August 31, 2012

Summer Japanese Flower Festivals at Home - The Asagao, and Chinese Lanterns Re-Imagined

MY JAPANESE MORNING GLORIES, OR ASAGAO, ARE RAISED FROM SEED WHICH I BROUGHT BACK FROM A TRIP TO JAPAN A FEW YEARS AGO.

This month in a part of Tokyo known as old downtown or Koishikawa, Bunkyo-ku, a temple known as Dentsuin hosts a very special Japanese Morning Glory festival ( it also hosts a rather special Chinese Lantern festival in October - you know, the orange husks of Physalis or Alkekengi). These floral events in Japan are very special and cherished by plant enthusiasts, as the culture of growing such plants can be traced back hundreds of years.



ASAGAO, JAPANESE MORNING GLORIES, ARE SOLD IN MARKETS AS GIFT ITEMS. THEY ARE TRAINED TO NOT BE LONG VINES, BUT RATHER TRIMMED DOWN NOT UNLIKE BONSAI, TO SHORT, PINCHED VINES ON BAMBOO TRELLIS'S.
 The Japanese have developed a detailed cultural relationship with the Asagao, and every detail, from how one raises the seedlings, to how one pots, trains and displays the plant has been documented and refined over the centuries. Moreso, artwork, weaving, textiles  and songs all celebrate the asagao.
Today, one can find pre-trained Asagao on the streets in Tokyo, and in the summer, plants can be found in markets and at street fairs aready blooming.

THE JAPANESE HAVE A DEEP RESPECT FOR NATURE, AND IN PARTICULAR, FOR ASAGAO - A MINDSET WHICH BEGAN IN THE EDO PERIOD, AND A TRADITION WHICH CONTINUES TODAY


Japanese gardeners are deeply engaged with gardening, so deep, that they often become rather obsessive about the tiniest details and variations that can occur within a species. Bonsai, Chrysanthemum, and Cherry Blossoms come to mind, but there are many more plants which escape the radar of the Western world where the Japanese plant enthusiast dives in deeper than anyone else on earth. Japanese gardeners take time to understand every little detail and nuance about specific plants, often favoring the strange and mutated over large and showy details. And so it goes with Japanese Morning Glories. A plant that frankly, I have never, ever considered as a collectible plant, until a friend in Tokyo a few years ago, asked me if I was interested in some mutated Japanese morning glory seeds.....I never looked at morning glories the same.





The Asagao has a rich heritage in Japan, woodcut prints from the 1400-1600's exist showing hundreds of Asagao cultivars, and today, some seeds of the most mutated, are sold for millions of yen. Even on eBay, it's possible to find Asago seed, but for the real rare varieties, those often with shredded flowers or needle-like or thread-like petals, seeds are virtually impossible to find. In Japan, the Asagao blossom as a graphic icon can be seen on money, on posters, on sewer lids, as a repetitive pattern in kimono's, everywhere. There are even Shinto shrines dedicated to Asagao, with flower and plant shows while the plants are in bloom in August and September.

MUTATED FORMS OF ASAGAO ARE THE MOST COLLECTIBLE IN JAPAN, OFTEN FETCHING MILLIONS OF YEN, JUST FOR THE SEEDS.


All of this obsession ( or better yet, appreciation) began in the Edo period, where most Japanese plant enthusiasts can trace back many of their favorite plants which remain popular  in Japan today. On terraces, tiny side alleys and back yards throughout Japan, tiny pots in tidy rows, each containing a single clipped and pruned Asagao vines - and they are all beginning to bloom. At Green Clubs, the Japanese equivalent of our plant societies, enthusiasts meet on Sunday mornings in public places, where enthusiasts bring both their most cherished Asaago to display, as well as seeds to share.

AN ASAGAO SHOW IN JAPAN, THE PLANTS ARE PINCHED AND PINCHED  LIKE BONSAI, TO ENCOURAGE SHORT STEMS AND LARGER FLOWERS.

