Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Love New Plants

There is something about seeing a new plant bloom that really thrills me. I anticipate blooms like a child wringing their hands before Christmas gift-opening. I stalk the plant frequently, carefully checking for signs of imminent blooms. It need not be an exotic or fancy plant either. This year, I even got excited about some annuals (poppies, phacelia, and candytuft) which I direct seeded in a neglected area rather than throw away the odd assortment of free "bonus" packages of seeds I'd amassed.
Tradescantia "Little Doll", a new plant purchased for me last year by resident-lawnmower-man.

This gorgeous annual is the 24-inch tall Lavatera "Silver Cup".

I planted a few Lavatera in my yard and one over at my sister-in-law's place. She has been so gracious in letting me have full access to her yard's dirt, a very positive personal characteristic. I plan to keep on taking advantage of this trait by planting even more exciting new annuals over there next year. In contrast, my mother likes to stick with the "tried and true". Geraniums or bust, her motto could be (though this year I may have convinced her to try a few new ones). I'm addicted to new plants and this will keep my nose in the seed catalogs all winter.
Lilies are in full bloom in the perennial beds:

Look at this, my Okanagan relatives. I grew cherries! We planted these three years ago and this is their first fruiting year. They are tart cherries called "SK Carmine Jewel". They apparently have just as much sugar in them as sweet cherries, but more citric acid, which makes them a bit tart compared to the sweet ones. I bought the young trees from DNA gardens in Alberta, which has a really great selection of novelty fruiting trees and shrubs. The tree itself is darling, a perfect little ball of dark glossy leaves on a short single trunk.

A group of lilies, including the hideous orange one that mysteriously trespassed on my garden this year. I have tied a string around its stem to identify the offender, which must be dug out and given away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Proud Mother of a Broccoli and Mystery Vegetable

I am very proud of my very first head of broccoli, feeling nearly maternal towards this cruciferous vegetable. I'd never actually seen broccoli growing in a garden before, so I was excited to watch every stage of my four broccoli plants this year. From the looks of the plant and leaves, we don't have a flea beetle problem (this year, anyhow).

Of course, the broccoli take up a fair bit of space in my "massive" 4 by 10 foot garden, so they had to be worth it. We ate some fresh broccoli with our supper tonight, and I'd say it was a bit sweeter than the store-bought stuff. I gave my broccoli a headstart by starting them indoors this spring, and they have been thriving off the worm compost added to the soil.

Allium "Gladiator" seedhead, quite ornamental in my opinion:

This mystery plant probably grew out of some seed in my compost. I potted it up out of curiosity. I have no clue what it is. Does anybody out there know? I'll take another picture when the buds open, if that helps.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Did That Plant Get Here?

It is quite hot and humid here today, with thunder rumbling in the distance. The clouds preceding a thunderstorm made for a good opportunity to photograph flowers.

I was shocked to see this bright orange flower glaring at me from the center of a raised bed today. My color theme in the yard excludes reds and oranges and I have not planted any new lilies in two years, so I am baffled about this shockingly-bright orange lily. I doubt that the pink, white, and burgundy lilies would have changed color this year and there is no way this could have come from a lily seed, as it is a substantial-sized plant. Bizarre! I welcome any explanations.

The Osteopermum "Passion Mix" are finally showing alot of blooms. I grew these from (expensive) seed early in the spring. I pinched them back repeatedly to make sure they got bushy, so I think that effort is now paying off.

Another gratuitous picture of a purple Delphinium:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Behold a New Poppy, Thanks to the Bees!

"Munstead" English lavender is in bloom in a drift across the front of one of my raised beds. I've yet to do anything terribly crafty or delicious with my lavender, but I'm open to any ideas! I've read that lavender induces delta waves of sleep on an EEG and its smell alone can replace sleeping pills. My deep-seated lavender-memory is from university days, when I tried to mask the smell of cadavers with a lab coat steeped in lavender essential oil. I thought it was a good idea at the time, but later I had some creepy lavender flashbacks.

