UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County
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UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County

In the News

It's Giving Tuesday!

Today is #Giving Tuesday! The UC Master Gardener Program is once again participating in Giving Tuesday's 24-hour global giving challenge, a movement about ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.

Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday kicks off the charitable season. With so many digging into gardening for the first time, there is a surge in demand for resources and trusted home gardening information. Giving to the UC Master Gardener Program helps create gardening resources, virtual workshops and empowers gardeners to support food banks, schools, and community gardens.

How can you help? Here are a few simple ideas:

  • Join us and donate. Your gift can be applied directly to support your local county program.

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for exciting updates. Tag @UCMasterGarden and include the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #GiveBack.

  • Please share this message with friends and family and encourage them to join the movement!

We're asking you to join us in supporting the UC Master Gardener Program by helping spread the word to friends and family who want to support you in making an impact. Thank you for all you do for the UC Master Gardener Program and for joining the #GivingTuesday movement! For more information visit: mg.ucanr.edu/GivingTuesday.

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2021 at 9:31 AM
Tags: Giving Tuesday (1)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Celebrating California Gardens: Native Plants and How Native Californians Use Them

Back in January of this year, we outlined UC Master Gardener Program priorities for the upcoming year, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Throughout the year, we have shared a four-part, Celebrating California Gardens blog series highlighting plants, gardening practices, and vibrant traditions sometimes missing from the UC Master Gardener Program curriculum. While this is our fourth contribution to the blog series, we look forward to continuing this effort by amplifying the voices of black, indigenous and gardeners of color in 2022. If you have a story to contribute, please reach out to Melissa Womack at mgwomack@ucanr.edu. We hope you will join us in continuing our effort to deepen our knowledge and build our skills.

Owens River, north of Bishop, California. About 50 miles southward it is directed into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Photo @UC Regents

As a California transplant, I can genuinely say that the biodiversity in this incredible state is awe-inspiring. Whether appreciating spring blooms in the rolling hills around our state, studying bee diversity in the garden, or birding along the Pacific Flyway, I have never been disappointed. We truly have an abundance of nature surrounding us.

In learning about the history of our state, it is clear this rich biodiversity has been key to the success of California and its people. Before European colonization, California contained the largest Native American population density north of what is now Mexico. Five hundred distinct groups of Native Californians stewarded this land, working with native flora, fauna and climate to support thriving ecosystems.

Life in early California darkened with colonization that introduced invasive plant species, disease epidemics, and the forced removal of Native Californians from their ancestral lands. As residents of California today, it is important for us to learn about these atrocities and honor the people, cultures, and Indigenous territories of California. I respectfully submit this blog post from my home, which sits on the border of ancestral lands of the Nisean and Patwin peoples. You can also learn about territories, languages, and treaties that are the history of where you live.

The California native plants that we prize in our landscapes today also have rich history of use and value to Native Californians. Many of our landscapes include these plants such as deergrass, California lilac, and silktassel. As a gardener, it is fascinating to understand these plants by seeking information about their uses. For me, it has deepened my appreciation of the plants around me.

Deergrass coiled basket by the Yokut People, © California Baskets

Deergrass (Muhlenbergia sp.) is a large and showy California native bunchgrass. Today, we commonly see deergrass used as an ornamental landscape staple not only in home landscapes but also in medians and public plantings. This low-maintenance grass only needs to be cut to the ground every three years to refresh its appearance and is a showy display in the landscape year-round. Large planting beds and landscapes can accommodate Muhlenbergia rigens (approx. 4.5'x4.5') but for those looking for something smaller with the same affect, there is Muhlenbergia dubia (approx. 3'x3').

Many Indigenous Californians, including but not limited to the Cahuilla, Mono, and Yokut People, used this dense bunchgrass for weaving baskets. Stands of deergrass were carefully managed to produce prolific, long, straight flower stalks prized for their strength and flexibility. The flower stalks were cut, clustered into groups and then coiled to create baskets. When submerged in water, deergrass stalks expand, thereby creating watertight vessels for transporting liquids and for cooking.

