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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Piece by Piece

Sometimes, after you've had some plants in the same spot for years, they intertwine. In this photo are a few plants in what is only a foot or two wide.

The bottom left corner shows a Hosta 'Tea and Crumpets' which is a very small hosta. There's the Primula siboldii 'Alba' that I posted about the other day and poking up through everything is Polygonatum humile (dwarf solomon's seal).

This photo was taken last year, if I took it today it would have looked the same except it's almost impossible to find the Hosta 'Tea and Crumpets". I'd really like to divide out everything here without losing anything. Tomorrow or Monday I'd like to lift the whole area, pull out each piece and replace the Hosta with lots of compost.

This shot is taken closer to the Hosta. Those spiky plants are Tradescantia seedlings. I've grown a number of hybrid Tradescantias and on the whole have been ecstatic with their behaviour. Unfortanetly, the prettiest Tradescantia here, is also the most aggressive at spreading seedlings.

This is the same bed, just a foot or two away. The bright chartreusse is Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate'. I've written about her before, she isn't very sweet here at all. Last year I went around and dug up every one of her seedlings that I could find. It wouldn't be bad at all if they had the same coloring but every one of them reverts back to green with a standard blue flower.

It looks like this is going to be a job that eats up lots of time and only makes a change in a very small spot in my garden.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Double the Blood Root

Sanguinaria canadenses, that's quite a mouthful for this small, elegant perennial. The nickname is a bit easier although not very attractive, Double Bloodroot.

A number of years ago a gardening friend offered me a piece of double bloodroot. I turned him down. I didn't even know what it was but I wasn't interested in the name. A year later he gave me a piece and told me to just put it in my new shade garden.

The next year this amazing thing bloomed in my garden. It was the most ethereal white bloom, very fleeting, only open for a few days. The good news though was that the foliage was exquisite too so it really added so much to the shade garden.

As the years went by I couldn't understand how he had so much to share with me since my little piece of double bloodroot increased at a snail's pace. A few years ago I finally learned that there is a vast difference between dry, unammended shade and moist, rich, compost filled shade. I crossed my fingers and moved a tiny piece of the double bloodroot.

The first photo was taken last year. The second photo was taken this morning. The flowers only open when the sun is out so that won't happen for a few more hours. I think you can see what has me all excited, my double bloodroot has doubled!

Just in case you are wondering what the foliage looks like, it's the leaf in the top right corner of this slide. Underneath it is a dwarf Epimedium, top left is a small golden Hosta and bottom left is Asarum euoropaeum (European Ginger).

The Ginger has done a nice job in several spots in my garden and I'll be potting up a few of those later this afternoon. As for the Double bloodroot, well, I'm a bit greedy and think I will wait one more year before putting any in a pot. What I might do is dig out a piece or two and move them to another prime semi-shade location so I can have even more double bloodroot.

We're expecting a prime gardening day today so I need to get up, get ready and get out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mystery plant day

Today I was frustrated by not one, but two mystery plants in my garden.

The first plant is a charming Primula (primrose) that has naturalized in 5 or 6 different spots here. I remember the day I bought this plant, a friend who worked at a nearby nursery insisted I buy a handful of small pots of a bloomed out Primula. She said the plants looked sorry but would be so happy in my garden. At that point I had only bad luck with primroses but she offered them to me for $1 per pot and ever the optimist, I tried primroses again.

This plant is so wonderful, it has no problem in dry shade. Give it some moisture and it's even happier! The one problem is that every tag I have for it in my garden has the top portion broken off. I know it originated from Sunny Border Plants but I don't have the variety name.
How sad :-(
The second mystery plant is this one. It is in my shade garden and was given to me by the same woman who encouraged me to buy the white Primulas. This plant has seeded around a little bit (not aggressively). I think it might be Cimicifuga? It blooms in the fall with tall white candle-like blooms. If you scroll up to the first photo you can see what the foliage looks like a little later in the season. It is at the right of the Primula.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Labels for the garden

Labels, blah, I so dislike looking out at my garden and seeing all those labels. And yet, during the growing season, it's so nice when somebody wants to know what something is and there you have the name right at your finger tip.

Now that I'm potting up all these plants to sell, I needed a quick, cheap way to label the many pots. As in previous years, my solution has been to use mini blinds. I used to use old blinds that people donated to me but I've run out of those. Now I run to a discount store and buy the largest size for the cheapest price.

The first step is to cut off all of the cords.

This is the size I bought. They were $5.00, the next size was almost twice the price and was only a few inches larger so I went with these.

Since they are 36" long, it was easy to figure out that I cut get three foot long labels out of each piece of plastic.

All cut up in under ten minutes, I had 218 pieces of mini-blind markers. Not bad!

When it comes to writing on the labels I have a number of different products. The sharpie marker doesn't last a whole season. The Nursery marking pen holds much longer than the sharpie but I haven't seen them for sale around here.

The winner though is the pencil. It is less bold, a little harder to read but it will never ever fade. Also, the markers are have fat tips and are hard to read too while the finer point of the pencil is easier to write with.

Do you label your plants? Can you recommend a marker?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Making Potting Soil

When you pot up plants to share or just to plant your containers, do you mix your own potting soil?

I do.
A number of years ago I listened to my good friend Gianna give a lecture on container plants. She shared her tip of mixing together potting soil and compost in a 2 to 1 ratio. That means that if you put two buckets of potting soil in your wheelbarrow, you add one bucket of compost (or top soil or aged manure, what ever you have).

I love a compost and manure mixture so that's what I order for my garden. Even though I have a huge compost heap, I just haven't been able to produce as much compost as I need. This compost/manure mixture is what I add to my potting soil.

Potting soil by itself is very light and dries out quickly. There are potting soils that have additives to retain water and even potting soils with fertilizers in them but I prefer to stay as natural as possible. What I add instead is a nice healthy scoop of Milorganite which is an organic fertilizer made from sludge.

This year I've been adding a secret ingredient, a nice big couple of handfuls of shredded leaves. They do wonders for the potting soil, making it so nice, fluffy and hopefully, healthy.

Time will tell how this potting soil mixture works but I think it's going to be fantabulous!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sheer Exhaustion

After two days of perfect gardening weather there are only two words to describe the way I feel, Sheer Exhaustion.

If you look closely at this photo you'll see all kinds of tools and pots in the garden. Plants have been dug, weeds have been pulled, divisions have been replanted and compost has been spread. Yet, when I look at the garden all I see is a monumental amount of work still to be done.

Squeezed in between the never ending job of dividing and potting plants, I played a bit with the decorative accents in the garden. None of them are finished but they are ready for their finishing touches. This bicycle still needs a basket on the handlebars with some sweet spring blooms.

Don finished making a platform for one of my two iron beds. This one will be used to hold plants that are for sale. In other words, it's the "sale bed".

Out front near the street I've had this Whiskey Barrel planter for a number of years now. It's been filled with Hosta and backed up with an old wooden handtruck. Although I've received many compliments on it, I had envisioned it cascading with plants.

Now it's tipped over so it looks like "OOPS". As soon as I find an extra hour or two I'll go out and get a flat of annuals to make the cascade portion. I haven't decided yet if I want to buy a flat of pansies now or wait 3 weeks and get Impatiens. My guess is the Impatiens will be the winner but I hate having nothing there right now.

Tomorrow is the first of a dozen lectures that I'll be doing at the local elementary schools. I'm bringing along a praying mantis egg case, lots of soil samples, seeds and we'll be making pots out of recycled newspaper. I can't wait!