Random thoughts

What an ugly entry!

A pretty day, after a couple of days of much-needed rain fell, so I finally became disgusted enough with the view of the potager to do something about it. The two potted “Juliet” grape tomatoes that have produced a quart box every other day all season have become brown skeletons with mushy green and red fruits around their pots. Well past time for them to go, so all the tomatoes were picked and put into 3 harvest baskets to go to my friend’s chickens, and the vines were clipped and hauled to the compost pile.

As I worked, random thoughts popped into my head, fairly unconnected as usual these days. I pondered the reported list of things that are selling well these days. Some of them were expected: wine, office furniture as people create home office spaces for the long-term, holiday decor as people prepare to celebrate at home more, board games and jigsaw puzzles, canning jars and pressure canners, cooking utensils, and car parts to fix up those vehicles that have been sitting in the garage or yard for years finally get some attention. But one item surprised me: pianos!

Will they, or won’t they make a crop?

Once the potager’s entrance looked decent, and since the forecast is for a few days of nice temperatures, the covers were removed from crops. Sadly, two layers of frost cover were apparently not enough to keep the final crop of beans protected. I doubt that those tiny 2″ beans will grow much more. But, happily within minutes of removing the cloths, several bees were working the blooms, so I deem covering them worth the effort if only for that!

Someone ate well!

I’d covered a bed of beautiful “Tom Thumb” lettuces with a frame and plastic. Imagine my surprise when the end of one row was pretty well eaten, and filled with droppings from whatever ate it. Too big for a mouse. I’d guess tomato hornworms from the droppings, but there aren’t any this late. Haven’t seen any chipmunks…hmmmm. Well, there are 5 fewer heads than there were when I covered them, but we still have plenty.

A friend bemoaned, “I feel like we are being robbed of our golden years!” And, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. We seniors worked hard for decades, thinking that someday we would retire and live “the good life” filled with time with our grandchildren, travel, friends, maybe some interesting volunteer work. But, as my friend observes, all those things have been taken from us, and a nasty dose of fear and worry and isolation has been the substitution. I’d already begun to suspect that the “golden years” weren’t quite as “golden” as we’d been led to believe, because about the same time there is freedom from the workforce, health issues begin to dictate what we can eat, what we can do, and how we do or don’t sleep. I try to toss most of those thoughts aside, but it’s not easy. So, let’s think about something good about being an adult!

An adult can have pie for breakfast! And I did!

As the frosted dahlias were being dug, my thoughts were on the beauty of the day. Colorful leaves drifting lazily from the trees. Two hawks making circles as they called to one another in the blue sky. A big Eastern swallowtail butterfly sipping from the verbena, and beneficial wasps busily feeding on the blossoms of garlic chives. When my aching hands and back told me it was time to quit for the day, I found a happy surprise waiting for me in the mailbox.

What a treat for a good day’s work!
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Was it worth it?

The last of the dahlias…

Someone asked me if I really thought going to the trouble of covering “tender” crops before a frost was worth the effort. I reported in an earlier post that our first frost occurred on October 5, but that it was very light. That report was written the same day as that early morning frost, and it wasn’t until a day or two later that the actual damage was totally apparent. It wasn’t quite as “light” as I’d thought! The last planting of beans, which wasn’t covered was totally ruined, which tells me that the three more mature plantings that were covered would probably have been lost as well if the effort hadn’t been made. Two of those, the beautiful “Velour” French fillet beans and the “French Horticultural” beans yielded nearly another 5 lbs. after that initial frost.

Tomatoes in general were all damaged, except the “Juliet” grape and “Sun Sugar” tomatoes that were covered. They provided another 10.25 and 2.25 pounds respectively.

Two more small eggplants were saved, and well as few “Apple” peppers, bringing the total “saved by the covering” harvest to just over 20 pounds. I feel that was worth the effort. Plus, throwing a sheet over the fence where the bulk of the dahlias were planted meant I’ve had fresh bouquets since October 5th that I would not have had. I feel the effort was definitely repaid.

