Rain is magic!

We finally got a bit!!!

It’s been strange to listen to the evening news week after week, with the “local” (that is Indianapolis, which is NOT local to us) weatherman bemoaning how wet the summer has been. Lakes in southern Indiana are at record levels for July because of heavy rains across central Indiana. The dams cannot be opened because the land in southern Indiana is super saturated and flooding would occur. A friend from my “old” neighborhood had 16″ of rain last month. However, my little spot of heaven on earth north of Indy has been DRY all summer. I’ve been dragging hoses and watering some part of the gardens or other almost daily. D will come home from exercise and report “It was pouring in Upland!” or back from a haircut with, “Raining cats and dogs in Muncie!” And I’m still dragging hoses. Just goes to show how even a slightly different location can have differing conditions. Happily, we recently received two small showers, which didn’t last long but did at least put something in the rain gauge…not quite half an inch altogether, but it’s amazing what a REAL rain can do compared to watering from the well.

The vines are beginning to form a canopy and plants are greener than before.

Science can explain how it happens, but to me it will always be magic. Plants that have been languishing in the extreme heat, relieved only by small doses of cold well water, suddenly explode with green color and rampant growth after a REAL rain. Immature cucumbers and squashes that have been hanging on the vine are suddenly ready to pick. It’s as if all the plants had vitamin booster shakes and a day at the spa, and are totally revitalized! The vines of melons, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes have been slowly climbing the trellises, but after that rain, I spent an entire morning adding twine lines and tying supports. Some of the vines grew 3′ in the two days following that rain! The rain also brought some slightly cooler temperatures, which allowed the tomatoes to begin to ripen fully and peppers looked like the fairies used an air compressor to inflate them overnight.

I almost forgot to take a photo before we ate it!

We’d had a few cherry tomatoes, but now the big “Polbig” tomatoes are coming on in abundance. The photo is of the first two, which aren’t as big as the ones ripening now. One became a very delicious balsamic bruschetta.

So very delicious!

I totally forgot in the “June monthly review” to mention the new obelisks, which are working out extremely well. One has two plants of “Tasty Green” cucumbers on it, and these have to be the most productive cucumbers I’ve ever planted. Yesterday one went into a big bowl of panzanella.

“Tasty Green” almost seedless, burpless cucumbers…

The melons are spread around all over the potager. Some climb on the metal trellises, two are on the second obelisk, and there are three succession plantings of “Minnesota Midget” cantaloupes growing on tomato cages. It’s one of my very favorite varieties, so sweet and productive and adorable. Some are baseball sized, and some are softball sized, and they mature in about 60 days from set-out plants.

There are five melons growing at ground level, just beginning to get their netting and ripen.

I began growing these “personal-sized” melons on tomato cages last year and it worked super well. Three plants that were started in the greenhouse were planted around the bottom and slowly trained and tied to the tomato cage support as soon as the ground was warm and danger of frost had passed. When the vines reached the top of the cage, they were pinched off to encourage the plant to begin ripening fruit. At the same time those plants went in, three seeds were planted around a second cage, and when those began to set fruit, a third set of three seeds were planted around yet another cage. That third planting happened just last week, and with the rain, the 3 baby seedlings have now emerged. Right now there are 10 melons ripening on the first cage, and the first one should be ready by the coming week’s end. That’s later than usual, but well water is cold, and our spring was a bit later than normal.

Before the rains came, all of the shallots and most of the onions were harvested. Here’s some of the larger “Parma” storage onions, all braided and hanging on the Lady Cottage wall. There are nine braids, with more to come.

The first of the storage onions are curing.

Loyal readers know how I love to grow cipollini, and this year’s crop was good, even though I had to grow “Gold Coin” rather than “Bianca” due to seed shortage. There was more variation in size. Some are 1″ in diameter, and some are 3″ across, but all have that flattened bulb and very sweet flavor. We love to par-boil them until they are almost tender, and then grill them. or I marinate them and can them for winter. This year, I’ve already braided some of the earliest crop to use over the winter as well.

There are three green baskets of cipollini ready to braid. The two woven baskets each contain a new variety of shallots…one did well, one did not!

