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by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

Are you thinking about spring?

It’s time to start thinking about spring! Yes, that’s right, spring. Now is the time to be purchasing and planting those delightful spring bulbs. Bulbs, corms, and tubers bring such colorful joy and hold quite a surprise from such drab looking characters.

Let’s break down the difference between these three:

First, all of the three are swollen, underground plant parts that store energy. Scientifically speaking they fall under the umbrella term, Geophyte, from the greek words for Earth and plant.

What is a corm? A corm is a vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food storage structure.

Examples of corms are Crocus, Gladiolas, and Cyclamen.

What is a bulb? A bulb is a rounded, underground storage organ present in some plants like Lilies, Daffodils, and tulips, consisting of a short stem surrounded by fleshy scale leaves or leaf bases. Bulbs lay dormant over the winter

What is a tuber? A tuber is the thickened, underground part of a stem or rhizome. It serves as a food reserve and bears buds from which plants arise. Potatoes and Dahlias are great examples of tubers.

Now that we have the definitions out of the way, let’s have fun! With the cool fall weather comes the availability of these wonderful splashes of spring color. Bulbs, corms, and tubers start showing up on the shelves of your favorite nursery or garden center. And let’s not forget those spectacular, color catalogs that grace our mailboxes. This is where the fun begins!

Take a look at your garden and pots and figure out where you have available space. There are so many to choose from and they are all wonderful. Here are a few of my favorite spring bulbs.

  • Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ (daffodil). This charming little work horse is an early bloomer, bright yellow and happy as all get out!

  • Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ (daffodil). Another early boomer with lovely yellow petals and bright orange cup. A great naturalizer. Just amazing.

  • Double Narcissi are showstoppers that bloom later and bare flowers that almost have a Rose or Peony like appearance.

  • Tulips. My favorite are the greggii varieties, sporting variegated leaves that resemble snake skin, bright red flowers and also early bloomers. Triumph varieties are tough, strong growers that stand up to our spring rains. My favorite is Paul Scherer with its stunning purple, almost black flower! So many amazing daffs and tulips to choose from.

Here are a couple of oddities you may like.

  • Aliums. Close relative to onions with wonderful globe shaped flowers that come in shades of purple/blue and white.

  • Fritillarias are another fun group of plants. My favorite is Frittillaria meleagris; this cute little flower looks almost like an upside down snake skin tulip. I love love love this plant!

I’ll wrap this up, do your homework and most importantly .... have fun!

by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

September brings relief from the summer heat; the cooler nights and shorter days signal change to the natural world.

September 22nd is the Fall Equinox and also the tipping point when the leaves on trees start to change color and begin the process of falling. The fruit is ripe for the picking and our gardens begin to shut down and get ready for the winter.

There are some tasks to be done in the garden that can lead to fantastic results in the following year. I am going to list 5 of what I think are the most important fall tasks in your garden.

  1. Sit back and take a look at your garden. Take stock in what worked, what plants thrived and what you enjoyed. Take note of what plants did not thrive and what you did not enjoy. Now figure our how to make the changes to those things that did not work out so well. Make a check list, and move or remove the failing plants. Fall is the best time of the year to move (transplant) plants.

  2. Move, transplant and plant! Soon the rains will come and water your babies for you.

  3. Tend to the tenders. Fall is the time to figure out which of the tender plants you will need to bring in and which you will need to protect. The hardest decision of all is who will simply be allowed to perish.

  4. Clean the beds. Fall is a great time to thin and weed beds. I like to leave a lot of the cutting back for early spring. The spent flowers become seed heads and provide a winter snack for birds and other critters. The spent plants protect the crowns from frost, that is if you don’t mind looking at them.

  5. Make the additions. Now is the best time to plant trees, shrubs, perennials and spring bulbs (which is a whole topic unto itself – we’ll talk more about that in October)

Fall is an excellent time to visit your favorite local nurseries, as many will have perennial sales going on and they will be bringing in wonderful selections of trees and shrubs. Most importantly, have fun!

  • crazyhillgardens

by Michael Kerkes, CPH, Co-Owner of Crazy Hill Garden & Botanical, published as the column “Ramblings of a Crazy Gardener” in the North Bay Review

After this long, hot summer, some of usage looking forward to cool fall nights. The cooling weather and the shorter days bring on the brilliance of fall.

Fall color in leaves is intriguing, we all enjoy the kaleidoscope of changing colors but just what makes this happen? And The leaves on the trees are food factories, changing sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into car- bohydrates which is called photosynthesis.

The leaf is constructed of man cells that contain chlorophyll (the green pigment) which is the chemical the leaf uses to change sunlight into sugars and starch. Along with chlorophyll, the leaf contains other chemicals which create other colors. Yellow to orange pigments are created by carotenes and xanthophyll and reds are created by anthocyanin. These chemicals are present all year long but only become dominate when chlorophyll begins to exit the leaves in the fall.

Some trees that have beautiful fall color are:

Japanese Maples (Acer Palmatum). There are many shapes and sizes of these trees and they all do fantastic here in the Northwest. Stewartia pseudocamellia, a great tree with a beautiful growth habit. It is a summer bloomer with white Camellia-like flowers. Best of all, it has stunning fall color in fiery shades of red and orange. Parrotia persica. This tree is sure to impress in the fall with a brilliant show of golden yellow and orange.

There are some smaller trees and shrubs that give quite a dazzling show. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), gives a fantastic fall show as well with a color-shifting display with brilliant reds, chartreuse, gold and orange. Once the color show is over this tree continues to stun with its ribbon like winter to spring blooms. My favorite variety is ‘Arnold Promise’. Fothergilla gardenii, there is nothing like this shrub for fall color. Bold reds, oranges and yellows all with a deep, rusty brown hue.

The best time to buy trees and shrubs for fall color is in the fall when you can see what each individual tree colors-up like. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall of the year also tend to take root better and become healthier and happier having all winter and spring to build a strong root system.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the changing seasons.

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