13 November 2009

Frank's Yearn to Urn

In September, a four day convention in Chicago yielded a few side trips as a tourist. A visit to Oak Park where Frank Lloyd Wright built his first house and opened his studio on his own was the first stop. A second trip downtown to the Art Institute and nearby Millenium Park was an eye-opener.
Although architecture and art were the primary targets for the trips, gardens and greenery were also experienced. Since this is a garden blog, I will concentrate on the botany in my trips.

These urns were outside the entrance to the Wright Studio. Potato vines and ornamental grasses (or is it millet) lend grace and life, and easily blend with Wright's more organic architecture.

Frank Llyod Wright was an architect that was noted for his 'prairie style' of architecture, building on low, horizontal, modern forms. The neighborhood around his home includes a handful of his earlier residential work, and really brings home how radical he was. His houses were built in the same era as the neighborhood's stately turn-of-the-century Victorian ladies, providing a contrast and context to the times he began his practice.

In Frankie's original sketches and drawings, one always seems to find large decorative urns and planters overflowing with greenery and vines. These were very popular at that time with Victorians so they were probably requested by some clients. They also suited Wright's architecture by bringing some 'decorative' softness to what some considered at the time to be stark modern architecture.

The bigger the urns, the more difficult it is to find the types plants to fulfill Wright's sketches. I was happy to see the homes at the end of the season when the vines and arching plants in the urns were at the height of their beauty and fullness - overflowing like Wright had imagined them. What was also a pleasure to see were the shady large leaf plantings of the Victorians front yards.

Victorians liked welcoming front porches. Get a load of this one. My house could fit on this porch. And those mega-urns? In order to properly scale the walk to the front door for such a massive entry, the approach sidewalk is about 20-feet wide (6m) with a small planted median down its center.

But the biggest urns of all were found at the front entrance to the Art Institute in downtown Chicago. These mamas were larger than a hot tub. A few bags of potting soil would not do. I had to include the people in the photo to show scale, since the lions were super-sized, too.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Mexican zinnia, calendula, nicotiana, pink cosmos
  • Harvested 8 tomatoes, 9 bell peppers before frost

31 October 2009

Inconsistent Princess

The Nasturtium seeds were purchased from Home Depot for the new side yard garden on the slope. Nasturtiums were tried about a decade ago, and were not a success story, but I was willing to try again this year. Princess of India (Tropaeolum majus) sounded like a good variety to try. Almost all germinated to my surprise, so some were planted at the side, and the extras were placed out in the back yard vegetable garden.

At first, the side yard plants did very well in the spring, and began producing flowers quickly. Leaves were dark green, and the plants grew into small mounds. One item that disappointed me was the small number of flowers on each plant, and the tendency for them to bloom down inside the leaf mound, making them difficult to see. Those photos all over the internet show a profusion of blossoms above the leaves. (Same for the seed packet.) Do the gardeners get credit for these, or Photoshop experts?

Also, one plant was a lighter shade of green than the others, so I planted it to the side. It turned out to trail along the ground more and produced red-orange flowers in contrast to the red flowers of the others. This was a rogue - definitely not a princess.

During the summer, the plants essentially stopped growing and flowering. They did, however, retain their compact shape and attractive leaves, and were not bothered by pests. Last month as the weather began cooling, the plants took off again. Shedding the compact mounded habits, they are now found crawling along the ground like drunken sailors. The blossoms are more visible now between the leaves, being more spread along the vines, and are also more numerous.

The backyard plants never got going. They remained small throughout the spring and summer, but are just now beginning to grow. They even surprised me with a few blossoms this month. I guess a Princess of India prefers to bask in the sunny locations.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 1 tomato

18 October 2009

Squash That Bug

The cleome was tall, spindly, and dying at the end of summer. This is normal for many plants, and never having grown cleome before, thought it was normal. Upon cutting the plants down to tidy up the garden, hundreds of black and yellow beetle-like bugs were found covering the stems and some leaves. Most were thrown out with the plants.

Two weeks later, as I was tending to zinnias adjacent to the cleome bed, the same bugs were found on the zinnias. The cooperative extension was called, but was not much help over the phone. I went to the Bug Guide online to visually identify them as friend or foe. Nothing matched. I registered, posted my photo of the rascals, and someone responded. It turns out that they were on the bug site, but I was looking in the wrong place.

