Improved lilac cause for excitement
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Aug 12, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Be not the first by whom the new is tried

Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”

But each time I read about a plant that has been improved and to what extent, I am ready to buy one. Just want to know where to get it!

The latest thing in the plant world to excite me is the new improved lilac, the perfume bottle of the flower world. The only thing that anyone could dislike about a lilac bush is that the blooming period is so short. Also some of the newer lilacs don’t have that old perfume we all remember. Now there is a small, only 4 to 5 feet tall, lilac that blooms in May and continues reblooming until frost. It’s ideal for small spaces or for incorporating in any mixed garden. This versatile lilac would be an ideal hedge with its wonderful old fragrance. It grows in full sun and ordinary soil just as the old one we all love. They are available from White Flower Farm, the old company that I have ordered from for years and always with perfect results. The number you can call is 800-420-2852. In case you can’t tell, I am really excited about this improved lilac. As Ma would say, “Oh, mercy! What will they think of next?”

Incidentally, White Flower Farm is where I got the new tamed Joe Pie Weed years ago. The first year they offered it, they only had a few to sell and I got just one, all they would send me, and paid $12. for just a tiny seedling but what a bargain it turned out to be.

The Knockout Rose has become so popular that they are everywhere and aren’t they a wonderful improvement? Also we now can have day lilies that bloom throughout the summer and azaleas that bloom again in the fall. Also there are irises that rebloom in fall. Truly, what will they think of next?

My grandmother always collected seeds each season for her tomatoes, peppers, melons, etc. and dried them, put them in envelopes for the following spring. She had very large, perfect plants even though she used seeds from the old varieties she had always grown. I am sure she would understand and marvel at the way that the growers have arrived at these improved plants.

Another new ides, though not a new or improved plant, is to grow vegetables among flowers in a

cottage garden. You would want small areas of just one vegetable mixed in with flowers. That could include herbs, salad greens and any colorful vegetable that your family would enjoy. Most of us have stuck a few tomato plants among flowers or maybe a few green peppers. There are so many colorful vegetables that would be perfect for this idea. Just get out the seed catalogs and look through the vegetables to get ideas for that colorful cottage garden next spring.

Here’s an idea if you would like to take some garden plants indoors to provide for early fall blooms. Use a sharp knife to root prune them now to a size a little smaller than your pot. Remove all buds and flowers and cut back the top growth severely. Water well until ready to lift. This really works.

Evergreens, both broad-leaved and coniferous, should be planted from now to September 15. They need a great deal of water, so it is best when resetting them, to saturate the soil. Where possible, it would be good to protect them from the drying winds this summer.

Biennials, such as Foxglove, can be started from seed now. It’s best not to set any little seedlings in the border because the winter would kill them. Be sure to shade the seedlings. The best place, I have found, to sow the seeds is in the “propagating garden”, that little spot that has rich soil, some shade and is near a water source so you won’t forget to keep the little seedlings watered. Not only can you save a bunch of money by starting your own biennials and perennials, but you can find the newest and best of each plant in the better seed catalogs. One packet of seeds can be the start of many new plants. Seeds saved from your perennials rarely come back true to the parent plant and many times are a big disappointment.

About this time each year you may find little seedlings from some parent plants such Hollyhocks, Sweet Williams, Larkspurs, Columbines, etc. If the parent plant is one you really like and is worthy, the little seedlings from these particular plants probably will please you and should be carefully guarded. This is a wonderful way to stretch your garden budget. Tag these seedlings for transplanting next spring. Always remember that phlox seldom come true to color from seed. Some growers just pitch the little seedlings but I love any color and usually have put the seedlings from phlox in some back yard bed rather than throwing them away. Eventually, if you keep getting seedlings from the parent seedlings, the color reverts to a pinkish rose or pale pink which you see in many old gardens.

(Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 or write to: Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211. And thanks for your interesting calls and letters.)
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