April 30, 2006

The Busy weekend and To Do Lists.

If I was to make a to-do list, for any weekend in May, it would most likely be ten feet long. There just isnt enough time, and I fianlly just decided to relaz a little and simply get done what ever I can get done, and not worry too much about what didn't.
The weather this weekend was about as spectacular as it can get in the North East U.S. Seventy deegrees, deep blue sky, light wind, and cold nights. Since it is Sunday, I now look at what I did actually get done.

A priority for me, was to transplant newly germinated Androsace Seedlings. The above photo of Androsace vandelii shows how nice these alpine plants can be in the srping, with thier tiny, hard mounds, covered with littly primula-like flowers. These Primula relatives (In the Family Primulaceae) are notoriously challenging to grow, let alone to germinate, so I feel rather fortunate to actually have some seedlings to work woith this year. I have about ten species growing from seed at this time. Seed must be harvested fresh, and sown imediately. The seed that I recieved seed was aquired from the UK, Abdrosace Group Seed Exchange, last December, when upon arrival, I sowed it in a gritty alpine mix, and then the flat was placed outside into the snow to stratify in the harsh New England winter, I suppose, the closest conditions that I could mimic to thier native alpine screes of Mount Everst and the surrounding Himalaya. Now, in Apri, they are sprouting. Anrosace form dense hard buns, at high alpine levels throughout Asia, the Himalaya and Europe. The seedligns must be carefully pricked out at this vulnerable cotyledon stage, before they form true leaves, and thier hair-like roots start to run down to reach glacial run off deep in the screes. In an effort not to nip the root tips,
I transpalnt mine with a magnifying glass into a free draining rocky soil. The plants are barely rice-sized. The same will be done with the seedling Gentians next weekend.
2. The other thing I did this weekend was to plant English Seet peas for cutflowers. I love sweetpeas, and every year import award wining Spencer varieties from England, jsut so I can have the long-stemmed, echibition quality sweet peas that one sees in the U.K. It does take some effort. Once the seed arives, around February, I soak them in tiny dishes, and sow them in individual pots in the cold greenhouse. Around mid April I start to prepare the beds with manure and rototill deeply. Sweet peas that can also be simply sown around St. Patricks day right into the cold soil of the garden, brush, twigs or chicken wire can be placed, for them to climb on and one is done until time to pick the blossoms. But I prefer to take the extra steps to see if I can get exhibition quality stems. The process required planting seedlings early in pots, then carefully setting them into the ground and pinching back the stem to the first pair of leaves. English growers have perfected growing sewwt peas over the years, and I encourage anyone interested to join the National Sweet Pea Society (U.K.), membership benefits will include four color guides, and a annual. In the U.K., there are shows and exhibitions just for sweeetpeas. They way I see it, why bother growing something average, if for a little extra effot, you can grow something of the highest quality.

Exhibition sweetpeas must be grown on cordons, these bamboo canes specially ordered to reach 7 feet tall, one each for each sweet peas seedling. The seedling, after being planted, pinched back to branch with stronger branches, is then inspected for new growth. I will choose the most vigerous new stem shoot and remove the others, leaving the plant to one single stem. Weekly labor will include keeping all side shoots off, all tendrils removed, tieing of each stem to the cane at intervals, fertilization and then harvest, near the Fourth of July.

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