These are harlequin bugs, in the family of stink bugs, found in the southern US as far north as Pennsylvania and Colorado. They can be nasty critters that suck juices out of the plants. When I learned of this, I went out to the zinnias to commit bugicide, but found they had all flown the coop. I guess they got wind that I was onto them, and decided to feast elsewhere, for fear of the gardener's wrath.

The bug info page says they overwinter, so I will be watching for them in March. They can be picked off by hand, but with hundreds, there are faster ways of population control. Fortunately, I did not find any eggs.

For The Record:
  • Found on zinnia and cleome

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming:canna, zinnia, nasturtium, castor, aster, pink cosmos
  • Harvested: 1 pepper

23 September 2009

Purple Passion

While in Atlanta last fall, I was impressed by the 7-feet (2 m) tall, purple-leaf plants growing in the corner of the botanical garden outdoor cafe. A sign indicated they were Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus). Once back home, I described them to my landscape architect friends who told me they never grow 7-feet tall in this climate, unless they overwinter in a greenhouse, a most likely scenario.

This year, I bought one and have been impressed by its growth over the summer. Although not getting to the height of the Atlanta plants, the Strobilanthes dyerianus produced its intense iridescent purple leaves. This tropical beauty from southeast Asia loves a dark, hot, humid environment. They were very popular in the Victorian era, but are new to most gardeners now.

My 3-feet (1 m) high plant loves its digs. It was planted on the north side of a fence, in an area where moss grows because of the dampness, and our hot humid Washington summers are famous. Online research indicates it can be rooted easily from cuttings, and can be kept as a houseplant. The plan is to take a few snips soon and grow more during winter for next year. They will compliment the taller castor bean plants with their tinge of maroon/purple in the leaves.

For The Record:
  • Somewhat clay soil with organics added
  • Full shade
  • No fertilizer
  • Mulched to retain soil moisture

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: zinnia, nicotiana, asters, nasturtiums (again), cosmos, acidanthera, canna
  • Harvested: 2 peppers

03 September 2009

It's A Jungle, Finally

The deck that took a lifetime is finally done, well, with the latest construction still needing a good coat of wood finish. The actual deck off the back of the house was completed last fall along with some of the platform steps at the side yard. These platforms create a more gentle, relaxed way to descend the slope than a straight run stair does. A few additional platform steps not in the original plan were added this week to finish off the path.

The side yard hillside was nothing but clay around the platform steps. This spring, soil was amended with peat, sand, gypsum, and organic materials. Several plants were planted with a "Get something planted to fill up the space" Plan. Transplants, volunteers, seedlings, and plants from the plant swap were added, along with a tomato plant or two. In horror, I watched each heavy rain wash more things down the hill. I spent the spring and summer tending to the plants, getting them rooted and established. Now, the side yard has grown into what I envisioned, so I could attend to the "last steps" construction project.

The biggest surprise were the Castor Bean (ricinus communis) [11.9.2008] plants now at 8-feet tall (2.5m) and still growing. They loved this new location and filled in beyond expectations to form a full mini jungle. They create a living visual barrier that cuts down the view into the back yard from the front, providing privacy and framing the entrance to the back yard.

Other residents of the side yard:
  • Mexican Zinnias
  • Geranium
  • Nasturtiums
  • Spiderwort
  • Canna
  • Nicotianna
  • Cosmos
  • Coreopsis
  • Amaranthus
  • Bunny Tails
Along with creeping oregano, the zinnias spill over onto the platforms to create the informal semi-wild look. Check out the cool deck lights made by Kichler, and the cable rail that allows views to the back yard. Regular wood railings would be too bulky and block the view.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil
  • Gypsum, humus, sand, peat soil amendments
  • Full sun

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, canna, castor, basil, cleome, zinnia, calendula
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 tomatoes, 2 cucumber

25 August 2009

Bashful Sunflowers

It's time to report on this year's trial of dwarf sunflowers. Late in the spring, the rushing around left no time to order the dwarf sunflower seeds online, so a packet of Burpee's Sunflower Incredible (Helianthus annuus ) was picked up at the local Target.

This year, the results were not pleasing. Although the flowers were consistent and attractive, all the flower heads faced east, probably since the sun came up there, but never turned in other directions. This meant the flower heads were never visible from the street in the display garden. Not much to display here.