As soon as the onions and cipollini were out, compost was added and new rows of beets, carrots, parsnips, and spinach were seeded. The fall planting of “Wando” (heat tolerant) peas also went into former allium space, just as the very last spring-planted “Green Arrow”pea plants came out. That pea fence was planted with “Orange Magic” winter squash. Other fences formerly holding peas have also been moved into allium space and French Horticultural beans were planted. With the rain, they are already twining around the fence!

The space where the “Green Arrow” peas were is now home to baby brussel sprout plants, so the potager is transitioning quite nicely. Soon the earliest “Royal Burgundy” beans will come out, and turnips will go into their place. The schedule goes on, crops in; crops out and we are enjoying each meal the potager provides and the variety of produce that changes almost weekly. I hope your garden has been blessed with rain as well. Happy growing!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

This week’s work

“Royal Velvet” lavender is done blooming.

This week has been hot, humid and hazy. The “hot and humid” is pretty typical for Indiana in mid-July, but the “hazy” is smoke from the western wildfires. That’s hard for me to fathom, but the faint trace of smoke is unmistakable and our local news reports that it is from the 83 raging wildfires, so it must be true. Regardless of the heat, there are tasks that need to be completed. First on this week’s list was pruning the lavenders, which have finished blooming. It’s important to prune just after the plants bloom so they don’t put a lot of energy into forming seed. Plus pruning too late can cause problems with overwintering. So, a morning was spent pruning each plant into a rounded form, and removing any weeds that were in the area. Here’s the plant afterwards.

A tidy new haircut!

I could have pruned them a little deeper, but since it’s so very hot I decided not to put any more stress on them. After that task, I decided I needed a job in the shade, so it was off to the Front Island.

The extended Front Island.

I love the viburnum in the center of the Front Island, and on impulse purchased another variety but that meant a six foot extension had to be dug on the east end. The shrub was planted, and then I just looked at it for a couple of days, debating on what to add to the new space. In the end, plants still on the “to be planted somewhere” bench were selected. First, a Ladies Mantle that I purchased way back at our May garden club plant sale went in. Then a few overcrowded daffodils from the Deck Garden were dug up and replanted here. And over those, leftover annuals were added. The end result was this.

White and gold certainly brighten the area.

I always seed too many coleus, because their seed is like dust. But, it seems they always find a home somewhere. I’m a late-to-appreciate convert to coleus, but once I discovered these “Gold Wizard” plants, and how easy they are from seed I became a huge fan. The real beauty of these plants is that they provide a blast of instant color from the moment they germinate until frost. And, their bright foliage brightens an area even when they aren’t in bloom. Even the reliable shasta daisies can’t do that! They work well in sun or shade, in borders or containers. Also into the area went a few leftover “Cupcake White” cosmos and some “Jasmine Scented” nicotiana. I don’t know if either will be happy under black walnuts, but if they are that’s great. Maybe they will even self-seed and return next year, but if they are not happy then I will have learned something yet again, and that’s what makes gardening extra fun, isn’t it? A good watering-in and a tidy layer of mulch completed this project.

Definitely NOT tidy!

Moving on to a project that definitely needed doing, and with mulch still on the truck, it was past time to tackle the black currants and gooseberries. The currants still had the tomato cage and mesh to deter deer and rabbits which makes mowing and weeding impossible, and the weeds had them very shaded and crowded. This project was going to take a while, so some shade for the gardener was required. Here’s my set-up.

Portable shade!

An umbrella duct-taped to my favorite digging fork provides an easy-to-move portable shade structure. It makes a tremendous difference! After removing the mesh and cages, all the weeds were pulled within the row, and the weeds and grass trimmed along the row. Then a layer of cardboard was fitted between the plants, and mulch added. Now, some folks might just trim off the weeds rather than pull them before laying on cardboard, but I think that’s like sweeping dirt under the rug so I try to get out as many of the roots as I can. It definitely makes it a longer project, but I’ve found that short cuts often just don’t work out well.

All done! What a difference!

