30 December 2016

The Great White

The garden slugs of spring ate most of my multicolored carrots this year before I could. Most of the packet of orange, yellow, white, and purple carrot seeds were planted and the seedlings scarfed up by the garden beasties by late spring. I planted the remaining seeds and provided some protection. They were also mixed in with the 3-year old Nantes carrot seeds. Everything went into the ground in hopes of a fall crop.

Carrots were lifted before Thanksgiving and then again before Christmas to enjoy for dinners. Most ended up being orange, no purples, and a few whites. The whopper pictured here was taken out in early November.

This began taking over the small vegetable plot, growing almost 3-feet high (1 m) and flowering like Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota). I actually thought it was just that but was afraid to eat it, knowing that the look-alike Poison Hemlock is, well, poisonous. But I have had neither Queen Anne nor Poison Hemlock in the vegetable garden in 30 years.

The flavor was a bit spicy, having a peppery kick to it and not like carrots we are used to. I put this one into a Minestrone soup, and found it not to my liking.

There was only one other white carrot out of the bunch that was eventually harvested. It was not a carrot-zilla and did not flower. I diced it up for a beef stew where its wacky flavor could add to the recipe and could be drowned out a bit.

20 November 2016

Midget Marigold Mystery Solved

I often grow the dwarf French marigolds as infill border plants never growing more than 8 inches tall (20 cm). One of my favorites is "Tiger Eyes" with the red bottom petals and orange-yellow pom poms. But near the end of each growing season, the red color and the orange tint goes away. The blooms become uniformly yellow.

I thought it might be the cooler weather affecting the coloring as it does some plants. Or, it might be the shorter day length that was causing the change, much like a poinsettia depends on longer nights for its red blooms. I discovered the reason my marigold change color this year by accident.

It is neither the day length nor the temperature that causes the loss of red. The plant simply gets tired. This marigold seed blooms true to its parent. As summer progresses I deadhead the spent blooms, leaving them around the ground near the plant. Some of the seed heads sprouted and grew new plants. Since we had a long growing season this year, getting our first killing frost only last week, these volunteer spouts had enough time to bloom.

The blooms were as colorful as a day in spring, despite the cooler fall temperatures and the shorter days. While the older plants nearby were haggard and blooming uniformly yellow, the new plants were red, robust, and orange-yellow as they were planted in spring. This tells me that as the plant gets old, its bloom colors simply change, like we do.

There is nothing I can do other than to sow successive plantings throughout the summer, something that is not going to happen. We will accept the change as a natural pattern.

15 November 2016

Springing From The Compost

In mid summer, a few vines emerged at the base of the side garden tomato plants. The new plants looked like late sprouts of the zucchini seeds I planted but lost track of when they did not germinate. The seedlings were no problem since one can never have too much zucchini with the evil squash vine borer lurking.

I let these grow, and about a month later realized that they were not zucchini. The two looked more like watermelon or cantaloupe vines. As the season turned to fall, a few fuzzy green balls appeared, about the size of baseballs. The wrinkled netting on the surface identified them as cantaloupe. Strangely, the netting surface covered only one half of the small fruit.

Last month near Halloween, the tops began to show signs of rot, so the fruit was picked and cut open. Each looked like a cantaloupe inside with a saturated orange flesh. It tasted like one too, but unfortunately not as sweet as the store bought.

Some seeds from the compost that I used around the tomato plants sprouted, and the compost did have cantaloupe. I have had tomato seeds sprout from compost, but never cantaloupe. The plants were most likely some parent of a hybrid bred for the stores.

22 October 2016

Into The Pot

Today was cold and windy -- more normal for autumn than the summer weather we enjoyed during the week. This was a perfect day for staying indoors and cooking, and minestrone soup was on the menu. Out of the freezer and into the pot went a bag of green string beans from my summer garden.

After harvesting green beans, they were washed and sent whole into the freezer. It was an experiment to determine if they could be successfully frozen and later used as an ingredient in soups. For today's minestrone, a bag of beans was steamed to thaw it but beans were not cooked. They kept their shape after being cut, and best of all, they were tasty -- great as a soup ingredient.