Second, the heights were all over the place, with some being 18-inches high (50 cm), and a plant immediately next to it 4-feet (1.2 m). Third and most disappointing, the flower heads do not stand up straight very long. After only a few days, they began to droop and in less than a week, all faced the ground like unhappy bashful children. Now, no one can enjoy them.

These would not be recommended in the future. In fact, this variety is not listed on Burpee's web site, although it was sold in stores. A listing of the dwarf sunflowers I have grown, in my preferential order:

    1. Sunny Smile - best for appearance
    2. Sunburst Lemon Aura
    3. Sunpspot - best for bird seed
    4. Incredible

For The Record:
  • Loose, well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer before budding

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, canna, castor, basil, cleome, zinnia, spiderwort
  • Harvested: 4 peppers, countless tomatoes, 1 cucumber

15 August 2009

August 2009 Bloom Day

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

Blooming in addition to the photos:
Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Alyssum, Cosmos, Snapdragon, Canna, Spiderwort, Castor, Basil

Mexican ZinniaDwarf Sunflower Incredible

Cleome Lavender SparklerZinnia Violet Queen

12 August 2009

My Lettuce Has A Bouffant

Three ladies are standing taller at the corner of the front display garden. Three lettuce plants no larger than a finger nail were picked up at the spring Plant Swap Brunch and left in the spray paint can cap they came in for weeks. They were eventually planted in the front display garden, and after some time they began to grow. They were eaten for a week, then became excessively strong and bitter tasting.

The leaves were very attractive in appearance, and fit right in with their other leafy neighbors. Not liking to rip out growing plants, these lettuce ladies were left to grow bitter and grow old gracefully. Today, they are about 3-feet (1 m) high, and are beginning to wear flowers in their hair in the golden years.

They have healthy green leaves down to the ground (no exposed legs), no pests, and strong stems that can teach some younger plants how to stand up straight. They also add some vertical emphasis to the garden. Maybe we should leave other vegetable plants to grow on past their initial harvest, allowing them a new career in their later lives.

For The Record:
  • Medium soil with mulch
  • Full sun, average water
  • No fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, zinnia, nicotiana, sunflower, nasturtium, spiderwort, coreopsis
  • Harvested 6 tomatoes

08 August 2009

History of New York Hops

Brewing beer requires ingredients such as hops, malt, and barley. Most all hops used in beer making in the early United States were grown around the Cooperstown New York region until the 1900's. While visiting my old hometown this summer, I ventured to nearby Cooperstown, where I haven't been in decades. I was surprised to learn that there were two breweries in the area, so of course we had to stop in.

While at the Cooperstown Brewing Company and Ommegang Brewery, I learned of the area's great history and tradition of growing hops. Growing up in Johnson City, a mere one hour away, I never knew this. A little research online after arriving back in Virginia yielded some interesting facts and history about my home state's hop-growing industry.

I want to highlight some points from an interesting article The Past, Present, and Yes Future of the Hops Industry written by Richard Vang in 1996 for Upstate Alive magazine:
  • By the civil war, 90% of hops grown in the United States were from New York.
  • The decline of hops growing was due to high price fluctuations due to wild swings in supply and demand, competition from growers in the west, mold, hops aphids, and Prohibition
  • Hops grow up poles like vines and must be trained when young
  • Breweries and dairy farms in the area are creating a sustainable, symbiotic relationship for feed and fertilzer
  • The Belgian brewery mentioned in the article is already up and running (Ommegang), producing award-winning beers, and cannot keep up with demand.
As far as the brewery tours and tastings went, my taste buds preferred Cooperstown Brewing's "Pride of Milford" (which doesn't fit into any beer category.) However, the tasting in Ommegang, which brews award-winning Belgian beer, came with crackers, chocolate, and beer cheeses, and was in a very pleasant room with old-world charm.
(I did not take the hops photos - I don't have hops in my garden.)

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, cleome, zinnia, nicotiana, nasturtium, sunflowers, snapdragon
  • Harvested 10 tomatoes

02 August 2009

Growing Dark Chocolate

They really do smell like chocolate - dark unsweetened baker's chocolate. The first chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) was purchased in the fall over a year ago and planted in the rear garden as bare root. It grew, died back for the winter, and was never seen again.

Undaunted, another plant was purchased from Wayside Gardens this spring. It came as a dried out twig in a small pot. After a few weeks on the window sill, it began showing green shoots. Planted in the rear garden again, it is now producing a few flowers. The first was cut and brought indoors to appreciate the rich velvety maroon color and unique aroma. The first good news is that the cut flower lasted over a week.