Gave them a good watering before the cardboard and mulch. The far end has two gooseberry plants, and then the blackberries begin. Once the six tubs of weeds were put in the woods (too many weed seeds to go into compost) and the tools put away, I gave myself a little reward.

Just a few ripe ones now, but lots more to come!

After watching the black raspberries along the woods wither, I’ve kept the blackberries watered and here’s the results…lots of big berries coming on. There was only a handful that were ripe, but I certainly felt fully justified in eating them after marking off the last job on this week’s list. And, it’s only FRIDAY! I’m sure I can find something to do…let’s see, there’s beans to pick, cucumbers to pickle, peas to harvest, bouquets to make, and new seedlings to water but that won’t take long. Maybe I’ll make some lemon verbena ice cream! Now that’s a big reward!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Six on Saturday: July 17

Leek flower…10 days cut.

Welcome to this “Six on Saturday” post (amazingly halfway through July already!!!) from north central Indiana. Let’s begin with a promised report on using leek blossoms as a cut flower. As you may recall, I was skeptical about them mainly because of their membership in the smelly onion family. Would they emit an offensive odor that ruined the pleasure of a bouquet? The answer is “No, they are not smelly in a bouquet.” And, they are extremely long-lasting, although the lavender color did fade a bit. The interesting thing to me was that they turned the water purple…yes, purple! It looks black in the photo, but it’s definitely purple. The next day when it was replaced with fresh water, that water immediately turned purple as well. And I’ll warn you, when the purple water is poured out, it does have a sulphuric odor. I washed the vase each day before replacing the leek bloom, too. Ten days cut, the flower still looks pretty good and it’s still turning the water purple!

The first tomatoes of the season!

2) “Unicorn” cherry tomatoes were the first harvested in the 2021 season, just two days later than last year’s winner (which were “Sun Sugar”.) I don’t know when I’ve had such a beautiful, more abundant crop of green tomatoes, and they are all bigger than usual. Looks like I’d better find some more canning jars this summer!

3) Strawflowers “Apricot Shades”

Loving these colors!

I haven’t grown strawflowers for a number of years, but in expanding the varieties in the Cutting Garden this year they were included. You may recall that over half the plants were eaten by rabbits before the bunny fence was installed, but those that are left are doing wonderfully. I’ve harvested and wired 30 flowers so far. Not sure what I’ll do with them, the nigella pods, poppy pods and feverfew bundles that are hanging in the Lady Cottage, but I’m enjoying growing them and seeing the range of colors from nearly cream through soft apricot shades to a brighter orange. Seeds were from “Swallowtail.”

4) Celosia spicata “Orange”

It really IS a spicata!!!

I have to admit I really had doubts when I saw Celosia spicata “Orange” listed in the Swallowtail catalog. I’d only seen spicata in pale pink and purplish shades. I really expected it to turn out to be a plumosa, but I decided to give it a try. Happily, my doubts were unfounded and they really ARE spicata! They are just beginning to form blooms, so I’m interested to see how they turn out, but they are indeed orange as well, so they are welcome. Celosias are terrific cut flowers, and dry extremely well, holding their color and shape for years if kept dry and out of direct, strong light.

5)

This is the first purple cauliflower I’ve ever grown, and I can’t wait to taste it! I must admit that not all of the eight plants in the potager are going to produce a lovely head like this one. Two have already bolted before really forming a head, and there’s no sign of anything forming in two more plants but I’ll be patient. The white “Majestic” cauliflower were beautiful, but finished a few weeks ago, so this purple variety is more than welcome.

Ugh!!!

6) The squash borers have arrived, and despite efforts to repel them, they’ve ruined two plants. I know it is very distasteful to have to deal with them, but if a gardener just throws the plants on the compost pile, or tosses them into the woods, the borers will likely complete their life cycle and return in greater numbers next year. So, whenever a plant is a lost cause, do take the time to dissect the stems and destroy the borers. Some will be large and easy to spot and squash. Some may be quite small and take some searching, but if you look for that black head and white body you’ll see them eventually. There were 7 of various sizes in this “Jaune de Vert” plant, and 9 in the neighboring “Ronde de Nice” squash. I’ll be keeping a closer watch on the “Fordhook,” “Sunburst,” and “Bossa Nova” varieties that at this point still seem okay. Happily, there is still enough time to tuck a couple more seeds in another potager bed for a late crop of summer squash.

