|Each January I share a list of the garden projects I plan to undertake in the coming year. Here are about ten things I am looking at either collecting, growing to perfection and covering in detail on this blog.|
People sometime ask me -
"How do you keep coming up with ideas?" And the answer is, I don't think that I will ever run out of new gardening projects or ideas, for my back-up list is so long, that it might take 300 years to accomplish all that I wish I could do. I blame this relentless drive on - my mother. I remember her tearing pages out of gardening magazines , knitting patterns and and recipes Better Homes and Gardens, and then organizing them into 3 ring binders.
My dad who was an artist, was no better. He kept hundreds of images in manilla envelopes - all torn from various art magazines ( and ok, if you really knew him - some pretty ladies from Cosmopolitan) and he organized these all by subjects or topics - written in sharpie on the outside of the envelope. I still find stacks of "Dogs and Horses". 'Womens Hair', 'snow scenes' and 'floral patterns'. This was indeed 'early Pinterest'. (and BTW - Why the hell didn't I invent that site?).
It was inevitable then, that I too would become an influence hound, but thankfully, I have bookmarks, digital folders on my desktop and yeah - private Pinterest boards. There, I keep my private inspirational images - what dahlia varieties I am planning to focus on, and secret sources for more hard-to-find plants which I can't afford to share publicly just yet (often because a really great dahlia can quickl y become sold out in just a week or two). Look, I have to protect my own garden projects too! For that reason, I am not sharing exactly what dahlia varieties I am ordering this year or what plants I am ordering until I actually place my order (funny, right? But hey - we all do it, right?). You can depend on me to share my secret sources and best varieties eventually, you can count on that.
|There are some givens, for example, I will be planting an enormous sweet pea collection - perhaps ALL of the varieties. I haven't listed that as something new I will be trying.|
Mostly though, I use my own notes combined with the photos I take during the year which I save in iPhoto (and eventually store somewhere in the cloud and on a hard drives). These are images of gardens that I visited or places I vacationed at, photos of the tags on plants or a special planting scheme that I found interesting. I have many photos from flower shows where I only show the tag with the name on it, so that I will remember what Dahlia variety or Lily variety to try and find on-line. Much of this, I am shamelessly selfish with, after all, I don't want to share with you that I just discovered this amazing lily variety before I can snag a dozen bulbs! Sorry.
|Alpine troughs will factor in as well, but again, I assume that most of you will expect this.|
This past year I was fortunate to visit many gardens and natural sites, from Iceland, to Yellowstone, and botanical gardens such as Denver Botanic Garden and the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden. You will notice that I was very inspired by the gardens at Coastal Maine, and especially those of Amy Goldman Fowler . Her phenomenal garden, I think because she is both a plantswoman and a collector really inspired me to try many new things. Our visit to her farm in upstate New York was a highlight of the year.
Lastly, not all of these projects will come to fruition, and some new ones will jump onto the list. I just need a target, a goal (or ten goals). I know, it's usually pretty ambitious, but you me! I will also revisit last years list maybe in my next post, to see where I netted out.
MY 2017 PROJECTS
|We often overlook ornamental peppers, but when combined with more obscure heirloom varieties, a collection of peppers makes more sense - both horticulturally interesting, not to mention the culinary and cultural aspects.|
1. Collection of Potted Unusual Chili Peppers - This past summer Joe and I had the pleasure to tour Amy Goldman's extraordinary farm and garden . I saw many things which I personally felt might be something I might like to try, but nothing surprised me more than her collection of peppers in pots. If you are not familiar with Amy Goldman Fowler's books, I highly recommend them, if only for the information along, they are priceless, but their design and quality take them over the top.
|'Chiltern' an heirloom bird pepper. On looks alone it's stunning (and I am not a big hot-chili dude).|
|Pepper 'Super Tramp' in Amy Goldman's garden shows how lovely even a culinary pepper can be as a potted specimen.|
2. Celtuce - raised to perfection of course.
Nothing new, Celtuce is something many of us have seen in old seed catalogs but I believe that it deserves rediscovery. Celtuce, or Celery-Lettuce is something I always dismissed as a novelty - something worthy of inclusion only in the Guerney's Catalog but never something one would actually grow. But after seeing it in many late 19th century seed catalogs, I began to wonder what the story behind celtuce was?
