26 June 2011


Onions and radishes are two vegetables that I cannot grow well, (except for one year.) School kids can grow radishes, but I can't. Every year I try and every year the result is a row of plants with red roots but no radishes.

This year's onion crop was ready for harvesting this weekend, when the onion tops stopped growing and wilted over. The largest "none-nion" was the size of a quarter (2 cm).

Several years of purchasing onion sets and planting in different conditions around the yard gave the same paltry results. Two years ago I bought some red onion plants at a local high school booster club spring plant sale. I grew in with the front flower garden and produced respectable onions, so I tried planting red onions from seed last year. I bought Red Burgundy, an heirloom onion that is a short day (100 days) variety suitable for southern states. They were planted in the same successful spot, but the largest onion was a ping-pong ball size (3 cm). Most were marbles.

This year, I started the seeds earlier, and planted earlier, thinking the hot weather previously did them in. They matured earlier and were smaller. It was suggested that I try direct sowing onion seeds in the fall, so I will try something new. How do the farmers at the farmers market do it?

I am about to give up on "30-day" radishes, or give seeds to the local school children to grow for me.

For The Record:
  • Rich soil amended with humus and peat
  • Full sun
  • Organic slow-release fertilizer
  • No pests or diseases

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, rudbeckia, small poppy, liatris, cleome, cosmos, geranium, nicotiana, calendula, echinachea,
    daylily, salvia, daisy, spiderwort, loosestrife, bachelor buttons
  • Harvested: 14 onions, red leaf lettuce, red romain lettuce

22 June 2011

Looking Good From Behind

It was June 2010, and my first year as a master gardener-in-training. I received my invitation for seven members' garden tours, and decided to trip on down to a few located nearby.

I had considered opening up my own plot to the tour but feared the consequences. One day I pictured myself offering visitors glasses of lemonade, and pretentiously parading around the yard receiving accolades from my fellow gardeners for my accomplishments. On another, I was struggling to hold the interest of bored visitors wondering why they ever dropped in on a first-year gardener to view his mundane work-in-progress collection of plant swap misfits.

At the first garden visited, I was welcomed by an apologetic gentleman who explained that he had returned that week from a month long vacation in Florida, after signing up to host a tour several months prior. The property was very pleasant, but filled with numerous potted plants, some semi-neglected and others crying to be planted.

Surprisingly, he offered his visitors a free plant from a "needs a home" pile. The ladies visiting at the same time declined. I picked out a small budding unknown daylily (Hemerocallis) that was labeled "red." I was secretly hoping to hear, "take the ladies' allotment, too" but it didn't come. There is a certain pleasure in hoarding - a topic for another day.

The daylily bloomed in my front cottage garden as dull and dark maroon with a saturated yellow throat. It had smallish blossoms, about 3-4 inches across (10 cm). I found it unappealing and drowned out by my more colorful characters in the garden, but was too busy (lazy) to move it. This year I have come to appreciate its unique color and contrast. I call it the 'Redskins Lily' in honor of our team's burgundy and gold colors. Since it is now established, there are more blossoms and its bloom time does not coincide with the other clowns.

What I find interesting about this flower is that it actually looks great from behind. The yellow throat contrasts nicely with the dark maroon, especially since yellow is more visible from the back of the petals than from the front. Bloom time and context can make a dull dark daylily a winner.

For The Record:
  • Well-drained organic soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious problems

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink cosmos, liatris, coneflower, daylily, cosoms, nicotiana, daisy, cleome, marigold, spiderwort,
    hostas, rudbeckia
  • Harvested: lettuce, dill

16 June 2011

June 2011 Bloom Day

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

There is so much going on in the gardens, I needed an extra day to document it all, and ended up leaving some things out. The peony poppies are about pooped out while the yellow daylilies are coming on. A maroon daylily was handed out at a master gardener tour last year. Coneflowers are all over - purple, coconut lime, and a sundown series. Cleome is robust. Bachelor buttons are new for me this year and so are the yellow oriental lilies. Get a load of the production on the rudbeckia, nicotiana and cactus!

