August 21, 2014

OH,STEPHANOTIS

OUR RESCUED STEPHANOTIS VINE BLOOMS HIGH IN THE GREENHOUSE. 


Plants are like people. No, not in a Jerry Baker way (but come to think of it, I might want to re-read his book. My innocent 12 year old brain was somewhat defenseless against his seductive premise about plants ), but I have started to wonder lately about how plants are somewhat like our friends. No, not 'friends' as in comrades or cohorts, more like acquaintances,  passing through our life. Well, OK. More like 'friends' in a 'Facebook' way. I know each a bit, some better than others, some which I feel bad for and keep around (ugh!), and others, which I tolerate for one reason or another.

I have even 'Unliked' a few.

I have a multitude of plant 'friends'. The many plants in my life come from all over the world, just like my human people friends. Some, I rescued, took pity on and brought home ( yes, even I do that). Others, force their way into my collection, either 'gifted' by well intending human friends, or sometimes mysteriously self-seeded. This handsome Stephanotis vine was once sitting on the 'for sale' table at our local supermarket (Wegmans), discounted for quick sale or even worse, some 'chamber where it would be 'put down'.

Joe held the yellowing vine up high, as if he was in the Lion King, and made his way out to the center aisle - the poor plant - coiled around a wreath or wire, disgraced buy being hot glued into a faux French country ceramic planter without drainage.

 I nodded an obvious approval.  "OK, we can take it home".

Stephanotis (no, we didn't name it) was re-planted in a large clay pot with warm, fresh soil (hey, it was January), and placed high on a bench in the warm, sunny greenhouse. Throughout the winter, he slowly grew, uncurling leaf by leaf, extending tendril-like new growth that ran throughout the greenhouse rafters, twirling here, and twisting there, playfully enjoying the winter, and then spring light as it streamed in warming its stephanotic soul.



This past weekend, I strolled through the greenhouse to check on some Nerine repotting which I never finished, and I caught the scent - the scent of Stephanotic awesomeness. Only one bunch of waxy, white fragrant blossoms yet still worthy of any wedding blog. So high in the rafters were they, that I had to first stand on a bench, and then step onto the second height bench just to pick them.  I don't think that he minded. 

The bouquet now sits in our bathroom ( I know, right?) Their scent brings me back to my college days in Hawaii, as many vines grew around the campus, where I would pick a few to bring home when I walked back late from the library. 







August 14, 2014

SIX GREAT CUT FLOWER DAHLIAS TO GROW


My love affair with the Dahlia is growing. So many dahlias are giant, dinner plate monstrosities, with blossoms larger than 10 inches in diameter, or in difficult colors with which to work with such as sulfur yellow or brilliant red with gold, but with so many to choose from, many in delightful tints and colors, forms like pom poms and spiders, others with such formal symmetry that cake decorators copy their petal formations for cup cake toppers, that I thought I would delve into the dahlia world a little deeper, and see if I could scout out some of the best cut flower varieties. Here are my discoveries and recommendations based on what I grew this year:

click below for more:

August 12, 2014

A SUMMER PORCH DISPAY OF TRAINED FUCHSIAS AND THE WORLD DOG SHOW


This summer I have been assembling and training a collection of about 25 upright fuchsia, which I am training to be either standards ( topiary) or bush uprights, a method of growing fuchsias once popular in conservatory displays at botanic gardens and private estates were gardeners trained fuchsias for summer displays in greenhouses or on the porches of grand, summer cottages in Newport and Connecticut. Me? I just find upright fuchsias so much more interesting than weeping varieties often found at garden centers. Tall canes with a single stem trained upright, carefully pinched and trimmed until a woody stem  is formed, and then a bushy flower chandelier with pendant blossoms, some lifted to eye level where one can appreciate them more.

My Fuchsia's this year are just starting to bloom, here are some of my best trained varieties:

Click below for more!

August 5, 2014

RANDOM BOUQUETS FROM THE SUMMER GARDEN

I thought that I would walk around the garden and pick a few hand-tied bouquets for the house. Here is what I found: rather random, but still botanically interesting. A blue palette with China aster, brachycome daisy, tweedia, purple basil, dill, Nicotiana langsdorfii, echinops and Salvia 'black and Blue'


Mid Summer, those last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August marks the high point of the summer. It's when many iconic summer flowers reach their peak - zinnia's, China asters, snapdragons, Cosmos, and it marks the time when some of the late summer flowers are just beginning to bloom, like Dahlias and Gladiolus. Here is what I picked today for the house and for neighbors!