So that’s the SOS for this week. I hope your gardens are thriving and that you are enjoying a great growing season! For more SOS posts, visit The Propagator who thought up this meme!.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Shallots are in!

The shallot tops have fallen over.

Right on schedule, the shallots were ready to harvest. The tops were beginning to dry and had fallen over at the neck. A light tug on one resulted in an easy release from the soil, because the roots had begun to shrink as well. With rain in the forecast, it was time to bring them in. Harvesting shallots has to be one of the easiest and most satisfying of tasks. Four baskets were soon overflowing.

Some of the shallots were huge!

Big shallots are sometimes nice to cook with, but they are not good for planting since they are usually made up of segments and not one solid bulb. In my experience, they don’t store nearly as well either, so they are eaten or pickled within a few weeks. Right now, all the shallots are in single layers on trays in the Lady Cottage.

Shallots are drying a bit.

I’ll give them a few days to lose some moisture in the leaves, and then they will be braided and hung in the Lady Cottage.

A braid of shallots curing in the Cottage.

Meanwhile, the beans that were planted along the edge of the shallots are breathing a sigh of relief. They’d begun emerging, but only those that weren’t shaded by the shallots began growing well. Now the others can grow as well!

More beans will be popping through soon now that they can get some sun!

All of the rest of the shallot space was replanted within minutes of the harvest. Rows of carrots, beets, parsnips and beans will soon be emerging. That’s one of the keys to an abundant harvest in small spaces. Plus, I wanted to get the seeds in the ground before the rain came, and thankfully, it did come along with some cooler temperatures.

An “autumn” bouquet?

The cool, damp, overcast day must have inspired this bouquet, which “feels” like fall with it’s rust-colored quilled rudbeckia “Chim Chimnee,” a few lavender sprigs, and some small white feverfew. I’m going to enjoy a day indoors shelling peas, pickling cucumbers, and watching the Tour de France! How are you spending your Friday?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

June: Monthly review

The “olive drab” of summer is coming early this year.

June has finished, and although the gardener was often distracted by family matters, the garden carried on and charged ahead. Plants have nearly reached the top of the trellises and are spilling into paths. The daylilies are in full bloom mode and deadheading has been impossible to maintain. Just keeping things harvested and preserved has kept one busy. And there is still planting of annuals to continue, as the daffodil foliage disappears and provides space.

The lilies provide perfume for any visitors!

We’ll begin a brief tour with the Front Garden, where the “Durango” marigolds have filled out, the iris foliage has been trimmed and cleaned, and the daylilies are competing with the Oriental lilies for best of show. One disappointment…a new daylily planted last year that I was very excited about was supposed to be “Persimmon,” a deep orange, huge spider but when it bloomed, it was a watered-out pinkish lavender. I hate it when that happens…

That feverfew still looks great!

The Front Island continues with its yellow and white theme. You may notice that the big allium seed balls are finally missing. They were beginning to lean, so I clipped them off and have them drying in the garage. Keep watching…they may be back soon! I’ve cut bunches of feverfew for drying, and it’s still going strong, as well as the reliable shasta daisies. There’s space in that empty front for a few colorful annuals as soon as I can get to it. And sadly, that iris in the front left is now three years old and still hasn’t bloomed?!? This garden does need watering, because we haven’t had much rain all month and the two big trees absorb whatever moisture there is. There were still plenty of flowers. According to the Bloom Journal 116 varieties came into bloom this month in the various gardens.

The potager toward the end of June.

