Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best of the Specialty Catalogs 2011

B&D Lillies
'Raspberry Swirl' (above)

The premiere source for asiatic, oriental and trumpet lillies in the US and maybe the world is B&D Lillies. The company's catalog is eye candy for any gardener at this time of year. They have been a family-owned business since 1978 and I can attest to the quality of their products. For something completely different check out the new asiatic 'Yellow Hornet'.

Caladium World

Caladium World is the granddaddy of them all when it comes to caladiums. I have not used the company but I'm impressed by the fact they sell, on most varieties, three different grades of bulbs. So you get what you pay for. The only downside I see is the minimum order is ten bulbs of each variety. But what's interesting is they suggest planting three of one variety of a lower grade close together to get the impact of a jumbo or top grade bulb. So with that strategy you're only getting three "plants" which makes ten a more manageable number for the smaller garden.

One big tip from my experience, DO NOT PLANT caladiums corms "(bulbs) until the soil is very warm even in containers. Growing from corms will always outperform plants. Around here don't think of it before May 15 or even later. That reason is why you don't see as much of them as their beauty deserves. The best I've seen around here were out front on Tommy Bahamas on the Country Club Plaza. The containers were warmed by direct sun but the plants were protected by a canopy. We all will never have the same situation but we can learn from the example.

Another lesson learned, you don't need to go to Florida for corms. The variety used outside of Tommys' was the good old white and green standby 'Candidum' which is readily available at garden centers. That's what I'll be using in my north facing windowbox and I'm not starting them until June 1. But if you're looking for something extra special, go to Caladium World.

The people at Powell Gardens reported last year that White Wing is incredibly sun tolerant. Let me know if you find the same thing.

King's Mums

When most Americans think about mums the vision in their head is of this obligatory mound of button size blooms. But almost everybody else in the world thinks about an elegant cutflower that comes in many different colors and forms. I developed great respect for chrysanthemums as an Australian school kid. In the same suburb of Sydney that I went to middle school, there was a man who would send over his exhibition blooms via air to the greatest flower show on earth, the Chelsea Flower Show in England. It captured my imagination to think of a man who strove for excellence halfway around the world. So you can see how my respect for mums came at a very early age.

Some Americans are familiar with Football Mums. The tradition of using softball-sized varieties started in Texas at homecoming games when they were used as a corsage. (I did mention this was Texas, didn't I?). This tradition spread through the South and you can still find Football Mums in use today. My bold assumption is this tradition remained in the South where the growing season was long enough to create these whopping sized mums.

I used King's Mums as a teenager when I was exhibiting in shows. The only issue I had was I was selecting some varieties that matured too late in the season for this area. You'll see in the King's Mums catalog today, the days to maturity for each variety are clearly noted. The people at King's told me they have many loyal mid-western customers.

Pleasant Valley Glads
Miniature Glads Source

One of the biggest miscarriages of justice in gardening is the association of glads with funerals in this country. Gary Adams with Pleasant Valley shared with me that up until the 60's, glads were the #1 selling wholesale flower even above roses. Gary thinks the market bottomed out and the glads were so cheap that florists made a lot of money using them and they looked great in big arrangements. But perception often becomes reality in no short order. So I'm not going to slay the funeral flower dragon.

But I'm going to make a pitch for miniature glads. Imagine 1 1/2" florets with for an example 7 open buds and 22 total buds and everyone will flower if kept in water. They look great in summer bouquets. Plant some every 10 days to get flowers through the summer.

Swan Island Dahlias

Dahlias have always been one of my favorite cutflowers along with zinnias. Roses are out of the picture since I surrendered to blackspot. (I miss you Double Delight). SID is the largest dahlia supplier in this county. The color catalog is of the highest order dramatically showing each of its 350 varieties. It's been a family-owned business for over 75 years. I ordered from Swan Island Dahlias when I was a teenager and loved the final product.

Ordering new dahlias is a pricey proposition. So this year, due to the space limitations, somehow I'm limiting myself to only two tried and true varieties that also make excellent cutflowers. 'Bride to Be' is a 4" sized waterlily flower type on compact plants with a height of 3 1/2'. And with the beguiling name of 'Voodoo', this almost black/dark red sports 5" flowers on a 4 1/2' bush.

One big tip for successful dahlia growing from SID : DO NOT WATER dahlias after planting until the first shoot breaks the soil. Biggest way to rot your tubers, I presume.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always think it is funny that it is recommended that you not water your dahlia tubers until they sprout above the soil. Is it suggested that you take umbrellas out for your dahlia beds if it rains? I do heed the advice not to actually physically water the tubers just planted, but I have rain events and the dahlia tubers never flinched!!!