AT HOME, I STARTED TO GROW THEM IN POTS AS IN JAPAN ( I USED FELT POTS) BUT THE VINES STILL GOT AWAY FROM ME. EACH SEED HAS PRODUCED A DIFFERENT FLOWER

THERE ARE FORMS WITH SHREDDED FLOWERS, SUCH AS THIS PINK ASAGAO WHICH I HAVE GROWING ON OUR BACK PORCH. IT IS JUST STARTING TO BLOOM WITH THE ONSET OF AUTUMN. THESE ARE COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE STARTING THIS YEAR, IN THE UNITED STATES IN SEED CATALOGS UNDER VARIOUS NAMES. I WOULD IMAGINE TO SEE MORE VARIETIES AVAILABLE SOON.


A PERIWINKLE COLORED ASAGAO, MY FAVORITE COLOR, BLOOMED THIS MORNING.


I brought back some Asagao seed from my last trip to Japan - I was unable to get some of the truly rare mutated forms, but even the garden center varieties, are beautiful with their variable blossoms and variegated foliage.


PHYSALIS OR CHINESE LANTERNS, ARE DISPLAYED BY STAFF AT A SHRINE, EACH WEARING A MATCHING COAT. AN ENTIRE WEEKEND IS DEDICATED TO THE FLOWERING AND CELEBRATIONS AROUND THIS PLANT.

STREET FESTIVALS AND TEMPLES CELEBRATE THE RIPENING OF THE HUSKS OF CHINESE LANTERNS IN JAPAN.  PLANTS ARE GROWN IN POTS, AND DISPLAYED AND CUT STEMS ARE SOLD IN MARKETS

CHINESE LANTERN PLANTS, FOR SALE IN AUGUST AT A STREET FAIR OUTSIDE OF TOKYO




FLOWER VIEWING IS A POPULAR WEEKEND EVENT AT MANY TEMPLES WHERE DIFFERENT PLANT SPECIES ARE FEATURES SEASONALLY, EACH WITH MEANINGS AND ASSOCIATIONS TO CERTAIN LIFE EVENTS OR SEASONAL EVENTS. THESE CHINESE LANTERN PLANTS ARE ON DISPLAY AT A SHRINE.

August 30, 2012

Growing.... with Dogs? Breeding here means more than just plants

LYDIA, AT THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY NATIONAL TERRIER SHOW LAST OCTOBER - TODAY - SHE BECAME PREGNANT.

It's not my thing, it's Joe's, but over the past few days, I've realized how similar our hobbies are. I breed plants, he, breeds dogs and canaries. Silly, perhaps, but at least it's better than wasting our money on drugs, right? Well, I'm not so sure, but surely, these interests are as addictive.

Besides our plants, we have had some excitement in the dog side of life these past two weeks.  I won't be vulgar, but Lydia, our female Irish Terrier (who just won her Championship, and awarded a medal from the Irish Terrier Club of America, and the AKC),  has just today been inseminated with frozen semen from...um.....Fergus' grandfather.

I know, a little weird, but true - and totally fascinating.  It's not like we are raising race horses, but sometimes, it sure feels like it. The sire we chose is sort of a gift, since his breeder is a dear friend of ours in Pasadena, and she happened to have some frozen semen from her American Champion from years ago ( Fergies Grandpa). It's not every day that one gets such an offer, so now, years later, Mullagaboy's Colin Murphy continues to pass his gene pool on.  Mr. Murphy's semen was frozen ( just like we freeze pollen from our daylilies and clivia) before he moved to his new home in Australia.

Breeding here, takes place on all sorts of levels. The canaries in the studio are breeding, with little blueish green eggs in their nests, the Clivia have been crossed and the pods are forming with parents that came from Japan, and, now Liddy Bug and her ultra fancy lady stuff. Seriously - After days of being whisked off to her gyno in suburban Boston, for her daily blood tests, we were notified yesterday that today's numbers will be perfect for the insemination. Joe drove her this morning to the clinic, where he met his other co-owners. We left the rest to the ladies. Mainly, her  lady co-owner, her daughter, her co-breeder aunties in Mississippi and the three ladies at the doggy pregnancy clinic - who all watched the lively, once frozen sperm, come to life. Amazing, right? We could hear the cheers, with comments about how 70% fertility is a good thing.  And now, we wait.