The potager has required a lot of watering as well due to the combination of raised beds and dense planting, but things are doing remarkably well considering the dry, hot weather we’ve had (not as bad as the Pacific Northwest, etc. but hot for us for June!) Also, the thirteen new varieties added, as well as succession plantings of earlier crops all required watering until they were established and growing. The late strawberries were here and gone quickly, and the black raspberries are not even worth wading through the edges of the woods to pick, so dried up they are. The roses were a delight all month, and of course the Japanese beetles arrived at the very end of June as usual. Cucumbers, summer squash galore, kohlrabi, beets, lettuces, Napa cabbage, cabbage, bol choy, asparagus, snow peas, peas, strawberries, garlic scapes, onions, peppers, cauliflower, fava beans, celery and lots of herbs were on the menu in June. In total, 127.75 pounds of goodness was harvested from the potager. (95.75 in 2020)

I have to say that the “Baby Napa Cabbage,” the “Bossa Nova” summer squash and the “Biet Alpha” cucumbers have joined the “Green Arrow” peas as MUST HAVE crops. I was amazed at how quickly they all produced, and how MUCH they produce. All are so tasty, and have been very easy to grow. The “Reine de Glace” lettuce began forming beautiful heads, but bolted as soon as the heat hit. They are so pretty, I’ll give them another try in fall and also give them an earlier start next spring. Probably won’t grow “Spring” peas once this package of seed is used up…not as much return as “Green Arrow.”

Much of the food was eaten fresh, or given away but 41 packages/jars were preserved, the main things being strawberry jam and frozen peas and snow peas. And, bunches of mints were hung to dry for winter teas.

Channeling Julia! Where are my pearls?

A couple of events happened in June that were cause for celebrating with a special meal. For the first time Duck a l’orange was made, using lots of celery and thyme from the potager as a bed for the roasting duck. It was delicious, but I doubt I’ll ever go to the trouble of making it again!

A “French” bouquet for the centerpiece of roses, sweet peas, cutting celery and elderbloom. What a wonderful aroma!

The Cutting Garden is really filling in, and several bouquets were made and given away, and some were kept for our own home, including this “French” arrangement made for the duck dinner. The last of the plants were put in, so the garden is jam-packed now and picking a bouquet is easy with so much variety of color and texture. More feverfew, nigella pods and yarrow were cut and dried. Not a clue what I’ll do with them, but they won’t go to waste. Still haven’t cut the lavender, but it’s on the to-do list! The first ranunculus bloomed but were not even worth a photo…only about the size of a quarter and a coppery color…and only two!! The gomphrena, strawflowers, cosmos and dahlias have begun as well.

It’s getting to be a jungle in there…guess I need to cut more!!! (And weed the path!)

That’s June in a few paragraphs. It certainly flew by quickly, and was a busy month overall. The gardens continue to be such a blessing and a joy. Now, if we’d just get a little rain….

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Six on Saturday: July 3

And the glut begins!

No complaints at all about the harvests in June, but July has begun with an even bigger glut of produce! Today there was a bounty of summer squash, five different varieties. The green basket is “Biet Alpha” cucumbers, and with the two “Parisian” cucumbers and at the right end of the wicker basket, and the “Tasty Green” cucumber almost hidden by the snow peas a batch of sweet pickles will be canned this weekend at some point. There are two bowls of “Green Arrow” peas shelled and ready to freeze. And then there’s this basket!

Found another summer squash!

I should have been keeping a closer eye on the cabbages, because these three heads had already started to split. The upper left corner is a Napa cabbage that weighs nearly 4 pounds! And, as I was carrying the basket back to the Lady Cottage to weigh the cabbage, I spotted yet another zucchini! They are sneaky characters, aren’t they? Anyway, looks like I’ll also be starting a batch of sauerkraut this afternoon.

Shallots are nearly ready to harvest!

Yesterday, I dug all the garlic, which is now curing in the Cottage, but I noticed today that the shallots are nearly ready. There are still a handful of shallots hanging on the allium rack that need to be used, so I’m in no hurry but the tops are falling over, so they will certainly be harvested before the next rain (if there is one!) Doesn’t look like the best harvest ever (which was an average of 6 shallots for each one planted) but it’s far better than last year, so I’m pleased.

Peppers, peppers everywhere!

There are peppers, numerous peppers throughout the potager. Only what we need to use fresh are being harvested, but there are various bell peppers, jalapenos, and “Jimmy Nardello” ready to pick. There are still bags of pepper strips and diced peppers in the freezer to use in any cooked dish, so I can let the ones in the garden color up. Today as I grabbed a couple “Fehr Ozone” peppers, I noticed that the “Royal Burgundy” beans are setting on.

