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PRAIRIE GARDENER: Summer bulbs add pizzazz to flower gardens

BADGER, Minn. - First it seemed winter would never start. Then it seemed it would never end. So let's think about putting a little extra zing into our summer flower gardens. You can't beat colorful summer bulbs, such as gladiolus, dahlias and cannas.

BADGER, Minn. - First it seemed winter would never start. Then it seemed it would never end. So let's think about putting a little extra zing into our summer flower gardens. You can't beat colorful summer bulbs, such as gladiolus, dahlias and cannas.

And, if you are adventuresome, you can add elephant ears, tuberose, begonias and caladiums to the list. It doesn't end there either. The next big quest on gardeners' lists will be pineapple lilies, which will be this season's "gotta have 'em' plants." Generally, summer bulbs hit full stride in late summer, just when most annuals and perennials have done their thing, and our gardens began looking forlorn.

Dahlias, cannas and tuberous begonias can be started indoors now for setting out around Memorial Day. This will give you a longer bloom period. Or, you can plant directly into the garden, but you could have a longer wait for bloom and flirt with an autumn freeze. Glads are among of the easiest of the summer bulbs to grow. Normally, you can expect blooms in early August with flowers appearing into autumn when finally claimed by the frost. Some gardeners stagger their plantings to ensure a longer bulb period.

Meet Lew

EPToday, we will spotlight gladiolus thanks to Lew Wallace of Middle River, Minn., who operates Honker Flats greenhouse with wife, Tammy. The Wallaces were featured in the Oct. 14, 2006, Neighbors section of the Herald. Glads are among the easiest of summer bulbs to grow. Typically, they bloom from early August until a killing frost. Staggering planting will extent bloom period.

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The Prairie Gardener met Lew at the annual spring workshop of the 13th District Minnesota Horticultural Society in Badger in late March. Hosting the popular event was the Gro-Rite Garden Club of Wannaska, Minn. The daylong even featured speakers, including this writer. The group also observed a silver tea celebrating 60 years of gardening. There were prizes; the Prairie Gardener came home with canna roots and glad corms for his garden.

Gladiolus tips:

-- If you are just starting growing these beautiful flowers, purchase top quality glad corms. Honker Flats offers mail-order service. For a catalog, either write them at 45213 240th Ave. N.E., Middle River, MN 56737, or call (218) 222-3484. You also can check local garden centers or other sources.

-- Next, prepare an area to plant your glads. They prefer a humus-rich soil. Compost and peat moss can be worked. Apply a general fertilizer to get your plants off to a good start. Don't over fertilize. A pound of fertilizer should be applied to 100 square feet.

-- Plant your corms when you normally plant sweet corn. Plant a few corms every 10 days. They should be placed three to five inches deep and 4 to 12 inches apart. Apply insecticide in the trench before covering. Then fill in with two inches of soil at planting, later hilling soil 6 inches up around the stalk helps prevents the glads from tipping during storms.

-- Glads love full sun, but will do reasonably well if the shade is in the early morning or late afternoon. Good air-flow and drainage are important. Glads like plenty of water, but won't tolerate wet feet. Preen, sold at most garden centers, can be used to control weeds. Spraying with Malathion, Sevin or Orthene every 10 days to two weeks will keep bugs away.

New lily

Pineapple lilies, also known as eucomis, are summer bulbs with a 15-inch spire of tiny greenish-white or wine-colored flowers atop a base of broad strappy green leaves. Even the tall round stems are intriguing, being weirdly splotched and speckled. After bloom, eucomis put on a stellar second show as their dried seed heads are considered by many to be even more gorgeous than the original blossoms. The lilies are perfect in sunny garden beds or areas with filtered light. They're spectacular in containers. Tropical in origin, they should be planted outdoors once threat of frost is past and soil has warmed. The bulbs must be dug in autumn and stored during our cold winter as you would cannas.

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Huge success

Parking was at a premium around Sacred Heart Catholic Church in East Grand Forks last week. Gardeners from throughout the region thronged to the daylong Gardening Saturday was hosted by the North Dakota State University Extension Service-Grand Forks County and the Grand Forks Horticultural Society. Excellent spring weather put everyone into a gardening mood.

Prairie Gardener is moving. Readers, look for the Prairie Gardener in Sunday's Herald in a new section called Northland Outdoors.

Koehler is the Herald's garden columnist. Send garden questions to him in care of the Grand Forks Herald, Box 6008, Grand Forks, ND 58206-6008 Tune in the weekly gardening show airing at 4:10 p.m. most Thursdays on KNOX 1310 (AM).

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