A second important native plant, and one of my spring and summer favorites, is California lilac (Ceanothus sp.), this floriferous native perennial comes in a variety of shapes and sizes from low growing groundcovers to tall and stately shrubs. Personal favorites include Ceanothus ‘Concha' for its prolific blooms and Ceanothus ‘Gentian Plume' for its incredibly large flower racemes. These beautiful bloomers also attract a myriad of honeybees, native bees, and butterflies.

Honeybee forages on California lilac, © Kathy Keatley Garvey

California lilac is used by Native Californians for a number of purposes, from food to medicine and fabric dye. One unexpected use is as a soap. Flowers can be harvested and when rubbed vigorously between wet hands, they produce a lovely fragranced lather. The flowers can be used fresh or dried to create this effect. The Nuwa People of the Tehachapi Mountains call California lilac matambu (ma-TAM-buh).

Another one of California's unique show-stopping perennials is the silktassel (Garrya eliptica). If you have never seen this tree in bloom, I encourage you to seek it out December-January as it is truly remarkable. The male trees produce dramatic light-colored catkins against dark leathery green leaves. When not in bloom, this small evergreen tree can also function as a large shrub and is gaining popularity with gardeners around the state.

Silktassel wood was harvested and used to make tools. Photo: Jim Linwood (Flikr)

Silktassel is native to the coastal areas of California and Oregon, and Native Californians harvested and used the wood of this tree to make tools. One example is from the Yurok People, stewards of land in and around the Klamath River and Klamath River estuary. Wood harvested from the silktassel was used to create scraping tools to remove mussels from rocks within the estuary. Additional food harvesting tools like fishing weirs and spears used wood from silktassel and other California native trees.

As a gardener, I feel responsible for understanding the plants that I tend in my landscape, from attributes and water needs to their pollinator value. I've also enjoyed scratching the surface of the rich history of these plants but have so much to learn. I've benefited from the robust web presence of many Tribal Communities where I have found information about historical and current plant uses, environmental restoration, and stewardship efforts. I encourage other gardeners to join me in this effort.

There are also gardens and heritage centers to visit to learn and show respect for the cultures and communities of Native Californians. Best yet, we can seek out events that celebrate and educate about traditions of the past, present and future of the original people of California. As reparation, we must also learn about and unveil the atrocities that happened to Native Californians and how non-native people like myself have benefitted from the displacement and marginalization of native people, cultures and traditions.

Dominique Lombardi, Wanaikik Cahuilla from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians at the 48th Annual UC Davis Powwow in 2019. ©UC Davis

Would you like to learn more about the University of California and recommended actions regarding accountability to Native Californians? A report was recently published summarizing a 2020 forum, The University of California Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from indigenous Lands.

Anderson, M. K. (2013). Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. University of California Press.

Armstrong, W. P. (2015, April 10). Deergrass: A Native Bunchgrass Planted at Palomar College. Arboretum Newsletter Number 9. https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/DeerGrass1.htm

Atkins, D. B., & Bauer, W. J. (2021). We are the Land: A History of Native California. University of California Press.
Parsons, M. E. (1966). The Wild Flowers of California. Dover Publications.

Native Land Digital (2021). https://native-land.ca/ 

Pearlstein, E., de Brer, C., Gleeson, M., Lewis, A. (2008). An Examination of Plant Elements Used for Cahuilla Baskets from Southern California. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 47(3): 183-200.

The Yurok Tribe (2021). https://www.yuroktribe.org/

Posted on Friday, November 12, 2021 at 12:37 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Benefits of Plants to People, Communities, and Urban Urban Ecosystems: Part 1

Benefits of Plants to People, Communities and Urban Ecosystems:  Part 1:

The link between horticulture and health and well-being and to urban ecosystems has been scientifically documented for centuries. In 1812, psychiatrist, professor, and Declaration of Independence signer Dr. Benjamin Rush reported in his book “Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the Diseases of the Mind” (Rush 1812) that patients “digging in the dirt”

fared better than their non-gardener counterparts. Since then, hundreds of scientific studies have been published documenting benefits of active (e.g. gardening/landscaping) and passive (e.g. viewing nature through a window, taking a walk in a park) interactions between people and plants and the value of plants in urban ecosystems.

