Extension Winter Gardening Packet--II
December 2, 2005
  • /Crop Sciences
December 1, 2005

Source: Susan Grupp (630) 653-4114 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Choosing Roses

Winter brings the season of red, at least in terms of flowers, says a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Red poinsettias, red carnations, and, yes, red roses will be in demand beginning with the holiday season and building to a crescendo at Valentine's Day," says Susan Grupp. "With roses, especially, it is important to be an informed consumer."

Most roses sold in the United States are grown either in Columbia or Venezuela, she notes. While both countries grow roses, Columbia might be better known for red roses and Venezuela for other colors. These roses are cut and flown primarily through Miami, Florida and then distributed to the stores that sell them.

"Today these stores not only include traditional florist shops but grocery stores, discount stores, and even gas stations," says Grupp. "Roses are everywhere; prices are everywhere, but not necessarily for the same rose."

Grading of roses comes both before and after they are harvested. First, at the grower's farm, the rose is put into one of three categories--Grade 1, a tight rose bud; Grade 2, the bud has begun to open; and Grade 3, open cut.

"Interestingly, the American market has a love affair with Grade 1," Grupp says. "Americans love 'rose buds,' but this is the hardest stage at which to guarantee the rose will open. In fact, if the bud is too tight, it may not open at all.

"What the American consumer might call a 'blown rose' is actually the fully developed or opened flower, as nature intended it. People in Russia love these opened roses, and the majority of roses sold there are Grade 3 roses from South America. What do they know that we don't?"

Interestingly, she adds, roses that are properly handled by the grower and the retailer will likely last the same amount of time for the consumer whether they are a Grade 2 or 3 rose and the Russian consumer will buy an opened rose and not a bud.

Beyond this initial grading, roses are then grouped by length. Centimeters are used, and the most common lengths are 40 cm, 50 cm, 60 cm, 70 cm, and 80 cm.

"Length dictates price because of the grower's effort needed to promote a longer stem," she says. "Also, special packaging must be used when shipping extra-long stems."

Color is another important factor in selecting roses.

"Men overwhelmingly buy red for gift-giving. But surprisingly, women just as overwhelmingly buy colors when they are buying roses for themselves," says Grupp. "So men aren't from Mars and women from Venus; they're from Columbia and Venezuela."

Valentine's Day rose shoppers should know that the price of the rose, wherever it's purchased, is strongly based on the length of the stem. And, purchasing a fresh rose with the bud slightly cracked open, instead of a tight bud, will help ensure that all the roses continue their full blooming cycle.

"Choose a rose with good color," Grupp recommends. "Avoid roses with blackened petals or wilted foliage. A good rose can be had at any price, depending on length, but the sentiment is always the same."


December 1, 2005

Source: Maurice Ogutu (708) 352-0109 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Pruning Tips for Raspberries

Winter's dormant season provides the best opportunity to prune raspberries, says a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Pruning is based on the growth and fruiting characteristics of different types of raspberries," says Maurice Ogutu. "Raspberry roots and crowns are perennial while the canes are biennial."

Ogutu suggests the following guidelines.

There are two types of red raspberries--summer-bearing and fall-bearing raspberries.

"For the summer-bearing red raspberries, remove the fruiting canes during the summer at ground level after harvest to prevent build-up of disease and to provide more space for primocanes to grow," he says. "During late winter or early spring before bud break, remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level, and leave the most vigorous canes, which are about one-fourth inch in diameter and 30 inches tall.

"The canes need to be six to seven inches apart. Prune tips of selected canes that died due to winter injury. The plants need to be in a one to two feet wide hedgerow."

For the fall-bearing red and yellow raspberries, during the summer after harvest remove the fruiting cane at ground level. During late winter or early spring before the buds swell, remove all weak, diseased, and damaged canes at ground level and leave only vigorous canes that are one-fourth inch in diameter and 30 inches tall. Remove the upper portion of the cane that had fruit in the fall--only if a summer crop is needed. The selected canes need to be six to seven inches apart in a one to two feet wide hedgerow.

Black and purple raspberries also need pruning.

"In the early summer, remove the top three inches of the canes that are 18 to 20 inches long to encourage lateral branching," says Ogutu. "After harvest, remove old fruiting canes at the soil line to control build-up of diseases and provide more space for the one-year-old canes to grow.

"In the spring, remove dead, weak, and spindly canes. Shorten selected canes to eight to 12 inches long. The canes need to be six to seven inches apart in a one to two feet-wide hedgerow."


December 1, 2005

Source: James Schuster (708) 352-0109 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Tips for Feeding the Birds

Feeding the birds during the winter involves more than just tossing a lot of seed out on the ground, says a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Once you start feeding the birds, you need to feed the entire winter and early spring," James Schuster points out. "Inviting birds to your yard for dinner can be very rewarding. Buying bird seed with a variety of seeds can draw a wide range of birds. If you want to be more selective, narrow the food options."

Schuster notes that peanut butter when mixed with melted suet or yellow corn meal will attract flickers, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, tree sparrows, fox sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, robins, juncos, redpolls, and towhees.

