April 25, 2011

Spring Hellebores

I DECIDED TO PICK A SELECTION OF HELLEBORE FLOWERS, SO THAT I COULD APPRECIATE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY. IN THE GARDEN, THEY SOMETIMES LOOK SIMILAR, OR ONE ONLY SEE's THIER BACK. HERE, A BEE'S EYE VIEW.

TODAY, HELLEBORES COME IN MANY COLORS, FROM SLATE GREY TO BRIGHT GREEN AND ALMOST YELLOW.

I've only been growing Helleborus  for about 15 years, and if there is one thing that I have learned, it's that Hellebores take time to get established. Those first plants that I planted in my ephemeral border, because it is a border shaded under a canopy of deciduous trees, and one that I do not mulch with wood bark. This is also a border comprised mostly of herbaceous wild flowers and bulbs like Anemone neomarica, Corydalis, native wild flowers and a bed that remains undisturbed for must of the year, aside from a fresh mulch of shredded native leaves).
Helleborus species are long lived, but it does that some skill in carefully siting them, and in caring for them until they become 'established'. You may be tempted to buy a 5 gallon container at a nursery thinking that you are getting a jump ahead of your neighbors, but you will find that no matter how carefully try not to disturb the roots, that you will still get a plant less vigorous the following year, until roots become established. Hellebores are very long lived plants in the garden, and they are worth the investment, for most are 'an investment', but I advise that you follow a few rules if you want to have more than the average success.

1. Prepare the site to their liking. Hellebores are not acid lovers, so use plenty of limestone both in the hole, and in a 2 foot perimeter. Site the plants in a place where they can thrive under a tall canopy of deciduous trees, so that they leaves can fall and remain in the ground. The site should be a place where you rarely dig or fuss in, for Hellebores dislike any root disturbance.

2. Buy young plants. Sure, you will have to wait longer for your first blooms, but the long-lived roots need time to extend, and once they begin wrapping and winding around inside a nursery pot, then you've lost an opportunity for them to venture out on their own.


3.Dont' mulch with wood bark. The best and favored much is a natural one, preferably one made from composted leaves, or leaves from your garden put through a shredder, and gently spread around the plants ( just as in nature). If you use a leaf much, you will begin to see seedlings, and self-sown Hellebores are a sign that you've mastered the art of Hellebore culture!

4.In the spring, don't remove the old foliage from last year ( which is often pressed down by snow onto the grown and starting to brown) until the flowers emerge and bloom. This is key, and being patient is difficult when the old foliage looks so ugly, but these old leaves are still working, and even though they may look ugly and un-tidy, be patient in cutting them off until mid May, even though the new foliage is beginning to rise. I wait until the stamens fall off of the flowers, and when the seedpods are forming.


BLACK OR GREY HELLEBORES ARE VERY COLLECTABLE. TOP RIGHT, 'STARLING', BOTTOM LEFT, 'SLATE'.

A FIVE YEAR OLD PLANT IS STILL ADJUSTING, BUT THIS YEAR, 3 STEMS WITH FLOWERS HAVE ARRIVED..

A PLANT WHICH IS ABOUT TEN YEARS OLD, AND NOT A FANCY ONE. THIS CAME FROM A HOME DEPOT.

EVERY YEAR, THERE ARE MORE AND MORE VARIETIES AVAILABLE. I TRY TO ADD AT LEAST ONE EVERY YEAR TO MY COLLECTION BECAUSE THEY ARE EXPENSIVE. LITTLE-BY-LITTLE, THE COLLECTION GROWS.

