April 10, 2011

Planting, seeding, digging, the first spring weekend arrives.

The Giant Japanese Butterbur, or Petasites japnonicus ssp. giganteus typically blooming in late January or February, but since our snow cover just melted, I am surprised at how beautiful and perfect the flowering cobs are. Normally, they are somewhat damaged by the cold or the snow, but in our slow, cool spring, the flowers are soft as any cotton ball, and no floral element has been damaged. Now, they make the perfect cut flower for a 200 year old Chinese celadon pot.

Barnhaven Polyanthus type primroses, lined out in a raised bed.  These seed raised plants are just emerging, which is wonderful, since there are some springs, where hot weather arrives early, and everything becomes blown out in a few days. These are taking their time, as everything else is this year, which is what every gardeners should be thankful for in New England. 

Many primroses this year, are just starting to grow, and this may be the first year in a dozen, when early alpine species such as Primula marginata and P. denticulata, will bloom at the same time as the Polyanthus and P. elatior. These Polys were grown from very choice  Barnhaven seed two years ago, when thier owners were visiting us from France. Briefly, some back story - Barnhaven was a premiere primrose nursery which began in Oregon in the 1930's, and then was sold to a couple in England in the 1960's.  Today, it is located in France. 

Barhaven primrose seed has provenance, and it remains the gold standard for Polyanthus type primula. They are easy from seed, order some now for flowers next year, for these are nothing like any American grown nursery primroses.  These old fashioned types will grow short stems, unlike florist hybrids that bloom more like African violets ( acaulis-types).  I bedded these out in a raised bed so that I can care for them, as they are being prepared for exhibition at the National Primrose Show being held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, MA, April 30th to May 1st.

Daphne mezereum 'alba', a fragrant early Daphne that blooms before its foliage arrives.

 Many plants were moved out from the greenhouse this weekend, but only those that are either dormant bonsai, or truly hardy stock plants such as large Rosemary or Lavender plants. I visited a Home Depot garden center this weekend and I was shocked at how many people were buying tomato plants, simply because they had them out all ready. If you are an inexperienced gardener, please note that it is far too early to be buying tomato plants. Limit your purchases to cold weather crops, such as lettuce, cabbage or pansy's. Wait until the end of May for purchasing Tomato plants if you live in USDA zone 5.

Lavender plants bedded out under the espallier Apple trees which suffered tremendous damage this past winter. Lavender is marginally hardy here in central Massachusetts, so I wintered these cutting grown plants in the greenhouse, so that I could plant out a more impressive number of plants rarely seen in New England. Hopefully, by July, this will look like a garden in Provence. With Santolina, Tulbaghia, Rosemary and Lots of Lavender varieties. Lavender must be grown en-masse, for the perfectly French look. I have about 30 plants here, and more coming. Crazy, I know, but I wanted something different. It already smells so nice.

Have you every noticed how the lettuce 6 packs at stores look so healthy and full?  I noticed that the lettuce at our local nursery which was only avalilable in 6 packs, but with nice and dense, well-formed, tight little plants that looked a little too perfect. I spoke with the grower and he informed me that they are fertilized with a root stimulant, as well as a growth inhibitor which makes the cells grow smaller, forming more saleable and tight plants, that look 'healthier'. 

I still prefer home-grown seedlings, and these will take off as soon as it rains. I turned in 10 cubic feet of compost and organic material into each raised bed, and planted turnips, mache, arugula and poppy seeds. The lettuce and cabbage were started early, since I knew that I needed at least 40 plants for our first picking. (They are dwarf varieties). The cabbage varieties, are also earlyg rowing small heading types, that will mature in 60 days, and I only had room for a couple of dozen plants. Nothing to live off of, but enough for a few meals with sweet, early crunchy cabbage. These are cone-headed types, and don't require a lot of room. Lettuce and cabbage prefer temperatures below growing temps below 70 degrees F and they can handle temps below freezing if hardened off.  I planted 9 varieties of lettuce, all grown from organic seed, and they are tiny, indeed healthy and small, as they should be. After all, we are eating these. New seed was also planted today, but in the garden, for a second crop.

Terrier Barriers (a good, pre-season use for tomato cages)


  1. I have micro-comments: 200 year-old pot? I'd be terrified of using it. A dozen or so cabbages -- I wish I had that kind of space! Lavender: frustratingly marginal even in z6, but awesome when it survives. Horizontal cages: great idea!

  2. Daphne mezereum f. alba is one of my absolute favourites, I´ve seen one in full bloom in Kaisaniemi Botanical Garden in Helsinki years ago.


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