Coming of Age

An exercise that I wrote in my Thursday writing group.  I have been working intensively on fiction writing skills and not on my blog. It IS garden related so I thought I’d post it here.

Red, it’s almost always got to be red, the color of lust, the beating heart, the cut-vein red of an open wound.  And round like the sun, with the curving, firm heft of a young woman’s breast. 

Anticipation is a part of it, the days waiting, praying to the weather gods, not too cold, not too wet, now not too hot, please.

Worship of the bees.  Just in case, I take an old electric toothbrush to the blossoms or snap my fingers next to their small yellow flowers.  The pollen is necessary.

And smell.  There has to be a ripe, rich odor, slightly acid, sweet.  The tannic smell of brushed branches, their green-yellow sap burning my skin, is all a part of this.  The summer’s first tomato.

It was tomatoes that bought me to this garden, to any garden, in the sense of tending plants.  Well, them and roses.

I was raised on a farm.  My first memories are of vast fields.  Planting corn, it was my job to stomp each hill once the seeds were covered.  The hills went on, beyond my father’s towering frame, to the sky.

I realize now that much of my early years in the garden were because there was no childcare, no pre-school. So I spent my summer days learning soil, small red bugs lighting up the brown; curly fat worms, spiders, my playmates.  Weeds the enemy, the purpose of our labor.

Rebel youth,  I grew to hate the heat, the work and the isolation of the farm, to dream of living in a house like grandpa and grandma’s in Detroit where evenings were spent on shaded porches, chatting with the neighbors, the ice cream shop a short city block away.  Someday, I thought.

Boarding schools and colleges and big cities later though, I hungered for tomatoes.  Grocery stores sold pinkish things that would turn some approximate shade of red but never make my heart beat faster.  Never remind me of the sun’s heat in August or the last pickings under a cold harvest moon in October, racing to beat the frost.

Now I need a patch of ground, a piece of the sun for myself and the bearing of the tomatoes inside of me, long buried seeds, waiting for a rebirth that only I can bring.

Posted in Food and recipies, My garden, Tomatoes | 1 Comment

Dahlia Hill and Toledo Botanical Garden

Harvey Koop

Harvey Koop

I’ve always wanted to grow Harvey Koop but his tubers are a little hard to find.  One year, I ordered two plants; not my favorite way to grow dahlias, I prefer growing from tubers, and one of them died.  The other one’s flowers were all that solid red; which is a nice red but not Harvey Koop.  He does have that tendency.  This shot was taken at Toledo Botanical Garden; Dahlia Hill had some nice specimens, too.  The helpful volunteer who put up with my questions and comments was disgusted that one of their plants had also reverted to solid red. It’s OK, shows us amateurs that it’s the flower, not us.

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

This shot of Lady Liberty was taken at Dahlia Hill in Midland.  It’s the only public display garden that I know in Michigan with this breadth of varieties and number of plants. (Hamilton Dahlia farms has the numbers but is not technically a public display garden — though open to visitors.)

It was my favorite white on this visit but I wonder how it compares with my old time favorite, Hy Mom.  I may have to grow them side by side to find out <g>.

Firepot

Firepot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The big dahlia plants become leggy and unattractive near the soil so I’m always on the lookout for short dahlias that can go in the front of the bed.  I’m trying Firepot next year, for sure.  You can probably tell that I love blends and this one is spectacular.  It should also work well in pots, for my friends who have climate problems with dahlias.  A good one to try.

Bashful, below is a nice single for the same purpose.  Low growing and full of color.  The bees love these singles and some of my collarets, not all of which stay small enough to use in the front of the bed.

Bashful

Bashful

Show and Tell

Show and Tell

Show and Tell is a garden in its own right.  I saw it at both Dahlia Hill and Toledo Botanical Garden.  Dahlia Hill’s volunteer told me that it’s a late bloomer, it had just started there, and on two plants at Toledo Botanical Garden there was just this one fantastical bloom.  But it was the size of my grand son’s head.  I am SO tempted.  So many dahlias; so little sun.

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Mo Dahlias

Candlelight and Gloriosa

Candlelight and Gloriosa

Lower front, Candlelight’s orange aurora varies in its location and intensity; the orange deepens as the blossom ages.  This is not a huge dahlia but it’s one of the best dahlias for cutting, lasts forever and just gets prettier.

