Monday, March 30, 2009

The A-B-C's of Drying Flowers

There are several different ways to dry flowers.

With soft flowers of fairly coarse textured blooms, such as Zinnia, Dahlia, Marigold and Aster, one popular technique for drying flowers is to immerse the flower in desiccant material. Silica gel, borax or even very dry sand of cornmeal can be used. If each petal and all the floral parts are very carefully surrounded with these granular materials, the moisture will be drawn out, leaving the flower's texture, form and color intact. A microwave oven can also be used for this purpose.

Some flowers with a thinner texture, such as Pansy,Blue Sage, Cornflower and Petunia can be pressed between blotters or newspapers until thoroughly dry. This method was pioneered by Linnaeus of Sweden 250 years ago. Amazingly, some of his specimens are still on exhibit in European museums today!

In another method, some hardy flowers, or parts of them, have a straw-like texture that keeps its shape when carefully dried in air, thus making for a very attractive winter floral arrangement.

Only experience will tell you when to pick the flowers when they are at their best for drying. A good rule of thumb is just before they are fully opened and matured. Generally, once the flowers are fully open, they will not keep for very long.

We find that the flowers should be cut on a dry day, keeping the stem as long as possible. Then remove the stem leaves, tie together in small bunches and hang upside down in a dry, well ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Seed heads of many flowers can be left on the plants until matured. Hang them in a similar fashion for further drying.

Here are some varieties that are suitable for drying:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Blooms

Another sign of spring ! The tulip assortment in our lobby bloomed.
The beautiful, fiery colors are really amazing. This photo doesn't do it justice. Kathy E, our retail sales coordinator, noticed the daffodils outside were getting ready to make an appearance. In another week or so, our front walkway will be littered with them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Begonia Scentsation - NY Times Article

Thompson & Morgan has been mentioned in Anne Raver's 'In the Garden' column in the New York Times. Find out what she has to say about tuberous begonias, including our Begonia 'Scentsation Mixed'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tomato Talk

There are two main varieties of plants when it comes to tomatoes - Determinate & Indeterminate. Here's how to tell the difference.

Indeterminate means the variety will blossom & produce fruits throughout the season. You'll have crops usually until frost (the gardener's nemesis) shows up. The plant will provide a lush growth so it's a good idea to prune it. Pinch out the shoots that develop in the 'U' between the main stem and the branch. Pruning has the added bonus of rewarding you with larger tomatoes. If you choose not to prune, you'll have smaller tomatoes..and more of them. Also - stake your plants up off the soil, but make sure they are loosely tied.

Country Taste and Golden Sweet (right) are examples of Indeterminate tomatoes.

How do you know if your tomato plant is Indeterminate? Look at the main stem. There should be three lead stems growing from the main stem. Located either under or above these three stems is a flower cluster. If this pattern is repeated along the main stem, you've got yourself an Indeterminate tomato!

On the other hand, Determinate tomato plants are a compact bushy plant. They will grow to a certain height with a number of fruit clusters and will not grow beyond that. These tomato plants will produce fruit and ripen in a short time so be prepared to have a main harvest that is condensed over a few weeks.

How do you know if your tomato plant is Determinate? Instead of three leaf stems and a flower cluster, you will see only two leaf stems and a cluster. And put the pruners away! No need to prune this variety. Just place a cage around the plant when it is small and harvest from it with ease.

No matter which variety you choose to grow use high potash tomato food after the first truss has set. This will encourage ripening & will boost your crop. A tip for the Organic Gardener : Do a little companion planting.
Place Margiolds around your tomato plants.
It is believed they repel White fly and increase crops naturally.

Are you growing tomatoes from seed? Read our online growing guide

Many thanks to the National Gardening Bureau
for letting us share some of their Tomato knowledge.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dahlia Q & A with Susan

Our horticulturist Susan gets asked a common question every season about Dahlias. When people see that we sell Dahlia seeds, they're a little confused. Usually you'll find bulbs at your local gardening center, but not seeds, so what gives ?

Susan says many gardeners plant their dahlias from tuberous roots that are widely sold and plant them out once the weather has warmed up. However, you can also sow dahlia seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost. Harden them off and transplant them outdoors once the weather has warmed up and the risk for frost has passed.

These plants will flower in the first year and produce tuberous roots just like the ones you see for sale at your local nursery. Just be sure to dig them up once the cold weather arrives in the fall and store them in a frost-free location over the winter.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maybe Next Year

With 13 inches of snow blanketing our roads here in NJ, our sneak preview trip on Monday to the Philadelphia Flower Show was canceled. We were looking forward to seeing this year's theme -"Bella Italia." If you are in the Philadelphia area through Sunday (3/8) the Flower Show is a definite must see.

In the good news department, there's only 17 days until Spring! (We're counting down the days too.) So while we wait for the snow to melt, we dream of what our yards will soon look like.