09 April 2014

Hyacinths Sliced And Diced

The hyacinths (Hyacinth orientalis) are in bloom, even ones that were hacked to pieces last year. I was digging in the dirt to make room for some pepper plants in the front cottage garden. A few good-looking vegetables are now planted in this garden, and last year bell pepper plants were being set down. The trowel blasted into a few white hyacinth bulbs below the surface that forgot to tell me where they were hiding.

The pieces were cleaned off and planted with hope they would multiply like a starfish, each piece growing anew. It worked! This year, all pieces grew, and they all had blooms, more or less. These are not Fine Gardening Magazine materials, but blooms nonetheless. White blooms came up from the remnants, although some only have three or four flowers in the cluster.

My other mistake was to plant some of the chunks on top of previously established tulips as well as previous planted blue Sky Jacket hyacinths. Anyone read the book, "Now Where Did I Plant Those?"

In past years, hyacinths forced inside were later planted outdoors. The following spring will
bring small blooms, but great blooms the year after. (Being toxic, they make a lovely addition to my poison garden.) So, the blue Sky Jacket hyacinths finished their blooms, and were planted in the front cottage garden. (Note, when forced indoors, the color is a lighter blue.) A month later, when hyacinth leaves had died down, it was pepper planting time.

Does my spring bulb arrangement announce, "Drunken gardener lives here?"

For The Record:
  • Rich well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: hyacinth, magnolia, rhododendron mucronulatum,
    Ice follies daffodils

31 March 2014

The Undead Zombie Plants

A quick walk through the gardens last week showed the extent of winter's damage. Zombie plants are everywhere. They appear dead, but may be undead -- ready to spring up from the earth to grow among the living again.

At a gardening lecture attended Saturday, everyone was wailing in anguish at the slow arrival of spring and the exceptionally harsh winter. One gardener complained that the temperatures dropped below the minimum temperatures of the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, not realizing its numbers are average low temperatures, not lowest. And then it snowed yesterday.

Zombies inhabit the side garden, located on the south side of my brick house and protected from northwest winds.

Come back to life?
The rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) provides fresh herbs for our grilled potatoes in the summer. It survived previous winters nestled in the side garden and was mulched in autumn.

The plant looks dead dead dead. Two semi-green leaves were noticed down inside the base after I took the shears to the plant last week. They did not appear as new sprouts, but as almost dead. The sprigs were plucked off and brought indoors for rooting. Hope is that the roots will rebound with a new plant later.

Rose Campion
It's alive.
This (Lychnis coronaria) was a donation to the dry garden last spring. Winter left it looking deflated. Like a good little zombie, it kept rising out of the ground during the winter, and I kept pushing it back down. Prognosis is good for survival after its first year, and after the frost heave.

Dead or undead?
(Cynara cardunculus) survived for the past three winters. Right now, there is nothing to photograph after the second cold wave turned what was left to mush, blackened and disfigured. Like the rosemary, hope is that a new plant will develop from surviving roots, but I don't know. That looked mighty black with rot down to the core.

Cutting Celery
Will it rise again?
Sprigs of this lived through two winters and came back healthy and spreading each spring, with some plants coming from reseeding. Today I can photograph only dirt, but hope new celery will again grow from last year's seeds.

California Poppy
Come back to life?
Expectations are high for the Schscholzia californica. Those not surviving past winters have prolifically reseeded across the platform steps to the other side of the garden. Today everything looks wiped out.
Belacamda Lily poking up

Belacamda Lily
Among the living.
Two years ago, (Belacamda chinensis) were planted from seed, and one bloomed. And then it died. Last year, more were planted from seed, two survived, and were well-mulched last fall. Expecting the worse after this winter, I was rejoicing at the pair that are among the living. The leaves are rising up, resembling bearded iris.

So today, it's Zombies 4, Living 2.

20 March 2014

Winter Walk Off

Although a little late with this post, it was eventually completed (past the official deadline.) My winter walk-off was started on Monday, but then we were gifted a March snow storm for the record books. I started after the storm, but did not finish the walk or photos until sunny yesterday.

My walk was around Old Town Alexandria. This year, I photographed things that were interesting to me.

When temperatures warm, freeze, warm, and when there is no rain gutter, you get icicle lights.

This is storefront to an interior decorator and furnishings store on the main commercial drag. Although artificial greenery is used, the plastic growies seem organic and tastefully arranged.

Turning back to the residential streets, I always admired this house. It is simple, understated, yet highly elegant probably for its restraint and proportions. Although Alexandria was wealthy and boomed during the 1800s, the extravagance of the Victorian era never caught on. Italianate style (in a row house urban environment) dominates. It is characterized in this house with tall narrow windows, muscular ornamentation used sparingly, simple segmented arch (metal) hood moulds over the windows, and a mansard roof. What's missing is the cresting (metal decorative railing) along the top of the roof.