On the morn of October 16th, our temps dropped to 26 degrees F, definitely a killing frost that turned most of the gardens brown. A few things were still covered, mainly the “Strike” beans that were just setting baby beans and filled with blooms, some newly emerging spinach and lettuces that I’d like to get more established before bad weather comes, and some gorgeous “Tom Thumb” and “Salad Bowl” lettuces. Everything else was left to its fate, but I haven’t been ready to face the devastation, so I haven’t peeked under the covers. Whatever the results, there’s still lots of cold-hardy good eating out there even if the covering was not sufficient for such a drop in temperature. Hopefully this week, I’ll get those berry box/coldframe covers built, and the sheets can go back in the linen closet!

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Simply perfect!

The lawn is being dusted with golden leaves!

A poet once said perfect days come in June, but I beg to differ! So far, October has been a string of perfect days here in central Indiana, and during this period, there is time to actually enjoy them. June is normally too hectic with planting and pea and strawberry picking, plus weddings, anniversary parties, graduations, birthdays and entertaining. Of course, there were none of those events this year, but even so, I’m finding October is much more relaxing.

This is a time when warm days are tempered with cooler nights, which puts me more in the mood for cooking those comfort foods we love, and baking apples in various forms, pies, crisps, cobblers, cakes and dumplings. The hectic food preservation that has been happening for months has slowed. Most of the things harvested now are being used fresh, or simply stored as is for use over the winter. Here’s part of the bounty picked the day before our first frost!

A busy day of picking means lots of good meals in our future.

I didn’t try to deal with it all at once, as I normally do. Instead, I picked one thing that seemed to need doing most. So, all the “French Horticultural” beans were shelled during football watching, and put into the freezer. The purple “Velour” beans were snapped and eaten with grilled salmon one evening when it was perfect to sit and watch the sun set as we grilled. Tomatoes? Well, some of the green tomatoes went into green tomato chili, enjoyed with freshly baked cornbread.

Some of the French Horticultural beans didn’t make it into the freezer!

Most of the rest of the green tomatoes were given to friends or family who love fried green tomatoes. There’s still plenty for us to use coming on. Since there’s still jars of green tomato mincemeat and chutney left from last year, none of these green tomatoes will be preserved. Instead, I will be trying a luscious looking green tomato salad posted on Plot and Lane blog and making fried green tomato BLT’s because the lettuce is perfect right now. The “Juliet” red grape tomatoes will be D’s snack for days to come, and the “Sun Sugar” have already been devoured. They don’t last long at all here because they are just so tasty. That only leaves the three baskets of peppers, which aren’t even in the photo, and two large shallow boxes of nice big slicing tomatoes that showed signs of ripening, now on newspaper in the garage.

I’ve been leisurely planting the five varieties of garlic over the past few days, and the planned number of rows (15, down from 22 last year because we need more onions, less garlic) are all safely in the ground. All the rest of the garlic has been cleaned and put into mesh bags to hang on the allium rack to use over the winter months. This year, I decided that braiding hardneck garlic was a waste of time and twine, even though I love the look of them hanging in the Lady Cottage until they were moved to the allium rack. I hope they store well this way, because it’s certainly lots less work. The first planting of “French Horticultural” beans is finished, so the plants were clipped and removed from the pea fencing so it could be stored. I clip the beans off at soil level so those nitrogen-collecting roots stay in the soil to nourish crops next spring. The plants were added to the compost pile, which is growing steadily. The second crop is not quite mature, but they are far enough along that if frost threatens again, I’ll just pick them rather than cover them with blankets.

A few turnips and mustard greens have been added to the menu recently, and we’re enjoying a handful of mild, crisp radishes most evenings before dinner, or in salads because the lettuces are so abundant again. Carrots are being dug as needed, and the next cool day some beets will be harvested and roasted. The first of the red cabbage was cooked to accompany a pork roast, and it was delicious. And, the “Wando” peas will be ready to pick this week, so we’ll be having our favorite pasta dish with bacon, peas, and cream.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m glad I finally published the post on Covid Fatigue, because all the encouragement from you, gentle readers, helped lift me up and get back into the garden. I’m glad I didn’t give in to the urge to just throw up my hands and call it “done!” but I might have without you. There are still lots of wonderful things growing out there, young plants to watch grow and tend, seeds to gather, and plans to make for next year. I’m sure next spring (especially since this old body will be yet another year older) I’ll be happy that I put in some effort into clean-up this fall, even at a much more leisurely pace than usual, so that the spring planting will be a bit easier, and fewer weeds will have dropped their seeds.

