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Consumer Q's: Protecting bulbs for next year's blooming season
wokra pods
Dried okra pods may be used in floral arrangements and in various crafts. - photo by ARTY SCHRONCE/special

Question: I saw a photo of a lovely flower called a “toad lily” in a catalog. Can we grow it in Georgia? 
    Answer: Toad lilies (Tricyrtis spp.) are an excellent perennial for shady gardens. Besides being beautiful and durable, they bloom in the fall while most woodland flowers bloom in spring.
    The most probable explanation for their name is that the flowers and leaves of some of them are spotted like toads. One of the best species, Tricyrtis hirta, has the unflattering name of “hairy toad lily” due to the fine hairs covering its leaves, stems and buds. Despite what they are called, toad lilies possess an intriguing beauty. Many people say the flowers remind them of orchids. Colors range from purple to white and yellow.
    Toad lilies combine well with hostas, rohdea, ferns, Lenten roses, Solomon’s seal, heuchera, little pigs/wild ginger (Asarum spp.), celandine poppy and green-and-gold.
    Visiting Georgia nurseries in the fall gives you the opportunity to see plants you may have missed in the spring. Late-bloomers such as toad lilies and native asters that didn’t look like much in April are now in full glory. Seeing them may convince you to aim for having a garden that is as filled with flowers in autumn as it is in spring and summer.


    Q: How can I protect my bulbs and remember where I planted them? I don’t want a garden littered with tags and labels, but I am tired of accidentally digging up or cutting through bulbs that I forgot about. 
    A: Here are some suggestions that may save you some heartache and some cash, too.
    Use rocks and stones to outline the area where the bulbs are planted. Choose colors that blend in with the mulch or soil. Also place rocks in the ground next to the bulbs when you are planting them. These rocks may deter a shovel if you forget you have planted bulbs in that spot. Mixing pea gravel into the planting area will not only help the drainage but will help remind you that you have bulbs planted there.
    Purchase or recycle transparent or black plastic forks, spoons or knives and use them to outline or mark the area where you have planted bulbs. The black or clear utensils will not be as visibly distracting as white ones.
    If you have some leftover plastic plant pots, cut out the bottom and sink them into the ground. They will serve as a collar that will protect the bulbs from your shovel as well as from other digging creatures. Be sure to cut out the bottom or make sure there are adequate holes or the bulbs will drown because water will not drain through. Use black or non-obtrusive colors. The rims can be hidden with mulch.
    Photographing your garden and making a planting chart will also help. 


    Q: I was away for a few weeks and have stalks of okra in the garden with large pods on them. Are they too tough to eat? 
    A: Yes, they are probably too tough to eat. However, you can cut the stalks, let them dry and use them in dried floral arrangements. The pods may also be used with lotus pods, dried flowers and nuts to make a harvest wreath. They may be painted to make icicle ornaments for the Christmas tree. They are commonly made into angel ornaments or Santa Claus ornaments, with the tip of the pod being the tip of Santa’s beard and the cap of the pod becoming his cap.

    If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.

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