April 23, 2011

Forget Easter Lilies, consider the Pasque Flower

Violet Pulsatilla vulgaris, blooming in a rock wall which runs along the foundation of my greenhouse.
 Long before Easter Lilies became synonymous with Easter in North America, nature had her own Pasque flower, that has bloomed in the high alpine meadows, just as the snow melted, ever since biblical times. Associated with both Easter or Passover, Pasque Flowers have been grown in gardens for over 200 hundred years. Pulsatilla, is a genus with about 30 species, most are true alpine plants growing at an elevation between 4000 to 8000 ft in alpine meadows and screes, just below glaciers and on those ski slopes in Europe and North America, once the snow is gone.
For us gardeners, Pulsatilla vulgaris make long lived perennials, much like the Hellebores they just get better and better every year. Sturdy, easy to care for, if anything is negative, it is that they are hard to find.
A white form of Pulsatilla vulgaris, which I started from seed, is beginning to form a nice clump in a raised alpine bed above a rock wall.
I grow most of my Pulsatilla from seed, but every now and then, I buy a few, either from a mail order source if they are offering a different species than I have, or at a local nursery if they just happen to have a large one for a good price, or a color that I don't have. ( hey, I make up my own rules!).
From seed, they are terribly easy, if you buy pre-chilled seed from Jelitto in Germany. I know I mentioned them in my last post, but their pre-chilled perennial seed us well worth it. Sure, a packet may cost $12.00 - $18.00., but you will end up with a hundred plants by autumn ( it's almost too late to start them, but you have about 3 more weeks). Plant sown now, and transplanted in the autumn, will bloom next year, and for the next 50 years, forming larger and larger clumps.

A white Pulsatilla blooming in one of my alpine troughs.

 I won't bother you with the various species, but there are no bad ones, perhaps a few fussy ones that you will not be able to grow, such as P. alpina, which we always see in Switzerland blooming in June and July, but I encourage you to try any species or strain, they all are lovely.
The seedpods of Pulsatilla provide interest and texture in the garden for the rest of the summer, and they make great additions to floral arrangements.

The seed pods of most Pulsatilla are as beautiful as the flowers. They make great additions to a rock garden or even in a floral arrangement and they last right until the autumn, with their fussy plumes. This summer, while hiking Mount Rainier, we will see many in bloom and in seed.
A red Pulsatilla vulgaris growing in another alpine trough. This was one of those trough that was covered in snow all winter, but I have never lost a Pulsatilla in any trough, even those that are not snow covered. Truly, these are alpines.

It came from Mars ( or Tibet )


The Tibetan Rhubarb, ( Rheum palmatum) has a most amazing emergence in the spring garden. Sure, it's palmate leaves are impressive enough, once they unfold, but just as the Bloodroot is blooming ( to stay on theme, here) this inedible Rhubarb begins its season with a gigantic unfolding leaf, and a cracking form, unlike an easter egg, or, um....well, a "Thing" from the horror movie, 'Them'. Whatever, this blood red, brainy, shiny red sack is a little startling, when viewed amongst the wood anemones and Corydalis, where it shares a bed. Easy from seed, folks, so if you want one, this is about the only place to find this Rhubarb which is best grown for its tropical foliage. Try Jelitto, in Germany for seed, it's where I bought mine. Long lived in the garden, these Rhubarbs are strictly ornamental in the garden ( although, it does have a long ethno-botanical history in China).

April 22, 2011

Yellow Shrubs

The early flowering hardy Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, it is marginally hardy here in Zone 5, since it is a zone 7 plant, it will survive in a protected place. I grow mine in front of the garage, with a sunny western exposure on a raised rock wall, against a foundation, where it has survived for 7 years now. I blooms as early as late February, but this year, it started blooming in March.
'
Forsythia is one of those shrubs many of us plant geeks often reject, as a trash plant, but if you have not checked out the Proven Winners selection named 'Show Off', then you should. If it can change my mind about Mr. Forsythe's shrub, then it just might change yours. This selection has flowers that cover every branch, right to the ground.
I have a friend who is just starting to garden, and as a graphic designer, she is very opinionated about her color choices."No yellow" is her rule, said, almost with anger. Which reminds be of my first job many years ago, while in high school, when I worked at a private estate ( Stoddard estate, a Fletcher Steele designed garden), where Mrs. Stoddard forbid the color red or orange in the perennial borders ( dark red Snapdragons were allowed, but only the perfect shade). I also remember that her husband's father, Mr. Stoddard, (who gave the couple, as a wedding gift the esteemed landscape architect so that he could design their garden). Mr. Steele had also designed the patriarch's estate in Gloucester, MA, with much yellow ( you know I would arrive here, eventually).


