Pot Up Some Paperwhite Bulbs Today

Paperwhite bulbs starting to bloom

Today, November 7th, is the best day to pot up paperwhite bulbs if you’d like them in bloom for the winter holidays.  So easy–put potting soil in virtually any container that is at least one-gallon size deep and wider is better, plant the bulbs so they are completely covered with soil, water it in, and put it in the garage.  You want it to be somewhere where it won’t freeze but will be below 50 degrees, and where it is dark–you can cover the container with newspaper, and that works well.  Then wait.  By December, there will be green shoots coming up out of the soil.  When they are about two to three inches tall, you can bring the pot up, water it and place it in front of a bright window–I put mine in the dining room on the south side of the house, and it gets good light here.  They should be blooming near the end of the month, and will bloom into January (and who doesn’t need some fresh blooming flowers in January?)  These are annuals for me, so I usually just compost them when they finish blooming.  I’ve tried planting these outside to get them to rebloom outdoors next year, but they never really do much, even with fertilizer–they kind of give their all the first year and that’s about it, at least that has been my experience with them. 

Give it a try–it’s super easy and worth it!  Leave me a comment and let me know if you’re growing some paperwhites this year, and how you like to use them around the house in the winter season.

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Hummingbird Plants

I have had a great deal of amusement around here lately by watching the hummingbirds feeding on the summer flowers.

I’ve tried to make it a point to have something flowering each season that the hummingbirds like.  Right now, in warm (!) August, they are relishing the:

  • nasturtiums
  • petunias
  • pelargonium, also commonly known as geranium
  • liatris
  • Jupiter’s Beard
  • verbena bonariensis
  • butterfly bushes

At the moment, what we have are Anna’s hummingbirds in the area.  We’ve got two or three that always stop by and hang out in our garden.  I use a combination of plants that produce hummingbird nectar flowers, plus I have a hummingbird feeder, in order to entice them to come to the garden. 

Here are a few tips to get hummingbirds to stop by your garden for a visit:

  • Set up a feeder.  I’ve had the best luck with a wide-mouth feeder made of glass, because it’s durable and much easier to clean than some of the ones that have a tiny opening.  My feeder has red plastic on it where the hummingbirds can sit to feed.
  • Hummingbird food you can easily make yourself.  Put one cup of sugar and four cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, cover and boil for 5 minutes.  Let it cool, and I then like to line a funnel with a paper coffee filter and I pour the solution through it to filter it, and store it in a glass container with a lid in your refrigerator.  You do not have to add red food coloring to it; in fact, it is better for the birds if you don’t.
  • Although hummers are attracted to the color red, it does not have to be in their liquid nectar.  Instead, the bird feeders often have red on them, and this will help.  You can grow red flowers that they like nearby, like pelargonium and Jupiter’s Beard, or you can simply tie some plastic red bows from outdoor Christmas decorations nearby the feeder to help attract them.  They will go after any tubular-shaped flower, which is their key criteria, no matter what color or size it is.  They are not attracted by fragrant plants, but you might see them dining on those with tubular-shaped flowers.
  • Change out your hummingbird food, and clean the feeder, at least a couple of times a week in cooler weather, and up to daily in really hot weather, or else you can make the birds sick if the sugar water ferments and goes bad in the high heat.
  • Place the feeder nearby something that the hummingbirds can perch on and find shelter.  Birds do not like eating out in the open, so if you provide a plant with some foliage where they can go and hide in between feeding, it helps to attract them to your feeder.   In my garden, I have an espaliered belgian fence of apple and pear trees, and we have it strung with an orchard wire frame.  They eat at the feeder or flowers, and then zoom over to the trees and perch on the wire–just the right size for their claws–or in a nearby large butterfly bush.
  • Provide the birds shelter plants.  Hummingbirds like to nest in arborvitae, and so I have several growing in the back and front yards.
  • If you can provide water, this also helps.  The hummingbirds like a mist of sprinkling water, so a small fountain can work well in this regard.  In a regular birdbath, don’t fill it more than one-half of an inch deep, or it will be too deep for these little guys.
  •  This year I grew two types of nasturtiums that worked very well.  If you want a spreading variety, which is a great choice for filling up a hanging basket inexpensively and fast, try the ‘Tall Climbing Single Mix’ and for a more compact version, the ‘Gleam Mix’ nasturtiums.  I got mine from Pinetree Garden Seeds for $1.35 per package, the cheapest I found them anywhere, and they had a very good germination rate–quality seeds.  Find them at www.superseeds.com