The Find other garden bloggers' bloom days at the blog May Dreams Gardens.

unknown poppy

unknown daylily

unknown daylily

unknown asiatic lily

Echinacea 'Sundown' Big Sky Series

unknown asiatic lily

Astilbe 'Radius' (Astilbe x arendsii)

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)

Cactus Opuntia

Echinacea 'Coconut Lime'

Bachelor Button (Centaurea cyanus )

Cleome (Cleome hassleriana )

Rudbeckia hirta

Nicotiana sylvestris

12 June 2011

Hydrangea Gratitude

Plants can evoke memories of a personal event or a person. A gift plant is permanent - marking an event or symbolizing thanks long after a gift basket is eaten or a floral arrangement has dried out. I have a few such plants in the yard and will write about others at a later time.

My miniature rose bush [28.5.2011] was one such thank you gift, and the Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) was another. This plant was given to me by an artist friend for helping her with a web site of her work. She heard me mention in passing that I was going to eventually get a hydrangea, because other friends previously promised a piece from their yard but never delivered.

The hydrangea came in a medium sized pot with extremely thick stems resembling tree trunks, but was otherwise healthy. It had been cut back severely in the past, probably because it was outgrowing its home. I was afraid the roots were too shackled to pull through the transplant, but it grew and bloomed for the past three years.

The friends that promised a piece of their plant keep warning me of the monsters these can become. I have been carefully watching it and strategically trimming in the fall. It still has more space to grow into.

It is a native to southeastern deciduous U.S. forests, and is at home in my partially shaded back yard. An added bonus from this plant is the ruby red leaves in the fall. The hydrangea is also available in white or light pink blossoms now, and also in double blossoms. The one I received came with no other name on its tag.

The 10-inch long (25 cm) ice cream cone flowers (as a neighbor's child calls them) were more numerous this year, but not as vibrant white. I attribute this to the dry weather. I am recovering from surgery last week and could not tend the gardens for a while. The plant wilted as blooms started. Water saved it, but the flowers still exhibit a brown tinge. I have read that it does not like heavy clay soil, but so far is happy and healthy in my partially-amended Virginia clay.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with mulch and organic amendments
  • Partial shade
  • No bother from pests or diseases

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: hydrangea, larkspur, geranium, nicotiana, orange daylily, marigold, cleome, coneflower, hosta,
     asian lily, salvia, poppy
  • Vegetables: tomato and Pepper blooming & setting fruit
  • Harvested: 1 onion, lettuce

04 June 2011

Not Your Grandma's Hollyhock

I remember visiting my grandmother while younger and seeing hollyhocks growing on the side of the house. Last year I thought these would make a nice vertical statement in my side yard garden. I imagined upright sentinels standing tall against the house and watching over the shorter garden inhabitants.

Most seed catalogs offered us hollyhocks with the double-flowered, powder puff, clown button blossoms. You can tell where I am going with this. I assumed these were the 'new and improved' varieties that other gardeners craved. I wanted the simple hollyhocks of yesteryear.

I settled on Malva in the catalog. After starting seeds, watching them grow and bloom, I included them in a Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post [15.8.2010]. There I lamented the small open petal blooms and held out hope that the following year would bring different results.

It's the following year, and they're back. Canes are not straight and tall, but are growing in a mangled twisted forsythia-like mess. (The photo was taken before they went wild.) The canes and flowers are numerous - not the tall orderly soldiers expected, but haphazard disheveled conscripts. It turns out I don't have hollyhocks - I have mallow or French hollyhocks - Malva sylvestris. Oops.

Stalks are 5 feet tall (1.5 m) if upright, but after starting out upright, most have become arched, bowed, and tortuous as they grew. Aphids love them. Leaf miners lover them. Mites love them. I do not. I am going to cut them down and see if they grow into a bush.

Give me the tall single flowered heirlooms for next year.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil
  • Hot south-facing full sun along the house
  • Mites, leaf miners, and aphids

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming:hydrangea, hosta, nicotiana, larkspur, rose, salvia, coneflower, cleome, geranium, daylily