3″ baby beans!

I was a little later than usual getting them planted because of cold weather late, but there will surely be a bounty of beans this year. Within minutes after the garlic came out, fences were moved in and “French Horticultural” beans were planted. There were already “Borlotti,” “Dragon Tongue,” “Jade II,” and “French Garden” beans planted. And finally #6, the last thing that will be harvested later today …

“Summer Perfection” spinach

We nearly were tired of spinach salad, even with all it’s variations, but there’s been a bit of a gap where we’ve had lettuces, Napa cabbage, and cole slaw instead. Now it’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s asking a lot of spinach to thrive in this weather. This row is absolutely perfect today, but by tomorrow it may begin to yellow and bolt so it’s spinach salad on the menu tonight, and what we don’t eat fresh will go into the freezer tomorrow.

That’s my six for this first Saturday in July! I hope your garden is filled with bounty and beauty. If you’d like to visit other gardens, go to The Propagator, who hosts this meme.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Lavender Slope gets additions…finally!

The Lavender Slope this morning

The lavenders have been in bloom for several days now, but I haven’t had much time to notice. The top (left) row is always the best, because it has the best drainage, which lavender not only loves but absolutely MUST have. The plants closest to the camera are “Royal Velvet” and then “Imperial Gem.” The second and third row are Lavandins, mostly “Abrialli” and “Grosso” which have much longer stems and bloom later. Looks pretty good from this direction.

New baby plants!

But, as is often the case, things are not so pretty on the backside! Back in 2015, when I sold my herb farm, I hadn’t really planned to sell so things were a little chaotic when it happened. One of the results was that I didn’t have time to move all the plants I wanted, or to pull some plants from the sales area before they were gone. So, when it came time to plant the Lavender Slope some months later, there weren’t enough plants to fill the slope. It’s a project that’s been on the list since then! When I knew I wouldn’t be traveling at all, I knew there would be plenty of time to grow some baby lavender plants to finish the slope, so the time had come!

Now normally, I’m an advocate of lavender plants from cuttings, because that way one knows exactly what one is getting. Seed-grown plants can range from lovely to blah, stately to floppy, fragrant to scentless. I used to do over 5000 lavender plants from cuttings a year, but I don’t have a good set-up now, and no big desire to set one up! So, feeling reckless, I ordered two varieties of lavender seed: “Avignon” and “Blue Spear.” They’ve grown slowly, as lavender babies do, but were finally big enough to face the big bad world on their own.

Into the ground each plant went, along with a generous handful of compost, and a tablespoon of lime mixed into the hard clay soil that is the slope. Now, we just wait and see what happens, and what they turn out to be: beauties or blahs?

After I finished planting, I took a stack of empty pots and flats back to the pole barn to “rest” until they are needed again next February. As I passed a stack of equipment, I saw another heat mat, and the mist line system that I used for starting cuttings. I stood and pondered for a while. Actually, I could cut it down to fit under the bench in the greenhouse, where the cuttings would be shaded. If I purchased a “Y” for the greenhouse faucet, I could set up the shortened mist line without much effort, and I’ve got a leaky hose that is begging to be cut up into a piece the right length. There are some other cuttings that I could use besides lavender as the gardens become more perennials than annuals. Maybe when I go into town to get that soaker hose the blackberry row so desperately needs, I’ll just get a “Y” and a couple of hose end repair kits as well! I bet lavender plants would sell at the garden club sale, don’t you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

There’s a bad moon on the rise…

A 2 am photo of the moon ….

Since this photo was taken, the lyrics of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s famous song have been lurking in my head. Does that ever happen to you? Something seen or heard triggers a musical memory that becomes nearly impossible to shake? In all my years, I’d never seen a moon with a red halo and a weird, angry scowl like this one. It was huge and eerie. It definitely looked like a “bad” moon, a bad omen.