I have not been able to get a good picture, because they are so fast, but I will describe to you what I see nearly every morning out of our bedroom glass door that overlooks the back yard:  I look at the large nasturtium bed that grows on either side of a blue and white old gate that I use as a trellis-support structure for the nasturiums.   So, while I’m looking at the nasturtiums, I see the large green leaves start to shake.  I look up at the trees, and they are not moving, so there is no wind.  I look back again, and see a tiny hummingbird zooming in and out of the nasturtium vines, going in for nectar and insects on the bright flowers.  The leaves are much larger than the bird, so he has to get right in there to reach the flowers.  He next goes around to all the hanging baskets and feeders that contain yet more nasturtiums and petunias.  Both flowers are hummingbird favorites.  He finally finishes by lapping up (hummingbirds have tongues), nectar from the many pelargoniums that also grow in the baskets and containers.  They drink for around thirty or so seconds, and then they go away to rest for a minute or so, and repeat the process. 

If you have more than one Anna’s hummingbird around, they may battle each other for domination over the food.  It helps to spread your hummingbird food plants and feeders out around your property, rather than clustering them all in one spot, to avoid squabbles and so everyone has a chance to feed unhampered. 

You don’t need a lot of room to have a great hummingbird feeding/gardening area–I have a friend with a tiny balcony on his apartment that attracts the little birds with his feeder and some of the annuals that he grows in containers.  The birds really appreciate finding these feeding havens in city areas where it’s more difficult for them to find food and shelter.  You can easily grow hanging baskets with nothing more than nasturtiums, and you would get a good result, or add petunias and pelargoniums to make for a fuller display.  Nasturtiums will grow in even tiny containers if you keep them watered and fertilized.  Case in point”

This is a little wire container with a flat back that I picked up last year at Goodwill for one dollar.  It is approximately 12 inches long and about 4 inches wide and deep.  I lined it with a little piece of leftover burlap from the hanging baskets, and then lined the burlap with a little piece of clear plastic with no holes in it, filled it with potting soil and hung it from two little nails that I nailed into the top rail of the fence.  Planted smaller ‘Gleam’ nasturium, and this is the result.  It adds inexpensive and bright flowers at around eye level as you walk through this narrow area on the side of the house, but it also provide a little extra food for the hummingbirds.  A little chicken garden art hangs next to it, and there is a large flowering jasmine vine with white flowers on the other side, which provides a resting spot for the hummers in between feeding.

That’s all from me–do you have hummingbirds in your garden?  What plants are they eating from now?  Any gardening tips to attract hummingbirds to the garden that you have used?  Do share in the comments–I love hearing from you.  And visit the Garden Party.


Mid-Summer Flowers At Minerva’s Garden

I thought you might enjoy an update on some of the flowers that are blooming right now in my garden.  This is just a tiny sampling, but a few of the ones that are very noticeable and showy.

First, the calla lilies . . .

Yellow calla lily

This yellow calla is really tall–close to three feet.  There is a fragrant white star jasmine in bloom behind it, and golden creeping jenny in the foreground as the groundcover.  A pelargonium I started from seed back in February is in bud but not yet in bloom and sharing the container.

A closeup of the leaf . . .

One calla lily leaf

What a glorious leaf–can you imaging a single huge leaf in a modern-looking geometric glass vase for a formal dinner party?

Here is a pink calla lily.

Pink calla lily

This one is in a huge pond liner that I turned into a gigantic container, and it is engulfed by shares space with blue borage, which the bees adore, as well as nasturtiums.

Calla lilies are easy to grow, and you can save them over from year to year.  Because our weather has been cold in winter lately, I bring the tubers indoors for the winter, and start them in one-gallon pots indoors under lights in March to prepare them for planting outside in mid-May.  Water daily as needed, and Miracle Gro once a week throughout the summer, and they do great.

Now for some snapdragons.

Cherry snapdragon

I just think the color of this one is so amazing–such a bright, happy cherry color that screams “Summer is here!”  I started these from seed back in February, and then planted them outdoors in mid-May.  I have upright blue-grey Russian sage growing in the background, and Jupiter’s Beard in the same shade growing around it.

Here are snaps in white . . .

White snapdragon

I love the clean, crisp look of this flower, and especially like it with a background of grey-toned weathered wood behind it.  My hope is that both of these beauties will reseed in the garden and come back next year, as snapdragons sometimes will for me.

