In the background, in the center of an island, at the end of a path, or against the chain link fence there is a place for a tall one.  The hardy “Hibiscus” after it has been in place two years can be five feet tall and wide.  My pink one is between the front fence and the sidewalk and is covered with 10 inch blooms. Just inside the fence is the red leaved one developed by the Fleming brothers here in Lincoln.  It has white blooms with a red center. “Hibiscus” are about the last plant to come up in the spring so when I do my fall clean up, I leave about an 8 inch stump as a marker to keep my spring hoe away.

          “Dahlias” are bulbs that need to be dug after the first frost. They are different than other plants that have to be dug and stored, in that next years plant is on the stem.  There are buds for spring and the tuber like structures will not grow without the bud. I put the entire dug up clump in the basement in vermiculite. They have a tendency to dry out so need to be checked during the winter and dampened (not wet) from time to time. In spring I bring them out and put them in pans of damp sphagnum moss. This way as they start to grow I can tell where to divide the clump.  I dig a hole about 6 inches deep, lay them in with the growth upward, and barely cover with soil.  For my dinner plate “Dahlias” I also put a 6 foot stake beside them as I plant.  Those big blooms are heavy and tend to tip the plants over.  As the plant grows I fill in the hole with soil.  They are hungry eaters and drinkers, especially while blooming. They can also be started from seed-usually the smaller size plants. This way you do not have to dig and store during winter. Since they use so much water, a mulch is necessary to keep as much moisture in the soil as possible.

          The “Giant Star of Bethlehem” (Ornithogalum saundersiae) is another interesting, tender bulb that grows to six feet high. The small “Star of Bethlehem” is a single flower that looks like the individual blossoms of the giant. The little one can become invasive if we have a mild winter. The giant blooms in July into August. The bloom is on a stalk that continually grows.  It blooms at the bottom first and will be 5 to 6 feet for the final blooms. The bulbs produce offsets that can be separated from their mother.

          If you like “Sunflowers” you will like the bright orange “Mexican Sunflower” (Tithonia rotundiefolia). It is a big coarse leaved plant that gets up to 6 feet tall.  A row of them makes a good hedge of brilliant color with blooms lasting a long time in bouquets. An annual plant that likes hot weather, it must not be planted outside too soon. Its leaves will turn yellow if they get cold, and it needs full sun.

          One of my favorite tall plants is the “Castor Bean” (Ricinus communis). I like them against the back fence as some people get a rash from the big, gorgeous leaves which have a rough texture and the seeds are poisonous.  The last few years a repellant for moles is made from the beans or you can make your own by grinding the beans.  The flowers are not especially pretty but the seed stalks are bright red capsules covered with spines. In their native country of Africa they become a 30 foot shrub. There are green leaved plants but I prefer the dark bronze-red which may be 18 inches across.  Since they are sensitive to cold, I start the plants inside by soaking the seeds overnight in warm water and then putting each one in its own pot. They are fast growers so I wait until April to start the seed.

          The “Cup Plant” is a tall rough plant with small sunflower like blooms that spreads by root runners.  I let two or three survive each year because of their cups.  “Indian Cup” (Silphium perfolistum) is also called “Rosinweed”. They will grow to 8 feet tall. If you wound one, it will drip a resin like juice on you. They are interesting because the leaves fasten all around the stem leaving a cup that actually holds water.

          There are many tall plants to choose from so looks like I will need to do another session later.

Copyright Aug. 27, 2005




          Now is the time, while the selection is good, to buy your tulips, daffodils, and other fall bulbs. When buying tulip and daffodil bulbs, remember that there are early spring, middle spring, and late spring varieties.  If you want flowers for the whole spring season, buy some that bloom at different times. If you want a big splash of color all at once, get varieties that bloom at the same time. Early spring for tulips in Lincoln is the end of March or first part of April.  Late spring bulbs bloom in early May.

          Do not plant tulips, daffodils and some other fall bulbs now. It is too early.  The days are too warm and the soil is too warm.  Planted now, they will break dormancy and then may be injured when the ground freezes. These fall bulbs do best when planted after the middle of October. When planted toward the middle and end of October, the soil is cooler and the roots start to grow but the bulb does not break dormancy.  Tulips can even be planted up until the time the ground freezes hard. When we have a mild fall and the ground does not freeze hard, I have planted tulips as late as Christmas or even New Years Day.

          Buy your bulbs now; store them in a cool, dry location until time to plant.  Plant them about 8 to 9 inches deep with about a tablespoon of “Bone Meal” added in the bottom of the hole.  As soon as you have finished your planting give the ground a thorough soaking.

Copyright 2005