I suggest that if you, too, are struggling to keep your interest in the garden alive, just make a cup of tea or an evening cocktail, and go sit near your garden and let it help calm you. Maybe push yourself to do just one little thing; pull an annoying weed before it drops its seed, or do a bit of needed watering. Harvest a few leaves of mint or sage, or pick a bunch of parsley or lemon balm to dry. Just the aromatherapy from picking herbs can lift your spirits! Just one little thing will make you feel better, and soon you may find yourself doing two, or three, or four little things. May you find peace and joy in the garden, and security in Mother Nature’s goodness. And, thanks again for reading, for your encouraging words and suggestions, and for caring!

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And suddenly it’s Golden!

In all directions, golden trees!

This morning, seemingly overnight, our view has changed. Our world is suddenly golden. Leaves that were olive drab yesterday are transformed, especially when viewed backlit with sunshine.

The front lawn trees look magnificent.

I’ve been pondering all summer, as we had week after week of nearly perfect, beautiful sunny days. I couldn’t help remembering all the books, diaries, and memoirs written in or about England and how perfect those months of spring and summer were weather-wise just before the war came in totally disrupt their lives. Many recalled feeling very close to their families, their landscapes, their communities with a poignancy they hadn’t felt, or at least acknowledged before. Many called it “that golden summer.”

That’s the way I’ve been feeling for months, that the weather is almost too perfect for words. The crops are more abundant than they should be, given the lack of rain because nearly every day was pure sunshine. Sometimes, I think it is God’s gift to compensate for the woes of the world right now. Sometimes, I fear it is the calm before the storm.

The morning sun is just making its way into the back yard, gilding the trees as it slowly moves. And the sky seems even bluer than usual!

The light frost we had earlier this week may have worked more magic than I initially thought, chilling the leaves to bring on this luscious color. These are days to savor, to cherish in our minds for their beauty and their calm. It restores my soul. All morning I’ve caught myself humming the old hymn…

“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies. For the love which from our birth over and around us lies. For the beauty of each hour, of the day and of the night, Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light…”

Even the potager is surrounded by gold!

Today is calm and beautiful. I’m going to take advantage of it, and spend a lovely day in the potager, planting the garlics, harvesting more herbs for drying, tidying, and just generally savoring every minute. I’ve even moved a ladder to the back of the Lady Cottage to fill the carpenter bee holes with wood putty! It’s an ambitious list, given how unmotivated I’ve been lately, so day’s end will tell the tale. Whatever gets completed will feel like a victory. Just being alive and outdoors on such a perfect day is magic. I hope it is as lovely wherever you are, and that you have time to soak in the beauty around you. Blessings!

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First Frost…

Frosted “Orange Magic” squash.

Our average first frost here is October 5, and surprisingly it arrived exactly on that date! I’d covered some things for a possible frost on Friday night, but it didn’t get that cold. The covers were left on Saturday, a day that started with a light mist that ended quickly…not even 1/4″, followed by bright sun and clear skies. When the moon is full this time of year, a frost is often likely, but again Saturday night no frost came. However in the wee hours of Monday morn, I awoke to glistening frost on the gazebo roof and deck railings reflected in our “security” light. In no hurry to face the damage, I dawdled and did the calculations of the September harvest numbers and wrote the “Monthly Review” post. Finally, after lunch it was time to venture out and face the destruction. I HATE that first killing frost, that brings so much to an abrupt end…

So, imagine my surprise when I stepped outdoors and saw that the Deck Garden flowers looked fine, even the zinnias and coleus. My step hurried a bit toward the potager, and I was amazed to see the potted “Juliet” tomatoes that grace each side of the front gate seemingly untouched. Yes, the late blight had crept a bit more, probably due to the light rain but there was no frost damage at all! Inside the potager’s fence, all the tomato and pepper plants looked fine. Even a row of late beans whose cover had blown off in spots were perky and green.

