Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chapters of Bloom

      I have been being a bit sluggish myself but the garden is coming along apace despite me. In the amazing resurrection chapter, my hardy hibiscus is coming up (the one from last year. Nothing on the new one, so far) and my tiny white rhododendron (either Sugar Puff or Milky Way, curse my terrible memory and record-keeping) in the shade garden, eaten up by bugs last year, is coming back! I don't seem to have recorded when I planted it or ever photographed it in bloom (though before being eaten last year it was covered in buds) so I feel I must lavish attention on it.
        In the finally-decided-on-a-location chapter, my Rheum palmatum from the Veseys spring sale,  beside my faithful Japanese peony and in front of the rose/clematis trellis. I wanted a showy spot and I hope this is it. I popped in a lot of other things from the sale to the right of this, including the Amsonia "Storm Cloud" and a pink coreopsis (berry chiffon), hardy hibiscus Vintage Wine, as well as a number of Centaurea and rose campions. No bloom on any of the fancy peonies in the back yet, though one on the very right-hand edge is showing two buds, and they are the same shape (though smaller) as the tree peonies. Anne has the same and she says it is Garden Treasure, a peachy-yellow Itoh. I hope so! It will be the first of the Itohs to bloom.
        In the Oh-my-goodness it worked chapter, the ajuga "bed" around the maple tree with alliums rising up above the foliage, just as I imagined it. I am super pleased. There's a bit of grass and the ajuga is starting to bloom, curse it, but otherwise it's perfect. Or as perfect as ajuga can be made to be.
  In the bloomed-before-but-I'm-still-thrilled chapter are Clematis Elsa Spath, not far from the Itoh, the variegated wiegela, and the dark red tree peony, doing some funny thing with the colour of the outside petals. Each of the tree peonies has five blooms, and the red one is quite a bit later than the white this year, perhaps because the red is in more shade.

       And blooming-under-extreme-difficulty is my Minnetonka rhododendron, planted last August and looking splendid coming out of the snow, then badly burned by spring winds on its north side. But the south side has buds, and is starting to bloom, and the north side is putting on new growth, so perhaps all will be well.
    Now I must get out and construct a cage over  my hardy bush cherries, if I intend to save any of them from the birds this year. I bought 10-foot pieces of pvc conduit yesterday, thinking they would be long enough, but I think the bushes are more like 15 feet, end-to-end. Must get out the hacksaw and get cutting.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Finally catching up

        Blooming has begun, with my first rose (Fru Dagmar Hartrup) out yesterday evening, along with the tree peony "Flight of Cranes", only 5 blooms this year but I love every one of them. The tree peony plant has put on substantial growth as well, and is looking very healthy.
        Because I'm retired now, I have been working hard on improving the many unimproved or even "no go" areas in the garden. This includes three cold compost piles, which I am harvesting. I have also installed four hardware cloth bins in different locations, as per my composting guide, which recommends that you'll be much likelier to compost if you don't have to lug stuff for miles. I also made a compost sling for moving loads of dry browns which I raked in the spring. It's not so useful now, but will come in handy when it comes time to turn the hardware cloth bins. Another "tidying up" thing I'm trying, is building some 'hugelcultur" mounds, with some of the many branches and tree trunks which we otherwise have to try to burn. The mounds are covered with sods and eventually break down the wood underneath, and in the interim can be used for planting. I will probably just plant trees and shrubs on them, as they are in the shade areas. I have made two on the north side, and am going to use them to bolster our wind protection on that side.
         This week I have been trying to get things planted. Vegetables and flowers. We had our usual bonanza at the Veseys bulb sale (June 2 this year) and I have mainly potted up the rooted things rather than trusting them to the ground and hoping. I have finally created my "Hot" bed, hot colours, that is, and, contrary to what I just said, put quite a few crocosmia bulbs in there, of which there is still no sign. Ah well. I am putting in a few blue things as well, for contrast with the yellows & oranges. I put in two dark blue salvias, doing well, and I have still got a Veseys Amsonia to go there, but I want it to get a bit more established in the pot before it goes out.
            In my shade garden I have added quite a few things, including six more hellebores, the ones originally from Veseys and grown on by Van Kampens. 4 French Kiss, one each Rio Carnival and True Love. Looking forward to spring! My little rhododendron which bloomed so well in the shade last year was attacked by bugs in the late summer, and has not come back. Very disappointing. Oh well. I still have two others, larger ones, there, and the white one is blooming well, though the pink one lost all its leaves and, while the leaves have grown back it just has a couple of blooms. it is doing its best, poor thing. I shall go around with some of this great compost I've been mining, and give them a boost.
         Must get back out there. Before I go, I want to claim success with my allium/ajuga bed, however. I lost quite a few alliums to that whatever-it-is that makes the stems go weak and fall over (and I tried splints. They just fall over again in a different place) but because I had planted so MANY I still have a nice show - and it looks like they will go on for while yet. Result.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

My Garden Right Now, Take 2

           In the wake of Chelsea the gardeners of the world are taking stock again, so here I am. As before, I am very behind British gardens, with very little in bloom yet, but there is much potential. I shall be caught up in no time.
       This is the same view from March, with the raspberries leafing out and the vegetable garden going in, first bed is kale, beets, peas and carrots, just coming up. Second bed was tomatoes last year, so will be other things - probably zucchini and butternut squashes, cucumbers, etc. plus pole beans and maybe second sowings. Under the carpet is the new tomato patch, plus leeks, beyond that is onions and garlic, and then potatoes. There is a mixture of early tomatoes and flowers in the 6th bed. Espaliered apple is blooming!

