begonias

Unusual Bulbs Spice Up the Garden

Unusual Bulbs Spice Up the Garden

By Marlene Willis

Gladioli, dahlias, lilies, begonias, elephant ears, cannas and calla lilies are among the most popular spring bulbs. Most gardeners are familiar with these beautiful species and routinely plant them each spring for a beautiful show of summer colour.

But there are many other exotic summer-flowering plants, available in their dormant state as bulbs just waiting for plant enthusiasts to apply their magic touch. With the provision of suitable temperatures and adequate moisture, plants native to countries such as South Africa, India, Mexico and the Mediterranean can burst forth into bloom in the temperate garden.

Creative Container

One of our greenhouse staff, Jenyse Green, used the African lily (Agapanthus) as a feature in this container. Atop the lily’s tall (60-75 cm) stalks were clusters of deep blue, star-shaped flowers. Blue lobelia, vinca ivy and Mexican heather spilled over the edge of the pot, creating an impressive display. Even when the lily finished blooming, the seed head remained interesting and attractive. A similar effect can be achieved by planting Brodiaea instead of Agapanthus, although Brodiaea is somewhat shorter. Agapanthus is native to South Africa and enjoys full sun and well-drained, moist, organic soil.

The Pineapple Lily

The pineapple lily (Eucomis) is another interesting spring bulb, native to South Africa. This is an apt name for this bulb, as a cylindrical stalk of starry blooms is capped with a tuft of green leafy bracts that resemble a pineapple. There are two varieties available: Eucomis bicolor has pale green flowers with lilac edges, while Eucomis comosa has pale pink flowers tinged with green.

The pineapple lily is an excellent replacement for the traditionally used dracaena spike as a focal plant. The flower stalk is attractive, long-lasting and an attention-seeker. This bulb can be grown in the garden or in containers.

Poppy Anemones

If rich, vibrant colours are needed to punch up the landscape, try incorporating some poppy anemones (Anemone coronaria). There are single and double varieties in a wide range of bold colours, most with a contrasting black centre.

These anemones originate around the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe. They like a warm, sheltered, sunny location and light, sandy soil, and you should hydrate the corms before planting by soaking them in water overnight. Use in borders or containers. The blooms make excellent cutflowers that last about a week.

A Neglected Palette

The selection of underused but gorgeous spring bulbs is vast. Members of Hole’s staff have enjoyed growing many unusual bulbs in their own gardens, including Mexican Shell Flower (Tigridia), Peacock Gladiolus (Acidanthera), Peruvian Daffodil (Hymenocallis), Summer Hyacinth (Galtonia) and Crocosmia, to name just a few. Bring the exotic colours and textures of faraway places home by planting some of these unusual choices this spring!

Buy 1, Get 1 Bedding Plant Sale!

Right now at Hole’s Greenhouses, all bedding plants are buy 1, get 1 FREE!

We have over 100 varieties of petunias in our greenhouse, as well as favourites like thunbergia, mandevilla, & sweet potato vines.

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Plus, this sale includes our edible and flower hanging baskets. Featuring Canadian colours in our flower baskets, these beautiful arrangements are the fastest way to spice up your yard, patio, or balcony!

Grow It From Seed!

written by Lois Hole. Originally published February 1, 1999

Quick, which would you rather have: an ounce of gold or an ounce of begonia seed? Gold at it’s current market price of around $300 [sic] an ounce is mere pocket change compared to a series of tuberous begonia seed called “Charisma” that rings in at an astounding $200,000 [sic] an ounce.

Mind you, an ounce of begonia seed does contain anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million seeds and, in all fairness, only the world’s largest plant propagators would ever buy an ounce.

Thankfully for home gardeners, growing your own plants from seed is substantially less expensive. It can also be an incredibly rewarding experience, but at other times it can be downright frustrating.

I remember when my husband Ted and I first got started in market gardening back in the early 1960s. We needed a large number of tomato transplants and obviously that required a greenhouse, so we built one—a small, plastic-covered, wood-framed structure.