There were only two casualties, the “Orange Magic” squash shown above and two pots of sweet potatoes. The two squashes are a bit immature, so I’ll cook them soon. Since the sweet potatoes were “done” I decided to harvest those and began with the smaller pot, about 4 gallon in size that had been planted with 3 plants started from my 99 cent organic sweet potato purchased at the store way back in early February and suspended in a jar of water to grow “slips.”

Sure not much to look at now, but there’s treasure underneath those blackened leaves!

Interestingly, there were sweet potatoes right beneath the surface, and all the way to the bottom of the pot. Many of them curved as they grew against the pot’s sides. The yield from this pot was 6.5 pounds of lovely sweet potatoes!

6.5 pounds of goodness!

That was an excellent yield for one pot, so I was even more excited to harvest the big pot, probably three times the size of Pot 1.

If you look carefully, you might see the 2 sunflower stalks toward the back of this large pot. It’s nearly 3′ in diameter!

It also had 3 plants, started at the same time on the same original plant, and planted on the same day. The only difference is that the big pot also had 2 sunflower plants at the back.

I thought I had a photo of the sunflowers growing out of the pot, but apparently not! But here they are, so just imagine the stems going down into it!

Anticipation ran high as I began pulling out the frosted stems and then using my hands to dig out the soil, putting it into 5 gallon buckets. That soil will be added to some raised beds with lower soil levels, and the big pot will get new potting soil next year. I truly expected a larger harvest from the big pot, but surprisingly (at least to me) the yield was smaller!

only 4.75 pounds from the much larger pot! But they were straighter!

Our 10-day forecast has temperatures rising back into the mid-70’s, sunshine galore, with no chance of either rain or frost, so all the potager’s crops can continue to grow. There will even be more bouquets in my future, as the dahlias were untouched and are loaded with buds. Today, it’s very windy and the last of the walnuts are thumping down from the trees. I see lots of bending in my future!

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September: Monthly Review

The potager at the end of September.

The colors are definitely changing, and it’s easy to see that Mother Nature’s paint brush has been busy laying browns and rusts over the once-green leaves on trees and shrubs. In the potager, most of the cucurbits’ leaves are brown or beige and drying quickly. Some other leaves are yellowing. Only the foliage of the new peas, beans, carrots and turnips are that “spring” green of youth. It’s no surprise that brown is becoming the predominant color, since one of the driest Augusts on record has been followed by THE driest September since records have been kept. Thank goodness we have a good well, and plenty of time to drag hoses here and there.

Very late beets, and transplanted lettuces.

Early in the month, summer temperatures reigned and this gardener burned a lot of energy harvesting and preserving the bounty, plus deadheading and trimming finished perennials, and watering. The “fall” crops that had been seeded in mid-to-late August were tended. Germination was spotty (old seed, lack of rain?) and some replanting was done. The photo above shows half of Bed 6b, which has a very late planting of beets on the right (probably will end up as greens only) and transplanted “Tom Thumb” lettuces. Webbed flats have been used to shade the transplants to reduce shock, as you can see on the left. I removed them from the two center rows so the plants would be visible. Mid-month brought more stress, both for people and plants as the drying winds increased. We were told the haze in the air was from the wildfires in California, and other western states, and we began to worry about the possibility of fires here, too. Farmers were busily harvesting soybeans and making hay. Finally on September 28th we had a little misty rain, but it was so brief by the time morning tea was over, the wind had dried it completely. The bottom of the rain gauge was not even covered. The same thing happened on the 30th, and that was our total rain for the month. As the month progressed, our hearts and steps grew heavier.

The pantries’ shelves are full!

The kitchen and garage pantries are full, and still the produce comes, so the decorative china was packed away and the kitchen shelves that usually hold it or teapots or pumpkins or nutcrackers, depending on the season now hold cans of goodness. Last month I swore no more tomatoes would be canned, but I relented. There are even boxes of canned produce stacked one upon the other in the garage! September’s preserving total is 130 jars or packages frozen.

