It’s Snowing!

Horizontal snow

“It’s snowing!” Once upon a time, I shouted those words with glee, now I stand at the window and shudder, and feel relief that I’m not required to go out in that blustery weather. The first snowfall brings mixed emotions. Part of me feels relieved that the winter season of “rest” is approaching quickly; part of me feels a bit of panic at the tasks still on the list that must be completed before that can happen.

A few minutes later the deck was beginning to get coated.

Since my outdoor plans were thwarted, I turned to the “indoor” clipboard. The foxtail ferns that live in the gazebo all summer had been pulled into the garage before the first freeze several days ago and were not happy with their current lodgings. They were moved into the kitchen sink, given a good watering and a tidy, and moved to their winter locations.

Foxtail fern viewing the snow

Then I decided to lift my spirits by potting up the first amaryllis bulb of the season. This is the new one I ordered from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. I justified it by telling myself the “old” bulbs had only been moved to the basement and “put to rest” recently, and it would be a long time before they’d be recovered and ready to be potted. Hopefully, the earliest one brought in will be restored and ready to pot by the time this one blooms so there won’t be too large a gap, but if there is I’ll have the Christmas tree to enjoy instead.

It’s important not to bury an amaryllis bulb too deep…just about 1/3 is under the soil. Water well after planting, and then don’t overwater. Put in a warm, sunny location and wait for the magic to happen!

By then, there was enough snow on the ground to easily track a cat. Traditionally, that means the first hot buttered rum of the season, so I made a large mug and settled down to watch the Colts play the Jaguars. No Tv signal. A quick look out the window showed that the satellite dish was completely covered, so I bundled up, found my boots and trudged out with a broom to brush it off. While I was bundled and out, I pulled the hose that I’d been using all summer to water the deck planters down to the basement, so all the big pots that are now there in front of the patio doors can be watered. As I was doing that, I noticed how ugly the frozen brown coleus, portulaca and marigolds in the deck planters looked so I pulled a pair of nippers and a tub from the garage and cleaned them up.

Back into the warmth, the game was on and my mug was waiting. During the first commercial, I pulled the “outdoor” clipboard from my desk and marked off “move hose to basement” and “Clean deck planters.” By the time the game was over, nearly all the snow had melted! But, it was a good reminder that winter is well and truly on the way, so I’d better get that “outdoor” clipboard list finished asap. AND, the Colts won! It was a good day!

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Nothing is simple…

Boards for new beds and gerrymandered set-up!

This unexpected spell of warm weather totally turned my job list topsy-turvy. My goal had been to get all 1600 plus bulbs planted before the storms that are forecast arrive. However, when the thermometer reached 65 degrees F, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up!! Stain only works well in warm weather, and this might be the only chance to get this job done. “Make hay while the sun shines” is a fitting slogan that could read “Stain potager boards while you can!”

First a bit of background. The potager is now 7 years old (Amazing how fast the years have flown!!!) and some of the beds, especially those in the south end where water tends to stand the longest have deteriorated to the point of needing replacement. Normally, I’d plant the bulbs and worry about building beds next spring but a number of things are spurring me into action. First, there’s Covid, of course. Who knows what new variant may come round (the new one spread from dogs that’s in Haiti and Malaysia?) and what stores may or may not be open? Or, how the price of lumber will be by spring..it’s high now, but will probably go higher. Most pressing is that I have a group coming to tour the potager the first week of May, so next spring will be especially busy. Anything time consuming that I can get crossed off the list this fall will be a blessing come spring. And, I’m getting older and slower….

“Build 3 replacement beds” certainly looks simple on the job list. But first it requires a trip to town. So, one morning when it was too cold to plant bulbs comfortably, I headed to town and purchased 12′ long 2″x 8″ boards, stain, a new brush for the roller, wood glue and screws. That sounds simple too, but shopping for the supplies means a three mile hike up and down aisles to find them, loading, driving home, unloading. That purchase was $97.07! Once home, it required changing clothes, which meant looking for the old jeans and sweatshirt that already have streaks and spots from the last time I stained wood. That was months ago when I re-stained the top rail of the potager fence and its front gate but fortunately I actually knew where I’d put them.

