GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2004 show30
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Show #30

This week we visit the Mountain Air Country Club in Burnsville, North Carolina and learn about fall plant care, care for bulbs, bulbs that can be grown indoors and as well a designer shows us how to make a beautiful wreath with fall materials. The folks in this part of the world are naturally and sincerely friendly. These traits are evident in everyday dealings, from personal interaction to their ability to share their homemade crafts.

Ken Lucia is a horticulturist at Mountain Air and believes that gardeners are visionaries, they can see the garden before it comes up. To this end one can overplant a space thereby enjoying that space while waiting for bulbs to come up next spring. Ken finds bulbs interesting because they are available in many different varieties, they easily multiply and can be used as an accent in different parts of the landscape. Ken likes working with plant materials, keeping them in good shape and constantly adding new and interesting materials. At Mountain Air they try to provide a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Members, guests and the staff all enjoy Ken's hard work.

Fall is a great time to be outside. It is starting to cool, the weather is fantastic but a lot of gardeners aren't sure what to do in their garden. Fall is a great time to trim back, clean up and divide some plants. Removing old plant parts, keeping them away from new growth is a great way to minimize fungus and disease problems. Fall is a good time to start thinking about what you want the garden to look like next year. If you want certain colors, certain mixtures of perennials, fall is the time to  make these decisions. Fall is the time to add some bulbs to enhance the garden next year.

Bulbs offer an explosion of color, they're intense but then fade away. Using a lot of different bulbs is a good plan, plant some that bloom early in the spring, then others that bloom later. Some bulbs that are planted now can be blooming next July. There are a number of bulbs that can be planted for early spring blooming, for example, Crocus and Miniature Iris (not Siberian Iris or Bearded Iris-they bloom later in the spring). Daffodils come in a wide variety of blooming types, colors and shapes. After Daffodils would be Tulips which also come in a wide variety of colors and shapes, examples are - Peony Flowered Tulips, Lily Flowered Tulips, Parrot Tulips as well as Rembrandt Tulips which are multi-colored. Many of us think that when Tulips are gone that is the end of bulbs, but other plants can be used to extend the season. Dutch Iris, for example, bloom at the end of May, early June. The Iris family of plants offers a wide variety, for example, German Bearded Iris, Dutch Iris, Louisiana Iris, all bloom at different times and have different shapes and offer a wide assortment of colors. Lilies bloom later in the season. Asiatic Lilies will bloom in June to early July and are fragrant. Bulbs like Silla and other smaller ones can be added as accents and filler for the major bulb groups.

Bulbs are normally grown outside but some can be grown inside. When grown inside, it is known as forcing because we encourage the plant to bloom early, often in the middle of winter. One of the most popular bulbs grown indoors is a type of Daffodil or Narcissus, normally called a Paperwhite and it has a wonderful fragrance. This is fun and exciting, all that is needed to accomplish this "forcing" is a large, preferably clear,  container and river rock, or gravel (something that will allow you to see the roots grow). Place the bulb in the rocks, make sure the nose is showing, then add water to barely below the bottom of the bulb(s). If the bulb is encased in water it will actually rot. It will take about 6-8 weeks and the roots will start to grow. Initially keep the container in a cool place, although room temperature is good and it doesn't matter if shady or sunny. Once green comes out the top, place it in a bright place and they will start to grow providing an incredible fragrance. It's a great way to get kids excited about gardening and always a great gift.