Lily "Cote d'Azur" is a great little pink lily. Most impressively, I started with one plant and now I seem to have them all over my yard. Lilies are so amazingly hardy and resistant to my division techniques, which often result in lily beheadings.

I'm really excited about this new garden event: Behold the purple poppy (A).

Then, behold the pink and mauve poppy (B).

Take a bee that likes purple and pink poppies and you have: Pink and Purple Poppy (A+B=C). This is my second year of growing Papaver somniferum and I find this little genetic shuffle rather neat! I 'll be taking seeds from this one and spreading them around.

Pink poppies and blue cornflowers. Both self-seeded. What a pair!

The flowerbed alongside the driveway contains some flourishing perennials and a rose that survived my harsh pruning this spring. In fact, I think it looks pretty good!

Orchid and Baobab Update

Here's an unknown type of Dendrobium (?spathulatum), in full bloom with 4 spikes. This is the most flowers it's ever had. This is the biggest orchid I grow and it needs to be repotted after these blooms are done.

Here's a picture of my little 4 year-old baobab bonsai, which just starting growing leaves again this past month. It's very happy in its hot and sunny windowsill after spending the winter dormant period in the basement. After this picture, I pruned all the growing stems back to only one leaf node, to promote further branching. I'll take another picture when it starts looking bushy.

For updates on the baobab, see July 9/09.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Delphinium Glory

The Pacific Giant series Delphiniums are in glorious bloom. They are definitely a show-stopper, the most striking blooms since the tulips in springtime. Mine were grown from seed and these plants are 2 to 3 years old. The key to placement of delphiniums is to ensure the bottom two feet of the plants are shielded from view. They have unsightly bottoms and need some shorter perennials at their feet.

The light blue blooms are called "Summer Skies". Clearly so! These flowers look especially good for weathering a hail storm last weekend.

This is "Blue Bird". I bought these seeds from Swallowtail Garden seeds, who has a nice selection of delphiniums.

Papaver somniferum pink and mauve blooms. So pretty! I just love these poppies.

A lovely trio of white Campanula persicifolia, pink Papaver somniferum, and pacific giant delphiniums.

Digitalis x mertonensis, the Strawberry foxglove, grows among other perennials in the raised bed. I understand that D. mertonensis is actually a hybrid of D. purpurea and D. grandiflora, both of which I also grow. D. purpurea is a biennial, producing foliage in the first year and flowers in the second. D. grandiflora, on the other hand, produces yellow flowers and is perennial, producing flowers reliably every year.

I have noticed that D. mertonensis has unique foliage with large dark green leaves with toothed edges. I wasn't sure which digitalis was which until I noticed that they can be distinguished from their leaves. Now I'm interested to see how long D. x mertonensis lives.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rainstorms and Suddenly, More Flowers

Today was the first sunny day after a few rainy ones. We didn't get any tornadoes or such here, though. Of course, there are always a few surprises in the garden after a few days spent indoors.

(various colors of the Pacific Giants) are now blooming and leaning dangerously on their sides:

Project-wise, I am attempting to reduce the "catmint load" on the raised beds, as that stuff self-seeds over-abundantly and I am trying to keep it under control. I replaced it with Salvia nemorosa "Marcus". I also dug up some 3 year old tulips so that they can be replaced by new ones planted in the fall.

I tried this Phacelia "Tropical surf" for the first time and found it to be extremely easy. I think I threw the seed here around June 1 and now six weeks later -- flowers! I saw these on Arizona garden blogs, but after seeing that Kate in Regina had them last year, I had to try them for myself.

Beautiful, though distorted: Here's my first Scabiosa caucasica "House's Mix" of the season.

The Opium somniferum flowers showed up for the first time today. I love their crepe-thin petals and while the individual flowers don't last long, these self-seeded breadseed poppies have come back as a multitude and will flower for a few weeks. Aside from flowers, I'll have enough seed to make poppyseed bread all winter.

