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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a weed that’s very pervasive in my cultivated beds (not the woodlands, for some reason) and looked it up in a weed database. Oxalis or wood sorrel. I remembered my father showing me this weed and saying it was an indication of acidic soils, typical for New England. So all weekend I pulled the stuff from my garden beds. I also finally got to cleaning the very sad looking pansies out of the deck boxes and planting the – very stressed from being in too small pots too long – Art Deco dahlias. This should have been done during our last heat wave but frankly, I was cowering in the AC and watching Tour de France on TV.
I needed something to fill the rest of the boxes and stopped at Applefield Farm , a favorite place for annuals. The supply is smaller but the prices go down now. I found a couple of colorful coleus and I needed something smaller for the center box with two dahlias at either end. I saw this leafy plant with a pretty blend of pink, yellow and pale green and checked the tag for light requirements. It’s Oxalis! A Proven Winner’s selection called Molten Lava. And yes, I bought it and brought it home to plant. You just have to laugh.
When I looked deeper into Oxalis, this represents many very pretty varieties as well as my prolific weed. Some people even complain for lack of ability to grow them!
The new daylilies “Daring Deception” go much better with the Heuchera “Caramel” than I envisioned but the hydrangeas “Let’s Dance, Moonlight” clash a bit. I thought I needed to add something; something neutral like a white would be the safe choice, but then I thought about small-flowered, warm-pink rose that needs to be moved and wondered what would happen if I just added more pink.
As I was mulling over the alternatives, a rescue plant, a geranium gift from Applefield Farms that they said needed some extra TLC started blossoming the way that it should and I realized it was the same color, if slightly less intense than the rose.
Hey, I can try this out with an annual, I thought.
I think I like it; and the next check will be after the daylilies are over; will that color just look out of place?
A trip to Weston Nurseries for some rhododendrons for the rhodie walk through the woods — a multi-year project, and I found room for just one more thing; this beauty.
I have it sitting in the pot near rose Graham Thomas until the yellow rose opens. Graham may be too much of a gentleman for these flaming colors. Most of the pictures that I see show this hydrangea to be a darker pink; maybe it will change as it matures but I was promised that the throats stay yellow-green for contrast.
I was also told that it was dwarfed but Monrovia shows it as a 6′ plant. Other sources say “compact plant”, so I hope they are right. I have room; I just don’t need more shade.
I’m adding a couple of bonus photos, pictures of rose “City of York” from my guest room window for a friend who isn’t on Facebook.
I mowed the last of the bugleweed (ajuga) in the lawn as the blossoms were over and the pollinators had moved on to the rhodies. The smell of lily of the valley was replaced by the more subtle scent of iris and now the roses begin. Gertrude is the first of the roses to put on a display. A serendipitous conjunction of a junk rose (I think it’s a climbing rootstock where the display rose died) that I’ve never completely killed, though I’ve tried, and a couple of varieties of honeysuckle that I grow up the fireplace make for a very pleasing combination. The more solid yellow honeysuckle is the one I grow for scent.
It’s way too early but I’ve given up on culling blossoms on the tomato plants. This early blossoming phenomenon is something that started last summer when I first used the LED lights to grow the plants. Both years, I’ve snipped off any small blossoms that were present at planting and still the plants want to bloom. But last summer was uncharacteristically hot and early. We’ll see if this is a mistake.
Update: A garden friend mentioned the Leaftier moth/caterpillar and it looks right. I opened about 15 of these on three plants and I did find a few caterpillars. All goners now. What I wasn’t sure is whether the plants set flowers this early and whether snipping the branch below the terminal end would destroy this season’s flowers. So where I could I teased the terminal end out and destroyed the glued leaves only.
Anybody know what does this and whether I need to do anything about it? I pulled a couple of these apart and didn’t see any recognizable critter. Some brownish crud.
But the leaves don’t look eaten, more just glued together. All of the damage is at the end of a stem, where the flower would form later in the season. Hope I haven’t lost this season’s flowers.
This is the small beginning of my rhododendron walk! I’ve been wanting to fill in between the trees on the woods side with these great flowering and winter-green plants for so long and this is my (mostly symbolic) beginning. There is still so much work to do.
And the first step is a perilous test of my propagation skills with this poor, helpless plant.
The parent plant, above, is a huge rhododendron that has been growing near my deck forever. Last year, I finally had some other brush removed that was growing between it and the deck, including some arborvitae that had turned into trees. I’m hoping that it will fill back in a bit toward the deck and stop its forward movement away from it. There is only a narrow path between it and the rose ghetto. During the cleanup, I noticed a couple of shoots under the front of the plant and carefully started to shovel prune their roots last summer, using a sharp shovel to cut around the plant but not under it. This week, I dug under the shoots and moved them. About to where the purple trug is in the big picture. I’m convinced that they do better with some sun in my shady yard. And now I wait to see if the baby takes to its brighter and lonely new home.
