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.

Garden log, 12.15.14

A quick reminder to myself that I sowed in-situ seeds of Nemophila discoidalis ‘Penny Black,’ Verbena bonariensis, Anagallis monellii, and Primula veris. I’ll try some in flats in my cold frame as well, later in the winter, but when it comes to seeds I find that plants do better with less intervention from me. We’ll see whether these follow the trend.

Work on shredding leaves continues. I hope to have a healthy pile of leaf mold come spring.

 

Dear Friend and Gardener: August 15, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

Looking out the window this week at all the mud and mess in the garden, I fell into a bit of a funk. But a little something came in the mail today:

seed packet delivery

 

And now I’m feeling a little brighter.

Are you planning your fall garden? Planting your fall garden? What will you be growing?

Digging Durham: Is this a great library, or what?

As I mulched the vegetables yesterday before the temperatures hit 93 (34C), I thought about the second sowings I need to get started.  And I remembered that while I’d donated some seeds to the Digging Durham Seed Library back in the early spring, I hadn’t been by since the collection launched to see what my fellow citizens brought forth from their seed shoeboxes to share.

seedDigging Durham Seed Library vegetable packets

Free veggie seeds for the taking: Eggplant ‘Listada di Gandia’; squash ‘Blue Hubbard’ and ‘Waltham Butternut’; bush baby lima beans; bush bean ‘Contender’; and two packets of drying beans ‘Lazy Housewife.’

What incredible luck! This covers just about everything I had planned to grow but the sweet potato slips, which can’t fit into the little envelopes, and the Malabar spinach. If I had found Malabar spinach in the seed library, I would have fainted in surprise and been roused only by the echoing choruses of “Shh!!”

I’m still a bit giddy.

“Checking out” the seeds means taking them from the drawer and taking them home. I didn’t even have to flash my library card. As part of the deal, I will grow the crops, save some seeds at the end of the season, and return them to the library for next year’s growing season. What a fantastic way to try out new vegetable varieties.

Digging Durham seed library

The seed library’s baby photo

If your local library doesn’t have a seed library, consider starting one. I can tell I’m going to be a patron of ours for as long as I can.

First dates: Anchusa

 Third in the series “First Dates: Plants I’m Trying This Year.”

When I saw the rich blue flowers of Anchusa ‘Dawn Mix’ featured in the catalogue, I knew I would soon be parted from my buck and a quarter.

Anchusa 'Dawn Mix' blue flower

Anchusa photo courtesy of Pinetree Garden Seeds, http://www.superseeds.com.

Seed catalogue writers and designers know what they are doing. What gardener can resist any blue flowers, let alone those so sumptuously saturated? I am assured of having some pink and white flowers as well (the ‘mix’ part), but it’s the blue flowers that sell me.

Anchusa, or bugloss, is a borage relative native to Europe, West Asia, and Africa. The variety I am growing is perennial, although there are annual and biennial types as well. They grow 4-5 feet tall and are frankly a bit rangy, but like the awkward kid in the elementary school class picture, they can be stuck at the back of the border to peek over the heads of their shorter, more picturesque classmates.

These plants, like their borage relatives, are said to be attractive to bees (they like the blue color), and are a food source for butterfly larva (another good reason to stash them at the back of the border, where any chewed leaves will be less noticeable). Anchusas like it hot and dry, conditions that I can provide in summer, although there is some question as to how well they’ll cope with summer humidity.

As often happens when I research a plant’s site requirements, it seems I can find few definitive answers to my questions. With Anchusa, it appears that some strains of the plant ask very little of the gardener by way of environmental accommodation: Any place with a bit of sun will do. Others seem persnickety, wanting silty, free-draining soil but constant moisture. Some reseed politely, some can only be propagated by cuttings.

It seems like a typical first date: I’m not quite sure what to expect. It probably won’t be anything like what I imagine. It may be better, or it may be worse. I’m willing to give it a little grace, however. All good long-term relationships must begin at the beginning.