THE SIRE, (FERGUS' GRANDFATHER) WHICH SORT-OF MEANS THAT LYDIA WILL GIVE BIRTH TO FERGUS' FATHER? HIS SEMEN WAS FROZEN BEFORE HE MOVED TO AUSTRALIA, WHERE HE SIRED 2 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS.


 Liddy bug is home, resting with her feet in the air, eating frozen yogurt and chilling out until her first ultrasound in September. Her due date is Halloween, if all goes well. Soon? The pitter patter of tiny puppy paws will invade our silence. And the garden.

Fall Bulbs in Pots - Three Amaryllis Sisters Bloom

NERINE MASONORUM, A TINY, EVERGREEN NERINE WITH SLENDER, GRASS-LIKE FOLIAGE, AND THUMBNAIL SIZED FLOWER HEADS THAT BLOOM PROFFUSELY IN THE LATE SUMMER IN POTS

Doesn't just seem to happen overnight? That shift from summer weather to autumn? Here in New England, it generally happens around the third week of August - a cold front passes through bringing fresh, dry, cool air, and along with it, brilliant blue skies, and chilly mornings, just around the time that one hears the kids going to the bus stop for the first classes of the year. 

Three relatives of the common Amaryllis are blooming today - all are members of the Amaryllidaceae family, but each one looks quite different than the large, showy winter-blooming Amaryllis we all know and love.

Many of the Amaryllids prefer to spend their lives in pots and containers which do not freeze, spending the winter indoors or on cold, unfrozen porches and sunrooms, exploding into bloom just when you need it - at the end of summer. These bulbs, mostly native to the southern hemisphere, extend their flower buds only when the days begin to shorten in the late summer and autumn.

 COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE SCARBOROUGH LILY OR THE BLOOD LILY, A CYRTANTHUS ELATUS SELECTION WAS ONCE A COMMON HOUSEPLANT, BUT IS DIFFICULT TO FIND TODAY. THIS ONE  BLOOMS IN A  6 INCH POT ON THE DECK, BUT IT SPENDS THE WINTER INDOORS.  THIS MAKES A GREAT HOUSE PLANT FOR WINDOWSILL CULTURE, AND IS WORTH SEEKING OUT.

NOT GROWING IN A POT, BUT IN THE GARDEN, A CLUMP OF ACIS AUTUMNALIS BLOOMS ON SCHEDULE, LATE SUMMER, IN THE ALPINE GARDEN.
Acis is rather unknown outside of fancy bulb circles, according to the Pacific Bulb Society wiki, the genus was created in 1807 by R.A. Salisbury, but in the 1800's the genus was lumped together  into the genus Leucojum, the autumn snowflakes. Taxonomists can't seem to keep this genus alone, but where ever it becomes 'lumped', we still love it, especially how it self-seeds slowly to form an ever increasingly large clump. There are a few varieties to seek out ( try Paul Christian Rare Bulbs in the UK).

August 29, 2012

Designing a Bulb Garden? What if Mary Blair Helped?



A WILD BLEND OF EVERY SPRING COLOR AVAILABLE SEEMED TO WORK FOR ME, AS THESE DISPLAYS PROVED AT THE SMITH COLLEGE SPRING BULB SHOW LAST FEBRUARY. THE COLORS NOW REMIND ME OF DISNEY COLORIST MARY BLAIR, THE WOMAN BEHIND MANY OF THE COLORS IN THE WALT DISNEY ANIMATED FILMS IN THE 1950's. 