Benefits related to cognitive functioning, societal and community health, and mental health are summarized below. Ecosystem and physical health benefits from interacting with nature will be discussed in next month's blog.

Improved Cognitive Functioning

Several studies link participation in gardening activities to enhanced cognitive functioning (Bratman et al. 2012; Dadvand et al. 2015; Kuo et al. 2021; Ohly et al. 2016; Park et al. 2019; Stevenson et al. 2018; Wells 2000. Research conducted by Kuo and Sullivan (2001) and Mayer et al. (2009) found that exposure to nature in urban settings can enhance attention span, working memory, and concentration. Both youth and adults who participate in greening and gardening projects were also found to have higher cognitive functioning in the areas of short and long term memory, focus and concentration (Dadvand et al. 2015; Markevych et al. 2019; Matsuoka 2010; Meuwese et al. 2021; Park et al. 2019; Stevenson et al. 2018) and reduced symptoms of ADHD (Faber Taylor and Kuo (2011).

Other studies summarized in a literature review (Williams and Dixon 2013) found that kindergarten and middle school students who participated in school gardening activities linked to classroom learning in biology, nutrition, mathematics, and other subjects earned higher grades and attained greater academic achievement than non-participants. A recent study linked high tree canopy coverage on school grounds with higher achievement scores in math and reading in middle school students across a wide range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds (Kuo et al. 2021). The experiential (hands-on) learning elements of school gardens can also bridge the gap between traditional and non-traditional learners due to its multi-sensory nature (Kolb and Kolb 2005). School gardens play an especially important academic role among elementary-aged youth from low-wealth inner city communities exposed to outdoor experiential learning that was previously lacking (Dyg et al. 2020; Kuo et al. 2021; Ray et al. 2016; Williams et al. 2013). However, Hoover et al. (2021) found that successful, sustainable school gardens require strong administrative and district support in addition to enthusiasm and support from parents and teachers.

Enhancement of Societal and Community Health

Urban greening projects that remediate vacant land, landscape streets and neighborhoods, create community gardens, and improve the health of wetlands and undeveloped natural environments can build community cohesiveness, neighborhood bonding, and mutual community pride (Diamant and Waterhouse 2010; Draper 2010; Glover et al. 2005; Hartwig and Mason 2016; Kuo and Sullivan 2001; Moyer et al. 2019; Neo and Chua 2017; Saldivar-Tanaka and Krasny 2004). With blighted uncared-for vacant lots comprising nearly 15% of total land area of U.S. cities (Branas et al. 2018) these opportunities are substantial. Results also indicate that gardening and urban greening projects unite people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds who enjoy growing and sharing produce from their native regions (Agustina and Beilin 2012; Baker 2004; Cruz-Piedrahita et al. 2020; Dyg et al. 2016; Hartwig and Mason 2016; Teig 2009). Building a sense of community through social engagement, celebrations, and communal meals has also been found to benefit both gardeners and non-gardener participants (Ober et al. 2008).

Well-designed and maintained urban green spaces not only bring people together, but can reduce crime, gun violence and enhance the safety and cohesiveness of urban neighborhoods, as summarized in several literature reviews (Bogar and Byer 2016: Mancus and Campbell 2018; Shepley et al. 2019). Some of the strongest links reported in the literature involve crime reduction in vegetated and well maintained urban neighborhoods and walkways (Branas et al. 2018; Demotto 2006; Garvin et al. 2013; Locke et al. 2017) and a reduction in gun violence in neighborhoods with green spaces including trees (Branas et al. 2018; Kondo 2017; Schertz et al. 2021; Wolfe et al. 2012). One study found that community-based greening projects that vegetated vacant lots was an effective strategy to improve neighborhood safety, resulting in a nearly 40% decrease in violent crime (Heinze et al. 2018). It should be noted that other researchers (Groff and McCord 2012) found a higher incidence of opportunistic crime in high tree canopy covered areas, perhaps due to concealed illegal activities. Another study found that actively participating in community greening projects from design through implementation and maintenance can result in a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction (Murphy-Dunning 2009). Neighbors caring for urban green spaces together also tend to spend more time conversing and building important social relationships than do non-participants (Peters et al. 2010).

