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Pumpkins

Pumpkins

For many, pumpkins are associated with autumn, sweet desserts, and holiday festivities.

Pumpkins and other crops in the Cucurbitaceae family originated in Central America, where Native Americans would either roast and consume strips of pumpkin flesh, or dry the skins and weave them into mats. When European colonists arrived in the Americas, they prepared a dish believed to be a precursor of modern pumpkin pie. They cut the top off the pumpkin, removed the seeds, and filled the inside with milk, spices, and honey before baking it over hot ashes.

The popular tradition of pumpkin carving was derived from an Irish custom of carving jack-o’-lanterns out of turnips and potatoes, and placing an ember inside to ward off evil spirits. When Irish immigrants arrived in America in the 1800s, they brought this custom with them and applied it to pumpkins.

Today, pumpkins are a staple for fall decorations and recipes. Eating pumpkin provides numerous health benefits: they are high in fiber, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, B and C while being low in calories, fat, and sodium. Pumpkin is excellent in baked goods, soups, casseroles, pasta, and sauces. Cook with pumpkin throughout the year to support heart health and healthy blood pressure.

What is a Pumpkin?

As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, pumpkins are related to squash, cucumbers, and melons. Most varieties that we classify as pumpkins belong to the species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes varieties of winter squash, summer squash, zucchini, and gourds. These pumpkins are characterized by round fruit with a thick shell that has smooth, slightly ribbed skin and a deep yellow to orange color.

Some winter squash varieties from the species Cucurbita maxima (Jarrahdale, Turk’s Turban, and all giant pumpkins) and Cucurbita moschata (Long Island Cheese, Rouge Vif D’Etampes) are sometimes also considered pumpkins due to their similar appearance.

The diversity among varieties that are classified as pumpkins is incredible! With sizes ranging from 4 ounces to over 1,000 pounds, various unique shapes, and brilliant colors like orange, yellow, white, green, blue, gray, pink, and tan, there are endless opportunities to select the perfect pumpkin.

Choosing the Perfect Pumpkin

When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, it is best to choose a “pie pumpkin” which has dense, sweet flesh.  The sugars and lower moisture of these types hold up best in cooking. It is also easy to grow pumpkins for harvesting edible seeds. 

When selecting pumpkins for carving and fall decoration, choose varieties that suit your style! Traditional carving pumpkins are medium to large in size, deep orange, and lightly ribbed with a strong handle. 

Add additional interest to fall décor using miniature pumpkins with unique colors and patterns. Miniature pumpkins are typically less than 2 pounds and can be found in a variety of shapes and colors.

How to Grow Pumpkins

To have mature pumpkins for use in autumn, plant seeds between late May and mid-June after all risk of frost has passed. Seeds can be direct sown or started indoors and should be planted at a depth of 1” into well-drained soil that has warmed to 70°F. To ensure fruit set and yields, allow sufficient space between each plant. Give small pumpkins a 12 ft2 area, large pumpkins a 24 ft2 area, and giant pumpkins a 36-48 ft2 area per plant.

Pumpkins perform best when they are fertilized throughout the growing season and fruit set will be strongest if the flowers are pollinated by bees. If pumpkin flowers are not pollinated completely, the fruit will start growing but will abort before full development. To ensure a bountiful pumpkin harvest, encourage bees in your garden or pollinate the flowers by hand.

When the pumpkins have matured, the stem holding the fruit will begin to dry. Harvest the pumpkin by carefully cutting the vine on each side of the fruit stem, leaving a nub at the point where the stem meets the vine. This will encourage the stem to maintain strength as it dries down and will minimize infection by microbes that can cause decay.

To keep longer-lasting pumpkins, wash the fruits in a diluted bleach solution, allow them to dry, and place them in a cool shady spot after harvest. Then they’ll be ready to carve, decorate, or use in the kitchen.

As pumpkins grow in the garden it is incredible to observe the changes throughout the season, and rewarding to finish with a harvest of beautiful, versatile fruits. The uses of pumpkins in the garden and kitchen are limitless, so let your creativity bloom!

 

The information in the article has been provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau.

  • Kristin Ego
Plant Fall bulbs now for spring colour!

Plant Fall bulbs now for spring colour!

Fall is the time to think ahead to next spring if you want colourful Daffodils, Tulips, Crocuses and more to enjoy once the snow has left.