Pounds harvested from the potager in September were 282.75. That’s a lot of tomatoes, peppers, melons, and peppers plus a few beans, cabbages, onions, kohlrabi, carrots, winter squash whose vines died, radishes, and lettuce. We ate well!

Maybe the last of the flowers?

In an attempt to lift spirits, and knowing that the flowers will be gone when frost comes, more bouquets were picked this month than all the other months combined. All in all, September was a good, productive month with some of the most beautiful days and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets in memory. We have much to be thankful for, to be where we are in these troubled times, and to be able to grow food and live the way we do. God Bless America, the land of freedom, and may it continue to be so.

Blessings to you, gentle readers. Be safe, and find joy in little things.

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Focus on the positive

First of all, thank you to all those wonderful readers who took time to make such thoughtful comments on my last post. Reading them did improve my outlook, and gave me much to think about. The downward spiral continues, but I think at a slower pace than it was, and I’m going to work to move back upwards by following some of your good advice. So, this morning I took my morning tea and my camera to the potager to focus on the positive.

The “Velour” beans are ready to be picked, and I’d better do it before tonight, when it may frost. I do love these French fillet type beans. They are so pretty, tender and prolific. Maybe I will even pull out the frost covers and try to save them for a second picking.

French Baby Leeks

The leeks are getting fat and will be sweeter after a frost or two. There’s a lot of them to be dug as needed through the holidays, and maybe well into January if the winter is mild. They won’t need any attention and will wait until I need them. That’s certainly a positive.

Turnip “Purple Top”

Frost won’t hurt the turnips either and will also make them sweeter. They are coming along nicely from a mid-August planting. I probably should thin them, but if I don’t they’ll manage.

The “Wando” peas are beginning to get plump pods as well as being loaded with blooms, so just to be safe, I will give them a cover. The bees that have been working the flowers will appreciate it after frost takes most other flowers.
There’s Tom Thumb Lettuces galore!

We’ve been enjoying these Tom Thumb mini butterhead lettuces for a couple of weeks now. One head is just right for a single serving, and the larger outer leaves are perfect for BLT’s or pork wraps. There are four more rows scattered in other potager beds…too many for me to cover them all unless I strip all the beds for sheets and blankets! I DO need to get those berry box/coldframes made, don’t I?

A taller fencing was used for them this year, and that was a good move.

The French Horticultural bean pods are bumpy and turning pink so they are ready to pick. They are so yummy and versatile we had no trouble at all using all I grew last year, so this year I planted twice as many. Probably better to pick them before a frost, at least all the pinkish ones, so that gets moved up on the to-do list…maybe this afternoon if the sun shines?

The same tomato plants I pruned earlier in September.

And now I come face to face with the tomatoes! There’s still a lot of half-ripe and green fruit out there, along the potager’s fence and in four other beds. Do I pick them and carry them all to the garage to slowly ripen? Or, since so many have been canned already can they just be allowed to succumb to frost? A big part of me just wants to walk away and leave them, but then I’ll feel guilty for wasting them and that’s not a positive feeling.

Mercy! This focusing on the positive isn’t going to be easy!!!

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Is it Covid Fatigue?

The Front Garden is embarrassingly empty, but do I care?

I’m in a slump, and I admit it. In past years, seeing the Front Garden look so sparse would have had me rushing to the garden center for dozens of mums and filler plants. The diseased zinnias would definitely have been removed, the marigolds deadheaded, and you’ve probably noticed that the rust stains on the window sashes and brick from the sprinklers have yet to be removed even though that’s been on the “to-do” list since late April!