Improved Mental Health 

Multiple literature reviews link interactions with nature to improved mental health in both youth and adults (Bowler et al. 2010; Clatworthy et al. 2013; Coventry et al. 2021; Cruz-Piedrahita et. al. 2020; De Vries et al. 2003; Tillmann et al. 2018) in studies conducted in parks, gardens, urban green spaces, and even shopping malls. The restorative impact of simply viewing plants has also been widely studied. Walking through a park and even viewing a natural scene through a window can lead to a sense of well-being, restfulness, reflection, and reduced mental fatigue (Shanahan et al. 2019). More recently, Dzhambov et al. (2020) found lower rates of depression in students homebound for long periods of time during the COVID-19 pandemic with views of plants (indoors and out) compared to students who lacked plant interactions. Bowler's (2010) literature review also highlighted strong associations for self-reported positive emotions and lower levels of anger and sadness in natural settings compared to non-natural settings. Interactions with nature can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (Beyer et al. 2014; Gonzalez et al. 2010; Lee and Maheswaran 2011; Van den Berg and Custers 2011; Wilson and Christensen (2011).

Thompson Coon et al. (2011) reported that exercising outdoors in natural settings led to greater feelings of positivity and revitalization, less tension, anger, and depression compared to the same amount of exercise indoors. Other studies link gardening to feelings of peace and contentment (Meuwese et al. 2021; Shanahan et al. 2015; Shanahan et al. 2019). MacKerron and Mourato (2013) reported that individuals who interact with nature are often happier than those lacking this interaction and Ambrose et al. (2020) reported that home gardeners growing food crops experienced particularly high levels of happiness and meaningfulness. Bakolis et al. (2018) linked two elements of mental well-being (optimism and energy) to interactions with nature while Van den Berg and Clusters (2011) and Wood et al. (2016) found a link between engagement with nature and a reduction in stress. While White et al. (2019) determined that these benefits are maximized when individuals spend 120 minutes a week or more interacting with nature, shorter periods of exposure are also beneficial (Shanahan et al. 2016; Shanahan et al. 2019; White et al. 2019).

Other studies reported a link between growing food and a deepened sense of purpose (Tzoulas 2007; Wiesinger 2006). Digging in the soil can be a welcome distraction from busy lives laden with deadlines, traffic jams, and other everyday stressors. Focusing on the needs of plants, whether it be watering, fertilizing, harvesting or other tasks, can prove pleasantly distracting, providing time for reflection and even problem resolution (Capaldi et al. 2015; Meuwese et al. 2021; Stevenson et al. 2018). Several research papers report important positive roles that plants play related to mental health as impacts of climate change increase (Cryder et al. 2006; Dillman-Hasso et al. 2021; Doherty 2018; Fernandez et al. 2015) related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, stress, anxiety and others.

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Shepley M, Sachs N, Sadatsafavi H, Fournier C, Peditto K. 2019. The impact of green space on violent crime in urban environments: An evidence synthesis. Int. J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(24):5119. https://doi.org:10.3390/ijerph16245119

Stevenson MP, Schilhab T, Bentsen P. 2018. Attention restoration theory II: A systematic review to clarify attention processes affected by exposure to natural environments Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 21(4):227-268. https://doi.org:10.1080/10937404.2018.1505571

Teig E, Amulya J, Bardwell L, et al. 2009. Collective efficacy in Denver, Colorado: Strengthening neighborhoods and health through community gardens. Health & Place, 15(4): 1115-1122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.06.003

Thompson Coon J, Boddy K, Stein R, et al. 2011. Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. https://doi.org:10.1021/es102947t

