September 6, 2016

What's Happening In and Around My Garden

I've been neglecting both writing about what's been happening around the garden here, as well as actually spending time in the garden (it's just been either too hot and humid, or I've been traveling on the weekends). There are endless excuses, as usually, but with the return of cooler weather, I've somehow found the energy to journey out an see what's happening. So, a bit of a random post on what I am seeing around the garden on this first week of September as a tropical storm is tempting us with some rain which seems to be just out of reach, this time, as Hermine heads out to sea.

Bronze fennel, 'Elf's Cap' nasturtiums (from some seed that I saved last year) and purple sweet potato vine blend together in accidental harmony.

This year, I have been rather lazy about the garden - maybe I focused too much last year on the chrysanthemums, or maybe I am just getting too old - but for whatever reason, I seemed to have lost interest in weeding (That's normal, right?). As for vegetables, I limited myself to containers which is so very much not like me (maybe my bother is right, after all?).

The tomato season is not over yet, but the first signs of stress from heat and drought are causing some to yellow. Cooler nights will mark the end for sure, but this is the first year when I have not seen late blight in our garden.

And at that, I only planted about 25 tomato plants this year, and not 75 - 100 as in the past, so our harvest has been, well, a bit more manageable, but that doesn't make up for the fact that this year, we have not seen much early or late blight - a fact that tics me off a little bit, since, this would have been the ideal year to plant 200 varieties of tomatoes! (Probably best that I didn't foresee that.).

Here are some images and notes on what I am seeing and experiencing around the garden this first week of September. Just some random pics and comments.

'Matt's Wild Cherry' is a tomato that I love the look of more than the taste. I love how the fruit remains on the vines, but they are difficult to pick, as they tear easily. One must plan on using these tiny tomatoes instantly (as in - popping into ones mouth while still in the garden.). These, are much better used as  a very 'Blue-Hill-at-Stone-Barn's-style table arrangement, if you know what I mean.). The trusses can be picked and they last.

Even though it has been dry, there is still plenty to harvest from the garden, even on Labor Day Weekend.

The drought has kept disease down in the garden, there is little sign of powdery mildew or blight, but scarring is more noticeable, as are tougher skins. This heirloom tomato, 'Berkely Tie Die' is still, 'to-die-for'.

While much of the garden is still producing, there is no holding back the natural cycle of many plants. The dill has gone to seed, which I encourage, as naturally self-sown dill is always better, in my book. Dill heads and dill seed is an essential ingredient for pickles, so I depend on self-sown dill for these large seed heads. Something my mom taught me years ago.

Speaking of seeds, I've allowed some of my sweet peas to go to seed, to see if they will come true to seed. Some gardeners insist that they will ( most peas pollinate themselves before the flower opens), but true hybrids may appear similar to their parents, but they will not be 100% pure. These Spencer varieties have produced loads of seed, but I am only saving a few to experiment with next year.

I've never had Spencer Sweet Peas in bloom this late in the season, but their days are numbered. In fact, they are over. All vines were pulled yesterday, and fed to the chickens (will they get Lathyrism?). I saved a few seeds, but not many. I prefer to buy new fresh seed each year, for vigor and authentic variety.

The vines and pods are still beautiful, even on an overcast day with a storm threatening.

The usual cycle continues on schedule in the greenhouse, under the protection of glass. The cyclamen species are beginning to emerge and bloom, with the onset of cooler nights and shorter days. This means that I needed to begin watering all of the autumn flowering greenhouse bulbs once again, marking the start of another gardening season - under glass.

I received this rare Tropaeolum species this winter (T. moritzianum), and I can't wait till it blooms - with it's fringed, flame orange blossoms - that it,  if the frost doesn't get it first. It's a little rambunctious, as I was reminded of by Mark Hachadorian from the New York Botanic Gardens. Actually, it's taken over much of the greenhouse garden, and the walk.

The night blooming cereus has bloomed somewhat off schedule from the full moon cycle, for most of the summer. This latest bloom brought us 12 flowers, but all is not over - the show will continue in about 3 weeks as tiny buds are emerging once again, marking at least one more big bloom before the plants get moved back into the greenhouse.

'Alpen Fury' is a cute dahlia, and one of the few I have allowed to bloom from the dahlia beds as the rest are being trained and thus, disbudded in anticipation of the New England Dahlia Show on Sept. 17th at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.
Some dahlias are starting to look nice enough for exhibition, but it is taking some learning, to understand all that is needed in regards to stem reduction, fertilization, protection from rain and sun, and disbudding. It then all comes down to timing, something I am still struggling with.

The rest of the garden is doing well, even with the lack of rain. Gentians are blooming everywhere, in the front garden, to these in a  trough. Alpines are surprisingly water tolerant.

I love Proven Winners annuals, and this may just be one of the best - Cleome 'Señorita Blanca' has bloomed non-stop in our containers on the deck. Non-stop.

No hurricanes so far, but plenty are threatening, and we are due. T.S. Hermione has caused a little damage with wind, knocking over this orange and an olive tree, but other than a few spilled pots, we have missed her fury.

OK, its true. I just couldn't stay away from Chrysanthemums this year, and I think I am getting a little better with my skills in raising and training them. I still have much to learn, and I am far from being a master, but so few are growing exhibition mums today, that much of what I do has to be self-taught. This specimen of 'Harry Gees Salmon' is not nearly as tall as it should be, but some buds look as if they will still produce large flowers - one per plant.

I've never trained cascade chrysanthemums before, but for my first year, I don't think that they look all that bad. I am only training 6 plants for now, they take up a lot of room.

In a few weeks, plants will be moved back into the greenhouse as our first frost date is approaching. I've added some new plants this year to the collection, one of which is this Agepetes serpens, a relative of the blueberry native to the Himalaya. It will have pendulous red flowers, if I am lucky, and hopefully will make a nice specimen as a container plant for the cool greenhouse. I am now on the hunt for other Agepetes species - if anyone knows of a source. This one came from Far Reaches Farms.


  1. The dahlias are so great. I love its color so much. Very tender and elegant!

  2. For the mum cascade, have you consulted John Capobianco? I think he brought one on a plane from SF over to DC for the National Chyrsanthemum Society show last year.


    1. Hey Linus - actually, these cuttings came from John Capobianco. He's been very helpful in sourcing plant material for me, although I have not met him yet. I am still rather new to mums. I wish that I could attend this years' National show in California, but I can't, otherwise, I would be one of those folks trying to brings cascades on a plane! I might attend the Long Island or Delaware area show though - unfortunately, they are on the same weekend. Plus, I fear my plants are still not nice enough to show, as I am still learning.

  3. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Matt, l love your blog! so much information, beautifully presented. Your last sentence about looking for additional sources for Agapetes species. The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, here in my neck of the woods, always has a good selection. http://rhodygarden.org/cms/ thanks again for your wonderful blog! Erik

    1. Thanks! You know, if I had a dollar for every time someone suggests that I should check out the Rhododendron Species BG! Consider it done! I really need to visit them as well (no excuse, really, since I have family in the Pacific NW.)!

  4. Love the cyclamens and excited to see pictures of those chrysanthemums in bloom!

    1. Thanks Nic. I expect the chrysanthemums to begin blooming in early October, but they should peak near November 1. As for the cyclamen, I have to admit that I have been neglecting them lately. I should have repotted them in July when they were dormant, but it was just too hot this summer here, and in the greenhouse, even hotter. When they emerge all by themselves, it is a little magical, just the same. Thanks again for your comment!

  5. Your tomatoes look so gorgeous! You also take very pretty pictures of all your plants. I would love to have a garden like yours.


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