I was wide awake on June 23 and had just taken this photo, which had me feeling uneasy when my phone rang. A 2:09 am phone call is seldom good news. This one was my sister-in-law, telling me my brother had just passed away after a two decade battle with Parkinson’s. We will lay him to rest today.

I am wide awake again early this morning, hoping for a lovely sunrise to dispell some of the moon’s effect, but it’s foggy and there’s a storm and rain in the forecast. Right now it’s exceptionally still. No bird song greeting the new day, not a hint of breeze to rustle the leaves. I’m searching for a new song in an attempt to replace CCR, but my mind just seems stuck…”I see the bad moon a-rising. I see trouble on the way. I see hurricanes and lightning. I see bad times today.” “Don’t go around tonight. It’s bound to take your life. There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments

Six on Saturday: Floweriferous

The borders are bursting with color…that changes almost daily!

If there isn’t such a word as “floweriferous,” there certainly should be! This is the time of year that if a gardener skips a visit to his/her garden for a day, there will certainly be new surprises missed. New blooms open almost hourly, and the pollinators are feasting. In the photo of a section of the potager’s interior border shown above, the “Monterey Jack” daylily had two blooms open the day before, and exploded with dozens of bloom the next day. This is happening all through the gardens with the various daylilies, and it’s rather unusual. Usually there’s a steady opening of a dozen or so blooms that goes on for days and days, often into weeks and weeks. But this year, they all seem determined to open nearly at once! Are you seeing that in your garden? The cutting celery in the foreground has been providing filler for bouquets for weeks. I keep expecting the flower heads to change into brown seeds, especially in this weather, but so far the white flowers are holding steady. The hollyhocks just keep pushing upward, providing new blossoms at a regular pace. As usual, I’m tying string on the colors I want to keep and collect seed from.

Gap fillers!

Regular readers may recall that last summer, more perennials were added to the Addition Garden in an attempt to fill a large bloom gap that occurred in late May through Mid June, and also to reduce the number of annuals required. I’m fairly pleased with the results and some of the combinations. There have been many more flowers consistently, largely due to the electric blue anchusa, which always reminds me of a forget me not. These are “Blue Angel,” a short (10″) variety and they’ve been blooming for weeks. They seem to enjoy the hot, dry location. I’d forgotten I’d planted some dark blue alliums, also fairly short in that area as well, and they go well with both the anchusa and the orange butterflyweed.

The same dark blue allium in a different border.

The little allium also seems happy in this section of the potager’s interior border, surrounded by yellow calendula, bright orange miniature snapdragons, and white feverfew. The blue really seems to make the other colors pop, and the border would certainly be less interesting without it.

Better, but still needs improving.

Above is another section of the Addition Garden, where the “Blue Angel” anchusa is again carrying the load, with a bit of help from “Adora Blue” salvia (which definitely seems dark purple to me.) It definitely needs a supporting cast. I’m considering a threadleaf coreopsis like “Moonbeam”. Other suggestions?

And back in the potager….

The orange “Henry Eckford” sweet peas seem to be holding a bit better than the other varieties, which are opening one day, fading the next and forming seed pods by evening! There will soon be lots of daylilies and dahlias as well, but for now the sweet peas, white feverfew and “Ladylike” Asiatic lilies are filling the bill.

Please send rain!

One of my favorite perennials is this heliopsis “Lorraine,” with its cheery yellow daisies and variegated foliage. Unfortunately, the leaves are curled and not looking their best at the moment. We could certainly use some rain, which seems to be falling all around us, but not exactly ON us. But, this sturdy little lady (about 18-20″) is a stalwart performer and will carry on despite being dry. Happily, about 70% of her seedlings come true, with the pretty variegated leaves so I’ll be potting them up and adding them to the border…maybe with that anchusa and salvia in the Addition Garden?

That’s my six observations for this final Saturday of June! (How is that possible? Didn’t June just start a few days ago?) For lots more gardening adventures, visit The Propagator, who hosts this meme.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Bouquet blessings

This bouquet went to my sister-in-law…

The Cutting Garden is bursting with color now, so I’m trying to make a “gift” bouquet almost every other day. It’s pretty easy to put together a handful of colorful blooms, and it seems even easier to find someone who needs them to brighten their world. Just this week in the Cutting Garden, new varieties joined the team.