Hardy fall bulbs such as daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, crocus and snowdrop are spring flowering plants that must be planted in the fall. They are mostly native to mountainous areas of Europe and the near east — Spain, Turkey and Afghanistan. They actually need the dormant rest period of a long, cold winter. The melting snow and ice in early spring provide needed moisture as they start to grow and flower. Plant from September to December, even after the first frost if the ground can still be worked.


Planting
Bulbs can also be planted in individual holes. Dig a hole and sprinkle a tablespoon of a bulb fertilizer in the bottom of the hole. Place the bulb in the hole with the pointed end up.

Cover the bulb with soil and water thoroughly. A 5 cm layer of mulch on top of the bed will help prevent winter weeds, retain moisture and insulate against severe winter cold and temperature fluctuations.

Preparing a bed for fall planted bulbs
Prepare the bed - double digging will help to make a well-drained planting bed.
Condition the soil - Improve soil by adding three inches of peat moss and one inch of composted manure or a 3-in-1 soil mix. Then work into a depth of 30 cm. Add 1 kg bonemeal for every 92.9 m2 (1000 sq.ft.)
Plant — the sooner the better
Point bulb upward. Add sprinkle of blood meal or Actisol (with Hen Manure) to deter squirrels from stealing bulbs.

Add 2-5 cm of mulch.

After spring flowering the foliage must be allowed to remain to soak up sunshine and replenish the stored energy in the underground bulb. Only the flowering stems should be removed. In a few weeks, the foliage withers and dies down. This is the plant's natural defense against the too hot summer sun in its original habitat.


Replanting your flower bed with summer annuals gives you the opportunity to use more bone meal which, with its high phosphorous content, is beneficial to both the new planting and the bulbs.


2022 PW Gardener's Idea Book

2022 PW Gardener's Idea Book

Need a little inspiration to get planning for the coming gardening season?

Proven Winners has published their 2022 Gardener's Idea book to give you some inspiration for spring...

Download your copy here

  • Kristin Ego
A Very Peri Garden

A Very Peri Garden

As part of a yearly tradition renowned across several design-centric and creative industries, Pantone has announced that Very Peri will be its 2022 Color of the Year. Each year's decision is based on comprehensive trend analysis and a specific theme

"Encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time possessing a violet-red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages courageous creativity and imaginative expression." 

Pantone's Color of the Year selections are intended to be reflections of the current moods, fashions and foremost concepts in the world at the time. In selecting Very Peri, Pantone VP Laurie Pressman says "The Pantone Color of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer.  Creating a new colour for the first time in the history of our Pantone Color of the Year educational colour program reflects the global innovation and transformation taking place."

Looking to add Very Peri plants to your garden this year?  We have rounded up a few suggestions that will incorporate this trendy colour into your landscape...

 

Clockwise from top left:  Iris siberica 'Ruffled Velvet', Geranium 'Rozanne', Clematis 'Happy Jack Purple', Lavander 'Sweet Romance', Pulmonaria 'Spot On, Nepeta 'Cat's Pajamas', Buddleia 'Lavender Cupcake', Phlox 'Crater Lake', Lilac 'Scentara Double Blue', Perovskia 'Sage Advice'

Photos courtesy of Proven Winners and Walters Gardens.


 

 

  • Kristin Ego
Year of the Lilac

Year of the Lilac

Lilacs are among the most carefree spring-flowering, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrubs (or small trees), well-loved for their toughness, reliability, and fragrance.

Overview and History

Clusters of small, four-lobed flowers are borne in conical to narrow pyramidal clusters (panicles) up to eight inches long that stand out from the green heart-shaped leaves.

Carl Linnaeus first described the lilac genus, Syringa, in 1753. The name is derived from the ancient Greek word syrinx, meaning pipe or tube. The stems of the common lilac have a spongy pith that can be removed, leaving hollow tubes that were used to make pan-pipes.

Syringa vulgaris, the common (vulgaris) lilac, originated in southeastern Europe; other species came from Western Asia. The French imported lilacs and developed many new varieties that made their way to North America.

Lilac blooms go far beyond every imaginable shade of lilac/purple from very pale to very dark. Look for lilacs in hues of red, pink, blue, yellow, cream and white—even picotee (white-edged, deep purple ‘Sensation’). The color may change from bud to bloom and as the flowers mature. Individual flowers can be single or double.