Click below:

July 27, 2014

MY 2014 GARDEN PROJECTS - THE MID-SEASON CHECK-IN AND REVIEW

Many folks asked me about how my 'special projects' were progressing, at the Sakonnet Symposium this past weekend - so here is an update.



After such a hectic week (Work, three days at Comicon in San Diego, and then my presentation at the Sakonnet Symposium in Rhode Island) I am so happy to have a quiet day back in the garden. Well, maybe not THAT quiet, as we have already had three thunderstorms today, and the dogs are being incredible barky ( Lydia and Daphne are in 'season', and the two boys are well....being boys). Let me just say that the garden is a nice escape - even in the dense humidity, hail and tropical downpours.



My Dahlia cut-flower project is progressing, as this seems to be the perfect year for Dahlias. Lots of rain here in New England. This beauty is a 4" ball type named ' Crichton Honey', a popular flower with many flower farms.


Before you write me and ask how my projects are progressing ( yeah, a couple of you have! And you know who your are - Glen)  I am making some progress on most of my 2014 'special projects'.

For those of you who are new to my blog, these projects are a self-inflicted duty I assign myself every year. In mid-winter, it seems like I might be getting lazy, so instead of making to-do lists, I like to challenge myself with a few, intensely focused special projects - they might be an analysis of a certain genus, - a trial perhaps, where I collect and grow as many species, or named selections that I can, - let's say all English Sweet Peas, French melons, Belgian Endive, or Shirley Poppy varieties. It's a great way for me to stay fresh and, well, growing with plants.

This year, I took on a few too many projects which is typical 'Matt behavior', I didn't want to disappoint you. so naturally, a couple fell off of the list - mainly, the Hollyhock trial and my new alpine scree garden ( although, I may still plant one in the fall - but I am thinking of something more elaborate if I can get it completed - a new raised-bed alpine house for Saxifrages).

The only other project not yet started is pickling, and Kimchi - but that will be starting soon. It's just too early in the season.  Here is my mid-season check-in ( just in case you think I am slacking off, of becoming lazy!).



'Cornel', a nice red cut flower dahlia with long stems for vases, and a tight flower. It too is popular with flower farms and farm stands looking for nice cut-flower dahlias.


CUT FLOWER DAHLIA TRIALS
Inspired by Floret Farm ( don't you love their site? Oh my gosh - it is just about perfect!), I decided in February to order as many Dahlia varieties that I could that match the cut flower varieties that Floret Farm grows. Of course, they are in Washington State, and I am in Massachusetts, so varieties will grow differently, still, my early results look promising. I think that I really like these smaller flowered, mid sized Dahlias with longer stems (I never really looked at the Swan Island Dahlia's catalog so closely before, yet they clearly identify which Dahlias have the longest stems, and which ones are best for flower farms. Stay tuned, but I really like where my dahlias are going this summer. 



GREENHOUSE TOMATOES


Yes, I am actually using the greenhouse for something you can eat! My melon project was so successful a few years back, that this year I thought that I might try either cucumbers or tomatoes. Greenhouse tomato varieties are different than garden varieties, but I chose one that can be grown under glass or outside - Sakura F1, and organic variety that produces long trusses of large cherry-type fruit. I had visions of early tomatoes - maybe even by June. They variety I chose is from Johnny's Selected Seeds, and it produces trusses of tomatoes - I figured, might as well go all fancy. I planted them in one of my aluminum bulb plunge beds, which are near the front of the greenhouse, and usually filled with sand for the summer, where the winter-blooming bulbs rest, but with a bag of Pro-Mix mixed in, I think the soil ended up being just about perfect for greenhouse tomatoes.


Sakura F1, an organic greenhouse cherry tomato from Johnny's Selected Seeds is producing lots of trusses in the greenhouse this summer.


I started my tomatoes a little late - I mean, if you consider April 20 late. Basically, it's when I start my outdoor tomatoes, so I sort-of knew that I would not get super-early tomatoes, but I did hold some hopes that I would have tomatoes by the Fourth of July. I could have picked my first red-ripe tomato in late June, but since I planted these truss varieties, I didn't want to ruin the beauty of the truss, so I had to wait much longer for the entire truss to ripen. All seemed to be going fine, until I returned home from a business trip last week and Joe, who thought that he was helping me, picked a bowl of tomatoes, which came from each of the trusses, leaving about half of the trusses still intact. I only freaked out a little, as it was nice to have some early tomatoes, and when I went outside to look, he had still left some trusses intact. All for you, my friends -- you deserved to have full-tomato trusses --  all ripe and red - so here they are! Now, I can go pick the rest. I predict that my garden tomatoes outside, need at least two more weeks to start coming in.


