It's that time of year when the trees have dropped their leaves. The Hostas that once added color to the garden are now just a memory. The beautiful perennial flowers that bloomed vibrantly in the garden have died to the ground for the year. Each day brings cold weather, frost and fewer sunny days. Want that color back? Here is a way to keep that color coming in the garden just a little longer. Try planting shrubs that add color to your garden for the late fall. Some of the shrubs that I have planted for great fall color are Hydrangeas, Viburnums and Sweetspires. During the summer their leaves were just plain green, but they all provided a show of beautiful flowers for the garden during the growing season. Now that the flowers are done for the year, those plain green leaves are a blaze of color in the garden. Just take a look at the color they can give your garden.
"Blushing Bride" Hydrangea
Black Stem Hydrangea
"Color Fantasy" Hydrangea
If you want to keep color in the garden just a little bit longer before winter, try adding a selection of colorful shrubs and keep that color coming!
It's that time of year when the gardens are down for winter and it's time to think about the garden for next year. This year I am starting hostas from seed. During the fall, I collected the seed and will spend the long winter growing hosta seedlings.
If you collect hosta seed, make sure that the seed is mature. It normally takes 5 to 6 weeks for the seed pods to reach maturity before you remove them from the plant. Pods can be taken inside to continue to dry. Pods and seeds should dry in a paper bag to prevent mold. Do not use plastic for storage. Once the pods are dry they will split open or you may have to open them yourself. The seed should be black or dark brown with a slightly swollen end. The white seed will not germinate.
I start my seeds in potting soil that is sterile. The soil can be put into small flower pots or flats depending on how much seed you are starting. Make sure that your pots and flats are clean and have been washed with a 90% water and 10% bleach solution to kill any molds on the containers. Flats and pots should have good drainage. When I plant my seed, I fill the trays or pots with soil, sprinkle out the seed and then cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. I then lightly mist the seed with water and cover the pots with clear plastic domes or plastic bags. Hosta seeds will germinate at 60 to 70 degrees. Normal winter house temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees will work or you can use a propagation heat mat. Seeds germinate in one to three weeks. Hosta seeds do not need light during the germination period. Once you see sprouts growing, move the trays under florescent lights and continue to grow your hosta seedlings. Always watch your seedlings for "damping off".
When spring comes and the air temperature is above 50 degrees, you can plant your seedlings outdoors. Make sure that before moving the seedlings to their new garden site that you harden off the seedlings. Hardening off means to introduce your plants to outdoor conditions. Set the trays or pots outdoors for a few hours in a shaded area over several days. Gradually move the seedlings into morning sun and longer periods of sun each day over several more days. After being adjusted to outdoor lighting and temperatures your seedling will be ready to transplant to the garden.
Gardening Tip: Increase the amount of florescent light by using aluminum foil to reflect light back on to your seedlings. I use the folding reflective Mylar sun block shields for the front window of cars. They can fold down when not is use and can be stood up and positioned to reflect light where I want it.