Lilacs originated in Eastern Europe and Asia and were brought to America in the 17th century |Year of the Lilac | National Garden Bureau

Lilac Species

There are about 30 different species of lilac. Among the best-known and prized lilacs are:

  • Syringa x chinensis Chinese Lilac – Grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Rose-purple flowers. Susceptible to powdery mildew.
  • Syringa x hyacinthiflora – Early Flowering Lilac – Grows 10 to 12 feet high and wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Exquisitely fragrant flowers may be single or double, opening 7 to 10 days before those of the common lilac. Unlike other lilacs, the foliage has multi-season interest, turning shades of gold, red, or purple in fall. Resistant to powdery mildew. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. ‘Pocahontas’ panicles are packed with fragrant, single, rich violet flowers.
  • Syringa josikaea – Hungarian Lilac – Grows 8 to 10 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 5. Late-blooming with deep lilac-purple, slightly fragrant flowers.
  • Syringa laciniata – Cutleaf or Feathered Persian Lilac. Grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Heat tolerant—hardy from Zones 4 to 8. Can grow in partial shade. Very unique looking with airy, finely textured foliage—lacy, deeply cut, dark green leaves that turn yellow-green in fall. Loose panicles of fragrant, soft lavender flowers are borne on willowy, arched branchlets.
  • Syringa pubescens patula (Syringa patula) ‘Miss Kim’ – Manchurian or Korean Lilac. Slow-grower reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. Heat tolerant—hardy from Zones 3 to 8. Late flowering, with purple buds that open to very fragrant, lavender-blue blossoms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Three-season interest with burgundy-tinged leaves in fall.
  • Syringa meyeri – Meyer or Korean Lilac – Grows 5 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Fragrant, pale lilac to violet-purple flowers bloom in small, dense clusters that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Syringa persica – Persian Lilac – Grows 4 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 4. Intoxicatingly fragrant, showy, pale violet flowers attract butterflies.
  • Syringa x prestoniae Preston (Canadian) Lilac – Grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Late-blooming—two weeks or more after common lilacs. Exceptionally hardy—to Zone 2. ‘Miss Canada’ is upright, growing 6 to 12 feet tall and wide; reddish buds open to rosy pink flowers that attract butterflies. ‘Redwine’ grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide; magenta flowers with a spicy fragrance that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Syringa reticulata – Japanese Tree Lilac – Grows to 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Creamy white, upright flowers. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. ‘Snowdance’ grows 15 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 18 feet wide, producing a profusion of large clusters of fragrant, tiny, creamy-white blooms in early summer, followed by loose clusters of seed capsules that last into winter. Reddish-brown peeling bark completes the four-season interest.
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac – Grows 12 to 16 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3. Lilac-purple flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Shrubs are deer and rabbit-resistant. There are more than 600 cultivars of this species. Standouts include:
    • ‘Ludwig Spaeth’ – 6 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide, this sweetly perfumed, late bloomer bears dark purple flowers and is used in firescaping (landscape design that reduces house and property vulnerability to wildfire).
    • ‘Président Grévy’– 8 to 14 feet tall and 3 to 7 feet wide with fragrant, showy, light blue flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
    • ‘President Lincoln’ – 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, this heirloom cultivar was introduced in 1916 and is considered one of the bluest lilacs with its fragrant panicles of lavender-blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
    • ‘Sensation’- 8 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide with outstanding fragrant, single, white-edged purple (picotee) flowers.

Lilacs can grow for 100+ years, often outliving the homes they were planted around | Year of the Lilac | National Garden BureauNew and Unique Lilac Varieties

Has It All: 

  • Syringa x ‘Josee’ – Not only is it small and a rebloomer, but it also has one of the widest hardiness ranges of any lilac—from Zones 3 to 9! Slowly growing into a 4- to 5-foot mound, highly fragrant, lavender-pink, large flower clusters bloom heavily in spring and continue to blossom sporadically through summer, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Heat Tolerant: 

People living in Hardiness Zone eight, especially those who have lived in cooler areas and have treasured having lilacs in their gardens, can now enjoy all the virtues of lilacs thanks to breeders who have worked on heat and humidity tolerance to Zone 8.

