Forward to Spring — The Winter Clean-Up

Happy Spring, Everyone!

What a wild and crazy winter we had here in the Northeast! As someone who lives in between two great lakes and is used to some challenging weather, I can’t remember a more windy, bizarre winter. With winds up to 75 mph, it definitely was a “hunker down and stay warm” kind of winter. This left me longing for spring faster than usual. Fortunately, my daughter kept me busy, and we have some other exciting things in the mix this year, which will allow me to flex my gardening muscle and challenge me in a different way. Stay tuned for more information!

The Doldrums of Winter

While winter kind of let me down this year, (January was OK, but February and after was blizzard central), I got to do something I haven’t really done since my daughter was born– read!

Amazon prime kept me busy– I pretty much bought books all season long!

They were all great reads, and I think I will be posting my other favorite reads in a future post. However, I am recommending this one first, because, it was the first one I purchased and the first one I loved!

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The Atlas of Poetic Botany by Francis Halle is a WONDERFUL read. Honestly, this book was an Instagram Ad on my feed, and I was intrigued. It tells of the unique plants the botanist has encountered in his many years studying the rainforest. The illustrations are delightful. The words flow, making it an engaging and interesting read. It does not get boring and dry like some other informational/reference books on plants can sometimes get, hence the “Poetic” in the name. If you want to learn about the interesting plants of the tropics, including a “walking tree”, I encourage you to read this. There is another book in this series coming out in May called, “The Atlas of Poetic Zoology”, and I can’t wait to get that one!

Spring Things

This morning, I was finally able to survey the perimeter of my yard, to see signs of spring that I have been anxiously awaiting. Just the other day, we had snow burying all the little treasures just waiting to pop out and bloom.

 

From left to right, my alliums, hellebores and tulips are looking good! I guess my leaf mulch helped them get through the sub-zero wind and weather this year! (At least, I’d like to think it did). I am really anxious to get outside and clean up the twigs and other crazy things that blew in and claimed residence to my landscape.

Garden Plans

Yes, it has happened– I have officially become that person who wants to try to grow many varieties of dahlias. I like them because they are just so darn pretty, and they make people happy.  You can take them into work and give them to co-workers who are having a bad day, and they immediately perk up. They bloom well into fall and you can have fresh blooms all the time. I guess that’s why I like them so much. So, I saw one of my fellow gardeners on Instagram have a catalog for Swan Island Dahlias. I quickly requested one myself.

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So, cut flower gardeners, if you are looking for a good selection of dahlias, this one is for you! Or, if you know of another great collection, please feel free to share! I have purchased a few dahlia bulbs from my local store, so it will be nice to try them from the different places.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to enjoy spring and get my hands dirty!

 

A Thoughtful Approach to the Garden in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! If you were like me, you have been hibernating this week because of sub-zero temperatures. I have actually been pretty busy with getting everything back to normal after the holidays. Our holidays were wonderful, and I hope yours were too. However, there is something about normalcy that makes me buzz along. As I have said before, 2017 was a great year. I am looking forward to 2018 in the garden. One big thing that has been on my list this year has been keeping me busy during the super cold weather:

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…it FINALLY came. My David Austin® roses catalog!!! I requested this months ago, and was absolutely thrilled when I finally received it. I would like to pick out a rose or two to add to my landscape this year. I have to plan appropriately, and make sure I find the right place for one. I am very excited to start this next chapter, for me, at least– growing roses!

I usually have resolutions for the garden and my home every year– and I have decided that my resolution will be to “go with the flow”. Plans don’t always work out, but other opportunities come along, and that’s fine too!

This time of the year is a great time. Garden planning, pouring over seed and plant catalogs– picking out what you would like for the garden this year. Nothing has to be fancy or expensive that you do in the garden. Little additions and improvements go a long way.

