19 May 2015

Three Year Wait Is Over

The 2012 plant swap peony has finally bloomed today. It was the only peony (Paeonia lactiflora), and I got it. Its owner did not remember its color or variety.

In its third year now, the thing sent out several stalks this spring, and there was hope in the air. One of the stalks had three buds, and the first opened to a deep magenta, double-ruffled flower. There is a nice fragrance. We had a violent rain downpour last night, and it survived without incident.

It was planted in the side garden bed, the newest and therefore the one with the poorest soil. I placed a wire support disc as it grew, just in case it needed one, and it grew through. Rather tall at about 40-inches high (1 meter), the bloom is normal sized. It might be tall or lanky because it gets morning and afternoon sun, but is in shade around midday. Full sun is what I believe they need.

I don't have the heart to cut and bring indoors to enjoy it.

15 May 2015

May 2015 Bloom Day

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
What's blooming in the garden on the 15th of the month

Projects (including working in the garden,) have been taking time away from blogging this spring.

Nothing much on this bloom day, my 16th since blogging. Bearded iris galore, but you've seen them last year. May is a dead time in my garden before most impressive perennials get going and after the spring bulbs. So I tried for some smaller closeups, but need to get a new camera - this pocket Cannon Elph I used for all my photos over the past 12 years is beginning to show age with less and less clarity.

Kalmia latifolia 'Sarah' is "one of the reddest mountain laurels" according to the catalog.
This is one of the first plants I bought years ago after moving into my house.

Iris hollandica 'Discovery'. I divided one clump last fall into three this spring.
They are not as impressive (spread apart), but maybe next year...

Add unknown geranium sanguineum. Spreads like crazy, blooming intermittently throughout summer.

Geranium macrorrhizum 'Bevan's variety'

Camassia leichtlinii never takes a bad picture

Couldn't resist adding an annual I really like this year - petunia 'Phantom'

For other garden bloggers' bloom day photos, spring over to the blog May Dreams Gardens

24 April 2015

My Tulips Smell

Being in an area that goes from winter to summer in a two weeks, growing tulips is a challenge. In about the span of one week, they open, bloom, and get fried to a crisp. In subsequent years, whether left in the ground or lifted in the spring and replanted in the fall, they are a big disappointment. So like an addict, I try to stay clean of spending money on tulips.

Every so often in the fall, photos on the tulip packages in the local nurseries (along with a discounted price) tempt me to a point of giving in. And after they bloom one year, my tulip has-beens proudly produce big leaves year after year, but no more blooms. Oh, every other year of so, one might pop out a bloom before going back to growing leaves.

In some years, I fertilize them up the wahzoo and water them frequently. But the weather sears them quickly before they have a chance to develop enough to bloom the following year. And this year we have Princess Irene tulips, the result of my latest willpower breakdown last autumn. They have bloomed now for over a week, probably because of our unusually cool spring.

This week, as I walked by, I noticed a slight fragrance. Only one other tulip I grew, West Point, had a sweet smell. Princess Irene was trying to make me feel good about spending my money on a one time, one-week fling. Lasting longer than normal this year was also a plus.

Also blooming at this mid-spring point in time are a few other tall Darwin hybrids from past years. One pink (Menton) by itself, one yellow (Yellow Dover) by itself, and one red (Red Apeldoorn) by itself. Orange Princess Irene is shorter, sweet smelling, and streaked with maroon on the outer orange petals, like recently graduating from Virginia Tech. Its leaves have a strong blue tint that contrasts with the orange.

After my lonely, homeless tulips are spent for the spring, I will dig them up and mix them together into one multicolored bed. In future years, I will look for three or four pops of miscellaneous color in a bounty of leaves, rather than one red here, one yellow there, and one pink somewhere.

19 March 2015

Winter Walk Off

With a few minutes until the deadline for a winter walk off post, it seems I am almost late for everything these days. For yet another year, I chose to walk around Old Town Alexandria where I work. There is so much detail and little things to see. I start by heading to the water. The Potomac River was the lifeblood of our early historic seaport town.

This anchor is placed prominently at the intersection of two paths. There is no information displayed.

