}

July 6, 2011

A Chinese Lantern Lily? More like, neither.

A SUMMER BLOOMING SOUTH AFRICAN BULB RARELY SEEN IN GARDENS, SANDERSONIA AURANTIACA BLOOMS IN A POT WHERE IT'S GOLDEN LANTERNS SEEM TO LIGHT UP THESE WARM AND HUMID JULY EVENINGS LIKE JAPANESE LANTERNS.
 Even we gardeners fall into ruts. Ordering the same plants and bulbs each and every year. But why not change it up? Have you ever wondered who grows all of those odd little bulbs that you see in the spring and summer catalogs? You know, Gloriosa Lilies, Tigridia, Tritonia? Well, this year I am trying new things that I have never grown before, many are those lesser bulbs that we all seem to overlook.

This week, a slightly unusual South African bulb plant is blooming in a container, Sandersonia aurantiaca. More common as a specialty cut flower,I am finding that a container with 8 roots ( which look like bulbs, but are actually thick, brittle roots) make a less than exciting in a container. I think even if you planted u a dozen, the display might still be not worth the investment.  Commonly known as the Chinese Lantern Lily or Christmas Bells, most catalogs sell the plant by its Latin name, more likely because it is a single genus, with one species. In South Africa, this plant blooms in the winter ( which is summer there), near or around Christmas time in December. In our July garden, it illuminates a mixed container nicely, but in the garden, I think it can get lost, so I am not sure that I will grow this again.

Sandersonia is related to the Gloriosa lily which naturally is not a true lily, and neither is the Sandersonia  for that matter, both are members of the Colchicaceae family, ( You know - autumn flowering Colchicum - go figure).

Order Sandersonia in the late winter or early spring, I purchased mine from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.  I would suggest buying a few, since I bought 12, only 3 grew, so I am guessing that the roots are rather fussy and may not sprout uniformly. The root stalks that you will receive in the mail are very tender, and for success, they much be planted in pure coarse sand so that they can have perfect drainage. Potting soil can then be added to the surface, which I then mulch over with gravel.
SANDERSONIA AURANTIACA SEEMS TO BE THE VICTIM OF SOME LEAF HOPPERS THAT ARE FINDING THE LANTERN FLOWERS TASTY.  THEY ARE CHEWING THE BLOSSOMS INTO TINY SHREDS.

July 5, 2011

Cherries!


SWEET CHERRIES ARE A HOME CROP MANY SEEM TO AVOID BELIEVING THAT THEY ARE TOO DIFFICULT, ALTHOUGH NOT EASY, ONE CAN HARVEST A REASONABLE AMOUNT FOR JAMS AND PIE, IF YOU SIMPLY NET YOUR TREES TO KEEP BIRDS OFF, AND THEN SHADE THEM TO AVOID RAIN CRACKS.
Cherries just might be the most challenging yet most rewarding home fruit crop. But don't expect those dark, black red cherries one gets from Washington State, most North American crops will be limited to sweet, red cherries, still large, but more flavorless until cooked. I adore cherries of all kinds, sour, sweet, pie cherries - the flavor reminds me of my mom when she would cook pies and jams from the sour cherries that grew in a small orchard in the field behind our home. We even had a yellow cherry that had died before I was born, but I remember the glass canning jars in the storeroom in the cellar with handwritten labels on them saying "yellow cherries" and I would always ask when we might try them. ( we never did, I think she was just saving them for a special event, and eventually they we're thrown away). I still feel the desire to taste them. I think next spring I will plant some yellow cherries out back for this very reason.
June and Early July is cherry season in zones 6 - 3, and if you do not have any cherry trees on your property, you can go to a pick-your-own fruit farm ( just be sure to check if they have cherries, for the season is extremely short - 4 days at our local farm, Tougas Family Fruit Farm in Northboro, MA.

The biggest challenge to overcome with cherries is bird damage, since losses can reach 100% even on home crops. Commercial growers take all precautions, such as constructing elaborate structures of green netting over their entire field. At home, one must cover their tree just after pollination, since even unripe young fruit is far too tempting to many birds.
LAYING ON THE GROUND, IN THE DAMP GRASS, YOU CAN LOOK UP AND SEE THE LARGEST CHERRIES THAT SEEM TO COME RIGHT FROM THE BRANCH. ONE MUST LOOK FOR THE DARKEST RED, EVEN THOUGH THESE LOOK RIPE, THE BEST FLAVOR IS DEVELOPED IN THE BLACKEST CHERRIES, SO PICK ONE-BY-ONE, NOT IT CLUSTERS.

Many home gardener dream of growing cherries, but either avoid purchasing trees believing that they are ungrowable in their area, or they have tried growing cherries, but gave up. But one you understand the challenges, and address them, cherries are relatively easy as long as you cover the plants.