Finally ready to actually work, I had to find the measuring tape, the circular saw, extension cords, the stain tray and old roller, a pencil, and the “T” square. Now, I could blame the lengthy time it took to locate said items on D moving them to new, obscure locations but the reality is that it’s most likely that I was the last person to use any of these items. We won’t dwell on the possibility that I forgot where I left them. I started to look for the saw horses, but remembered they are in the greenhouse holding up a bench that’s filled with empty pots and flats, so I just abandoned that plan and made do with whatever I could find in the garage: the stool I use when I give talks, a cardboard box, a drying rack, and the stack of pots that I’ve been using to collect black walnuts as I pick them up. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Finally, the boards were cut into 6′ lengths, and one into 3′ lengths. Don’t jobs always sound so simple, and then turn out to be much more time-consuming?

A few falling leaves wanted to stick to the freshly stained, sticky boards.

The first coat of stain went on quickly, but I had to stay close and remove leaves from the nearby cottonwood trees that wanted to stick to the fresh stain. So, I began cleaning and planting bulbs in the nearby Deck Garden. Here’s the area where I started.

Looking a little on the brown side!

Bulb planting is not nearly as simple as it sounds either. Frost-killed annuals must be removed, along with any weeds that have newly appeared or were hiding under the annuals during the last weeding. Finished perennials must be trimmed back as well. Holes are dug, and if bulbs from past years are discovered, sometimes they are just given a sprinkle of bone meal and recovered, but more often they are overcrowded so require lifting and some thinning before being replanted. It’s a slow process and this small section was not even finished before the boards were dry, ready to be turned over and stain applied to the second side. As the day progressed, the boards eventually received a second coat on both sides, and the section in the photo was fully planted with “Tang Dynasty” tulips. Most of the bulbs lifted were daffodils, which will go into former Berry Row turned Daffodil Row.

Doesn’t look great right now, but just wait until Spring!

So, now it’s back to full-speed (as full speed as I get these days!!!) bulb planting before the rains come. I can build the beds and move them into place after a rain, when it is too muddy to plant. The edging that is only partially done can be completed anytime the ground isn’t totally frozen. Later on, the mums will be cut back and a layer of mulch added. The take-away message here is that a gardener needs a list, and needs to priortize that list depending on the season, but it’s also essential that the gardener be flexible enough to abandon that priority list when an opportunity arises, such as an unexpected 65 degree day in November. My job list is made, but it’s definitely not chiseled in stone. If there’s a 65 degree day again, maybe I’ll stain the lattice work on the gazebo while the plants are dormant! Nothing is really simple!

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October: Monthly Review

As I write this, I’m watching the first of the golden leaves of the black walnut trees falling like lazy snowflakes, through the windows formerly blocked by shrubbery! It’s a bit later in the morn than when I took this photo, so now the sunlight is streaming through the windows so beautifully, making me wonder why I waited so many years to ruthlessly trim those yews! The leaves are landing on frost-covered grass, because we finally had our first hard freeze Nov. 3rd and we’ve had frosty mornings since. It was only 24 degrees F when I got up this morning. I’m glad I moved the amaryllis bulbs to the basement before the freeze. They are on their sides, in the dark resting until it’s time to up-pot them and bring them into bloom, one at a time throughout the long winter weeks. The other plants needing protection are in the garage or the greenhouse. It’s on today’s schedule to take the golf cart to haul the pots to the basement, or at least to the patio where I can pull them inside quickly.

October was a rather wet month with rain occurring on 9 days! There were four days early in the month in the 80’s, 15 in the upper 70’s before it began getting cooler. Two days were in the 60’s and the remaining ten days were in the 50’s. Overall, pretty warm for October, with only one very light frost on the 27th, but so light no plants were even damaged. It seemed like a very windy second half of the month, making the cooler days feel even colder and pushing the clouds across the sky at a rapid pace. There are still lots of crops in the fields, because the rains really slowed the harvesting process.

We took one long weekend trip early in the month to southern Indiana to visit friends and see foliage, although at that point it hadn’t colored much. It was a beautiful weekend weather-wise and a fine time to be riding in a little red convertible on back roads through fields and forests. Early in the month, our daughter who lives in Italy much of the year came for a visit, and we had a great time, going to a U-Pick apple orchard and visiting my mother, baking a pie and doing some cooking together, and just catching up in person. Late in the month, we had some friends come for dinner, a rare occurrence in these days. Our county has had the highest Covid percentage in the entire state, so we’ve been taking extra precautions and care.

