July 9, 2013

Artichokes and Rediscovering Angel Wing Begonias

The Globe artichokes that I started from seed in early February were ready for harvest, with the rainiest June in history,
the heads where plump and large - not bad for seed-raised plants.
Remember those artichokes that I was trying to grow from seed this past February? Look what they did in the garden!

Now that I have returned home after my  trip to northern California and San Francisco, it's amazing how fast a garden can grow in such a short period of time. Dare I say that the weeds were knee high, as was the lawn, so I spend much of the weekend weeding the beds, cutting the grass ( or haying!), and even hired a part-time gardener to help with getting the front of the house weeded, edged and mulched ( thank you Travis!).

The first harvest of annual Globe Artichokes, ( I grew the variety Imperial Star from Johnny's Selected Seeds)  reminded me about how unfruitful these plants can be. I mean, with 9 artichokes which were impressively large, a lot of space was wasted for only two meals, so I doubt that I will be growing artichokes again, or at least until I have more room dedicated to growing them. Still, it was fun, and after following directions precisely, I had an amazing crop. In their place? I planted some over grown tomato seedlings, as they will catch up in a couple of weeks. 

Here are a few photos of rather random garden highlights that are happening at the moment, in particular, some of the Angel Wing or Cane Begonia's that I will be growing this summer, all from Logee's Greenhouses.

I decided to drive down to Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, CT, a 20 minute ride for me, to get some cane begonias for the larger tubs on the deck. On the left, Begonia 'Cotton Candy' and on the right, Begonia 'Corallina De Lucerna'.  
I've decided that one of this years' projects will be mastering Cane or Angel Wing begonias - large and tall growing begonias, once so popular in Victorian parlors and conservatories, but not seen in most gardens today. I urge you to search some out for a magnificent specimen plant for a special spot on your porch or even a sunny, winter window, but I do think that the grow best during the summer. For best displays, plant three plants to a 10-14 inch pot. I amped up the size, and potted my plants in 30" tubs in good, nutritious compost from behind the chicken coop. These cane begonias will have cane-like stem, large angel-wing shaped leaves and amazing umbels of  coral or tangerine flowers that will bloom all summer long, getting better and better with each week of hot, humid weather. I will need to stake these pots with bamboo in a few weeks, carefully tying them with twine so that the stems won't break under the weight of the flower umbels.

I planted three cane-type begonias in this slate trough too.
This time, Begonia 'Elaine', another large - umbel- producing angel-wing begonia with speckled,
large leaves and brilliant coral flowers.

 It may be July, but not too late to change my theme - out came the ugly white petunias that I started from seeds,
and I planted more cane begonias and a few tropical plants. This time,
Begonia 'Orange Rubra'' and two plants of the species B. boliviensis.
I filled in the gaps with succulents because I could, and I can break the rules.

Old World Roses are still blooming in the garden, their fragrance strong in our hot, humid air, especially
just before a thunderstorm is about to hit us.

Another find at Logee's, Clerodendrom speciosum, for the tropical bed in front of the greenhouse. Even a plant like
this in a two inch pot will grow quickly into a shrub-sized plant by summers end. The hummingbirds will be pleased.

While on the color coral, this Valotta lily, Cyrtanthus alatus, was found blooming in the sand bed, so I moved it
outdoors so that it could appreciate some rain, as underglass someone forgot to water.

The front garden is filling in nicely, and yes, it's all about texture here - no lawn.
I need to start converting the rest of the garden to this sort of mass planting.

I think the trick with echinaceae is space and heat. Don't plant them too close together, and find a nice, sunny spot

Poppy disaster - our opium poppies are just not opening now that the temperatures are reaching nearly 100º F.
The buds burst, but the flowers remain tight at golfballs. Time for these poppies to go to sleep,
as I need to the room for string beans. Nice try, maybe next year the weather will cooperate here in New England.

It's hard to believe that I planted these tomato plants three weeks ago before I left for my trip, and now
they are three feet tall, and have blossoms. All I needed to do was to thin out the suckers
(three stems per plant), and a good 5.40.30 dose of liquid feed, and soon the fruit will arrive.

This little gem bloomed this week, a rare Salvia which was a gift from last years visit to Panayoti Kelaidis and the Denver Botanical Garden expedition to China - meet Salvia flava var. megalantha. It's megalicious.


  1. It's a good thing you're so cool and lovable: 9 artichokes ALREADY this year? And all that bloom and goodies galore at the very depths of doldrums?--and you bloomed the Salvia before I did: you are amazing! Hope our paths cross soon again...

  2. Matt, these photos are gorgeous! The front garden and echinaceas are stunning. As for angel wing begonias - no thanks. Here in sunny San Diego, they're just an awful, leggy mess.

  3. Thanks Plant Propaganda, still, I have little sympathy for you because you live in San Diego! That would be like my greenhouse turned inside out!

  4. Hey Panayoti, really? I bloomed that Salvia before you? I wonder why? I didn't do anything different, even planted it into the ground in December because I was late in catching up with tasks. Just threw it into the ground infront of the greenhouse remembering that you said that many of these plants will survive our winters - I was doubtful, but lazy at that point. I think I have two more seedlings, or similar ones from Chris Chadwell, but those are still in pots.

  5. Your Begonia 'Corallina De Lucerna' looks so nice in that pot. I have a Begonia Boliviensis in a hanging basket on the porch... i love the salmon petals, not sure how it will do out here though (considering Plant Propaganda's comment.) Oh well, right now it's still pretty. Actually come to think of it, we've turned this house into a begonia burial ground... are you scurred?

    The Echinaceas are so handsome, i'll have to add that to the list for next year. Thanks for the awesome ideas Matt.


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