Here is a pretty combination:

'Double Lavender(?)' pelargonium, white yarrow and nasturtiums

I grew the pelargonium, commonly and confusingly known as geranium, from seed back in February.  The seeds are teeny tiny, and they came 10 seeds for three dollars–needless to say, you don’t want to try planting these in a wind storm or sneeze at the wrong moment!  However, they had a super germination rate, and I ended up with many new pelargoniums for my containers.  Although listed as ‘Double lavender,’ these look a decidedly baby pink to me, but I am still happy with them.  I like pelargoniums–you can bring them inside at the end of the growing season, pot them up in one-gallon containers, grow them under lights and have flowers all winter long!  One trick is to water them, in the winter months when they live indoors, only once every two weeks, and Miracle Grow them at the same rate.  I have some that are going on eight years old doing this!

Other summer flowers include zinnias and dahlia.

2 'State Fair Mixed' zinnias and an 'Arabian Nights' dahlia

I love this color combination of  shades of pinks with deeper burgundy–one of my mom’s favorites as well.  The zinnias I started from seed indoors in February,and the dahlia is a new one to me.  I potted it up indoors in mid-March, grew it under lights, and planted it outside in mid-May.  These are all growing in full sun in containers in my rooftop garage garden.  I adore these hues with the grey cedar fence background–so pretty.

Another look at different colored zinnias . . .

Bright 'State Fair Mixed' zinnias with blue tea cart

I love bright colors in the garden as well!  And it’s a good thing, because at this time of year the pastels are usually fading, and the flowers are turning brighter shades, mostly in order to attract bees so that the flowers can reproduce and then die.  Those bright colors help to attract the bees, so that the life cycle continues.  All I know is, the flowers are gorgeous–look at all that orange-red with the blue(!) and the bees are happy!

More zinnias . . .

'State Fair Mixed' zinnias

Wouldn’t you like to use these bright colors on your table for an outdoor party or dinner?  Imagine a green tablecloth with bright pink and orange blooms, and blue dishes?  Or blue and white print tablecloth, with white dishes and the bright flowers?  Stunning–get thee to a second-hand store and pick up fun dishes!  Many possibilities . . .

What flowers are blooming for you now in the middle of summer–leave me a comment below, because I love to hear from you and what is going on in your garden!

You can also join the Garden Party.

 

Consider The Bush Morning Glory

I enjoy using a mix of annuals and perennials, as well as annuals that tend to reseed and come back each year, in my containers and hanging baskets.  There is one plant that my mother grows in her garden, and I have also grown it in mine that I’d like to recommend to you, and that is the Bush Morning Glory.  You usually won’t find these plants available for sale at a gardening center, and thus you will likely need to start the seed inside yourself, but it is not hard to do.  I buy my seeds from Renee’s Garden, a seed line that is usually available from Portland Nursery locally, or else you can purchase them online.  The particular variety of bush morning glory is called ‘Royal Blue Ensign’.

This year, I started my bush morning glory seeds indoors in Sunshine organic seed starting mix, under lights, on February 15th, and the seed germinated on February 22nd.  I grew the seedlings on under lights, giving them a half-strength feeding of Miracle Grow every couple of weeks or so.  I hardened them off in a protected spot starting on May 7th.  They were ready to plant outside in my containers at a small transplant stage by May 15th.  I saw my first beautiful blooms on them by June 24th. 

I love the brilliant royal blue, with the bright yellow and crisp white in the throat area–it sets a very nautical tone, and thus the name.  Here it grows alongside a little daisy-like feverfew, which echos its colors and diminutive size of bloom.

Here it is in a grouping of containers:

It snuggles in nicely with a red-with-green-edged coleus and nasturtium foliage in the back container, more feverfew, fern, a black mondo grass, and a ‘Midnight Reiter’ hardy geranium with my beloved chocolate foliage and lavender flower.

This is an annual that could work in a number of different color arrangements–imaging it flowing out of a pristine white urn, for example, or giving  patriotic flair to a bright red squatty container.  It could be used in containers set around a patio or balcony with a beachy theme–imaging it in a bright container near a water setting, like a lakeside cabin or even placed around a water feature.  All beautiful, and so is this favorite of annuals! 

Do you grow this annual in your garden, or remember seeing it in another garden?  How is your garden and containers growing this year–I’d love to hear in the comments.  And visit the garen party.

 

Growing Mini-Dwarf Apple Trees In Containers

This is an article I wrote a couple of years ago, and was subsequently published in the October 2009 Master Gardeners’ Program/Foundation newsletter here in Clark County, Washington.  It has a lot of good information if you have a small growing area, and yet would still like to try some fruit trees of your own, so I thought I would share it with you today.  Enjoy!

