Difference in Dahlia Tubers

I don’t know that it means anything in terms of performance but I’m wondering again this year about the differences in how dahlia tubers are prepared for sale.  Swan Island Dahlias came to me the way that I expect, one tuber with a sprouting point on a small part of top stem.  Brent and Becky’s came with clumps of tubers for every dahlia purchased. 

From left to right:

  • My tubers (you can see the yellow from the sulfer that I used as a fungicide last winter)
  • Swan Island tubers, every tuber has the name stamped on it, and
  • Brent and Beckys, these were sprouting in the shipping mix to the point where I didn’t want to disturb the roots by cleaning the tubers.  Other varieties from them did not have as much sprouting or hair roots but were still clumps of tubers.
Compare dahlia tubers
Dahlia tubers

(Click on the image for a larger picture.)

Endicott Pear Tree Visit

[wpvideo Q3v2KWcv]It was incredible to me that a hundred or more people would all show up on a cold, rainy week night in  April to visit an old tree. 

It wasn’t the location that bought them.  Although the hill, that slops gently to the salt flats and two rivers to the south and east, was probably beautiful in its day.  Now it’s dotted with complicated traffic patterns, box stores, chain hotels and light industry; part of the 128 commercial sprawl around Boston.  The marshlands looked like blighted space with a drainage ditch to my Midwestern it’s-gotta-have-a-tree-to –be-pretty eyes.   

And it wasn’t the food or speakers, which both turned out to be exceptional; because the program sponsors hadn’t sent us that much information in advance.

What were we doing here?  Sister and I wondered as we made our way through 128 rush hour in a driving, cold rain, after our day jobs, and as we met a healthy crowd in the Atrium of Massachusetts General/Northshore Center for Outpatient Care, and as we sat through the speaker list of welcomers from the Sponsoring Institutions.  I listened carefully as Dr. Anthony Patton told us about the history of the Endicotts and took notes as Dr. Karen Krag, a local Oncologist and amateur historian took us through her carefully researched thoughts about what the Endicott’s home and orchard would have looked like and grown.  Note to self:  check out samp; review how Indian Corn could be planted in April; only 30 plows in all of MA in 1636?  Wow.

And then, as I listened to Dr Patton talk about the meanings that people have assigned to the tree through its history, and I thought about Dr. Krag’s joyous attention to the details of her research, it started to become clear to me why I was here.  

It wasn’t really about the tree, although it’s a very nice old tree; but about what the tree symbolizes for us.  It’s about longevity, the miracle that extends its life hundreds of years beyond expectancy; its ability to survive the harsh winters of New England and the meanness and neglect of man.  It’s connection to a family; after all I was there with sister who grew up with the same fruit trees as me; and four generations of Endicotts showed up to share our celebration.  The pear tree’s beauty owes a lot to its simplicity of purpose, extrapolated against the messy, transportation centric shopping district and waning marshlands.   Dr. Krag talked about the pear tree that was historically planted near the back door for luck as well as convenience, what it would have meant to a family; now it just exists to bear fruit; year after year after year.  Our brief attention was an example of how we sometimes look backward, to remember and preserve the best of ourselves. 

These are values that don’t get a lot of air time in our society, but they live on like the pear tree behind the parking lot.  In New England and in us.

For a more prosaic version of the evening, see the follwing link:  “Just the Facts, mam…”

LED Lights to feed the world

Update 10/13/11.  The Boston Globe link no longer works but here is an ABC link that works today.  Or use the search term as described below.  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=13346712

I’m sharing a link to a Boston Globe version of an AP release about use of LED lights to feed the world. You can find it at other sources if you search on “LED lights and Gertjan Meeuws”.                                  

Since my “win the lottery” fantasy, and the wishful purpose of this web site, which is now sustained by my real job, is to encourage sustainable gardening, this is fascinating news.  I’ve also been evaluating whether using some of my basement space for winter gardening would be cost effective.  However, some of the statements in this article, like fooling around with the light spectrum to get crops earlier and the idea the sun and other natural contributors to the garden can be a bad thing is all a bit, um, shivery.  Orwellian, almost, and it’s not nice to fool mother nature.

However, since the existing market and research for grow lights has been s is so heavily influenced by cash crops, i.e., marijuana, I wonder if there isn’t a huge research opportunity for things like tomatos, herbs, lettuces; the kind of things that I would be interested in overwintering.  Mixed growing, small indoor garden-type of growing.  Keeping my citrus happier, and new ideas for yummy things to harvest in winter from under the lights.

First things, first; I’ll get through our outdoor season and then come back to this.  I expect that the costs for these light arrays will go down over time, too.  Are any of you considering a winter garden under the lights?  What do you want to grow?

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]

When garden zones matter

On my deck, At 28 deg F, it’s 10 degrees cooler this morning than in Boston.  Some of the MA blogs that I follow have been planting onions and lettuces, I’m trying to decide whether it’s safe to try to harden them on said deck.  Nights are supposed to be above freezing for the foreseeable future.  But I don’t think it was supposed to be so cold last night either.  I took a couple of vacation days to work outside; the first four day stretch I have had off in a long time.  The projects:

  • Clean said deck so that when it’s safe, there’s room for the seedlings to harden off.
  • Rough cut rose pruning, almost done.  I will come back after there’s more signs of life to take out any dead or unproductive leaves.  I also need to fill a few place in the rose ghetto (hybrid teas) that gave up the fight against wetness and lack of sun.  But all of the shrub and old roses are looking healthy. 
  • Hacking back the foundation plantings so that I can walk the sidewalk.  I inherited these and just don’t know what else to do.
  • Cutting out last years growth from the miscanthus.  I want to dig and throw or give away more than half of it this spring.
  • Cleaning wild berry bushes and vines from the rhubarb beds.  Their little pink buts are so suggestive of future fecundidty.
  • Moving a peony that was supposed to be in front of a rose and instead, grows up into it.  This white peony’s blossoms are too big and the plant can’t hold them up.  I keep moving them to give them a better chance.  They make great cutting flowers.
  • Moving a rhubarb plant out of the food beds.  If no one wants it, I may have to throw it away.  But I need the space in the food bed.
  • Cleaning an area around trees that’s filled in with lily of the valley, and weeds so that I can plant some hydrangeas that wintered in the food bed.  Soon!
  • Burning the rose canes and anything elese that’s too big or not suitable for compost.

Gee, when I put it in a list, it looks like quite a lot.  Better get back to it…

Roses done, foundation plantings to go
Roses done, foundation plantings to go

April Fools Day Snow 2011

First picture is my sad, pruned apple tree.  Then I move to shots of the roses.  First an unpruned “Teasing Georgia with the end of the main rose bed to the left.  Then, in front of the house, you can see a pruned City of York on the right and a “OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT AM I GONNA DO WITH IT” Seven Sisters, trying to bring down the arbor on the left.  Last shots are of my garden beds.  I love the way the snow is delineating every line of my supports.

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