The plant has a few more blooms now, but by no means are they numerous. It is very tipsy since it lacks strong upright stems. The blooms are about 1-inch (2 cm) across, and the plant is about 10-inches (25 cm) high. A friend of a friend gave up trying to grow this plant in the area after lousy results. I don't know what her problems were, but I observe some yellow spots beginning to appear on leaves, similar to those common to roses and tomatoes in this area. Also, the 'bush' cucumbers are trying to crawl up the plant and need to be disciplined. Just to be safe, a move to a more protected location with more sun will be considered in the fall.

For The Record:
  • Medium soil
  • Mostly full sun, some shade
  • No fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, zinnia, nicotiana, nasturtium, cleome, sunflower
  • Harvested first tomatoes, cucumbers

19 July 2009

Seven Cleome Surprises

This year, more plants new to the backyard gardener have been planted than any past year. The first to make a blog post is the Cleome (Cleome hassleriana), also called spider flower or grandfather's whiskers. The lavender cleome from the Sparkler series was selected from the Park Seed catalog because of its lavender color and dwarf height. The front display garden is small, and does not need any freakishly tall plants hulking over everything. Also, subtle colors were needed in the summer to soften the cannas and sunflowers shouting for attention.

The seeds were started and began growing in April - tiny, tiny seeds. After a painfully slow start, four plants eventually survived the poor germination and poor care and were hardened off and planted in the garden in June. They proceeded to do nothing after a month of constant nursing. Suddenly at the end of June, they began to grow, real fast.

Never having grown cleome before, this plant was full of surprises. If you haven't grown these, here are some facts you will not find in the garden catalogs:
  • First, the 'Sparkler' plants are growing into bushes with several side stalks producing their own side stalks. They were apparently planted too close together - about 12-inches (30 cm) and are muscling in on the poor nearby zinnias and calendula.
  • Second, dwarf with this plant means 4-feet (1.2 m) high. However, it's a good height for where they were planted.
  • Third, where did the thorns come from? No catalog mentioned thorns.
  • Fourth, the leaves stink.
  • Fifth, the blossoms are somewhat light sensitive, and open fully at dusk until morning.
  • Sixth, the lavender color seems pink, although lavender looks more true in these photos than the plants actually are
  • Last, they look great, and will be back next year. Do these come back from seed true to their original?

For The Record:
  • Good, well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of organic fertilizer at transplant time
  • Unique flower form and number gets ooo's & aah's

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, coneflower, zinnia, nasturtium, loosestrife,
    cleome, snapdragon, hostas
  • Harvested: Broccoli
  • Progress: Tomatoes and peppers fruit reach full size

15 July 2009

July 2009 Bloom Day

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

Green Nicotiana Echinacea purpurea (coneflower)

Cosmos sulphureus Physostgia virginiana (obedient plant)

Tropaeolum majus (nasturtium)
Cleome hassleriana

14 July 2009

Let Us Lettuce

During the spring plant swap brunch, I picked up a paint cap full of lettuce seedlings no bigger than thumb tacks. (Paint caps were not included in my list of possible seed starting pots [14.3.2009] earlier this year.) They stayed in the paint cap doing nothing for a week until I planted them at the beginning of May. Lazy indecision on where to plant them, the reason for the delay.

After careful consideration (actually desperation,) they settled down in the front flower bed in an area that the cannas would eventually grow into after lettuce was harvested. Onions and basil were planted among the sun-loving perennials here last year and did well. Why not consider onions and lettuce acceptable as ornamentals?

They languished in the flower bed for about a month through an unusually cool, rainy spring, perfect for lettuce so I thought. But they were buried in dirt splashes after every rain. In June the plants took off. It must be pointed out that this spring has been different in the Washington area, with plenty of below-average temperatures and low humidity.

The variety is not known, but the gardener who started the seedlings referred to it as head lettuce. It is not producing heads, and the largest plant appears ready to launch a seed stalk. The lettuce taste is quite strong in the large leaves, and contrary to the photo, the color is very dark green once it is washed and in a salad bowl. The success at growing lettuce in the front yard will encourage more of the same come fall and spring next year.