The carrots for the soup were pulled from the garden a few minutes before going into the pot. Carrots never grew well in my clay soil despite testing several types. Sand added to the soil didn't seem to help. Organic material eventually did (along with the previously added sand) and as long as carrots are planted in that same hospitable spot each year, they do well. I think the carrot shape represents the growing season like rings in a tree -- wet and pleasant at the spring, dry, wet and normal, hot, then recently unusually warm. Remaining carrots stay in the ground until they are used.

As noted in the previous post, they were diced, blanched in boiling water for up to two minutes, cooled in ice water, then frozen. They appear to have lost their firmness going into the freezer, but they may be fine as a soup ingredient.

10 October 2016

Baseball Bats for the Playoffs

Baseball season starts as our Washington Nationals try to avoid being eliminated in the first round for a third time. This year, I offer late baseball bats in the form of zucchini, or vice versa, at the same time the series begin.

To avoid the dreaded squash vine borer this year, seeds were planted around the Fourth of July, believing there was a good chance to miss the egg-laying time of the pests. Most of the plants turned out good, but one got bit. I cut the plant off from the infected stem and planted it by mounding soil and keeping it moist. Happily, it worked, and the plant set roots and continued to grow.

The zucchini was late however. As usual, the fruit would set on a Monday, and by picking time on Friday, I had zucchini-sauras. For that minestrone soup-making in cold winters, I read that freezing zucchini is possible. To keep it from from turning into a mush in my freezer, I need to first cut into its final sizes and shapes, and blanch before freezing.

For The Record:
  • Average moist soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Squash vine borer summer, and powdery mildew in fall

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, zinnia, marigold, acidantra
  • Harvested: 2 zucchini, 1 pepper, 2 cukes

30 September 2016

Google Deleted My Favorite Blogs

Apologies to anyone who was used to seeing their blog on my sidebar to the right. Google (who else?) deleted them sometime in the last two weeks. I don't know if it was an accident or if Google updated something and they disappeared in the update. Some of the sidebar lists remain, but the first four lists of the blogs I read are now gone. Maybe it is now time to switch to Wordpress?

9 October 2016
The lists magically came back this week. I am glad I do not need to rebuild them.

11 September 2016

Red Eyes This Year

I am finding it more difficult to write for my blog. There is a backlog of photos sitting on my computer waiting to be posted once the stories are written. Another online gardening project is taking my time - our Master Gardener web site. I am webmaster for this new project (we see as a new service to the community) that launched last May 2015. It is updated every month, and in addition to producing the layout, graphics, etc. I occasionally dabble with a little writing.

But this post is about the red eyes. Last year, I wrote about the rudbeckia Irish Eyes [posted 2015.06.01] with the green centers that did not stay green as time went on. I also wrote that the eyes did not glow red, but that statement was made too soon.

The Irish Eyes reseeded themselves and this spring, I expected to be singing 'Oh Danny Boy' in a field of Irish babies. Instead I got Rosemary's Babies. A few of the blooms did have green eyes, but most of the eyes were curiously red. These were not a fiery chili pepper red, but more like a Carol Burnett red.

Apparently Irish Eyes, a cultivar like many of the green-eyed rudbeckia, had this unusual red-centered rudbeckia as a parent. The centers are more of a round iridescent red globe that gradually goes black as the bloom matures and the center opens.

A few of the new plants sported some darker rings on the petals near the centers, and thinner petals. I still like the variety produced, and hope they come back in future years as these have done - with red, green, and black eyes.

For The Record:
  • Average soil with organic amendments over time
  • Full sun
  • Little fertilizer
  • Decent drainage
  • A few mites in the spring, otherwise pest free

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, cosmos, rudbeckia, marigold, zinnia, datura
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 zucchini, 3 tomatoes (it been a bad year for them), numerous peperoncinis

15 August 2016

August 2016 Bloom Day

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

Not missing in action, but just missing these past few months. I will write more about that in future weeks. After 101 degrees (38 degrees C) yesterday and not much rain, the garden is not looking as tended as it should.

The chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) is blooming the first year I planted it from seed. Note to self: do not plant sweet basil around the chocolate flower again. Chocolate and basil do not mix.

For good scents, two moonflowers (datura) were planted along the front walk from the driveway. That makes four with the two that volunteered from last year's plant. They make a nice low hedge after they get growing. Just stay in bounds, please.

On the topic of hedges, let the cosmos form a hedge every year from last year's fallen seed. The red color and thick green foliage is hedge-like, but at this time of year my cosomos hedge begins its decline.

Speaking of reseeding, I let a few self-sowing cleome seedlings sprout in the spring, and rip out the rest as weeds. These were the fortunate ones. Oriole zinnias in the foreground, and green nicotiana in the back.

Daylilies are done for the year, but wait! Sandy of Sandy's Plants nursery was giving out free plants when she spoke to our Master Gardener group early spring. This unknown hemerocallis bloomed in June and (I thought) was done for the season like the others. It is popping out again in the heat of August. What a trooper.

Dwarf sunflowers one one of my specialties. This knee-high cultivar is one of the leftover seeds from last year.

As an experiment this year, I saved seed from the the dwarfs that bloomed last year. This variety is supposedly not hybridized. Well, the blooms look the same, but they are about 12-24 inches higher (30-60 cm) than last year's. Can't take a sunflower photo withour a bee getting in.

For other garden bloggers bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens

09 July 2016

A Tale of Two Poppies

Pink Bombast Rose double-flowered peony poppies are very prolific. Every year these annual opium poppies come back, with some seeds sprouting in new locations: across the garden, across the sidewalk (across the universe?) This is important later in the story.

They do not like the 'instant hot' of our Virginia spring weather. Saving these seeds is a must for all the gardening friends that crave something different, beautiful, and easy. Seeds originally came from Johnson City, NY, growing in our back yard when our family moved while I was in the second grade. They survive zone 5 winters there and heartily return each year.

Lavender Lauren's Grape poppy seeds were picked up about four years ago at the annual local seed exchange i attend. I had seen them growing here and there, and thought they would be a great companion to the Bombast Rose. Lauren's Grape looks like a normal poppy with its single flower, central seed pod ringed by stamens, and dark band. They look like the perennial red poppies that I easily kill.

I noticed that both poppies are named papaver somniferum. The somniferum part is Latin for "sleep-inducing," named no doubt due to the opium. The pinks are kept in the front garden north, and the grapes were first sown in the side yard. The grapes did not do well on the north side of a fence and in soil that was (is) still-improving. Saved seeds were sown in the front garden south the following year.

The grapes bloom before the pinks, but there is a some overlap in bloom time. So, then along came this tiny little bee -- I had never seen bees on the poppies until then. Across the sidewalk from the pink bed, a magenta poppy appeared last spring; neither lavender nor pink, neither double-flowered nor single. Could this be the result of the matchmaker cupid bee? For 25 years here, the pink poppies have remained faithful, but now?

This year, a magenta, half-double-flowered poppy reappeared in the same place -- where I do not plant poppies. I saved the star-crossed, illegitimate seeds for next year.

For The Record:
  • Rich soil with good drainage
  • Full sun
  • Little or no fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Poor showing in hot weather

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, rudbeckia, echinacea, datura, marigold, zinnia, late daylily, daisy, cleome
  • Harvested: several onions, green beans

27 June 2016

Getting Stoked

These beauties started out as seeds. They were picked up at the annual seed exchange in February 2015. I had heard of Stokesia (Stokesia laevis) before, but only vaguely remembered that it was a perennial, and that I would not mind having it.

Seeds were started last spring, and then seedlings went into the garden. I picked out a nice spot that was full of sun and good soil. The good soil part is a relative term -- relative to the soil around the property.

They grew beautiful full leaves and no flowers. This year, they sprung to life. Excitement built as the first buds started to emerge a few months ago. Then more excitement as stems branched out with even more buds. Were they blue? Were they pink? Where they bi-color? Who knew? Maybe they were not stokesia. After all, I have picked up bulbs labeled 'dwarf orange gladiolus' to find they were purple upon blooming. And, I planted a few things that never germinated, like Scabiosa, the same year.