In the perennial and flower gardens, not much was happening other than the usual deadheading and some removal of spent annuals. The potager was where most of the action was, with lots of harvesting of the French horticultural beans, peas, snow peas, radishes, new lettuces, beets, carrots, etc. Total harvest was 107.25 lbs. That’s less than last year’s 206.5, (mostly because there was no fall crop of red cabbage planted and far, far fewer winter squash and tomatoes, which I just didn’t plant nearly as many this year on purpose.) There’s plenty, and I’m pleased.

The garlic was planted and some clean-up was begun. The bean fences were cleaned off and taken down. The obelisks were cleared of vines and stored in the pole barn for the winter. Some seeds were collected, and the flats of cuttings were moved to a sheltered spot.

The big Geo seed order was sorted and filed in planting order, except for those seeds that needed to go into the freezer for a spell. Lots of digging for the new daffodil rows was completed. And, the top edge to expand the Cutting Garden was also finished. Whenever it was too wet to dig or garden, I’ve been picking up walnuts. I think we are going to set a new record, because the ground is literally covered and they are still dropping.

The only preserving was 7 qt. of green beans and 12 pt. of pickled beets canned. Small amounts of herbs were dried and jarred, but I didn’t bother to weigh them.

So that’s October in review. Not very exciting, but it was a good, productive month. Now we’re already well into November, and my job list is huge since the big bulb order finally arrived! And there’s still thousands of walnuts to be picked up…..

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Frost Warning!

The last of the celosia…

The forecasters predicted a frost, so it was time to harvest the last of the celosias and zinnias. The peppers, tomatoes, beans and other more sensitive crops needed to be picked as well, so the flowers were just hurriedly jammed into a jar. It was sad to see the flowers season coming to an end, but it is nearly November, after all and normally it would have ended in early to mid October. I also noted that the majority of the flowers were damaged by cucumber beetles, especially the dahlias. There seemed to be more of both the striped and spotted beetles this year. Next year there will be cucumber beetle lures/traps placed around the potager early in the season to try to reduce their numbers. If the early ones can be eliminated before they produce more generations, the later numbers should be much smaller. Not only do they damage many crops and flowers, but like squash bugs they are notorious disease spreaders. I had to hurry because on this clear, sunny day the crew was finally coming to prune the extremely overgrown yews in front of the house. I’d given them a trim a few times after we moved here, but it was a task I didn’t enjoy. Now that my hands tire more easily, it was time to hire professionals because I wanted them trimmed back…way, way back!

The difference is amazing!

Here’s the front door area. If you look carefully at the concrete, you see a darkened area pretty much in line with the door’s side panels. The shrubs actually had grown so large they reached that line! After they were trimmed, I was able to move the pots and pumpkin to the side of the door, rather in front of the right side panel! You can also see by the dead grass how far the shrubs extended into the lawn. I’ll need to get some grass seed and do a bit of sowing yet this fall.

We can see out of the windows!!!

Here’s the area in front of the living room windows. The shrubs had grown to the crossbar, covering more than half the window area. When I asked the crew to cut those directly under the window to below the sash, they were hesitant. I said, “If they die, they die. I want to see out the windows!” You wouldn’t believe how much more light comes into the room now. I’m pleased, and if they die, I think I can find something else more interesting to plant there! The crew wasn’t finished until nearly dark. I tried to talk myself into going out and hauling the frost cloth from the basement to cover some plants, but I wasn’t very convincing. I did drag the more tender pots from the deck into the garage, and by then I was done in for the day.

The next morning, there was a light frost on the gazebo roof and deck railings, and some patchy frost on the shaded areas of the lawn, but that was it. I didn’t find any frosted plants in any of the gardens. As soon as it warmed up a bit, I was out planting bulbs and finished the Front Island, the back third of the Front Garden (still waiting for bulbs to arrive for the rest there and for the Deck Garden) and added another 50 daffodils to the “Berry Row.” I think I’ll have to give that area a new name, don’t you? Rain called an end to the planting, and it’s been raining since…three days in a row! The poor farmers are never going to get their crops harvested at this rate. I’m eager to get the rest of the bulbs planted, but it’s definitely too muddy for that. Meantime, I’ll be picking up walnuts whenever it’s not raining and enjoying looking at the lovely fall foliage out the living room windows when it is!

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The monster Geo Order!