  • Blue Skies® quickly grows to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with both cold- and heat-tolerance (Zones 3 to 8), this outstanding shrub with spectacular clusters of lavender-blue flowers can be used in firescaping and firewise gardens.
  • ‘Old Glory’ grows 8 to 11 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide with an abundance of fragrant, purple-blue flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds in Zones 5 to 8.
  • Syringa x sinensis ‘Lilac Sunday’ arches to 10 feet tall and wide, blooming profusely from lateral buds all along the stem as well as the typical branch tips with sweetly scented, lavender flowers. Hardy in Zones 3 to 8, it is used in firescaping.
  • Syringa x oblata ‘Betsy Ross’ grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Good hardiness ranges from Zones 2 to 8. Showy panicles up to 14 inches long packed with fragrant, pure white flowers that glow as the light fades at twilight. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Small Lilacs

Many gardeners, especially those in urban spaces, just don’t have the room for the traditional larger lilacs yet want all their beauty and fragrance. Breeders have been hard at work creating compact varieties. There’s no excuse now for not having the joy, fragrance, and beauty that lilacs bring in spring, these beauties will even grow will grow happily in a container on your balcony.

  • Baby Kim® is the smallest lilac, growing only 2 to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide, giving it a nicely rounded shape. Its shiny green leaves beautifully set off the non-fading, purple flowers that attract butterflies. Extended hardiness from Zones 3 to 8.
  • Little Lady™ (Syringa x) is a new compact introduction that matures to 4-5’ tall and wide with dark pink buds that open to lilac-pink flowers. Bred in Canada, Little Lady™ is hardy zone 2 to 7.
  • “New Age Lavender’ and ‘New Age White’ (Syringa vulgaris) are super-compact, growing from 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, and were bred for mildew resistance. Their names perfectly describe the colors of their fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Hardy to Zone 4.
  • Pearl Potion™ (Syringa meyeri) has an upright shape, growing 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. Fragrant, pure white flowers bloom in late spring perfuming the air like their big cousins. Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Pinktini™ Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae) is new in garden centers in Spring 2022. Upright, compact, and cold hardy to Zone 2, this new pink-blooming variety is great for small spaces and early-season blooms in cold climates. Pinktini™ is more compact and tidier than the classic ‘Miss Canada’ Lilac.
  • SCENTARA® lilacs (Syringa x hyacinthiflora) – This series is ideal for warm climates to Zone 8 and is hardy to the cold of Zone 2. With a dwarf form and some of the best fragrance from their parentage combined with good resistance to powdery mildew, they fit into any garden. Scentara Pura® grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, bearing deeply scented, pure purple flowers. Scentara® Double Blue grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide and is a showstopper with its large clusters of highly perfumed, lavender-blue, double flowers.
  • Sugar Plum Fairy® (Syringa vulgaris) grows to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Hardy from Zones 3 to 8, it’s a late bloomer bearing spicy scented clusters of rosy pink flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Tinkerbelle® grows to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Hardy to Zone 3, it’s a superb lilac with wine-red buds that open to deep pink flowers with a spicy fragrance that attracts hummingbirds.

Reblooming Lilacs

  • Syringa meyeri ‘Palabin’ Dwarf Korean Lilac is a spreading shrub that grows 4 to 6 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide, bearing reddish-purple buds that open to pale purple flowers with a jasmine-like scent. It flowers in spring and then from summer to frost., attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Cut back early flowers as soon as they fade. Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Bloomerang® Lilacs are outstanding reblooming lilacs with a profusion of stunning, sweetly scented clusters of star-like flowers in spring that seem to cover the plant and then rebloom less profusely from midsummer until the first frost. The fragrant flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators and are both disease and deer-resistant. Hardy to Zone 3. Bloomerang® Dark Purple grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide with dark purple flowers. Bloomerang® Dwarf Pink grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide with pure pink flowers. Bloomerang® Dwarf Purple grows like Bloomerang® Dwarf Pink, but with purple flowers. Bloomerang® Pink Perfume grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide with highly fragrant, pink flowers. Bloomerang® Purple grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide and bears purple flowers.
Purple colored varieties traditionally have the strongest scent | Year of the Lilac | National Garden Bureau

Lilacs in the Garden

Lilacs have myriad uses in the garden. In addition, new sizes, a wider range of growing zones, and reblooming characteristics make them attractive and accessible to gardeners who may not have thought about growing them in the past.

These plants are at home in so many types of themed gardens, including pollinator, butterfly, cutting, fragrance, cottage, deer-resistant, and single-color (white, purple) gardens. In Zone 8 other fire-prone areas, some are used for firescaping and firewise gardens. Lilacs are great in mass plantings in a flowering hedge, border, windbreak, foundation planting, privacy, or screening hedge. Lilacs of any size can be impressive specimen plants. These versatile shrubs are equally comfortable at the edge of a woodland garden or in an urban setting. In containers, small varieties are moveable accent plants. Lilac colors blend so well together, they are beautiful in a grouping or hedge of many different cultivars.

