Horticulture Corner-November 2019
By Maureen Loomer
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need
–Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
Okay, so I can pretty much guarantee that the Rolling Stones were NOT referring to the challenges of gardening in eastern North Carolina when they wrote the lyric that I chose for this month’s subtitle. This month, though, a lot of us wax nostalgic for what we may have admired in the past but lack in our current gardens. My sister Margaret has finally decided (after five years) that she is declaring “no mas” in her battle to raise sweet-peas, and a recent conversation I had with Marcia Sproul included our mutual frustration with peonies. Marcia had them in her old garden, and I admired them (and hollyhocks, and delphiniums!) on many visits to Maine and Colorado. Although friends in Winston-Salem grow them easily, I had chalked up my failure to our short, warm winters. In my research, I stumbled on a website http://www.southernpeony.com/ featuring advice for choosing cultivars more likely to be successful here, as well as tips for care. So, Marcia, this is for you!
While there are many plants that thrive best after a long, bitter winter, I’ll gladly do without them in favor of our long growing season and brief cold snaps. And that long growing season gives us a wider window for getting our garden work done. Bluestone Perennial Nurseries https://www.bluestoneperennials.com advises that folks in the Plains and Midwest should have had their spring-flowering bulbs in by early October, but we in the south can safely wait until early December. Plenty of time to cut down foliage and divide existing bulbs. I will replace some of my Blue Flags with the “bees and butterflies” collection I purchased from Bluestone that is all yellow (!) eranthis, crocus, hyacinth and alliums. If you love bulbs (especially alliums and dahlias, do check out Bluestone Perennials and Plant Delights https://www.plantdelights.com. Wendy at Pinecone Garden Center has been to Plant Delights (Raleigh) and has had the same luck with Bluestone that I have. Mary Florence, you will find lots of exotic alliums!
For those who admired my dahlia blooms from the October meeting; yes, the plants are still blooming prolifically. My cousin in Illinois is very envious! This is their second year, and they are planted in my (not-) cutting garden which has rich soil that tends to remain moist, and a southeastern exposure with 8-10 hours of sun. I have not seen any in Lowe’s this year, but you can order them from their website.
Those of us with herb gardens are preparing to enjoy our last harvests. Saying goodbye to my mints, thymes, and sages is always a little sad, but I know they will be back in the spring. My Pesto Perpetuo is in a container that is somewhat sheltered. The late Madelene Hill and her daughter Gwen Barclay reminded us in Southern Herb Growing that “basils return to their fathers with the first frost”, but I may be enjoying bruschetta through November. I have a new oregano (Cuban!) that is reportedly more tender (but not as tender as basil) than the woody ones I know, so I am bringing it in for the winter. Will let you know how it does in the sunroom.
We can expect our Christmas Cacti (Schlumberger) to start blooming in November. My experience is that these plants are harmed more by over-watering and over-heating than by benign neglect. I keep mine in my three-season sunroom where they are right next to the window with a southwest exposure. I water when I think of it and fertilize once a year. The ONLY time they move from their spot is for a brief trip to the living room while in full bloom. Here is a photo from last year.