Hippeastrum blossoms. (Glenn E Wilson/Flickr)

Deer Gardener: Bracing for Christmas blooms

By Elaine Nyeholt

Last week I had three people contact me for some Crocosmia (Montbretia) bulbs… people do read this column. A writer always wonders! These hardy gladiola-like bulbs are now dug and two bags have been picked up. There are four more available at 203 Bayview Drive Port Clements, or 250-557-2002.

Time to remove last season’s Amarylis (Hippeastrum) from the cool dark location you put it in, and check for a flower stalk peeking from the bulb. Sometimes the leaves show first but don’t despair — that does not mean a thicker stalk won’t grow in a few weeks. Shake some of the dry old dirt off the bulb and gently repot it in fresh container soil with some bulb fertilizer or bone meal. I like to place a heavy rock in the bottom of the pot so the plant doesn’t tip over as it grows.

Watering from the bottom is preferred, although harder to do. Choose your bottom saucer carefully, it will make the job go much better. Be prepared to stake and tie the flower. When it opens in all its glory, it is heavy and will fall over rather easily, usually in the middle of the night, just for the “what was that?” effect. Could it be Santa coming down the chimney?

Next check the Christmas Cactus we stashed away. If you wish to bring it out of the dark now go ahead, but another week or two would be better. Gently remove it from the pot, and carefully tap it to remove some dry soil without breaking the fleshy fresh roots. Dried or black roots are dead and can be cut off.

Plants bloom better when root bound, up to a point, so avoid a larger pot unless it’s really “all roots.” If you can loosen some outer roots and add some fresh container soil in the washed pot, tucking it around the roots, the plant will figure things out and reach for the nutrient-rich new soil. Be careful about overwatering because the plant will drop its blossoms when they appear. After the blossoms show, it is better to water a little twice a week than to soak it once.

Light fertilizer for blooming plants is recommended. Place the pot away from drafts and in moderate light. It can be tricky to find just the right spot… not too close to the wood stove either, sheesh.

Dahlia did very well for us this year. It is past time to dig them, trim the stems by half and hang them upside down in a shed where they won’t freeze. This is just what I was told to do by my Gramma… I have no idea why. Let the soil dry off the tubers somewhat, then cut the stalks off when they are dried. Store the tubers in sawdust to keep them moist enough but not so much that they rot. I always have trouble finding the “ideal” place to keep them, warm enough not to freeze.

Today I conquered the greenhouse vegetation… final round goes to Elaine! YAY. I am not hard to entertain. Avoiding the mustiness from tomato and cucumber vines is a treat for my allergies. I leave the parsley and Russian kale for as long as it wants to grow, usually most of the winter. Some horsetail has found its way into the beds but I have all winter to ponder that.

It seems to me that a big dose of lime may discourage it… hm… More research to do. What a splendid summer and fall.

Deer Gardener

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