There is always a fall order of seeds from Geo, but it hasn’t been this large since I closed the herb farm. However, with all the new plans for next year’s “Growing Kindness Project” bouquets I decided to indulge. There are thousands of seeds on that table, and after I took the photo I realized I’d already put over a dozen packets into the freezer to stratify! Not every seed will be planted this year. Many varieties will just be a pinch or so to trial, so there will be lots leftover for growing in years to come. I’m not going to discuss all of them, because many are the “tried and true” that I’ve been growing for years and have written about in former posts. The entire order will be listed at the end. The “new to me” varieties deserve a bit of ink, and of course those are the ones that excite and interest me the most, so here’s the new candidates, in alphabetical order not excitement order!:

Achillea “Summer Berries”

Achillea, better known as Yarrow is an easy-to-grow perennial. It makes a great filler for bouquets, is pest and critter free, and comes in a wider array of colors than ever before. Some of the colors dry well. I’ve grown yarrow for many decades, but I think it will be fun to see what colors appear. Most may not bloom in the coming year, but we’ll hope!

Amaranth “Hot Biscuits”

Everyone raves about this plant, so I think it deserves a try. 40″ tall and if I don’t like it as a flower we’ll eat the seeds…or the birds will! I’ve grown lots of amaranths before, but never this one, which should look great with all the new sunflowers and celosias in autumn.

Aster “Benary Princess Mix”

After having accidentally ordered the “Bonita Blue” aster last year, which turned out to be a tall annual rather than a short perennial, and seeing how well I liked it as a cut flower I’ve decided to give a couple of other annual asters a try. The “Bonita” actually dried pretty well, holding it’s purple color and petal shape so I’ll be growing more of those, too. The Benary’s are 28″ tall and come in an array of colors, the most popular of which seems to be salmon.

Aster “Duchesse Mix”

Looks pretty similar to the one above, so it will be interesting to see if one performs better, is longer lasting in the vase, or has better stems, etc. Duchesse is described as a “peony” type and comes in 12 colors. Also 28″.

“Asuka Green”

Celosias were a major crop back in my “growing 21 acres of herbs and everlastings” days and I’ll be growing several of my favorites, but this “Asuka Green” crested celosia is a new introduction. Green flowers have a fascination for me and many others, and in bouquets they “GO” with everything else so they are extremely useful. I’ll be interested to see if it holds its green color when dried as well. 30″ Shown in a greenhouse setting but it has been successfully field tested as well.

Dianthus “Bodestolz”

I love the fragrance of Sweet Williams, and they were a popular cut flower way back in my farmer’s market days even though they were a biennial. Dianthus has come a long way since then, with many varieties now FYF (first year flowering) so I’m giving two varieties room to grow and a very early start. “Bodestolz” has 3″ ball-shaped heads in a nice range of colors and long stems, 28″

Dianthus “Summer Mix”

“Summer Mix” is a respectable 24″ with more bi-colors and single flower-form rather than a ball of many flowers like “Bodestolz.” Both should be very useful this coming year and hopefully I’ll winter over a bed of each for blooms in 2023 that should help fill the dreaded “June Gap” since I don’t grow peonies!

Lisianthus “Voyage” series

Lisianthus was my very favorite flower to cut last year. Yes, it was frustrating because the seeds are so slow to germinate, then it stays miniscule for months and months, but then suddenly in July it grows tall and produces the most beautiful, long-lasting flowers ever. I only grew one variety, so I’m expanding to four for this coming year. The “Voyage” series is a very double flower in a wide array of colors: white, champagne, rose, green, dark blue, yellow and apricot. The petals are fringed, which I find intriguing although apparently some people think they look “bug damaged”. I can’t wait to see them in person! And I’m hoping to get lots of green, dark blue and apricot ones!

Lisianthus “Arena” series

The “Arena” series of lisianthus is also a double, but without the fringed edges and with a more open center. There should be apricot, gold, red, white, green, rose, picotee, and purple. This group should be slightly later than the others. We’ll see…but I’ll be happy to have them whenever they bloom.

Lisianthus ABC series 1

This ABC series should be the first to bloom, but has a more limited color selection: deep rose, purple, green, yellow and white. I couldn’t download a photo of the fourth variety, “Soiree Orange Flash” which basically looks like a very pale apricot with some orange tones, but I think I’ll like it. And “Yes”
400 seeds seems like a lot of lisianthus, but I doubt I’ll ever have too many. Plus, they are a bit tricky to grow so I know not all seeds will be successful, judging by last year’s experience. Of course, I hope to do a better job this year!