The photos show the show at the beginning. This proud dad of a new perennial was very happy. They make good indoor cut flowers -- until all those strand-like petals decide to drop off. They close up at night and only fully open in direct sun. Clouds also tend to close them a little.

The 2-inch (5 cm), larger-than-expected flowers are a blueish purple that fade lighter as they age. The biggest issue I have is that they flopped over. The five plants relied upon each other to prop themselves up, but with a little wind, they now all fell over.

Stokesia or Stokes Aster, is a member of the daisy / aster family, and is native to the southeastern United States. There! I planted another native without knowing it was a native. It prefers wet or soggy areas, and is evergreen in some southern areas, but likes heat, and thus is considered drought tolerant. It was named after English botanist Jonathan Stokes. Shouldn't we have native plants named after native Americans?

For The Record:
  • Well-drained loose fertile soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer in autumn
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Tends to fall over upon blooming

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, phlox, rudbeckia, echinacea, liatris, marigold, Russian sage, daylilies
  • Harvested: cilantro, dill, onions

11 June 2016

Rocky Mountain Blue

The penstemon is finally coming around this spring, although not as much as I would like. Penstemon Rocky Mountain (Penstemon strictus), emphatically came out with an intense blue flower stalk on one of the plants in early May.

My penstemon, native to poor western soils, was started from seed obtained at last year's seed exchange. A few seeds produced five healthy seedlings. They were planted last spring in the front near the house where sun is plentiful, and near the driveway pavement where soil is warm in summer and consequently dries out fast. Perfect for them, I thought.

One solitary stalk from one plant shot out of the central plant, producing this cluster of blue blooms. Several protrusions on the other four plants looked like they would join the party, but they were just teasing me. Nothing materialized from them. But, oh! that one with its color.

Reading up a bit more, I learned that fertilizing is unnecessary and just produces leaves. Their location has good soil; maybe too good. I don't recall fertilizing them, but did not give them a poor gravel soil, either. One more summer, and I anticipate some excitement next year. I wonder if Rocky Mountain penstemon would make a good addition to my hell strip?

For The Record:
  • Mulched soil with no amendments or fertilizer
  • Full sun
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: poppies, rudbeckia, stokesia, nicotiana, phlox, hostas, daylilies, coreopsis, lavender
  • Harvested: peas, cilantro,

30 May 2016

White-Tailed Radish

My inability to grow the simplest 30-day vegetable that school children can is legendary. Every year I look forward to radishes with a sweet crunch and a little kick, and ever year I am blessed with lots of leaves and no radishes.

This year, I dumped a whole bunch of seeds of three types into the front cottage garden. Even with the wet, cool May, there are still lots of plants, but very few radishes. The white daikons produced nothing but long thin roots. The Cherry Belles were not ringing. But I got something out or this batch of seeds.

These were French Breakfast -- an heirloom. Radishes for breakfast? Really? These will go into a pasta salad.

For The Record:
  • Light well-drained soil with a few organic amendments
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer
  • A few bugs nibbling at the leaves - probably flea beetles

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: phlox, coreopsis, geranium, merigold, tradescantia

24 May 2016

How Green My Garden

Very green, with a record 16 days straight of measurable rainfall in May. Cool temperatures, too. You'd think I woke up in the Pacific northwest! I often write about how dead the garden is at this time of year, and the paucity of blooms for May Bloom Day proves it. Even some readers posted comments suggesting I could do better in May -- especially gardening in Virginia.

But spring bulbs and blooms are gone, and the perennials lie in wait. The front cottage garden has never looked so ... green. Everyone is having a grand old time except the peppers.

It is interesting that with a month of more-than-ample rainfall and cool temperatures, annual poppies have taken over. Never before have they invaded my cottage garden, the sidewalk garden, the front bed, the side garden. They are even sprouting up in the cracks of the driveway and sidewalk.