Having very little seed experience, I rationalized that if I sowed double the recommended number of tomato seeds I should, at the very least, get half to grow and therefore be pretty darn close to my target.

After about a month, not one seedling had emerged. Of course, I blamed everything and everyone, including my husband, for this abysmal failure, but it wasn’t until Ted decided to check the soil temperature that he was finally exonerated. The soil temperature was a rather frigid 50°F (that was in the pre-metric days) and tomatoes, being warm season plants, prefer a nice warm 70°F, or 20°C to germinate properly. Installation of some heating cable solved that problem for us, but for many gardeners, poor control of soil temperature is still the primary reason for poor results.

Each year more and more gardeners are starting their own seeds, which I’m sure has been fuelled in part by the tremendous satisfaction derived from successfully nurturing a plant from seed to maturity.

Undoubtedly, the adventure of trying the new, the improved, and the unusual is a strong motivator as well, and never before has there been such an extensive selection of seeds.
Yet for many gardeners, there still exists an unwarranted fear of growing seedlings. So to minimize the trauma of starting seed, here is the seed starter’s primer in one highly condensed, non-technical paragraph.

The first thing to do is purchase only high-quality seed (which is typically a little more expensive). Place the seed in a tray on top of pre-moistened soilless seedling mixture. Cover the seed lightly with horticultural grade vermiculite (that’s the small stuff). Mist the seed tray several times with a pump bottle. Cover the tray with a clear or opaque plastic cover and place the whole apparatus on a heat register or heating cables as close as possible to a south-facing window. Inspect the seed daily and mist as required.

That’s all there is to it. Most seed fits rather neatly within these parameters, although, of course, there are those seeds that deviate somewhat. Some like the soil a little warmer or a little cooler, some like a little more or a little less moisture, but the same basic principles still apply.

Still, there are some plant species, particularly a few perennials, that can be rather obstinate. Some perennial seeds require a treatment in moist soil to break the seeds’ self-imposed dormancy. Other perennial seeds must be scarified, which is essentially a delicate cutting or etching of the seed coat to allow germination, allowing water to be drawn in.

I remember a few particularly stubborn perennial seeds that I’ve tried to germinate in the greenhouse. One in particular was the Himalayan Blue Poppy.

After my disappointing experience with tomato seed, I must admit that I leaned on the warm side for starting all other seedlings, including poppies. After about six weeks of tender care, the poppies, like the tomatoes, had failed to emerge. So in frustration I just pulled the trays off the heating cables, left them on the cold floor, and forgot about them. Inadvertently,  I had provided exactly what the poppies wanted—a nice, cool spot—and within days the tiny seedlings were popping up.

If you have seed left over when all of the spring seeding is said and done and you’re wondering just what is the best way to store it, just remember the rule of 100. Any combination of relative humidity percentage and air temperature that exceeds 100 will reduce seed storage life. For example, if the air is 60°F (sorry, this rule only works in Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and the relative humidity is 40%, you’re in the correct range. However, if the relative humidity climbs to 60%, then the air temperature shouldn’t exceed 40°F to maintain the 100 rule. The lower the number drops below 100, the better.

If you have a bright window, some heat, and a little patience, give starting your own seed a try. Remember, all that glistens is not gold.

– Lois Hole The Best Of Lois Hole

 

Good As Gold

If you’re longing for spring, here is a little "pick-me-up":
 
In early December while everyone was buying poinsettias and Christmas cacti, we were busy seeding some tuberous begonias for the spring bedding plant season. These begonias are sown into flats and then put under grow lights for 14 hours per day. The grow lights provide much needed light for the seedlings, plus the long days prevent the little seedlings from thinking fall is coming up.
 
One interesting fact about begonia seed is that an ounce of begonia seed is worth more than an ounce of gold. It seems impossible, but the reason it’s so expensive is that each seed is the size of a dust particle. A single ounce of begonias contains about 2 million seeds!
 
