← Go Back

Hort Chat – January 19th, 2011

Home of Lauren Bromberg

Joan Sargent was back in fine form to celebrate the most snow we’ve ever had in Connecticut. Nonetheless, there were about 13 participants, wearing parkas, boots, gloves, hats slipping into Lauren’s house to enjoy a cozy fireside chat next to her potbellied stove.

The first subject was Jane Wappler’s solution to getting amaryllis to bloom yet again after their first Christmas. This of course presumes you want yours to bloom again and liked them the first time, a feeling not universally held by all in the room:

1. Cut the flowers off after they wilt. Leave the leaves to develop further. Fertilize with Osmocote after it flowers.

2. Water until the leaves wilt and yellow.

3. Leave the leaves, wilted and yellow, on the bulb and put the bulb on its side under a shrub pot outside. Do not water.

4. In September or October, bring it into the house, but off the dead leaves and stringy roots and repot in soil in a small pot.

5. Start watering and watching.

6. Jane says you can keep them reblooming for 5 years.

The first Hort Chat topic was begrudgingly addressed by Joan at the behest of Susan Rein. Joan is not crazy about house plants and was not enthusiastic to talk about their diseases, but we gave it a shot.

Jane Gamber of course has no diseases on her philodendron or schliffera so you can just go with those.

If you do get the nasty sticky diseases of the spider mites, there were various offers of what to do:

– Safers Soap wash is good for most things

– Encase the plant in questions in a plastic laundry bag for a week

– Schultz spikes will kill most vermin on house plants systemically

– Spray outside plants with water or use Hort oil when you bring plants in from the outside

– Joan Sargent says jasmine doesn’t get bugs inside

– Joan also had an inside bay tree, which died suddenly after 20 years on the job. She put it outside where it spent the winter, alone and frozen. In the spring, it experienced a resurrection at Easter for some unknown reason, perhaps religious in nature.

A variety of people said they don’t have house plants: Anita Gilbert, Diane Beck, Alice Parker who thinks the heat is not good for plants.

Joan offered up a story of violets at the New Canaan Inn, which is not a hospitable climate for them. The flower committee tricked the residents a little by taking away the dying ones and replacing them with new bloomers. It seemed no one knew the difference anyway and they all enjoyed the violets.

Mary Talia has lots of house plants, keeping them in a southeastern exposure. She throws them away if they get diseases or insects, thinking it is futile to try to cure them inside. She says wax begonias are good as are violets. The violets don’t like to get wet in their leaves. She fertilizes them once a week.

Fran O’Neil has lots of house plants and no trouble with pest or disease. She waits until they are very dry before watering them.

Caroline Garrity has orchids that last 5 months in bloom but she can’t get them to rebloom. Sheila will be giving a workshop on this topic soon.

Joan then took up the real topic at hand – small flowering trees (25 feet and lower). She also brought the original plans for her yard, drawn up by Freda Stege in 1959. They weren’t in bad shape by the way. Joan Sargent thinks flowering crabs are great. You can keep them to 6 feet if you prune them. She has ones in her yard that were planted in 1959 which are still going strong today after 52 years, They may get rust if you don’t spray them but the spray will keep the birds away. They can defoliate in the summer but will do well with little or no sun. Look at Twombly’s book for good information on local blooming trees.

Diane Beck prunes her flowering crabs every winter just like apple trees.

Alice Parker spoke about the amelanchier trees in the Lambert Triangle. The three Robin Hill ones didn’t do well long term. Two of the three died suddenly which is not unusual. She thinks “Prince William” is a good one, as is “Princess Diana.” These can get to 25 feet. Alice also likes the native Canadensis.

Joan Sargent mentioned her highly recommended catalogue from Fairweather Nursery in New Jersey. They sell sassafras trees which can get to 30 feet. They have green trunks and lots of suckers. Their leaves are like mittens and have a spicy fragrance. In the fall, they have all the colors at once. They are very sefl-sufficient and can be used for tea if you run out in the house.

Alice Parker has a Carolina silver bell (halesia) which she says is good to bloom for at least a week. It has seed pods all year.

Joan will be giving a talk on hellebores in the early spring. Look for that event to appear in your e-mail. She’s going to do it at her house where she has gazillions of those hellebores in many many varieties. Everyone in the horticulture group seems to be growing them now after Joan’s proselytizing.

Signing off for now is your Hort Chat committee, Joan S and Susan Rein