It is a time of dividing and separating. A celebration of last year’s successes, fraught with risk as I’m not very experienced with this. Hosta; no problem; hard to kill. But a heuchera separation humbled me a bit. The parent plant had such distinct separations above ground that I thought dividing it would be easy. But no. They all seemed part of one root. And what to do about last year’s leaves? I just tried to leave some root for each division; not easy; and as last year’s leaves wilt, I’m cutting them off. I think that four of the five divisions will make it. I don’t know the name but this variety gets deep blue-green color on the top of the leaves when it’s mature but the undersides are a pretty purple.
So the snow has been melted for a few weeks now. Friday was warm to the point where I worked up a sweat in a very short time. Part of the day was a gift from a cursed source; my Waltham office was closed because of the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing fugitive and I got commute time and a little more to work in the garden. Hands in the dirt; my way of dealing with many of life’s dark places. Renewal is the blessed work of the gardener.
Windows open! Which gave sick kitty Cay Cay Canolli a new interest in life, which made us all happy. Then rain and a cold front and today I cleaned and burned in bright, cold sunshine.
From left to right. At least they are green. This was taken in the food garden this weekend, where my new trees have over wintered. The sun hasn’t made it up over the tall evergreens to my south on a regular basis so the heavy, wet snow is taking its time to leave. I did work on the south side of the house where the snow was gone in a warm crescent that includes most of the rose ghetto (the dedicated rose bed).
After the heavy rains and warm weather of Monday, most of the snow is gone, but it’s cold and I have to go to work so the garden waits until the weekend.
[oqeygallery id=35]On this winter day when once again my eye sees nothing but white covering the neutrals of bark and evergreens, I decided to share pictures of a dahlia garden in France. I was told it was one of the oldest Dahlia expositions in France; located just outside the town of Coutances, near the west coast of France. The town itself is has a historic cathedral and town hall, and living up to the town’s three flower Ville Fleuri status, it was well decorated with plantings when I visited.
But I chose to stay in Granville, on the ocean. My room had a view of a bump in the ocean that I undertstood to be Mount Saint Michel. It was off season and inexpensive except my weekend corresponded with a fleet of sailboats from England, an annual sporting event, and the restaurants were full of English speaking people with wind burns.
The location of the dahlia exhibition is a gardening school, Lycée Agricole de Coutances. In addition to the dahlia display, which is only worth visiting in late summer or fall, the students have well-landscaped exhibition gardens, and the commercial greenhouses were impressive.
The gallery starts with two pictures in the town of Coutances, the cathedral and the town hall. Then shots of the dahlias. As I looked at my pictures, I realized that the majority of my favorites were in the warm colors so I pruned down that collection. It was hard. Lilac Times is one of my favorites in cool colors, enhanced by the dark stems on the plants. The last two shots are of Granville. My hotel is the closest one high on the right and my room was one of those with the ocean colored balconies. I’d thought I might visit Mount Saint Michel on my unplanned day during my stay but with such a nice situation, it seemed silly to go get in my car and drive to another place to see the ocean. I wandered around the town; walked a cliff walk to Jardin Christian Dior; took pictures; walked back along the ocean; watched people sail the sky. Lovely day; lovely memory for a snowy New England weekend.
The family has named my LED light setup, the farm. I like it. I haven’t posted about it much this winter because I have no idea how many pictures of lettuce growing in flats the world really needs. But this is from my second set of seedlings and the last experiments before I convert their use to growing seedlings for the garden.
Simpsons Elite and Red Sails are still the staple crop and will continue to be. I start one flat and then split them between two when they need the room. The red sails varies in color depending on how much light it gets; with some of the plants in the middle of the flat getting very red. These were picked small. I can pick for weeks but at some time the plants get tired and brown easily. I picked the last good leaves from the crop I timed for Thanksgiving and threw the rest of those plants on the frozen compost pile today.
The two plants that are keepers from this year’s experiments are mizuna, the spikey leaved green at the front of the crisper and a variety of perilla called “Britton”, the small, bright pink/purple leaf toward the back left of the crisper. Both of these plants offer distinctive flavors in addition to textures and color that contrast and enhance my main crop lettuces in the bowl. Although I find it’s easy to drown out those subtleties with the stronger flavors that we usually add to salads; crudities like sliced onions and even most salad dressings.
The perilla leaves are supposed to have green tops with red undersides. But grown under the lights and picked as baby greens, they stay red on both sides, although the underside is brighter. I didn’t get good germination but the day I planted I saw that the seeds do better with cold treatment, before planting. The rest of the packet is in the freezer.