I almost forgot about these tulips and other spring bulbs in crazy color combinations that I saw at the Smith College Spring Bulb Show last February. A crazy mix of what seemed like every color in some crazy Dutch palette became jumbled together into a candy colored bejeweled expression. Only recently, these reminded me of Mary Blair color palettes - the Disney colorist behind many of Walt Disney's feature animated films in the mid twentieth century. Last Saturday I rented a live action film, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a film featuring Mary Blair as color designer.  No one could combine coral, watermelon, cherry red, tangerine and mango along with burgundy, brown and buff and the perfect shade of periwinkle, like Mary could. She was able to combine colors in ways no one else had ever dare tried, and even though she remains a strong influence today with many graphic and animation artists, applying her palettes to the garden never entered my mind, until this week. I am currently planning my Mary Blair inspired bulb garden.

August 26, 2012

Hints of Fall - Asian Pears, Turkeys and Winter Squash

'KOREAN LARGE' ASIAN PEARS, READY TO PICK.
NOW, IF ONLY I HAD THE LITTLE STYROFOAM NETTING

IT'S AMAZING HOW FAST TURKEYS GROW. THESE HEIRLOOM NARRAGANSET TOMS ARE ALREADY BEGINNING TO GOBBLE, BUT IN THE WORLD OF TURKEYS, THEY ARE STILL SMALL. THEY WILL DOUBLE OR TRIPLE IN SIZE BY....UM....THANKSGIVING.


It's odd to wake up early and the morning, and to no longer hear the chorus of birds. In fact, no even one bird was singing this morning, even though it was cool, bright and sunny. At night, however, the garden is virtually buzzing with energy with late summer crickets, grasshoppers and other insects carrying on where the birds left off. This is a sure sign that autumn is near. Not that I need any signs, for night are suddenly noticeably cooler ( at least the mornings are - requiring me to haul out the sweatshirts that had been put away for the winter), and many plants are showing new growth, especially the the fall bulbs and late-season tropical bloomers, This is the season for dahlia's, colocasia, canna, amaranthus, caladium, tuberose, gladiolus and most of the summer-growing tender bulbs from the southern hemisphere, many of which require a full summer of folial growth before finally maturing enough to flower.


Mother Nature knows so much more than we do, that sometimes I wonder if we have any role in the ecosystem at all, for the changes in the forest and garden are so nuanced and precises each year, that I fear that my pathetic act of dragging out a black plastic bag of winter sweaters fulfills any purpose at all other than reminding me that I don't have enough body hair to merit bear status...

August 21, 2012

Best Giveaway Ever! - Win a New Troy-Bilt Cultivator

LYDIA WATCHES ME ( UNDER MY WATCHFUL EYE!)  CULTIVATE ONE OF THE RAISED BEDS WHERE THE SWEET PEAS WERE GROWING, AS I TURN-IN A GREEN MANURE CROP OF RYE WITH THE NEW BATTERY-POWERED CORDLESS CULTIVATOR BY TROY-BILT. NOW YOU CAN WIN ONE TOO -COMPLETELY FREE!

Are you ready for the biggest giveaway that I have ever participated in, ( I know, this is a good one!) Thanks to the nice people at Tory-Bilt, who first had me try out a new product of theirs - the new Troy-Bilt Cordless Battery Powered Cultivator - now you too - my faithful readers -  can win the same model for free! All courtesy of Troy-Bilt. To win, all will need to do is three easy things.( I know, I know..., but these little things do make a huge difference in my on-line ratings!).

1. Go an Fav Growing with Plants on Facebook ( if you haven't yet)
2. Follow Growing with Plants ( if you havn't yet)
3. leave a comment ( so that I can use randomizer to choose the winner). Be sure to add the phrase TROY-BILT in your comment.

It might be nice to also visit their Facebook Page, and fav them too!



The Troy-Bilt contest ends on Saturday night at 9:00 PM EST, and I will announce the winner Sunday morning.
Troy-Bilt will send you directly a brand new cultivator just like the one above.



