About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bouquets for Friday May 30th

A few more local flowers are available but I'm still using commercial chrysanthemums, carnations and asters to fill things out. Today's flowers included forced lilies, 'Miss Kim' lilac, clustered bell flowers, Shasta daisies, alliums, iris and columbines. One lucky person got a peony and a couple bouquets also had some dianthus (Sweet William). If you got flowers today they probably looked like one of these. I thought they all turned out quite nice.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In 1991 I went to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania over Memorial Day weekend to go river rafting. The rafting was fun and there was great hiking through areas surrounding the river filled with rhododendrons and mountain laurel. It rained quite a bit for a couple days so we went to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, which turned out to be the highlight of the entire trip. Near the end of the tour we walked outside through a trellis covered walkway from the house to the guesthouse. A huge white wisteria was trained on the trellis and hundreds of white wisteria blossoms hung through the trellis over our heads. I thought it was one of the most stunning things I had ever seen.

In 2000 I moved to house on a one acre lot in Ypsilanti Township and that trellis was one of the effects I wanted to create at the new house. In 2002 we built the first section of what would eventually be a 5 section pergola in front of the house and planted a white Wisteria floribunda on one corner. The wisteria is 'Snow Showers' and came from Carroll Gardens.

Wisteria are notorious for taking years to begin blooming. There are all kinds of suggestions on the web about what you should try to make it start blooming - root pruning, don't fertilize, threaten to cut it down - but from what I can see you just have to wait. This one poked along for the 7 years until it finally produced 4 blossoms this year (you can see a couple of them in the picture). Based on my experience with the wisteria I planted at my last house, now that it has started, it should begin blooming more profusely each year.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Conditioning Lilacs

I had read that to get lilacs to hold after cutting the stems should be scraped and split and the placed in hot water. I tried this treatment for the past couple years and found that the lilacs were usually wilting within a day.

This year I returned to where I had read this advice in the first place - Carolyne Roehm's A Passion for Flowers. It turned out I had not read the fine print carefully enough. Miss Roehm specifies the water should be between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and I had used hot water from the tap which turned out to be only 110 degrees. I decided to split the difference and place the lilac stems in water that was heated to 135F. I left them there a few hours until the water had cooled. Be warned that this water is hot enough to brown any actual lilac flowers that get in the water, so make sure only the stems are placed in the hot water.

The additional 25 degrees appears to make a difference because the lilacs seem to be holding better this year, ususally 4-5 days. For my customers this is unfortunately only 3-4 days because the flowers are conditioned a day before they are delivered, but the results are encouraging.

Bouquets for Monday May 26th

Still using commercial chrysanthemums, stocks and carnations to fill out the bouquets. The local flowers include forced lilies, columbines, alliums, iris, shasta daisies, trollius and clustered bellflower. Most of today's bouquets looked something like the ones below. I thought they came out pretty nice.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bouquets for Friday May 23rd

Still using lots of commercial flowers and probably will next week, too. Most of tomorrow's flowers look like the ones below. The local flowers include all the iris and lilies (most of which are not open in these pictures), as well as bleeding hearts, alliums and eunomyous foliage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bouquets for Monday May 19th

This is the time of year I keep complaining about when I always need to buy commercial flowers to make the bouquets look nice. Monday's bouquets looked something like these. I grew the lilies, iris and solomon's seal and the carnations, asters and chrysanthemums are commercial flowers. I think these bouquets looked quite a bit nicer in real life and will look better by Tuesday or Wednesday as more of the lilies and iris open.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Syringa (Lilac)

Like most garden geeks, I get seasonal obcessions with different plants. Usually this is when the plants are blooming. For example, this year I already had a little daffodil obcession where I was pawing through all my catalogs looking at ALL the different daffodils I could and should be growing. I don't usually go nuts for tulips so the next one to set in this year was lilacs.

I planted several lilacs a few years ago but they are still too small to yield flowers for cutting, so I rely on friends to let me cut their lilacs for Good Scents bouquets. This year I have had good success getting lilacs to hold after cutting. In the past they often pooped out in one or two days and this year they have looked pretty decent for 4-5 days. My own lilacs are about a year or two from reaching the size where I can cut from them freely so naturally I began thinking it was time to get even more.

