Planning: Sometimes the Best Part

Amaryllis. It reached its full glory on the night of the Twelfth Night Party

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Waning Moon Fourth Quarter in Scorpio
No Retrogrades
Celtic Tree Month of Birch

I ran into an acquaintance-on-the-road-to-becoming-a-friend a few weeks ago at a music event. She asked why I stopped writing the blog, because she enjoyed reading it! So, here I am!

My heather’s blooming, out front, in the barrel. It looks lovely, but

Learning how to maintain a garden was a little overwhelming for me last year. All in all, although I won’t win any prizes, I learned a lot, I had a LOT of fun, and there were great times. The Black King eggplant (who lived in the house until a spider mite kerflamma) grew to be nearly six feet tall and spat eggplants at us until nearly Thanksgiving; the tomatoes were put in late, so it was nearly Thanksgiving before we got any, but I’d pulled them in and put them under a grow light in the back bedroom — so we had tomatoes. It was too wet for the pumpkins, and they died, which was disappointing. The cucumbers would have been great, but the squirrels hollowed them out and left the rinds; the green peppers were good. The salad greens were amazing.

Supposedly, anyone on the planet can grow a radish. Not me.

Win some, lose some.

While I’m glad I don’t have to live through the winter on the harvest, it wasn’t bad for a first time out.

The culinary herbs did well, and I need to add some more medicinals in this year. The lavender was kind of hit and miss. I’d been told lavender is easy, but I must not have given it what it needs. Some of the plants are dormant now, cut back, so we’ll see what happens in spring. In fact, I have a whole section of the garage with dormant, cut-back perennials.

I bought a witch hazel tree from Country Gardens. I absolutely adore it. It was beautiful all summer, it turned lovely colors in fall. It wants to bud, but hasn’t yet.

My Blue Prince and Princess hollies are doing very well. I also dug up another holly from a difficult place in the yard and stuck it in a pot. It’s doing well, too. From this past Holly Walk at Ashumet, where we get to take branches, I took some of the Goldie berries and planted them — hoping something will come up. I’d love to have a holly that can trace back its lineage to Ashumet, which is one of my favorite places on the planet.

The Boomerang Lilac is still on the back deck, along with the hollies and the witch hazel. I pulled them back, to protect them from the harshest weather, but they’re out there on the deck and seem happy. It looks like the Boomerang will have some nice buds in spring.

The strawberries gave us a small harvest over the summer, but a second, much larger one in fall. We had strawberries for breakfast for weeks up until late October. And they were delicious. They’re cut back and resting, so hopefully they will be even more productive and delicious this year. The kitten (Tessa) doesn’t each much people food, but she does like to pick her own strawberries from the plants and eat them.

The plants from Territorial Seed Company did not do well, other than Black King eggplant (which was magnificent). The Peppermint Ice Hellebore (the most expensive) was unhappy (it’s struggling, but unhappy), the Huckleberry is struggling, and everything else died. Well, the Lemon Verbena arrived nearly dead, but that was simply ignored. I may buy the Black King from them again, but . . .moving on.

Eden Brothers seeds did pretty well, and the locally bought seeds were fine, too. Johnny’s, as usual, worked the best for me. The bulk of my purchases this year will either be from Johnny’s or from the local shops.

I’m sitting down and planning for planting season. I want (and need) more herbs. It makes more sense to buy them as small plants locally than start them from seed. I hope the rosemary comes back, and some of the others. I want more different varieties of thymes and basils. The Feverfew did well — this year I have to harvest it, instead of just oohing and aahing about how pretty it is. The Echinacea did NOT do well, so I’ll give that another go. I want to add chamomile and dill to the mix, and I need tansy, rue, and pennyroyal. I’d like to expand to coltsfood and horehound, but don’t know if I can this year. I use both herbs a lot in cough and cold mixtures.

Vegetable-wise, I’ll put some things in the bed as last year, and others in pots that will line up on the ground below the terraced area in the back. It gets a lot of sun. I need to grown the Asian vegetables I like to use in cooking, and have a hard time finding.

I’m going to start tomatoes earlier, and go with locally-started plants instead of trying to do everything from seed. There will also be more marigolds, and they’ll be EVERYWHERE. Cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini, peppers — hey, a girl’s gotta have enough for ratatouille, right? And cucumber sandwiches. I want to try some lettuces, cabbages, spinach, and peas. I like the IDEA of corn and beans, but don’t know if I’m actually ready to deal with them. I will try pumpkins again.

My questions for planning the season are:

–what do I use most in cooking, and like best?
–can it grow here?
–what herbs do I use and need most?
–can it grow in a pot?

And then, it’s just trial and error.

I wasn’t as dedicated to good note-keeping last year as I should have been. I kept buying plants and not making up sheets for them or noting when they were replanted or died. I have to be better about that this year.

I am an azalea and rhodie convert, and I even fell for the hostas, once they were up. When we first moved here, I did not understand the love of hosta — to me they looked icky and wilted when I cut them back. Then, they came up in spring and summer and were gorgeous. I can’t wait for the Stewartsonian Azalea I bought last year to start blooming again. It seems very happy in its barrel.

