Indoor Gardening with Kids

When the outdoor garden is tucked away for the winter — the saplings supported, the grass seed sown and the spring bulbs tucked snugly away in their flower beds — it’s time for indoor gardening fun!

Many plants can be successfully grown indoors by children, including the pits and seeds of many grocery items (who hasn’t seen an avocado pit supported by a toothpick in a plastic cup on a window sill?).

One of the most fun and satisfying indoor gardening projects, however, is forcing flower bulbs.

Forcing projects are an easy, inexpensive way to keep little hands busy for hours on a rainy day. Bulbs can be potted up as “I made it myself” gifts for friends, teachers or grandparents.

They can also give young people a real feeling of accomplishment. Imagine their pride when Grandma “ooohs” and “ahhhs” over her magnificent pots of blooming amaryllises!

As bulbs mature into flowers, the seeds of myth and magic can grow in a child’s imagination. A three-year old, for example, might thrill to the “wonder of it all.” A “more serious” 12-year old might play the budding botanist, growing various colors or experimenting with different treatments of light and temperature.

Though the flowers are wonderful, the real joy comes in the child’s anticipation, as each morning she rushes to the kitchen window to see “her” green stalk yet another inch taller.

Guided by an enthusiastic parent, growing these plants the Dutch call “guaranteed miracles,” can offer a metaphor for and an introduction to the wonder and mystery of the natural world.

You Can Fool Mother Nature

The term “forcing” might be better expressed as “fooling.” For what you really do is fool the bulb into thinking that winter is over and it’s time to flower. The two easiest bulbs to force are paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis (hippeastrum). Other fun bulbs for easy forcing include colorful hyacinths, crocuses and narcissi. These require a bit more attention, but they too can offer the young gardener an enchanting indoor experience.

To begin with the easiest:

Paperwhite types are especially easy to grow. They can be bought as loose bulbs or as part of a pre-packaged forcing kit. They are often found in displays along with gravel, containers and other bulbs for forcing.

Paperwhites are best forced in a shallow pot or bowl with no drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the pot two thirds full with gravel, stones or even fun things like marbles! Place as many bulbs as will fit on the gravel with the pointed side up. Then fill in gravel around them leaving the tops exposed. Add water up to the base of the bulbs and maintain water at this level.

Place the container in a cool place. Within days roots will appear. As they grow, they will sometimes push the bulbs upward. When the green shoots appear, move your project to a cool, sunny spot. The shoots will develop rapidly and in about three more weeks, you’ll have masses of heavily-scented sweet white flowers.  

Amaryllis bulbs are very large but also very easy to grow. These big bulbs are normally planted one to a pot and are also often available as complete pre- packaged kits. Begun early enough, amaryllises can be easily brought to flower for the holiday season. By staggering your start-up times, it’s possible to have amaryllises blooming in the house from December through April.

Loose amaryllis bulbs can be planted in any kind of container you like, but a drainage hole (and a saucer to catch the water that drains!) is required. The pot circumference should be not much bigger than the bulb itself.

Spread a shallow layer of gravel, pot shards or other drainage material at the bottom of the pot (this is a good way to recycle those annoying plastic foam “peanut” packing materials). Add several inches of soil and place the bulb in the pot, pointed end up, with the neck and “shoulders” of the bulb just peeking over the top of the container.

Fill in with soil and gently pat down, leaving the neck of the bulb exposed. Water well. Place in a cool bright spot. Water sparingly at first. After the first sprouts appear (about two weeks), keep soil moist but don’t over water. In about eight weeks, you and your young gardener will be proud to show off your plants with their huge, exotic-looking flowers of velvety red, pink, white, peach, orange or even multi-colors.

Magnificent amaryllis grow tall and top-heavy. To keep your child’s amaryllis upright as it blooms, try “double-potting” it by using a lightweight plastic flower pot placed inside a heavier decorative container. Kids’ containers should be fun, such as toy buckets, large kitchen tins or inexpensive crockery pots. Just about anything that pleases a child can be used as an outer container.

Forcing many other bulbs, especially hyacinths, crocuses, grape hyacinths (muscari) and narcissi (you probably know these as daffodils) is also easy but may take a little longer and require some free space in a refrigerator or in an unheated garage or storeroom. Do not store near ripening fruit.

Spring-flowering bulbs normally spend the winter underground outdoors because they require a period of cold temperatures to kick off a bio-chemical reaction inside them that starts the flowering process.  Indoor forcing induces that reaction artificially. 

