Late October time for winter rose protection
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Oct 17, 2012 | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A reader called me this week to ask about the beautiful lavender flower which is coming into bloom at their new “old” house. It seems that there are many of these beautiful blooms which look like a crocus but are much larger and just popped up in the yard. This bulb is called the fall crocus or colchicum. It is a large bulb which comes up in spring looking like the leaves of a jonquil, then dies down and disappears. Then, in fall, when the leaves are falling and other flowers have quit blooming, up shoots a stem and flowers. It is a bit like the surprise lily. The reader said that the bulbs had come up in the grass and wondered if she could move them and the answer is that they can be moved after they have bloomed. The problem will be where to dig so I suggested that she mark the flowers now. I would suggest planting the fall crocus in a foundation planting in front of shrubs. If you are looking for the bulb in a catalog, the ones I had are called “Giants”.

If you have a mock orange which has gotten out of control and needs some trimming, keep in mind that next year’s blooms will come on shoots which grew this year. So the best cutting would be to remove some of the oldest stems, all the way to the ground, to give you a stronger plant and more blooms next year.

Late October is the time for winter protection of roses but much preparation can be done ahead. You can plant roses any time from now to freezing. Prepare the bed now if you plan to buy some roses this fall. Keep spraying for mildew.

Someone always wants to know when to trim their hydrangeas so listen up. The blue and pink kind which we all love can be cut only in a very special way. Remove the flower heads and cut out the old branches which have died but remember that if you cut back or trim the live branches, you will lose blooms for next year. There also is the hydrangea PeeGee, which should be trimmed back to two to four buds, or leaf clusters, on each shoot. The PeeGee is the one which has white blooms and there is a big difference in how you treat them. Both make wonderful dried flowers.

Another question is how and when to cut back the buddlea,

or butterfly bush. In the first place, this is a delicate plant to grow in our climate so you will lose some no matter what you do. Be sure they have been watered thoroughly before they go into winter. That’s number one. There are two schools of thought in how to trim. Some gardeners don’t trim until spring and then cut back to about a foot tall. I trim mine back to just a few inches after they have gone through a hard frost. I have two different gardening books which have two different methods of trimming so take your pick.

The frost is on the pumpkins but more important, the frost is on the turnip greens. If you are not native to Kentucky, that won’t mean much to you but to the old timers, that means time to cook turnip greens with a bit of jowl and if you have an old iron kettle, that is even better.

Mark on your calendar to drain your sprinkling system and disconnect all hoses by the end of October. Even if you have a frost free hydrant, don’t leave the hose connected.

Don’t waste those fall leaves. Put them through a chopper, if you have one, and use them as mulch. Or use them as a walkway in your vegetable garden. Or spread them over your vegetable garden to be turned under next spring. Or put the chopped leaves on your compost pile to be turned into compost by spring. But never leave them on your perennial beds.

It’s time to sit back and enjoy the changing colors of the woods, either yours or along the highways. It’s time to take stock of all that has happened this past year and, good or bad, aren’t we thankful to have been a part of this year.

Thanks for your calls and the kind words. Please feel free to call me at Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.
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