"White millet is preferred by birds over red millet," he says. "Birds that like millet include purple finches, redpolls, pine siskins, pheasants, juncos, most sparrows, starlings, towhees, and mourning doves."

Sunflower seeds and screenings will attract cardinals, tufted titmouses, purple finches, chickadees, goldfinches, tree sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatches, pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, blackbirds, juncos, and blue jays.

"Migratory birds such as towhees, Harris's sparrows, white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, and rose-breasted grosbeak like sunflowers, too," he adds.

Cardinals, pheasants, blue jays, and blackbirds enjoy corn whether it is on the cob, whole kernel, or cracked. Robins, thrashers, catbirds, waxwings, and cardinals like raisins.

White bread pieces are a favorite with pheasants, blue jays, chickadees, brown creepers, mocking birds, robins, starlings, grackles, juncos, cardinals, and most sparrows.

"All the birds need grit--gravel or stones, the size depends on the bird--to help grind up the seeds," he adds.

There can be a downside to feeding the birds, depending upon personal tolerance.

"Squirrels and mice will also be attracted to the seeds," he says. "The squirrels will often raid the feeder while mice often feed on the uneaten dropped seed. Bird seed dropped on the ground can cause unwanted plants to start growing the following summer."

By mid-spring, it is time to start weaning the birds off the seeds, he noted.

"The birds will become dependent on your feeding them once they find your feeder," says Schuster. "It is harmful to the birds you are feeding to just stop feeding them, especially if it is still adverse weather.

"The birds need to be slowly weaned from your feeding and forced to start hunting for food found in more natural settings to avoid some birds starving to death."


December 1, 2005

Source: Greg Stack (708) 720-7520 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

All-America Selections

Starting next garden season, gardeners will have the chance to include six new flowers and four new vegetables designated as All-America Selections, says a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Winter is a good time to be planning next season's garden, including possible additions to it," says Greg Stack. "Each year, the All-America Selections organization awards its designation to flowers and vegetables that have demonstrated superior performance after rigorous evaluation in 32 trial gardens across the country."

Beginning with the flowers, Stack calls attention to the "Diamonte Coral Rose" diascia.

"This first ever F1 hybrid diascia has improved prolific early flowering and good branching habit," he says. "It grows to about 10 inches in height with a spreading habit, making it great for a low border or for use in containers. Diascia does best in cool weather. While it would be good for early spring planting, it would probably be best as a fall fill-in when it could take advantage of the cool, fall weather and bloom right through light frost."

"Supra Purple" dianthus, another AAS, offers exceptional garden performance and improved heat tolerance, he notes. This dianthus grows to about 12 inches in height and produces an inch-and-a-half flower with highly fringed petals. The flowers also make good cut flowers for indoor use.

"For those that enjoy fragrance, there is 'Perfume Deep Purple' nicotiana," Stack says. "This nicotiana produces two-inch star-shaped purple flowers with a delicate evening fragrance. It grows to about 20 inches in height and is good for the sunny border or mixed containers."

"Black Pearl" ornamental pepper is unique among ornamental peppers. The leaves are pure black and the black shiny peppers, about the size of marbles, are similar to pearls and also black. "Black Pearl" grows to about 18 inches in height and gets its best color when grown in full sun. This pepper is great in the garden or as a striking accent plant in mixed containers.

"And, yes, the peppers are edible but fiery hot," Stack notes.

There are several blue salvia on the market, but "Evolution" expands the color range to violet. "Evolution" grows to about 24 inches in height and is a plant for gardeners who want minimal maintenance and maximum flower impact. It is drought tolerant and free of any major insect and disease problems. It is a must-have garden annual for the sunny border.

"Zowie Yellow Flame" is a zinnia that will wake up the garden with its color, Stack adds.

"The semi-double, three-inch blooms have petals that are scarlet on the interior and yellow on the tips," he says. "The petals look like a yellow flame. Plants grow 24 to 30 inches in height and are great for the sunny border. It also produces armloads of cut flowers all summer."

Vegetable gardeners, too, have some new things to consider.

"The first is a real shocker, especially if you're used to traditional orange carrots," he says. "'Purple haze' is the first purple carrot. The long, 10 to 12-inch roots have a purple exterior and a bright orange interior. The purple color is best enjoyed when the carrots are sliced and used raw in salads as the purple color disappears when they are cooked. The flavor is sweet, and nothing special needs to be done to enjoy an abundance of carrots."

For the herb gardener, "Delfino" cilantro offers an improvement over regular cilantro. The foliage is very aromatic and flavorful, plus it is very fine and fern-like, making it very decorative. Plants grow to 20 inches in height and are good container-garden plants. The plants can be allowed to go to seed, producing the spice coriander.

"Both sweet and hot pepper fans will enjoy the next two AAS winners," says Stack.

"'Carmen' is an Italian-type sweet pepper," he says. "It is a week earlier than other peppers and produces a six-inch long pepper with wide shoulders. The shape is very similar to Melrose peppers. The peppers mature to a red color and are very sweet. 'Carmen' also produces over a wide temperature range.