Growing Mini-Dwarf Apple Trees In Containers

If you’ve ever thought about growing your own apple trees but got discouraged because you either live in an apartment and have no backyard, or you have a backyard but it’s tiny, here’s an idea: try growing apple trees in large containers. The Home Orchard Society in Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful group that can help you succeed with fruit trees. The HOS Arboretum, located on the campus of Clackamas Community College, offers workshops in grafting and pruning fruit trees.

If you want to grow apple trees in pots, you need to know a little bit about how a tree is built. There are two basic parts when building your own fruit tree: the rootstock and the scion. The scion, a cutting from a particular variety of tree, is grafted onto the rootstock. A graft is where new scion wood attaches to, and grows out from, the rootstock. The fruit is produced from the scion and not the rootstock. Both rootstock and scion determine the mature tree size. Knowing how to graft allows you to build your own trees that will top out at a dwarf height (four to six feet tall), thereby not outgrowing the space you have available for them when they mature. You can also maximize space by grafting several apple varieties onto one rootstock. Another benefit is that you can graft heirloom variety apples or grow different varieties that mature early, mid and late season to extend your harvest. You can also experiment with varieties that are delicious but unavailable for sale locally. Finally, knowing how to graft enables you to build your own trees inexpensively. As a member of HOS, you can buy rootstock at the Fruit and Berry Cutting (Scion) Exchange for four dollars each, and get the scions for free. At the Cutting Exchange they will build a tree for you with whatever scion wood you select for a small fee, but they also sell supplies like Doc Farwell’s Grafting Seal (for sealing moisture out of the newly forming graft), and grafting bands (which resemble strips of rubber band and are used to connect the newly grafted scion to the rootstock until the graft takes), so you can do your own grafting. However, if you prefer, dwarf apple trees are available for purchase locally, as well as online from One Green World in Molalla, Oregon, and Raintree Nursery in Morton, Washington. Prices start around twenty-two dollars per tree. Once you learn how to graft, you will discover a new obsession and after you run out of room at your house, you will find yourself grafting for your neighbors and friends as well.

Karen Tillou, manager of the Arboretum, recommends M27, M9 or P22 rootstocks as best for container-grown apple trees. Karen says that these are the most dwarfing kinds of rootstocks, but they absolutely require staking/support even in a pot. (Wood or thick bamboo stakes can be attached directly to the pot with the tree’s branches loosely tied to it.) They are dwarfing because they have small, relatively weak root systems and consequently need support and very consistent water throughout the dry summers.

As far as particular varieties of apples that work well as container plants, Karen suggests choosing varieties that are not vigorous. Varieties have a measurable “vigor” the same way rootstocks do. If you match a vigorous variety to a dwarf rootstock, you will still get a tree that wants to get big. It’s best to choose moderately vigorous varieties, and a very complete list can be found at the HOS website. Picking a “good” apple variety is a little like picking out a “good” outfit: it all depends on your particular taste. However, a delectable one is ‘Spitzenburg,’ a medium to large orangish-fruited dessert apple reputed to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, introduced in 1790. Another favorite is ‘Stayman Winesap.’ A red-skinned apple, it tastes sweet, crisp, juicy, and is everything a fresh eating apple should be–delightful offered on a tray with cheese and accompanied by wine as you watch autumn leaves fall.

Vern Nelson, garden writer for The Oregonian, gardens on a quarter of an acre, has an extensive edible landscape and grows forty-one varieties of apples in his orchard. Vern considers ‘Orleans Reinette,’ a dessert apple flushed with rosy color and strong aroma, ripening in mid-October, a worthy addition to a home orchard.

If you like hard apple cider, growing appropriate varieties in containers is more difficult because most of the single varietals are a bit large for pots. One single varietal that might lend itself to container growing is ‘Sweet Coppin,’ which is moderately vigorous and produces a sweet, pure cider. Most often hard cider is made by blending the juices of sweet dessert and cider apple varieties, but you can make hard cider out of certain single varietals as well. For more information, do an online search for “Apples for Hard Cider Production” and “Growing Cider Apples.”

Karen advises adding an annual compost to potted apple trees in March. During the first two to three years Karen maintains using more nitrogen/animal manure will encourage vegetative growth, then switching to a bloom and bud fertilizer with more phosphorus will promote fruiting when the tree is older. Among others available for purchase, Dr. Earth offers organic fertilizers that are suitable for this purpose.