In our greenhouses, we use just a very, very, tiny fraction of a ounce and if all goes well, the tiny seeds will grow into mighty begonia plants by spring. Thankfully, all of our begonia seed is "pelletized" so that it can be more easily handled. I would hate to think of the task of trying to sow "raw" seed. One would need exceptional eyes, a steady hand, and the ability to refrain from sneezing!

~Jim Hole

Summer Blooming Flower Bulbs

If you’re looking for stunning blooms in your garden this year, now is the time to plant those bulbs!

There are lots of fantastic options to choose from, such as such as gladioli, callas, dahlias, lilium, tuberous begonias, and crocosmias. When it comes to summer blooming bulbs, you've got choice!


Here are a few of our favourites. Each of these will bloom at slightly different times and complement each other, giving you a gorgeous display all the way from early to late summer:

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 Lilium – Mysterious Blend (Liliaceae)  – An early-summer bloomer, this is a great new mix on an old favourite. “Mysterious Blend” is a stunning mix of Asiatic lilies with flowers of the purest white mixed with flowers of the deepest purples and reds.

 
The flowers feature glossy petals that are firm and long-lasting in cut flower arrangements, or as a surefire way to add dramatic colour to your garden.


Lilium prefer full-sun to partial-shade, and grow 90-150cm tall.


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Calla – Royal Majesty (Zantedeschia aethiopica) –  A mid-summer bloomer, Callas have a certain air of elegance like no other flower. Their unique cup- shape, upright sword-like leaves, and vivid colours are a favourite for both gardeners and florists alike! 


The “Royal Majesty” mix is a gorgeous blend of whites, pinks and purples. These cool tones will certainly be the focal highlight of your garden.


Perfect for container gardening, or used as a border in your garden, Callas are surprisingly easy to grow. Enjoying full sun to partial shade and growing 30-91cm tall.


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Dahlia – Myrtle’s Folly (Dahlia fimbriata) A late-summer bloomer, it’s hard to imagine a flower more eye-popping than this enormous burst of narrow, twisted, and vibrantly colored petals. 


Each dinner-plate blossom is massive and an absolute bonfire of hot colors. From gold to peach to hot pink, the Myrtle’s Folly Dahlia is a beautiful one-of-a-kind bouquet all on its own!


 Myrtle's Folly Dahlia is a large plant, and will grow to be about 122cm tall at maturity, with a spread of 76cm. Since the blooms are so massive, the flower stalks can be weak and may require staking in exposed sites or excessively rich soils.

 

 

The Time to Plant Begonias is Now!

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If you've got a shady spot in your garden, begonias are a great flowers to consider. 

Begonias come in 2 distinctly different types: fibrous or tuberous. Fibrous begonias are small, compact plants with small flowers. The seeds for those will be planted in the greenhouse near the end of this month.

Tuberous begonias, on the other hand, are showy, large-flowered plants and we're planting our own begonias tubers here in the greenhouse right now. Tuberous begonias were also one of my mother's favourite flowers.

If you'd like to start your own tuberous begonias, now is the time to visit us. Come in and browse our selection of begonia tubers, and bring home some of your favourites.

Generally, we recommend starting tuberous begonias indoors 12-14 weeks before you plan on transplanting them outside. This means that February is the ideal time to be planting them inside for them to be ready in the spring.

When starting your begonias inside, heat and light are essential. My father used to start our begonias in the house on top of the hot water register beside a south window. He added an 8 foot fluorescent light that was on 24 hours a day. These days, I recommend a heating mat and some full spectrum grow lights (sold here in the greenhouse).

This heat and light will allow your the begonias to grow thick and vigorously before the spring. They will be a sight to see in your garden, and—if given plenty of light now—will survive in even the shadiest of spots in the summer.


~Jim Hole

p.s. An updated, complete list of all of our organic, heirloom, and/or non-GMO seeds is now available on our website. Click here to see it and to start planning your garden.