All changed for me last week, when I ordered a dish of 'Stem Lettuce' at a new (and very authentic) Chinese restaurant near us, a restaurant where everyone seated is Chinese, mostly students, but a few families, (Red Pepper). I discovered that the crispy, jade-like razor-thin pieces of Celtuce stem is delicious and worth the space in the garden. Besides, it fits into my interests of 19th century plants and crops which deserve rediscover.
|In the 1850's, mignonette, both in pots as a winter-blooming greenhouse plant, as well as in the early summer garden was about as fancy and accomplished a gardener could get. When was the last time you appreciated the scent? I thought so.|
3. Mastering the Culture of Mignonette (in the garden, and in pots)
Not new on my list, but you know what? I don't give up easily. I haven't had much luck raising Mignonette. Maybe I haven't paid enough attention to its cultural techniques (frankly, it's been hard finding any good cultural information beyond when to sow it as a bedded plant, or for potted plants in a greenhouse or conservatory (July), but I am persistent and identifying 2017 as the year when I master this crop which so captivated the Victorians both in pots, and in their gardens.
|I dream of growing a gourd tunnel, maybe this year I will attempt something similar to this one that we saw this summer at Amy Goldman's farm.|
4. A Gourd Tunnel - only if I am adventurous and overly ambitious, but this one at Amy Goldman's was so incredible that I can't help but think about creating one over our long path. I have this idea to raise Indian gourds which my co-worker Sameer introduced me to, various bitter gourds and maybe even some South East Asian gourds, similar to those that another friend - Chau Ho brought to us this summer which his father grew. Again, the foodie in me is curious. Without Curtis here this summer, we may not be able to follow through on this one, as he was going to construct the frame, but I am keeping it on my list.
|Campanula pyramidalis (from the Great Dixter website) shows how tall these plants can be when raised as conservatory plants. Rarely seed as a container plant today, they are exactly the sort of thing that interests me.|
5. Collection of Campanula pyramidalis - I am trying a crop of potted Campanula pyramidalis, common as a potted plant raised for conservatory displays or even for temporary displays in those large English manor homes (such as Great Dixter (from which this image came), ), and today perhaps only seen at large botanic gardens.
Campanula pyramidalis can be a 6 foot tall and impressive campanula when containerized. It was always on the head gardener's lists of must-have plants for summer color on private estates and favorite of the late Christopher Lloyd. C. pyramidalis also appears in many 19th century gardening books where it is described as a 'fine, indoor display specimen' that is, if one can consider a 16 foot tall specimen 'acceptable'! Most containerized specimens will be a more manageable 4-6 feet tall.
I've seen it grown for display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, and Longwood conservatories.
6. Other Annuals for temporary potted displays - I am thinking about trying Schizanthus again. after the success of Nemesia Last year , of which I fussed over with prudent cultural care, the right nutrients, day-length and temperature range. These more challenging annuals often need to be sown late in the previous year here in New England, usually in late August, kept in a cool greenhouse and then allowed to mature and bloom in early spring while it is still cool.
Last years' successes included annual Phlox drummondii and Nemesia, both started off slow, but performed so well for me, that I was to try a few others this year.
Focusing on just a few new annuals each year makes the task a bit easier, as proper culture is often necessary for these plants which one rarely sees at garden centers here in the North East. If I lived in California or London, these plants might be easier to find, but they are not something often grown where summers are hot and humid.
4. A Secret Project for a magazine article
5. Secret Project for a Book Proposal
And... in case you are wondering what I am planning to add to the garden:
|'Kniphofia 'First Sunrise' growing at the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden in Maine last year. If only I could find this variety on-line, but I am having no luck - help!|
1. A Significant Planting of Hardy Kniphofia
Last June, while touring the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden (lust, lust, lust!) a planting of kniphofia stopped me in my tracks. Yes, kniphofia - in the state of Maine! I know, it was coastal Maine where it is a bit more mild, but none-the-less, I can't get this planting out of my mind.
The head gardener there explained to me that this strain, called 'First Sunrise' is most hardy, and although the garden is firmly located in a slightly more mild coastal USDA Zone 6, that they still heavily mulch the planting with salt-marsh hay (I've already started this planting, but I plan on a significant learning curve). The idea that South African plants from the Cape could be hardy in a winter-wet New England snow garden isn't all that novel, as some gardeners are having luck with a few species of gladiolus, moraea, neuron and agapanthus - usually in those odd warmer zones we all have either near large rocks, under the eaves of a house or garage, or on a ledge open to winter sun. I am always one to push the zones, and after seeing this planting of hardy knip's, I diving in.