With row houses along the sidewalk and few if any front yards, a pedestrian scale allows appreciation of details. Door knockers easily seen from sidewalks are one of the ways homeowners distinguish their homes. This one is found on a gate leading to a garden.

This door knocker proudly displays the symbol of the new country immediately after the revolution. Although the knocker is not old, the door itself is. Its panel construction is similar to that used today, but the panels are flush with the rails (horizontal and vertical frames.) Today's doors would have the panels recessed, as in the following photos.

And this newer home decided to go with the edible route. Pineapples would never do.

Another way of personalizing your abode is with a unique wreath. Staying with the fruit theme, if life serves you lemons, make a door wreath.

Nothing says spring like a wreath of bird nests full of eggs on a pink door.

If you can't have a watchdog guarding your house, how about a watchgargoyle at the front door to scare off intruders?

Take a good look at the brick on this house. To think all this decoration, from projections, patterns, and double negative corners, is from the same size 4" by 8" (10cm by 20cm) brick.

Old Town is not all stuffy and staid. Teddy, Ben, Abe, Ronnie, and a redhead I don't recognize beckon for some southern barbecue.

This is known as a spite house. There are a handful in Alexandria, but this is the smallest. They were originally built by the owners of alleys (back in the day I guess alleys were privately owned.) This owner got fed up with people using his alley for shortcuts to their backyards (where horses, wagons, etc. were stored) so, he built a 7-foot wide (2m) house on it for spite.

Hope you enjoyed your walk around. Visit other walk-offs at A Tidewater Gardener.

09 March 2014

Time To Wake Up

For the past three years or so, I have saved a few plants from the annual winter kill in order to replant in the spring. This is done either by keeping the plants going, or putting them into hibernation. I try out a new technique or two each year in the hope of having a better preservation success rate. The new tricks I am testing this year follow.

Here's how they roll. About three Pretoria canna tubers are planted in the garden in the spring. They easily grow and multiply during the summer, (not large enough to bloom until July) loving the hot humid weather we are noted for. The three turn into about a dozen. They are lifted after the first frost and those tubers large enough to save are stored until the spring. I end up losing all but two or three over the winter to rot or desiccation. The remaining are planted in the ground again after the soil warms, about two weeks after the last front date.

I began dusting the tubers with copper dust before storing them, maybe preventing the rot. This past fall, I bagged them in peat moss, hoping for a better save success rate. They all dried out except for about five. I'll take that as an improvement.

Canna Experiment #2 - try to get them growing before putting them in the ground. They are now in moist peat/soil, barely below the surface. And, they have begun to swell with some pink coloration on the tubers, a clear sign that they are beginning to wake up and maybe have a head start this year (although there are no roots.)

I read about doing this to the Persian Shield. In the fall, I take cuttings of the freshest stem tips. After about a month in water, they root. These are planted in yogurt cups and placed on an eastern facing window sill in a cool unused bedroom for the winter. They are watered, and (at this time) start to produce flowers.

This has worked well for the past four years, and all plants make it through to be planted in the spring. Although not growing much in the winter, they stay green (they are purple in the hot summer) until ready to resume their lives out in the wild. This year, as with the cannas, I am giving some a head start by transplanting to larger pots before going outdoors, in hopes they will be large.

I first saw these plants at the Atlanta Botanical Garden at a whopping 5-6 feet (1.5 m) tall. There was probably a greenhouse involved in this somewhere.

This is my first experience with these beauties. A friend asked me how to overwinter them, because after digging them up, his all rot in winter. I explained my procedure with the cannas and suggested peat moss storage. He was overjoyed that about all of his Colocasia came through the winter, and thanked me with five plants, and some bulbs I will write about in the coming months.

I dug them up, dusted them, and placed them in peat. But they did not fare well, and most shriveled up. I will attribute this to their small underdeveloped size in the fall. Three were solid, so they were cleaned and wet. In a few days, all grew one or two clear, protruding gelatinous wormy things about 1/8-inch long (3 mm). I am hoping these are the beginning roots and not a fungus. I placed them in a damp peat medium, so stay tuned.

The Red Cordyline is the center of a pot on the deck, and has been brought indoors, pot and all, for three winters. It is placed at an east-facing french door, and watered less frequently through winter. It looks great now, and is beginning to develop a stem/trunk as the lower leaves are shed through the years.

Let's hear what you keep over the winter, and the methods you use.

08 February 2014


Surprise the customers. I bought paperwhite narcissus at a local nursery last year after searching throughout town for the least expensive. I was buying for the master gardeners. I am VP of Training, and it was graduation time, when the rookie newbies were graduating from the training program to CERTIFIED master gardener status.