 I tested out this cultivator with a little scepticism, recently, roto-tilling has been scrutinized for ruining soil structure, destroying worms and networks of microbes, but in certain situations, tilling the soil is still necessary - for example, brand new garden beds with sod removed, clay soil which is dense and heavy requiring added organic material, or in my case, new raised beds that have the perfect blend of organic material, ( I'm not bragging, but a could of my beds are loose and deep with loamy compost, so a good tilling helps mix in a green manure or cover crop). This time I used composted hay - yes, I could use a pitch fork, but with a cover crop or green manure, a soil cultivator is essential. I have a giant- old fashioned rototiller( the big 'ol Troy-Bilt model we have in the shed)but it is so heavy and powerful, that we only use it for corn and potatoes in the large vegetable garden out back. If you have raised beds,  a cultivator was never an option.
CHECK OUT THE WEEDS! REALLY, BY LATE AUGUST, I JUST ABOUT GIVE UP, AND ALLOW THE SQUASH AND PUMPKINS TO JUST TAKE OVER EVERYTHING!

 Now, with this battery powered model, raised bed gardeners have an easy option. First thing that I noticed, is that this device is light and easy to transport. I can lift it with one hand. Second, and this is important - it was easy assemble right-out-of-box, ( I'm not that handy with power-tools). Third, it is battery powered, so no gasoline, oil or electric cords. I would add that it may not be powerful enough to break sod, or till deeply, but given that few of us till in the same way we did 20 years ago, this is the perfect device - I will use it for weeding, as I can adjust the tines to cut only the surface of the soil, so next year, I will plant beans and potatoes in rows with just enough distance so that I can cultivate between the long rows. I probably won't use this in my raised beds, but I will use it out back in our back 40, where I grow long rows of crops like peas, beans and potatoes. Hand weeds long rows is impractical given my schedule.

LYDIA AND FERGUS INSPECT THE BED LOOKING FOR - WELL, BONES, I GUESS.
I AM USING THE FRESHLY CULTIVATED BED AS A HOLDING BED FOR MY EXHIBITION CHRYSANTHEMUMS, AS I STAKE THEM. I HAVE BEEN NEGLECTING THEM, BUT I THINK I CAN STILL SAVE THEM WITH A LITTLE TLC. THESE WILL BE 5-6 FEET TALL BY NOVEMBER- EACH TRAINED TO THREE STEMS AND DISBUDDED TO ENCOURAGE LARGE FLOWERS FOR DISPLAY.

++++++++++++ CONGRATULATIONS++++++++++++++

To reader -EMILY from Elkins Ark.!! For winning the Troy-Bilt Cultivator!
Thanks for participating everyone!

August 20, 2012

Curating Vintage Palettes - Containers Inspired by 1940's tablecloths

MUSSAENDA HYBRID 'DOUBLE RED' LOOKS VIRTUALLY HORRIFYING WITH  THESE RED VELVET-LIKE BRACTS AND PINK FLOWERS, BUT IN SOME OF MY CRAZY COMBO'S, IT ADDS AN OLD-SCHOOL 1940's MEXICAN FLARE TO MY RED, GOLD AND BLACK CONTAINERS
 I can't help myself, the designer in me loves to explore, and I am constantly looking for  interesting color combinations with plants. It takes some confidence, and guts, since a few of my experiments have been down right ugly ( as in my 'man garden' of brown foliage plants), but I've been working with many black- foliage plants this season, mixing them with silver leaved plants or variegated plants, with very good results. Now, I am adding pure golden-leaved plants to some of these mixes, which are really starting to shine, especially now that some red and gold berries are starting to show. It's bit like Christmas in August here in central Massachusetts.

TALINUM, (JEWELS OF OPAR) IN A GOLDEN BERRIED SELECTION, CARRIES THROUGH THE GOLD AND BLACK MOTIF THROUGHOUT THE CONTAINER GARDEN. THE EFFECT IS ALMOST HOLIDAY-LIKE

 This black, gold and red combination reminds me of vintage bark cloth, or screen printed tea towels from the 1940's , you know the type - the ones with flamenco dancers or Mexican hats on them. This color combination is somewhat inspired by mid-century optimism. Lake houses, camp furniture, 1940's motels and souvenir plates.  With all of the new colors available today, it's been fun to try and eliminate green foliage, which helps when one wants to create a new motif.