I say this because I was talking to a few people who said, “they can’t afford to garden.” Anybody can afford to garden. The smallest addition, which includes buying a packet of seeds, or buying small garden decor that add value to your landscape goes a LONG way. Gardening is one of the best investments out there– the joy and value it adds to your life cannot compare to a lot of other things. It’s a work in process– just like your home. Do a little bit when you can, and do more when you can. It’s all perspective, I guess. Don’t ever think you can’t. It doesn’t happen overnight, so enjoy the journey that comes with it.

So, with that, I hope you have a great start to the new year, and happy gardening!

Dahlia Tubers- the Short and Sweet of It

Why is it, the older I get, the faster time goes? I didn’t even get to post at all in the month of November, and I feel like it was just yesterday that I actually dug up my dahlia tubers and gladiola bulbs. I have been meaning to write this blog post for a month now, and I apologize for the un-timeliness of it. I like to post when its relevant, but sometimes, it doesn’t turn out that way, and again, I apologize.

So, this is going to be a short and sweet article on digging up and storing dahlia tubers, and if you should or shouldn’t separate them right after you dig them up.  I got the advice from research, family and friends. The general consensus is that most people wait until spring to separate their tubers. 

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I was very excited to get so many tubers from my first ever Dahlia! 

Why?

  • When stored away for the winter, dahlia tubers grow eyes, or buds, from the crown. You want viable eyes to ensure healthy growing tubers for the next growing season.

There is also nothing wrong with separating tubers now, it will not harm them. There is debate as to if you will get any viable eyes if you separate before winter, but I believe it to be based on an individual basis. Every gardener’s tubers are different, and given the difference in many factors, including storage, temperature, etc., you may or may not get eyes at all.

Go with what you feel is right for you. You really can’t go wrong. Gardening is all just Trial and Error.

Oh, wait, I forgot– how do I store tubers?

  • Dahlia tubers need a cool, dry place to sleep for the winter. I have placed mine in a small cardboard box and tucked it away in a very dark corner of my basement. Basements are the best place to store away tubers and bulbs of all kinds.

I know this article will still help some people, as they are not in lake effect snow- prone areas of the world, so you still have some time to pack things up and get them ready for winter. For the rest of us, this can be a reference for the newbie Dahlia grower who needs a quick reference to ensuring a great growing season the next year!

Guest Blogger: Amsterdam Tulip Museum Online

I can’t think of a better time than now to talk about tulips! As everyone is out picking out their bulbs for spring, please take a look at this great article that our guest blogger Chris has written up all about this historical flower!

 You can get more information and shop their beautiful gift shop at:

www.amsterdamtulipmuseumonline.com 

Broken Tulips: The Beautiful Curse

Broken Tulip Single Tulip Tulip Breaking Virus Plastic Sheet Takao Inoue www.takaoinoue.com

Bold. Flared. Striking.

Broken Tulips are like nothing else in the Tulip world…like nothing else in the flower world. Their distinct streaks immediately attract the eye and don’t let go.

At the height of Tulip Mania, it was the ‘broken’ flowers that had speculators running wild. Viceroy, Admiraal Van Der Eijk, the legendary Semper Augustus – they all had the distinct, broken pattern.

Semper Augustus Tulip Broken Tulip Tulip Mania Tulip Catalog Red and White Tulip

But today, these once-legendary flowers no longer exist. And Broken Tulips in general have fallen out of favor with growers and breeders. What happened? With their striking looks, wouldn’t the industry want to share these flowers with the masses? Wouldn’t they want to be able to offer a piece of the Tulip Mania history?

Unfortunately, the source of this beauty is also a curse. While Tulip Fanatics had long noticed that broken Tulips often seemed smaller and a bit weaker, it was not until 1928 that scientist Dorothy Cayley discovered the cause to be a Virus.

Broken Tulip In the Garden Tulip Breaking Virus Red Tulip Broken Takao Inoue www.takaoinoue.com

Spread by aphids, this virus infects the Tulip bulb and causes the flower to ‘break’ its lock on a single color. This results in the intricate flaring, feathering streaks on the petals. The color variegation is a result of of the laid-on color of the Tulip (its anthocyanin) being suppressed, leaving the underlying white or yellow to show through.