It was a custom to hand out a small goodie bag to the graduates as they walked across the stage (front of the room) to receive their diplomas (certificates) and shake hands. I put together the best goodie bag ever with the extremely limited funds available. Included among some symbolic and useless items was one paperwhite bulb. My best price was $0.99 each.

After class, I went back and bought six more bulbs for myself and planted them in time for a Christmas bloom. Four responded on schedule. A few more lallygagged well into January.

And, then yellow. The late bloomers were yellow (obviously a different variety with different bloom characteristics). I wonder if any master gardeners got yellow, after their training coordinator labeled them as paperWHITES.

Speaking of color, one sunrise greeted me with some after a January snowfall.

Red sky at morning,
sailors take warning.
Red sky at night,
sailor's delight.

We got another snowfall after this morning sky.

08 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions

There are ten New Years Resolutions for the garden and the garden blog. It is winter, after all, and there is little garden to blog about. Now that the holidays are behind and the garden catalogs hint of fascinating and exciting things to come, visiting other blogs and comparing plans for the growing season are anticipated.
  1. Post thoughts and gardening results on the blog more than once a month, even if no one reads them.

  2. Start working on getting the poinsettia to bloom earlier in the fall, to be sure it blooms in time for Christmas, instead of later at New Year's.

  3. Same goes for the amaryllis.

  4. Keep working in the garden into August, instead of losing ambition, telling myself I need to sit back and enjoy it, while slowly watching it wane.

  5. Create a map of where things are planted instead of planting items on top of others that have not come up yet, or slicing into dormant bulbs with planting trowels when planting annuals.

  6. Clean my garden tools after using them instead of thinking they will be used again soon, or thinking cleanliness doesn't matter, or thinking they will clean themselves.

  7. Keep trying to grow those uncooperative and challenging flora that have never succeeded in my garden but do in others, instead of giving up and moving on to something new.

  8. Finish development of the Garden Inventory page of my blog.

  9. Develop New Year's resolutions at New Year's Day, instead of a week later.

  10. Don't develop ten resolutions if ten resolutions are not needed or can't be kept.

07 December 2013

The Answer Is Catalina

Catalina Island, with its 12 inches (30 cm) of rainfall annually is the location of the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. The island was mostly bought and owned by the chewing gum tycoon Wrigley, who even forced his Chicago Cubs into using the location for their spring baseball training.

With 20 (32 km) miles long by 8 miles wide (13 km) at the maximums, the island is 90% owned and managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy. This nonprofit was set up by the Wrigley family heirs to conserve and preserve the island. Most all is in a natural state, and access outside the town of Avalon is restricted -- like a futuristic scenario, you need a pass to get beyond the fence at the city limits.

Avalon is pedestrian friendly and very walkable (except when a cruise ship dumped its crowd of passengers one day), with the number of cars limited on the island. Most vehicles are golf carts and bicycles.

The garden was started by Ada Wrigley in 1935 as a personal garden containing exotic cactus. It was transformed into a botanical garden by a foundation in 1970 with an emphasis on succulents and cactus, and on the rare endangered plants endemic to Catalina and the other Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.

Landscaping bedding plants in town done with succulents, agave, and a date palm or two

Dessert Spoon Dasylirion wheeleri

The Wrigley Memorial served as Mr. Wrigley's tomb until he was moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery

Catalina Island Ironwood tree endemic to the island

Closeup of the bark on the Catalina Island Ironwood

The 'Casino' theater, art deco interior with scenes of plants, animals, and activities of the island

Four keyboards on its great theater organ

An excursion trip to the island's interior brought this view looking toward the mainland

23 November 2013

Guess Where This Place Is

A few days before an annual out of town convention gave an opportunity for late summer relaxing on a quick vacation near the convention town. Of course, a trip to the local botanical garden was something that I couldn't miss, but almost did. Succulents and cactus were not high on the priority list like snorkeling, kayaking, ghost walks, and hiking.

But on the last day having checked off everything else, I headed to the botanical garden. Whoa! I was happily surprised with plants very new to me and weird - like two story high yuccas. Many reminded me of the landscape in the backgrounds of the Flintstones. Does anyone know where this place is? Go ahead and take a guess. No, it is not Bedrock.

Let's try some large photos on the blog this time.

Opuntia streptacantha. I think I had one of these growing on my window sill in college, but not as a tree.

Aeonium arboreum. This could be the star of the latest Alien movie. Is this a plant?

Could this be a sunburned aloe?

Furcraea macdougalii. These poor souls from the agave family looked scared.

Dracaena draco. This is a dragon tree - no one can figure out why it's called that. :-)

Crassula falcata. One of the only flowering specimens in the garden.

Acacia decurrens or Green Wattle. Ah, finally. A tree with leaves. Leaves?

Sunburn anyone? A 5-foot tall (1.5 m) aloe can help.

And one last cactus, only 6-feet tall (1.8 m) because I believe it fell over.