The front cottage garden gets ready. Buds on the liatris, echinacea, and daylily. Look carefully to also see the dying hyacinth leaves, garlic, walking onions, radishes, volunteer dill, pepperoncini, rudbeckia, physostegia, nicotiana, aster, beginning cleome, poppies, and daffodil leaves. One exceptional spot of color is provided by the 'Tiger Eyes' marigold started from seed. What little grass I have needs mowing.

The sloping side garden provided the color on Bloom Day: a few iris, geranium, and coreopsis remain. Phlox is getting ready to burst, and waiting are solidago, daylily, stokesia, russian sage, penstemon, lychnis, more poppies, lily, more rudbeckia, kniphophia, peony, monadra, onions, eschscholzia, opuntia, and echinops.

The backyard has seen the magnolia, dogwood, virbirnum, ajuga, polygonatum, camassia, rhododendron, and azalea all come and go. Waiting are seven hostas, astilbe, hypericum, hydrangea, buddleia, daylily, and native lysimachia. The Autumn fern has begun new shoots to replace the ones flattened this winter. Oh wait! Is that tradescantia starting to flower? Did I mention the grass needs mowing?

Just wait until June's Bloom Day.

15 May 2016

May 2016 Bloom Day

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

Not much happening this May, so there are only a few photos this month. Instead of photographing the garden, I will be spending time looking through the other blogs. Most of these plants have been featured here before, but there is one new iris.
I helped organize and run a plant swap this spring for our county master gardener group. This bearded iris was picked up there. No name to it, but that doesn't matter. The color is really spectacular -- almost black and darker than the colors my camera picked up.

This is iris germanica 'Clarence' who is actually fragrant, and reblooming.

This is kalmia latifolia 'Sarah.' It is one of the darkest colored mountain laurels with red buds and deep pink blooms.

Geranium sanguineum is an unknown, obtained from a local neighborhood plant swap years ago, and a darn good ground cover. It resembles a magenta version of the popular 'Rozanne.'

Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’ -- another pickup from a neighborhood plant swap.

Check out other garden bloggers bloom day photos on our host's at blog May Dreams Gardens.

29 April 2016

Leap Year

The woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) was purchased at the annual spring garden sale at the local botanical garden, Green Spring. I do like to grow natives and feel a bit of guilt because I do not exclusively limit my garden to them. This one was sold in the native plant vendor section. It did not have much of a label, except for "Woodland Phlox".

My newfound native came with a small cluster of flowers on a thin but upright stalk. It was planted in a lightly shaded bed with shade compatriots tradescantia, hosta, and astilbe and hydrangea, in the forefront front of them all. The internet says to expect a height of 12-inches (30 cm). The plant stopped blooming in summer and did not do anything for the rest of the year. Early morning sun bathed the area, but for most of the day it received dappled shade under an ever increasing neighbor's maple tree to the south.

Last year, it started to spread. There was an upright section that produced clusters of spring blooms, and a horizontal section that spread out flat to the ground. But it did have several flower stalks clustered together, indicating that it was growing.

It survived that nasty winter. Natives can survive beasts and weather in the wild, but sometimes do not survive me.

All those horizontal sections running along the surface of the ground last year produced dozens of flower stalks this year. The result is a mound of light blue, slightly fragrant flower clusters. If memory serves me, I was able to enjoy these flowers for over a month.

This wildflower phlox is native to woodlands of the eastern United States, north from Quebec, south to Texas. Yes, I know Quebec is Canada. Woodland phlox likes moist, fertile, loose soil. I have one out of three with my Virginia clay -- moist clay.

Common cultivars are 'Blue Moon' most resembling my plant, and 'Clouds of Perfume.' The flowers have nectar in the base of the long tubes, so insects need long tongues to get to it. Butterflies and hummingbirds are supposed like them best. I like them second best. They bloom at a place in the yard where hydrangea, hosta, and astilbe are still getting ready for their show to come later.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with mulch and organic amendments
  • Mostly shade
  • Very little fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: azalea, viburnum, dutch iris, coreopsis

15 April 2016

April 2016 Bloom Day

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

Leave the office early on a sunny Friday afternoon. Rush home to beat the rush hour traffic. Test out the new nuclear powered camera for the first time on the blog. See what's in the zone 7a garden.