There are a few hardier kniphofia in the market already, mostly thanks to collectors (such as Ellen Hornig) who collected seed from species which have exhibited cold hardiness - we have a couple which bloom every-other year or so, but these newer selections show promise, although, I am still mulching well. Always check the hardiness zones, but I look for those which seem to be testing well in USDA Zone 6.
|Honeynut Squash, a tiny new variety designed to be a delicious as an ancient one! Photo from Harris Seeds.|
2. Honeynut Squash - I was introduced to this sweet, little squash developed at Cornell University by Dan Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barns (no, not in person, but via his writings and a documentary). Always willing to test a yummy, heirloom-inspired squash, I can't resist anything that appeals to my inner foodie).
What looks like a tiny darker Butternut, the Honeynut is just one of a handful of well - handful-sized squashed bred not for looks or marketability, but because of flavor. It looks like it may be hard to get seeds of, Harris Seeds is backordered.
|Nothing compares to a vine-ripened, heirloom watermelon picked from the home garden.|
3. Watermelon and/or Unusual Melons
Amy Goldman is to blame for this one. Joe is Armenian, and melons are his weakness. Modern seedless and commercial varieties are nothing - cardboard compared to a garden-grown, more choice variety which may not ship well. How could I go through life without such treats?
Any Goldman sent us home with the back seat of my truck full with three baskets full of precious, vine-ripened heirloom melons and watermelons from her farm, and even though we had enough melons for a family of 10 to last a week, they only lasted 2 days in our house.
If you've never experienced a watermelon picked from the garden? Then you are missing out. Like peas, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatoes, melons freshly picked and eaten, warm from the sun, the flesh crispy and fresh from the rain of an overnight thunderstorm - yum. Yellow, orange, pink, sweet and utterly delightful. Melons, and especially watermelons meet my criteria of what deserves what little space I have in the home vegetable garden.
|Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold'|
The Showy Ladyslipper, Cypripedium reginae - now available at Plant Delights Nursery, may make my list (if I can afford a few and if they don't become sold out). Also seen at the Coastal Maine Botanic Garden, I feel that I can offer a nice, slightly moist and acidic spot for this rarity.
|More extreme-colored tomatoes, like this one called Indigo 'Kumquat' is so purple when immature, I love it! The entire Indigo series make great garden plants and produce good sets of healthy fruit.|
Viscaria oculata - as a pot plant on the terrace
Claimed to be a classic annual potted terrace plant for displays, Viscaria oculata selections are again, rarely seen, and never found at main stream nurseries or garden centers (except at Annie's Annuals who clearly have their act in order).
I am also thinking about raising Okra varieties, Prune Plums, Dwarf Cherries and possibly another all white garden in front of the greenhouse. Not to mention a new alpine garden, a culinary herb garden in a new formal parterre behind the house with boxwood and brick, and.....and.....
I am looking for Amaranthus salicifolius (perhaps synonymous with A. tricolor?) It's listed in many books pre-1900 as a fine-leaved amaranth commonly grown as a conservatory plant. I welcome any information on this, or any fine-leaved amaranth suitable for containers. I have a Suttons Seed catalog from 1924 which lists it with a photo, but I cannot find anything later than this.
TO close this out - - a few more projects I am considering this year (or, at least the seeds have been ordered!). I am considering some more cut flowers such as Lisianthus, and annual delphinium the Yankee series, as well as some of the newer cut flower Stock varieties (Katz and Quartet fro Johnny's), tall marigolds (have some ideas about Indian wedding garlands and Day of the Dead flower paintings, plus - I am just a sucker for tall, old fashioned marigolds), annual Sweet Williams (dianthus Volcano mixed), purple artichokes (Colorado Star) for the veg garden, red Brussels sprouts, red okra (I guess I like red veggies), and an embarrassing amount of sweet peas (if I have room).
Also, thinking about: Tuberous Begonia's, dwarf bearded Iris collection, mini hosta (God knows why), leeks, three types of onions (Red Long of Tropea, Sierra Blanca), ParCel celery (for the foliage - should be great for soups in which I mostly would use celery for anyway).
For plants, I am tempted by the selection of Mangave's in the new Plant Delights catalog - they might be a safer alternative to Agave (piercing risk with four pairs of doggy eyeballs - we made one trip to vet already!).
I really have no idea where I will be planting everything, but I may be able to talk Joe out of using the back 40 for dahlias this year, and till that over again for veggies and cut flowers. Wish me luck!