August 19, 2012

My Convincing Argument - Grafted Tomatoes Prove That Their Worth It

MASSIVE FLOWER TRUSSES ON A GRAFTED SWEET 100 TOMATO PLANT - 7 FEET TALL, AND NO SIGN OF FALL BLIGHT - ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

I have been so impressed with grafted tomatoes, that I wonder why I still grow conventional plants. I guarantee that in 5 years, all of you will be raising grafted tomatoes, and not seed-raised home grown plants. Grafted tomatoes are not new, since grafting peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers is a common p practice for greenhouse crop growers, and the method has been used for years in Japan and Europe. The concept is simple, graft a tasty, or heirloom variety onto a rootstalk that has been selected for vigor and root making. The result? Bigger plants, bigger yields and bigger tomatoes. Grafted plants can handle stress better and they are far more resistant to blights, which if anything, is the main reason why I would choose grafted plants over traditional un-grafted plants.

I tried grafting my own plants two years ago, but I struggled with timing the scion and the rootstalk plants. I will try again next spring, as I have all of the materials, but as grafted plants becoming easier to find, you may just find that buying them will be an easier option. Rootstalk seed is expensive, almost prohibitively so ($30-$80 for a packet of healthy rootstalk seed), but when one only needs a few plants, buying them is an option.

 Full disclosure - I cheated this year -, my plants came courtesy of the Home Depot who asked if I wouldn't mind trying some varieties that they will be carrying next year in most of their stores. Since I had little luck starting my own grafts, I agreed. I also planted them along side the same seed-raised varieties that I had started - in a side-by-side comparison test. The truth? Most of the others are now dead, but the grafted plants are still growing strong. They have a hint of fungus, but not nearly the amount that my traditional plants have. It seems that now the the Home Depot will be carrying plants, you should not have a problem finding them next spring ( at least in North America). For lovers of heirloom plants, this is a Godsend, since heirloom tomatoes are some of the most susceptible to soil borne virus'.
LOOK AT THE FLOWER TRUSSES AT THE TOP OF THE GRAFTED TOMATO ON THE LEFT. THE PLANTS ON THE RIGHT ARE SEED RAISED IN MY GREENHOUSE.


MY SEED RAISED TOMATOES ARE SUFFERING WITH LATE BLIGHT, WHICH STARTED A FEW WEEKS AGO. SO SAD, BUT, THE GREEN TOMATOES WILL MAKE GREAT PICKLES.


THIS YELLOW GRAPE TOMATO HAS BEEN THE HIT OF THE SEASON.  'GOLDEN SWEET F1' IS A VARIETY THAT I WILL GROW AGAIN. THE BEST PART? THIS SAME VARIETY SELLS FOR $5.99 A PINT AT OUR LOCAL FARM STAND! IT HAS BEEN PROLIFIC, AND, THE FLAVOR IS EXTRAORDINARILY SWEET.
THE TOMATO CROP THIS YEAR IS JUST STARTING, ANY ALTHOUGH NOT THE BEST YEAR FOR TOMATOES, IT IS ALSO NOT THE WORST YEAR.

ON THE LEFT, PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (REFRIGERATOR FRESH PICKLES) - ON THE RIGHT, GINGER, GARLIC AND CURRY PICKLED CAULIFLOWER (TO BE FERMENTED). I USED BlACK PEARL CHILI'S SINCE I DID NOT HAVE ANY OTHER CHILI PEPPERS THAT WERE RED YET. THEY'LL WORK FINE.

