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>.

























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.


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.

Daylillies and a Friend – Updated Gallery

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I promised that the next post would be pretty pictures, these come from a friend in Ohio. These were small pictures that she shared with me and the large gallery size makes some of them a bit fuzzy but still beautiful; we’ve been talking about working with bigger one for this blog for a week or two but I wanted to get this posted while it’s still daylilly season.  I will swap out any larger ones when she sends them.

She says she’s not an expert in daylillies but she does have over thirty varieties in her garden.  From a Daylilly Expo that she attended, she tells me:

There are 71,474 registered daylilies with about a thousand new ones being registered every year.

These are the basic daylily forms:

  1. Round
  2. Double
  3. Polymerous (many more petals than typical)  I think he said there have been up to 12 petals.
  4. Unusual form.  If each petal is four or more times longer than wide, it is called a “spider.”
  5. Patterns
  6. Miniature
  7.  Sculpted
  •   pleated
  •   relief
  •   cristate – growth from or over one or more petals


Harvest begins

My summer food garden is moving quickly into full production.  I’m picking a handful of green beans every morning (which really adds up), the cherry tomatoes have been giving me sugar for weeks and I picked the first of my large tomatoes today:  a small Brandywine, a damaged Virginia Sweets and a good looking Black Krim.  Although all have turned color, they will benefit from a day or two on the counter.  The chipmunk(s) got the first of my crop.  They seem to have a sixth sense for when a tomato is going to turn color and eat it before I can.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself until I stopped at a nearby farm stand and saw the Heirlooms priced at almost $5 a pound.  I’m rich!  Also asking the age-old question, how do you know when a green tomato is ripe??  (A:  When the chipmunks eat it.)

One small head of Piracicaba, can more be far behind?  I’ve eaten a couple of Zephyr summer squash; this variety keesps me from having to choose betwen growing yellow ones or green ones, and both the small yellow cukes and Sweet Success main crop cucumbers will be ready to pick within days.  Everything has grown into a solid mass of green and I have to tiptoe between the beds to pick.  My meal plans focus on, how can I use…?[oqeygallery id=16]

Michigan State University Rose Garden

This garden got top points for sheer impact with roses on my midwest trip.  It has the advantage of being small and well designed.  The rose beds are raised so that even the shorter roses are near eye level.  It was probably peak bloomtime when I visited with both once and repeat bloomers in show.  The first picture is not taken in the rose garden.  It’s just the healthiest purple elderberry that I’ve seen, growing in the small place between restaraunt and parking area at a nearby Sushi restaraunt.  The last shot expresses how I feel about this garden. [oqeygallery id=12]

Beginner’s luck or persistence?

I’ve read on some reputable blogs that beans shouldn’t be started inside because they don’t like their roots to be disturbed.  With respect, I have been doing it for years.  I have problems with critters, and should also probably credit my cool soil with part of the problem.  Beans wouldn’t germinate, or maybe disappear from the soil before they had a chance.  And those that did come up would get chewed leaves or completely defoliated before they had a chance to get established.  So, not knowing that it wouldn’t work, I planted Emerite beans in my 2″ soil cubes several years ago.  I had such good success that this has become my regular habit.  They don’t need heat or lights.  I start them at the same time I would plant seed in the ground and keep them on my deck.  It only takes a couple of weeks; one for them to germinate and another for them to develop true leaves.

When I was planting them this year, I was wondering if knowing that it wasn’t supposed to work would jinx this process.  There were wads of roots at the bottom of the flat that I had to disturb to separate the plants.  They looked a little wilty right after I planted and I thought Oh, oh.   But when I came home from work they had already aclimated and look fine.  

Now I just need to protect them from the deer that have found my garden (reason for the propped empty trays) and get them started up the mesh that I use for a trellis, before they find the nearby tomato cages.  Yes, I often pick beans from tomato plants at the end of the season.

So I think the life lesson in this is that it’s all about what works for you.  When you find a plant or technique that gives you success, trust it.  No two gardens are the same and even in the same family, say beans, plants differ in what they like or will tolerate.  I would have given up on beans with my early results.  Especially when all you have to lose is an inexpensive package of seed, keep trying; dare to break the rules.

Spring projects

I love the woods behind my house but keeping it from taking over the few sunny areas that I have is a constant struggle and I often feel like I’m losing.  The vines creep out first, including poison ivy, to which I’m very allergic, and then the wild berry bushes try to fill in.  The next thing you know there are trees in what used to be lawn.  There used to be a pretty island around these trees covered with lilly of the valley, but even that robust ground cover couldn’t keep the encroachment at bay.  The encroachment was strongly assisted by the ice storm we had some years back that littered the whole yard with branches and twigs.  So these are “before” and “during” shots of the cleanup and replanting  There is still the back of the island and the forsythia gone wild to the right of it that I will have to clean.  The pile in the second photo is just the vining plants that I pulled; I’ll make sure that they’ve dried out too much to sprout and then take them deper into the woods.  There was wild grape and English Ivy, but also a lot of poison ivy that I pulled, I’m sure.  And then carefully washed everything with Technu.

Hard to see the grade in pictures but I still want to edge, build up the soil somewhat to delinate from lawn and to round up the slight slope to the trees.  I will not change the soil level at tree trunk level as that might not be healthy, just in front of the trees for effect.  And then mulch like crazy to keep the forest at bay while I figure out what else to plant there.  I want to use some edge plants like hydrangeas and rhodedendrons to help fill in and keep the trees out.  You may be able to make out two twiggy things.  They are hydrangeas, “Let’s Dance, Moonlight”.  With the morning sun and shade from the trees, they should do well there.[oqeygallery id=9]

San Francisco Bloomin Stuff

[oqeygallery id=4]I was in San Francisco last week at a big Information Security Conference.  What I learned is that between the movement of applications to “the cloud” and the proliferation of different kinds of personal, mobile devices, we are losing what little control we had over information security in the corporate environment.  But former President Bill Clinton closed the conference saying we must be optimistic.  What choice do we have?  It rained every day but I did get in a walk and snapped some pictures that bring out the optimism in me. 

The first shot was from my hotel room window.  Some shots of winter flowers near the convention center follow.  The last are from a walk to Fisherman’s warf.  Does anyone know what the blue succulents are in shots five and six?  They really work well mixed with the greens.

You can see my cable car trip home on YouTube.


How much snow?

Bird Feeder and deck

Yes, I’ve ordered seeds and have the lights in place but it’s too early by weeks to plant, even indoors.  These days in central MA my life is defined by the weather to a great degree.  I would not mind the snow if I didn’t have to drive in it but one of my commutes this week was a record-breaking two hours – one way!  Fortunately, I can work from home occasionally and today is one of those days. 

Last night’s storm dumped somewhere between 8″ and a foot.  I’ll know better when I shovel the driveway.  Better get to it.

Snow Day

[wpvideo MvjAYclV]This will be fun to watch in hot, steamy July.

Remember when a snow day meant you could goof off?  Being able to work from anywhere means you are expected to work from anywhere.  Good thing I usually like my job.  Took some videos of birds at the feeder, played with the cats.  Worked.  Gazed out of my basement study window and watched the snow slowly bend the branches of the foundation evergreens to the ground… Worked…