Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pumpkins and More Bulbs

There's only two days left in September! Oh my. My Botanus (from British Columbia) order came in the mail last Friday and my first opportunity to plant them was today. I rushed out into the great windstorm, wearing several layers of clothing, and planted 75 daffodils, including Barrett Browning, Dutch Master, and Ice Follies. My palms are starting to blister from twisting my bulb planter around, but at least I didn't get rained on. Tomorrow I'll plant the tiny bulbs and hope for weather that's no worse than this.

I have found, by trial and error, that the daffodils only do well in the sandy soil (probably because it has better drainage) rather than the highly-organic mix of peat moss and compost. I had many bulbs that rotted last fall because they were planted in mostly peat moss. My daffodils are all planted in full sun to part (afternoon) shade.
Planted and labeled!

Mountain ash tree loaded down with berries:

Aster dumosus "Alert", blooming nicely this year:

Aren't these beautiful? I'm very proud of my two pumpkins, the first ones I have ever grown! I'm still figuring out how I'm going to eat them. It had better be sweet and delicious! They are a small sugar variety. I started them indoors a couple of months before planting out (in June), so that they could have a longer season than our weather allows.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Extinct Blue Species - But I Have One!

Okay, so here's one off-topic post. The Americans won't have any idea about this major shift in our confectionary colors, since they don't have Smarties as we know them (how unfortunate). In Canada however, March 2009 marked the end of the blue Smartie. I'm really not a junk food eater, but I occasionally enjoy these candy-covered milk chocolates. Resident-lawnmower-man picked up these ones from the bulk section of the CO-OP grocery store this week. Either their rate of Smartie turn-over is low, or RLM was just scraping the bottom of the barrel to get these older-style ones. Anyhow, I photographed this lone blue survivor for posterity. Tomorrow I may eat it. Goodbye "Brilliant Blue" artificial dye. Hello to a world with "no artificial colors" in our Smarties. From now on, the colors have to come from plants (there IS a plant connection here). The UK does have a natural blue substance (from cyanobacteria) to make their pale blue Smarties, but for some reason, it is not licensed for use in Canada (and Americans still have their M&Ms with all artificial dyes). I'm sure there are some researchers sitting in a lab somewhere, searching for solutions to our blue Smartie problem...

Bulb Planting and Miracle Fruit

I am aiming to get my bulbs all planted before October, but that may be difficult as I haven't received my Botanus order yet. Hopefully the box is in the mail and I get time to plant the bulbs, allowing them time to take root before winter.
Morning glory - spotted this afternoon:

I planted 260 bulbs in the alpine garden this past week. They are all smaller plants, such as large-flowered crocuses, Allium roseum, small narcissus, Siberian squill, and Anemone blanda. I wasn't planning on planting the entire Veseys order in there, but I decided to focus on that garden and make it really nice rather than diluting the effect around the entire yard.
Alpine garden:

A Lewisia in the alpine garden, still blooming to illustrate why it is one of my favourite flowers:

I received my Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) a few days ago, from Flora Exotica in Montreal. It was shipped via Canada Post "Expedited Parcels" service, which got it here in six days. The online tracking showed that it was sent quickly all the way to Manitoba, and from there it seemed to go to La Ronge by horse and carriage. The plant was well-packed with air bags to cushion its ride and sealed in a Lego-toys box (they must recycle at this plant place). The toddler-gardener was sorely disappointed to find out the package wasn't intended for her, since it looked so promising.
Miracle fruit plant:

From what I read online, this African shrub can start producing berries when it is a foot tall. It also prefers acid soil and a warm and humid environment. We'll see how it does in the basement under fluorescent lights! I have great hopes for this plant and its taste-altering properties. I think that the marijuana growers of this country should re-focus their energies on this cool plant. It is totally legal, safe and fun to have at parties, besides being quite a conversation piece. Keep tuned to see how this project turns out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Indoor Gardening Already; Pine Bonsai Update

The dismal year in the vegetable garden (probably because I neglected to water it enough) and a renewed desire to eat tasty greens has caused me to return to basement gardening. I can easily grow enough sweet, tender lettuce for sandwiches in the basement. The time investment is minimal -- I remember to water the plants whenever I do laundry. Also, there are no bugs (other than the odd spider) and the temperature is pretty comfortable to work in. So far, my two buttercrunch seedlings haven't grown very large. Unfortunately for them, I got hungry. I'm thinking that I need to start more lettuce, ideally in a variety of shapes and colors. What I really need is enter a lottery to win a greenhouse. Anybody heard of such a thing? At least it sounds better than the legion's "meat draw".

Here are the two Jack Pine seedlings, destined to become my first bonsai conifers (the white bottle is just to demonstrate their size):

They were started at the same time (Feb/09) despite the dissimilar appearance. These were part of a mini bonsai kit I got last Christmas. These trees really should have some sort of change in climate for their winter. Perhaps I'll put them out in the partially heated garage, but in bigger pots so they don't totally dry out.

