June 1, 2016

June Envy

Even if you are not a gardener, or even an outdoorsy-person, I think that it's safe to say that June is the month that of the other months hate.  Even I am a bit envious, but mostly because Joe's birthday is in June, and mine is stuck in early January. No outdoor pool parties for me! 

We had lost most of our Japanese selections of Primula sieboldii over the past few years, so a breeding program needed to be started.  Not much of a 'program', really, more like "save the seed, and sow it in flats every winter.". Now, we are starting to get many interesting forms once again. Later blooming than early spring Primroses, Primula sieboldii blooms around June 1, and acts more like a woodland plant, let's say Phlox, than it does potted or polyanthus primroses, which you may be more familiar with. This is one which is hard to find at most nurseries. Look for it at specialist nurseries.

June is also about baby bunnies (see our drama below), late primroses (like these pretty amazing Primula sieboldii crosses we are making), and just about every other garden flower as long as they are a biennial or perennial. Sure there are later blooms to come, but really?  The Iris selections alone, not to mention peonies, roses, delphiniums, you name it, June brings it all with abundance and fragrance. If only we could spread all of this goodness around the rest of the summer!

I have been busy staking and tiring cut flower sweet peas (almost every day after work for an hour of mosquito swiping and muddy knees), and I've been getting the garden ready for - oh, a few hundred dahlias. Not to mention more exhibition chrysanthemums, and alpine troughs. We painted the decks this weekend, so that consumed more time than I had planned. I suppose everyone is a little behind with their chores.

Snow in June. Some of Joe's crosses of Primula sieboldii -white selections.

I should warn you - this  is a rather random post - there is just so much happening around here in the garden, and when you factor it the fertility-level of our water (every living thing having babies around here (thank God we are all guys!) we are almost crazy with babies!

Since Joe took a few days of vacation, I am left tending surprise newborn canaries (3 little things), wild bunnies (that the dogs found), Indian Runner Ducklings (that still needs a heat lamp during our cool nights, and yet a dip in a pink kiddie pool during the day), and of course our still un-named puppy (who is waiting for her shots to be finished so that she can take a plane ride to Amsterdam with Joe - yeah, another vacation.)

. I barely have time to focus on more pressing matters - like more chrysanthemum cuttings, those dahlias that still need to be planted, some veggies like tomatoes that are long over due for transplanting, and then all of the general-everyday garden work which has totally gone unheeded.  This includes mulching, grass cutting, weeding, tree trimming, hedge trimming and container planting. Oh, did I mention sweet peas? Yeah. I am running out of time - it was bound to happen.

Bamboo poles. I need to order more. Remind me.

Calla lilies bloom in a large container on the gravel path outside of the greenhouse. These are tender here, and since this is such a large selection (7-8 feet tall!), it takes some muscle to move the pot from the greenhouse, outside. It's always worth it, thought. These stems are tall and stronger than the leaves which are still weak from being under glass.

Last year I added a couple of Rhododendron X 'Narcissiflora' selections to the garden. They have bloomed late this year due to our colder spring, but their delay did save the blooms from frost. Soooooooo fragrant!

I should just do a single post on some of these Californian plants -maybe that will come soon, but I just had to share this Monkey Flower, or Mimulus bifidus, that I bought from Annies Annuals last year. You don't need to live in the West to grow this well, it survives perfectly in a clay pot for me.
This must be my year for unusual annuals! Another Californian native, Limnanthes douglasii is a difficult-to-raise annual for us in the Eastern US but it can be mastered. Sow in the autumn, keep in a cool greenhouse and be ridiculously careful when transplanting to minimize root damage. These are gracing a tough garden on the deck this spring.

We had a couple of hot days, so the bonsai needed a good soaking. This Metasequoia is one of three which we winter over in the greenhouse. It goes completely dormant in the winter, but every spring, it pops into the amazing, green miniature of - well, talk about Meta-Metasequoia!

Every year I am more and more impressed with the value that Baptisia brings to the garden. Sure, they are slow to establish, but by the third year, one can see why these plants are becoming more and more popular with those who know their secret.

Some Baptisia have interesting colors. This B. varicolored 'Twilight' is still a new plant in our border (three years now) but it  is just starting to look impressive. Patience pays off with this long-lived plant.

With Baptisia, the flowers are considered a bonus, as the foliage is nice enough on its own. They can look like small shrubs.

These baby Eastern Cottontail bunnies were discovered when Doodles saw them through a temporary fence that we have put up, while the long fence for the dog-section of the garden is being extended. They are all safe and sound, but we had some drama....

After Doodles informed us with her very 'Lassie-like' barking, that 'Hey, you guys - there are bunnies over here and you had better do something about it!", her mother (right) Lydia, took over. (That's the nameless puppy, on the left - Doodles daughter). Granny Lydia is very mommy-ish, and decided to take the matter into her own hands (or mouth).

Liddy 'relocated' the bunnies by not by killing them, but by carefully carrying them away - into the house to a bedroom, where she felt that she could take better care of them. No worries thought - Eastern Cottontail moms visit their nest twice a day, once at sunrise, and once again at dusk to feed their babies, so all bunnies were placed back into their nest, and we saw their mommy feeding them at dusk. Our very trailer-park-worthy temporary fence such hold anxious terriers at bay.

Those Indian Runner Ducks that hatched 2 weeks ago are not much bigger It was cold Sunday so our friend Jess brought some hats that she had made for them. 

Seeing all of those images of cacti in bloom at the Chelsea Flower Show last week, reminded me of when I first saw the very same displays about ten years ago. I never realized how easy they are to grow - and how floriferous the genus which flower well are to grow, like Lobivia, Rebutia and Mammilaria. With hundreds of selections, most only are a few dollars each, they make super-easy house plants and if exposed to cold, dry winters, you can get blooms like this.

I spent 2 hours last week ordering a hundred more plants here! Mesa Gardens has many varieties.

Another image of those Nemesia which I started form seed in September. They fill two large pans on the deck, and just never seem to stop blooming. As I mentioned before, I added Cal-Mag (calcium magnesium blend) to their fertilizer, which made a significant difference in their health. Now - wait until you see my petunia and snapdragon selections this year! Tweaking nutrients really works. 

As my brother reminds me "Matt, don't you grow any vegetables?" The answer is yes. Here are some heirloom Flashy Trout Back Lettuce and dwarf 'Rosain' bib lettuce growing in a large, cedar container.

May 22, 2016

The Cure for Epimedium Deficit Disorder - Garden Vision Epimediums

Let me start with this statement - one will never truly appreciate the presence of an epidemium in the garden unless one plants one in the ground and waits 3 years. There are reason why we have passed them over at nurseries or in catalogs, either the flowers are oddly spider like, or the potted specimens looks less-than-exciting, but see one established in a garden, and suddenly they move to the top of ones must-have list. Few see specimens in our garden without asking "wow, what is that?". 

May 17, 2016

Time for a Rototiller Smackdown

Time for a new garden! So, an excuse for a Rototiller smack-down. Troy bilt's in the shed emerged for a one-on-one race to see who could tackle our 'back 40' better, faster and deeper. Dahlias and cucumbers await in the greenhouse!

Nope - NOT a paid or even a sponsored post.  We simple needed a new garden, and with 4 rototillers in our shed, (one not working), why not haul em out and use them to create a new garden in practically virgin soil, or 'virgin' at least for the past few decades. With little time nor energy to hand dig a thousand square feet or two, the sometimes necessary rototiller (or tiller) was needed.

With at least 200 dahlia tubers started in 6 inch pots in the greenhouse, and even more tomatoes this year, plus plans for eight or so cucumber varieties, we needed the extra room.  Mostly, this space will be planted with dahlias, as we helped start a new dahlia society (the New England Dahlia Society - join if you can! There is a meeting this Sunday, and we'll be hosting our first show in September at Tower Hill Botanic Garden).

Joe has been eager to find a spot for his AA (or dinner plate) dahlias, and I will need more room for cucumbers and tomatoes (not to mention some of my dahlias). So we decided to regenerate part of our 'back 40', a piece of land way back in our back yard where my parents used to grow squash, potatoes and beans in the 1980's, and before that, red raspberries and celery. It's been neglected for about 20 years now, so the rototillers had to be called in (or dusted off from the shed). Time for a road rally.