Vern mentions that it can be hard to keep a pot-grown tree vigorous for a long time, so he suggests root pruning every two years. To accomplish this, you should remove the tree from the container and literally cut the outer ends of the roots off. Afterwards, put it back into the container with new potting soil. This will help reinvigorate the tree’s root system and keep it more productive. Vern also emphasizes using containers no smaller than a half-whiskey barrel size, to allow for adequate root space. Both Karen and Vern stress not allowing dwarfing rootstocks to bear fruit too soon. Many will try to bear fruit in their second or third year after grafting. If they fruit too soon, they will stunt themselves. Thus, they will never make more apples than that initial branch structure allows. To prevent this stunting takes determination: you must harden your heart and pinch off the flowers the first two to three years that they show up. This helps the tree put more energy into growing substantial root and branch systems, making for a healthier, longer-lived tree.

In terms of pruning the tree’s branches, Karen points out a container gardener should aim for balanced, open structure that allows for air and light circulation. Once you have a framework of branches, you can winter prune new shoots back to two to three buds each, to create fruiting spurs along the branches. You could also consider training your tree into an espalier shape. Espalier training allows you to grow your tree in a small, two-dimensional space, and trees so grown are decorative placed against a wall or situated around a patio area. Vern offers an excellent class on espalier training [contact him at anewleaf1 (at use the @ symbol instead of the word) aol.com]. The HOS can also give you advice and training.

On the subject of winterizing container-grown apple trees in Clark County, Karen explains that the top of the tree would come through unscathed. As the roots in a pot freeze a lot sooner than roots under the soil, however, it is advisable to place the pot on the ground, not on a deck if possible, and then mound it up with leaves, straw, sawdust, or burlap sacks. The organic matter helps trap air around the pot, and prevents it from freezing. You could also place your pot up against the wall of a building and then mound organic matter around it because buildings hold more heat than air.

Even if you don’t have a lot of extra space, try some apple trees in containers. It’s a long-term project with even longer (and delicious) results.

I hope you’ve been enjoying the sunshine–it even looks as if we might have glorious weather for the 4th of July this year (!-fingers and toes crossed).  Leave me a comment if you like–do you grow fruit trees, and if so what kinds?  Would you like to grow some, or even learn how to graft them?  And visit the Garden Party today! 


Guerilla Gardening on the Summer Solstice

Here is something to think about:

“Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

That statement has always spoken to me, to not make excuses but to make an effort to move in the direction I want to go, in whatever aspect and capacity of life to which I wish to apply it. 

There was a film director that I met one time, and she made her mark in films way back when she was getting started by loading up her van with her camera and limited equipment, a skeleton crew and a very few actors, and heading off down the road.  When she saw a likely spot, they all got out and proceeded to shoot some scenes for a film, right where they were at.  She ended up with some good films.  She eventually was asked to direct a well-know television series as a guest director, and they wanted her to do her “guerilla directing” thing with the big show, but she couldn’t be spontaneous when it took 4 semi-truck loads of equipment to shoot one little scene for that big show.

But I digress.  Roosevelt’s statement also applies to gardening.

After spending a spring wishing and hoping for warm weather and that the rain would cease to fall in excessive amounts, I think I am finally past it.  I can wish and hope all I want, but the fact is it appears that this growing season is going to be quite similar to last year’s growing season, which was short and cold. 

This is a not a bad combination for my flowers, which are doing great and growing well.  It could spell disaster, however, for my vegetable garden. 

But, what I have going into this, and to my advantage, is the knowledge of the growing season last year.  This will help me to get into what I have been calling “guerilla gardening” mode, to help me get some kind of a reasonable vegetable crop from my garden this year.  Here are some tips that I am using with my vegetables this year, and I hope that they might help you as well in your gardening pursuits.

Get-real gardening.