I wanted to add more colors and hopefully some later blooming varieties but a quick tour of area nurseries revealed very few available kinds. Apparently everyone now wants 'Miss Kim', a dwarf Korean lilac. I have 'Miss Kim' and it is nice, but I was looking for older varieties bred to have huge flower trusses, double flowers, and so on. I decided to visit Gee Farms and came home with the following varieties: 'Pocahontas', 'Beauty of Moscow', 'Sensation', 'Miss Canada' and 'Marie Frances'. 'Miss Canada' is a Preston hybrid lilac which blooms a couple weeks later than the others and is still in bud. Gee's had several others I also wanted - 'President Lincoln', 'Charles Joly', 'Yankee Doodle' - but I have to draw the line somewhere.
'Beauty of Moscow', 'Marie Frances'' and 'Sensation' are pictured below.

Now that I have my new lilacs, the obcession has passed. I've now moved on to peonies and am trying to figure out where I can plant another 20 this fall.

Polygonatum odoratum (Varigated Solomon's Seal)

This Solomon's Seal is a nice shade plant that is mainly grown for its varigated archectural leaves. It flowers in mid-May, and the little pendant flowers are supposed to be fragrant but I have never really noticed that they are. The main attraction is the leaves.
P. odoratum grow to be about a 18-24 inches tall. They grow pretty well even in quite dense shade but will fill in much quicker in more sun. I bought a pot with maybe a dozen stems in it at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market in 2001. I separated each stem into a separate plant when I put them in and then divided the resulting clumps in the same way in 2006. They now fill an entire 100 square foot bed.

These are nice plants for cutting. The leaves are pretty in themselves and they bloom and are available to cut just in time to help with the May slow time (which is starting about now).

Peony 'Early Scout'

Here is a picture of peony 'Early Scout'. Early indeed!

Why Dandelions Are Hard to Kill

I pulled up a dandelion at the farm today and to my amazement the entire root came out in one piece - 36 inches long. You read stuff about how deep weed roots can go but I would not have believed it if I had not seen it.
Dano the cat thought it made an ideal toy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bouquets for Friday May 16th

This was the end of the tulips and daffodils until next year. I ended up combining colors in many of these bouquets that I really don't like putting together. However, sometimes I just have to make the best of what is available. To paraphrase our former Secretary of Defense, you go with the flowers you have, not the flowers you wish you had.

Many people got bouquets that looked something like this:

Ordinarily I am really fussy about never combining yellows with pinks, but I think I may have finally gotten the hang of how to condition lilacs so they last more than a day or two, so I decided to give them to nearly everyone.
The bouquets contained the same things as the last week or two - tulips, daffodils, bleeding heart, doronicum, trollius, lilacs and yews. A few also contained varigated solomon's seal. I'll post about that flower shortly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bouquets for Monday May 12th

I forgot to take any pictures to Monday's flowers. They still contained mostly tulips and daffodils but also lilacs, doronicum, trollius, and a few had yellow flowers from kerrias.

This is about the end of daffodil season - here are what is left:

The big one in the center is 'Gay Kybo'. Below it are 'Yellow Cheerfulness' and 'Cheerfulness'. Above and to the left of 'Gay Kybo' is another double 'Winston Churchill'. The single with the orange cup on the top right is 'Geranium' with 'Stratosphere' below it.

Dicentra and Brunnera

Here is a picture of that famous "plant marriage", pink Dicentra spectabilis and blue Brunnera macrophylla.
This combination is actually an accident in my garden, the Brunnera seeded itself there.

Stuff Around My House

Things are looking pretty nice around here. Here are a couple pictures of the Golden Full Moon Maple (Acer shirishiwana 'Aureum') I got from Gee Farms a few years ago. It was fairly expensive - probably around $80 at the time - but it has done very well here under the shade of our hickories.

Here are three viburnums which are starting to swallow up the shed. When I put them in several years ago it was hard to imagine they would get this big so fast. They were all quite small when I put them in. All three came from Lowe's or Home Depot so they couldn't have been very large when I got them. I've been gardening long enough to know better - maybe I can move the shed.

The one on the right is a Viburnum plicatum tomentosum but I forget if it is 'Shasta' or some other cultivar. The one in the middle is Viburnum lantana 'Mohican' and the little one on the left is Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Newport'. The ones on the left and right are both "double file" viburnums but only the 'Shasta' actually has flowers in double file rows on the branches. 'Newport' has white ball like flowers but they are still green right now.