And it’s not just the front garden. There are dried daylily stalks and leaves left in several other locations, edges that have not seen attention recently, plants that need deadheading, and weeds popping up here and there after our last rain. There are carrots and tomatoes to be canned, beets to be thinned, beans to be picked and peppers to be frozen, but it’s easy to think, “Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.” There’s nothing on the calendar that encourages me to do it today, except the passing of days, cooling temperatures and the approaching frosts. I know that the window of opportunity for harvesting, and for just enjoying the flowers that are blooming is closing quickly, but unlike most years, I’m not imitating the ants and squirrels, and rushing to hoard every bit of food as soon as I find it. I feel guilty, because I know there are people who would love to have that food to preserve, or eat immediately, but here I sit. I’m not complaining, mind you, but just trying to understand this strange (at least for me) and strong lethargy. I totally realize that millions of people are out there doing their jobs while coping with the stresses of the “new normal” and I am so grateful that they are functioning at a much better level than I am.

I want to build 4 boxes to protect strawberry beds from critters next summer, but to use NOW with plastic over-layers as coldframes for spinach and other winter crops until then. But, have I garnered the courage to venture to the lumber store? I have not. I need to repair the holes the carpenter bees drilled into the back wall of my Lady Cottage. I can see daylight here and there, and if I don’t fix them, I’ll soon have woodpeckers making the holes larger, and then wrens and sparrows building nests inside. I tell myself that I’d better get in gear, because when the bulb orders arrive, then I WILL be too busy to play carpenter, that those veggies in the garden will spoil if I don’t get moving, but here I sit. I haven’t even been recording new flowers in the Bloom Journal, or sent in my fall vegetable seed order. I haven’t done any preparation for the upcoming frost…which may come the end of this week!

I miss entertaining, and all the special foods that go with it, but the last three meals I’ve prepared have been edible…just! A cake I love to make didn’t rise; I must have salted the shepherd’s pie more than once; the pizza dough was soggy; I burned the bacon. Yesterday, I baked two apple pies (one for us and one for a neighboring family) and after they were baked, realized that I forgot the cinnamon in one and the butter in the other! I used to bake pies blindfolded and with one arm! What’s going on with my auto pilot system? At this point, I’m not sure inviting guests would be a good idea at all, even without the pandemic threat. The number of cases in our county is now jumping by 2-4 a day, instead of staying fairly consistent for a week or so. That’s tiny in comparison to urban areas, but it’s alarming to me. I baked the pie purposefully to have last night. If I had to suffer through “the Great Debate” at least I deserved pie! As much as I love pie, I only ate half a piece. It should have been called “the Great Debacle” or the “Great American Embarrassment!” Why would I want to vote for either of those out of control name-callers? No wonder our young people lack respect for their elders! And the rest of the world are either laughing at us, or cowering in fear for the future. I’m in the latter camp…

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for blogging, especially as the gardening season winds down here in Zone 5, but judging from the few new posts in my “Reader” feed, many of you are having that problem as well….or maybe you are busy productively clicking off all the items on your “to-do” lists. If that’s the case, I applaud you. Tell me how you are managing it….I’ll just sit here, being this new, super lazy, un-motivated person that I don’t recognize… and wait…no hurry.

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First Seed order for the 2021 season!

After much consideration and checking the leftover seeds, an order was placed in timely fashion to receive a nice discount from Geo. The “tried and true” made up the bulk of the order, the usual marigolds (“Hot Pak Orange” and “Durango Mix”) and zinnias (“Profusion Double Deep Salmon” and “Queen Lime Orange”) and snapdragons (“Liberty Bronze,” “Madam Butterfly Bronze” and “Twinny Peach.”)

Not thrilled with the celosias grown this year, which was a surprise since both had been grown in past years and they weren’t nearly so RED as the flowers produced from this year’s seeds! So two new ones will be tried, “Act Zara Orange” which is a narrow crested variety, and “Celway Orange” which is a spicata (wheat-like shape.)

Celosia cristata “Act Zara Orange”
Celosia spicata “Celway Orange” Celosias make a great long-lasting cut flower that can also be dried for winter bouquets.

The sweet peas this year were gorgeous, so seed has been collected, plus “Captain of the Blues” has been ordered to add a bit more purple to the bouquets. Somehow, the asarina seed I’ve grown and collected for years didn’t germinate this spring, so a new packet of “Sky Blue” was on the order, too. There were so many volunteer sunflowers this year, and seed leftover as well, that only one variety was ordered, the lovely, rusty and terra-cotta tones of “Earthwalker” that I’ve grown and loved before, but not for a couple of years.