Exact symptoms can vary depending on the Tulip, the strain of the virus, and even elements such as time of infection. However, once a bulb is infected, all of its daughter offshoots will be as well.

Over time, the virus weakens the bulb and inhibits proper offset reproduction. With each new generation, the bulb typically grows weaker and weaker, until it has no strength left to flower and withers away. It is for this reason that growers today view breaks not as a benefit but as a danger that must be purged (else it infect and weaken other Tulips around them). And this is also why legends of old, like the Semper Augustus, are now lost forever.

Broken Tulips Bouquet of Broken Tulips Tulip Breaking Virus Takao Inoue www.takaoinoue.com

Fortunately, there is still hope for these incredible flowers. A few broken breeds, such as the Absalon and Mabel, have somehow remained free of the worst effects of the virus and been able to successfully propagate in perpetuity (Absalon has existed since 1780!). And small groups and societies continue to grow and breed Broken Bulbs, unable to resist their beauty (see below for an example of a recent breed so beautiful that the provider asked to be unnamed for fear of a flood of demand).  One can only hope that, in time, we will find a way to safely return this beauty to the mainstream of the Tulip world for everyone to enjoy.

T. Wakefield Tulipa Wakefield Wakefield Flame Broken Tulip Tulip Breaking Virus

If you are planning to grow Broken Tulips in your garden, extra precautions should be taken to prevent the virus from spreading to your healthy Tulips (and Lilies). It is recommended to plant them far away from other flowers, as the virus (spread by aphids and other sucking insects) can be difficult to contain once it spreads.

Broken Tulip photographs courtesy of Takao Inoue (www.takaoinoue.com), final image provided by a small grower society that asked to remain anonymous.

Learn more about Tulips with our Virtual Tour!

Our Veggie Patch Round Up and a Fall Report

And just like that, fall has been underway for almost a month, and it has been fun, yet productive.

Though I have to admit it has certainly not felt like fall, temperatures in Western New York have been higher than they were all summer! So, I really didn’t get into the “Autumn spirit” until a couple of weeks ago, because I can’t justify decorating for fall when it’s 90 degrees outside!

I have had a wonderful time with my family pumpkin picking, apple picking, fossil digging, bike riding, and taking a drive to my parents house to see that their leaves are turning before ours!

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In between our busy activity schedule, I have managed to get some important Fall work done in my garden– seed collecting and cutting down perennials that look ragged. I also just purchased another 100 spring bulbs to plants out in my back yard, because I want to see spring everywhere in my yard, and not just certain spots! I know I am a little behind on the bulb planting, but with the weather the way it has been, I feel like I have a little more time to get the job done!

My dahlias are STILL blooming, and if there is any great joy I am getting more so this growing season, it’s definitely the dahlias. I love being able to go out in my back yard and cut those beautiful blooms through the fall. I will be writing up a post very soon about my dahlias and what I have learned from my first year growing them! You can see my beautiful blooms on Instagram @thebenttrowel.

Now, it’s time to talk veggies! Last year, we planted tomatoes as an introduction to a “starter” veggie garden. They did VERY well. We planted cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, which I recommend to anyone who wants to start a veggie garden but who’s unsure of how to start. Tomatoes are very easy to grow– a good “get your feet wet” veggie, I say!

This year, we expanded our veggie crop to include cherry tomatoes, corn, cayenne peppers, habenero peppers (my husband LOVES hot peppers). I happy to report, most everything did well, but because of our cold and rainy summer weather, some veggies took longer to ripen than usual.

Here’s the lowdown:

Tomatoes— we planted cherry tomatoes this year, and we did not get nearly as many this year than last year. In fact, we still have some that are green, and they are taking a long time to ripen. I plan on letting them go a little longer, but unfortunately, I have will have to pull them soon.

Corn— If there was any surprise in the veggie garden this year, it was definitely the corn! We planted 10 plants back in May, and we were just hoping for an ear or two. I was a little nervous with the weather, as corn tends to like hot conditions, but we had wonderful results! The corn was big, and I have to honestly say, was the best tasting corn I had ever had!