Gloriosa

Gloriosa

Gloriosa Red

Gloriosa Red

This blossom of Gloriosa had more red highlights than most.  I like!

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Undeserved Dahlia

Kelvin Floodlight in a Pot

Kelvin Floodlight in a Pot

This is Kelvin Floodlight; normally a huge plant.  I pulled it with several non-performing tubers after they had been in the ground for a few weeks, when most of the dahlias had good sized plants.  I noticed a tiny sprout that had done nothing on this tuber and stuck it in a ten inch pot, intending to find a place for it later if it grew.  It did grow and I never did find a place for it.  Now it’s blossomed; still in the small pot, much more than I deserve.

Also a bonus shot.  One of my Croydon’s Masterpiece plants is blossoming too yellow.  It’s still a pretty color but not what I get normally.  Evidently, all the better to give some intense sunset effects, streaks of purple.

Off Color Croydon's Masterpiece

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August Dahlias 2015

  • Patches (two shots) is still an early favorite for it’s clown like irregular coloring.  Each blossom is different and the blossoms fade from white/purple to pink/purple.
  • The delicate blush water lily is Yvonne.
  • Lemon Kiss is next, the plant is a bit tall for the front of the bed unless you put it in front of a really tall dahlia like Bonaventure; it would be a nice combo but I didn’t grow Bonaventure this year.
  • Then a shot of Pooh at the top left; a very tall plant for such a small flower but he’s so cheerful.  I can’t resist growing at least one plant of him. To his lower right is Gloriosa, shyly turning her head.
  • Then Esther.  Perfect for the front of the bed or in a pot but I don’t know if it’s possible to buy those tubers any more.

No pictures yet this year of Croyden’s Masterpiece or collaret Cherubino who have also blossomed.  The firsts were not great because of the summer heat.  Dahlia season’s just begun.

 

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Summer Veggie Problems

cucumbers on supports

cucumbers on supports

Ironically, when I was searching for information about a problem with wilting dahlias, I came across a couple of pictures that looked just right.  When I clicked on them in the search engine, it was from an earlier blog of mine.  And I never got an answer and never came back to it.  Real helpful Gaias Gift lady, she says sarcastically.  What MAY have happened, is what’s happening this year, the plants are recovering.  I don’t know if they will produce any blossoms but they are not wilted in the cool of morning and evening and less wilted in the daytime.

On to this year’s veggie problem.  I was so excited at the healthy growth of my cucumbers; Sweet Success again.  I started them indoors in soil cubes and they transitioned wonderfully in our warm spring.  Then I saw lots of little cukes forming with flowers at the end and I was salivating.  No signs of vine borer anywhere this year yet.  (Now I’ve done it.)

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAlas, almost all of those little cucumbers have done nothing except sit there and petrify. This COULD be a pollination problem except that Sweet Success aren’t supposed to need pollination.  And they are all female so I wouldn’t know how to do that anyway??  So did I get the seeds I ordered?  I sent off a question to the seed company and got an immediate request for more information; pictures and such.

The one and only cucumber that’s grown to full size hasn’t filled out at the blossom end the way it should but I wanted to keep the plants producing.  It does show promise in its length.

I purchased Super Sweet 100 tomatoes from the same source and have been grumping because they are getting so much SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAbigger than any of that variety and much later.  See the leftmost two tomatoes in the picture; picked green.  Next to the two Sun Golds on the right, picked ripe.  I’ve been picking Sun Gold for weeks; so the seed company got that question, too.

Whatever the red ones are, the chipmunks prefer them <weak grin>.

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The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by Carol Deppe – Book Review

The most valuable parts to me

To me, the most valuable parts of this book are where she discusses the reasons, procedures and processes to create our own varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables. The reasons are excellent.  A home grown tomato, selected from the best tasting, and for your garden conditions, is a joy that no amount of money can buy; but you can grow.  This singular accomplishment is threatened by the disease called late blight.  As she points out, programs to develop new tomato strains that are resistant to late blight are likely to start with tomatoes selected for market.  Selected for uniformity, storage and mass growing conditions.

Heirlooms and open pollinated varieties, among others, may be completely lost unless home and small growers do their own work.  She gives concrete, how-to advice for de-hybridizing and creating crosses to come up with tomatoes that have the characteristics that we love in heirlooms plus the genes needed to confer resistance for late blight and other diseases.