Yellow doesn't bother me in the garden, but it did have me wondering yesterday, about why many people reject it. I even challenged myself, and designed an all yellow and blue garden, which surrounds my Martin house, which is full of perennials and bulbs that bloom within this limited palette. Yellow is one of nature's default colors, since botanists know that there are more species on this planet the bloom in yellow or magenta, than any other color, so, yes...yellow may be the white bread color of the plant world. Still, it can capture our hearts on dreary, early spring days.

Corylopsis pauciflora, another marginally hardy shrub here in New England, this Zone 6 plant is surviving just fine in our ephemeral bed, where it has lived for nearly ten years. Covered in pale yellow bells every spring, it blooms just before the Magnolias do.
Cornus mas, or Cornelian Cherry, is a native plant that again, one rarely sees in gardens. A very early bloomer, this Dogwood doesn't look anything like a dogwood to most people, but images four white bracts around this yellow flower, and then you can start to see the family relationship.

In the greenhouse, a Genista canariensis, the Canary Island Broom, is in bloom for most of the spring. I trained this as a topiary, and it has been moved outside since it can handle cold temperatures now that frost is light.  It has a light fragrance, similar to that of Lemon Pledge.








April 19, 2011

Hiding Ugly

PETASITES JAPONICUS SSP. GIGANTEUS

I am often asked about what the rest of the garden looks like, and if I could share some of the failures to balance out the successes. Well, to be honest, our garden is old, a hundred years old, with lot of tall, mature trees that need to be cut down, and an endless list of things to do, so the ugly parts far outweigh the pretty parts of the garden. With two and a half acres, only a quarter of that is worthy to show, but now, for the rest of the garden....eeek.
JOE PLANTING PETASITES NEAR THE POULTRY YARD
Joe wanted to transplant more Petasites, which as many of you know, spreads like, well, Petasites. At first I thought that he was crazy, but the more I think about it, it may be a brilliant thing to do. I do love it, but one can have too much of a good thing - especially when the 'good thing' has leaves that can be 4 feet in diameter.
 Still, this major replant has begun - we have decided to try and fill in the trashiest spots of the yard with Petasites, giant hosta and most any herbaceus agressive plant, since we hate lawn and grass, and these require not fertilizer nor machinery to cut, so they are more sustainable.  So every year we plant and fill in gaps, making the back garden look more like a forest meadow in China than anything else. 

My future plants are to plant native trees and plants in an effort to rebuild a natural forest where there once was lawn, but for now, this will have to do. Today, we are working in the far right-hand corner of the garden, near the duck house and pigeon house. This is the worst part of the garden, with a rusty fence created with everything from old mops and brooms by my depression era father who won't throw anything out. The Petasites transplant easily in April, and the soil here is rich and damp, so it will grow well. If I didn't plant it, we would just have weeds like Poke Weed, Impatiens and thistles, so a visual field of lotus-like leaves, will be much nicer than a weedy mess.

IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS, WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SEE THE GROUND, NOR THE FENCE.

PLASTIC POTS THAT HAVE FADED IN THE SUN, OR THOSE STYROFOAM ONES THAT HAVE PEELED PAINT, ALL ARE RESTORED FOR ANOTHER YEAR WITH TERRA COTTA PAINT. IT SAVES US MONEY SINCE LARGE CONTAINERS ARE SO EXPENSIVE.
JOE PEELS THE PAINT AND SANDS THE FOAM CONTAINERS BEFORE SPRAYING THEM.

WITH TWO COATS OF NEW PAINT, THIS CONTAINER LOOKS NEW AGAIN, AND IT IS ALL SET FOR AN AGAPANTHUS THAT HAS JUST BEEN DIVIDED. OLIVE TREES WILL GO INTO THE TWO SQUARE CONTAINERS.