  • Grow warm-season plants under plastic.  Let’s face the facts, shall we?  Where I live in SW Washington state, it has not reliably hit 50 degrees air temperature at night yet, on June 21st.  On and off, but not consistently.  It needs to be at least 50 degrees, and preferably 55 degrees overnight, before tomatoes will ripen–their ability to ripen, mature and turn red is based much more on the nighttime temperatures than the daytime.  What this means is that I am looking for ways to increase the nighttime temperature around my tomatoes.  I have planted my tomatoes, and placed tomato cages over them, then I put clear plastic over the top and sides of the cages, holding down the edges with rocks.   This plastic will raise the nighttime temperature by 3-4 degrees, which will help bump it up to at least 50 degrees, if not a bit more.  This will help your tomatoes ripen a lot faster than if they were uncovered.  Last year, I asked most of the farmers who had ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market how they got their tomatoes to ripen, and nearly all of them, with farms located in this area, said that they had to cover them with plastic to get them to ripen, so that is what the professionals are doing.   Rain and any kind of water falling on the fruits is also another big enemy of a perfectly ripe tomato.  You want to keep rainfall off the tomato fruits as much as possible, or they rot very quickly and have lots of blemishes.  Plastic is very good for this purpose as well.  I also pretty much gave up growing the tomatoes that are late-season varieties–only one ‘Brandywine’ plant this year, for example, and more of the quicker cherry tomatoes.
  • It gets worse if you want to try to grow cucumbers, eggplant and peppers, or any of the melons.  These plants need 60 degree temperatures at night in order to mature.  For these, put hoop houses over your planting beds.    If you use PVC plastic pipe, found at a hardware store, and push it into the ground over your plants, it will form a half-circle, or a hoop.  On these hoops you can place clear plastic and hold it down with rocks at the corners, and clothes pins on top of the hoops.  The idea is that you don’t want the plastic to touch the plants.  Water condenses under the plastic, which helps to keep things moist under there.  Unfortunately, this will be high maintenance, because eventually July will roll around, and we will get some days that will be in the 80s and 90s.  On those hot days, you will need to open the plastic in the morning, make sure everything has enough water so they don’t dry out, and then cover them at night.  You will have to decide how much you love cukes, peppers and eggplant, and how much time you have to spend babying these plants, because they will take more work than some of the other things that are easier to grow.  Nearly every local grower at the farmers’ market last year who had ripe peppers for sale had to cover them with plastic to get them to turn red.  Just sayin’.   And every variety of eggplant, pepper and cuke that I grow are suited to short growing seasons, because those that need a long growing season will never ripen before we start getting colder autumn weather.  This is pretty hard with cukes, because I want to get as much growth as possible under plastic, to increase the temperature to improve growth, but eventually they get too big, and you have to put a trellis up for them to grow upon, so eventually (I wait until the last possible minute), you will not be able to cover the cukes any longer.  Then they have to be big enough to hopefully swim and not sink on their own with whatever the weather hands out.  The eggplant and peppers stay covered throughout the entire growing season until they die in the fall.  I have never had good luck with melons, so I wish you well if you want to give it a go–just be sure to plant short-season melons, and you might fare better than I.
  • To give them a headstart, I also cover my corn bed, as well as the pumpkin and squash bed, to warm it up for them to get a good start.  After the plants get too big, I end up uncovering them, but not until partway through July.

    'Ruby Red' Swiss Chard is a winner

  • So, what can you grow that will not be a pain in the neck for the gardener?  Here are some plants that I had good luck with last year, even though it was a very cold summer:  Lettuce, arugula, beets and beet greens, tatsoi, mustard greens, swiss chard, green beans, both bush and runner bean types, sugar snap peas.  It also appears that we are going to have a bumper crop of blackberries, raspberries and marionberries this year as well, without much work on my part.  (The bees have been very busy, on the other hand,  polinating all those flowers for me.)  If you want a garden that you don’t have to cover with plastic, you might want to focus on these crops that will grow just fine in cooler temperatures.  And that is totally an okay thing to do–why fight nature?  It is a fight very difficult to win, so why not go with what gets handed out and make it easy on yourself?  I have no problems with that.  It is just that I love, absolutely live for, home-grown tomatoes, and so I am willing to take the extra steps in order to get some of our own.  (I am also someone who monkeys around with fussy delphinium plants that need to be protected from slug attacks and need to have each bloom stem individually staked–you love what you love, what can I say.)  Another option is to purchase those warm-weather crops from farmers that are coming over from sunny and dry Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to the farmers’ markets to sell their wares, and then you grow what is easier to grow in your garden–this works very well, too. 

    'Purple Queen' bush beans and sunflowers in containers

  • In addition to colder weather, you might also have a lot of shade on your property due to large trees.  Vegetables need sun, so one solution is to go in for large container gardening.  You can grow all sorts of vegetables successfully in large containers.  I’ve grown tomatoes, peppers , eggplant, corn, sunflowers, lettuce, beans, peas and cukes in big containers.  The plants will not produce as much as they would if growing in the ground, but you can place the containers anywhere you have a sun spot, so you will likely have much more success in growing vegetables in this manner.  You will discover that the garden hose and fertilizer are your friends if you take this route, which is high maintenance.