She also goes into detail about creating landraces, using seed saving and genetic selection to produce plants that are most productive, flavorful, or colorful – you choose – for your own growing conditions.

Some Surprises

I’ve always thought that seeds were fragile and to keep them viable, they should be kept from getting too dry or being frozen.  Carol talks about using those processes to create a personal seed bank to preserve seeds for periods long beyond what I thought were possible.

Very interesting discussion about tomato taste and when to pick: late day, after the sun has warmed them, for her.  That’s not something that I’ve thought about.  If she’s right, most tomatoes purchased at a farmer’s market and picked the morning they are sold are not as full of flavor as they could be.  I imagine farmers would be overjoyed to find that they could pick the afternoon of the day before, (or a few days before for some varieties) sleep in and have better tasting tomatoes.

A few nit-picks. 

There is nothing wrong with Swiss Chard.  And I’m surprised as Carol really likes greens; it makes a wonderful counterpoint to the sweet winter squashes that she develops and grows.  I would never try to change Carol’s mind but you should try it for yourself and I would recommend you try it in Molly Katzen’s recipe, Pasta with greens and feta.

Regardless of the cover subtitle:  “Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy and Serenity”, it was hard for me to identify the audience that the author had in mind.  It gives some basic cultivation advice but not enough for most beginners to be successful.  That’s all right; there are other books that do this.  She mentions a lot of helpful resources beyond her own books.

The Taoist stories and sayings are amusing and entertaining but in my opinion, amount to a sort of “what ever” from a philosophical viewpoint. But then, the older I get, the more I resist any rigid belief system.  So maybe I am Taoist.  Whatever. <s>  When it comes to joy and serenity in the garden I am a long-time true believer and I can respect anyone who shares that and applaud anyone who wants to share it with others.

Unfortunately, with only room for about a dozen tomato plants; I grow only two or three of each variety (with no ability to rotate where they grow), I can’t afford even the modest space that she suggests to experiment.  So I hope some of you with a little more sunny space will read this book feel inspired. It’s probably less space and trouble than you think.

 

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Swiss Chard Experiment – LED lights

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard was one of those things that I used to like growing better than eating.  There are so many different colors to feed the eye.  But once I used it in Molly Katzen’s Pasta with greens and feta, that changed.  So yummy; so pretty; my favorite, just for the looks is any red variety.

So as I started to grow greens under LED lights I became curious as to whether I could make this recipe in the winter with my own greens.  Swiss Chard showed up on lists of things that people had grown successfully but there wasn’t much information; it can often be used as a micro or baby green; I think it was even in some baby and micro-mixes that I tried under the lights before I gave up on mixes (that’s a different story).

The seedlings were well beyond micro or baby sized when I blogged about them on February 1, 2015.  As I mentioned in that post, I put three of the 2″ soil cubes into 3″, round coir pots.  The pictures show them on the right (with some Simpson Elite lettuces in the picture before they are cut, but you can ignore them for this post.)  To make it clear, the plants you see in both flats are from the same batch; the ones on the right were potted up.  My poor record-keeping would make any real scientist want to shoot me but I don’t think the two flats were treated differently in any other significant way.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe results suggest that Swiss Chard wants deeper soil to mature normally.  In the pots, the coloring is better, the stems are wider and the leaf shape is more elongated, more similar to what I would get in the garden. However, all of those characteristics are less than what I would expect from mature chard, grown in the summer garden.

Taste tests next.

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LED growing 2015

Swiss chard

Swiss chard

What else could I be writing about in this weather?  As I write, all I can see out of my basement windows is the snow.  I started the usual lettuces and a couple of greens for the new year.  My “big” experiment is Swiss chard.  I was sure I could get them to micro green size and maybe even baby green size – done.  I really would like to get them big enough for cooking.  I wasn’t, and I’m still not sure how much room their roots need to get to maturity.

The leaves started quite rounded on long, thin stems, and the bigger ones are still not as elongated as I’d like to see, using what I’ve grown in the garden as a comparison.  But I could start cooking with these if I really wanted to do so.