Hyacinths can be grown without any soil or gravel. Special hour-glass-shaped hyacinth glasses are available from many catalogues and retail stores. Such containers allow you to grow these fragrant flowers righ t on water. The growing roots, which can be seen clearly through the glass, add a special interest. Pre-cooled hyacinths can be purchased, cutting about two to four weeks off time needed for the bulbs to flower, making it possible to have hyacinths for the holidays if you begin in September or early October. Methods for forcing hyacinths are about the same as for other spring bulbs that need cold treatment. 

Hyacinths can be grown without any soil or gravel. Special hour-glass-shaped hyacinth glasses are available from many catalogues and retail stores. Such containers allow you to grow these fragrant flowers righ t on water. The growing roots, which can be seen clearly through the glass, add a special interest. Pre-cooled hyacinths can be purchased, cutting about two to four weeks off time needed for the bulbs to flower, making it possible to have hyacinths for the holidays if you begin in September or early October. Methods for forcing hyacinths are about the same as for other spring bulbs that need cold treatment.
 

To force daffodils small and tall, delicate crocuses, and many other spring-flowering bulbs, it is important to look for types that will force readily. This information is usually provided when you purchase your bulbs. To prepare, use regular flower pots or other containers with drainage holes. Add a layer of gravel or drainage material and a layer of potting soil to a depth of about two inches. Use as many bulbs as will fit in the container, then fill in with enough soil so just the tops of the bulbs are visible. Water thoroughly. Wait two days then water again.

Put a piece of tape with the date written on it on each pot. Place your pots in a dark cool place (between 40 and 50° F) and keep moist for twelve weeks. If you have room in your refrigerator, cover the pots with an open plastic bag; this will reduce the need for watering. Two “musts” to remember: keep the pots moist and no fruit in the refrigerator! Ripening fruit gives off a gas that can kill the bulbs.

When the cold period is over, move the pots to a warmer area in indirect or low light. Keep them there a week or two, then move them to a cool, sunny area where they should flower — to everyone’s joy and amazement — in about six weeks.

Bulbs that need cooling periods are a bit more work than paperwhites and amaryllises, but they can be a great project for older children, especially those who have shown an interest in doing projects.

These simple winter garden projects offer children an insight into the workings of nature. A hyacinth bulb cut in half will reveal the embryonic flower bulb in its center. The process of chilling the bulbs, the effects that water and sunshine can help stimulate a child’s interest in natural chemistry.

But most important: it’s fun.

Whether for entertainment, education or both, forcing flower bulbs and other indoor gardening projects are activities the whole family can enjoy together.

2019 Perennial Plant of the Year – Stachys ‘Hummelo’

The Perennial Plant of the Year® (PPOY) program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year®

Since the Perennial Plant of the Year® was introduced in 1990, the Perennial Plant Association has received frequent inquiries about how the Perennial Plant of the Year® is selected. The selection process is quite simple – PPA members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year® each summer. At that time, in addition to the vote, each member may also nominate up to two plants for future consideration. The Perennial Plant of the Year® committee reviews the nominated perennials (more than 400 different perennials are often nominated each year) and selects 3 or 4 perennials to be placed on the ballot.

Nominations generally need to satisfy the following criteria: 

  •  Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions
  •  Low-maintenance requirements
  •  Relative pest- and disease-resistance
  •  Ready availability in the year of promotion
  •  Multiple seasons of ornamental interest

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8, foliage may remain evergreen in warmer climates.

Light: Full sun to part shade.
 
Soil: Well drained soil; water as necessary.
 
Uses: This colorful and compact winner makes an excellent addition to the full sun perennial border.  Terrific in combination with ornamental grasses, Echinacea purpurea, and Asclepias tuberosa (2018 Perennial Plant of the Year®).  Wiry stems make for a great cut flower as well.
 
 
Unique Qualities: Pollinators can’t resist the striking midsummer spikes of magenta flowers rising above bright green, trouble-free foliage.  ‘Hummelo’ was the highest rated Stachys in the Chicago Botanic Garden Evaluation Trials for its strong flower production, vigor, habit, quality and winter hardiness.
 
 
Maintenance: Spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes.  May benefit from division every few years.  Strong stems and seed heads add to winter interest.  Considered deer-resistant!

Rediscovering a Classic – A Variety of Hydrangeas

Certain plants have the ability to conjure up memories, emotions and feelings of special times and special places. For many the hydrangea’s fairy-tale blue clusters remind us of carefree summer days spent lazing on the Cape, where the showy blooms dress up cottage gardens. We plant hydrangeas in our own beds for the restful feelings they inspire, as well as for the beauty of their opulent midsummer blooms.