April 18, 2011

Early Alpine Primroses

PRIMULA ALLIONII  X 'JOAN HUGHES'. IT LOOKS BIG, BUT USE THE SPRUCE NEEDLES FOR SCALE
As many of you know, I adore alpine plants, and some of my favorites are the Primroses ( Primula) which grow near the highest peaks of the world. Here are a few of the highest elevation primula, which happen to be our first blooming primula of the season - much more to come. These are being grown in stone troughs, and in crevice gardens, where the tight spaces allow the primula's roots to grow deep in search of water. Primula allionii blooms very early in the Alps in France and north western Italy, where it grows on steep cliffs where it is protected. Hard to reach, these tiny primroses can grow in the tightest of crevices. There are many named forms and selections of P. allionii, and in England, a plant grown in a cold alpine house with care, can be covered completely with flowers so thickly, that you cannot see the foliage ( see one here). In North America, we are lucky if we get 5 or 6 flowers, which are still beautiful, especially this early in the year.
Look for plants at Wrightman Alpines and Arrowhead Alpines.
PRIMULA MARGINATA, A HIGH ELEVATION PRIMROSE, WITH SERRATED LEAVES AND VIOLET FLOWERS.

Primula marginata have beautiful leave, they really don't need to bloom at all, for many varieties have farina ( white powder) on their leaves, which makes the outlines more attractive, and if the rain doesn't wash it off, the entire plant can look silver. I have plants that I am grooming for a primula exhibition in two weeks, and I am keeping them under glass outdoors, so that the rain won't wash off the farina.
PRIMULA MARGINATA, GROWING IN A CZECH STYLE CREVICE GARDEN, WHICH MEANS ROCKS VERTICALLY PLACED CLOSE TO EACH OTHER LIKE A SANDWICH.

Shopping at Mahoney's Garden Center - the good and the bad

ONE OF A PAIR OF STUNNING TALL PLANTERS MANUFACTURED BY MAYNE, WHICH WE PURCHASED  IN THE BOSTON AREA AT MAHONEY'S NURSERY IN WINCHESTER, MA. IT WAS HARD TO DECIDE WHAT CONTAINER SET WAS BEST FROM THEIR WIDE SELECTION. THESE ARE BEAUTIFUL.

This weekend we visited some of the better nurseries in the Boston area, and purchased a few new containers and other structural pieces for the garden. At  Mahoney's Rocky Ledge, we found these very attractive, but expensive plastic containers. - UPDATE - Not to rant, but....we found out today after measuring the rest of our windows, that we needed 72" window boxes and not 60" ones for the rest of the house, that the manufacturer (MAYNE) linked us to 12 retailers who sold the same window box containers for more than a hundred dollars less! Stupidly, for the three containers, which seemed expensive, we paid more than ANY online retailer for the same product. In total, we shockingly paid more then $160.00 more at the Mahoney's Winchester nursery. The upright containers sold for $149. each, and online were $119.00, but the real shocker was the windowbox which we bought at Mahoney's for $259, but at the manufacturer's site and at other online retailers, it sells for $159.00 with free shipping. 

We called Mahoney's twice this morning to see if this was a mistake, and the people answering the phone were of no help - they told us the first time "well, that doesn't surprise me, we're expensive" and  the second time from the garden center person said "I don't set the prices, so don't blame me". When asked to speak to a manager, we were told to "just bring them back if you don't like them". The problem is, we LOVE them, and, we live over an hour away.  Niether would connect us with a manager. sigh. I know it's a busy time of year, but really? Maybe this was a mistake? I can understand a %20 mark up, but since these are ALL retail prices, it appears to be unethical. More than a $100 difference at retail is quite a profit margin! Nornally, I never post about such things, but because they were rude to my nice call to inquire, I just can't get it off of my mind!
A MATCHING WINDOWBOX IN BLACK WAS ADDED TO THE DECK. I THINK I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I WILL PLANT IN THIS - REMEMBER THAT FLAT OF TALL SINGLE -STEMMED PINK ROSEMARY'S THAT I BOUGHT IN DECEMBER? I SEE A MINI-PLEACHED ROSEMARY HEDGE IN MY FUTURE...


