Friday, November 16, 2018

It's Seed Catalog Time!


The first came in the mail this week!

Look at all the tomato varieties!  I won't be able to keep to my
"best laid plans" of just a few!

How about Nebraska Wedding... or Ten Fingers of Naples?
Geranium Kiss...  Pork Chop... Marianna's Peace...
 There's a new sibling to Sungold, Sunpeach.  It's pink!

These catalogs offer fun reading too.

Most tomato growers know the story of Mortgage Lifter and Kellogg's Breakfast, how about these heirlooms?
Nebraska Wedding was used in churches as a garnish and decoration, predicting a prosperous marriage!  
Marianna's Peace is named for a young girl, Marianna, who escaped capture in WWII, and after being reunited with her family a decade later, was left the seeds, which had been passed down since the early 1990s, as a gift from her father. 

Nothing better than to curl up on a cold autumn day with a mug 
of hot chocolate, a warm throw, seed catalogs, and a pen to circle your choices!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2018

Guess what today is? 
That's right, it's
(November Edition - short and sweet)

Brought to us courtesy of Carol:

My flower situation isn't as bad as I thought.  I managed to find more than just rosemary blooming.  Mostly rosemary, but some hangers-on as well.  If  you'd asked me "What's blooming?" a week ago, I'd have had a lot to show you, but then the first freeze of the year appeared and most all were gone in one night.

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) 
I think the nights are getting too cold for the buds to open properly.

 Good old Gaura (Siskiyou Pink) is still working hard to survive the freezing nights.  It's just a matter of time before it's gone and down to soil level.  Don't expect to see it again before next June.

And, the before mentioned rosemary.  All three of my varieties are in bloom.

Blue Boy
A dwarf rosemary I just moved under cover.  

Prostrate (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus')
The "mother" as well as the plants I grew from cuttings are all flowering.
This is the plant I use for cooking, only because it's in the herb garden proper.

there's a Boo hair again... he's quite the shedder

Tuscan Blue 
 This one, in my front yard, is my favorite for the brighter, deeper, violet color of the flowers.  I run my hands up the stems as I come from the car.  It's just started to flower in the past few days.

 That's it.  
I haven't even planted any winter annuals for color yet.
If I don't get to it, I won't be back next month!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Long Weekend Update - part 2

So, continuing the update...

Thyme was in desperate need of care.  The English thyme (that's just regular garden thyme - Thymus vulgaris - vulgaris means "common") and Foxley thyme (which barely bloomed this year) were looking terrible, with greenery on the ends of long thin sticks.  Most gardeners cut back the flowers after bloom (and I do), and just a portion of the stems.  Not me!  I figured that the plants were in such poor shape I'd go whole hog and if they didn't come back in spring, I'd replace them.  Thyme's hardy, they'll be back!  There was already new growth half under the soil level. 

English thyme - before

English thyme - after

English thyme - see how it was mostly just sticks?
Some stems were lightly rooted in the soil, so I moved them to a container.

The Foxley is one of my favorite thymes.  It's a pretty variegated type with pale purple flowers that usually cover the plant.  I thought I'd just cut back some of the dead stems, but under the green leafy ends there was too much dead to bother keeping any. 

Foxley thyme

You can see the new growth down in the pot though.  Some of the green ends are in water to root, but as mentioned yesterday, the ice might keep that from happening.  I have other Foxley (from cuttings), so if need be I'll root those next year.  Next year isn't far off, is it?

Foxley thyme pruned back
The other thymes are fine.  Lemon thyme, although no longer variegated, is better than it's ever been.  The creeping thyme and nutmeg thyme keep spreading.  The little juniper thyme is doing well so far in it's new terracotta home, an old strawberry jar.  Other thymes are on my "want" list. 

juniper thyme

I'm not the type for cutesy garden decor, like ceramic geese you decorate with Christmas bows.  The little cuties below were left here by the previous owner (except the frog), and as they are more natural things, in natural materials, I used them at the edge of the new herb garden.  The frog was found in my mother's front bed when she had landscape work done. He's terracotta, used to sport colorful markings in paint, and it's a mystery where he came from.  We'd never seen him in our lives!  Terracotta isn't the best material to use here, our winters have been getting too cold.  But, it's such a lovely natural material. That strawberry pot and a few other shorter ones were left by the previous owner.  I wish she'd left her ceramic bird bath! 

There is one frog that was left here I love!

 He was sitting in that very spot when I first spied him, and that's where he stays.

