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June 2012
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Conditioning plants for the County Fair Horticulture Show

By Carolyn Roof

Gardeners, on Monday, you have a chance to show off your skills and prized annuals, perennials, herbs, woody plants, and container plants at the McCracken County Flower Show.

It has been a great year for annuals and perennials, for that matter all plants. They have been spectacular this year. However, once cut, flowers generally need to be conditioned to retain their turgid-ness.

In most cases, it is simply a matter of putting in water as they are cut and then re-cutting stems at an angle under water. The second cutting opens up pores improving water uptake capability.

The following apply to cutting flowers for exhibiting or flower arrangement. Cut flowers before they reach maturity and in late afternoon when sugar content is higher. Re-cut woody stem ends in a criss-cross or lightly bruise to open up their pores for better water uptake. Remove all foliage that will be below water. Do not remove rose thorns.

Daylily, euphorbia and glad do not need special conditioning and can stay out of water for a couple of days.

Some require special conditioning; Flowers with nodes (pinks) along the stem should be cut between the nodes to ensure sufficient water uptake. Remove stamens from lilies as its pollen stains. Soak soft-stemmed flowers and roses up to their necks overnight.

To clean foliage, gently wipe its top and bottom but never spray with a plant shine as it attracts dust. Do not wipe fuzzy or gray foliage (dusty miller) or blue-tinged hosta and iris foliage that have a "bloom" that will smudge.

Entries are received from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., and open to the public at 5:30 p.m. The show committee will provide bottles for cut specimens.

The stem length of specimens should be appropriate for the plant. Show admission is included in the Fair ticket.

For specific flower conditioning go to: www.russellgardeners.ca/; and www.britishfloristassociation.org/inspiration.asp.

Things to do

High temperatures are drying out plants and soil quickly. Check container plants daily and deep-water when the top inch of soil is dry. Soak early morning and avoid wetting the foliage. Place soaker hoses in beds and cover with mulch to keep all of the water in the ground. A daily light watering produces weak shallow roots. Most plants need one inch of rain or watering a week.

15 Minute Gardening - Pre-mix liquid fertilizer and store in plastic one liter bottles (soda or orange juice). They are easier to store and handle than sprinkling cans. Refill the bottles as they are emptied.

It is easier to remember when to fertilize if it is always on the same day of the week or date of the month.

Butterfly Garden - Involve children in gardening by helping them plant a butterfly garden of bee balm black-eyed Susan, marigold, petunias, verbena and zinnias either in the ground or in containers. For more information go to: www.monarchwatch.org.

Garden - Take advantage of annual hanging plant sales. Discard the hangers and tuck in empty spaces in the garden.

Remove daylily spent flowers each night. When all buds have bloomed, cut stalks to the ground. Some grow hosta for foliage only and remove the bloom stems. It is a personal option.

Trees and shrubs - Take softwood cuttings of spring growth. Finish pruning spring flowers and fertilize before the end of the month.

Weed - Rogue out Ladies' Thumb (knotweed/smartweed family). The annual is a sweet little ground cover, thin red stems, alternate leaves that is beginning to send up spikes of delicate tiny pink flowers. Find the central stem and dig out as soon it will be two to three feet tall choking all other plants.

Event - June 19-22, McCracken County Fair Flower Show, Floral Hall, Carson Park. Horticulture is exhibited 5:30 p.m. Monday through 4 p.m. Wednesday, and floral designs 1 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Fair admission is required.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at carolynroof02@gmail.com.

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