Chinese Witch Hazel ‘Arnold Promise’ Blooming!

This Chinese witch hazel, ‘Arnold Promise,’ Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise,’ is so pretty in bloom on bleak and gray January days.  The flowers look to me like tiny yellow spiderwebs, or silky yellow streamers.  Most years, we get a prolonged cold snap in December and January, which is when this large deciduous shrub is setting its buds, and it tends to blast the buds before they flower.  It was much warmer so far this winter, and thus the nice bloom.

I have read that this is a hummingbird plant, but will need to check on that.  Also, the leaves of this plant in the autumn are absolutely a gorgeous spun yellow color.

In my garden, I underplanted ‘Arnold’ with early flowering bulbs and perennials including purple grape hyacinths, ‘Tete-A-Tete’ minature narcisus, purple and yellow crocus, and a clump of white candytuft, Iberis Sempervirens.  These bulbs and perennials are not yet in bloom, but by the looks of things will be soon.

Here is a picture of ‘Arnold’:

This is more of a close-up of the flowers, but look at how nicely it is set off by the color grey of not only the sky but also the stone wall behind it.  Always give your flower beds a good backdrop, and the look of them will improve tremendously!

Please leave a comment–do you grow ‘Arnold’ in your garden or other types of witch hazel, and if so, what types of companion plants do you grow with it?

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First Snowdrop Blooms

My snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are blooming outside!  The name of these tiny bulbs–Gala– refers to the appearance of the flower resembling a drop of milk.  They need to be planted in the fall where they will show up the best in your borders.  I like to place them near the fronts of walkways, because if it’s cold and I’m not spending a lot of time out in the garden, I will be walking into and out from the house on the walkways, so I will notice quite readily what is growing there. They also look great grouped around rocks placed artistically in the border, or used for edging the border.

Snowdrops bloom at approximately the same time as primroses and Jasminium nudifolium, Winter Jasmine, does in my garden, so a grouping of those three would make a nice winter vignette.  Slugs like them almost as much as I do, so an application of Sluggo on occasion may be in order.

You can pick some to display inside in a tiny vase.  I like to use tiny glass salt shakers with the shaker cap taken off for this purpose.  Place the vase on a square of mirror, because the flowers face downward, and the mirror will reflect their image, making it easier to see the intricate interior of these wonderful bulbs.

Please leave a comment–how have you used snowdrops in your garden or flower arrangements?

Perusing The Seed Catalogs

They have come in abundance–the early seed catalogs, filling my mind with possibilities for my upcoming gardening season.  There are several ways that I like to look through the catalogs:

1.  I like to look for my dependable favorite seeds, to make sure they are still available.

2.  I then like to look for new veggis that would count as a “short season” variety.  This is essentially what we have to work with over our fairly cool summers, so anything that is 30-56 or so days to maturity could be very successful here.

3.  Older catalogs I use with my scissors and tape on a piece of paper.  You can cut out the pictures of the plants you are planning on planting, and then make a rough outline of your garden beds, and tape the appropriate pictures to the designated beds where you want them to grow.  In this way, you can picture in advance what the beds will look like, and can make adjustments prior to doing the hard work of digging and planting.  This works well for both flowers and vegetable beds.

It’s supposed to get pretty rainy this weekend, so this would be a great activity for some armchair gardening!

Leave a comment, and let me know what seed varieties you’ll be planting this year!

An Update–Both Technical and Transitory

In the month of December I had a Trojan virus eat my computer.  A friend is trying to salvage my data, but it’s not looking good.  This is why there have been no updates to my regular website pages lately.

Hopefully, the technical difficulties will be over with soon.

Also:  what is up with this warm weather?  Is it March already?

Out With The Old, In With The New–Gardening Wrap-up

The first post of the new year!  I am excited to get gardening again.  And frankly, the weather is so warm I may just do that very soon.

I want to offer a few garden observations, and some actions that I will perform differently this year based on my gardening experiences of last year.

–It’s a tradition now that we head out to Portland Nursery around Valentine’s Day to purchase seeds.  They usually have a good selection at that time, and we stock up for the year.

–Potato starts must be purchased before May 1st–no one has them for sale after this date.