Today, I did what I’ve been planning to do for awhile and put some of the crop into small pots to see what effect more root space might have.  We’ll see.

arugula and mizuna

Last trial with arugula failed; because of fungus gnats, I think.  (The arugula is the rounder leaf at the front of the flat in the picture above.  The spikier leaves in the back are mizuna.) This trial is looking good except I expected these leaves to be more elongated, too and deeply lobed.  They are quite hot; I should probably harvest the bigger leaves this week.  I don’t know how they do for cut and come again; the mizuna in the back of the flat is great at that.

greens 2015

One flat of greens is going under the new LumiBar LED Strip Light and in the new environment; a sturdy shelving unit.  I should be able to consolidate my setup and move the other two lights under the shelf where this flat of greens sit but I want to start with a simple trial of this light. The red and the blue for this light are adjustable; when they are both at max, it shows a lot more blue than the older lights.  I’m leaving them at max because there’s no way of knowing what’s best for this exact mix and I’m not funded for trials!

new light setup

 

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Freida under the Lights

Alas, Fred and last winter’s pygmy sundews did not make it through the summer.  Once I turned off the LEDs, I couldn’t find the right combination of light and coolness to keep them alive.  So when I started up the lights this fall I made another order to California Carnivores.  I let them pick the sundews, a sample pack, and unfortunately, none of them have colored as nicely as the ones that I picked last year.  But they seem to be doing their job as I’ve seen the occasional gnat but no damage to the plants.

Fred’s variety was no longer available so I ordered a pretty Nepenthes spathulata x ramispina (M-SG).  Lacking any better ideas, I named her Freida.  She is bigger and her darker color makes her look fiercer than Fred did.  Also the detail along her “blossom” edge looks like teeth to me.  Very fierce.  Shiver…

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe slender stalk in the lower picture front right is an emerging “blossom”.  The small structure at the end will develop into something like the large, complex structure in the top picture.  By then the mature one will have shriveled up, hopefully after feeding.

Click on either picture to enlarge.

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Dahlias September 2014

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAYvonne, I have grown her other years and still a favorite.  Smaller blossoms but so pretty and there are a lot of them.  The dark stems are distinctive.  A relatively tall plant.

Verrone's Obsidian

Verrone’s Obsidian was Swan’s gift this year for my dahlia order.  Interesting, but probably will not grow next year.

Kidds Climax

Kidds Climax, big and beefy pink and yellow blend.  I’ve grown it for several years, too.  I do have other pinks and purples, which I guess is hard to tell from this post.  I bought a number of new warm colors to fill out that end of the bed.

Gloriosa

Gloriosa, size B; lots of blossoms and beautiful complexity of color and shape. Keeper.

Cherubino

Cherubino; When this first started opening, I wondered why I ordered a white, single dahlia.  Then the lacy center started to develop and I remembered why.  It’s still a marginal keeper because it’s flopping.  Most of my small dahlias don’t need staking but this one probably does.

Candlelight

Candlelight; advertised by Swan’s as a good cutting flower but the stems are not very strong in my garden.  Still, a keeper.  Plenty of blossoms and I love the blend.

April Heather

April Heather is a lovely flower but unexpectedly, the plant is going on seven feet tall!  Typical collarette flowers aren’t huge but the complex colors are dramatic and as you can see, the blossoms are prolific.  I need to figure out how to use these big plants      with small flowers.  (Pooh is another one that I grow.) I put this one at the front of the bed and that was a mistake!

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Early dahlias, 2014

Citron de Cap

Citron de Cap

Candlelight

Candlelight

Fercliff's Lemon Kiss

Fercliff’s Lemon Kiss

Yvonne

Yvonne

I’m starting out with a bit of a cheat.  Citron de Cap did not do well for me last year, although the one or two blossoms that opened were beautiful, that was it.  I was going to discard and a friend said she’d like to try with a few of the ones that weren’t doing well for me.  She sent me a picture when it was first showing color and I wondered if I’d sent her the wrong tuber because it there was so much pink.  But it’s opening now and the fine, lacinated petals are unmistakable.  She says there are more fat buds.  I am very jealous.

 

The next two pictures are new dahlias for me.  Candlelight is a medium sized plant, good for the front or middle of the bed and Swan’s describes it as a good cutting dahlia.

 

 

 

 

The lemon yellow is Ferncliff’s Lemon Kiss and it’s another keeper for the front of the bed.