Stock

The photo is a bit misleading because the mix I selected has no red or yellow, but it was the best I could find. I’ve grown stock plants for sale as bedding plants, usually the “Vintage Series” but this time I’m choosing a taller variety for cut-flowers called “Anytime Mix.” Stock is also tricky to grow in our climate because it wants a long, cool spring (90 days between 40-60 without freezing at night) and we often go from winter to hot summer too quickly. I like a challenge and have three or four different techniques to try. Will any of them work? Well, that will be the fun to see, won’t it? Stock is a lovely, fragrant vertical that I’m hoping will also bloom in June. “Anytime” comes in pink, lilac, apricot, “blue” and cream and is supposed to tolerate a wider range of cold and heat. A whopping 30″ tall. I’ve never seen a stock that tall, so this should be interesting. Maybe I’d better order some stakes!

Can you tell that I’m already excited about starting seeds for next year. I’ll be doing some winter sowing outdoors in plastic jugs like last year, and lots more seed starting in the basement, beginning right after Christmas! Can you believe that is only 8 weeks away!

If you are interested, the list of the rest of the order follows:

Antirrhinum (snapdragons): Solstice Mix, Royal Bride, Black Prince, Rocket Mix

Aquilegia (Columbine) “Mellow Yellow”; Calendula “Porcupine”;

Celosia: “Celway Mix,” “Crystal Beauty,: “Neo Mix,” “Sunday Mix”

Coleus “Wizard Golden”; Delphinium “Blue Donna,”; Feverfew “Vegmo Sunny Ball”

Sunflowers: “Double Quick Orange,” “Pro Cut Gold Lite,” “Starburst Lemon Aura,”
“Sun Rich Gold,” “Sun Rich Summer Orange”

Lupine “Gallery Mix”; Phlox “Grandiflora Mix,” Portulaca “Stopwatch Orange,” Rudbeckia “Sahara”; Scabiosa “Cut Brite Formula Mix”; Statice “Seeker White, Seeker Purple,” “Heavenly Blue”; Viola “Penny Orange”

Sweet Pea: “Mammoth Choice Mix”, “Melody Mix”

Zinnia: Cupcake Mix; Magna Mix, Benary Giant Mix; Inca; Profusion Double Deep Salmon; Pumila Cut and Come Mix; Queen Lime; Queen Lime Orange; Sun Series Sunshine Mix; Jazzy Mix, Soleado, Red Spider; Zinderella Mix, Zahara Mix.

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I’m really DIGGING it!

The expanded Cutting Garden

These cooler October days are great for physical labor, so I’ve been digging. Actually I’ve been double digging, adding another foot to the Cutting Garden’s west edge. A foot may not sound like much, but since the Cutting Garden is over 72′ long, that’s another 72 sq. ft. of growing space available for next year. I decided to double dig it, because this area has never had its dense layer of hardpan penetrated. It’s heavy clay, so I was able to add some compost that will hopefully make next year’s flowers very happy. Most of the color has been harvested so the Cutting Garden is looking a little drab. There are some zinnias and blue salvia at the far end, but they don’t show in the photo. All of the verbena bonariensis will be coming out yet this weekend, because I don’t want it to drop seed. It’s a lovely plant, and the butterflies love it, but it’s just not a good cutting flower in terms of vase life, so out it comes. Some will be moved to the bottom of the Deck Garden, and others will be potted for the garden club plant sale next May.

The former Berry Row…

And then I double dug what will be the front half of the former Berry Row. Funny I didn’t notice how crooked my row was until I was taking the photo. Guess I should have set a stake and string. Trust me, it will get straightened! The dug part is the east half, where 300 daffodils will go. Actually beginning at the very far (south) end, about 80 daffodils have already been planted. You can see that it looks a bit tidier. The others have yet to arrive, and are still vacationing on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic. If the weather remains good, I’ll dig the east half yet this fall, so it will be ready for rudbeckias, yarrows, mountain mint and a progression of sunflowers. And, if I’m really ambitious, Berry Row 2 can be dug as well. It will be home to lots of new dahlias, the overwintered dahlia tubers that I’ll divide in early spring, and gladiolas since deer don’t seem to like them. More sunflowers, possibly some zinnias and celosia over-flow from the Cutting Garden will go in the back half of that row. There are LOTS of seeds coming, and they will all need space to grow!

We’ve had rain, sometimes hard rain for two days now, so no digging for a while and I can use the break. When it stops, the potager could certainly use some attention and tidying. There are more melon and tomato vines to remove, beans and peas to pick, and peppers to harvest. We still haven’t had a frost, which is very unusual, but I think I’ll begin moving the tender potted plants to the patio just in case. Have a great week, everyone!