Continuing on with the fall's indoor gardening kick, here is my recent shipment of Kaffir lime seeds. I ordered these on ebay and they arrived with these handy instructions. I got tired of reading my Indian cookbooks and skipping recipes that called for the leaves of this plant. They give a limey flavour and are used like bay leaves. The green fruits are not edible.

Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) seeds planted, keeping company with my herbs:

Finally, the most exciting indoor garden news is a purchase of a miracle fruit plant. Have you seen these berries on TV? They are like LSD for your tastebuds. Miracle fruit parties are popping up everywhere. RLM mused that it would be really cool to have one of these plants, though I replied that plants native to Ghana probably wouldn't thrive here. After a quick internet search the other night though, I found a supplier in Montreal and ordered a plant for about $35 including shipping. Canada post sent me a tracking information email today, so I hope to get my plant soon. It has a few particular needs, like acid soil, but that's not too hard to manage. I'm so excited. I'll post as soon as I get my new plant.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rather Blah Unless You Look Really Hard

The nearly-fall garden is not particularly exciting. That's probably why I'd rather not post pictures of it, but I did anyhow. The orange berries of the mountain ash tree are pretty though, but I hate having to pull all the little ash tree seedlings near that tree.
Large raised bed:

Sloped flower bed under mountain ash tree:

Some of the area under the tree was covered with bark mulch two years ago, but that layer is getting rather thin and old and it desperately needs to be topped up. However, resident-lawnmower-man told me that "you already put mulch there [2 years ago], why would you need any more?". This is the same guy that asks why I buy the toddler-gardener new pants every 6 months or so, since "she already has those". I should be asking him, "Why do you want lunch today? Didn't you have some yesterday?". Hmmm.

Do you have an interest in primulas of northern Scotland? I got several Primula scotica from our local American Primrose Society member. I believe she grew the plants from seeds obtained from their society seed exchange.
Primula scotica:

The alpine garden is doing well. Some plants did so well that I dug them up and tossed them out of it, telling them never to come back. Like other Cerastiums, the alpine version can take over quite a large space in a small amount of time. I am now keeping only one Cerastium specimen in there, and that one had better behave.

On the other hand, some plants grew quite slowly, like this Draba polytricha. The whole plant never grew any bigger than the end of my thumb. I hope it makes a conspicuous bloom someday.
Draba polytricha:

Jovibarba rosettes filling the space between rocks:

I grew those jovibarba from seed last winter. A few little rosettes planted in that space grew into a nice little crust of those lovely succulents. None of them flowered yet.

We have pumpkins! Yes, two of them are living on a vine that is growing on the pile of dirt and weeds out back. See that dandelion? It alone could feed a family of four.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some Two-Faced Spider

Here's a spider with a face to spare. Doesn't it look like someone tried to sew a face onto the back of this one? Really, I don't like spiders too much. I can't help but get immediate feelings of repulsion. Sorry, spider world. I admit to smushing the ones that invade my laundry pile and crawl towards me when I'm in the bathtub, but I leave the outdoor ones alone. I found this one next to the faucet for the garden hose.

The only gardening I've done recently consists of watering a few desperate plants in pots. I did notice that my pumpkins are now orange (yeah!). I spotted them while getting scallions for dinner last night. An unfortunate series of minor illnesses has been getting in the way of my gardening destiny. Let's hope for a long fall.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pretty Pinks, Peculiar Pelargonium

First, I'll tell the embarassing story of my week. I got my seed order from Stokes, which oddly came in a box this time. Rather unusual for a few packets of seed, don't you think? Then I pulled out this foil package a little smaller than a bag of breakfast cereal, labeled "Keystone Endive, product of Netherlands". I only wanted a few seeds to see if I could grow endive under lights, but instead I got 10,000 pelleted seeds! It wasn't the company's mistake. I should have wondered why the seeds were so expensive. I looked back at the website and found that the "quantity" box for certain vegetables had a "10" entered by default, and these particular seeds were sold by the 1,000. Thus, I have enough endive seeds to cover the whole area of our lawn. It's not worth the shipping amount to send them back, so I'll see if anyone I know might actually want them. They've got to REALLY like endive.

I don't recall having Lewisia blooming all summer like this before, but I'm not complaining!
Lewisia "Little Plum":

The Primula acaulis plants I put out in spring (I started them from seed) are getting their second wind. I give these plants a little more attention since they are close to the house. The regular removal of spent flowers is probably paying off.
Primula acaulis:

I have a few of these unusual zonal geraniums in pots this year. They are "tulip flowered", producing these pretty little closed buds that never open. I propagated a few of these plants from a cutting from my mother-in-law's plant. I quite like this flower and will definitely be saving some plants/cuttings over the winter.
Tulip flowered zonal geranium: