Plant Now: Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a rhizomatous perennial with nodding white bell-shaped flowers in spring. The flowers are highly perfumed, adding a delicious fragrance to indoor displays.

The trouble is, these plants are not that freely available here. I suggest searching for them on the internet, or try Maple Glen Nursery in Southland.

You can find a rose-blushed version too, from Ashton Glen and Wake Robin Nurseries.

Plant in fertile, free-draining soil in part shade. These are woodland plants, so avoid full sun. Water well after planting, then water as needed throughout the growing season. Adequate moisture is not usually an issue here with our wet winters.

Gunny Sack Garden helps ChildFund

Ahead of Mother’s Day, international aid organisation ChildFund NZ is encouraging Kiwis to participate in a fun family gardening activity that also promises some delicious food for thought – making a Gunny Sack Garden. These upcycled gardens are environmentally friendly and promise nutritious homegrown food.

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Plant Now: Daffodils

daffodils yellow dress
Have you planted your daffodils yet? Now’s the time to do so. Late autumn, when the soil starts to cool down, is the ideal time to get daffodil bulbs in the ground.

When choosing bulbs, big is best. Smaller bulbs may not flower the first season. The bulbs should be clean and free from any blemishes, or you may find they’ll do nothing but rot. Feel them to ensure there are no soft spots.

In warmer areas place them in the fridge for a few weeks before planting to ensure bud initiation.

Plant bulbs in free-draining soil in sun. If the ground is too wet, particularly during summer when the soil is warm, bulbs may rot. Plant daffodils so the base of the bulb is about 15cm below the soil surface, or in light soils 20cm deep.

Daffodils are not heavy feeders. Fork in some bulb food before planting, then once again as the leaves begin to emerge – and that’s it until the flowers die down. After flowering, the bulbs begin to store food for the following season, so this is the most important time to feed and water.

Top image is from Bridal Musings; Image second from bottom is from Lock Cottage Flowers.

Plant Now: Pasque flower

The pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) has fairly short stems (20cm high) but they’re ideal for posies and small vases. However, the longer they remain in the garden, the longer the stems grow, and they continue to grow once the flowers have finished. The flower heads eventually turn into fluffy seed heads which are attractive in themselves. Both flowers and seed heads can be picked for the vase.

The pasque flower grows best in dry soils and rock gardens, so make sure you plant yours in a free-draining spot. It will grow in full sun to part shade, and in the right spot will self-sow. But to start yours off, sow seeds in small pots in autumn for transplanting in early spring. You often find seeds on TradeMe, or plants can be found at Wake Robin and Parva Plants in various colours.

Spring anemones

If you haven’t already, you can get your winter/spring anemones planted now. Gosh, I love these plants. They are one of my absolute favourite flowers, and year after year they give me loads and loads of pretty blooms – all from such tiny, ugly bulbs (actually corms). They continue to flower for two to three months (sometimes longer), and last for about seven days in the vase.

To break dormancy and encourage germination and good flower production, place corms in the fridge prior to planting (six weeks). Then soak for a few hours in tepid water before planting out in full sun in compost-enriched soil. The bulb packet should indicate how to plant them, but for the record, plant anemones with the corms pointy side down.

These bulbs are gluttons for food. Feed with a general purpose fertiliser once a month and keep well watered. They will continue to flower if you do this, so you will have lots of blooms to pick for indoors. The corms do sometimes produce flowers the following year, but it’s best to plant fresh ones each year.

Corms are in shops now, or look to specialist mailorder nurseries such as NZ Bulbs.

Plant Now: Japanese anemones

Round about this time of year (early autumn) you can always rely on Japanese anemones to make an appearance. Even if nothing else is in bloom – or looking tatty and tired after the summer heat – these pretty flowers pop up like clockwork. I love them. Some folks don’t, as they have a tendency to wander, but mine are extremely well behaved. They stay put in the spot allocated to them.

Mine are in bloom now (white, pale pink, single hot pink, and double-flowered hot pink), so you can bet they will be in the shops too. Buy a couple of different varieties if you want regular blooms each autumn. They are ideal for a shaded spot, though they will bloom in sun too.

These plants die down over winter, so don’t think you’ve killed them off. They are super hardy plants. They’re just going into winter dormancy. Leaves will reappear in spring.

Plant Now: Cornflowers

Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) are old faithfuls in the cut flower garden, producing blue, white or pink flowers in spring and summer. They’re hardy annuals, so seeds can be sown now (autumn) to grow on through winter, or early spring. Plants sown now will have time to establish before the cold weather sets in and be bigger and taller when it comes to flowering. They will also flower weeks earlier than if you sow seeds in spring, though don’t dismiss spring sowing; I do both.

You can either sow your seeds directly into the ground in a sunny spot or sow them in trays for transplanting later. Keep them watered while growing. You may like to insert stakes as well. A heavy downpour will flatten the tall stems.

When it comes to flowering, pick regularly to ensure the blooms keep coming.

The image second from bottom comes from Chocolate Bowls blog. The bottom image comes from here.

Plant Now: Zinnias

zinnia bouquet
Everyone loves zinnias – at least, everyone whom I come across does. They are such vibrant flowers and superb cut flowers, and they flower for weeks on end. The only hiccough is the leaves can get powdery mildew in humid areas. Other than that, they’re easy-care.

Head to your garden centre and you’ll find zinnias in the potted colour section, or in multiple seedling packs. Plant in a sunny spot in the garden and feed and deadhead regularly for a continuous supply of blooms. If you do that, your zinnias will flower right throughout summer and autumn.

If you want to grow your zinnias as cut flowers, snip off the centre flowers when plants are about 40cm high (do this on regular zinnias, not bedding, or dwarf, zinnias). This encourages the plants to branch low and produce taller stems.

Top image via Wedding Chicks

Stunning winter blooms

winter-3winter-1This stunning winter shoot focuses on colour – rich red ranunculi and tulips, bronze cymbidium orchids, the fuzzy bronze leaves of evergreen magnolia, and dried seed heads. I love it! And I’m pretty sure I could replicate this bouquet with flowers and magnolia leaves from my own garden. All I need to do is plant some red tulips and I’ll have it. Though I’d have to buy in the roses for winter, of course.

This stunning photo shoot can be seen over at 100 Layer Cake.

Win a box of seedlings


Want to win a box of seedlings? Head over to my other website, Sweet Living, for your chance to win.

Awapuni Nurseries are giving 2 lucky readers (in New Zealand) the chance to win six seedling bundles (a mix of herbs, vegetables and flowers  – more than 40 seedlings). It’s such a great prize.

I really like Awapuni Nurseries’ concept. All their seedlings are packaged in either recycled newspaper or biodegradable pots. You’ll find them in supermarkets and Bunnings nationwide, or you can easily order online (see their website here).

In the meantime, enter the draw to win. Click through to Sweet Living for your chance to win.