On the other side of the lilac hedge. Again, not a lot of bloom, though the lilacs are on the verge, and the Solomon's Seal is doing well. I like the colours and textures of this view, though, and I can't wait for my purple-leaf birch in the foreground to come into full leaf. There will be many roses out soon just to the left, and the hydrangea peteolaris around the corner is about to bloom too.  In a couple of weeks you won't know the place!

         Today I finished edging "Primuland", where there are quite a few blooming things. It is looking well, and I am sure that it will be terrific when the primulas and other things fill out a bit more. I am building an associated "hot" bed next to it, where I shall put the yellow and orange flowers I've been finding jarring in the regular, pink-and-white-and blue beds. I think there will be blue in the hot bed as well, though, for contrast. I am not a hosta-lover, so my one and only hosta is at the very bottom of this bed - a little cutie called mouse ears.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Still awaiting spring

      We have had yet another storm, with 30 cm. of new snow, so the tiny signs of spring (can you see some crocus and other bulbs peeping out?) are now covered again. I got out last week and did a bit of raking on the south side of the yard, and pruning some evergreens to bring a bit more light in to the "Primuland" bed, just in the upper right of the photo.
      And then the snow came. The seeds in the house are coming along apace - I've pricked out about four dozen tomato plants and there are quite a few more to come.

       The peppers I was so proud about have come a bit of a cropper...I put the flats on the bottom shelf of my mini greenhouse in the living-room, under lights, and one of the cats decided that as it was on her level it must be a new kind of cat grass. Thus I've lost about half of one flat and a third of the other. She obviously didn't like the taste, because she just beheaded them or pulled them up - and left them. They still don't have true leaves so I can't prick them out yet - but I have put them up high and only have pots of seeds which haven't yet sprouted on that fateful bottom shelf.
       Here's the most recent snowfall. The sun is warmer now, so it's going fast, even though the temperature hasn't been above zero - much - since. I did get out to the polytunnel on Saturday to do a clear-out, dumping pots of dead plants and sorting all of the pots into sizes and shapes (round vs. square).  I found the temperature and humidity gauge in a trug and started to record the highs and lows as I did last spring. I will need to have some proof of above-zero in there at night before I dare to put any of the precious stuff indoors now, out there. I did use an electric heater in there last year, but it's not quite so crucial this time - no wedding flowers to grow!! 
        I put in this photo because I had left my rake in the south part of the garden and there it is - resting until the snow goes again.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


          We had another snowstorm last night. Didn't stop school, as it was over by morning, and warming up. However, there was enough for the snow man to come and clear the driveway. Yesterday I had a look around at the places where there were bulbs last year. There was snow, or even where the ground is bare, not so much as a tiny blade showing, this year. I'm trying to channel my disappointment by seed-starting and watching gardening shows from last year. I planted a LOT of bulbs last fall (Veseys bulb sale again) and am especially anxious to see if they survived - I bought snowdrops again and hope that they will make it. I would love to have some snowdrops!
Last year's white crocus, up and soon to bloom
         Last year we had bare ground and crocus! I do like the "go back 12 months" thing about iPhoto. I don't like much about it so I should admit to liking that. In looking back I discovered that I was working on wedding stuff - making a 1930s-style sandwashed silk charmeuse wedding dress, and building a "Paper Moon" photo backdrop, also for the wedding, with my sister. She helped greatly with the dress as well,  and both turned out. The photo booth is still at my house, I'm looking for a home for it. The moon takes up a lot of space.  But it features in a lot of photos!

          I'm also channelling my energies into knitting, trying to finish up some of the many UFOs on my Ravelry project page.  I'm trying to finish one thing before starting something else, but somehow it's more interesting and fun to do something new. Even though I know that finishing something is easier, in that I already have a head start. I'm bored! I want to go outside!