    Corn and salad greens in containers

“Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.”   If you want to vegetable garden this year, then don’t let the weather stop you.  Just know what you’re in for, so you can decide how you want to spend your time and energy.  And garden smart, like a guerilla gardener would, and you’ll have some success. 

Do enjoy the first day of summer, the Summer Solstice, today, and visit the Garden Party.


Down The Garden Path

Sorry I haven’t been posting as much as I usually do–I took a spill down some cement stairs and did a number on my foot, so I’ve been out of commission for a while.  However, I got out to the garden today, and snapped a few photos for your enjoyment.  Come with me, if you will, down the garden path . . .

The roses have made a grand appearance (just in time for Portland’s Rose Festival):

‘Phylis Bide’ repeat-blooming rambling rose dresses up the entrance to our home.

“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille . . .”

Graham joins the party . . .

‘Graham Thomas’, a David Austin rose, on a blue arbor.  And in for the closeup . . .

As you can see, I have a thing for cabbage roses.

And now . . .

The thornless climber, ‘Zephrin Drouhin’.

I love that this rose does not scratch my arms to smithereens when I prune it.

This is a lovely single-blooming climbing rose that my mom gave to me.  I have no idea of its name or origins, but I can tell you that it is a very tough customer–it survives my parent’s zone 4b climate and thrives there.

And now hail to the chief . . .

‘Mr. Lincoln’, to be precise. 

Farther down the garden path . . .

A vibrant, summer blue delphinium with allium heads about to bloom nearby.

Persian Jewels in a pathway consisting of gravel and bear-paw metal stepping stones left by previous owners.

Three sisters, probably a singing trio like the Garland Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, or the Andrews Sisters, holding court in the golden creeping  jenny.

‘Romantika’ clematis gets in the mood with Golden Hops.

Getting tired?  We can sit for a bit . . .

Just the place to be for flower and bird watching.

Is it time already?  As the lyricist said, ” Ah well, we’ll catch up some other time.”

The garden fairy says goodbye.

 


Columbine, Clematis and Friends

I got my first columbine plants as pass-along plants from my mother’s garden when we first moved into our home.  I’ve never purchased a columbine plant; I have several now, and many have undergone changes over the years, so that there are variations on the original plants that I started with.  I don’t know the specific variety names of the columbine that I grow, but I do know that they are spectacular now in the garden.  They require no special care, make excellent cut flowers for flower arranging, and the hummingbirds adore them as a nectar plant.

Here are a few that I grow:

This one shares its spot in the garden with another pass-along plant that I got from a friend, a hardy geranium in bright pink.  I love this really deep, dark purple color, with the little spot of yellow in the center setting it off nicely.

Here’s a variation on purple:

This purple columbine has a white edge that is quite striking.  I don’t recall that the first ones I planted here had that white edge, and I think these have developed in this way over time, but I could be wrong about that.

Another type of purple:

I like this purple ruffled double columbine–it reminds me of antebellum dresses that were worn in Gone With The Wind!

And now for some pink:

I love this delicate shade of pink.

Some variations on a theme:

A pink columbine with the white edge, nestled among other columbine.

A grouping now:

I like them grouped together, to play up all of their subtle differences–they are interesting to look at.

Some other plants in bloom at the same time as the columbine in my garden:

This is clematis ‘Asao.’  It grows in a large container, along with a few annuals that I pop in with it during the spring.  This container receives morning sun and afternoon shade, and it gets watered as needed and fertilized twice a month, except right before it blooms and of course when it’s dormant in wintertime.  It has been growing happily here for several years. 

Other flower friends nearby:

The stately foxglove.  These were growing here when we moved into the house, and over the years I have transplanted them all throughout the gardens.  If you like a really tidy, formal garden, these may not be the plant for you, because they reseed freely, but they are not what I would call invasive–they are easy to pull up and plant them where you like, or just give away or compost the excess that you have.  But what a gorgeous flower–the bees and hummingbirds also really love this flower.  Sometimes in the summertime, I will find bumblebees asleep inside these large tubular flowers early in the morning, before they have warmed up enough to fly away!

A closer look at the amazing color variations inside these lovely foxgloves.  I have some that bloom in white, as well as a deeper rose color.

Purple bearded iris that were given to me by a neighbor, dark Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Raven’s Wing’ with the white Queen Anne’s Lace-type flowers, and gobs of sky blue forget-me-nots surrounding.

And finally, blooming away inside is . . .

Amarylis ‘White Christmas.”  (Kind of misnamed–this one always blooms for me in May, lately.) 

