}

November 11, 2014

FORCING HOUSES, CROSNES AND RARITIES - MY AUTUMNAL NOTEBOOK

THIS NERINE SARNIENSIS IS BLOOMING INSIDE THE GREENHOUSE, BUT I JUST LIKED HOW IT LOOKED AGAINST THIS FALL FOLIAGE - PINK ANG GOLD, SO 'MARY BLAIR'.


This was the first weekend in a while that I had both days off - which allowed me to attack my ever-growing to-do list. Even though the chores seem endless, I did make an effort enjoy some of the natural beauty happening around the garden and in the greenhouse - the organizing of which, is still on that pesky to-do list. I really should take a photo of the garden, as I know that it looks rather nice in photos - but believe me when I say that it is a complete mess. Trust me.

Unfinished projects abound such as cobbled together fences, piles of junk and general garden clean up. Clutter and old tools - it's a little crazy, and to make matters worse, Joe who had been promising to help clean up outside broke his foot this weekend, so now we are down to me, and a couple of hours every weekend. At least today, Veteran's Day, I was able to dig a hole for a new post that will hold a new table top bird feeder, as I know the ground will be frozen in a week or so, and I was able to make some kimchi. Just an excuse to not work in the yard, but really - we need gardeners, but that's never going to happen in my lifetime.


IN THE GREENHOUSE, A SIX FOOT TALL LOQUAT TREE (ERIOBOTRYA JAPONICA)  IS BLOOMING FOR THE FIRST TIME. I DON'T EXPECT FRUITS, BUT I PLANTED IT IN THE GROUND THREE YEARS AGO WHEN I FOUND A YOUNG PLANT FOR SALE AT LOGEE'S GREENHOUSES. FINGERS CROSSED, I MAY HAVE FRUIT BY SPRING.

I HAVE HAD THIS BULB FOR TEN YEARS,   NOW MATURING, THIS STRUMARIA UNGUICULATA GROWS IN PURE SHARP SAND - RATHER RARE, AS I CANNOT FIND MORE THAN A FEW IMAGES OF IT ON GOOGLE IMAGES BEYOND MINE.
As bulbs underglass emerge from their summer dormancy, many familiar species return with their autumnal bloom - believing that it is springtime in South Africa or South America. Along with the familiar here are a few new blooms, in particular a sweet little rarity called  Stumaria unguiculata. I bought it in England years ago as a tiny bulb which I was told would mature in a few years. Now, 8 years later I can say that I remained patient with it year after year, first a single leaf for a few years, then a second leaf….so slow but I was reminded of this snails pace when I Google Image searched it, and mostly images of this little plant of mine showed up. That either means that I have the identification wrong, or there are only a few in cultivation. Either way, I cherish the little thing. I suppose it is a little strange that only I see it in my greenhouse, but at least I can share the images here with all of you.

THIS CYRTANTHUS CROSS IS BLOOMING AGAIN, I KNOW THAT I SHOW THIS ONE A LOT, BUT IT IS VERY FLORIFEROUS - BLOOMING EVERY AUTUMN FOR 12 YEARS NOW.
This fire lily, or Cyrtanthus of which I am completely uncertain of the species blooms once again, with little attention or care. It's pendant flowers might be an indication that one of the pendant species is a parent, but I really am uncertain about it's parentage. I've shared images of this plant with the Pacific Bulb Group for at least 10 years now, but as it came from an auction at the Huntington Botanical Garden at the 2001 International Bulb Society summit,  I know a few other members have it.  Still, it is a mystery cross. Apparently it came from a gentlemen who bred many amaryllis, and the label had no parentage indicated on it.  The blossoms are large, nearly 4 inches long. I may share a few soon, as I have divided it into a flat of divisions.


A PLANTING OF FOTHERGILLA NEVER FAILS TO IMPRESS IN THE FRONT YARD.


BUGS? NO. THESE ARE CROSNES - AN EDIBLE TUBER OF STACHYS AFFINIS, 
A few months ago, while I was deep into my that David Lebovitz book 'My Paris Kitchen', you know - the book that inspired me to try growing Potimarron - the red chestnut squash this summer ( yum), well apparently (I am a little embarrassed to admit this) I had ordered some crossne too after reading about them. I know that I had seen crosne before but I really don't know where ( the image above is a little too blurry to see their shape, but they are tasty, crispy white tubers from of all things, a Stachy's - you know, lambs ears and other similar plants in the genus Lamiaceae).  My envelope just arrived in the mail this week, and without a return address, just a post office box in Canada - so I suppose that I ordered them. I do that - order things, then forget about them. I discovered that these Crosnes are best if planted in autumn, so…OK. I also discovered that once you grow them, you have them forever - oh, that reminds me about my experiment with stinging nettle. Hmmm.

They are much smaller than I imagined them, maybe there are different varieties? If the dogs don't dig them up and eat them, I'll let you know. Oh, in case you are wondering, crosnes are pronounces 'crow-knees', as in "that old crony". Always good to know in case you are in Paris.

SOWING A FALL CROP OF CUT FLOWER SWEET PEAS
 I sowed my my experimental fall crop of cut flower sweet peas, as I told you about a few posts ago. This was an experiment that Cornell University did in 1910, and I wanted to recreate it. Much can go wrong, as it seems the best results will happen when seed is sown just before the ground freezes. I am guessing that the ground will freeze this weekend, as predictions indicate a cold arctic blast. I will then cover the soil with straw, and again, cross my fingers. With gardening it's always good to continue to test things.