Ken has an old whiskey barrel he is using as a container. It fits well with the surroundings. Although large, it's not too large to be moved from location to location, even a deck. Since large, it is able to make a strong statement. As mentioned with bulbs one can have interest from late winter until mid to late summer. Ken wants this container to look good now, thus has used Cabbage and Kale. Kale has open type foliage and comes in different colors. Ken places the Kale and Cabbage in the container, then tucks bulbs around them. Even though the bulbs are planted lower they don't need to be planted first. By doing it this way the Cabbage and Kale don't need to be disturbed, they anchor the container. Around January the Cabbage and Kale will be spent, at that point rather than pulling them up Ken will then cut them off at the ground, thereby not disturbing the bulbs that are planted lower. The Cabbage and Kale will look green when planted but will start to color up when cold weather hits, at that point they will change  to pink, rose, some are even white, they provide vivid color. In the front of the container he plants the smaller bulbs, Crocus and Short Iris Cresata are planted. Ken plants them 2-3 inches deep, although depth isn't critical. He plants them in small groups of 3-5, about 2 inches apart. The little groups make a dramatic statement, much more than one bulb here, one bulb there. This pattern provides a nice vibrant display of color. Bulbs, Crocus, for example, have a top and a bottom, you can actually feel where roots have been, put this part of the bulb on the bottom. There is a little point for the top, put the point or the top up, as one would with Tulips and Iris.  In the back of the container Ken plants Daffodils, then scatters in Tulips and Dutch Iris. Potting soil is then added and pansies are planted on the top. The Pansies cover the bulbs and grow close to the Cabbage and Kale. Ken adds Dusty Miller on one side of the container and adds Dianthis on the other side. Ken chose Dusty Miller because he wanted a larger plant. He transplanted it from another bed. It will stay colorful over the winter. Ken often, if he needs a specimen plant, will dig one out of a bed. To do this take a lot of soil with the plant and keep it watered, it should then take off. The Dianthis won't do much this season but will bloom again next spring. Ken often uses Violas and in this container utilizes them in the front of the container. Violas have smaller flowers than Pansies but come in a wide range of colors, just like Pansies. Since it is fall and already cool these plants probably won't get  much larger. During the winter make sure things don't dry out. They don't need a lot of food over the winter, possibly a very light liquid feed during this time.  When it warms in the spring and new growth starts, then increase feeding. This container is beautiful. It will be attractive in the fall, all through the winter and then when spring comes along it will be a real showpiece.

Hydrangea is a garden favorite. It has lovely blooms and can become a good sized plant.  Many ask when should it be pruned or cut back. A good rule of thumb is to understand that Hydrangeas bloom on old wood. As soon as the flowers are spent, as soon as they start to turn brown it is a good idea to prune. This allows a maximum time for the branch to grow, set new wood which will then turn into old wood and produce more flowers.

In the fall many of us clean our gardens, this is a time we find seed heads, dried grasses and fruit. Typically we throw these things away. Cecile Brion is an accomplished floral designer and shows us how to use some of falls' bounty. Cecile says she is frugal, she doesn't like to throw stuff away and would rather turn it into something beautiful. Cecile today shows us how to decorate a vine wreath which was purchased at a craft store for a few dollars. She has then collected grass, seed pods, corn leaves, Chinese Lantern and Hydrangea blooms and other fall items which she will add to the vine wreath. She believes the dark background needs color and likes to put the big stuff in first, or in the back, then fills in with smaller things. She takes Sumac and cuts the stem at an angle with pruners, then places it in the vine. It doesn't require glue, the stem catches on the vine. The grapevine wreath provides a lot of places to insert these many fall leftovers. She places the other sumac evenly around the wreath, all facing the same direction. She next adds little Squash. These won't stay on the vine by themselves thus Cecile puts little holes through the top and runs a wire through the hole. The hole can be made with a drill or by simply punching a hole in the squash with a hammer and nail. The wire, after going through the Squash, attaches to the branch of the vine. She twists the wire so it isn't visible, then uses wire cutters and clips off the excess wire. Since there is more to be added the remaining wire will be covered. Next she adds grass and a branch of Pineapple. It too is just attached, not wired. Cecile lets it flop a little because she wants a sense of movement. If the wreath is placed outside the wind will cause the grass to flow and move, she wants movement she doesn''t want a static object. Instead she wants it to feel alive, like it's in nature. Once the big pieces are in she then concentrates on one area, completes that area, then moves around the wreath duplicating what was done in the other areas.  The beauty to a piece like this is that it can evolve. As things ripen or as new things (seed pods, Pine Cones, dried flowers) become available they can be added. Cecile has a wreath at home that her parents gave her when she was a teenager and it keeps growing. This wreath is beautiful on the wall but it could be placed on the table, it makes a beautiful table centerpiece. Thanks Cecile, you've taken items that we might normally throw away and turned it into something special, something beautiful.

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Mountain Air

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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