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!

 

It’s “snow” joke, we need winter for spring blooms!

As most of us are sitting inside because the wind chill is sub zero, and the snow keeps coming. We gardeners are daydreaming of spring. I mean, I just received my David Austin® rose catalog, and the 8 degrees that my phone keeps telling me is not making things any better. We are nearing mid-winter, and that means we are ready for it to end!

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One day soon the garden will be green and lush again! 

 

We must keep in mind that cold and snow is an important part of the gardening process. I am not going to ignore the fact that winter can kill a lot of stuff in the garden, and can cause a lot of damage, but when you get right down to it, gardens need winter to get through the growing season.

Here are some quick thoughts to think about on this winter day!

Snow:

  • Gives the necessary moisture to plants, bulbs and a variety of critters that are tucked away for their winter slumber.
  • Helps big organisms (frogs, earthworms, turtles) in their hibernation/life cycle, and small organisms (bacteria, amoeba, fungi) that are working overtime to make your soil rich and nutritional for your plants and trees.
  • Is a great insulator for all of plants and organisms.

Before you know it, the snowdrops and hellebores will be pointing their little heads to the sky, reminding us all why spring is sweeter because of winter!

 

 

Dahlias, Roses and Silently “Growing”- The 2018 Wrap Up

I am not even going to talk about how this year has flown by, or how it has been since May since I have last blogged. Life has been full and good, and trust me, I have not stepped away from the garden– I have been still digging, growing and learning new things.

I am at the point where I have pretty much quit adding to my garden (there are just a couple things I want to add this year), but maintaining and working with what I have. As I mentioned in my wrap-up post from last year, I went plant crazy in the beginning, and I paid for it. A lot of them did not come back after one season, so instead I am moving the plants I have to either 1. Give them more space, or 2. Make my garden beds look a little more put together.

In October, I worked on this bed. I extended it so I could bring more full sun-loving plants over here.

As I mentioned in my only couple of posts earlier this year, I had Dahlia tubers from last year that I planted, along with some new varieties. Here were my results:

  • My dahlia tubers I had from last year did not make it. I put them in the ground at the same time as my new dahlia varieties, and when they weren’t coming up, and the others were, I dug them up to find mold on them. I was disappointed because I overwintered as I was advised to, but it just didn’t happen. I have also read where some people just treat dahlia tubers as annuals. I thought I would try again this year, and if they didn’t come up again, I too, will be just buying new tubers every year to give me one less headache!
  • My new dahlia varieties this year were beautiful. I have caught the dahlia bug! I am now wanting to try many different new varieties. I am going to make more room for dahlias this year. I love how many blooms I get, and I love cutting them every morning before work to have fresh blooms in the house and to give them away to neighbors and co-workers.

I loved all the varieties I planted, but of course the “Cafe Au Lait” did not disappoint, which is why I plan on buying more for my little cutting garden this year. What was the biggest surprise was the “Nadia Ruth” variety, it blew me away and I got the most blooms from that. One variety did not come up for me at all, and that was the “Creme de Cassis”.

The “Burlesca” variety was marketed as a honeycomb shaped flower, but that was not the case at all. Still beautiful, but not what it was supposed to be.

My rose:

It did not bloom this year. I planted the David Austin Rose “The Pilgrim”, and it grew on my trellis, just never flowered. I am hoping this year it will, as with our 6-month winter last year might have had something to do with it. Fingers crossed!

So, looking ahead– I am going to concentrate on mulching all of my beds this year, and adding more dahlias. I also would like to purchase one more David Austin rose, and then really start “landscaping” my yard. Now that I have a bulk of the planting done, it’s time to give these beds some shape and definition!

I hope you all have a nice New Year, I look forward to getting back to business with blogging all of my outdoor and gardening adventures. I post on Instagram most often, so, feel free to take a look when you get a chance!

Everything is Coming Up Roses — Back in the Garden!

It has been wayyyy to long since I have last blogged! We have had a lot going on in our home– since March, we have been laying down new flooring in phases– which, we finally finished this past weekend! That, and winter being sooo longggg here, it’s been a tough few months, but I got back in the garden this past week, and I have learned quite a bit!

I bought my first Davin Austin® Rose this year! My plans were a little loose as far as the garden was concerned, but one of my major plans was to plant a rose. I splurged and purchased my new “The Pilgrim” rose in February, and they mailed it to me two weeks ago!

Photo source: David Austin Roses

Here’s a little bit of information about The Pilgrim:

  • As you can see above, it is a beautiful yellow climbing rose. Climbing roses to have bigger flowers and don’t grow as fast or vigorously as rambler roses.
  • It does very well in shady areas— particularly North facing areas, which, I was thrilled about, because I planted the rose on the front of my house, which happens to be North facing.

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I got the rose on the Thursday before we went camping, and, by the way, it was SNOWING and 30 degrees that weekend. I left the bare root in the box. I called David Austin® Roses USA based out of Texas, the Monday after we got back, and wanted to get some info about my rose, and when I should plant it, considering it was snowing the past weekend–why would I bother until it got a little warmer? The customer service representative was a little snarky with me, saying I needed to get the bare root in the ground immediately, but first, I needed to soak it in water for several hours before I planted it. If you follow me on Instagram, you know my desperate call for help when it came to soaking the bare root– several hours, or several days, or just a couple hours? I soaked mine for seven hours and then planted it.

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My first experience with a bare root anything!! 

Thanks in large part to the David Austin® Roses website, which, I highly recommend visiting, because it is an extremely easy and informative website to understand when it comes to everything roses.

So, what has this rose-growing novice learned so far?

  • Bare root roses need to be soaked for hours (that could be anything from 2 hours to 2 days, everybody has a different preference), so it can be re-hydrated before it is planted in the ground.
  • Make a hole large enough to fit the large root system of the stem. (You could go with the usual rule for any plant, make a hole twice as large as the plant).
  • Give your rose some room to grow– make sure it is not competing too much with other plants. Hmmm…I think my plants might be a little closer than they should be, but hopefully it won’t be a huge issue.

I am happy to report that so far, so good. My bare root has buds on it, and they are growing. I will be giving a full report and time goes on and as I learn more about roses, and what I need to do to keep them alive! I honestly never thought I would ever grow a rose, so the fact I am actually doing it now is very exciting to me.

Stay tuned for more info. I hope you all weathered the long winter well!

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!