My first ever “dwarf hardy gladiola.”

Over the winter, I found myself reading more flower farm blogs, which resulted in ordering some new things for cutting. I’ve grown gladiolas before, but never the dwarf “hardy” type. So far, I’m not thrilled because only about half of the bulbs came up, and they are taller than I expected. But, for those who like pink they do look good in a bouquet. And actually, many of my “apricot” flowers can lean toward pink so they partner very well. I’ll evaluate later on, and decide if they make the list again next year.

Orange gomphrena

I almost missed the first orange gomphrena, hiding beneath a feverfew blossom. We used to grow these by the thousands, and picked 100 bunches each evening before we quit for the day. They add a pop of color to bouquets, and if dried hold their color for years. I’m already wishing I’d planted more.

“Blue” lupine

Lupines were added to the Cutting Garden this year. I haven’t grown them for over forty years because I thought they only did well in a cooler area than our hot Indiana summers. But, this year I thought I’d give them a try and started seeds of “Gallery Blue.” The first one that bloomed was pure white, and this second one is deep purple. It’s been interesting, as many of the seeds purchased have not been what was printed on the package. Maybe I’ll do a post to show them all. However, I’m not complaining about these lupines, because I didn’t even expect them to bloom their first season. I haven’t yet cut any for bouquets because I like them in the garden, but may when there are more.

Rudbeckia “Chim Chimnee”

The stalwarts of current bouquets are the rudbeckia. I especially like “Chim Chimnee” for it’s quilled petals and the wide range of colors and sizes. They are a bit smaller than the basic yellow “Gloriosa Daisy” types, so they work very well in arrangements. They come up every year, and self-seed if allowed.

Statice “Apricot”

There are only a few statice plants left in the Cutting Garden, having succumbed to the rabbits before the bunny fence was installed. The blue ones haven’t even budded yet, but the apricot shades are ready to pick. There may not be enough after fresh bouquets are made all summer, but if there are stems remaining they can be dried for use in autumn and winter arrangements.

Strawflowers….soon!

The strawflowers are budded and will be opening soon if this heat continues. I’m a bit suspicious of the final color, as the buds look surprisingly dark for a pale apricot bloom. We used to grow these by the thousands as well in all different colors, but only the “Apricot shades” were sown this year. They can be used fresh or dried as well.

The first sunflower of the year!

I can’t take credit for this volunteer sunflower, which was the first one to bloom this year. It was planted by the birds, and they made a good choice. It’s a lovely lemon shade, and the plant is a branching variety filled with buds that promise many more flowers in the coming weeks. While not technically in the Cutting Garden proper, it will certainly contribute to the gift bouquets regardless of its location.

Leek blooms

For regular readers, remember a post way back when I said I’d never seen a leek bloom? A few were left in the potager purposely to see what happens. The flowers opened this week, and they are stunning. Nearly 5″ across and a pretty pale lavender, I’m having a bit of trouble picturing the patriots of Wales wearing them in their hats during battle, but that’s the old lore. Before I put them in a gift bouquet, I’ll bring one into the house for a few days to see if that notorious onion odor is going to be ruinous or not.

Zinnia “Cresto”

The first of the zinnias appeared this week as well. These are the “Cresto Orange” but you can see that they vary from orange to yellow, and in flower form as well. Some have the pom-pom center, which is what they are supposed to be, and some are just the standard single form that the butterflies seem to prefer. I’ll be using them all, regardless of form or color because they are sturdy performers. Still being cut are snapdragons, feverfew, larkspur, cutting celery blooms, dill flowers, the tall verbena, roses, and mint for foliage so there’s a lot of variety in each bouquet.

I’m a bit surprised by how much I am enjoying making bouquets. For years, I’ve resisted cutting flowers because I preferred seeing them in the gardens. But, back in the Cutting Garden behind the potager no one notices that the blooms disappear, and the smiles on the faces that receive the bouquets more than compensate! And, there are still things to learn, which is making this gardening season more fun! Happy growing!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 14 Comments