the same color. They are the main attraction of a garden and when done right can look quite stunning. Island flower bed designs are always done in a series of three or more flower beds for harmony and structure. The flower beds can be rectangular, round or oval-shaped.

Flower Bed Borders: Border flower beds as the name suggests are flower beds in which flowers are planted as borders for driveways and along the edges of the house. These flower bed borders are also planted along the perimeter of the fence where the fresh blooms soften up the look of a wooden or metal fence.

Tips for Designing a Flower Bed
Flower beds enhance the curb appeal of your home and makes your garden look lush and lovely. To create a visual impact with your garden, here are a few tips.

• When you decide on the kind of flower bed design you want for your garden, an important consideration that you cannot overlook is the kind of flowers that you are going to plant. The flowers that you choose to plant should bloom at the same time of the year for best results.

• There should be a harmony of colors, forms and textures of the flowers or your garden will not look good. You can either choose a cool color palette or a warm color palette while choosing the flower colors.

• If you are going for a warm color palette then red, orange and yellow looks quite enticing and these colors also work well together. They complement each other and are harmonious. If you are going for cool colors for flower bed then try a mix of lavender, green and blue colored blooms for the flower bed design.

• Combining small flowers with very large ones does not work well in a flower bed. As far as possible opt for flowers that are of similar size and form.

• Having said that, there are no hard and fast rules in flower bed designs, and you can certainly try planting flowers in contrasting colors as well as flowers of different sizes. Petunias and Geraniums are some good flowers that you can plant in your flower bed.

• If you are looking for raised flower bed ideas then a good idea is to go for different heights in flowers. Raised flower beds give you the flexibility to have flowering plants with different heights and this gives the garden more interest.

These were some ideas for flower bed designs. A well planned and well executed flower bed design and flower garden layout can enhance the beauty of your landscaping project and give your garden a natural look. Flowers like hydrangea, crocus, lavender, roses, geranium, heather, iris, amaryllis, gladiolus and begonia are ideal for small flower beds as they give the best results. Whether you incorporate flower bed designs in the form of borders or islands, they can add beauty and elegance to your garden.