Texas bluebonnets have begun to blossom along roadsides and are attracting bees in search of nectar, as seen last week in Temple, Tex. Texans say the bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland.
Spring-flowering bulbs defy gardener 'logic'
Logic can mislead gardeners. The care they give tulips, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs is a case in point.
By doing as logic suggests, generations of bulb growers have wasted fertilizer by applying it too late. Using logic again, they've blamed the lack of response on the bulbs themselves.
"Spring-flowering bulbs don't need extra fertilizer at flowering time, as perennials do. They don't need nutrients after flowering, as shrubs do when they're preparing next year's buds. In fact, during spring the only time the bulbs have roots that can actually absorb fertilizer is when they first emerge," said Ward Upham, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
When tulip and daffodil bulbs flower, their roots already are dead or dying.
"So you should feed them as soon as you see some green," Upham said. "That will give the bulbs as long as possible to take up nutrients to use in producing next year's flowers."
Poppy planters breaking the law
Among this season's best and brightest of plants in the new Thompson & Morgan catalog, there's a poppy called Pink Dawn.
But don't bother trying to order it, or seeds of any other Papaver somniferum, from the company. British seed house Thompson & Morgan has stopped selling seeds of opium poppies to its U.S. customers.
Its exclusion is the latest skirmish in the opium poppy war, in which U.S. gardeners who grow these cottage garden favorites are committing a federal crime.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it is illegal to grow or possess any part of opium poppy plants, above, except the seeds, which are available through other mail-order catalogs and in grocery stores.
Backing a new variety
A common gripe is that plants originating in America are not welcomed here until they are tinkered with and given approval by Europeans. Maybe so, but U.S. experts can't help approving if a new variety of rudbeckia turns out as well as photos suggest. A number of golden daisies inhabit the clan, most notably the black-eyed Susan.
The latest version comes from Thompson & Morgan (and this one's legal here in the states).
Rudbeckia "Chim Chiminee" has quilled petal tips and features shades of bronze, yellow, gold and mahogany.
The summer-blooming annual grows to 30 inches. One seed packet sells for $2.99. Call (888) 466-4769 for more information.