For The Record:
  • Well drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Organic slow-release fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nicotiana, cosmos, cleome, hostas, phlox, liatris
    alyssum, nasturtium, coneflower, obedient plant
  • Harvested: lettuce, broccoli
  • Progress: tomatoes full size, peppers 1.5"

06 July 2009


After waiting a few years for something to happen, several ornamental plants have mushroomed into large showy displays this year. Now in its third year, the gooseneck loostrife (Lysimachia clethroides) [22.6.2008] have spread into a tough, formidable, low-growing bush. Two years of tender loving care and manure/humus have encouraged it to begin its notorious spreading. For the first time, I have been pulling up rhizomes in the spring.

The concrete hostas [10.8.2008] growing in full sun have flower stalks that rivaled the bearded iris. Such a mass of blooms from my deck looks like a solid lavender cluster. The same plants in the shade are less conspicuous, not as large, and do not get their leaves crisped.

The coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) [10.6.2007] have now grown into a firm bush. Goldfinches no longer need to balance on the tops, swaying under their weight. The number of stalks support each other. They are the highest - standing tall in the front garden.

After three years, the obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) [1.8.2008] has decided to produce clusters of flowers on branching flower stalks instead of flowers along one solitary stalk. This feat allows the flowers to bloom for a longer period of time, and gives a thicker display of blooms.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Cosmos, obedient plant, hostas, nicotiana, loosestrife,
    coneflowers, daylillies, cleome, liatris, phlox
  • Harvested: broccoli, lettuce
  • Progress: tomatoes 1"; peppers 0.5"

24 June 2009

Prickly Survivor

I don't remember how it got there, but there is a low growing prickly cactus in my parent's yard outside Binghamton New York. Every summer it blossoms in yellow flowers, then takes the rest of the season to grow new sections. It survives the New York winters, nestled in its small micro climate along the south facing side of the house.

Last year, I received a few sections of the cactus, thinking they would be great for the new south-facing side yard garden where the platforms to the deck are now built. The plan is to create a small garden of succulents and cacti in a small micro climate, and maybe try some zone 7b and 8 plants (hey, with global warming and all...) This would be the charter member to join the yucca and agave already on the wish list.

With fall chores in the garden turning into indoor chores for the holidays, the cactus remained in its soil-less pot outside during most of the winter - no roots, collecting water and snow, freezing, thawing, and in a 'droopy deflated' appearance. In February, it was finally planted with little expectations.

This month, after settling into its new home, it is sending out lots of new growth along with three blossoms. It would be good to find out the name or variety of this cactus. I did see many similar types on my Grand Canyon hike four years ago, surviving the winters in the high desert, and growing along side some similar magenta-flowering types. If I can only find some of those to keep my yellow one company, the cactus garden will be off to a great start.

For The Record:
  • No fertilizer
  • Full sun
  • Somewhat heavy soil on a slope that drains

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: salvia, corepsis, some hostas, alyssum, coneflowers, asian lilies,
     loosetrife, daylilies, white nicotiana
  • Harvested: 1 broccoli head

07 June 2009

Tale of Two Yards

Starting last fall, a tale of two lawns developed - the front yard and the back yard. The front lawn was relatively attractive, with some patches of coarse 'cowgrass', and a constant battle with crabgrass every summer. The rear yard had its overabundance of exploding bittercress, and some bare areas beneath the star magnolia due to heavy shade and lots of roots.

With the completion of the new cedar deck and an elimination of many overgrown photinia, fall was time to start the rehab of the rear yard. A soaking with Roundup was made to kill off the grass and weeds. After two weeks, I was left with amber waves of grain punctuated with healthy green garlic and weed clusters. The grass died but nothing else. A stronger application of Roundup finally accomplished the goal.

Next, a rototiller was borrowed and work began. They look so easy to use in the tv commercials, slicing through all that soft rich moist soil. After two weeks of clay soil and a third of the yard tilled, I realized the truth about rototillers. Additional work was going to be needed to smooth and refine the soil for my grass seed. The cavalry was called in.

A landscaping company shaved off the skin of dead lawn in the rear yard. I dug up the remaining garlic clumps. I spread manure-humus, gypsum, lime, and peat and planted the seed. I bought rolls of degradable woven grass starter mats to protect the seed planted, to keep it moist and to discourage weed germination. Another idea gone bad. They blew around like billowing sails every time the wind blew, which only happened when it was raining. Chasing these around the yard in the rain was not my idea of starting a new lawn. After stomping on the new seed to retrieve and reposition the starter mats, the seed germinated and winter set in. However, I am pleased with the results thus far even if there are lots of bare spots to fill in, and lots of weed seeds beginning along with the grass. Soon, it will be time to begin edging. It makes a great looking photo though, if taken from the upper bedroom.