Tillmann S, Tobin D, Avison W, Gilliland J. 2018. Mental health benefits of interactions with nature in children and teenagers: a systematic review. J Epidemiol. Community Health 72(10):958–966. https://doi.org:10.1136/jech-2018-210436

Tzoulas K, Korpela K, Venn S. 2007. Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas using green infrastructure: a literature review. Landsc. Urban Plan. 2007;81:167–178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2007.02.001

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Posted on Thursday, November 4, 2021 at 6:53 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Environment, Health, Yard & Garden

9 Scary Plants to get you into the Halloween Spirit!

While mums, pumpkins and apple spices usually signal the fall season has arrived, Halloween is right around the corner. Why not opt for some creepy or scary plants in your home or landscape? These creepy plants are sure to get you into the Halloween spirit.

Read on ... if you dare!

Brain cactus (Mammillaria elongate)
Brain cactus, otherwise known as Mammillaria elongata ‘Cristata' does well in arid, dry conditions or as a houseplant. It's curvy stems twist and turn, wrapping around itself looking like a human brain. (Photo credit: Cliff

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
Probably one of the most well-known scary plants is the venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). This carnivorous plant was made famous in Little Shop of Horrors and its well known line, “feed me Seymour.” (Photo credit: Mokkie)

White ghosts (Monotropa uniflora)
These eye-catching plants have bright white droopy flowers reminiscent of ghosts found in spooky dark, dank basements. They hide in shady spots and live in a symbiotic relationship with a fungus in their roots providing food.(Photo credit: Will Brown)

‘Sticks on Fire' or pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)
Sticks on Fire, also known as fire sticks and pencil cactus and by its scientific name Euphorbia tirucalli, is a very popular succulent for its showy soft green to reddish-gold stem. A native of southern Africa, the smooth, coral-like stems look deceptively harmless, but looks can be deceiving. The sap is toxic. Caution and care should be always exercised with this plant. (Photo credit: mark6mauno)

Doll's eyes (Actaea pachypoda)
Doll's eyes plants are native to North America and have eyeball-like berries that are highly toxic to humans. You may never set your own orbs on this plant but if you're in the Midwest or Northeast, know that it will be watching you! (Photo credit: Michael Lusk)

Bleeding tooth fungus (Hydellum peckii)
This startling-looking fungus oozes fake blood through minute pores. The red goo is actually a result of a process called guttation that forces water into the roots during osmosis. This spooky sight is found mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Europe living peaceably in symbiosis with conifers. (Photo credit: Holger Krisp)

Corpse plant (Amorphophallus titanum)
The corpse plant, Amorphophallus titanum, only blooms its magnificent flower every seven to ten years. When it does, it lives up to its name giving off an odor that smells like the rotting flesh of a corpse. This adaptation attracts flesh flies and carrion-eating beetles, corpse flower pollinators. (Photo credit: Rhododendrites

Cobra plant (Darlingtonia californica)
The cobra plant, also known as a cobra lily or California pitcher plant, is native to Northern California and southern Oregon. This carnivorous plant attracts insects and small animals into its long hollow leaves where they become trapped and drown. There, they liquefy and are absorbed by the plant for nutrients. This plant resembles a striking cobra, and is just as deadly for its tiny victims. (Photo credit: NoahElhardt)

Devil's claw or ram's horn (Proboscidea louisianica)
This unfriendly-looking species is native to the South Central United States and sports a unique horn-shaped seed pod. The dry, woody pods attach to human shoes and the paws of animals, hitchhiking to disperse seeds far and wide. In addition to its attention-grabbing visual appeal, the pod is used in basket-making traditions, and is also used to create pigments for dyes by several Indigenous Americans. (Photo credit: Frank Carey)

It's a Scary Time of Year! by Janet Hartin (published Oct. 30, 2017)

Posted on Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 11:20 AM
Tags: Fall (2), Halloween (2), Master Gardener (42)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Plant fall bulbs now for spring blooms! A recipe for bulb lasagna

Fall is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. As the cooler temperatures start to arrive in many parts of the country, the last thing on many people's minds is planting flowers for spring color in the garden. But, now is the perfect time to plant bulbs that will pack a punch of color to help usher out winter blues.

