A New Offering at the Master Gardener Plant Sale - Lotus Tubers!

A New Offering at the Master Gardener Plant Sale – Lotus Tubers!

By Carol Nelson

Caption for picture: This lotus bloom will emerge around August and delight the senses. Stop by the Master Gardener Plant Sale on May 7th to purchase a lotus tuber to plant in your garden.


The annual Master Gardener Plant Sale, set for Saturday, May 7th, 7:30 am to noon, is a great place to pick up healthy plants to add to your spring garden at low prices. Plant selections vary from year to year, but we always try to offer a selection of annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables. This year, we are excited to have something different: lotus tubers that produce lush pink or white flowers and interesting floating leaves.

Lotus tubers will add a “wow” factor when planted in a container water garden. Originally found in shallow, murky ponds, these plants are very invasive and should not be allowed to spread into Virginia ponds, lakes or waterways. A water garden is easily started in early spring by setting up a large round pot (18 to 25 gallons with no holes or lined with a heavy rubber bag) on a patio or deck. The pot should be placed in a sunny corner and filled to within six inches of the top with heavy clay-based soil or water garden soil. This is one time that it is acceptable to use soil from your yard in a container planting. It’s best to avoid using regular potting mix that contains fertilizer because it will float when water is added and may cause algae.

Tubers should be handled very gently so as not to break or injure the fragile growing tips. Make a groove in the soil about two inches deep and lay the tuber with the cut end against the side wall and the growing tip sitting at a 45° angle. A small rock may be used to hold the tuber down as several inches of water is slowly added – be sure to use well water or tap water that has been allowed to sit for several hours to release the chlorine. As the plant grows, it will put roots down into the soil. Add water as needed to replace evaporation and to keep the plant submerged. Be sure to also add a Mosquito Dunk year-round.

Lotus plants are heavy feeders and should be fertilized every three weeks using fertilizer sticks or pond fertilizer tablets. Lotus may not bloom the first year after planting, but will continue to grow and put out more tubers and roots until going dormant in the fall. In Zone 7, water gardens can be left outdoors over the winter or brought into an unheated garage. Every two years from January through March, the lotus plant should be divided so that it does not overgrow the pot.

A symbol of prosperity and purity, the lotus is revered as a sacred flower in Egyptian, Indian and other Asian cultures. The seed can survive prolonged drought conditions, while parts of the plant are edible and used in traditional herbal medicines. Try something different in your garden this year – a container water garden featuring beautiful lotuses. Master Gardeners want to thank our friend, Kathy Laine of Scottsburg, for dividing her big pot of lotus tubers to share at our Plant Sale.

Storm Water Stamping






Friends In Our Backyards - Solitary Bees by Kathy Conner Cornell

            Nowadays we hear a lot about honeybees but did you know that there are many other bees in your backyard that survive with minimal help from you. We all know the honey bees are at risk from mites, increased pesticide use and lack of available pollen. Some of these same things are now affecting our native solitary bees. Honeybees were brought from Europe by the colonists but solitary bees have been around for thousands of years. They were the primary pollinators before the arrival of the honeybee. They still perform a necessary service to us today.

            Unlike honeybees, solitary bees do not live in a colony. They make a tunnel like brood nests in the ground or in tree holes left by birds and insects. The brood nest consists of several brood cells. Each brood cell contains chunk of bee bread, named so because it has a loaf form, that contains pollen and nectar the female has collected. The female then lays a fertilized egg near or on the bee bread. Then she closes the cell with mud or chewed up plant parts. Depending on the species, there may be just one brood cell or several. Generally unfertilized eggs are laid close to the nest entrance. These become the males who emerge first. Just like men tend to hang around the Ladies Room when they are looking for some action, the males hang around the nest awaiting a female to emerge for mating.  

            Solitary bees have a complete metamorphosis consisting of four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. We only see the adult stage since the others take place in the brood nest. The egg remains in this stage for about three weeks before hatching into a grub like larva. At this stage the larva will eat the bee bread and continue to grow until time to form into a pupa. During this stage the pupa will take on adult features and be wrapped in a protective covering for eight to nine months. When emerging the bee will be a fully functional adult ready to eat, mate and build her own brood nests.

            Because there is no one to rely on, the female adults are very docile. If they risked stinging, they would be unsuccessful at creating a brood for next year. As with all bees, males have no stingers. Therefore they are lovely creatures to have in our gardens. Solitary bees are either generalists or specialists. The generalists will go to whatever is in bloom so are the more resilient species. The specialists only feed on one type of plant. For example, the squash bee will only feed on plants in the squash family such as pumpkins, cucumbers and gourds.

            If you want to invite these fascinating insects into your gardens there are few things you can do. Create diversity in your landscape by providing nectar rich plants blooming at various times during the growing season. Good early season plants are False Blue Indigo, Baptisia australis, Redbuds Cercis canadensis and even those Violets we hate having in our lawns. Coral honeysuckle, Lonciera sempervirens, not to be confused with the invasive alien Japanese honeysuckle, Lavender, Lavendula and Threadleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata are great for early summer. Late summer will find Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia and Garden Phlox, Phlox paniculata in bloom and asters round out the season. Step two is to not be afraid to be a bit untidy. Brush piles, old tree stumps and open bare ground provide good nesting sites. Finally, don’t use pesticides which kill the good bugs right along with the bad ones. With a little patience in the landscape the good bugs will consume the bad ones anyway.

Caption for picture: The False Blue Indigo is a great plant to attract solitary bees in early in the season. Solitary bees are important pollinators for many fruits and vegetables.





PSA-Over-Sized Transport on US Hwy 501 through the Town of Halifax on 04-18-16 & 04-20-16

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Herbs and Plants Featured at Flora Fest

     Flora Fest is a good way to welcome and celebrate springtime.  The annual festival sponsored by the Charlotte County Master Gardeners, will be held on Saturday, April 30th from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Charlotte County Extension Office at 133 LeGrande Avenue in Charlotte C.H.  Activities throughout the day include the Spring Plant Sale, lavender products from Evergreen Lavender Farm, lectures, Herb Sale and Herbal lunch.

     The day's lectures feature Bonnie Swanson, Evergreen Lavender Farm at 9 a.m. who will share her knowledge of lavender including culinary, health, beauty and decorative aspects of this wonderful plant.  At 10 a.m. Katie Martin, District Wildlife Biologist, will be speaking about the American Black Bear.  She will discuss the habitat and habits of the black bear as it relates to Southside Virginia.

     A partner in the day's events is the Southside Virginia Herb Society.  Their herb plant sale will be held across the street from the Extension Office at Village Presbyterian Church.  The Herb Plant Sale will feature all types of herbs including ones you don't often find locally.  A handmade throw rug will be raffled off at $1 per ticket.  Booklets featuring Easy Herbal Crafts, Culinary Herbs and Herbs and Spices of the Holy Bible will be offered for sale.

     An eat in or take out herb lunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the church Fellowship Hall.  The $5 lunch will consist of a sandwich, a snack and homemade cookies.  Bottled water and tea will also be for sale along with extra cookies.

     The Southside Virginia Herb Society is a group of area residents interested in learning about herbs, promoting herb use and sharing herbal knowledge with others.  A major goal of the Society's work is to sponsor a scholarship program for students interested in agriculture or horticulture.  Proceeds from this event fund the scholarship program.  So please join the fun to help out a local college bound student.