While the landscapers were shaving the rear yard, a spur of the moment decision was made to also tackle the front yard, so sod was ordered. The sod was laid after the old lawn was shaved and rolled up. With virtually no work on my part since, the front lawn looks marvelous. That's it - no muss or fuss and no weeds. The front yard sod was affordable, being so much smaller than the back yard. Both were reduced in size from their former - the rear lawn is about 85% as large and will be smaller yet when edging around the perimeter beds is complete; the front about 95%.

For The Record:
  • Organic fertilizer (Milorganite) and manure-humus in spring

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: poppies, salvia, corepsis, some hostas, alyssum

25 May 2009

The Dead Zone

I call it the garden's dead zone: the time in the seasonal calendar between spring and summer when there is little in the garden blooming. Last year in an attempt to add some interest to the garden at this time, a new salvia was planted that I saw blooming around a nearby 7-Eleven store. A trip to a local nursery produced a purple salvia (salvia nemorosa) called May Night. This one was awarded the "1997 Perennial Plant Of The Year" by the Perennial Plant Association.

The blossom color is a very intense violet blue. I do not appreciate the smell when the leaves are brushed against. The first surprise was that the plant produced a seedling from last year's seeds, even after growing in dry conditions, and after a winter that killed my crocosmia and oregano. The offspring is now blooming, too. The second surprise is that it grew a healthy amount of blooms this spring, only its second year.

For The Record:
  • Medium soil, somewhat dry conditions
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Mountain laurel, salvia, geranium, coreopsis, astilbe
  • Cleome, snapdragon, castor seedlings planted

15 May 2009

So That's What They Look Like

Last summer, my landscape architect friends gave me some bearded iris (Iris germanica) that I planted in the rear yard. They could not tell me what color or size they were. The leaves were somewhat narrow, so I believed they were a small size flower. The iris took to their new home well, and this spring came up with a large wide bearded iris leaves and several flower stalks.

After searching online iris descriptions, I found a match - these were Invitation. I shared my discovery with the friends, who informed my that they were happy to have given them away - bi color iris are not their favorites.

The Invitation iris are tall and have the largest blossom heads of any iris in the yard. Consequently, they fell over after the slightest rain, and needed to be placed on crutches. They also multiplied very easily after planting last summer, so dividing will probably be needed this year. I believe our fall plant swap already has some material.

For The Record:
  • Dry clay soil
  • Full sun
  • Bone meal fertilizer in the fall with gypsum for the clay soil

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: allium, purple salvia, dutch iris
  • Tomato seedlings planted, nasturtium seeds planted

08 May 2009

Plant Swap Brunch

Four years ago, in an effort to promote gardening in the community, I began a Garden Club forum on our community association web site discussion board. Its purpose was to exchange ideas and information, and to possibly have tours of members' gardens during the year. Membership was simple - sign up for that group on the discussion board.

Several neighbors signed up, but participation was far below expectations. So, I tried another way to get gardeners together. A one-day neighborhood plant swap was set up in the spring. To entice more participants, it was organized as a plant swap brunch, with neighbors bringing something to share in the food department, too. There was a good turnout, so we organized a Fall Plant Swap Brunch in November, too.

I received my "Lets Boogie" iris and two no-name hostas in previous years. A few other gifts didn't turn out - angel trumpet ballerina seeds, lily, nandina.

Saturday was our third annual Spring Plant Swap Brunch. For about an hour, neighbors meet inside the community center to snack, gossip, thumb through plant catalogs, and sometimes talk about gardening. This year I picked up St. Johns Wort ground cover, lettuce seedlings, nandina (again), scented geraniums, and coreopsis. I donated Red Karma pepper seedlings, obedient plant, New England asters, purple basil, canna, as well as seeds for red cosmos and castor bean plants.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Bridal wreath spirea, azaleas, allium, purple salvia, bearded iris, dutch iris
  • Planted onion, amaranthus, pepper seedlings
  • Planted lettuce seedlings from plant swap
  • Lifted emperor, apeldoorn tulip bulbs