THE GLADIOLUS corms ar as big as oranges, so that it is a pleasure to spade them up, even though the ones the size of walnuts gives better exhibition spikes.
In Washington, the corms may sometimes be left out, not digging them too store indoors for the winter; but few gardening operations take less time or trouble than lifting these bulbs. I let them dry outdoors for a couple of days, then set them on top of a box of peat moss in the basement.
When I get around to it, in a few weeks, I will go over them, gently rubbing them to remove any dirt that may be remaining. I then settle them down in the box of peat.
Unfortunately, I have to store mine in a hot basement; the peat moss keeps them from drying out too much over the winter. In March, I soak them in a water-and-Lysol bath, let them dry for an hour and plant them outdoors while it is still cold.
The spikes averaged 6 feet in height this summer, but I couldn't think of an anything to do with the flowers, which are a bit too much. By the end of June they were showy, though they required staking.
A rare China rose - rare because hardly anyone would wish to grow it nowadays, with showier sorts available - has been largely butchered in order to take six or eight cuttings, some under glass fruit jars and some without covering, in the hopes of getting a couple of extra plants next year.
It is important, with uncommon things, to propagate them if at all possible, and to spread them around. This one a dark red, does not have much scent; but like Chinas in general, it blooms as steadily as any rose in the world; and, since it has no infusion of Rosa lutea in it, it does not fall prey to blackspot.
I wonder, while we're about it, if anyone grows the "Princesse de Sagan," an old tea rose I am fond of but no longer grow. Although called a tea, it is obviously a China - doubtless with tea blood in it, so it is tender. You could not stick it out in a field, but if pampered a bit - and given a sheltered wall - it probably would do. Thiss may be the place tosay that a number of thoughtful readers assure me that they grow the yellow Banksia rose.
The "Sentinel" lilies (a standard garden strain of white trumpet lilies bred in the West) had to be dug uup, and I cannot plant them for several weeks. Delays are bad, not only for plants but for gardeners, who get psychotic after a few days. The lilies have been temporarily stashed in a bucket with earth packed lightly around them.
When I can finally set them in their new home, I hope they will lappreciate the care taken not to cut their roots - and to handle them gently, with the bulbs not out of earth more than 10 minutes.
The white Roman hycinthsh are potted up and soaked once. They will stand under a juniper until mid-December then they will be moved to an unheated garage and brought indoors about Christmas, to flower in January. Let me say that sometimes Roman hyacinths get notions varying from my own. One year they insisted on blooming in mid-November.
Climbing rosses of Grade-B vigor (not so rambunnctious as Grade A, but still capable of 25 feet), such as "New Dawn," are a pain in any part of the body that is foolish enough to brush into them. I shorten the long grgowths in October (it says here), which means that by Christmas I have usually found time to do this.
A friend had this same variety trimmed severely each February, so that it made a thin garland no more than a foot thick on top of a wire fence. The effect was pretty, but what is the point of choosing a vigorous climber, then keeping it pruned to a mere strand or two?
It is worth the trouble to get after the peonies now. All the old stems are cut at the ground or just below it. If the earth is scratched lightly, and a discreet handful of wood ashes dug in a few inches from the center of the clump, so much the better. I do not burn the old stems; but I do get them far away from the plant, hoping to avoid botrytis disease in the spring. Simply removing the stems often prevents trouble.
Some of the so-called "hybrid peonies" (a singularly dumb name for any race of garden flowers) take longer to settle in and perform well than the oldl Chinese peonies do. It may be the third year before the hybrids bloom. It is a trauma, then, to dig up "Red Charm" just as it has finally settled in and to move it to another spot. Never mind why, it simply had to be done. Such an operation invariably occurs at the one moment of the peony's life when it is not quite large enough to be divided and not quite small enough to be replanted intact. I shut my eyes and replanted it intact.
If established peonies have not bloomed this past May, poke about to see that no more than an inch of soil covers the fleshy red eyes that stand up from the main root stocks. These should be just beneath the surface. Be dexterous or your investigations will be damaging: The eyes snap off with a dismaying final sound, akin to the ssound of lily bulbs when the spading forks goes through them.
Betrytis disease also accounts for many failures to bbloom, so this is the time to get all the stems off and cleaned up for the winter. The other commmon cause of failure is simply the absence of sun. We live in a virtual forest in this town, and the promiscuous planting of trees is the worst single vice I can think of. Usually they grow up because people are too slothful to cut them down. You may as well forget peonies and everything else worth growing.
A few good hurricanes would help. Almost as much as a little thought, a little energy and a good ax.