Although the most familiar, the blue hydrangea, or more properly, Hydrangea macrophylla, is just one of over a hundred known cultivars of Hydrangea. Along with Hydrangea macprophylla, other varieties that do well in our area include H. paniculata grandiflora and H. anomola petiolaris. Hydrangeas are generally easy to grow, are hardy to zone 6 or in areas of temperate winters, and require little care or maintenance.

Hydrangea macrophylla is divided into two main groups: hortensias, which feature the globular blue, pink, red and white blooms of Cape Cod fame, and lacecaps, which are distinguished by flatter clusters of sterile, papery petallike sepals. Both types can be propagated by suckered division. They are long-lived plants that are relatively trouble free.

As a group, hortensias feature thick, erect, and unbranched stems that easily reach full height in just a single season. Their glossy foliage is striking in its own right, but the plant is characterized by its showy round clusters, which range in color from blue to white to pink, the color varying with the pH level of the soil. Here in the Northeast, our acidic soil (pH range of 5.5 or lower) gives blooms a blue tone. As the soil pH neutralizes, the color of bloom graduates to white, then pink and finally to a near red shade. Adding aluminum sulfate to lower the soil pH results in blue blooms, while raising the soil pH with ground limestone produces pink/red hues. The plants prefer a sunny to partly sunny location, with moist soil that is rich in organic matter.

In recent years, lacecaps have seen a resurgence in popularity as an old-fashioned favorite. Like hortensias, they prefer a sun to part sun and rich, moist soil. The plants benefit from having the stems, that have flowered, removed while the plant is dormant. A more vigorous thinning (as opposed to pruning, or cutting back) will produce larger flower clusters.

Another old-favorite is the Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora or “pee gee” hydrangea. This fast-growing treelike shrub features a mop-head-like flower cluster in mid-to-late summer. The flowers open to white in summer, turn a pinkish hue in September and fade to tan by fall. They are outstanding as a dried flower, sometimes lasting years in dried arrangements. Because pee gee hydrangeas bloom on new wood, prune hard when the plant is dormant to produce larger flowers the next summer. An easy to grow plant, it is extremely long-lived and has been a favorite of gardeners for generations.

The climbing hydrangea, or Hydrangea anomola petiolaris is another versatile performer. Clinging to tree trunks or brick by aerial roots, it can grow to 60 feet, and once established, this plant takes off! Its fragrant white flowers nearly cover it in summer and it does well in the shade of most deciduous trees. Planted at the base of an elm or an oak, this climbing hydrangea will wind its way up the trunk and provide spectacular color all summer long.

Got Spring Fever? Visit the flower gardens at Keukenhof in Holland!

Have a bad case of Spring fever? Let’s go to Holland! Ok, maybe we all can’t hop on a plane, but we can take a video visit to Keukenhof where you will experience the gorgeous views of blooming Dutch tulips and other flowers for which Holland is famous. Keukenhof is the most famous and largest flower park in the world and lies not far from Amsterdam.

7 million flower bulbs

 


Tulips from Holland are world famous. If you want to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom, you should visit Holland in April and May. This is the same period in which the biggest flower park in the world, Keukenhof, opens its doors.

Keukenhof is a park where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Gardens and four pavilions show a fantastic collection of: tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and many other flowers. You will be overwhelmed by a spectacle of colors and perfumes.

Gifting for a Gardener

Christmas is the perfect time to gift gardening essentials to that person in your life who wants to start a garden. What do you get someone who wants to start a garden in December? A lot of veggies are sure to freeze if they get planted in the ground now. We have a gift for everyone at Round Rock Gardens.

The perfect present for someone with a goal of starting a garden would be tools to get started; a shovel, some markers, statuary, garden flags, and pottery. These items don’t have an expiration date and they can be stored away until spring or used immediately with hardy winter vegetables.

Garden tools are always useful to a beginning gardener. Gloves to keep their hands clean, especially if they’re not used to the earthworms yet. Shovels and picks to get through the earth to make their gardening experience easy and relaxing. Along with the garden tools, gift your future gardener some seeds they can plant in the spring. Lettuce, carrots, radishes, and broccoli are great springtime planters. If you’re looking for veggies that won’t freeze in the winter so they can plant them after Christmas, give them onions, garlic, or peas.