Commonly known as 'Nipple Fruit' or 'Titty Fruit' (really), Solanum mammosum is actually an eggplant.
SOLANUM MAMMOSUM

Yes, I did it. I am growing the famed 'Nipple Fruit' - Solanum mammosum. An auspicious Chinese ornamental with bright-orange, nipple-like fruit. Silly crop? I suppose - but come on -- Titty Fruit? Who wouldn't want these in their garden? I never imagined that they would grow this big ( don't say it), but they are huge! Still, no sign of flowers yet, but the plants are large, and still growing fast. I planted them in my 'sweet spot' - the moist, rich  and warm soil in the area in front of the greenhouse, where I usually plant my most heat-loving tropicals like banana, canna and alocasia. This eggplant relative should look spectacular by late September, if we don't get an early frost.


My Tuberose crop is growing, ( and yeah, so is the crab grass), but I am not all that confidant that they will make it once again. Tuberoses have been challenging, but I blame it on poor stock.  Sourcing blooming-sized roots was difficult again, and I didn't get them into the garden until early June. I could only find small clumps via mail order. They are a late flower, so I still have nearly two months before they should form spikes, so I sit ....and wait....and weed, with crossed fingers.


The first installation of my Lithops collection. The genus just seemed like the perfect one for me to exercise my need for a collection of like-plants where one can observe and appreciate all of the differences. Tiny, collectable, with a few hundred species available - they are perfect. Let's first see if they germinate, as I should have sown them in the spring.

A COLLECTION OF LITHOPS

OK - Stop it. I know what you are going to say. "I don't know how you.....". Maybe I need to seek 'help', but it's true -  I am moving forward with my collection of every species I can get my hand on of Lithops.  Justm 'because'. The first 56 species arrived this week, but I shant bore you with how small the seeds are, or how I had to order new black pots, and new black labels, and how I had to order 63 more species this morning from South Africa (Silverhill Seeds), nor how I sat on a plane coming back from San Diego with my Brother P-touch typing in some of the longest botanical Latin names ever seen. The poor man next to me must have thought that I was crazy (don't say it!). Hey - someone has to grow all of the Lithops.


Oca!  It seems like everyone is grow this Andean tuber this summer, as I have seen it in at least three gardens. Again, a little late in planting it, I did start it early in the greenhouse, but I had to wait until I had more space - what was I thinking? Clearly I need more land!

OCA - OXALIS TUBEROSA

My Oca or Oxalis tuberosa planting is growing nicely. It too will be a late crop, but if frost holds off until mid October, I may be OK. The tubers were planted in a new section of the garden, which used to be lawn, so the soil is rich but not overly enhanced, as it is still clay-like. I am guessing that this is what this Oxalis which is so trendy right now, will like. Flowers will be arriving soon, and I can't wait for those, as you know that I already have a collection of tuberous oxalis -just not the edible ones. This ancient starchy tuber from the Andes will be a new vegetable on our table this winter.


Lima Beans were not on the list, but I added them, along with a collection of standard fuchsias. I've never grown Lima's before, as they are a true, southern crop, but I started them early in the greenhouse, and they have quickly covered this bean structure, and are blooming. I am hopeful.


Aaron Bertelsen, the Vegetable Gardener from Great Dixter spoke with me this weekend along with Margaret Roach, at the Sakonnet Symposium, in lovely Little Compton, Rhode Island. The three of us were hosted by Mikel Folcarelli and John Gwynne who not only planned the annual event, but who hosted a special garden tour afterwards. I will share more about this year's seminar and the Sakonnet Garden tour my next post, as this one is getting long already.

The driveway outside of John Gwynne's and Mikel Folcarelli's fantastic secret garden presents a humble facade, that doesnt' even hint of what lies within the walled garden. Just wait until you see it. This is truly a Rhode Island gem.

The farm table lunch at this weekend's Sakonnet Symposium 'The art of Vegetable Gardening'. I was so surprised to meet so many blog followers, new and old, as well as some notable gardeners from the North East. Really, with a corn field to the left, a quaint New England church to the right, and the Atlantic Ocean all around us, this 'Farm Coast' event was something not to miss on a this mid-summer, July weekend.

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