What's Blooming in February

Welcome to the Member Ideas area! This community feature is where our members can post their own ideas. These posts are unedited and not necessarily endorsed by the National Gardening Association.
Posted by @LarryR on
Last month's Name That Bloom Contest subject was the Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia 'Purple Robe.' Check in to see who was the first to give us the right answer and while you're here, check out this month's mystery flower, too.


Thumb of 2012-01-18/plantladylin/9bdb10
Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower
Last month's mystery flower, Robinia pseudoacacia 'Purple Robe'

Congratulations to our winner for January, plantladylin!  Her photo selected for publication appears at right.  I visited with Lin a bit about her gardening experience.

Who or what influenced you most on your way to becoming a gardener?

Well, I come from a family of non-gardeners so my interest in gardening came from my mother-in-law who was a very avid gardener all of her adult life. My dear mother-in-law lived to be 97 and was still gardening until the age of 90. She always had fruit trees, a small vegetable garden, strawberry and blueberry beds, and the most beautiful flower beds in the neighborhood! She was composting long before it became popular! I don't claim to be an avid gardener but I've been puttering with gardening now for 43 years, thanks to her knowledge and inspiration!

What a great role model you had, Lin!  And 43 years of gardening experience is certainly nothing to sneeze at.  If you were to encounter a beginning gardener asking for general gardening advice in one of our forums, how would you respond?

Now that's a tough one. I guess it would be: Don't stress over failure . . . if at first you don't succeed, try, try again! Do a little research regarding the plants you are attracted to, figure out their needs, amount of light, water requirements etc. Enjoy the process of selection and planting of whatever you choose for your garden. Ask advice from your local nurserymen . . . or perhaps a neighbor whose garden you admire!

Perseverence and relying on expert or experienced gardeners:  Good advice, indeed!  Now tell us a bit about why you chose an Echinacea photo for publication.

I have so many favorite plants that it was hard to choose just one particular plant photo for this article. So, I narrowed it down and finally chose Echinacea purpurea. The Purple Coneflower is a reliable perennial that blooms continuously from April to October in my garden. They attract pollinators like bees and beautiful butterflies which are always beneficial! The seeds produced by the Coneflowers are a food source for the birds and there's usually an abundance to share with fellow gardeners as well! 

Any other flowers that you particularly like?

It's always been hard for me to choose a favorite flower, it seems to vary with whatever happens to be in bloom at the time. Like many folks, I love plants that have fragrant blooms. Back in the 1970's I had many rose bushes in my garden, but nowadays I only have a couple of the Rosa 'Knock Out' variety and I love them. I have container plants like Hoya and Epiphyllum that have extremely fragrant blooms. They have to be moved inside during cold periods during winter but a couple of the Hoyas actually bloom during the winter months which means I get to experience wonderful fragrance during the time of year when not much is blooming outdoors.

Do you grow vegetables as well?

Although I've always wanted a vegetable garden I never seemed to find the time, or a sunny enough spot for planting one. I occasionally grow herbs in containers and every year I have a couple of tomato plants in containers on the deck. It's wonderful being able to walk out the door and pick herbs to use in soups or stews and it's really great to be able to pick a single tomato for a salad or sandwich . . . or to just slice and eat.

Aside from gardening, are there any other activities you enjoy?

Other hobbies? Well, I don't really consider them hobbies but I like to read, walk . . . oh, and shop! Smiling I also love watching basketball, and I enjoy attending games here at a local university. I like meeting, chatting with, and getting to know people from all walks of life. I've learned that many of us are more alike than we might have thought.

That's certainly a good thought for all of us to ponder, Lin.

Well Larry, I can't think of anything else to tell readers about me. I just enjoy life with all of it's ups and downs and I feel blessed for my family and friends as well as the friendships I've forged here on this wonderful website, AllThingsPlants!


(Click photos to enlarge)
2012-02-11/LarryR/137246 2012-02-11/LarryR/a7100d
 Hyacinth 'Pink Pearl'

Daffodil 'Tête-à-Tête'

2012-02-11/LarryR/e67cd5 2012-02-11/LarryR/dc0f03
  Crocus 'Giant Purple'  Tulip 'Angelique'

Forcing Spring Bulbs

Here at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens we force pots of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips (photos at right) to enjoy a bit of spring in the midst of winter.  We pot the bulbs up at the end of October, using a homemade potting soil of equal parts of garden soil, organic peat, and coarse sand.  A commercial potting mix works well, too.

We fill three-quarters of the pot or other container with the potting mix.  Potted bulbs are planted very closely together, with bulbs almost touching one another. When potting up tulip bulbs, the bulb should be planted with the flat side facing outward.  This practice is for cosmetic reasons only.  The tulip leaves will arch outward instead of bunching up in the middle of the container.

After we've arranged the bulbs, we fill in more soil, so that only the very tops of the bulbs are showing and then press the soil down around the bulbs.

We water the pots and store them in an area of the basement that is dark and unheated.  The average temperature there is around 40 degrees.  It's a good idea to check the pots regularly, as they will eventually dry out and need to be watered several times before growth pushes up out of the soil.

As soon as shoots have reached 1.5 inches or so, we bring the pots upstairs to a south windowsill where the foliage continues to grow and flower buds eventually appear.  We watch the pots closely during this period, as they will dry out much faster on the windowsill than they did in the basement.  This is so, because the plants are actively growing now and need more moisture, but also because that they are now exposed to the warmer, drier air of the furnace.

After the bulbs are done blooming, we generally toss them on the compost pile.  We've tried keeping them in their pots until the leaves begin to brown naturally, harvesting the bulbs, and then planting them in the garden in the fall.  Generally speaking, the bulbs are less able to store energy planted in a pot than they are when planted in the garden without being forced first.  The result is a bulb that produces leaves, but doesn't have enough energy to produce flowers.



Tarev, who gardens in Zone 9b, sent us some more of her blossoms for February, including more of her gorgeous orchids.  Enjoy!

 Cymbidium Orchid  Phalaenopsis Orchid
2012-02-11/LarryR/515b9d 2012-02-11/LarryR/582e36
Amaryllis 'Minerva'(?) Pilea 'Moon Valley'
Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'   White Schlumbergera 





Every single month so far I have underestimated the prowess of our readers in identifying the mystery flower.  Kudos to you one and all!

So, as an extra challenge this time, all you get is a picture and no hints!


Scroll down to the forum at the end of this article.  Click on the thread, "February Contest Entries."  (The thread may not appear immediately after the article is published.  If there is no thread by that name, please start one if you'd like to identify the mystery flower.  Enter the name of the plant at left, both its common name and its botanical name (genus and species).  The winner gets to select a photo of a blooming plant from her/his garden, to be published in next month's What's Blooming article, along with a brief interview.

Check back often to see if the bloom has been identified.  If readers are having difficulty, I may provide a hint.



Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, owned by Larry and Wilma Rettig, South Amana, Iowa, has been featured in local and national publications, on the Internet, and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as a national heritage garden. Larry and Wilma grow over 300 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables. Since 1986, they have maintained a seed bank that preserves vegetable varieties brought from Germany to the Amana Villages during the 1850s.


Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
February Contest Entries by LarryR Feb 26, 2012 9:11 PM 25
Clues for the mystery flower by LarryR Feb 26, 2012 4:55 PM 11
Thank you Larry! by vic Feb 20, 2012 12:40 AM 2
Blooming plants by LarryR Feb 17, 2012 7:11 PM 0

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