Plant markers are very helpful for a beginner gardener to know what plants are planted where. Statuary can be the encouragement to get a garden started. If the person receiving your gift decides they don’t want to start a garden anymore, it can still be placed in their front yard or by the front door of their home. Statuary is a great way to put a smile on someone’s face.

Maybe the person you’re looking to give a gift to doesn’t like gardening outdoors, but they love plants. A dish garden makes a great gift, especially if the gift receiver lives in an apartment or works at an office. Round Rock Garden Center has tons of pottery to choose from when you create your own dish garden. From small to big pots and tropical plants to annuals and perennials. We know you can create a beautiful dish garden for your friend or family member.

If you’d like some guidance on how to make the perfect dish garden, come to Round Rock Garden Canter’s Dish Garden Class this Saturday at 10 a.m. We will give you all the materials you’ll need to make a perfect gift.

Christmas is the perfect time to give the gift of gardening. This year, gift some essential gardening tools to your friends or family. Join us this Saturday at 10 a.m. to create your dish garden and you can give that to a friend or keep it for yourself! To RSVP go to Round Rock Garden Center’s Facebook page and click the ticket link under the Make and Take Dish Garden Class event, or go to the Ticketleap website and search Round Rock Garden Center and register for the class there.

Have any questions about the perfect gardening gift or classes at the garden center? Give us a call or stop by during our hours of operation for help from one of our garden experts.

Preparing for Christmas

Every year it seems like people prepare for Christmas earlier and earlier. Well, it’s the most wonderful time of the year and we want you to feel prepared right along with us. The garden center has started hanging lights, preparing for tree flocking, a wreath making class, and our annual open house.

With two months left before Christmas day is here, there is a long list of things you have to get done. Lighting on your house, present shopping, and finding the perfect tree for your home. This year Round Rock Garden Center is getting in the best quality Christmas trees we’ve ever received before. Don’t worry about driving a long distance to chop down the perfect tree, because we’ll have them right here in our store.

Every year we offer the option to get your tree flocked. Besides the glistening snowy look, there are plenty of reasons why flocking a Christmas tree is beneficial. Flocking creates a flame retardant tree as well as seals all the needles in- no more sweeping up pine needles off the floor. You can experience a tree flocking demo on November 17, 10 am, at Round Rock Garden Center’s Wreath Making Class. This event includes all the materials you’ll need to make a beautiful Christmas or winter wreath. Following the class is the free flocking viewing.

December 1, is the garden center’s annual Christmas Open House. We’ll have hot cocoa, apple cider, live music, girl scouts singing Christmas carols, and pictures with Santa. This event is free and open to the public, so be sure to save the date.

While we prepare the garden center for the Christmas Open House event, let us help you prepare your yard and garden for winter. Keeping grass healthy during the winter can be stressful. Round Rock Garden Center has a new trick up the sleeve thanks to MicroLife Brown Patch fertilizer. This is THE BEST winter fertilizer Round Rock Garden Center sells. It has properties to keep your grass healthy all winter long.

The next time you’re in the store and you see our employees preparing for our winter event, let it be a reminder that your yard needs some winter prep too. Talk to one of our expert gardeners to find the MicroLife Brown Patch fertilizer and other winterizing products.

Let the Winter preparation begin, for Round Rock Garden Center and YOU too; the holiday shopping, hanging of lights, and feasting of food!

We’ll see you in the garden,

Round Rock Garden Center

Forever Evergreen Shrubs

During the winter season plants start to go dormant and yards/gardens begin to look sparse. The evergreen shrub prevents yards from looking dead all year long, simply by doing what it was naturally created to do. There are other benefits that come along with an evergreen shrub; year-round shelter for wildlife, winter color, and year-round privacy for homes.

Birds and other small animals aren’t often seen in leafless trees. Without the shelter of leaves, their homes disappear. An evergreen tree or shrub keeps it’s leaves all year long, providing a safe and cozy shelter for the winter-loving animals. Evergreens are a great choice to increase winter wildlife and provide a safe shelter to the environment around.

Along with shelter for wildlife, an evergreen shrub comes with the added benefit of color to add to your yard. Yes, an evergreen keeps green leaves all year long, but there are many kinds of evergreen shrubs that produce winter color; the deciduous holly is a beautiful shrub that gets bright red berried clustered at the edge of its branches. No matter where you place it in the garden, it will catch everyone’s eye and beautify your winter landscape. Paperbush is another winter shrub with beautiful blossoms. In December, all the leaves fall to reveal white and yellow blossoms that will bloom until April.