-Stats from last year:  –last killing frost in the spring:  March 12th (2008 it was Mar. 31st)

— first killing frost in the fall:  December 3rd (2008 it was Dec. 14th)

–reliably above 40 degrees at night:  May 13th (2008 it was May 1st)

— reliably above 50 degrees at night:  July 1st (2008 it was June 26th)

–reliably above 55 degrees at night:  never (2008 it was never)

–days of rain in June:  6 days (2008 it was 7 days)

— days of rain in July:  1 day (2008 it was 4 days)

— days of rain in August:  4 days (2008 it was 9 days)

I use this information to help me determine when to start which types of seeds, and also when I can safely plant seeds outside for germination, and for tender plants when I can expect them to have the temperatures they need to get the fruits to mature.

–Grafting of new fruit trees happens around the first weekend in March.

–I will start my canna lilies indoors under light during the month of March to plant out when it warms up later in the spring.

–Always wear eye protection when pruning.  I scratched one of my eyes last year being stupid and not wearing eye protection, and it hurt like crazy, so be smart.

–I start most of my seeds indoors by March 14th.  These include the tender summer plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

–I soaked sweet pea seeds overnight, then planted them outdoors in pots in a protected spot by March 22nd.  They bloomed great this year, and were flowering by June 12th.

–I started our first salad greens bed outside under plastic on March 21st, and we were eating salad by May 2nd.

–I put my garden hoses out by May 28th.

–Hanging baskets can be planted and put out most years by the middle of May.  This can vary if you have a protected spot for them or not.

–I plant my tomatoes out in June.  Some people plant them out way earlier and use Wall o-waters or other plastic covers for them.  I have used this method in the past, and in my opinion it’s a lot of work for not much in return in terms of getting ripe tomatoes quicker.  Tomatoes won’t ripen until it hits 55 degrees at night–they ripen at night, so take a look at my temperature records and draw your own conclusion as to when you should plant.  I prefer to use as little work as possible to get a reasonably good result–you might choose to do otherwise.  I then plant the peppers and eggplant out after the tomatoes, because it needs to be 60 degrees at night for these plants to produce mature fruit.  I only get good results by growing them under plastic, because it’s usually too cold here at night.  Cucumbers and pumpkins I plant out after the eggplant and peppers–it works much better to chit the seeds first, then plant them out.  Check out my earlier post from last spring on how to do this.

–Cukes:  I will plant fewer fresh eating cuke plants so that I can add more pickling cukes, so that I can preserve some.

–date of first ripe tomatoes:  August 9th (2008 it was August 11th)  The earliest I ever had them in a good   year was July 22nd.

–For my birthday I am asking for a compost screen.  This is a frame with metal screen in it, and you throw shovelfuls of compost at it, and what makes it through the screen are the very fine, finished compost particles that are perfect for starting seed beds outside.

–Diatomaceous earth is an organic method for killing flea beetles.  I had some on some potatoes I grew in 2008, and they wintered over in the soil and went after my tomato starts this year that I had planted where the potatoes were previously, but this nipped them in the bud right away before they did much damage to the plants.  You can also plant radishes nearby, because they like radishes better than tomatoes.  The beetles go after new growth on the tomatoes, so if you get them  covered with the earth right away, the rest of the plant should be fine.

–You can plant basil starts outdoors in June.  Last year I could have started pole and bush bean seeds outdoors in May.

–I am done with planting most brassicas.  We get cabbage moths here, and it is a ton of work to try to get them to grow.  After having tried for a couple of years, with the amount of work it takes I think I’d rather try something that will produce a lot and is easier to grow.  A nearby friend grows great broccoli and has no trouble at all from cabbage moths, so perhaps it depends on where you live.

–Going to try a new cherry tomato.  The ‘Super Sweet 100s” mature early and taste great, but they split badly.  ‘Gardener’s Delight” is supposed to be a similar cherry tomato that does not split,

–If you are planning to bring green tomatoes in to store and ripen for the winter, pick them no later than Oct. 1st.  If you wait longer, they get damaged by the rain and will rot inside.

–If you pot up paperwhite bulbs in a deep container by Nov. 7th, water and then put them in the garage,  you can bring them indoors in December and they will be in bloom for the winter holidays.

–We were eating green salads from the garden everyday through Nov. 30th–growing salad greens under plastic will help your grocery bill tremendously.

–I’ll be setting up my gardening notebooks for the new year soon–see my post from last January on how to do that.  I like to write in general in the top margin of the calendar page when I need to fertilize and prune roses and clematis, and also care for my outside bulbs–mostly when to fertilize them.  Once that’s in the calendar, I have an idea of what I need to do, and can fit it in whenever I have time during the month.

Hope this helps you have a great garden this year!

If you liked this post, leave a comment–what are you going to do differently in your garden this year?