“Captain of the Blues” sweet pea is a blend of blue and purple that I find very pleasing.
Asarina “Sky Blue” has a little purple tinge, but that’s okay with me!
This volunteer outside the potager’s fence reminded me how much I liked the “Earthwalker” sunflowers!

Two new asters found their way onto the list, in my continual effort to extend the blooming season: “Bonita Light Blue,” a tall 30″ one for back of borders and cutting, and “Goliath,” only 12″ for nearer border fronts and which will also go into the deck pots late in the season.

Aster “Bonita Light Blue”..why do breeders insist on naming flowers “blue” when they are obviously purple?
Short, but showy Aster “Goliath”

Two more additions to the Cutting Garden are Centurea “Blaue Getullte,” a self-seeding annual blue cornflower and Larkspur “Qis Light Blue.” Both of those flowers are so familiar I won’t include photos. At the herb farm, alkanet was a staple in the Dye Garden, and I loved it’s fuzzy foliage and brilliant blue flowers but it was a bit lanky. Hopefully it’s short cousin Anchusa “Blue Angel” at a tidy 10″ will enjoy some of the drier areas of the Front Garden and self-seed happily. Yes, there’s more “blue” (although many of them are actually purple!) being added to the flower gardens to complement and bring out all the oranges and apricots, and more plants that can tolerate dry conditions. I’m getting old to be dragging so many hoses.

Anchusa “Blue Angel” is a good choice for hot, dry, sunny locations..and it really is BLUE!

Speaking of apricot, the Cosmos “Apricot Lemonade” was disappointing, so won’t be grown again but replaced by “Cupcake White” which several other blogger/gardeners were happy with this year, so it seems worth a try, and white goes with everything in terms of gardens and bouquets.

It appears there is some variation in flower shape, but that might be fun!

And, more portulaca will be seeded next year. Our summers are hotter, and the area along the sidewalk is a stressful location for most plants. Normally, a flat of orange portulaca is purchased but this year that didn’t happen due to the lock-down, so Portulaca “Sundial Apricot” should do nicely and won’t require any shopping should conditions still limit shopping. There aren’t many plants that are so easy to grow, with non-stop blooming even when it’s hot and dry. I’ve also collected seed from the double yellow ones that self-seed in one of my deck planters each year to use in some of the other planters as well. Portulaca works especially well in the rail planters, which are more shallow and dry out more quickly than the big tubs.

Love this soft color, and these plants are TOUGH and EASY!

To make it a more challenging (FUN!) year, three things I’ve either grown years and years ago, or never done successfully, or never tried were added. The first is Lisianthus “Super Magic Apricot.” I grew lisianthus decades ago, but never without a commercial greenhouse, so this should be fun in the basement! It has to be started super early, right after Christmas, so that will give me something to do over the long winter.

Lisianthus is a slow-growing plant, but a very long-lasting cut flower.

The second is Primula “Candelabra Oriental Sunrise” which I tried a few years back, but never got them to germinate. This year, with more time on my hands, I’m giving it another go.

Don’t even know for sure where I’ll plant them, but if I’m successful, I’ll find the perfect location!

And lastly, I’ve grown lupines, but never here and never from seed, so Lupin “Gallery Pure Blue” will be attempted. I keep seeing them in British gardens and gardening shows, and they are just too tempting!

They may not be happy in our short spring, but we’ll see…hopefully!

That’s the first order for the 2021 growing season, obviously all flowers, but the vegetable list has been started. I may not grow MORE flowers next year, but I’ll definitely be attempting to grow more variety. How will your garden change next year?

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Winners and Losers!

I mentioned in my last post that an autumn seed order was in the works. However, before any seeds are ordered for the coming year, a hard look needs to be taken at how the “new kids” for 2020 performed. Now granted, it was a difficult year, with high temps and low rainfall, but overall the gardens did very well so any plant worth its salt should have been able to manage. There weren’t a lot of “new” varieties of seeds planted, so this review will be rather short, but it’s important to evaluate them so good decisions can be made on whether to reorder them for the upcoming year. First the winners!