 

 

 

 

Yvonne, is always a favorite; such a delicate lady.

 

 

And the last shot is of Art Deco.  I’ve been growing it in the deck boxes for years.  This year, I found a lantana on sale during late spring and planted it, hoping that my color memory was good and that it would work with the dahlias when they opened.  I think it works.

Art Deco

 

 

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Tomato Seedling Problem

another shot

another shot

Brandywine tomato with problem

Brandywine tomato with problem

I threw out about two thirds of my Brandywine seedlings yesterday as I was potting up my tomatoes into three inch peat pots.  The leaves were starting to curl, wilt and yellow.  With a close look, I was thinking maybe scale but the fuzz is not something that I associate with scale.  Then saw pictures and descriptions of older plants with early blight.  I’ve never known it to hit seedlings. Any ideas?

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Carnivorous Plants and the LED Farm

 

N. chaniana x veitchii (S-TC) aka Fred

N. chaniana x veitchii (S-TC) aka Fred

I promised you a serious blog post about Fred (N. chaniana x veitchii (S-TC)) and the pigmy sundews.  Since the sundews are blossoming, it seemed like a good time to deliver.  To give you some context, I was having problems with fungus gnats and their larvae in the soil cubes where I grow lettuce under LED lights.  They were especially destructive of some of the slower growing greens like mizuna and I lost much of one crop to them.  I didn’t want to use insecticide and read that these insects are a favorite feast for sundews.  I consulted with California Carnivores about plants that would stay compact and ordered a few pigmy sundews.  Fred was an impulse purchase.

Although Fred’s picture looks quite similar to the one I posted earlier, he gorged and lost one of his pitchers and replaced it with a new one.  The small appendage that you see in the foreground will be another.  The larger pitcher has already closed so I expect that it will soon turn brown and wither.  I read that this is the natural progression.  Since Fred has covers on his pitchers, I can’t see if he’s getting enough to eat but his color looks good, more like the catalogue description; more rose than the green that he exhibited just out of shipment.

Drosera callistos, “Brooklyn Large Form”

Pigmy sundew Drosera callistos, “Brooklyn Large Form” is not large at all.  The largest cluster is about the size of a dime and most of them are smaller.  These have tiny, fuzzy white centers forming that I suspect are or will be the flower.

Drosera paleacea ssp. Palaeces

Pigmy sundew Drosera paleacea ssp. Palaeces has miniscule white flowers held on string-like stalks, about ¾’ above the clusters.  To any gardener who has a blood lust for the critters that want to eat what we produce, notice the little back specs in the dewy pink fuzz: former insect agents of salad destruction.  <Evil laugh>

I still have questions, like whether these plants need to go dormant and if so, what will that look like?  And will those flowers have seed that I can harvest?

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Yellowing Rhododendrun

Rhododendron with yellowing leaves

Rhododendron with yellowing leaves

See how the new growth is yellowing?  Could this be sunburn?  (not that we’ve had much sun).  But this is northwest of where I had those trees removed after Sandy.  And I can’t think what else it could be.  It’s was a large plant when I moved here over fifteen years ago and has thrived on neglect.  It also has more blossoms than ever, it didn’t blossom for many years because of too much shade.  Which suggests it’s noticed a difference.

And if it’s sunburn, will it acclimate?

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Fred the Assassin

Fred the Assassin

Fred the Assassin

I’m small.  It’s not my fault.  I was designed this way.  Petite and tender green like the emerging shoots of plants in spring, touched by delicate pink.  Pretty but deadly, I’m the deceiver, the destroyer.  I eradicate. 

My brothers and I were cloned.  Mercenaries, our lives were sold to aid in the war against bugs.

I do not march.  My skills are of a different kind.  Slender stems, springing from an innocuous stalk carry lightly capped amphorae.  Rounded, voluptuous, each curve gently highlighted in the sweetest blush contains a precious liquid deep inside that attracts the hungry enemy to my door.

“What is that perfume, that luscious smell?”  They move closer.

“Come on in,” I encourage.  “You’ll find out.”

The charming cup is lined with soft and gentle fuzz, a zillion hairs to smooth your path.  “Go deeper, my friend.  Please be my guest.”

It’s one way into the chalice. 

Temptation is how I kill.  I will suck your juices.  I will dissolve your bones.  I will feed.

