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updated: 8/10/2013 8:54 AM

Gladiolus a showy flower

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  • Since gladioli bloom from the bottom up, cut them for indoor use when the bottom bloom starts to show color.

    Since gladioli bloom from the bottom up, cut them for indoor use when the bottom bloom starts to show color.

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden

The gladiolus produces a large, showy flower spike that lasts for several days in the garden or in a vase. A gladiolus flower stalk has several buds that will bloom in order from the bottom up.

To get the most bloom for decoration inside, cut the stalk when the lowest blossoms have begun to show color. Place the cut stem in water as quickly as you can. Stagger your planting of gladioli to provide flowers over a longer period of time.

Mid-August to mid-September is a good time to seed bare spots in your lawn. Choose a seed mix that is appropriate for the amount of sun in your yard. Grass grown from a mix blended for shade will include different species and can look different from grass from a mix blended for sun. If your yard has adjoining areas of full sun, shade and partial shade, use a single mix of grass varieties labeled for both sun and shade. This compromise mix will give the lawn a uniform appearance.

Prepare bare spots in the lawn for seeding by removing weeds and loosening the soil. Level low areas with additional topsoil. Rake out large clods, stones or debris to create a smooth seed bed. Then scatter the seed and gently rake it in.

Keep the soil and seeds constantly moist until the seeds sprout. In warm weather this may require watering two or three times a day. A light layer of compost spread over the soil will help keep the grass seed moist. Bluegrass takes about two weeks to germinate. As the new grass fills in, scale back the watering to soak the ground less frequently but more deeply.

When establishing a lawn by seeding, you can expect weeds to come in before the grass can get fully established.

If you plan to use an herbicide to kill broadleaf weeds in the new lawn, wait until the grass is well enough established to have needed mowing four times. You also can pull weeds by hand as soon as you see them, without waiting for the grass to become established.

Late summer is the time to plan for and order spring-flowering bulbs. The soil in a bulb garden should be well drained. Any area in the garden that remains wet for long periods of time -- or has standing water for any length of time -- is unsuitable for bulbs. They prefer moisture in spring and fall and to bake in the summer.

Most bulbs prefer full sun. They need the sun's energy to flower and, after flowering, to build new bulbs beneath the soil for next spring. Some bulbs can be planted beneath a high-branching tree, where they will flower before the tree leafs out and will have only light shade to contend with as they store energy to bloom the following year.

Some bulbs, such as crocuses, are attractive to squirrels, deer and other animals. Bulbs recommended for areas where wildlife browses include daffodils, ornamental onions, Siberian squill, snowdrops and winter aconite.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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