Monday, June 29, 2009


At this point it feels a bit redundant to complain about the weather, but it is just awful! I am sure my neighbors thinks I'm even more bonkers (they already think I'm bonkers) for gardening in the misty/sprinkles that pass for a break in the rain, but I don't see a choice. On the other hand, I haven't had to water very much.

Despite the lack of sun, there have been a few bits of inspiration around the garden. Many plants are beginning their bloom, and have grown into monsters with all the rain.

I've been calling the unnamed rose bush I dug up at my Grandma's a Hybrid Tea, but because it is starting to develop multiple blooms on one stalk, I'm actually starting to think it is a Floribunda. Once it breaks bud, it's this bright pink.

After a few more days, it matures to this heavenly pale pink.

This rose is lovely, but difficult. Aphids love it, it already has some black spot and leaf curl, but I've decided to go organic in my garden, and if a rose can't handle it, well, that just means I have to go on a hunt for something that will do well in my garden. I've already become devoted to my Knockout roses. I've got two, a pink, and a double red.

Here's the double red.

It's already bloomed once, and it's beginning a second round of blooming. The blooms first open, looking a little like a classic Hybrid Tea rose. The red is so bright, the light just bounces off my camera, making it hard to shoot.

Another rose I've had some success with is my Flowercarpet Yellow (it's behind the Miscanthus - the clumping grass). I bought the plant last year, and it just churned out the flowers immediately. I didn't water it, or fertilize it, just let it go, and this year it's even better.

The Flowercarpet series, as the name suggests, is supposed to spread widely and stay low, but the yellow's form has been pretty upright and non-spreading, but the rose production is so amazing, I went out and found a 'Pink Supreme,' which is just now starting to bloom. I also recently planted another shrub rose, 'Belinda's Dream,' which is supposedly disease resistant and very heat/humidity tolerant. I'll keep you posted about how these work out.

Now that I have a few roses, I'm totally in love. Definitely, a rainy-day-blues buster of a plant.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Urban Farming?

I've never actually grown anything other than flowers (and I'm still pretty new at that), but this year I decided to dive into veggies. I consulted a couple books over the winter (Square Foot Gardening, The Organic Home Gardener). I poured over online seed catalogs, loading and clearing my shopping cart. I was highly overwhelmed, but in the end, I grew a bunch of bush tomatoes, cucumbers, mesclun, radishes and herbs from seed, then bought some Bonnie tomato and pepper seedlings.

Here's my tomato patch:

I've already enjoyed some of the Basil, Cilantro, and Mesclun and I discovered I really don't like radish. I'm still a little undecided about how ugly the patch is (apparently the whole attractiveness of veggie gardens is quite a "hot" topic in the gardening world), but so far, I feel like the experiment has already been a success.

One thing that I've found to be really different about veggie gardening, opposed to flower gardening, is that it's a lot more heart wrenching/nerve wracking. When a flower dies or gets eaten by some critter, I have a momentary spell of remorse or anger, but if food doesn't grow, well, that's a whole nother matter!

My loss of some cucumber seedlings was just devestating (even though my husband pointed out, he really doesn't like them anyway). Some cold weather and my bush tomatoes started to turn a bit yellow -- tragic! There are aphids munching away on my vining tomatoes as we speak, and I've been researching a non pesticidal cure (there are several, but efficacy is dubious - I'm screwed).

So I will finish this post with a few pictures of my flowers, a much more upbeat topic, to be sure. The iris and peony have pooped out, but roses are chugging away, and the Shastas unfurled today!

And because the long shot is still a little scraggly looking, I thought I'd post some close-ups.

The rain-tipped Shasta Daisy:

A clematis (Hagley Hybrid), beginning its bloom:

Grandma D's rose (I think it's some kind of Hybrid Tea) beginning to bloom:

The author of the Organic Home Gardener (Patrick Lima) writes about how all veg gardens should include flowers, he included some quote or saying, something along the lines of "Vegetables are for the belly, but flowers are for the soul." I'm probably horribly butchering the original, but I think the sentiment is correct.