Back in May I posted about the new barked path area in the vegetable bed area.  I lined each bed edge with rocks, and proudly proclaimed I had used all my rocks!  I have to take that back now.  After removing the ivy lump and building the new herb bed, I have leftover rocks again.  I've said it before, and I don't want to say it again, but, to quote myself, "Only in this yard can one tear out the rocks around a bed, build a bigger bed, replace the rocks, and have a pile of more rocks!"

rocks, rocks, rocks -  and pieces of lava tube from my brother

The deck planters were moved around, or emptied out.  They had been sitting too long and the wood underneath them is starting to show signs of rot (it's an old deck too), so I finally added some "feet" by just placing rocks underneath.  Yeah!  I used some rocks!  I should have done that years ago, and I should have thought of it myself, not needing to see a photo of that trick!  Now the pots will drain better. 

we gotta get that wisteria arch straightened out!

French tarragon pot moved to the "back entry" of the herb gardens
This driftwood "owl" has been in my family at least 50 years!  His left "eye" fell out recently somewhere off the deck or in a planter.

I cooked the last salmon colored with white stripes squash today, and then set it aside for the dogs' dinner!  It was pale, like its yellow squash sibling, and the pulp was stringy and watery. Maybe I won't devote any space to the saved seeds, if I'm likely to get the inferior interior.  I will keep the warty French seeds though. 

not dripping, stringy

It's hard to believe the US Thanksgiving is just next week!  The 4th Thursday is early this year, with a November that has five of them.  We'll be having our traditional dinner on Tuesday though, since one of us will be going out of town for the actual holiday day.   Nope, not me... Homemade "pumpkin" pie is on the menu! 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Long Weekend Update - part 1

This long weekend (yesterday was Veteran's Day in the US, we observe it today because, well, we like our long weekends) has had the most beautiful fall weather you could imagine!  As long as your imagination has cloudless bright blue skies, temperatures in the 60s (expected to be 70 next weekend!), and nights below freezing (25-27 degrees has been usual for the past week)!  The sun seems brighter than usual! 

So, this is a two-parter, not because I've got so much major to do in the garden, but because I've had so many little things to do, inconsequential garden chores that needed doing, that fitting them all in one post would go on too long! 

Photo heavy, text light, I hope!

The ornamental gourds are on the railing and step at the front door.  I meant to build a second railing for the right side, but never got around to it, and it's really just for a bit of privacy, so it's fine like it is. 

I've been cooking the pumpkins/squash.  So far the warty French (Galeux D' Eysines squash) is cooking up best.  It needs no mashing at all, and is thick and a wonderful color.  The salmon colored with white stripes (the "not Sweet Meat") is a bit paler, and the golden (also a "not Sweet Meat") is a terrible, pale color, exactly the shade of its rind!  The flesh also cooked up a bit stringy, which is really nasty to cook with, no one in my family wants to find stringy stuff in their Thanksgiving pie!

right: Galeux D' Eysines  left: golden colored "not Sweet Meat" squash

one of the "not Sweet Meat" varieties


I saved seeds from both the warty and salmon colored kinds.  It's odd how different, other than shape, two of the "not Sweet Meats" turned out, from Sweet Meat seeds!

both grown from Sweet Meat squash seeds - neither are
Even their blossom ends are different.  I think the striped one's "navel" is very pretty!  I can't say that about many navels!

The vegetable garden beds are empty now.  All that's left are a parsley plant (they are biennials, it will bold next year), three knautia that are still ground level rosettes, a coreopsis rooting, and three extra daylilies.  It all looks so sad.  I don't plant fall or winter crops, so will layer some compost mulch over the beds.  I already added the contents of the lawn mower bag to one. 

Guess what Boo has?  Yes, a ball!
With it being in the 20s at night, the last of the hangers-on gave up.  The last were the calendulas and yarrow flowers.  There is nothing left for the 15ths Bloom Day but rosemary.  My rooting jars are frozen over each morning, so I'll likely lose the cuttings I wanted to propagate.   No biggie, they are from bigger plants and I can start over in the spring.  

Two of the rosemary cuttings left in exchange for iris rhizomes grew roots, and are now in a container for the winter to see how they do.

rosemary cutting with roots

The rest of the long weekend tasks revolved around herbs, the new herb garden, and containers on the deck.  That's for Part 2.  

One other thing.  Earlier today a wisteria vine poked me in the eye.  It hurts more now than then, and my eye is watering (it's also hard to type with one eye shut, something that sounds like it would be fine, but it isn't!).  It looks fine, but I guess if the pain keeps up I'll have to see the doctor tomorrow.  These things always happen on weekends when the office is closed, don't they?  Same with pet problems.  They never can get sick during business hours when fees are lower!

