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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Salad Burnet and other Sans Souci (Carefree) Sanguisorbas

Salad Burnet is one of those plant-it-and-forget-it types of plants that will thrive without attention and even seed itself around year after year.  The evergreen foliage in my zone has a mild cucumber taste, though the leaves may be a little tough later in the year and are best as just an accent in a salad.  Here is some Salad Burnet now, still lush and green on an elevated ramp where it gets very little water.  The flowers are just little green balls of seeds until they turn brown in late summer.

In the PNW Sanguisorba minor self-sows just moderately, but in my San Diego garden many years ago, it would self-sow most robustly, and make many very robust plants that were substantial clumps.  I found them very handy, as I lived on a canyon and a bird there, the Brown Towhee, liked to eat my bean, pea and corn seeds shortly after I sowed them, making a backward hopping motion to dig.  I would come out and find a neat little row of holes where my seeds had been.  So in order to get any plants up, I had a strategy that involved covering the rows with greenery so the bird could not see them or dig them up, and an additional covering of fence material like chicken wire to further prevent the bird from getting to the ground.  The Salad Burnet plants were reliably abundant and very useful for this, I would break up the clumps and strew them over the seed rows, then cover with wire.  The little seeds would be able to grow up through this, and then I could take them off as the birds just liked the seeds sprouting underground.

Here, there is a Rufus-Sided Towhee, prettier than the Brown Towhee and not having its preference for eating seeds, so we can live in peace, and I can plant my seeds without protection from birds, though I sprinkle cayenne pepper on them to help protect them from voles.  Slugs also take a toll on them as they sprout.

There are other Sanguisorbas that have a variety of flowers, written about in a good article-
Superb Sanguisorbas   Sanguisorba officinalis 'Tanna' has a petal-less flower head like a bobble head, in varying shades of magenta.  It is a great little plant, bred to be a miniature version.  It has bloomed several years, a deep wine red, here on July 23.  The flash wiped out the color.:-(
The seedheads still look reddish and the seeds were dry so I picked them today to save some seed.
Regular  Sanguisorba officinalis has been growing for a couple of years on my inferno strip in front, an area overcome with weedy annual grasses.  I started it from seed and it just bloomed for the first time, the bloom stalks reaching up to almost 4' tall (This is the color the Tanna should be)-
It has been a rosette of larger leaves and held its own against the grasses-
Sanguisorba is useful mixed in with other taller plants in a prairie setting, and also useful as a medicinal herb with many traditional uses, its name meaning to staunch or absorb blood.

I will be looking for other plants in this genera to add to my garden.  Some that sound interesting in the above article have a white or pink fuzzy head like a caterpillar in appearance.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday, August 24

Hi, this is my first post on Wildflower Wednesday.  Thanks for hosting, Gail!  Wildflower Wednesday at link-  Clay and Limestone There are not very many native blooms at this time so here are some results of the blooms- fruit, Cascara sagrada, not edible-
And the shrub Salal, which spreads, and has edible fruit-
Also Mahonia nervosa, a low-growing Oregon Holly Grape-
Then there is the very prolific and highly nutritious Aronia melanocarpa, which has the highest ORAC value, antioxidant content, of any North American berry-
Some native plants I am trying to grow from seed won't bloom until next year, Erysimum wheeleri-
Agastache aurantica bloomed this year but they have faded, they were tubular peachy orange flowers and the fragrance of the flowers and foliage combined were fantastic-
And actually in bloom now,  Anaphalis margaritacea, Pearly Everlasting, which seems to attract some small wasps in addition to bees-
And finally, Fireweed,  Epilobium angustifolium-
So, looking to grow more natives in the near future,   Hannah

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Egg Brain-Teaser, Beans, and Tomatoes

