Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gourds, Part II






It came from who knows where?! It is a volunteer gourd vine gone out of control! Another big talker with plenty of green that's showy and boastful but not much in the way of producing and it has taken over the grill, both heat pumps, a planter, almost an entire patch of pachysandra as well as an oak leaf hydrangea. What do I get in return?...A few more small, yet pretty, gourds. At this rate, I should have a bowl's worth of these things by Thanksgiving!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Gourds














Two and a half inches of rain last night certainly provided the pumpkin and gourd vines in the garden way out at the back of the property, with a good drink of water. Yet, once again, as the end of the growing season draws nearer, I have not been rewarded with a good crop of pumpkins and gourds. This garden also holds zinnias, calendulas, sunflowers and strawflowers for cutting and drying. While the calendulas and strawflowers are now beginning to wither, the zinnias and sunflowers are just coming into their own, thanks to the hot, dry August we have had until now.

Tomatoes and broomcorn also occupy this 30 foot by 30 foot plot. I don't even want to talk about the tomatoes this year--rough, rough year indeed for tomatoes but I may actually see some turn red within the next week or so. The two rows of broom corn are looking fine and are withstanding the recent rain and winds and will be ready for harvesting next week. I will use the broomcorn in dried flower arrqangements.

Next year, I am totally revamping the soil in this garden with a truckload of manure and not just 20 or so bags that worked in recent years until last year when it seemed that I couldn't grow a pumpkin or gourd to save my life. At least last year, I could blame it on lack of rain, but not this season. And, compared to last year, these vines are producing a bumper crop...so to speak.

The vines have been healthy and green throughout the summer producing a steady display of beautiful yellow and white blossoms, depending on the gourd or pumpkin variety. These blossoms have been particularly appetizing for the deer but even they could not keep up with blossom production so I was confident, back in June and even in the beginning of July, that I would see nice, plump. colorful luminas, Cinderellas, blues and birdhouse pumpkins and gourds bursting out of the chicken wire. I envisioned beautiful orange, green and yellow globes gracing my front porch and tabletops this fall. However, what I'm getting are small, yet colorful and, okay yes they are still pretty, but not the overflowing and showy gourds as I had hoped for. I guess beggers can't be choosers and gardeners can't be either.

Yet, there were some bright spots. I collected little spooky whites and mini summer gourds and even one birdhouse gourd. An atlantic Giant Pumpkin, that's not going to be anywhere near a giant size looks healthy enough and there are a few cantalopes coming along as well. There are still alot of blossoms out there so hope springs eternal for me but the clock is ticking. So, we'll see if any more pumpkins and gourds appear during September.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lavender in the Making









The fairs are coming...The fairs are coming...Oh my! I'm barely a week into bundling and arranging lavender and making ready to sell the fruits of my labors and I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not to worry, if I keep taking deep breaths of this heady fragrance while working on it, I should be able to stay somewhat relaxed...in between sneezing, of course.

I have other everlastings drying down in the basement as well; Strawflowers, Seafoam Lavender, German Statice, scented geraniums, hydrangeas, Lady's Mantle, and so on. The pussy willow is stashed in the attic. What you are seeing here, hanging in the laundry room, is not the half of it and I will be working everyday on this until I have it all down from the rafters and made into potpourri, pretty bundles and/or arrangements of some kind. The first of the country fairs that I participate in is September 19 and 20 in Bluemont, VA.

Whatever drives me to do this year after year, I cannot tell you until I look at a basket of lavender "be-ribboned" and ready to go. Sometimes, I think I haven't set my eyes on anything prettier, especially when the lavender is grouped into beautiful baskets and containers for display and sale at these fairs. Lavender is a sight to behold, not only on the bush but also in the basket.

Garden lore tells of a saying that goes,"If lavender grows well in the garden, the girls of the house will not marry." Imagine that--probably because the prospective suitors of those girls took a look at their mother's laundry room and realized that the washing and drying machines are used more as work tables for drying and preparing lavender throughout the summer rather than for their original purpose which is to wash and dry clothes and figured they may never see a clean shirt again. Oh well, we all have our priorities. Good thing Peter and I have a son.

I'll show more lavender progress, as I make it, in days to come. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Angel's Trumpet






Wow! Whoever said, "Leave room in the garden for angels to dance" must have had Angel's Trumpet in their garden.

A few evenings ago, let's say around twilight because it sounds much more intriguing, I was out watering in the herb garden not really noticing anything until I turned to water this pot with the Angel's trumpet. This is the first year I have grown one and if I'd realized how beautiful a plant Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia Seaveolens) actually is, I'd have had this in the garden years earlier.