I really need to go back an write a more detailed post on this great nursery, we buy so much there. This incident aside, if you live in the Boston area, surely you know about it - even their new rock carved sign was inspiring, they offer an amazing selection of containers and plant material of the highest quality. We went with nothing particular in mind, except to explore, and, as such things go, left with a truck full. But I am just a little ticked off, since we spent over a thousand dollars yesterday, and no one would talk to us ( we didn't even get a free pansy like the lady in front of us did!).

We found these great columns, that are also planters as well as some windowboxes all manufactured by a very impressive product company called MAYNE.  These purchases inspired us do a little design work on the one garden we have been focusing on, in front of the greenhouse. First, I had to relocate the two Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil' Japanese Holly shrubs, which had provided the perfectly vertical structural forms I had wanted at the end of the gravel walk leading to the greenhouse entrance. We simply moved them to the other end of the walk, which extends toward the street, which still needs to be completed. These containers are plastic, but they look exactly like wood. Pricey, (real wooded ones would have been cheeper!), but oh SO nice, so we splurged bought a pair of them,( and a window box, see below).

THE DAYS ARE NOT LONG ENOUGH FOR US RIGHT NOW, WITH GARDEN CLEAN UP, TWO GARDEN PARTIES AND TOURS, HOUSE GUESTS COMING ALL IN THE NEXT 3 WEEKS. JUST TRYING TO FOCUS ON ONE SMALL PART OF THE GARDEN IS ALL WE CAN DO.

As a designer myself, I really need to find a company that will allow me to design my own line of containers ( I have so many new ideas), but for now, I need to settle on what is available at retail, but these are very attractive, and look nothing like roto-molded forms available even five years ago. If I only could afford more, for the white ones were nice too. Now, I am trying to thing about what I could plant in them. At first, I tried some of the cold weather biennials like Diascia, but they didn't look quite right. A boxwood globe is what I will most likely end up with, since these containers function visually as an architectural statement too. Until then, I am going to try two topiary's that I found in the greenhouse, a white flowered rosemary, and a matching Westringia rosemarifolia. I will pot them up next weekend, since these two plants need some hardening off - it is only mid April. 


NEW JAPANESE BAMBOO FENCING ADDS A NEW FOCUS, IN THE GREENHOUSE BORDER.
I feel badly about this fence, too, since these were the last two left at Mahoney's, and even though the guys in the greenhouse were very kind and helpful, offering to order more for us, and checking for additional stock, at the register, one fell apart, because the wood was spit and quite damaged. They would not offer us a discount ( they were not expensive, at $19.00 ea.), but clearly, these last two were remaining because of the damage on the posts with the split wood and I would have been surprised if anyone else would have bought them with the rungs falling out. Of course, we did, and we repaired them the best that we could with bamboo rope and wax. Oh, Mahoney's, what are we going to do with you? Or, at least your sales help!

April 17, 2011

Two rarities currently in bloom


Here is a Daphne most people rarely see, even in collections. Rarely seen in gardens except in those of collectors, is Daphne calcicola, a rarer Daphne which was introduced by the famous early Twentieth Century plant explorer, George Forrest in 1906, from the north western part of Yunnan. He describes it as "one of the most beautiful plants in western Yunnan, China, where it frequently smothers the ledges and faces of limestone cliffs and outcropping rocks with golden yellow flowers" My plant came from a collector, and is a clone of D. calcicola 'Gang Ho Ba', a true alpine in its original form, but one which needs protection since we believe that it is a true Zone 7 plant. Young plants grow less dense, but I still cherish it because few people have this clone, let alone this species. I keep it growing in a tufa rock filled stoneware container which spends the winter in the greenhouse.
DAPHNE CALCICOLA

TROPAEOLUM X TENUIROSTRE
What was obtained as a pure species form of Tropaeolum brachyceras, another of the Chilean tuberous Tropaeolums ( Nasturtium species) that I have bee collection, has bloomed as surprisingly, it is a rarer form - Tropaeolum x tenuirostre, a hybrid between T. brachyceras and T. tricolor ( which you may remember is also in bloom right now, in an earlier post). In its wild habitat, this cross happens also, and is now considered by many botanists as a new species, called a nothosoecies currently in 'active evolution', or a naturally occurring cross between two distinct species.


April 16, 2011

Growing Belgian Endive, Scorzonera and Salsify

SOWING OLD-FASHIONED ROOT VEGETABLES ON THIS COLD AND BLUSTERY DAY.

Often referred to as luxury vegetables, the chicons of Belgian endive, and the long tasty roots of the lesser known Sorzonera and Salsify may only be familiar to those who either are trained chefs, or those who live in major cities where fancy markets and fancier restaurants offer such treats as New York's Cafe Boulud's Crispy Rolls of Salsify with Prosciutto and Parmesan. Since Daniel Boulud is unlikely to stop by my garden on his way up to Martha's home in Maine, I can still access the same produce, even with the nearest Whole Foods Market one hour away, and a Dean & Deluca, three hours away.
BLACK SALSIFY ( from the Johnny's Selected Seed site)
BELGIAN ENDIVE CHICONS IN THE WINTER. THEY GROW FROM THE ROOTS THAT ARE DUG AND STORED IN A DARK CELLAR.


These are vegetable that we often see listed in seed catalogs, but ones which we pass on for many reasons, mostly because we have no idea what they are, what they taste like, or how to grow them. There are places in the world where Belgian Endive is a common winter green, where home gardeners grow the Endive like lettuce, dig the strong, thick roots in the autumn, plant them in boxes with sand, and bring them into dark places where the chicons can be picked all winter long for salads and recipe's. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, this is a common vegetable all winter long. But here in America, although I do see Belgian Endive chicon's in the market, it seems like I am the only one buying it.


SEED OF BELGIAN ENDIVE BEING SOWN IN NEAT DRILLS. THESE WILL BE HAND-THINNED, SO THEY ARE SOWN A LITTLE THICK, BECAUSE I CANNOT TRANSPLANT THEM. STRAIGHT ROOTS, ARE WHAT YOU WANT.

Salsify is not a new vegetable by any means, it was very common in early American gardens from 1700 until the 1920's, when root crops began to fall out of favor when modern refrigeration arrived. Most home farms and vegetable beds grew many root vegetables which would be stored for winter food in a root cellar or a store room in the house cellar ( like we still have). Commercial farms rarely grew such plants, and as such, when refrigeration arrived, so did new sorts of vegetables. My 97 year old fathers still talks about the oyster roots and endives being forced in our store room, and he also remembers when  Broccoli and Zucchini first showed up in the markets as a 'fancy vegetable'. His Lithuanian mother refused to buy them, thinking that they were odd.
PEAT, COMPOST, BUT NO MANURE (THESE VEGGIES DO NOT WANT HIGH NITROGEN) AND SAND IS ALL ADDED BY HAND TO A RAISED BED
So this year I am looking backwards, cranking up the old root cellar and the old cork-lined storeroom in our cellar where winter squash, barrels of heirloom apples and carrots and beets were kept all winter long. I am trying an experiment, and attempting to grow Belgian Endive myself, which can be tricky, but with new varieties, apparently, less so. Plant now, if you live in New England or USDA zones 3 -7. I sow the seeds a little thickly, but I will thin them out to single plants ( do not transplant! Which is important to note, since you must grow roots straight and deep, like carrots).
TURNING IN 6 CUBIC FEET OF PEAT AND COMPOST INTO A RAISED BED

I have prepared a raised bed carefully, with 6 cubic feet of peat and compost, as well as two ten pound bags of sand. As with any vegetable, careful preparation is so essential, since you are growing food not just ornamental plants. Take the time to carefully double dig your soil, which I prefer rather than rototilling, since modern tillers will ruin your soil texture, and you will end up with soft, powdery soil that will compact quikly into a hard clay. Hand digging is always best, especially if you add lots of organic matter. You will end up with a friable, perfectly textured soil which hold moisture well, and drains properly. Overwork your soil, and it can take years to get good soil conditions back again.
SCORZONERA SEED IS LARGE ENOUGH TO SOW BY HAND. SEEDLINGS WILL LOOK EXACTLY LIKE GRASS, SO HAND-WEED WITH CARE