Well, our 4 ducks are finally easing into egg-laying, one has been laying 4 days and another one day.
Here is my egg brain-teaser of the day.  Below is the product of 3 eggs.  Explain.  One egg is different from the other eggs.  Which are chicken eggs and which are duck eggs (I also have 2 laying chickens).
This is my first tomato from Rostova at 7.5 oz (but not of the year, that was Tricot Czech), a fantastic heart-shaped tomato I'm trying for the first time this year. I started it 2-7-11 in a ziplock bag and put the sprouts in peat moss, perlite, and compost, then transplanted 4-20-11 under tunnels.   198 days from seed, 126 days from transplant- so much for the 85 DTM advertised.  And Shilling's Giant Heart which I'm also growing is supposed to take 80 DTM and is not coloring up yet.  That's what PNW cold springs, and cold summer nights, can do to tomato growth and ripening.  But at least the process is beginning and will continue until frost or blight, whichever comes first.  I'm enjoying my decision to grow mostly determinate tomatoes this year since the work staking and tying up vines has been much less.
If you have only grown regular slicing tomatoes, you would be surprised to cut open a heart tomato, there are practically no seed cavities or gel, just succulent flesh.  
In the pan is also one San Remo paste tomato, and some Pisarecka Glutoluske beans, an heirloom from Abundant Life Seed Foundation before the fire.  It is rather cold tolerant and I have planted it out as early as April 15 but this year on  so days to start getting ripe.  It tied Speedy from Park Seed for first beans along with Insuk's Wang Kong runner beans, which like cool weather and beat the other pole beans by a long shot.  Drying in pans behind them are teas- Prunella vulgaris spikes on the left, Self-Heal, and on the right some tips from my Tea plant, Camellia sinensis.

Next beans are some Capitano from Park seeds, only a couple of days behind.  There seem to be some green ones in addition to the yellow ones that are correct, a bush version of Marvel of Venice.  Or they are some Marconi nano from Gourmet Seeds of Italy, but not making runners like the other ones planted in the middle strip.  Above this pan is also some tea I'm trying for the first time, from my Schisandra vine, which is supposed to be grown for fruit, but it turned out my male died so no pollinator so no fruit.  I'm considering buying a male or Eastern Prince which is self-fertile and may also be a pollinator.  But it is a beautiful vine anyway, and the first taste of the tea is pleasant enough.

And the last pan features the IWK runner beans, which are far and away the best yielders.  Runner beans are a different species and do better in cool temperatures like in the PNW and in Great Britain, where many varieties have been developed.  They can be a little tough if left too long, I hope these were picked soon enough.
Here's hoping your tomatoes are ripening for you,


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What's Blooming Today August 15, 2011

I'm participating in the Garden Blogger's Bloom Day again on May Dreams Gardens  thanks, Carol.

Today I'm updating my photo of my rose stripped by deer that is valiantly recovering, still the same rose on day 7 of its being open, the fantastic Betty Boop (Blogger keeps turning it sideways)-
To see her when first open and of a more yellow color in the center of the petals, see Explosions in the Rose Factory  .  I'm going to keep posting Betty Boop's progress opening and hanging onto her blooms.

Another bloom that just opened is on the striped mini Fall Festival, but it will have blown in only a couple of days-
The lavish tubular inflorescences of Buddelia davidii are being visited by a Western Swallowtail-
And the little skippers are enjoying the Dwarf Greek Oreganos nearby-
A bumblebee is visiting the native Borage family plant Phacelia nemoralis in addition to nearby Borage blossoms-
I like to keep the pollinators happy, both the native bees and the honeybees.  Blocks of mint help with this, for long bloom they find irresistible.  This is a wild mint that likes to grow in ditches and water, and has a nice menthol taste that makes a nice mint tea-
The scarlet blooms of Runner beans require pollenization, and seem to attract mainly bumblebees, and are greatly loved by hummingbirds.  This is Insuk's Wang Kong, from trades on the Gardenweb forum, note the white form as well-
Other vegetable flowers blooming now are cucumbers, which have been yielding early and well,  this is Eureka, disease resistant and useful for pickling or salads, from Park Seed-
My favorite summer squash, with wonderful buttery taste and texture is Summer Crookneck from Lily Miller-
Purple is pretty in vegetable flowers, here are some Dewako Eggplant flowers, so frustratingly slower than tomatoes to grow, bloom, and fruit-
A purple bean I'm trying this year is Velour from Park Seed-
But back to flowers, Crocosmia mountbretia is now blooming, 'Lucifer' has already finished-
Daylilies are about over, roses are winding down, so it's nice to have some other plants that are just starting to bloom.  Anemone japonica just started blooming, and will continue on into fall, it spreads well all by itself-
And from the Malva family, Malva alcea fastigiata is a tall narrow plant that also comes up by itself every year without care.
Finally, the ground cover and water lover Houttuynia cordata is blooming, but these plants have reverted to the green form instead of the delightful red and yellow variegated form.  I will have to try to find some of the colorful ones in my other beds.  They are edible with a hint of orange flavor-
Happy Bloom Day,   Hannah