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's Fuchsia Season

          Today I nipped out the growing tips on three of my (attempted) standard fuchsias. (I'm using "Fuchsias The Complete Guide" by George Bartlett as my bible for this project.) One is 21 inches, one 31 inches and the other is 35 inches. I think the last two are the bare minimum for full standards (G.B. says fulls are 30 to 42 inches) and I don't really know how the tops will grow and whether their "trunks" will still be this length when the top grows out. (The 21 inch one will be a half standard.) It's so thrilling. I have them in rather large pots (G.B. recommends 3 inch ones, and mine are 5 inches square) so I hope they will not get discouraged. I am supposed to leave the leaves on the stem "until a head is formed" so I'm not doing anything else at the moment. I'm to keep pinching out the tips of the side shoots to get a bushy top, but they're too small for that yet. I have two others which still have some room to grow up their flower stick so I'm not going to stop them yet.
        In other fuchsia news, I have overwintered a number of them in the cold garage (kept at 4 degrees C.) and when I checked recently some were coming into bud and leaf. I have re-potted them all (except one) and am hopeful that they will survive. I had two tiny ones I was especially fond of in baskets by the front door, and so far only one has sprouted. However I keep spritzing the other one and I hope it will survive. This photo shows them before they got hung up outside last summer. I don't know which one I like best, but if one doesn't make it I guess I shall prefer the other. They both suffered quite a bit from neglect over the summer (forgetting to water them was the problem) so I should be pleased that they want to keep growing for me.
The one I haven't re-potted is covered with small sprouts so I am keeping it going, for taking cuttings (I'm greedy, I know). I had a huge "Swingtime" fuchsia in a large pot for several years, so I re-potted it - and it turns out that it is them as I now have 5 separate plants. Not much sign of growth so far but I am hopeful. I just re-potted them this week.  They had a lot of root.
           After Easter last year the Superstore had hydrangeas in lovely printed tins for 99 cents each. We got a few, and I checked their zone - it was 6 which is just a bit better than our 5B. So I re-potted them and kept them outdoors in their pots all summer, and brought them in to the garage for the winter. When I got the fuchsias out of the way I discovered that the hydrangeas were coming out in leaf as well! The white one even has flower buds. Is it planning to bloom for Easter? It is "Alaska" and the two others are "Bottstein" a reddish - purple. One of those bloomed last summer in the pot! I feel like I should re-pot them, but they are in quite big pots, hard to manage indoors. And I think I should leave the blooming one anyway. Pretty great for 99 cents. I plan to put them outdoors eventually with lots of protection, but for now I'm just so happy with them for surviving.
           I was getting quite pessimistic about my seed-starting abilities, as there were no signs of either peppers (planted 10 Feb.) or tomatoes (planted 28 Feb.). They yesterday, the tomatoes showed up! And today the peppers have popped out.
3 kinds of tomatoes: Sweet Million, Mountain Magic, Mosaic Mix

Peppers: New Ace. 

            Planted another tomato today ( a heritage variety from my sis) and I am optimistic they will be along shortly. Now that the fuchsias are in the house I can bring in my wire shelving unit from the garage and get the seedlings under lights and moving along. Today I also started seeds of nemophila "penny black" and scarlet flax, which was lovely last year. Roll on summer.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

My Garden, Right Now

        Just went out to do a photo shoot for #mygardenrightnow, and I think I may be in the winter end of the gardening spectrum of all those participating. The temperature is -13C, with windchill it's -23C. Luckily we are sheltered so there's not much windchill here. But it's not exactly gardening weather yet.
       I checked on the raspberry canes, which are all tied in and looking great. Behind me is the vegetable plot with tomato cages and dead kale. Up to the right in the photo are two cordoned apple trees and there's a cold frame behind them - a frozen frame at the moment. Not a lot in there as yet. Behind the vegetable plot is a lilac hedge, and the flowers are on the other side of that. Nothing on show at the present but snow.
      I have some of my winter-sown seeds on the deck, and some down on a table in front of the poly tunnel. When I put them out, last month, I stuck them into a snowbank on the table. Now,
that snow is gone. See, spring will come! It's lovely and warm in the poly tunnel at the moment, but I don't dare put anything out there as it will freeze tonight. All the regularly-sown seeds (vegetables, etc.) are indoors for quite a while yet. The winter-sown ones are all hardy annuals or perennials which would happily self-sow if they had a chance. Nothing happening in there at the moment! It's tempting to put them in the cold frame but they need the snow and rain to water them - my hose can't be outdoors in this weather either so I can't water them.
     Luckily I have a few bulbs indoors to cheer me up on days like this! This is Amaryllis 'black pearl', bought at the Veseys bulb sale last fall. I potted it up at Christmas. It took quite a while to develop roots but my long wait has been rewarded!
    I have a lot of seedlings in the office and the den - the two rooms with the best southern exposure, and it's where I also have my attempt at growing a standard fuchsia. I had five slips, taken late in the fall, which I discovered had rooted, so I potted them up and started tying them in to sticks. I have to confess that I didn't
think they would make it to the top of the sticks I could find at the time I was potting them - now I wish I'd had longer ones. All five are doing well - they do get aphids from time to time but I've been taking them in to the bathroom for a shower every now and then and that seems to work to clean them off, at least temporarily. The aphids love the new side shoots, also, and as I have to pinch those off, I take great pleasure in pinching the aphids to death at the same time. I believe these are a white fuchsia (both flower parts are white) which might be 'Annabel', though I'm not sure. It is really hardy and easy to propagate for me, and it tends to have long branches, so I hope that they will make an interesting statement in the flower garden this summer.