I felt so compelled to 'put something up', and I really don't know why. Maybe it's because I always remember my parents doing it - there was hardly a late summer day when we were not canning somethings when I was a kid. I mean, my mother was almost obsessive about it - no, she WAS obsessive about it. We never just canned willy nilly, when harvest time came, we seriously canned - as if we were preparing for the apaocolyse. We would never starve, since we could live on hundreds of quarts of Bread and Butter pickles. So, I guess as the crops of late summer arrive, it comes as no surprise that I should want to can a few pints of pickled beets, pickles and tomatoes. 

Today I canned a few quarts of cauliflower. I didn't grow it, it came from our local farmers market, but everything else came from the garden. The heirloom garlic, the peppers, even the coriander seed heads. These are fresh pickles - I mean, they are being fermented, but not processed - so they are not cooked. I like my pickles to be crispy. Both recipes are from THE JOY OF PICKLING by Linda Ziedrich. Next week, I will start making some of my mothers pickles - recipes that were handed down from her father, who was born in 1889. Pickles are like gifts from the past - the recipes are handed down, generation to generation - I love using the old crocks that are in the cellar, that were my grandparents. They have held pickled green tomatoes and sauerkraut ever year since 1910, but I also like to add a few new pickles to the list - Japanese pickles, German pickles and this year, some Indian inspired pickles such as the ones above.


JALAPENO'S!

August 18, 2012

Home Back East to Rain, Chores and, oh yeah - Crab Grass

Morning glories planting on the back porch, are starting to cover the windows.

What's up with the crab grass this year?

Sometimes I think it just get's bigger and bigger each year. While I was in Denver, the weeds have taken over the garden, I am seriously thinking of staring a reality show, just about weeds. I think that might be one they haven't done yet.

When one spends even a week away from a home garden during the summer, it fells like a new garden when one returns. It seems as if every plant has doubled in size - morning glory vines suddenly have exploded into their late summer growth spurt, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage are now so plentiful, that I need to either think about making pickles or sharing some with my neighbors ( I chose pickles).
In August, the container plants need fertilizing most every week to help maintain their strong growth, after all, it will be only a few more weeks before they are moved back into the greenhouse near the end of September.

August 17, 2012

Curate an Art Collection in Your Home Garden

In Dan Johnson's Denver garden, art work is everywhere - surprising, unconventional and always unique.
I promise - really my last post from Denver - but the artwork that I saw in two Denver gardens inspired me - and as an artist myself, I started to feel a little guilty as I do not have any art in the garden. I think it's time to start - thanks to Dan Johnson ( Curator of Native Plants for the Denver Botanic Gardens) and garden writer, Marcia Tatroe. Just check out these photos from their gardens. Art is personal, and the these two creative gardeners clearly have two different styles, yet both enhanced the garden environment. Typically, I don't even notice garden art, and much of the time, I feel that it conflicts with the natural aspect of a garden - probably why I try to keep my design talents separate from my gardening skills. Don't ask, I just struggle with being an artist and a plantsman, although I am sure many could argue that I combine both talents - in my little crazy mind, I know that I am not even trying to combine them. If I did, all Hell would break loose. But these gardens prove that thoughtful curatorial work can be effective, as long as you have the confidence and the eye.

August 15, 2012

Re-imagining the Dry Garden - Xeric Gardens in Denver

At the Kendrick Lake Park and Gardens, the design proves that even in August color and texture can reign,  making even a late summer garden visually interesting.
Acantholimon and Cacti can make even a bone dry garden interesting.
For my last post from Denver, I am clustering a few of the many gardens that I was able to visit, together. I can't cover them all, but each one offered something unique, and I will try to include them in some random posts in the future. Since a drought is still affecting much of this country, I am assembling many of the xeric gardens and dryland garden images together - I was so impressed with the diversity of plant material, and the creativity of the many gardeners in the Denver area. Here are a few of the most interesting gardens.