It’s lonely here.  Except for some silly, oozing pygmies, I stand a solitary watch. My insidious skills protect flats of lettuce that share my colors but not my deadly purpose.  More red, more green, more leaf thrown out with careless abandon, they foolishly succor the enemy.  They offer space between their roots to his offspring who feed on their dying leaves.  Who grow fat and breed.

The fools.

The enemy is everywhere, in the ground and in the air.  They taunt me with their flights, their freedom, as they visit destinations I can only imagine.

More fool I. 

Those I protect become salad.  For pity sake, I guard salad!

I was not cloned to question but to serve.  The calculated result of an insidious breeding program by monsters seeking to combine subtle beauty with deadly appetites in ever smaller packages. 

I am Fred the Assassin.

Serious article about Fred and his pygmy friends at http://gaias-gift.com/blog/?p=1991

Posted in LED light growing, Life lessons in the garden, My garden, Winter gardens | 1 Comment

LED First Harvest 2013

Under the lights

Under the lights

These greens were targeted for Thanksgiving but my timing is a little off.  Someone said Thanksgiving was late this year?  In the harvest picture below, from bottom left, clockwise:

  • Cilantro:  Calypso, which takes cool weather, bolts slowly and can be grown as cut and come again.
  • Shiso:  Aka Perilla; this is a red variety that I pick small for its color.  It does put out more leaves after being cut and has a very muted, almost-mint flavor.
  • Mizuna:  The common green variety.  I like the results of growing it under lights as outside, it seems to attract every chewing insect known.  Until growing it inside, I’ve always had to eat holey leaves.
  • Purple Mizuna:  See the single leaf in the middle of the board, with spoon for sizing.  My latest trial and I dunno?  I was thinking it was too little leaf surface to use up space under the lights and it’s skeletal shape is a bit off-putting, but it has the nicest peppery flavor.  It made my last egg salad sandwich quite elegant.
  • Spinner with Red Sails and Simpson’s Elite Lettuce
  • Majoram:  I got the nicest tasting marjoram plant at Lyman Estate’s herb sale this spring; normally I would let it die this winter but it’s SO good that I started cuttings under the light.  They weren’t happy; I’ve lost all but one; it’s more stem than leaves and I keep cutting it back without improvement.  But if I can just string this one plant along until next season, the genetics are there.
LED harvest

LED harvest

Total harvest this year so far has been about 12 oz.  Very fresh and pretty; organic, too.  The organic fertilizer that I’m using is based on fish pooh and kelp.  Sundays, when I fertilize, are smelly.  And I’ve learned from experience to only mix what I need.  It gets truly abominable when it sits.  It’s interesting that a few days after fertilizing, most of the smell is gone, well-metabolized by the fast growing plants.

 

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Ferns

A friend of mine who lives in the Midwest mentioned a garden seminar on ferns.  It reminded me of how I used to think they were exotic, when I also lived in the Midwest.  Now that I’m in New England, I find that they can also be invasive.  I inherited a few varieties from previous owners so I don’t know what they are.  If anyone can identify them from the pictures, I’d love to hear about it.

invasive fern

invasive fern

Parts of the wooded area behind my house had been cleared and when I first moved in, it was filled with plants of a particular fern.  I thought they were pretty, especially when they turned gold in the fall.  And then one very dry year they turned gold July and quickly went to brown for the rest of the season.  And they don’t hold their own; over time, the poison ivy, small trees and brush (my nemesis, wild berry bushes) filled in.  They also tried to fill flower beds, with too much success, and I found that the only way to weed them is to dig out all of the roots or they will persistently come back over and over again.  The picture above is taken about a month after I had the area cleared, otherwise they would be brown this time of year.

fern at driveway endBut not all ferns are equal.  There is a clump at the end of the driveway that seems to know its place.  And it comes on late enough in the spring to share its space with bleeding heart.  It looks nice against the rocks that line the end of the drive and doesn’t mind the way that water stands there in wet years; I’ve backed it with elderberry plants that don’t mind the wet conditionss, either.

cinnamon fern detail

cinnamon fern detail

Another fern, probably a cinnamon fern, see the distinctive characteristics in the close-up left, takes over a difficult spot.  Not only is that a corner of the house where water runoff is an issue, I also pull the mean old hose through the space between it and the evergreen foundation plantings to water plants in the front of the house; injuring fronds but never completely discouraging the plant.  It’s tall and adds texture to the combination of hydrangea Incrediball and a grass (a miscanthus?) that I planted years ago.