Seeds for Spanish Flag vine were planted in the eary spring and never appeared in this pot at the base of an umbrella trellis. So, never one to let an empty space in the garden be, I knew I had to find something for this particular place. It (the Angel's Trumpet plant in it's 4" pot) didn't look like much back in May, but I decided to try it anyway. Thinking I could train it to grow up the trellis, I planted it there. Nice location but wrong idea. I now know that Angel's trumpet can grow to be a large bush and even clipped and trimmed into a small ornamental tree form but climbing vine it is not.

It doesn't matter. It's beautiful where it is with its coursely toothed foliage and spectacular blossoms clustered together on branches that bend and turn giving the illusion of a giant crown. The fragrance, especially in the evening, is sweetly scented. It is just a beautiful plant.

I understand that Angel's Trumpet, also known as Datura or Angel Star, comes in many different colors ranging from red to yellow to salmon with the white, which I have, being the most common. It originated in South America and is related to tomatoes, tobacco and petunias...ahhh petunias...no wonder why I like Angel's Trumpet, it's related to petunias one of my most favorite of all flowers. Once Angel's Trumpet has bloomed and the petals have fallen off, a little prickly ball-shaped seed pod forms. The seeds are poisonous but the pods are pretty interesting to look at so, I'll have to keep Tucker away from these. Deer hate this plant(no wonder why there hasn't been any nighttime munching on this) so maybe Tucker will, too.

Perhaps I can make a cutting or save a seed pod and start it from seed next spring. I doubt it will survive the winter, even if it is a mild one, in this outdoor pot that will not come into the greenhouse. So, I'll try and see what comes from this and hope for the best. Maybe the dancing Angels will keep watch over it for me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Garden Glimpses

















Garden lore says that if the first week of August brings very hot weather, then the coming winter will be a hard one. Well, it was pretty hot last week and it got a lot worse this week. In fact, this weather is brings back memories of the summer just three years ago where we had over a month of 90 degree days all in a row with no relief in the form of rain or cool breezes in sight until somewhere into the end of September.

Right now, the easiest, most enjoyable tasks, like watering the outside pots and urns, has become daunting and just plain time consuming at best. Turning the hose on myself is fleeting, not to mention a shock to my system in this heat and humidity but, it does keep me energized enough to remember to also water the tomato plants and pumpkin vines in the garden at the back of the property. More on this, later...

Through it all, the gardens seem to be handling this hot weather a lot better than me and they definitely look a lot better than they have in recent summers. All that rain and cooler than average temps up front in the spring that seem to be playing havoc with this year's tomato crop at least helped to sustain and even bolster most everything else on these "Dog Days" of August. The cockscomb is the biggest I've ever seen it. The petunias are in full throttle as are the "Black-eyed Susans" and, the Franklinia Tree is blooming. The pumpkin vines are going to town, spreading out and offering up tasty blooms for the wild life so we are in a constant state of alert. Summer color here is everywhere to be seen here. Zinnias, dahlias, marigolds, sunflowers trillium, bee balm, cosmos, Spanish flag and so much more like this weather! Go figure...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lavender Cuttings



This morning, my friend Kim came by to make lavender cuttings for Abernathy and Spencer Greenhouse and Nursery in Lincoln, VA where she works. It was a lovely morning, given the heat and humidity that has been plaguing us here for over a week now and promises to continue into the coming week. Such is life during August in Northern Virginia. She took 64 cuttings of some of my favorite lavenders ( the truth is, they are all my favorites) and, I hope will be Abernathy and Spencer's, too and maybe available for A&S customers to buy next year. The lavenders she cut from were: Thumbelina Leigh, Croxton's Wild, Ana Luisa, Mitchum Grey, Backhouse Nana, Royal Purple, Blue Cushion, Martha Roderick, Nana Atropurpurea, Gros Bleu and Hidcote Giant. I also had potted plants of Betty's Blue which I rooted this past spring, which now seems so long ago. She took a couple of these as well to grow and use as their own "mother" plants.

I wish her and Abernathy and Spencer good luck with these cuttings. My cuttings always seem to be hit or miss and mainly miss because I seem to refuse to follow the tried and true ways of rooting cuttings. For whatever reason, it seems more interesting, and exciting, to see if my experiments work. She gave a glance to the cuttings I made and have stuck into peat pots, which worked for me really well 2 years ago--the last time I made a major cutting tour of my lavender plants. Kim looked doubtful, but I remain optimistic.

However, the best luck I have when making cuttings is during the spring when plants are just beginning to break. And, this coming year, I will have to take the time to do this. But for now, here on this August day, lavender cuttings in peat pots that will be kept moist and covered is my story and I'm sticking to it. Meanwhile, I can't wait to see the new and larger and more interesting selection of lavender plants that will debut at Abernathy and Spencer next year!