The McIlhenny Seaport Center. I don't know much about this place in such a prominent location along the river. Having looked through the window a time or few, there are boats being built inside.

This boathouse stores the shells from the high school crew teams. They are getting ready to go out for their practice. Across the river is Washington DC and the Naval Research Lab.

Mr. & Mrs. Mallard

Now selling priced from the upper $1 million. This used to be a national association headquarters, until being gutted and remodeled for condos with river views and planes roaring overhead on their approach (or takeoff) to the airport.

Wreaths are popular on doors of the homes. This year, apples on this house . . .

. . . and white twigs on another. I think this house had a wreath of lemons during last year's walk-off.

Tress have problems in Alexandria. Looks like this poor soul had bad shoes removed from his feet a while back.

I expect this tree to start talking and throwing apples at me (...Wizard of Oz.)

And this is a native tree that grows transformers after you top
it off.


The elephant not in the room. The window of an antique shop.

I have always liked this alley. A dark passage off a main walk intrigues as the light in the courtyard at the interior of the block pulls you in.

I don't know. It just made me laugh. A chia head and glove on a garden gate.

Carlyle House was ready for the British. The Prince of Wales is in town as a tourist, but I don't know if he stopped here. John Carlyle was a founder of Alexandria. General Braddock and company met here to plot strategies during the French and Indian Wars.

And finally, this is the Wise's Tavern Building. George Washington gave his first public speech as president here on the way to New York to assume office after being elected. It is also home to my office. (The interior is not historic in the least.)

Finished before the deadline ... Hawaiian or pacific time.

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

10 February 2015

The Quincunx And The Olitory

I added quincunx and olitory to my lexicon. Read on and you will too.

2015 gardening began this weekend. I packed up and labeled my contributions for the Washington Gardener Magazine annual Seed Exchange. This one held in Virginia is scheduled on the first weekend in February. The day's program began at the registration table to pick up my goody bag of seeds and promotions. Then on to peruse the table full of garden catalogs, old magazines, and more promotions. Then down the ramp to the main attraction: the seeds.

I brought some packets of my famous bombast rose poppy seeds [posted 2013.06.02], and some purple oriental poppy seeds (papaver somniferum). They were deposited into the basket at the registration table to be cataloged and checked for non-native invasiveness. It seems that for this year, fewer gardeners brought seeds for exchange, and relied instead on the hundreds of expired commercial seed packets from previous years.

I arrived early, so like a hired agent at a private Southeby's auction, I slithered through the tables of the seed packets, taking notes of prized spoils, and ranked them for possible acquisition later.

First, the speakers presented their talks to the crowd of about 50 gardeners. The more interesting to me was Pat Brodowski, vegetable gardener at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Pat talked about the gardener, his horticultural exploits, and his history. Did you know that Jefferson experimented to a point of trying 230 vegetable varieties, including 13 tomatoes, 48 beans, 38 herbs, and 7 pumpkins?

He employed a classic planting pattern for spacing crops that was more efficient that a rectangular grid. A quincunx pattern is made of alternately arranged rows, depending on the spacing of the crop, and was a pattern used in classic early gardens. Today you find it widely used for fruit orchard layouts.

In his writings, Thomas Jefferson also mentioned his garden olitory. This referred to his terraced vegetable garden, although the term today is more widely reserved for a kitchen garden for cullinary use. Pat also talked about Jefferson's and early America's connections to European horticulture, especially Italian; climates, the difficulties in translating horticultural terms from writings of the 1700s; and the seed exchange with native peoples around Fort Mandan from whom Lewis and Clark brought seeds to Jefferson.

Pat brought a boatload of seeds from Monticello for us to scarf up. I picked up some nigella, early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, gaillardia, veronica, and scabiosa from our third president's garden. Oh, and for my entrance fee and poppy seeds I also went home with seeds for:

National Pickling Cucumber
Oriole Zinnia
Purple Calabash Tomato
Tip Top Mahogany Nasturtium
Royal Burgundy Bean
Spacemaster Cucumber
Waltham 20 Broccoli
French Breakfast Radish
Oriental Giant Japanese Spinach
Monarda Lambada
White Icicle Radish
Green Envy Zinnia
Big Jim Chili Pepper
Autumn Beauty Sunflower
Datura Metal (white)
Rocky Mountain Blue Penstemon
Blue Lake Beans
Pennisetum Orientale
Russian Tarragon
Siam Queen Thai Basil
Black Beauty Squash
Red Oriental Poppy
Black Pearl Pepper
Yellow Pear Tomato
Mary Lou Heard Sweet Pea
Danvers Half long Carrot

With the Garden Stamp I won as a door prize, I think I am now set to start my own public botanical garden.