There are three challenges to master finding solutions to when growing cherries. 1.   Birds, 2. Rain Cracking, and 3. Pollination. Of course the site must be right, with full sun and rick soil, and pruning must be mastered, but between the Internet and on-line documents, you should be able to attempt simple pruning.
'RAINIER' IS A CLASSIC QUEEN ANNE WHITE CHERRY THAT HAS A MUCH HIGHER SUGAR CONTENT THAN MOST RED VARIETIES. IT IS SURPRISINGLY GROWABLE IN MANY NORTHERN HOME GARDENS. NOT A PERFECT AS STORE BOUGHT FRUIT, YOU CAN BE ASSURED THAT YOUR OWN FRUIT WILL BE MORE ORGANIC.

Then there is the whole issue of what type of cherry to grow. There are tart cherries, for pie and juice, which are hardier than sweet cherries, but sweet cherries can be successfully grown in zone 5, as long as winter temperatures don’t fall lower than -25 degrees F.

There are many varieties, but I recommend growing trees that are grafted onto dwarf rootstock, or dwarf varieties. You may think that you would want a large tree to get a decent harvest, but three or four dwarf trees in a row can give you a bushel of cherries, far more than you would need for jam or pies, since most recipes call for 2 or 3 pounds per batch..

July 4, 2011

Fireworks in the Garden

INDEPENDENCE DAY HERE IN THE US of A, SO A RED. WHITE AND BLUE TRIO FOR A STEAK COOKOUT
 This Fourth of July we are staying home, a hot and lazy ( well, not so much lazy) day in the garden. With four days off from work, time was well spent doing summery things - like picking cherries, visiting garden centers for last minute deals ( the the Proven Winners 'Senorita Rosalita' Cleome below, which is a supreme improvement over the old fashions annual forms from seed. These were over-grown but worth finding - ( I was able to negotiate buying them for 30% off since the foliage was turning yellow), this is one annual that you can cut back and it will bloom even better right until frost. Still a bargain. They make great fillers for the perennial border in front of the greenhouse.
THE BOXWOOD HEDGES WERE CLIPPED THIS WEEKEND. IT IS BEST TO TRIM BOXWOOD TWICE A YEAR IN NEW ENGLAND. ONCE IN LATE JUNE, AND ONCE IN OCTOBER.

I FOUND MORE 'BISHOP OF LlANGDAF' DAHLIA'S AND OTHER SPORTS FROM THE BISHOP SUCH AS 'BISHOP OF OXFORD'  TO FILL THE HOLES IN THE GARDEN WITH. I LOVE THE BRIGHT ORANGE FORMS BETTER THAN THE RED, SINCE I HAVE A LOT OF PURPLE IN THE GARDEN. I REALLY MUST SAVE THE TUBERS FOR NEXT YEAR, RATHER THAN LET THEM FREEZE. LAZY MATT.

OUR OWN FIREWORKS CONTINUE WITH TULBAGIA RAISED FROM SEED. I'VE BEEN TRYING TO ISOLATE THE WHITE ONES, BUT THE PURPLE SEEDLINGS KEEP SNEAKING IN. STILL, VERY LOVELY IN THE SUMMER GARDEN. ( THIS IS A SOUTH AFRICAN NATIVE WHICH MUST BE BROUGHT INDOORS FOR THE WINTER). OURS SPEND THE WINTER IN THE GREENHOUSE.

ROCK GARDENERS SHRIEK IN FEAR WHEN THEY SEE THIS, BUT I HAVE DECIDED TO ADD SOME DWARF ANNUALS TO FILL IN THE GAPS IN SOME OF THE ALPINE TROUGHS THIS YEAR. I AM VERY PLEASED WITH THE RESULT.


A NICE PEACH COLORED BOUGAINVILLEA WITH SOME MERLOT ECHIVERIA MAKE A STYLISH CLAY POT FEEL VERY MIAMI.

LYDIA HAS BEEN WITH US FOR ONE YEAR THIS WEEKEND. STILL, A DEVIL ( SHE ESCAPED TWICE ON SATURDAY TO BARK AT THE NEIGHBORS GOATS THROUGH THE WOODS). HER SPECIAL GIFT ARRIVED ON FRIDAY - AN ELECTRIC FENCE.

FERGUS BEGS FOR A PIECE OF STEAK FROM OUR FOURTH OF JULY COOKOUT. MY SISTER WILL GIVE IN, SINCE SHE IS A SOFTY. HE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO BEG FROM US.

OUR BEST FIREWORKS. MARGARET ALSO BEGS FOR A PIECE OF STEAK ( AND SHE'LL GET IT, EVEN THOUGH  SHE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO GET PROTEIN DUE TO HER RENAL PROBLEM, BUT HEY, WITH HER CONDITION, WE ARE JUST SO LUCKY THAT SHE IS STILL WITH US, SO SHE SIMPLY GETS WHAT EVER SHE WANTS TO EAT ( AND IT'S NOT IN A FEEDING TUBE LIKE HER OTHER MEALS AND WATER).

MARGARET'S SHOW NAME IS KELSON'S MISS FIRECRACKER SINCE SHE WAS BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, SO THIS IS HER BIRTHDAY TOO.  EAT UP, MY FRIEND.