Snapdragon “Snaptini Sunglow”

This little darling was a non-stop show! While a teensy bit redder than I’d like, it still had an orange cast and certainly added a lot of oomph to the potager’s interior borders. Some of the plants were already blooming in late April when they were planted, and they are continued blooming well through the hot, hot summer. I did keep them fairly well watered, and did an occasional deadhead snip with the scissors, but not often and not on all of them. These were big winners, and if orange is not your color, “Snaptini” comes in a mix of 9 different colors, or in separate colors:burgundy bi-color, violet, white, sunglow orange, red, rose bicolor, Sangria Splash, and yellow.

Nasturtium “Creamsicle”

Another non-stop performer was from Renee’s Garden Seeds. Nasturtiums, like snapdragons, are notorious for taking a break during hot weather, but these gorgeous beauties never missed a beat. I think I only deadheaded them twice the entire growing season, but that didn’t seem to matter. They were watered almost daily, because they were planted in the small triangle planters near the greenhouse, which dry out rather quickly. In addition, compared to two other nasturtium varieties their foliage stayed nicer as well. Some folks object to nasturtiums because they attract aphids, but I say “better to have the aphids concentrated on them than on everything else!” And, it makes them VERY good plants for ladybugs, who seem to have no trouble keeping any aphids in check.

Coleus “Wizard Gold”

The Front Island tends to be a little dark and “blah” especially once the daylilies finish. Coleus “Wizard Gold” was selected to brighten up this area, a challenge under the old black walnut trees where even the hostas have not grown much in three years! Not knowing how they would perform, fifty were planted on the northern edge of the entire Front Island, some were planted under the elder, some were planted in full sun at the edge of the Deck Garden, and some were planted in containers on the deck. I’m happy to report that no matter the location, they were fantastic, providing bright color and carefree foliage all season. There were no problems with leaves turning brown and they stayed a compact 8-10″ tall and about 6-8″ across. They are definitely on the list for next year.

And now the losers…

Cosmos “Apricot Lemonade”

I had high hopes after reading the description: “20” in pots, 27″ in the ground; petals start soft apricot with pale lavender base and reverse, then become pale yellow at maturity. Flowers July-Oct.” Well, mine were 30″ tall in the Cutting Garden and were never what I would describe as apricot or pale yellow. They were pink, pink, pink…and tiny. The flowers are only 1 1/2″ across and never fully opened to “flat.” In addition, the flowers were very short-lived, and had stems too short for cutting well. Even the butterflies didn’t seem very interested in them.

Squash “Climbing Butternut”

I’m always looking for good climbers for the trellises I had built for the potager, so when I saw this one in Renee’s catalog I immediately added it to the list. It is a good grower vertically, but I was surprised at its short, dark green fruits. Right now, they are getting flecks of orange, but it’s hard to see because the skin surface is covered with bug bites and scars. I find that interesting, because none of the other squash varieties are having this issue. The fruits are small and there are only 3 fruits on the vine rather than the six or seven larger ones on “Butterscotch.” It will be interesting to compare flavor and actual weights per vine, but right now I doubt it will be enough to put “Climbing Butternut” on the order.

Pepper “Corbaci”

If I were only growing peppers for looks, “Corbaci” would definitely make the list. The plants are tidy, upright and absolutely covered with dramatic, 10-12″ long narrow peppers that start out brilliant yellow, turn orange, and then deep red. If you look at the “Butternut” photo, you can see some of them just below the squash. They really are stunning and some of the most productive peppers I’ve grown, fruits per plant-wise. The flavor is mild, a bit fruity but my issue is the tough, tough skin and extremely thin-walls. It takes a lot of them to actually “flavor” any dish. I couldn’t even give them away after people had tried them once. I’ll plant one in each of the 4 triangle beds next year, just for decoration to use up the remaining seed, but I won’t be ordering them again.

So, that’s the evaluation for the first-timers in 2020. Now I can pick some newcomers for 2021!

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