Friday, August 12, 2011

Progress in the Vegetable Patch

I have several personal deadlines for getting vegetables planted every year.  The first relates to tomatoes, and involves getting them seeded 6-8 weeks before setting them out in April to May.  I currently am starting most tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, and cucumbers in ziplock bags rather than in peat moss jiffy-7 pots or in peat moss/ perlite/ compost mix that has been microwaved to kill fungus spores.  I have had much better success sprouting and growing seeds in the ziplock bags, obtainable at a Michael's or other stores selling beading supplies.  A piece of paper towel is cut to fit inside the bag and moistened, then seeded and labeled.  A much higher level of sprouting and successful propagation has occurred for me, so that I am now starting particularly tomato and cucumber seeds that are 8 years or more old that initially had zero success in peat.  This year Azure Paste and Novinka Kubani seeds sprouted for me for the first time so I will hopefully get to try them.  After the seeds sprout and the seedling root is 1-2" long, I pull out the paper towel and remove the seedling to plant in the above mix, in 2 1/4" rose pots that fit nicely in 10 x 20" flats, 36 to a flat.  The flats fit 2 to a shelf, on metal shelves with 4' fluorescent fixtures hung from the shelf above, so a 3 shelf unit holds 6 flats = 144 plants.

I transplant tomatoes outside at around 11" tall, when they grow up to the lights, hardening them off first on my concrete east-facing covered porch, starting when 30-year temperature charts indicate lows of 32* F / 0* C, under tunnels that are double-walled plastic with wire ribs at intervals to push into the soil.  The tunnels are 18' long, and about 18" tall in the middle and wide (brand TunLCover, carried by Gurney's and other garden catalogs or from the manufacturer).  This covers quite a few tomatoes in a straight line, planted between 18 and 36" apart.  Tomatoes and especially squash show marked boosts in development compared with plants not covered in my garden.  So here in the PNW, maritime zone 8, I have planted out as early as April 1, though usually a week or two later.   A major advantage of tunnels is that they prevent rain from reaching the ground underneath them, so I use them to dry out the soil in my rows for planting.  Since this is the rainy season here, I otherwise would have a very hard time finding a space between rains long enough to dry the soil sufficiently. My favorite way to prepare garden beds for planting is to cover the beds with layers of newspaper long enough to kill all weeds, then I put on tunnels to dry the soil for several weeks before I pull up the newspaper to plant, amending with lava rock (scratchy, somewhat protective from digging animals), animal manure such as rabbit, chicken or duck, glacial rock dust for minerals, compost, and lime.  Digging only the actual hole needed for each plant keeps the moles from wreaking as much havoc on the beds, though they do love freshly dug soil and will often come up in the planting hole next to the tomato.  I have to wash the mounds back down and put lava rock in them, or metal plant tags next to the plant as a deterrent.

This year I'm experimenting with using determinate tomatoes, which are shorter, and eggplants and peppers, all from the poisonous nightshade family, as possible deterrents among my bush beans plants to see if they will protect the plants from voles.  So I have rows of beans running down between the nightshade plants, and will compare damage with previous years when I planted beans in rows with greens such as collards, kale, mustard, and turnips.  Bean deadline is May 15 to get them in the ground, though I have experimented with a few cold tolerant beans as early as April 15.