10 Lilac Planting Tips

  1. Most lilacs do well in Hardiness Zones 3 to 7—climates that provide a chill period in winter. 
  2. Lilacs grow best in full sun, so avoid planting them where they will be shaded for more than a few hours.
  3. Lilacs need good drainage and fertile soil. Soil should retain sufficient moisture to nourish the root system yet drain freely when rainfall is abundant.
  4. Test drainage before planting: Dig a hole 8 inches across and 12 inches deep. Fill it with water. If any water remains in the hole after an hour, choose another planting area.
  5. Lilacs love fertile, slightly alkaline soil. If your soil is very acidic, add garden lime in the fall.
  6. Choose a planting space that will allow for future growth. Read the plant label for the height and spread of the mature plant.
  7. Dig the planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
  8. Set the plant in the hole; it should be at the same soil level as it was in its container.
  9. Fill in around the sides with soil. Press it in firmly.
  10. Water well.

8 Lilac Growing Tips

  1. Water your lilacs regularly for the first couple of years—at least 1 inch of water a week.
  2. Apply granular organic fertilizer early each spring at the base of the plant. Water it in well. Buds are set the previous year, so the fertilizer feeds this year’s leaves and next year’s blooms.
  3. Annual pruning is not necessary, but cutting off spent flower heads within a month after bloom helps the plant set more flowers for next year.
  4. Cut back off root suckers as they appear to keep the common lilac from spreading into a colony.
  5. Rejuvenate an overgrown plant or one that blooms sparsely by cutting one-third of the oldest branches back to 12 to 15 inches from the ground. Do over a three-year period to refresh the plant without sacrificing blooms.
  6. Powdery mildew can be unsightly but generally does not harm the plant. You can make a spray of 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a gallon of water with a couple of drops of Ivory liquid. Spray it on the leaves, but not if the temperature is over 80°. The alkalinity of the solution helps to kill the fungus.
  7. Rake fallen leaves from around the plant in autumn. If you had powdery mildew or any disease, bag them and toss them in the garbage, otherwise add them to your compost pile.
  8. Anytime: Prune out any dead or broken branches from storm or winter damage.


This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau. 

 

  • Kristin Ego
Boughs, Berries and Branches!

Boughs, Berries and Branches!

It's just about that time... when the snow will be flying and we will say farewell to our fall planters, pumpkins and mums.

Here's a few ideas and tips before those pots of soil get tossed in the compost pile (or freeze solid in the pots!), there is time to re-dress them for the winter season.

Here are a few tips for the greenery conversion...

1 - Container arrangements of boughs and branches need a good solid base if they are going to stand up to winter conditions and hold branches in place.  For many planters, the root mass and soil from your summer/fall plants can work well.  Simply trim plants off at soil level.  This leaves a firm base to push boughs and branches into.  If you have already emptied your pots or have new ones to fill, a good base can be created with blocks of floral foam and heavy soil or sand for weight.  

2 - Once your base has been established, a variety of evergreen boughs can be selected to provide different colours and textures. Local and exotic greens suitable include varieties of Balsam and Fraser Fir, Red and White Pine, Eastern White and Western Red Cedar, Boxwood, Oregonia, Juniper and Incense Cedar. Evergreen boughs are usually cut  to size suitable to be proportional in the container.  When trimming your boughs, try to cut on an angle so you have a sharp point to push into the base.  Insert each bough firmly into the base so the arrangement will better handle winter winds, freezing rain and heavy or drifting snow.

3 - Dress it up!  Natural accents such as dogwood, curly willow, birch, berries and pinecones look suitable for the entire winter season.  Add a little glam for the Holidays with seasonal accents and ornaments.  Choose from traditional red and green, gold and silver metallic, or try the trendy newer colours such as blue with copper, rose gold and burgundy with champagne, or the ever popular natural colours of white birch with browns and greens.  In January, the overly glitzy bits can be removed and the remaining arrangement can continue to decorate your home until March.

  

Not sure you want to do it all yourself?  We have pre-made winter arrangements in a variety of styles and colours ready to decorate your porch for winter, as well as pre-greened pots ready for you to add your own personal accents :-)

 

  • Kristin Ego