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Six on Saturday: Oct. 23

“Bon Bon” Calendula

Only one week of October is left, and we’ve yet to have a frost! Highly unusual, but I’m not complaining at all. The days have been sunny and reasonably warm, with chilly evenings down in the mid 40’s to 50’s. The leaves are just beginning to change and plants that like it cool are very, very happy! The calendulas that languished during the upper 90 degree days of summer are suddenly rejuvenated and bursting with color.

Dahlia “Sylvia”

The color of the dahlias intensifies in cooler temperatures. It’s a good thing we haven’t had frost, because a couple of the dahlias have yet to even bloom! Laggards! But, I’m picking bouquets of dahlias and celosia.

Mum “Sheffield Hills”

This week, the pale apricot “Sheffield Hills” mum began opening their daisy blooms. They look great with the dahlias and celosia, with bright accents of intense “Blue Bedder” salvia.

Reblooming roses

The roses are showing their stuff as well. Some of them have been in continual bloom all summer, but right now all of them are filled with buds and flowers. What an autumn treat! And it’s not just the flowers that are enjoying cooler weather.

“Oregon Giant” snow peas

The snow peas are climbing the trellis and loaded with bloom and pods that are ready to harvest. With all the peppers needing picked, there definitely lots of stir-fry in our future.

Lettuce in front, radishes and pak choy behind!

Joining the peppers & snow peas in the stir fry will be baby pak choy, which is difficult to see in the photo, but it’s there amid the radishes. Wilted lettuce is one of our favorite salads, and we can add it to the menu immediately.

So that’s six things (besides myself!) that are enjoying the cooler weather. If you’d like to see what other gardeners find interesting on a Saturday, visit The Propagator, host of this meme.

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And yet more bulbs!

I’ve really enjoyed the variety of bouquets gathered this growing season.

So, have I mentioned that next year I’m delving much heavier into flowers? Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (always a trouble-maker!) and I’ve come to a few conclusions: 1) I’m getting bored growing vegetables and my larders are overflowing 2) If I’m ever going to try something new, I’d better do it now while I’m still physically able 3) Most people seemed more excited over the gift bouquets than the boxes of produce this summer 4) I’ve pretty well got growing veg in the potager maxed out production-wise and fun-wise, so I’m ready for something different 5) I need something more challenging to think about and plan for this winter, but that still involves gardening.

The end result of all this, plus a bit of inspiration from Northlawn Flower Farm who happened to mention the “Growing Kindness Project,” means I’m going to morph into a more dedicated cut flower grower. Yes, I can already hear some of you chuckling, because you recall how often I’ve said it’s nearly impossible for me to cut flowers from my gardens, but I will! Yes, I will! So, I’ve started a new notebook, made new lists to fill out the color needs and scheduling for continual bouquets, and begun the plan.

I mentioned in the post on daffodils that I am converting a failed berry row into a place for daffodils. After doing the math, more daffodils were needed to fill out that former berry row. This order went to my friends at Brent and Becky’s bulbs. Focus was on rounding out the color range, good stem length, and selecting varieties that would combine well with the others already growing or on order. Here are the new additions:

“Barret Browning”

Narcissus “Barret Browning” has 3″ diameter blooms of pure white with a pale yellow halo at the base of its Orange bowl-shaped cup. Know as a good naturalizer, providing color in April. 14-16″

“Cosmopolitan”

Fragrant jonquil “Cosmopolitan” has up to four 2 1/2″ creamy flowers with a long yellow trumpet that sports a jaunty salmon edge. 12-16″ and hopefully blooms in May in our Zone 5.

“Delibes”

This large-cupped narcissus was on my original order for Van Engelen, but they were sold out so hopefully they are coming from B&B’s. An April-bloomer, known to be a good multiplier, it has 4″ gold petals, an orange “bowl” with a wide dark orange rim. l8-20″

“Golden Delicious”

This “bouquet” type jonquil has 4-8 small double golden blooms that are highly fragrant. 16″ and should bloom late April.

“Happy Smiles”

A lovely white petaled bloom with a somewhat flattened cup of yellow. The cup’s exceptionally wide deep salmon ruffled edge makes it outstanding. l6-18″

“Las Vegas”

This beauty looks like a showgirl with huge 6″ diameter blooms of creamy white with a wide, frilly buttercup yellow trumpet. 18-20″, in April.

“Mallee”

And, talk about a frilly-edged cup, just look at “Mallee!” 14-16″ tall with white rounded petals, an extremely ruffled cup with a wide pink edge and yellow base. Mid-spring.