My first successful peas grown in the north. I direct seeded these outdoors in May. Yes, they didn't even get a headstart indoors and I will actually get food from these plants before frost!

Our salads should be colorful this summer. That is "Cavalry" red lettuce in the center.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sunflower Seed Syndrome - A Must Read

If you think this is a darling little flower, then you need to think twice about the dreaded dangers of sunflowers. I came upon this indispensable tidbit in the text "Medical Toxicology, Third Edition" 2003 by E. Martin Caravati and Richard C. Dart:

"Ingestion of large amounts of unhusked sunflower seeds may result in obstipation, rectal pain with defecation, and a "crunchy" sensation on rectal examination. Attempts to defecate enhance the symptoms. Rectal impaction has occurred in children that required removal by endoscopic biopsy forceps and rectal irrigation. Disimpaction may require general anesthesia."

Remarkable! So don't be eating bags of unhusked sunflower seeds.

Campanula carpatica "Blue Clips" just started blooming in the past 3 days:

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Scent of Death and Flowers

Here are my two foxgloves, the yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora) and a pink foxglove of unknown type, possibly Digitalis purpurea. Later I will post pictures of a Digitalis mertonensis which I planted last year and is now beginning to flower.

Armeria (seathrift) amid the rock garden. This little perennial does well in my garden on dry well-drained soil amended with compost.

Yellow "Chandelier" lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) looking happy in the perennial bed:

Siberian irises bloom against the white and cream backdrop of Polemonium caeruleum album (wite Jacob's ladder) and Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard).

One of three cherry tomato varieties I am trying in containers this year is "Tumbling Tom". It is a great container cherry tomato, not needing any pruning or staking. I've eaten a few sun-warmed delicious fruits from this plant in the last few days.

Pink-flowered strawberry "Pikan" has produced several fruits already, nearly all eaten by the one year old strawberry thief!

Kona, you hot and fluffy dog. You can't fool us with this innocent look. We have noticed the sudden lack of squirrel chirps in your forested domain. Today as I brushed you, I couldn't help but notice the stomach-turning putrid odor of death and decay. Next time, could you please give it a proper burial if you aren't going to eat it while it is fresh. Thankyou.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Now in Bloom

Now in full bloom here are Aquilegia (columbines), Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard), Dianthus deltoides, Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob's ladder), Iris sibirica (Siberian iris), Dianthus barbatus (Sweet Williams), Lupinus polyphyllus, Digitalis grandiflora and one lonely Oriental poppy.

I fell in love with the pictures of these Songbird Mix aquilegias on the Swallowtail seeds website and started some last year. Here is one of the products, a long-spurred, upwards facing flower, small plant (less than 2 ft tall). I have another that flowered a pale yellow, but no blues.

My in-laws are in town visiting and I enjoy leisurely tours through the garden with my mother-in-law, who also enjoys gardening. She mentioned that her Siberian irises are doing nothing much and I pointed out these pale blue ones of mine, which have taken three years to start blooming! About half of mine still have no blooms, but I'll generously give them another few years and a "talking to", as another gardener friend admonished.

The sloping rock bed is full of color with Aquilegias, Digitalis grandiflora (yellow foxglove), purple alpine asters, pink dianthus, and the start of thyme's season of purple blooms.

The yellow foxglove (at the top of the picture) is extremely hardy and requires ordinary garden conditions. It does very well here, but of course is very poisonous. Like the drug digitalis, it can slow the heart to the point of stopping it altogether.

Two grey plants do fabulous in my garden: Lamb's ears (tall grey plant on left) and Artemisia "Silvermound" (fluffy moundish plant at left). Both need no special care, full to part sun, and low to moderate amounts of water. The lamb's ears creeps outwards while the silvermound does not spread.

Here's a moth the dog could get along with. It has a furry white coat!

Alpine asters amid three colors of Dianthus deltoides. All are great rock garden plants, though I need to shear the flowers off after the blooming season to keep them tidy-looking.