Dogs love pumpkin/squash.  It's good for them too, it helps digestive upsets.  Boo prefers his cooked, Edward will take it cooked or raw.  Here they are getting scrapings from the skin after cooking.  No digestive upsets, just treats! 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Garden Poetry - Autumn's Voice

The poetry prompt for today, from Jui at Positive Cookies is the sound of the season, or  "Autumn's Voice."
I offer two very different "voices." 
One haiku and a lighthearted free verse anyone with deciduous trees will relate to!

Wachusett Reservoir, Massachusetts
breeze blown and browning
after sunlit golden tones
leaves crunch underfoot 

We no longer gaze
up to the brilliant tree tops
in wonder.
But, down to our feet
at the job yet to be done,
and we curse the season.

I had to pull out some old photos for this prompt!  
The colorful Massachusetts photos were taken by my oldest son the first autumn he lived "back east."  At the time I was in Northern California, and didn't have the color changes.
The pile of leaves features my daughter back in 2001!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Harvesting Milkweed Seeds

Two years ago this month (it doesn't seem nearly that long ago!) I was given a paper bag of milkweed seeds. The seed pods must have been placed in the bag, the bag closed up, and that was that.  I never got them to grow, but that was entirely, probably, my fault.  I didn't know the care milkweed seeds need.  I didn't even know enough about milkweed to know there are many different kinds! Plus, as I have since learned, this is not the way to harvest milkweed pods!

My milkweed is butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and is a kind called "Gay Butterflies."  I bought it June 2017. 

I thought it died last winter, but it was completely, utterly, under-soil dormant!

It grew to a beautiful flower-full bush over this summer, setting dozens of seed pods, of which I removed at least half when still forming.  The pollinators loved the flowers, and I only had a small issue with some milkweed aphids. 

For the past few weeks the pods have been drying out, with splits forming. 

When the seeds inside are brown, that's the time to pick the pods.   The ones in the next photo were not ready, even though the pod had split. 

I picked the last of my pods today, and harvested the seeds from all of them.  The technique I used is nearly fluff-free!

The top of the pod is where the stem connected it to the plant.  Gently open the pod at the crack, and firmly grasp the top of the interior seed "core," and lift it completely out of the pod shell. 

What you end up with looks a bit like a skinny fir cone.  I think.

Having only two hands, I couldn't get a photo of the next step.  Holding tightly on to the top, with the other hand, run your fingers down the pod, removing the seeds.  Move the hand holding the pod down bit by bit if needed to keep a tight hold on the intact fluff.  The seeds will fall right off, leaving the part that would have flown them away behind.  

Under the remaining fluff is what I referred to as the "core."  It's where the fluffy stuff attached.  That fluff is actually referred to as "coma," or sometimes silk or floss. 

Here's what the seed looked like still attached to its fluff, and how it separated.

Notice the "fluff" isn't "fluffy?"  These are like new-born seeds, straight out of the pod.

Just give it a few minutes! Soon you have what looks like something that would be used by a fly-fisherman or fisherwoman!

How many seeds?  Lots.  This is just part of the harvest!  I wonder what the germination rate is?!

The pot I was putting the unwanted pod shells and "cores" had a lot of missed seeds in the bottom, which I scattered in the new pollinator garden bed.  I dumped the shells and "core" onto the table in the far back to blow off.  I returned later to a virtual fluff explosion!   The first photo is an intact "core" with the fluff still attached and, well, fluffed out!  The bottom photo is the familiar milkweed fluffs.  As a child did you grab them in flight, make a wish on them, and throw them back into the air, blowing them on their way?  I'm not sure all the fluffs I wished on were milkweed, but many probably were.  What were my wishes?  I don't remember; I probably wished for a horse! 

So, the plant is done, and pruned back to ground level now.  It just needs a mulching and it will be ready for winter.

What will I do with the seeds?  Milkweed needs cold treatment, or stratification, to grow.  There are several options for this, and I'm taking a couple of the easiest!  I'm not dealing with damp paper towels in plastic bags. 
  • just tossing some seeds on the soil - after all, isn't this what nature does?  And plants seem to grow just fine without our help, don't they? 
  • sticking some seeds in the refrigerator until spring and planting directly in the soil
  • sticking some seeds in the refrigerator until January, when I will Winter Sow them.  Yes, I know I said it wasn't worth it, and wouldn't do it again, but there are a few things I want to try this winter. 
I took a lot of photos!  I was fascinated by the pods and how the seeds and fluff were arranged.  And, if I do say so myself, the photos turned out well!