"On the other side of the pepper world is 'Mariachi.' This pepper is a mildly hot chili pepper about three to four inches long. 'Mariachi' ripens from yellow to red. The plant is vigorous and grows to about 18 to 24 inches in height and produces fruit continuously all summer."


December 1, 2005

Source: Greg Stack (708) 720-7520 Contact: Bob Sampson Extension Communications Specialist Phone (217) 244-0225; rsampson@uiuc.edu

Seed Catalogs

Seed catalogs and plant tags can tell you a lot, provided you understand the "lingo," says a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"If you understand the 'lingo,' you're on the way to choosing just the right plant and handling it in just the right way," says Greg Stack.

Seed catalogs, he notes, are miniature horticultural reference books. They contain an array of seeds and plants to suit just about everyone's tastes and needs.

"Catalogs are also fun to page through. Not only are the pictures and descriptions colorful, they take the edge off the cold winter days when you dream of adding what you see on the page to that perfect spot in your garden," he explains.

But, when thumbing through seed catalogs, it is important to understand the terms you will encounter, such as annuals, perennials, F1 hybrids, number of days, hills, spacing suggestions, determinate and indeterminate, deadheading, monoecious, gynoecious, gynoecious hybrids, and letters like Vt, EB, Al, F1, or TMV.

"Both flowers and vegetables can be either annuals or perennials," Stack says. "Both can be started from seed, but the annuals complete their life cycle in one growing season and die with cold weather. They need to be replanted next season.

"Perennials will live for three or more years, returning and often getting better with age. They do this from some type of root structure or other underground organ that overwinters and starts to re-grow in the spring."

Many of the newer seed offerings are designated as F1 hybrids. While they may cost a little more, these seeds are the culmination of the plant breeder's work to create something with better garden performance, disease resistance, uniformity, and outstanding flower or fruit production.

"F1 hybrids are the result of specific crosses, which means that seed saved from these plants at the end of the season will result in something totally different if planted next season," Stack notes. "The resulting plants will not be anywhere near as desirable."

Often the term "number of days" follows a plant's name. This refers to the number of days expected to pass before harvest. For crops that are planted from transplants, it is the number of days after setting out the transplants. For seed-grown crops, it is from when the seed is sown.

"Many times you will see reference made to planting crops like cucumber, pumpkins, and squash in 'hills,'" Stack says. "This does not mean you physically mound up the soil into small volcanoes and plant the seeds at the top. It simply means you put several seeds, usually three, in one location on flat ground in a triangle pattern.

"If planting more than one 'hill,' just move over the recommended spacing before planting the next three seeds."

"Spacing suggestions" is another term common in plant descriptions. This distance is suggested in order to give the plant sufficient room to grow, often resulting in a more abundant harvest as opposed to very tightly grown plants that are now in competition with each other and usually producing less and lesser quality.

Tomato growers will see references to "determinate" and "indeterminate" varieties. The determinate types tend to be shorter, more compact plants. The branches end in flower clusters, creating a shorter plant. These are great for small space gardens, container gardens, or for those who don't like to do much staking.

Indeterminate types get tall and often need staking or caging to keep them upright and off the ground. The ends of the stems do not end in flower clusters and just keep getting longer and longer.

"'Deadheading' sounds like a gruesome term but you see it often in reference to flowers," Stack explains. "This term simply means that the older flowers are cut off, resulting in the plant producing more flowers.

"Deadheading is often done with zinnias, marigolds, salvia, dahlia, geranium, and other larger, single-stem flowers. If older flowers are left on the plant, fewer and fewer new flowers are produced. So, for maximum flower production, 'off with their heads.'"

"Monoecious" and "gynoecious" are terms in the garden's "sex" story. It takes male and female flowers to make things like cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins. These plants often have separate male and female flowers on the same vine. They are monoecious.

"But breeders have developed all-female flower-producing plants such as cucumbers," says Tack. "These are called gynoecious. This creates the potential for more fruit in a smaller space.

"But how can reproduction happen without a few male flowers? Packed with the seeds of gynoecious cucumber seeds are a few seeds of plants that will produce male and female flowers. These are usually easy to find as they are often dyed pink or blue. Make sure you plant a few of these in a row of your gynoecious hybrids and your pollination problems will be solved."

And what about the "alphabet soup" of the garden?

"When shopping for tomatoes, you may see letters following a variety name," Stack says. "Letters such as 'Vt,' 'EB,' 'A1,' 'F1,' or 'TMV.' They refer to the varieties' ability to have resistance or tolerance to disease and the more letters the better.

"Plant breeders try to breed in resistance to common disease. This limits or eliminates fungicide sprays and assures you of a more productive harvest. Vt refers to verticillium wilt (soil borne disease), EB refers to early blight (leaf disease), F1 refers to fusarium wilt race 1 (soil borne disease), and TMV refers to tobacco mosaic virus (viral disease)."