Garden log, 1.23.15

Yesterday I planted seeds of Papaver somniferum (Hungarian blue breadseed) and Papaver ‘Lauren’s Grape,’ as well as larkspur (Delphinium ajacis) ‘Apple Blossom’ and ‘Pink Queen.’ The breadseed poppy is perennial, but the others are annuals.

Larkspur ‘Apple Blossom’ (Delphinium ajacis ‘Apple Blossom’). Photo by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Papaver ‘Lauren’s Grape.’ Photo by Annie’s Annuals.

I plan to include more self-seeding annuals in my garden this year, though I’m afraid it’s late to be planting poppies in Zone 7b. Perhaps they’ll get a decent zap of cold in February and take hold by early summer. I’ve never had much luck with poppies, but last fall a friend shared her planting technique with me and so far, things seem to be working:

How to Plant Ornamental Poppies

  • Spread a layer of compost 1-2 inches deep over the area where you wish to plant. Smooth the compost with the back of a rake.
  • Scatter the seeds over the compost.
  • Use the head of the rake to tamp the seeds gently but firmly into the compost.
  • Leave them alone. Don’t water; don’t cover.

The seeds are tiny and need light to germinate. In the past, I didn’t plant them in compost, or sometimes I’d forget where I planted them and would mulch them over with shredded leaves. The ones I planted in November have germinated and their cotyledons hover just above the compost. They’re quite tough, having survived heavy rain and some wild temperature fluctuations so far.

I also, against good advice, transplanted some crocuses just before they burst into bloom. Crocuses are tough; they’ll get over it. Some tasks you just have to tackle when you have the time.

(c) 2013 AWH/MissingHenryMitchell

The garden could easily be mistaken for a mud-wrestling pit these days, thanks to  frequent rains and plagues of squirrels that dig up my unfrozen ground to hide their found treasures. I wonder why the squirrels haven’t dug up the poppy seedlings (yet?).


Garden log, 12.19.14

A bit of garden clean-up today gave me a soul-nourishing break from holiday hubbub. Did some raking (oh, endless leaves); planted Cyclamen rohlfsianum (4 seedlings) at the base of an oak tree just above the rain garden. I sowed these seeds last year and set them outside to suffer winter. Just as I was about to throw the pot out, leaves emerged.

The Cyclamen Society says that C. rohlfsianum must be kept frost-free, but life prevented me from getting the pot indoors this fall, and these seedlings have endured a few frosts. I intend to press my luck a little bit. I shall put at least one seedling in a pot in my cold frame, but the others are under a blanket of gravel and dried shredded leaves. Wish me luck.

Raked out the rain garden and dug and divided some Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain,’ making one plant into about a dozen and setting them near the yew, the dwarf Alberta spruce, and a couple under the gardenia hedge. Cut back all the tattered and slug-munched foliage. New leaves are already emerging.

Pulmonaria 'Trevi Fountain'

Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’

Potted up an acanthus and planted out two leatherleaf viburnums, Viburnum rhytidophyllum. That’s in addition to the nine I planted a few weeks ago (I acquired a pile of seedlings from a neighbor’s woods). I’m working on an evergreen screen until I can get enough pennies saved to install a nice, high, deer-proof fence. The English ivy is out of control in the back garden, near the gardenia hedge, but that’s a project for another day.

Did myself a favor and decided not to grow bulb onions from seed this year. They take more work than I have time, and since we go through about 3 pounds of onions a week, I couldn’t hope to save myself a trip to the grocery out of my effort. More room for cut-and-come-again greens instead.

The weather should be perfectly foul tomorrow, high 30s (~3C) and rain. Fine weather to curl up with the deliciously fat catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and figure out what to plant in place of those onions.

Snowdrop walk

On Saturday, Montrose hosted a short tour to see the snowdrops at their best. At least, it’s their best between now and, say, Christmas. I expect to see them blooming in the woods throughout the winter and into the spring.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Nancy started with a packet of snowdrop bulbs purchased at the local feed store. She tended them, divided them, shared them, transplanted them. At some point, the casual interest metamorphosed into a passion.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

On my second or third day at work, I helped to weed the ridge pictured here. Microstegium grew in billowy clumps, camouflaging English ivy and the foliage of various species of cyclamen. Out came the Microstegium, just before it set seed, as well as the ivy. The fallen leaves remain to decompose on their own schedule.

At the time, I found no evidence of snowdrops anywhere. My colleagues promised it would be lovely in time. (And it will look even more heavenly when the Podocarpus [left-hand side] fill in behind them.)

snowdrop ribbon

I know of four Galanthus species in the garden (G. elwesii, G. nivalis, G. reginae-olgae, and G. woronowii) but I am sure there are more. Then, there are named varieties and the charming mutts begotten of self-hybridizing.

clump of snowdrops

I particularly like them grouped amongst Pulmonaria.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

I’m sorry if you had to miss it (Susie and Erica…). Hope you can come next time.

Dear blog, I’ve missed you.

It’s been a lovely, busy, bewildering autumn. Between the new part-time work at Montrose and the new puppy, I’ve barely found a moment to sit down, let alone work in my own garden or record the seasonal comings and goings.

fall crocus at montrose

Autumn-blooming crocus beneath Metasequoia glyptostroboides at Montrose (Hillsborough, NC).

Unlike much of the country, I’m not beneath a foot or more of snow (yet), but it’s plenty cold outside. The houseplants came in weeks ago and the leaves continue to fall steadily. But underneath some row cover, I can still find some green in my garden:

Carrots, parsnips, tat soi, kale, and lettuces in a winter-friendly raised bed.

Carrots, parsnips, tat soi, kale, and lettuces in a winter-friendly raised bed.

Northern hemisphere friends, I hope you’re staying warm. I hope to write again soon.

The pleasure of finding things out: Scilla lingulata

Recently, I wrote about how excited I was to acquire Scilla latifolia, and how I looked forward to learning more about this new-to-me bulb.

The latest bit I have learned about this plant is that I have the name all wrong. What I’m growing is Scilla lingulata (also known as Hyacinthoides lingulata). It is native to northern Africa and is hardy here. I’ve planted it out at the highest point in my rain garden.

Scilla lingulata, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Scilla lingulata, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Nancy also grows Scilla latifolia, which is not hardy.

The two plants look rather similar at first glance, except for their size, and I assumed I had obtained juvenile specimens. Scilla latifolia grows significantly larger, at 14 to perhaps 18 inches tall (35-50 cm), whereas S. lingulata is closer to 8-12 inches (20-30 cm). A more critical inspection reveals that the foliage of S. lingulata lies flatter and closer to the ground than S. latifolia, whose foliage is more upright, broader, and lies closer to the stem, almost like that of corn. The flowering raceme of S. latifolia is taller than that of S. lingulata, and its flowers’ peduncles (I think that’s the term) are longer and less rigid. S. lingulata looks a bit like S. latifolia might if it went through a hot-water wash and into the clothes dryer–a shrunken version of the original.

Perhaps I would have avoided this amateurish misclassification if I’d paid better attention to plant morphology in middle school biology class, but I’m learning it now when I can appreciate it. And being wiser now, I’m sure I’ll never make such a rookie mistake again (this week).