“Slice of Life”

Bright contrast, with its brilliant yellow petals and orange split corona. I can’t wait to see this one in person!

“Stef”

Another white-petaled beauty with a wide open trumpet of soft yellow highlighted with a very ruffled deep pink rim. 18-20″ mid-late spring.

“Silver Bells”

You may recall that last spring I assembled bouquets for a friend’s brunch. Most of the spring bulbs were finished, but the viburnum blooms, lavender hyacinthoides, and dwarf purple iris were available and I picked some Silver Bells and blooming kale as filler. The iris, viburnum and hyacinthoides only lasted a couple of days, possibly because I didn’t condition them, but I was happily surprised that the silver bells (Ornithogalum) lasted nearly a week. There are only a couple of clumps in the Blue Garden, so obviously I needed lots more. 100 are on the way!

The brunch bouquets last mid-May

And then, after vowing that I wouldn’t…I ordered another amaryllis to brighten my winter days!

Beautiful ORANGE amaryllis “Rilona!”

And then later in the week, I watched a clip from “Garden Answer” and saw a luscious tulip with variegated leaves that would be perfect to brighten the Front Island. It’s called “Purrisima Blonde” and is coming from White Flower Farm. This was also justified because a tulip I’d planned to go in the Front Island was unavailable at shipping time.

Tulip “Purissima Blonde”

In trying to fill the gap after spring bulbs (because I have no peonies to cut) some Dutch iris were ordered as well.

A variety of colors!

I’ve grown these before and they bloomed in mid-late May but they didn’t return well, possibly because the drainage was not good where I planted them, so I’ll try again. I ordered a mixture, plus a group of just blues which are destined for the Addition Garden. And in thinking about the bouquet make-up over the season, more vertical flowers were needed, so some gladiola bulbs are on order:

A variety of colors in a mixture should provide lots of verticals!

I’ve never been exceedingly fond of gladiolas. They always make me think of funeral flowers, and heaven knows we’ve been to plenty of those in the past months! But, I think they are worthy of another chance and it will be fun to see what colors appear. Sometimes they are just too tall for a regular bouquet however, so I’ve ordered some “dwarf” glads that are only 24-36″ rather than the standard 36-48″ These are from K. van Bourgondien and are called “Glamini.”

“Glamini” mixed.

And right now some of you are wondering if this is really ME writing this, because there are PINK and RED flowers in this photo! Yes, I’m actually going to allow ALL colors in the Cutting Garden next year, because surprisingly, some odd people actually like those colors and will be happy to get them in a free bouquet! In further thinking about the zinnias, asters, and other flowers later in the summer, I chose these pretty lilac and cream blooms.

Glamini “Luca”

And then, I couldn’t resist these little peach and cream darlings!

Glamini “Lia”

As you can see, visions of bouquets are dancing in my head. AND, I really need to STOP ordering bulbs and figure out where they will all grow! Oh well, isn’t that what a long winter is for??? And, now that the bulbs are all ordered (well, maybe there will be some dahlias later on?) I can concentrate on SEEDS!!!!

Posted in bulbs, cutting garden, October, spring bulbs, tulips, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

September: Monthly Review

The official photo for September 2021

This post has been a long time coming, and there are no valid excuses other than the oft heard “life happens” or “it’s been busy” or “writer’s block” and truthfully, it’s been a bit of all those. The looming threat of frost and thus the end of yet another growing season always triggers a bit of dread-based lethargy. Surprisingly, that’s coupled with periods of frenzied activity trying to pull every last bite from the potager, taking cuttings from anything that looks even remotely root-able, and trying to savor each and every last bloom before it fades or freezes. Weirdly, even while the body is trying to make the most of this year’s gardens, the mind has already switched gears to the possibilities for next year’s glory! And, it’s allergy season…need I say more?

September was exceptionally warm and sunny. There were actually 27 sun-filled days! Of course, that translates into not much rain, so lots of time was spent dragging hoses. Deadheading also took lots of time, but it’s worth it to keep the flowers blooming and the gardens looking tidy. Some days it was just too darn hot to work, so time was spent taking notes and jotting ideas. The last of the mulch was finally shoveled off the truck. Many fall crops had to be reseeded due to poor germination. A look at the photo above shows that many of the trellis crops were finished and the trellises were cleaned off. The sprawling vine crops began to yellow as the squash and pumpkins matured. And paths were given a weed.