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This corn was the best I have ever tasted! 

Cayenne Peppers — This was my husband’s pet project. He is all about very hot foods, and wanted to try to make his own rubs for chicken, beef or pork. The cayenne peppers ripened before everything else in our garden and were a beautiful bright red. My husband is trying to overwinter a plant and see if it makes it next year.

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Cayenne peppers among the sunflowers!

Habenero Peppers — These were the most difficult out of everything we planted to grow. We planted these with everything else back in May, and we didn’t even start getting any kind of pepper until end of August, early September. I think these plants were the most sensitive to our finicky summer weather. We had blossoms forever, and kind of gave up hope. But, they ended up tricking us, and we got some pretty nice peppers!

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This little baby was well worth the wait!

So, that is the veggie patch round up, which will surely expand next year, and naturally, we will learn more as we “grow”.

What did you plant in your veggie patch this year? What would you recommend?

 

 

 

Beginners Guide to the Cutting Garden

How interesting it is that my first blog post since July would be on my 3 year blogging anniversary!! So, thank you to all of my followers and fellow bloggers who take time out read my blog posts– I really appreciate it!

This summer was wonderful for me and my family. August was filled to the brim with activity, which led to the void of blog writing for the month. I feel bad that I let it go like I did, because I have made it a habit to post at least once a month.

None the less, I am back, and now that fall is nearing, and school is back in session, it’s time to get back to routine. So, blogging, here I come!

I have mentioned in previous posts my desire to start a cutting garden. I purchased several different seeds and hoped for the best. I think this was a great start to a beginning cutting garden, and I would like to pass this along to anyone else who is thinking of doing the same some time.

A couple of things to remember:

-It’s all trial and error. That’s gardening in a nutshell. Experiment with different seeds and bulbs. See what does well and what doesn’t. It takes a while some times.

-There are some really easy seeds to start with. As I detail below, some seeds you should just buy and plant. It’s that easy.

I planted:

1. Bunny Tails. This is the second year trying these, and no dice. I will try one more time and see what happens. Degree of planting difficulty: MODERATE- they tend to be picky about where they are planted.

2. Zinnias. O.M.G. These were so easy! And beautiful– pinks, oranges and some peach colored ones to boot! I hear they also self-seed, and keep coming back every year. I recommend getting a packet of zinnia seeds should you ever want to start a cutting garden! Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

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My peachy-keen zinnia!

What came back for me from last year:

3. Cosmos. I think this was in part because last year was so warm for us– we were having 70 degree temps in November– and my cosmos kept going. I didn’t cut them down until this spring. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

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4. Morning Glories. These actually surprised me. But, they too, were like the cosmos, and I left the brown stems up until this past spring. Even though they aren’t your typical cutting flower, they were wrapped around my cosmos, so I just lumped them in with them. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

The bulbs I planted:

5. Dahlia. I was nervous, I have to admit. I planted dahlias a lifetime ago, it seems like, and they did nothing for me. This year, I have had great success, and am reaping the benefits. Dahlias are all over my house. Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

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*Beginner’s Tip– You will have to stake your dahlias. They are very top-heavy, and they fall over easy. 

*Dahlias are hardy in zones 8-10. If you live outside those zones, you will have to take the bulbs out and store them in a dark, dry place for the winter.

6. Gladiolus. I got these bulbs as a birthday gift from a co-worker, and they did not disappoint. I got beautiful pink and purple stalks that I have been enjoying all summer. I cut a few stems and I was very surprised at how long they lasted! Degree of planting difficulty: EASY

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*Gladiolus (“Glads”, as they are commonly referred to), are hardy in zones 8-11. Bulbs, too will have to come out if you are outside those zones. However, I have heard from some fellow gardeners that if you mulch heavily and live in zones 6-7, you can actually keep them in the ground and they will come up again the next year.  

So, I hope this helps you. There are SO many more cutting flowers out there. If anybody has one they recommend, please tell me. I will be expanding next year for sure!

 

Lessons Learned in the Garden – Midsummer Report

Happy summer! It’s hard to believe it’s the end of July– no doubt it’s been a busy one for us. My daughter is at an age where she can do a lot of stuff that she couldn’t before, and we have been taking advantage of it. Life has been busy, and unfortunately blogging has taken a back seat, but I honestly can say that I have been having the time of my life, and as long as I keep getting in a blog post in when I can, I am happy. Family time before all else!

Weather-wise, Western New York has been very rainy and much milder than last summer. I have enjoyed the cooler temps, though, but I have missed going to the beach! Honestly, I have not once had to actually water my plants. No sprinkler posts this year! My window boxes have been thriving, and have not looked sparse and brittle like last year!

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A little wilted after yet more rain, my window boxes are thriving this year! 

Despite the weather, we have busy bike riding, hiking, rollerblading, swimming, camping, all that good summer stuff, but I have been also doing a lot in the garden. I am at the stage where I really am not adding much, but doing more of the routine maintenance on what I do have, and there are certainly some lessons I have learned that I won’t try to intentionally “unlearn” in the future!

Lesson #1– It’s OK to have space between your plants.

I know, I have even mentioned this in past posts, I planted too many things VERY close together (we are talking so close you can smell the body odor on the person next to you close). I was so crazy about trying to get every plant I wanted, I planted them too close together– this resulted in what I like to say “The Survival of the Fittest” in my flower beds– I lost a lot of really cool varieties because I got a tad bit overzealous in my planting. I have spent a good portion of my summer thinning out a lot of my plants, and even moving them if needed…which leads me into the next lesson–

Lesson #2 Plants not blooming/growing that well? It’s OK to MOVE them.

Yes. The biggest thing I have learned in the past few years is if your plants are not doing well in the location you have them– try moving them. They just may need a new residence to make them happy!

A great example of this is my very pretty gayfeather. I purchased these three years ago for 50% off at the local farm store. I put them in an area I had some space, and they grew, but they never actually flowered. I finally had the sense last year to move them to a sunnier location. Ta-da! Full on flower power action!

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This bee is very happy I moved this lovely gayfeather!

Lesson #3 — Remember to do the little stuff.

I can honestly tell you that I don’t have time to weed my whole garden at once. BUT, when I am outside and my daughter is swinging on her swing, I pick an area and go to town! Even if it’s a little area, it makes such a difference! I have managed to keep weeding all summer– little by little, and I feel better about how my landscape looks! I also pruned my Lilac bushes this year, as they were getting a little to “bushy” for me. They were growing right over the area I have my daffodils and muscari, and I want that distinction, if you will, between all of my plants.

If you are follow me on instagram, you will see all the goings-on in my garden. I post pictures of my blooms and my gardening adventures. I will be posting about our little veggie patch, and my mini “cutting” garden. Two new ventures that I would like to expand next year! Until then, take care, and I hope that the summer has been good to you in your neck of the woods!

(Don’t) Blame It On the Rain

wp-1494543434376.jpgRain, rain, and more rain! My part of the world has seen its share of water lately! As we know, rain can  be damaging, destructive, and downright deadly. Despite all of this, there is an upside to rain and your garden, particularly in the spring time, right before the growing season ramps up!

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This spring deluge of water can be helpful to you in garden prep!

Now, it’s obvious the main reason why rain is crucial–it aids in growth. But there are a few other reasons that you want to LOVE gardening right after a good bout of rain:

  • It’s a GREAT time to pull weeds and/or invasive plants. You can successfully pull the whole weed/plant, root and all, right after a good gully washer.

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  • Making new garden beds. Digging into the earth trying to make new garden beds is hard enough —  do yourself a favor and dig into the ground after some serious precipitation, and that will make a hard job less hard.
  • Sinking your hands in the earth. Is there anything you can do to get closer to nature than getting dirt under your nails when it’s at its most workable and pliable? I think not.

So, even though the rain drives us crazy as gardeners, because we are stuck inside, just remember how much nicer it will be to go outside and work the soil with little effort and less headaches!