These are European ginger plants I bought at Project Grow's plant sale in 1999 or so and brought to the new house in 2000. I really love this stuff. It thrives in shade and I think the glossy round leaves make a great counterpoint to hostas. Native plant snobs will be stuck with the North American counterpart which I don't find nearly as nice.

This is a picture of a Shooting Star - Dodecatheon meadia - growing in front of some Virginia bluebells. Both of these plants go dormant shortly after flowering but the surrounding hostas cover them up so I never even notice.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cutting Peonies

Peony season is coming up - in fact I cut my first peonies yesterday! I have a couple very early single peonies that sometime open as early as the first of May. One is a dark red called 'Early Scout' and the other is a creamy yellow, kind of a beige, called 'Rushlight' (pictured below). 'Early Scout' is a hybrid with the fern leaf peony and is quite short - maybe 18 inches tall. 'Rushlight' is also some kind of hybrid but is about 3 feet tall.

I bought a bunch of very early and late peonies when I started growing cut flowers because I wanted to ensure a full season of bloom. Then I learned that you can store peonies in the fridge for weeks so there is not much point in growing the late ones.

When to Cut
Peonies are supposed to be cut while still in the bud. This is sometimes called the "marshmallow stage" because the bud should feel soft but firm like a marshmallow. This usually is when the color is showing but the petals have not started to open. This phase does not last very long so you need to check every few hours if you want to catch it just right.

There are two advantages to cutting at this time. First, if you put the flowers directly into a vase they will last the longest time because they will be in the vase when they open. If you cut at the right time they usually open the next day.

The second advantage is that you can wrap the the flowers in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and store them in the refridgerator and then bring them out to bloom later. I have held them for more than a month this way. They should be tightly wrapped, but leave a couple inches of the stems exposed. when you want to use the stored peonies, unwrap them and cut a half inch off the stem, place them in water and they should open in a few hours.

How Much to Cut
When cutting peonies, you can either cut about one third of the flowers on the bush and take most of the stem, or you can cut all the flowers if you only take about a 10-12 inch stem. I usually do a few of each. The point is you need to leave enough foliage on the plant to not set it back for the following year.

Platycodon shoots

Here are those late emerging balloon flowers I mentioned a while back. They really do look like little asparagas shoots.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bouquets for Friday May 9th

Still working primarily with tulips and daffodils but a few other things are now available. I used bleeding hearts for the first time today. all the "cool" colored bouquets also contained lilacs. Lilacs don't hold that long as cut flowers but most people are happy to get them because of the scent. Most of todays flowers looked something like these:

A few of the bouquets also contained Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebells). These are not the greatest cut flowers - they drop petals and sometimes wilt - but almost no other blue flowers are available at this time of year so they're nice to use.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bleeding Hearts and Doronicum

Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) is starting to bloom well and I wanted to include a couple pictures.

Doronicum (Leopard's Bane) is also in full bloom now. Here is a picture of some growing through support mesh:

Bouquets for Monday May 5th, 2008

Monday's flowers were probably the nicest I have ever done for this time of year. They were similar to last Friday's, but contained more double tulips. Most of them looked something like these:

Pretty much the same flowers as Friday - daffodils, tulips, forsythia, appleblossoms. About a third of the bouquets also contained some hellebores, which you can see in the pink bouquet above in the lower right. A few (though not the yellow and red one above) also contained Doronicum orientale (Leopard's Bane).

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bouquets for May 2nd, 2008

One of the many advantages of living across the street from a freeway are the dozens of wild crabapples growing in the easement. I used lots of crabapple branches from these trees in the "cool" colored bouquets for Friday. About 2 out of 3 Friday customers received bouquets that looked something like this:

There were also "warm" bouquets using yellow, orange and red tulips but I didn't take any pictures.
Some of the bouquets also contained twigs from fragrant viburnum:

These viburnums have a spicy, sweet fragrance that you can smell across the yard when they're in bloom. There are a bunch of fragrant viburnums - I think most of them are hybrids of the Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii). The one above is Judd's Viburnum (Viburnum x juddi) and I have another hybrid called 'Mohawk', as well as a Viburnum carlesii. The bloom is a little staggered because of their different genetics or where they are in the yard, so the spicy scent is floating around here for a couple weeks even though each plant only stays in bloom for a few days.