Some new irises arrived and were planted. And, there was lots of time spent studying bulb catalogs and writing and revising orders. This was partly because of unavailable varieties, and partly because as the month passed the dreams for next year expanded! The Geo seed catalog arrived (on-line because of a paper shortage!) and hours and hours were spent reading all the fine print and making out an order. Of course, this had to be revised a dozen times as well.

I’d forgotten how much time meetings, luncheons, book club (it was my month to be the presenter “A Thousand Acres”) eat up. D also wanted to take a short trip in his little car, so we went with the MG club to northern Ohio, and then stopped to visit his last remaining aunt in Toledo. And, we also did a bit of entertaining while dining outdoors is still feasible.

There was LOTS of harvesting, but not much preserving, as the jars are all full and canning lids are scarce so most of the produce was given away. Only 14 quarts of tomato juice joined the shelves this month.

Harvest-wise, 225.5 pounds were gathered from the potager’s beds. Tomatoes and melons accounted for most of the weight, but beans, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash (Bossa Nova is DEFINITELY on the list for next year!) onions, carrots, lettuces, radishes and herbs also contributed. That’s down a bit from 2020’s 282.75 lbs. partly due to lack of rain, and partly because I’d reduced the number of tomatoes and peppers purposefully.

So, now you are caught up for September!

Posted in autumn, harvest, kitchen gardens, monthly review, Uncategorized, vegetable gardening | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Spring Bulbs: Part 2 Daffodils

Looking and thinking back to last spring!

Daffodil season has to be one of my very favorite times of the year. Anticipating the first crocus is exciting, but they are a bit short for a bouquet. However, when the daffodils begin bursting into flower it’s time to rejoice! There are a lot of daffodils/narcissi in my gardens but I doubt there can ever be too many. And, with my mission to spread joy through gift bouquets the excuse to plant more was easily justified! The problem was, where to put them. The gardens really do have all they need but recently while picking blackberries, I revised the plan to eliminate the second berry row. Originally (7 years ago?) red raspberries were planted there, but they just never took off and over the years have disappeared. I’ve considered replacing them, but I suspect virus from the nearby wild black raspberries was part of the problem. The posts and crosswire supports are still there and the soil has been amended, so the new plan is to plant daffodils down the entire row, and to add sunflowers and zinnias later on to supplement the Cutting Garden. That should work, don’t you think? Well, it’s worth a try and daffodils are so easy! This is an area that gets lots of wind, so there are no heavy-headed varieties that would just get bent-over stems. Here’s what’s coming:

“Fragrant Breeze”

This charmer is noted for its flattened, very wide cup fronting 4″ white petals. The cup opens orange but matures to a buff-peach, and as the name reflects, this large-cupped narcissi is very fragrant. 18-20″ April? There’s 50 of these! From Van Engelen.


“Alexis Beauty”

ColorBlends offered this irresistible stunner with large blooms. Bright yellow petals surround a ruffled trumpet that opens apricot but takes on cream and orange highlights as it matures. An early bloomer.

“Pride of Lions”

Also from ColorBlends, “Pride of Lions” is a mid-season variety with an extremely broad but shallow, deep orange cup surrounded by lemon yellow petals. 25 of these are on the way!

“Yellow Cheerfulness”

An old, old variety from 1937 that is still just as desirable today because it blooms very late, has strong stems and is richly perfumed. I’ve had the white variety for decades, and if the yellow is half as good it is a prize! 25 of these as well.

“Night Cap”

I couldn’t resist this narcissi, with its dramatic deep coral-edged trumpet and pristine white petals. From John Scheepers, this 16″ April bloomer promises a lot of contrast! Pricey, so only 10…sigh!

“Greengarden”

Scheepers describes this beauty as greenish-yellow, so I’m interested to see how much it differs from the “normal” yellow daffodil. The long funnel trumpet matures to bright white! Should be interesting to watch. Only 10 of these.

This will bring my total daffodil/narcissis collection to 46 varieties and I adore each one. I’m still searching for later blooming varieties to extend the season.

There’s 60′ of row, so if I need more I’ll just pick up some solid gold “King Alfred” and pure white “Mount Hood” from a local store. Both of these are tried and true, reliable performers. And, I could be tempted to round that 46 to an even 50, if I see something outstanding that I don’t already have! No need to worry about the deer and rabbits even these will be close to the woods, because no one eats daffodils! I’m getting excited just thinking about them!

Posted in bulbs, cutting garden, spring bulbs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments