Ask Dr. Barb
More fun
Comment or question?

Plants for shade: Learn more at Hosta Society meeting Saturday  

The host 'Buckshaw Blue' (Courtesy iVerde)Tri-State Hosta Society meeting

Shade-loving hostas offer leaves in so many shades of green. Variegated types will have in touches of white, cream or yellow. Lush foliage makes hostas a garden splash in an assortment of shapes and sizes. 

Join the Tri-State Hosta Society as it begins 2017 with a Lunch 'n' Learn meeting at noon on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown.

Click to read more ...


Growing in water: Meet Leafy, my two-year-old pet amaryllis bulb

Second-year bloom on "Leafy," my indoor amaryllis bulb that has been kept alive on plain water since December 2014. The photo was taken on April 23, 2016. See current photo at bottom of post. Growing flower bulbs in water has become a hobby since we first began to experiment in December 2014 with bulbs of grape hyacinth (muscari) and three varieties of amaryllis. (Last year, we tried fragrant hyacinth.)

After they all flowered, there was the question of what to do with them. The small grape hyacinth bulbs were thrown into the backyard, and they bloomed the following spring wherever they landed -- without planting, pampering or care of any stort. As for the amaryllis bulbs, I had read that if you keep them in a cool, dry, dark place that there's a chance they can be forced into indoor bloom again.

Of my three amaryllis candidates, one wasn't in good shape (the much-photographed, red and white amaryllis 'Splash'). The largest and sturdiest, which previous posts and photos reveal was a 'Magnum' bulb, seemed a good candidate for saving over winter.

Click to read more ...


Water garden: Growing hyacinth indoors for fragrance and winter blooms

My blue bowl vase filled with fragrant hyacinths from bulbs grown on water.Spring hyacinth bulbs that I started in water weeks ago are now in full bloom in my living room.

They are filling the place with fragrance. I'm not sure if I like the fragrance, but the total sensory experience on the second snowy day this winter certainly brings a nice mood lift. It also helps that this hyacinth variety, 'Purple Sensation' is my favorite lavender.

This is the second year that I have grown spring bulbs indoors in vases with only water and marbles or stones.

The marbles or stones are placed in a vase or bowl with water added to just cover them. The bulbs are then set on top so their bottoms don't get wet. In glass vases and bowls you can see the roots grow, which makes this a fun project to enjoy with kids. Eventually, the rooted bulbs produce flowers.

The spring blulbs require a cold period, just as they'd have if they'd been properly planted outdoors in soil in the fall. 

I start the bulbs in my unheated basement, where they seem to be very happy, and then I bring them upstairs when they seem ready to flower.

So far, I've had success growing indoor flowers this way from bulbs for tulips (safe from the squirrels and the deer), amaryllis, grape hyacinth (muscari) and, this year, the full-size hyacinths shown.

There are several tulip varieties now well rooted in water in the basement, and I'll start more today to compare the difference in growth with those set on water several weeks ago.


Forcing hyacinths in water: Snowy day report 

Forcing hyacinth bulbs in water. These were set in the bowl on Dec. 22 Forcing spring bulbs in water was so much fun last year that I decided to do it again.

I had not planned the blow-by-blow progress posts this year, but I shoveled 8 inches of snow (I measured) from my driveway starting at 7:13 a.m. I  finished at 8:33 just so I could go for a little drive on the Union County roads I knew would be cleared.   

Now it's 12:24, I'm back home, and the scene from my window looks like I never shoveled at all. So, here is an update on my bulbs. 

On Dec. 22, I put hyachinth bulbs on marbles in my blue bowl/vase. I put them in my unheated  basement and covered them with very loosely woven burlap cloth. Over the weeks they developed the roots shown, and grew robustly without light. Last Monday (Jan 18), I decided to bring them upstairs because their tops were already touching the burlap and some leaves had dark tips. I wasn't sure if they were being injured by the fabric, so I took it off and put them in the usual place near a sunny living room window.

They've greened up nicely. Here's what they look like on a snow-covered day.  

Hyacinths being forced in water. They are shown above with one month's growth.



Indoor garden: forcing grape hyacinth (muscari) in water

Kimberly L. Jackson

My experiments with forcing spring flower bulbs in  water  began on Dec. 4, 2014 when I filled a round blue bowl-type vase about a third full with clear glass marbles, poured in enough water to cover the marbles, and set about two dozen of the small grape hyacinth (muscari) bulbs on top of them.


They were in my living room, which stays on the cooler side, between 55 to 60 degrees, as a little-used room. 


About five of the bulbs didn't sprout as quickly as the others, so I took those out and put four of them in a square vase with green marbles in the window of a sunny bedroom that was about 68 to 70 degrees on average.

Click to read more ...