I still have the simple rustic Canon Elph that I used for nine years -- for all blog photos up to now -- except for a few iPad and iPhone photos. But the new Canon T5i, well, there are as many settings as the space shuttle. Let's try figuring this contraption out to get closer than the old camera did. One photo was taken with a lens attachment that did not produce a clear image. Put that attachment in the closet or sell it.

My, I have a lot of white photos. I just realized that after looking at what I shot this afternoon. But the white is not all in one place except on my blog. The sun is setting, on another Bloom Day.

Maybe a new camera will help me take photos like A Tidewater Gardener, you think? Nah, no way.

Cornus florida

Azalea 'Snow'

Spirea prunifolia (Bridal Wreath)

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Shasta'
Looking better now -- years after I severely pruned it and almost lost it

Pieris japonica cultivar

Phlox divaricata -- this is its third year and its leaping!

Tulip 'Princess Irene' not looking good in its second year

Narcissus poeticus -- the late fragrant daffodil even the ant appreciates

For other garden bloggers bloom day photos, check out our host at blog May Dreams Gardens.

19 March 2016

Winter Walk-Off

This year, I stayed in Old Town Alexandria again where my office is located. There are more interesting things to photo. I took most of my walk on the south side of our main street -- King Street. The streets through the town center are named after royalty: King, Queen, Princess, Duke, and Prince Streets. Oddly, there is no Duchess Street.

Mostly historic architecture is included this year (taking a cue from our walk-off host), on what was the more affluent side of town, where homes are brick (instead of wood), and are three stories (instead of two). All photos were taken with my cellphone -- a first (and a test) for this blog.

To be well read, visit this local dress shop before your next dinner party.

Stabler Leadbeater Apothecary Shop is now a museum, but provided compounds and cures for years -- like to George Washington. Love the unique curved glass in the windows. On a tour, I remember seeing containers labeled "Dragon's Blood" and "Hound's Tooth." (I could not find eye of newt or wing of bat.) A curator mentioned that some compounds were unknown or labeled with strange names, and that no one today knows what they are, where they came from, or what they were used for. This 'drug' company operated until the 1900s when the newly formed FDA began requiring disclosure and regulation of ingredients in pharmaceuticals (and proof that they were effective.)

Someone lost his head outside an antique store (in the hell strip).

Fire fighting was very important in an urban early America. Fire fighting companies were private and in competition. The one-bay station house to the left of the main fire station was home to the "Relief Fire Company." This was one of several fire companies in town.

This plaque tells the story ... of a building across from the firehouse. The building is in the left-center of the photo below.

Two blocks away, another firehouse, the Friendship Firehouse is now a museum.

This was building was entrance to (what else) the Elks Club, and is now full of condos.

Fawcett-Reeder House, privately owned, with the rural-like setting, might have been built before the more urban townhomes in town. (Can't get the blasted street signs or cars out of the photos.)

And here is another spite house. The most famous one in town was profiled in a previous year's walk-off. Look for the door to the basement ice chamber.

Examples of the wealthy homes built in the 1800s. Most are in an Italianate style -- fitting the more conservative residents.

This is one of my favorites -- but the owners were probably outcasts and snubbed for building such a highly decorative, flamboyant house - a MacMansion of the time.

Gentry Row is a block of townhomes built by wealthy merchants. Brick paving in the street is cool.

Captain's Row is a block with many homes built by wealthy sea captains. This street, a bit older, is paved with cobblestones.

This museum is a stunner. It was originally a bank, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the end of Gentry Row -- before zoning regulations.

Stinky, dirty, smelly warehouses were found down near the river near the docks and wharfs.

They are now full of restaurants and shops.

A newer building near the river marks the water elevation. The river is at sea level, and does flood. When severe, water comes up into the lower streets and buildings. In recent years, this happens more frequently.
2015 Walk-Off
2014 Walk-Off
2013 Walk-Off

Hope you enjoyed your history lesson and tourist promo. Visit other winter walk-offs with Les at A Tidewater Gardener.