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Re-blooming an old favorite

May 13, 2011
By H. JEAN SHIELDS, Special to The Breeze

The lovely Easter lily (Lillum Longiflorum) seems to be a good candidate for gardeners to move this regal flower out into the garden soil and let it rebloom.

A new garden soil home needs to be in a sunny place, with good drainage, and will need to be mulched. This flower, as many others, likes its roots to be cool.

An up North re-blooming spot needs the mulch to keep bulbs warm over winter.

After all the flowers have fallen off, give it a few days of indirect light and keep it watered.

Select the spot you want and loosen up the soil, making sure it will be draining well. Compost may be added if necessary.

The bulb goes into the soil at the same depth as it was in the pot. Add an inch or two of mulch.

The stalk will slowly turn brown and then you can cut it down to the ground. Now is the time to be patient. A second re-blooming will not happen until next year in June or July. In our climate if a new green stalk starts up right away, then there may be another blooming right away. Usually this does not happen.

A new growth of green leaves at ground level means you can give plant a little food, sprinkle some Osmacote around and dig in lightly. There's no guarantee flowers will come and if you only have a green leafy stalk, that is OK. Just cut it back when it dies down again.

I am going to try re-blooming mine. A task like this keeps gardening from getting so boring, as we buy and dig and buy and dig away, waiting for the rains to come.

There's no guarantee the rains will come in June.

Actually this whole gardening lifestyle does not have any guarantees except the fact that we are out there buying and digging around in the soil.

There does seem to be something calming and satisfying out in the garden as we also put in our sweat equity. A non-gardener just does not understand the give and take we gardeners have with the soil, bugs and satisfaction of pulling out yet another handful of weeds.

They do admire our beautiful results, but from afar, and that's OK by me. Too many hands in my garden are like too many cooks in the kitchen; unless, of course, I have a 2-inch stalk of a nuisance vine or another carottwood tree in my variegated Pittosporum bushes.

I finally did get all the queen palms fed, with the help of grandson Jeffrey. He has a knack for throwing things around, so he takes a bucket and away he goes, much faster than I ever go.

I was a little concerned last year when he said he was not weighing each bucket of palm food. He had his own idea of marking the inside of the bucket with a Magic Marker, thereby erasing one whole step of the process.

I have always used the old, old spring weighing machine that my dad used on his little farm, while feeding the chickens. I guess the Magic Marker idea would be considered progress.

A favorite container flower is the common purslane, Portulaca grandiflora. This is truly a hot summer plant. It is not exactly drought tolerant, however it does not need much watering. The fleshy leaves will produce a sage green matt with yellow flowers that bloom from now until late September. The flowers will close in the late afternoon and during rains.

The common purslane is often called the moss ross. Both of these are from the Portulacaceae family. The common purslane has the smaller and abundant yellow blooms, while the moss rose will have a weedier looking matted base of green with multi-colored, and larger blooms.

They both tolerate the heat and humidity of our area. They can be planted in the soil or into hanging baskets or containers and will flow down the sides in a short time.

I have mine in a bird bath that I did not want birds bathing in. It sets in the light shade of a palm tree all morning and gets full sun by noon. The lawn sprinklers swish by twice a week and that is fine. I do give it a good drink at first, but do not feed it until about a month. Just a little sprinkle of Osmacote, no mulch.

The greens can be cooked like spinach.

Wash and dry them and cook like spinach. You may have seen them at your favorite upscale restaurant and did not even know what kind of green you were

eating. I have not cooked any but the taste is supposed to be a light tangy taste.

The sunny marigold is an excellent choice for hot spots, as well as the low growing Portulaca. Firebush is very attractive and a stray hummingbird passing through our area will be attracted to its brilliant red flower tips.

I only grow tomatoes and bell peppers as far as veggies go, but it sure is great to pick off some cherry tomatoes, warm from the sun, and watch my green bells slowly turn a bright red.

Gardeners need to be wearing their sunscreen, hats and gloves. It is already more sunny than usual for this spring. Go out early and do all the sunny spots while you have some shade.

Evenings are maybe not too good a time. I have not had any of the love bugs around here, nor any mosquitoes, yet. But the evening hours can be pretty buggy.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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