24 January 2015

In Between

Here am I between two storms. A rain-sleet-snow-freezing rain "event" happened overnight and snow is predicted for tomorrow night. We are also between the seasons; at a midpoint with the light at the end of the winter tunnel. Next stop on the bus: spring.

The signs are there. Some things in the garden are beginning to stir. And next Saturday is the annual Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange in Virginia. Coming home afterwards with a bucket full of new seeds to try out gets the gardening juices going again.

A trip around the yard found some heads poking out. No sign of the crocus though.

Daffodils need not be afraid.

This tangled muscari mess actually started coming up in November. Does muscari need dividing? The hairy bittercress beyond is doing nicely.

Dutch iris always starts in the fall, unless you plant the bulbs in the fall - then they start late. I see the spiny sowthistle is also getting a jump on the season.

The incredible spreadable rose campion. Started with two plants, but now it is traveling down the hillside. Invasive is my middle name. The blue fescue is enjoying the weather.

Miniature iris planted first time this fall. I can't remember what they are, but think they were dual color. There is a story about that white marker:

I hosted our neighborhood plant swap last May, and one of the neighbors brought some cut up vinyl blind slats to use as plant labels. They work well. Until then, I used popsicle sticks that would compost into the soil. But the titles washed off these over winter, and they degrade before they are supposed to. This one is holding up.

30 December 2014

Last Year's Resolutions Scorecard

This year 2014 saw the least number of posts to this blog because there were fewer new additions to the garden. How did last year's resolutions go? Let's see how your resolutions ended up, too.
  1. Post thoughts and gardening results on the blog more than once a month, even if no one reads them.
    Do the math: 24 posts = at least two per month. (But only one post in November, and one in December.)

  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.
    Cross this one off. The poinsettia up and died on me this summer -- some kind of bugs or whiteflies.

  3. Same goes for the amaryllis.
    The amaryllis was a late bloomer this summer. It needed its beauty rest before another bloom, so I did not have the heart to awaken it so soon after going to bed.

  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.
    Worked well into the fall this year. I am proud of myself.

  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.
    Christopher Columbus made maps. I took digital photos. Only my own garden GPS will solve this problem.

  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.
    I did a better job of this past year, but still have room for improvement.

  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.
    Carrots. Radishes. Need I say more?

  8. Finish development of the Garden Inventory page of my blog.
    Is there a database administrator out there?

  9. Develop New Year's resolutions at New Year's Day, instead of a week later.
    Still one day to go.

30 November 2014

Tending To The Tender Snacks

Root crops and I just don't mix well. Carrots are one of the first creatures (they are supposed to be easy) that I tried growing, year after year, without much success. They ended up dry, splitting, deformed runts. After a few years of adding sand to my garden soil more appropriate for clay pottery than gardening, the results were no better.

Then, I discovered compost and organic material, and thought to try that to improve the soil density. Building upon last year's carrot success, I gave it another shot this year with the Tendersnax hybrid purchased a year or two ago. The results are truly amazing considering I ignored the carrots this year.

They suffered with a low germination rate, being seed that was two years old. And, they suffered through a few mini-droughts of my own doing, neglect, and the overgrowth of a white nicotiana jungle. After garden cleanup this fall, there they were; green and happy after the subfreezing temperatures last week. Two were split lengthwise, and a slug was chewing its way through a third for its Thanksgiving dinner, but most were in great shape. This was the first year I have had any hint of beasties bothering carrots, but then, I haven't had any carrots to speak of to bother.

These will make a great side dish in my annual holiday dinner in a few weeks. And I believe I found a good carrot compatible with my garden: Tendersnax.