Some evergreen shrubs don’t produce winter colors, but they are great for year-round privacy. Some of the best evergreen shrubs are at Round Rock Garden Center; Houston Holly, Southern Wax Myrtle, and the Cherry Laurel. This week, 10/19, they are 25% off. These shrubs provide thick coverage and screening so full privacy can be maintained all year long.

This winter, don’t be the bare yard on the block. Round Rock Garden Center is making it easy to have the most beautiful evergreen foliage in the garden. Enjoy the liveliness and color of evergreens year round. Be a habitat for winter animals and maintain home privacy. Stop by Round Rock Garden Center and let expert gardeners find the perfect evergreen for your yard.

The First Day of Fall

When you think about fall, do you think about wrapping yourself up in a warm blanket, or drinking a warm mug of hot cocoa? Maybe you get excited because fall is the perfect time for planting in your garden! The first day of fall has snuck up on us fast. This Saturday, September 22, we will be in full swing for fall. Grab your blanket, cup of cocoa, and head outside to start planting!

Our favorite fall planters have finally arrived at the garden center. We have snapdragons, pansies, mums, flowering kale, cabbage, and ornamental peppers.

Everyone loves fall gardening, and plants do too, for many of the same reasons as people. Autumn’s cooler air temperatures are easier on plants as well as gardeners, and the soil is still warm enough to let roots grow into the ground. The cozy rainy weather that comes with the fall season, is another reason plants love fall. As you’ve probably noticed, September has been a very reliable month for rain, which is usually the case every year.

Planting up to six weeks before the first freeze is a good rule of thumb. Any closer to the first freeze, your plants will not have enough time to get rooted into the ground and most likely won’t survive the upcoming winter.

In the same way that you love cozy blankets in the fall, so do plants. This fall, pile mulch around the base of your plants to keep them warm. Mulching also encourages strong root growth to help your plants become even more established. If you forgot to plant or transplant at least six weeks before the first freeze, but you still want to try to get your plant to make it through winter, add a lot of mulch to help keep it warm and get it to establish faster. There’s a slim chance that your plant could make it.

The best time to plant is right now, fall is for planting! If you aren’t sure what to plant this fall, come to the Round Rock Garden Center and let one of our trained experts help you pick beautiful plants that will make it through the fall and winter. With all our new fall arrivals, we know you’ll find something to love all season long.

 

 

History of the Pumpkin

The pumpkin is a staple that many American households purchase during the fall season. The pumpkin is loved, but where did it come from and why do we carve into them on Halloween?

The Pumpkin is native to North America, and there’s evidence that the Indians used pumpkins in their diet many years before the pilgrims arrived. Once the pilgrims landed, they saw the Indians using pumpkin, and adopted the large melon into their own food uses. Pilgrims used pumpkin in stews, desserts, and soups.

Have you ever wondered where pumpkin pie came from? It was the pilgrims. Here is the original recipe.

Carved out pumpkin
Milk
Spices
Honey

After they had their pumpkin ready, they would bury it in the ashes of a fire. Out came the pilgrim’s version of a pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie isn’t the only reason pumpkins are carved out. For many centuries pumpkins have been used as jack-o-lanterns. However, pumpkins weren’t the original choice for a Jack-o-lantern. It all began as an old Irish myth. Jack invited dark spirits to have a drink with him, but when he didn’t want to pay for his drink, he convinced the dark spirit to turn into a coin. Jack kept the coin and put it in his pocket next to a silver cross. The dark spirit was kept from turning back to its original form. Jack agreed to let him out if the dark spirit didn’t bother him for a year and agreed to keep him out of hell when he died. Jack had a few more encounters with the dark spirit over the decades and eventually passed away. Jack was not allowed into heaven for his interactions with the dark spirit, but the dark spirit told Jack he wouldn’t go to hell. The devil sent Jack to roam around the dark earth with only a dim coal to light his path. Jack carved out a turnip to place his coal in and roamed about the earth.

In Ireland, people would carve scary faces into potatoes and turnips to keep Jack away. When Irish immigrants migrated to America, they found that pumpkins would make the perfect Jack-o-lantern. Other Americans caught wind of the Jack-o-lantern and joined in the creepy myth.

Today, Americans visit pumpkin patches all over the country to buy up pumpkins and carve scary faces into them. Round Rock Garden Center will have pumpkins the week of the 17th. Call ahead to see if our pumpkins are here. Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, don’t forget to share a picture on Round Rock Garden Center’s Facebook page. We can’t wait to see what you do!