A problem is appearing with the middle bean rows, since some sold as bush beans, especially Marconi nano from Gourmet Seeds of Italy are developing runners.   The far end of the bed has a few tall indeterminate tomatoes that require more staking.   I may put them under plastic later in the season to try to avoid blight.  I have them fitted with soaker hoses and mulched with grass clippings to keep the weeds down and hold the water in better.  That is my current gardening chore, nearly finished with one long bean bed to go.
I planted mainly runner beans down the trellis on the sides of my 2 gardening beds again, they are better suited to cooler temperatures than regular beans and grow faster, bloom sooner, and bear beans sooner here.  They are not very good with hot summers, though.  The hummingbirds love the red flowers.  They require pollination unlike regular beans though and I didn't see a very high set of pods on the plants so far.
This is my other bed which has squash, cucumbers, beans, and cardoon, which can be seen in the foreground.  I've been getting quite a few cucumbers but the voles finally found them and hollowed out a couple, so the wars are on.  I am trying sprinkling some cayenne pepper around the plants and put some cukes up off the ground on some 1 gallon pots.  The cucumbers are tied up on trellises to keep them off the ground, though the plants have been setting fruit a lot near the ground.  I've gotten a couple of crookneck squash so far- heavenly!  If you haven't tasted a homegrown golden crookneck, you've missed one of life's great taste treats. There is a lot of self-sown borage in the bed which I tolerate since it really pulls the pollinators in, and that's very important for fruit set, except that I'm growing a lot of gynecious cucumbers and some that develop without being pollenized, parthenocarpic.  But, a major gardening goal is keeping those pollinators happy.  I have big beds of mints and lots of flowers in my once edibles-only garden to please the bees.  Many visiting my flowers are natives but there were a goodly number of honeybees on the borage today.  Squash and cucumber deadlines are seeding by May 1 to set out under tunnels by June 15 or earlier, whenever they are of sufficient size.
I also developed a new bed this year from some lawn that will have my overwintering greens in it.  We started out killing the grass with leaves last fall and with grass clippings this spring, then a lot of weeds moved in that had to be cleared out.
I cleared them out with a serrated knife one day, then used my mattock on the roots the next day, and seeded it after that, just making my deadline of July 15 for overwintering greens, necessary to give them sufficient size to withstand the cold.  I planted kale, turnips, collards, and mustard, maybe some Bok Choy if it came up.  Here it is on August 7 after 3 weeks of growth, I just got a fence put up of T-posts and wire fencing "cattle panels", hard to see in photo, but need to extend it upward with bamboo and wire to keep deer out-
So, that was last deadline of the season.  I started getting ripe tomatoes on August 8, a week later than last year which was a month later than my usual start of the tomato season in a normal hotter year.  I may have to revert to growing shorter season and cold tolerant tomatoes- grrrr.  Here is winner of the first ripe tomato, Tricot Czech-
And winner of cutest tomato award, Martino's Roma-
And winner of largest green tomato, Rostova, a divine red and yellow streaked heart tomato, my favorite classification for meaty succulent texture and few seeds, at 3" long by 2.5" diameter (my first year growing Rostova)-
So, I hope you are enjoying summer and your vegetables,


Explosions in the Rose Factory

What is quite like a variegated rose?  Take for example Fourth of July, aptly named-

Even some very old roses can be expressive, like Rosa Mundi, sport of the Apothecary rose.  She is more of a magenta on white, or is it white on magenta.  Why do gardeners avoid that word in their color descriptions?

Then there is the scintillating Scentimental, fragrant as well as beautiful, but unfortunately not a prolific bloomer for me-

In addition there is the rose with deeper color just on the edge of the petals, I wish I could also show how the blooms of Betty Boop change color as they age but I forgot and left off her cage when I was going to weed around her and came back the next day to find the deer had stripped off all her leaves and blooms.:-(  It was almost enough to make me want to get a ferocious deer-chasing dog- Not.  But the delightful Betty Boop IS a prolific bloomer, non-stop all summer and fall.  And little wine-red new shoots are appearing amid the sticks, even some with flower buds, so it shouldn't be long for her to recover.
Betty Boop finally opened a new blossom as she valiantly recovers from being munched by a deer-
 Here is the plant which has been sprouting lots of new growth and I counted 8 new flower buds- Betty Boop has flower power, she won the AARS award for 1999, along with Fourth of July, also a Weeks rose.

Then there is my collection of miniature variegated roses, acquired when Justice Roses went out of business, that I should have had were it not for rabbits, voles, and rose diseases that lay waiting especially for the vulnerable petite rose.  A mini saved in a pot that opens with red and yellow stripes is Fall Festival-

 Another potted mini with large flat blooms is Hurdy Gurdy-

Dreamcatcher can make a fairly large bush and really pumps out the blooms-

One I bought labeled as Phesant Kobes, I can't find it in the search engines, the nearest is Pheasant Kordes which is a red- it also makes multiple clusters of blooms.  It can start out purple in the shade-
But later or in the sun it can be quite red, then fade slowly to pink then white-

The very lovely pink and red Rose Gilardi mini-
And for a finale, again the explosive Fourth of July-

Take time to smell the roses!  -Hannah

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