The Alpine Rock Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens



 The Alpine Rock Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens is world-renowned for its diversity and collections of high-elevation alpine plants, and western US native plants, steppe plants and succulents. One of the largest rock gardens in the United States, I saved this garden for a different day, as it deserved a more focused visit. Rock gardens can be controversial - at least properly defining them when garden geeks get together. Even today, many gardeners cannot agree on where they should be gardens filled with rocks, or gardens constructed to house true rock plants or alpine plants. The Alpine Rock Garden at the DBG is a little of both - but it is clearly inspired by the great European rock or alpine gardens from the turn of the century. This garden houses many plants native to the prairie and steppe areas of the great American south west. Purists may grumble, expecting to see sweeps of gentians and pulsatilla such as those seen at Kew or the Montreal Botanic Gardens, but the DBG garden is unique in the world of alpine gardens, and it is often listed as one of the great three ( Kew, Edinburgh and Denver) Rock Gardens maintained today. It alone is worth a visit while in the Denver area.

MANY TRUE ALPINE PLANTS GROW DENSE AND TIGHT UNDER THE EXTREME CONDITIONS FOUND AT HIGH ELEVATIONS. THE TIGHT GROWTH HELPS THE PLANTS CONSERVE ENERGY, AND MANY FORM TIGHT BUNS AND TUSSOCKS, LOOKING MUCH LIKE THE ROCKS WHICH THEY GROW NEXT TO,

A NICE, WHITE ALPINE CAMPANULA


ROCK GARDENS ARE HABITAT GARDENS, THE CLOSEST THING IN ANY BOTANIC GARDEN TO A WILD HABITAT.  IT'S THAT BALANCE BETWEEN ROCKS AND PLANTS, THAT MAKES A ROCK GARDEN SO APPEALING, AND PRACTICAL - MANY ROCK GARDENS CAN ALSO BE XERIC GARDENS, REQUIRING LITTLE WATER IF PLANTED WITH THE PROPER SPECIES. ALPINES HAVE DEEP TAP ROOTS.

A NEW FEATURE AT THE DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS IS THIS CZECH STYLE CREVICE GARDEN, NEWLY PLANTED WITH ROCK PLANTS.

Ehedra przewalskii,  WITH RED BERRIES. IT'S IN THE JOINT FIR FAMILY- EPHEDRACEAE
A POISONOUS PLANT, THIS IS THE EPHEDRA THAT CAN CAUSE HEART PALPITATIONS 

Phlomis alpina, ALPINE JERUSALEM SAGE LOOKS NICE, EVEN AS DRIED SEED PODS FORM

Manfreda virginica, THE FALSE ALOE, NATIVE TO THE SOUTH EASTERN US. STILL A MEMBER OF THE AGAVAEAE ( AGAVE or CENTURY PLANT FAMILY), THE FLOWER STALK WAS NEARLY 5 FEET TALL.

A PRAYING MANTIC, HUNTS FOR SNACKS ON A Pelargonium englicherianum WHICH HAS GONE TO SEED

A MORE WELL BEHAVED FIREWEED, THE ALPINE WILLOWHERB OR Epilobium fleischeri, ALSO A PLANT SELECT® OFFERING IN THE SOUTH WEST.



MANY DESERT PLANTS AND DRYLAND PLANTS ARE INTERPLANTED WITH HIGH ELEVATION ALPINE PLANTS IN THE DBG ALPINE AND ROCK GARDEN. I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE LABELING, MOST EVERY PLANT WAS LABELED, AN ENORMOUS TASK, BUT HELPFUL FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE STILL LEARNING.

THIS TINY FLOWER ONLY A HALF INCH IN DIAMETER ON A THREE FOOT SHRUB IS A CLEMATIS.
MEET Clematis stans NATIVE TO JAPAN

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE CREVICE GARDEN. I WILL HAVE TO COME BACK AND SEE THIS IN JUNE.

SENIOR HORTICULTURIST, MIKE KINTGEN, CAN BE FOUND TENDING THE COLLECTION IN THE DBG ROCK GARDEN MOST EVERY DAY, AT LEAST WHEN HE ISN'T IN HIS OFFICE.  WHO COULD BLAME HIM!
MAIN VIEW OF THE DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS' MAGNIFICENT ALPINE AND ROCK GARDEN

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