Friday, June 5, 2009

A New Garden is Not Cheap

I moved this Clematis this Spring, and it has put out its first and major bloom. It really grew a ton since last year, and makes me want more Clematis because they make me feel like I'm in Hawaii (I can always dream), but these plants are really expensive! I did start some from seed, Clematis 'Radar Love.' Three sprouted, and I gave one away, but it will probably be a couple years until I get blooms.

There's lots of new things going on in the garden this year.

I bought some new perennials:

Achillea 'Coronation Gold' (Yarrow)
Geranium 'Brookside' (Cranesbill)
Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies' (Cheddar Pinks)
Potentilla fruticosa 'Abbotswood'
Artemisia 'Silver Mound'
Rosa 'Sun Flare'
Rosa 'Belinda's Dream'
Iris sibirica (white) (Siberian Iris)
Lilium speciosum 'Rubrum'
Lilium 'Black Beauty'
Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob's Ladder)

Though technically I bought the lily bulbs last year, but this is the first year of growth.

Annuals from Seed:

Pink Impatiens (common, but pretty)
Sweet Pea
Morning Glory
California Poppy
Nigella (Love in a Mist)

Starts of the Nasturium, Sweet Pea, Thunbergia, and Morning Glory have all been eaten by some dastardly creature. Curse you, wildlife!

Veggies and Herbs from seed/seedling:

Green Onion
Mesclun Mix (already eaten)
Radishes (easy, but I don't like them)
Alpine Strawberries
Catmint (for Oscar, the best cat ever)

Honorable Mentions:
Grandma Dixon's Rose -- I dug it up and planted it in my yard. At first it was being eaten, but after a few sprayings with Horticultural Oil/Spray, it seems to have recovered and is budding!


P.S. If I disappear after this post is published, my husband will be the prime suspect.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Foxgloves and Romance Novels

I wrestled for a while with the thought of letting the world outside my family know that next to gardening, my next great passion/addiction/timesuck is Romance Novels. Rarely do the two worlds connect. Occasionally, I might read a novel in my garden, which is truly enjoyable. Sometimes the destined lovers share an embrace in a garden, but that's generally the extent of the synergy. However, a recent Eloisa James novel featured one of my new favorite plants! As the plant is just now coming into full bloom, I had to share why I think this plant is so amazing, though I won't give away how it was used in the novel.

Last year, I tried my hand at sowing plants from seed (mostly driven by economy), and one of my successes was Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Foxglove is a biennial, meaning it only grows foliage in its first year, flowers in its second, then dies. Most people are like, "Why bother?" and according to some garden book I read a while back, biennials are disappearing from our gardens.

This year, I had several healthy clumps and had been waiting impatiently as they started to develop flower stalks and finally blooms. Some of the plants are real monsters, at almost four feet. They seem to like a little dappled shade, but that's about it. I sowed more this Winter, and plan on keeping it up for a while.

If most biennials are as beautiful and easy to grow as Foxgloves, then their disappearance is a tragedy. Okay, maybe not a tragedy like the ones that occur in my novels, but it's a travesty at least. These plants germinate easily, and are almost impossible to kill. I would forget to water the seedlings, I moved them repeatedly from pot to pot, I stomped on their little leaves once I planted them outside, but they took took it all, and turned out just lovely. Here's a closeup:


P.S. One thing to note, these plants are very poisonous. Hmm, could that be a plot point in the novel? I won't give that away, but I did want to warn anyone thinking of growing them. Keep them away from animals and children, especially the vase water if you opt to cut them and bring them in. One last piece of synergy, I believe Foxgloves might be featured in Amy Stewart's new book, "Wicked Plants." I love Stewart's writing, so I have no doubt it will be a great read too. I mean, she's no Eloisa James, or anything, but she holds her own.