July 16, 2006

Ornithogalum convallarioides

This small bulbous Ornithogalum species is native to Madagascar

Of all of the Ornithogalum species which I grow, this precious tiny specimen has been the most challenging. Mainly because after recieving hte bulb from England last autumn, slugs in the greenhouse devoured each leaf as it emerged. I had given up on it ever blooming, and set it far away on a shelf.

This spring, I noticed a leaf fragment surviving so I relocated the container on an upsidedown clay pot positioned in a pan of water, with the theory that slugs could not travel across the water to get to the apparently tasty foliage.

This still did not work since slugs had made a home within the soil, and emerged at night to dine.

Now, after carefully repotting, it had successfully grown its distinctive, and, yes, very Convallaria-like foliage (Convallaria = Lily of the Valley).

After a week away on a trip, it is nice to come home to surprises like this.

July 9, 2006

Mid Summer Pleasures

A new hybrid Daylilly

Spending a hot, humid, Sunday weeding the back vegetable garden reminds me of my childhood. Here in my garden, in this same soil, my father, and my grandfather tended precious plants for over 110 years. Each year, the same weeds greet me which had greeted them, I imagine that the same scent of the rich soil when the weeds are pulled out, and the sound of the cackling chickens as they get to toss and peck through the bushel baskets of weeds that get thrown into thier pen is all the same as it was in 1900.

Weeding tomotoes, The dusty sweaty, muddy chore that always seems to happen on the hottest days of the year, and one which will need repeating every two weeks is not all that bad I suppose. I remember as a child, spending much of the summer, so it seemed, hoeing and pulling weeds, but I know that we still spent time at the lake.

At least the hot sun keeps the mosquitos away, and I wouldn't trade a cold shower under the garden hose for anything. Even then, when the mud and dust have you all choked up and you just don't care anymore, you may come across a pristine blossom, somehow so clean and crip amongst all of this soi; and mud...here, from a new cross of Daylilly seedlings planted out two years ago, one is quietly reminded of natures magic.

English Sweet Peas in Bloom
In March, I posted how i plant the English Sweet Peas, and they always begin to bloom for us, around the Fourth of July. This year, they have started on the 7th. The fragrance, in the evening, is strong and like nothing else, certainly another pleasure which has no equal. If the weather remains cooperative, and the spent blossoms kept cut off, the Sweet Peas will continue to bloom until the first few weeks of August, then they will exahust themselves in the high summer heat here in New England.

Topiary and hard sheering in the summer
The collection of plants which I've trained as topiary standards is growing. Now, since they are moved out of the greenhouse for the summer, they still need tending to. Every Sunday, they get a drink of 10-10-10 fertilizer, and every three weeks, they get sheered back hard so that they can grow more dense and full. The summer is the best time to keep most topiary sheered hard, exposing them to stong light, and never, ever, letting them dry out. Daily watering is essential. Here, I am giving some of the Rosemary's, Westringia rosmarifolius and some Myrtles a good hard cutting .

July 5, 2006

Perennials from seed - do the math

Primula "Wanda" blue from seed

Even though I should have repotted these seedlings earlier, growing Primorses from seed is by far the most economical way to start a collection, and since many of the species and crosses are hard to find in the trade, especially in any quantity, the benefits of sacraficing a few hours is well worth it.

First, do the math. These seedlings of Primula Wanda 'blue strain" are sold only at a fe mail order catalogs, ranging from $8.00 to $12.00 a single plant, then factor in the shipping cost at around %20 and the small window in which they can be shipped (early spring or after September, you can clearly see how a $12.00 packet of seed can be so cost effective when you end up with over 120 plants, which will bloom in thier second year.

The seed may seem costly at first, but that is because I not only by seed from the North American Rock Garden Society seed exchange (NARGS) and the American Primula Society seed echange (APS), where packets are free or only a dollar or so, I also buy pre-chilled seed from commercial suppliers, like Jelitto in Germany. A twelve dollar packet of thier pre-treated perennial seed ranges from $4.00 to 12.00 for more unusual varieties, but if you are interested in getting near 90% germination and don;t wish to fuss with freezing the posts and chilling hte seed to stratify, they have done the work for you.
I grow seed from all types of sources, but I still order some prechilled seed from Jelitto every year, for things like Rodgersia, Trycyrtis, Campanual and more, basically, those varieties that I would like to plant in larger numbers, but that I feel are too costly at $12-$18. per plant at a nursery. If you have ever visited Kew Gardens in ENgland, you can see how effective 18 to 30 plants of each perennial is when planted in an area. In fact, that is the only way to plant when you want a garden to look like a real English border, or like the cover of a White Flower Farm catalog. It's simply a fact of Math. I see so many peopl buying one to three plants of something like Echinacea, when they should be planting a clump of at least 15 pots to get a display that looks right.

Now you could easily end up with a surplus of Rodgersia, which isn't a bad thing at all!
NExt spring, try ordering pre-chilled seed from Jelitto, and by Autumn, you could be planting out hundreds of plants that you could otherwise never afford to plant in drifts.