What is new and in bloom in your garden?  Do let me know in the comments, and visit An Oregon Cottage for the Garden Party.


Hardening Off Flower Starts

You may recall that I started flower and vegetable seeds indoors under lights back in February and March, and now the flowers are about ready to go outside and find their way into my hanging baskets and containers for this growing season.  There is a step that has to be done prior to planting those baby plants out, however, and that is hardening them off. 

Here are some of the flower starts inside:

This is a tray full of:  Zinnia ‘State Fair Mix’ and ‘Giant Lime’, along with Coleus ‘Black Dragon’ and ‘Rainbow Mix’, as well as a ‘Sunset Wizard’.  I started these seeds indoors from February 16th to March 1st in 4″ pots, and they are now filling the pots and are ready to go through the hardening off process.  (Where we live, I like to plant my baskets and containers by May 15th, so this is the right time to start the flower seeds so that the plants are ready to go into the outdoor containers on time.)  So far, these plants have been living the lush life indoors, with consistently warm temperatures and even moisture provided by me.  If I was to just go and plant them outside now, they would likely go through a great deal of transplant shock, which would stunt their growth and either kill them outright or weaken them considerably.

Instead, what I am doing is that every day, I put my trays of seedings outdoors in a protected spot:

  This way, they will have a chance to get used to cooler temperatures, and deal with coping under a little rain and gentle breezes.  This particular spot gives them partial shade and cover from strong winds, which helps to protect them and helps them make the transition to outdoor living a little easier without stressing the plants too much.   The weather has been cool and overcast, which is good weather for hardening off plants because it reduces stress on them as well.  They tend to dry out faster outdoors, so they do require a watchful eye to give them water as needed, so they don’t wilt.  Over the course of a week or two, I take them outside in the morning and bring them inside in the evening, and eventually I leave them outside for longer periods of time and expose them to sunshine (that is, if we ever get any here), culminating in their having a sleep-over outside, all night long for the last day or two of the hardening-off process.  When I leave them outside overnight, I usually put them on this cement area, which will conduct a little solar heat and make it a bit warmer for them than if I put the tray directly on the ground.  (Also the slugs have a harder time getting to them on cement because they first have to go up the stairs, another benefit.)  Once they can get through that, they are ready to plant in my awaiting containers and baskets. 

Those with good eyesight may have seen that I have a couple of tomato starts in with this bunch that I am hardening off.  You are right–I have a couple of early producing  ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ cherry tomatoes that I am going to plant outdoors in a couple of weeks, but because it’s still really too cold for these sun-lovers, they will be swaddled in Wall O’Waters and plastic around them as well.  (Can you tell that I am really hungry for the first tomatoes of the year?)  If the weather is not too uncooperative, it will give us some tomatoes a couple of weeks earlier than normal, a good reward for getting through this wet and cold spring!

That’s it from me–what is new in your garden?  Drop me a line in the comments if you wish!  And visit the Garden Party.


Flowers and Food

A quick post to show you a bit of what we got done over the warm and wonderful (and dry) weekend:

First the food part (future food, I should add) of the gardening weekend:

We prepared and planted a Swiss Chard, Beet and Spinach bed.  My earlier hardy salad greens bed that I put in back in March is about ready to start picking greens at the baby stage, and the lettuce bed I put in last week is looking good and starting to put down some roots.  We also put in some peas and I am trying this pea trellis I saw in Fine Gardening magazine, made out of some sticks and twine:

The peas are not super heavy, so hopefully this will be enough support for them–we’ll see how it works.

And now the flowers:

These are some tough English Daisies that I started inside from seed several years ago.  They are growing in a container, and I didn’t cover the container or anything over the winter, and when it starts to warm up, there they are.  I love the rings and gradiations of color in these.

‘Queen of the Night” tulips are some of my favorite.  (Always reminds me of her solo in The Magic Flute.)  I like the contrast in color with the silvery-grey lamb’s ears.  Anthriscus silvestris “Ravenswing’ is the dark foliage on the left, and behind the tulips are some blue irises that are putting out some flower buds.

And I guess this last one could be considered both flowers and future food:

Our crabapple treee is blooming now, as is the ‘Barlett’ pear tree and several other apples about to bloom.  Along with the crabapple blossoms is a sea of blue Forget-me-nots, and a couple of parrot tulips–pink ‘Angelique’ and a purply-blue double.  I discovered that the late parrot tulips bloom at the same time as the apple and pear trees, and so they make a nice plant combination together in the garden.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend out in your garden–let me know in the comments if you wish!  And please visit the Garden Party.


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