corner planting

corner planting

I’ve added a bonus shot with fall colors.  When I took the shot I was thinking that I didn’t remember this display other years.  A day or two later, I thought I might try to get a better shot, without the brown leaves, and it was all very brown.  The bright yellow display must be very short lived.  But nice.

corner planting color

corner planting color

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Dahlias 2013 Part Two

Dahlia Vassio Meggos

Dahlia Vassio Meggos

I’ve been looking forward to this dahlia opening since I saw it at Dahlia Hill in Midland, MI, last summer.  Although described as a lavender, I remembered it as a day-glo pink and this could fit both descriptions, sort of.  Big and beefy, the petals twist; adding even more interest.

While not completely organic, I do make it a practice never to spray insecticides on blossoming plants to protect bees and other beneficials so you will see the occasional hole or half eaten petal. One

Dahlia Pooh

Dahlia Pooh

morning though I came out to a just-opening Kidd’s Climax with a hole that looked like it had been gouged out with a sharp ice cream scoop.  I was looking for caterpillars and instead, found several huge Katydids with enough droppings nearby to convince me that they were the culprits.  They met an abrupt end.  I did some research and yes, they do eat dahlias and no, there’s not a good control for them this time of year.  There are some that I might try earlier in the year if the problem repeats, but after my search and destroy efforts, I’m not seeing much more damage.

Croyden's Masterpiece

Croyden’s Masterpiece

Pooh, and other collarettes are the best for attracting bees as their centers are so open.

Croyden’s Masterpiece is still the very best blend of sunset colors.  The first one of these to open this year was also the largest dahlia I’ve ever grown.   Not really working at that; I don’t disbud, for example, it’s still awesome to see.  I’ve already started labeling the plants that are performing early and well to save only those tubers for next year.

Devon Excel, below, will turn more pink/lavender as it develops.  I love the delicacy of these colors.

Dahlia Devon Excel

Dahlia Devon Excel

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Dahlias 2013 Part One

The dahlia garden is still pretty green, with some notable exceptions.  The smaller varieties have been blossoming for a few weeks with Susan Komen being the first to put on a display.  It is the smallest plant of all of mine, a gift from a neighbor who didn’t want to over winter the tubers from a late season purchase.

Dahlia Susan Komen

Dahlia Binky

Dahlia Binky

 

Dahlia Binky is generous with its blossoms and and easy to grow, one (picky) undesirable habit is that the blossoms tend to be hidden in the new growth.

 

 

Dahlia Patches

Dahlia Patches

Binky fronts large-flowered dahlia Patches, which was the first of the large varieties to open.  It’s purple and white markings are more irregular than this picture would indicate and the white tends to fade to pink as the flower ages, for a unique blend of pink and purple.

 

 

 

The biggest and the showiest of the cool colors this year is Kidds Climax.  I grew all of these last year but this is the best performance that I’ve had from this dahlia.

Dahlia Kidds Climax

Dahlia Kidds Climax

Dahlia Croydens Masterpiece

Dahlia Croydens Masterpiece

In the warm colors side of the bed, Croydons Masterpiece, the one that motivated me to grow these myself, is not a disappointment this year.  I love its subtle blends of yellows, pinks and purples.  It’s described as an orange blossom but it’s much more colorful than that.

 

 

The new and much anticipated warm color dahlia this year, Lady Darlene, has also opened to meet all expectations. Although at first I thought she was too red, as she’s opened, she’s showed more yellow and I like the blend with the red petals, most.  She’s only showing one other bud at the moment so I don’t know whether I will have much opportunity to judge whether this is typical this year.  I’m just enjoying what she’s showing now.

Dahlia Lady Darlene

Dahlia Lady Darlene

I am not the only one.  This small fellow lived in her for a couple of days.  My guess is an immature grey tree frog.  I read they have chameleon tendencies so are rarely grey.  But if anyone can ID him for sure, I’d be interested in knowing his variety.

I was worried about whether he could really get enough food and water there, as well as fluctuations in temperatures; our nights have been almost cold.  So was fine with him moving on.

 

 

 

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