OF COURSE, I FORGOT ABOUT THE DOGS. THIS IS THE SWEET PEA BED ON MONDAY, THE DAY AFTER I SOWED THE SEED.  HOPEFULLY THE SEEDS ARE STILL THERE, BUT NO LONGER IN TIDY ROWS.


A couple of other experiments include chicory - this red heirloom variety of red chicory, which I grew in much the same way one grows belgian endive for forcing. I am going to try to force it indoors, so I dug the thick roots, which were not as long as belgian endive, but still thick as good carrots, and I potted them up neck-to-neck in an old nursery pot. A few weeks outdoors, and then I will force them in complete darkness to see what I get. I had heard that this heirloom variety was forced in the 19th century as a winter vegetable.


The same goes for celery, which was forced as a winter vegetable.  Yes, forcing houses were once the only place where one could grow winter vegetables 200 years ago. Glass structures with hot beds ( manure filled beds or beds with steam heat underneath) where vegetables were forced for winter markets like asparagus, endive, celery and sea kale. A lost practice today of which I am still fascinated with.

I have read about London markets selling forced celery (blanched celery in the winter) in the 1800's and in New York City, where forced celery was treasured for the christmas table. Forced veggies were often kept dark, under dark cloths or straw, which kept the shoots sweet and crispy, and not bitter. , Forced vegetables were the only few fresh vegetables available for late winter, when any stored vegetables have begun to rot or age to a point where they were inedible, but forced vegetables were also gourmet treats, as one needed to have the means to either grow and force them ( i.e. gardeners and staff as well as greenhouses, or forcing houses) or one simply needed money to afford such a luxury.

My luxury this year are forcing types of celery, a red heirloom celery, a red heirloom chicory and a red heirloom cardoon. So I have potted up the rooted plants, and used the tops for the turkeys (and you know how that story will end in a few weeks!). We sure are not going to live off of these few pots of forced veggies, but it will be interesting to see what results I can get, and as many of you know - I enjoy growing things which I cannot buy anywhere.

THE TOPS HAVE BEEN TRIMMED BACK ON THIS CELERY, AND IT WILL BE KEPT COLD AND DARK UNTIL I AM READY TO FORCE IT INDOORS. IT'S BEEN HARD TO FIND ANY INFORMATION ON FORCING VEGETABLES - YOU WOULD IMAGINE THAT THERE WOULD BE SOME OLD DOCUMENTATION, BUT MY FEW OLD BOOKS EXPLAIN ENOUGH SO THAT I CAN TRY.


One of my biggest chores which I wrote about this spring is repotting out two large bay laurel trees. The two large 40 inch pots that I wanted went on sale as planned in the autumn, so I bought both of them. Light weight and plastic - they will save some sore muscles as these two high-fired clay long toms were incredibly heavy. I just need to buy more potting soil - it's always something.


THESE TWO TOPIARY BAY LAURELS WILL BE EASIER TO MOVE BACK INTO THE GREENHOUSE NOW THAT THEY ARE OUT OF THEIR POTS. I THINK THAT I WILL ADD THE NEW SOIL ONCE THEY ARE BACK UNDER GLASS. NO NEED TO MOVE ALL THAT SOIL NOW.
 As I repotted my Bay Laurels, I've noticed some white cottony root aphis on the roots. I'm not happy about it, as I have only seen this damage on primula when they are kept in pots in the alpine house. At first I thought that it was a fungus or old perlite, but I believe that I have an infestation of root mealy bug. Something that really needs a dose of a systemic insecticide, which I hate using, but sometimes nothing else works. Of course, my concern is that these bay laurels are essentially an herb - I use the foliage in cooking, so I am going to have to try something else. I am planning to trim the root balls, so maybe I will be able to remove much of these pests, as they tend to live near the edge of the root balls. I will also left the root balls freeze a bit - a tricky thing, as I am guessing that although the tops of these plants can handle hard freezes, the roots are a different case.

I AM REALLY HAPPY WITH THESE TWO POTS - SO MUCH LIGHTER, YET STILL LARGE ENOUGH TO HOLD THESE 10 FOOT TREES UPRIGHT AND STABLE.

TODAY, THE SUN CAME OUT FINALLY, AND I WAS NOTICING HOW OUTSIDE EVERY WINDOW IN THE LIVING ROOM THERE WAS COLOR. THANK YOU, JAPANESE MAPLES. WHO NEEDS FLOWERING TREES?


November 10, 2014

AWESOME FALL FOLIAGE MADE IN AMERICA, AND IN JAPAN


Cornus controversia 'variegata' Just because it is a Cornus (Dogwood) does not mean that it comes from North America- this cornus comes from the woodlands of Japan.
 I think that we often dont think about circumpolar autumn, but in Japan, Korea, China, Switzerland, germany, Russia, Finland - it's also autumn, and so many of our garden plants come from around the world.


October 28, 2014

JAPAN AND IT'S TRADITIONAL SQUASH - KYOYASAI, SHISHIGATANI AND KABOCHA

One of the few precious Shishigatano squashes that I grew this year. 

This year I grew some of the rarest and most treasured of Japanese squashes - particularly an old variety called Shishigatani from the early 1800's, the Edo period.   On of the Kyo Yasai, which means the traditional vegetables of Kyoto, it is prepared in many ways, celebrated on greeting cards, posters and artwork, and eaten to help avoid the flu and colds in late summer. Named for the Shishi valley in the Higashiyama area near Kyoto. It's a great example of what one can grow at home which cannot be found at garden centers anywhere,  nor at farm stands or at the market. I am very excited to try cooking it in a traditional Japanese method, sauteed in dash, sugar, sesame and soy sauce.