I’ve always had trouble growing apetizing mizuna in the garden as it’s a favorite of chewing insects. And while I’ve eaten what’s left, it’s not an attractive salad green when full of holes. There are no pests under the lights. I’ll be growing more of it next year.
The stringy stems you see in the crisper are cut and come again cilantro, another experiment that worked. One pot has served more than my winter needs. I need to come up with ways to use it when fresh tomatoes aren’t in season. I’ve been using it chopped over salads and bean dishes. The variety is Calypso; it seems to do well under the cool conditions and along with the lettuces.
I also grew half a flat of mache and I’m not sure whether to do so again. It could be a fertilization problem but the leaves never got as big as they do outside and I didn’t get a strong nutty flavor from the ones I picked. Another downside is that I can grow two crops of lettuces and baby greens in the same time that it took the Mache to mature.
I grow lot of my heat loving herbs in pots and then bring them in for the winter; they don’t go under my LED lights as I don’t want to introduce outdoor pests to that area. But I can usually get a few years out of a Rosemary plant by overwintering it near a window. I can have fresh herbs for cooking and any fallen needles make the vacuum cleaner smell good.
A more ambitious garden friend has taken cuttings and thinks they’ve rooted. A very few of us on the gardens list were chatting about when to pinch back and fertilize. The consensus, if you can call it that with only three people chatting, was that it was best to wait until the plants were showing signs of active growth, probably at the growing tips of the four to six inch stalks. And then someone said, could they be putting energy into buds at the end without it being evident and well, none of us seem to know the answer to that.
My potted plant from last summer is doing the opposite; it’s growing numerous but weak stems from the ends. This is the side of the plant that has been closest to the window. These weak sections do not concentrate the oils well or develop much flavor, either. I’ll cut them off when the plant goes outside this spring.
This lettuce was started to harvest for Thanksgiving, less than a week away. I went with an organic fertilizer this year, kelp and fish based, 4-3-3. I’m not completely thrilled with the results (not that I’m blaming the fertilizer); the leaves look a little leathery. The red lettuce is “Red Sails” and the green is either “Yugoslavian Yellow or Simpsons Elite” I started some cubes of both and can’t tell them apart. Most of he Red Sails are a little too deeply red, there should be more green and variation, so I’ve been moving the lights further and further away. Does anybody know what I’m doing wrong to get leathery leaves?
None of what I’m growing now requires heat and I leave the basement cool; 60 degrees or less.
I’ll pick them early and crisp them well; with the addition of pears and goat cheese, they should still be fine for Thanksgiving Day salad but I’d also like to improve my results. I’ve seen red lettuce that was blanched by crimping the outside leaves together; maybe I’ll need to learn how to do that.
A friend from a warmer climate (apparently) asked me why I’m not still growing lettuce outside. I’ve been waking daily to frost and a crusty soil. I could use crop covers or season extenders but on my north side of the hill, I don’t get much sun, either. So for comparison’s sake, the first picture below is Mache, (variety Vit) aka corn salad that I planted in September outside. It will sit at this size all winter long but will be my first food crop in April when the sun hits this bed.
The picture below is Mache that I planted on October 19; it’s growing slowly but has definitely pulled ahead of the outdoor planting.
I mentioned in my post on Sandy’s damage that a gardening friend had recommended Thujopsis dolobrata as an interesting and useful evergreen plant for my northern border. She said it was somewhat rare and I’d tried to find it at some of the bigger nursuries in the area, without success. Although they are slow growing and these will take a long time to mature, I decided to buy some small plants online from Evergreen Nursery. Buying small plants, I could easily afford a spare. They left Chattanooga, TN, on November 6 and were at my door last night when I got home from work.
They were strangely packaged in a box that originally seems to have held frozen salmon, wild-caught near China (thrifty nursery), and also strangely placed in the box horizontally, with their verticle stems folded. I guess that gave them less room to shift? One of them had a major branch broken off in shipment and they have some slight browning on some branches. But for being in a box and bouncing through several states in various trucks, they look pretty good. Here they are soaking on the deck.
I have named them Thuj One and Two. Thuj Two lost the branch and also has a second leader. He might make an excellent candidate for bosai, if only I knew anything about bonsai. I’ll let them dry out somewhat from their welcome home soak and let them get some weak afternoon sun. Then they will spend at least the winter with their pots submerged in the soil in one of my garden beds; maybe the summer, too. I still have a lot of cleanup and preparation to do for their final home and gardening season is pretty much done here.
This white pattern on the underside of their leaves is characteristic of the plant and one of the features that sets this evergreen apart.