I want more pansies this year, and more petunias. The petunias looked lovely with the coleus and the dusty miller in the urns out front. The mums were a little disappointing — the orange, which I loved, where the quickest to fade. Some of the deep reds and the yellows stayed much longer. We will see if they are annuals or perennials. I was told if I got them into the ground quickly, they’d be perennials. Some went into the border in the front, some stayed in pots, so we’ll see. The cosmos looked lovely, so hopefully they’ll come up well this year (I’ll plant more), and I plan to put the poppies in early enough so they can actually come up.

I planted 125 tulips in the fall — a true red, a white, a red-and-yellow (Carmen Del Rio), a yellow and maroon, and a maroon (Queen of the Night). I’m concerned, with the temperate weather, that they’ll get confused and come up before it’s time.

The Arbor Day Foundation is sending me ten trees and two flowering shrubs, so getting those situated (in pots — this is a rental) will take up some time.

The peace lily which was bought for last year’s Twelfth Night party is huge and gorgeous. The small roses are struggling — I think the spider mite plague was more than they could survive. Last year’s primrose is doing well. I bought three more small ones for this year’s party — they’re not as happy. I’m not sure if they need replanting, or were just forced too early or what. We’ll see how they fare.

I want to schedule my time better. Now that I know the garden needs more time, I want to schedule my writing day so that the writing and the garden both get what they need.

Really, this is the best time of year, garden-wise, because anything is possible!



Seed Companies, Designs, and More Snow

Eventually, he will guard the garden

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Waning Moon in Scorpio
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

The snowpack has momentarily melted –but more snow is expected on Sunday. I might just stay in bed.

Over on Ink in My Coffee, Lori asked if I would share my garden design at some point. Well, because most of it is container gardening (since I’m renting), only the set-aside vegetable bed is really designed — I’m doing some research as to how I should arrange what I’ve got, I’ll prepare the bed in spring, and then plant (and mark) in rows.

I’ve got forsythia bushes on either side of the garage, and a mix of rhododendron and azalea in the front. There’s a lilac on the side of the house (to the right if you’re in it, to the left if you’re looking at it), and some rose bushes along one side of the house. On the other side are more rhododendron, a big wooden wheel on which I hope to trail morning glories and moonflowers, and (according to Costume Imp) some iris. There’s a small holly bush in the back, along with hosta and some herbs and some stuff I don’t recognize, and pine, oak, and cedar tree. There’s a flowering almond somewhere.

All of those came with the property.

I have my Alberta spruce trees flanking the front door, and I need to get them into bigger pots before they start new growth. I want them to be happy. Eventually, when I own a place, I want to stick them into the ground, so they can be really happy!

I’ll have tomatoes and basil in large pots on deck, and I’m thinking about smaller pots of herbs on the edges of the deck steps (that means 12 matching pots). There’s a flat expanse in the middle of the back yard. If I can find a bird bath at a thrift shop, I may put that up and then flank it with containers. The strawberry plants will be in hanging baskets on the deck.

I’m sure I will move everything around a dozen times before I’m satisfied.

I’m logging in the seeds. I’m irritated with both Eden Brothers and Territorial Seed Company, because the back of the seed packet has some generic marketing claptrap instead of information on the actual seeds in the packet. I don’t like that. I’m sure their position is that they provide seeds for seasoned gardeners and one can look stuff up on the web site or somewhere else, but if I’m going to pay their prices (which are higher than Johnny’s), then they can provide individual instructions on the packets. The seeds better produce 100%. 😉

As soon as it gets mild enough and dry enough to work outside, I’ll start preparing the vegetable bed and muck out the oook that didn’t compost all the way around the shrubs. That way, it’ll be clean so I can – am I composting? Fertilizing? Mulching? I have to go look it up. I’m pretty sure I’m composting.

The indoor plants are pretty happy with all the sunlight, but pretty soon, I’ll repot what needs to be repotted and clean the pots, so I can use them after I start the seeds, but before I put the new plants outside.

It’s an adventure!


The Seeds Are Arriving!

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Second quarter moon in Leo
Saturn Retrograde
Celtic Tree Month of Rowan
Cloudy and cold

I never thought of myself as much of a garden gnome person, but this little guy was so adorable, I couldn’t resist!

Haven’t had much to say lately other than, “it’s snowing” and that gets a bit dull after a bit.

I’m not even near my garden right now — I’m on the road, working — but the seeds I ordered are arriving! I’d bought some, and the order from Eden Brothers arrived, and, I heard from home that the Territorial Seed Order also arrived (the plants will come in early April).

As they come in, I set up sheets for the garden binder I’m keeping — the name of the plant, both Latin & common, where I got it, etc. I want to see with which company’s products I have the best results (factoring in my own mistakes). I know the Johnny’s order shipped, but it hasn’t arrived yet. They’re my tried-and-true company — even when I struggled to keep seedling alive in a NY apartment with only northern exposure, I had the best luck with their seeds.

The snowpack may not be melting yet, but the arrival of the seeds gives me hope that spring will arrive — eventually.