I am sowing these root vegetables at the same time, in the same bed since they all require similar culture and maintenance. Remember, you are growing these, the Belgian Endive, the Scorzonera and Salsify all for their roots so deep soil prep is key, as is removal of small rocks. The addition of sand improves the soil texture, and ensures better drainage. Carrots, Parsnips and the like, prefer a sandy soil. All of these are vegetables that require garden conditions, and cannot be grown in containers.
CAREFUL SPACING IS KEY WITH ANY ROOT VEGETABLE, SINCE ONE CANNOT TRANSPLANT SEEDLINGS. YOU WANT TO END UP WITH A STRAIGHT TAP ROOT

So....what is Scornozera and Salsify? Both are sometimes referred to as Salsify, and both have a taste which is similar to Oysters, hence their common name to old-time farmers of Oyster Root. Scorzonera botanically is Scorzonera hispanica, and commonly known as Black Salsify or Viper's Grass. Salsify itself, the other variety I am growing ( Mammoth White Sandwich Salsify from Johnny's Selected Seeds) botanically is classified as Tragopogon porrifolius, and it is more commonly known as Vegetable Oyster or White Salsify. Simply, Black Salify has a uniformly straight root covered with a charcoal gray skin, and the leaves look like a clump of Narcissus. The White Salsify has a root that looks like a dirty white carrot, with leaves more like parsnips. Trendy today in only the up-scale restaurants, as are pork belly treats and organ meat. Why not try something old this year in your vegetable garden?
WITH AN INCH OF RAIN EXPECTED TONIGHT, I AM SOWING ANNUALS WHICH NEED TO BE SOWN IN SITU. THESE INCLUDE BATCHELOR BUTTONS, NIGELLA AND THE OPIUM POPPIES.

ANNUAL FLOWER SEED IS MIXED WITH SOME PEAT FIRST, AND THEN SOWN. THESE INCLUDE ALL THOSE FLOWERS THAT NEED TO BE SOWN IN THE GROUND, "AS SOON AS THE SOIL CAN BE WORKED"


In the greenhouse - the last species Gladiolus

GLADIOLUS ALATUS
 The last of my winter-rainfall ( i.e. winter greenhouse growing) Gladiolus species are blooming now, and it seems as if the best wait until the last moment. I knew that Gladiolus tristis ( far below) would bloom near the end of the season, since I've grown the species for a few years, but with the dozen or so new species I tried this year, I never really knew what would bloom next. If you remember, I decided to try something new in the greenhouse raised beds this winter, because I was just becoming a little bored with my Oxalis species and other South African bulbs. So in October, I planted a collection of rare South African winter growing Gladiolus that I obtained from Telos Rare Bulbs. They continue to live in my collection, but I needed something new to explore and discover, and the species gladiolus seemed to make the best sense.
Gladiolus alatus has remarkably colorful flowers, much smaller than I imagined them to be. The overall plant, as with many South African bulbs, is rarely shown in photos, since the habit is often lazy and lax because most of these bulbs growin deep, dense grass or Fynbos in the wild. There is nothing wrong with the floppy leaves and stems which one should stake, for nature evolved these species to lean on their neighbors.

GLADIOLUS TRISTIS
 It may be safe to say the G. tristis is my new favorite plant. Not only does it make a nice show as a pot ( or garden plant), with lots of flowers and stronger stems, it is intensely fragrant in a way that makes one close their eyes and swoon. I ADORE G.TRISTIS! It is scented during the day, but in the evening, the show really begins. There are times when I forget that it is in bloom, and  I walk into the greenhouse and I am hit by the scent which is far for being too sweet or intense, rather is is deeply rich  and more like rich, sweet cream and jasmine, combined with gardenia and lily of the valley, with a hint of cinnamon and clove. Add in vanilla and this plant smells like a cinnabon crossed with a gardenia. Yummy. I have three pots now packed with bulbs, and I purchased 100 bulbs for growing in the summer garden from McClure & Zimmerman who is offering it as a late summer bloomer. It's not hardy in Zone 5, so pot them up incase an early frost arrives.


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