Start with a trip to your local nursery. When purchasing, look for heavy, dense bulbs with no decay, mold, or fungus. Bulbs should smell fresh and be free of cuts and bruises. Plant classics like daffodils and tulips or branch out with other textures, colors and heights with Fritillaria, Allium, Anemone and more.

Lasagna planting technique

The bulb planting technique of layering is also known as planting “lasagna-style.” Planting bulbs “lasagna-style” involves layering different bulb varieties in the same pot. Each bulb planted is selected based on its blooming times, planting depth and color.

By overlapping bulb bloom times you can create pots of long-lasting flowers and color. For three waves of bloom, select bulbs that bloom in early-spring, mid-spring, and late-spring. Bulb packages list bloom date information on the labels. When making bulb selections, consider choosing bulbs with overlapping bloom times so that the planting remains colorful all season. 

Planting and positioning bulbs

Plant bulbs like you are making lasagna! Plant the largest bulbs approximately 8-inches deep, smaller bulbs 5-inches deep, and so on. Be sure to read the bulb package for planting depths. Potting soil is the “sauce” and used as the layer under and over your bulbs. 

  1. Choose a container that is at least 12-14 inches deep, with good drainage.
  2. Select a potting soil that includes a slow release fertilizer OR add bone meal to your potting soil according to the package instructions. Bone meal is rich in Phosphorous and will promote fall root growth.
  3. Add a 2-3 inch layer of soil and then plant the largest bulbs approximately 8-inches deep, smaller bulbs 5-inches deep. Be sure to read the bulb package for planting depths. Large sized bulbs may include (king Alfred) daffodil, allium, and tulip.
  4. Potting soil is the “sauce” and is used as the layer under and over your bulbs. Once the first layer of bulbs is in, add another layer of potting soil about 2-3 inches deep. Measure the depth from the top rim of your pot down, you should have about 6” more to plant.
  5. The next layer will be a bulb that is planted about 6 inches below the surface, examples include Dutch hyacinth or a jonquil Narcissus. Leave approx. ¼” space between each bulb. Remember to not overcrowd bulbs as they will swell once watering begins.
  6. Add more “sauce” and cover previous bulbs with about 1” inch of soil.
  7. The next layer will finish your container off with bulbs, look for smaller bulbs like grape hyacinth and/or crocus. Remember to leave a little space in between bulbs.
  8. Top off with five inches of potting soil and add some pansies or other colorful cool weather annuals to maintain seasonal interest.
  9. Finally, add mulch and water regularly. 

Lasagna bulb combinations

Sample Pot: 

  • Pansy and mulch (top)
  • Snowdrop
  • Crocus
  • Hyacinth
  • Tulip(bottom)

Sample Pot: 

  • Mulch (top)
  • Crocus
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Tulip
  • Narcissus
  • Large Allium (bottom)

Sample Pot: 

  • Thyme (top)
  • Ranunculus
  • Anemone
  • Tulips
  • Daffodils (bottom) 

A beautiful spring show of blooms

As spring arrives, place your container in a spot with high visibility and enjoy the waves of colorful flowers as they emerge, bloom and die back. As each new layer of blooms appears, the previous layer's leaves will remain. You can clean up faded or dead flowers, but don't remove the leaves as they provide energy back to the bulb for next year's growth. This is a great project to do with children and share the experience as each flower variety goes through its life cycle.

Recipe for Bulb Lasagna by Carolyn Neumann (published Sept. 17, 2012) 

A display of bulbs blooming at different stages of growth. Bulbs shown are purple crocus, pink, yellow and purple hyacinth, yellow double ruffle daffodil and tulips. Photo: Lauren Snowden
A display of bulbs blooming at different stages of growth. Bulbs shown are purple crocus, pink, yellow and purple hyacinth, yellow double ruffle daffodil and tulips. Photo: Lauren Snowden

Potted plant of bulbs blooming at different stages.


Posted on Monday, October 18, 2021 at 11:23 AM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

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