Why I love dahlias

This is Art Deco, from the Gallery series.  It’s a small plant that I grew in my deck boxes last year and again this year.  It’s very happy at my house, compared to other dahlias that I’ve tried, and just starting what I hope will be a long blossoming season.  The color is hard to describe and changes in different lights.  But it goes well with just about anything.  I like it with blues and yellows.

He’s fat enough already

I’d seen this mother/child drama before I went to work on Friday but baby was just passively hanging on the support for the suet feeder.  While I was at work he’s learned how to get his own suet but mama is still doing most of the work. This morning a family of nuthatches was getting the same lesson.   [wpvideo HHTfbZXj]

Philter’s free music

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]

Dracunculus

Updated with the correct spelling (thank you Glen from gardens), I find some more results, including pictures of the fruit and other information.

I visited the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Near Grand Rapids last week with my granchildren.  Not too many flower shots but I saw this curiosity and chased down a staff person who was kind enough to find another staff person, and another and finally walkie talkies were used.  The name I believe I was told is Dranuncula, but I can’t find much about it on the web.  I was told that it’s one of the family of meat eaters that attracts its prey by smelling like carrion.  It was not smelling bad yet, that I could tell.   Click on the small images for a bigger one.

Dahlia problems

I have problems with two of my transplanted dahlias.  One is wilting for no apparent reason and another has very curly leaves.  I’ve read a lot of web sites and they are so scary; easy to think that all of mine have one symptom or another.  Wilting, and I’m supposed to look for rot at the root of the stem, there is none.  And curling leaves mean aphids they say.  I see no other evidence of aphids and being a rose person, I do know aphids. 

I SO want to be a dahlia person.   Any suggestions? 

I am also updating my June photo gallery post to include a budding “Art Deco” dahlia, among other shots.

Late spring in the garden

Updated 6/11/11 on another rainy day.  The Amaranth Cinco de Mayo (4th shot in gallery) is certainly the winner in the Amaranth trials so far, an incredible complexity of color.  Love Lies Bleeding just looks a little weird to date.  The last new shot (6th in the gallery) is of the rose ghetto; even on a rainy day it warms my heart.

June 9:  I woke up to a mass of thunderstorms and knew that I couldn’t do my early morning garden chores so I put together a quick gallery of some of my June photos.  OK, a couple of late May pictures snuck in, too.  The iris and columbines, to name them.  However, since I still have an iris blooming (not this one) and columbines, I figure it’s OK.

In the middle of the gallery is half of my food garden.  If you look closely, you can see the sprouts of cucumbers that will grow up the central, round trellis and the sprouts of summer squash in front of the tomatoes.  They will spill out into the path, which I hope to level soon.  The rhubarb and a small nursery for shade plants are in the back. 

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Decorative Amaranths again

I just wanted to share a couple of photos of my decorative amaranths.  One question I have is whether I should be pinching out the middle to encourage side shoots. especially in Love Lies Bleeding.  No one on the gardens list could tell me so I did it on one out of four, the other three have a blossom starting in the middle as in the picture below. 

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.

Dahlia bed

I did mention how I’m never really finished, right?  The dahlias are in their new bed.  It doesn’t work as well from a design standpoint as I would like; it needs to be bigger in order to echo the shape of the bed behind it.  And built up higher, which would be better for the dahlias as it would drain faster than the surrounding heavy soil, too.  Ultimately, I want it to look like it’s all the same bed.  But I need some way to get into it and work it, so I decided a narrow strip that I mow was most efficient. 

But it was near 90 degrees and felt much hotter in the full sun that dahlias love on the day that I finished it, I am not a dahlia and can’t handle that kind of heat.  I just wanted to get them in the ground and find some shade.  The good news is that dahlias are treated like annuals and I get another chance next year to make improvements. 

Now the choice is whether to mulch or not.  The bed behind will be mulched, I’m just letting the amaranths acclimate.  Most of them also got planted this weekend.

This whole area is designed to bloom from back to front.  The peonies are blossoming today and the rose buds are getting fat.[oqeygallery id=10]