Friday, March 26, 2010
The seed-o-rama continues! There are batches of seedlings all over my house, in various stages of growth. The top row left to right is agastache and alchemilla, coreopsis 'Sunfire', pesto basil (nearer the window), Greek basil (away from the window), and rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'. Bottom row left to right is aquilegia and allium cernuum, cosmos, phlox drummondi in the foreground with Thai basil right behind it, and some more phlox barely making it into the picture.
Here's a closer look...
These are some of the Aquilegia canadensis that I started before most of the other plants in the flat.
You can see they're starting to develop their true leaves (sorry for the blurriness; even a good camera can't overcome my struggles with photography!).
Because I have more seedlings than I have space, I'm using the regular flat with its little seed compartments, some plastic pots I've saved from other plant purchases, and these peat pots. I've stolen drainage trays from numerous houseplants to temporarily support the various seedlings. That white plastic bag you see is my very classy cover for some broccoli seeds that I just started today. The package of DiCicco broccoli from Botanical Interests recommends to direct sow them, but I feel a little antsy about not starting any vegetable seeds indoors. There are still plenty of seeds left in the packet for direct sowing too.
I'm pleased with the germination rates and growth I've got so far, but we still have a long way to go. It feels like it should be well into spring already, but the temperature is still in the 30s today and the truth is the weather can't really be trusted for a few more weeks. All of these seedlings need a lot more time to grow and develop true leaves before the hardening off process begins.
Did you start seeds indoors? How are they doing?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Some may say this is a late spring, but compared to last year I think it's fabulous. At this time last year I barely had a few irises and tulips peeking out of the ground, but this year the daffodils are already in bud!
Peonies are showing their hot pink shoots, and my great blue lobelia (L. siphilitica) has formed its mat of early green growth.
A number of columbines are gracefully unfurling themselves...
...including this tiny little guy! (Sorry it's so blurry.) This is one of last year's seedlings that has so far survived.
Here is one of my favorite examples of the resiliency of plants in the face of my stupidity:
I laugh out loud every year when I see this tulip bravely pushing through the oregano plant that I plunked on top of it three years ago, obviously in the summertime when the tulip had long been dormant and forgotten. This is a perfect reason to utilize plant tags!
I've noticed a number of natives in the back gardens also coming to life, including wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides), nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum) and prairie smoke (Geum triflorum). My trout lilies, 'City of Haarlem' hyacinths and 'El Cid' tulips are, for the most part, conspicuous in their absence, and my 'Ruffled Velvet' Siberian irises are nowhere to be found! I am positively aggravated about that last one, but I'm hoping they're just late starters. Has anyone had experience with Siberian irises coming up later than bearded irises (which are robustly growing in the front garden, as seen in the top photo)?
Ominously, we're expecting a late winter snowstorm this weekend and I'm concerned about all the fresh young growth that could get killed. The columbine seedlings are a particular worry. But that's life in a Midwestern garden! I already have a number of seedlings to replace any that might not make it this spring, which is the best insurance policy!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Last weekend I journeyed to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, which runs through March 14 at Navy Pier, with Mr. McGregor's Daughter (whose comprehensive review is here). Although I frequently miss out on all kinds of garden-related events around Chicagoland thanks to schedules, distance, and general life craziness, this is one that I manage to make it to just about every year. And so it was in 2010 as well!
I can't say that a lot of the gardens really "wowed" me; I guess I'm not that big of a theater fan. The theme this year was "Cultivating Great Performances," which I think is cute since Chicago really does have a vibrant theater and performing arts scene. But only a few of the display gardens really incorporated that theme in an expert and clever way, and to be honest my favorite garden didn't have any theater relation at all.
I'll jump right into my favorite: Spring Awakening. This potager garden did a fabulous job of mixing edibles and ornamentals and also making those edibles function as ornamentals. The geometry that is integral to potager design was literally molded into not just the traditional squares but also a winding curlicue shape.
The large clumps of herbs smelled absolutely divine. I sat with my head buried in this one for a good three minutes. There's (clockwise from top left) spearmint, lemon balm (I'm pretty sure), rosemary, and creeping thyme.
Another winding potager path:
My favorite combination from this garden (as you can see from my header photo) was the roses and kale.
I love the yellow and purple color combination, plus the crinkly-ness of the kale made the perfect backdrop for the silky rose petals and leaves. What surprised me the most was how much I liked this garden. I am usually not a huge fan of potager. Don't get me wrong, it has it's charm, but when I think of my favorite garden styles potager does not jump to the front of my mind. This example, however, was inventive and attractive, not to mention tasty and scented. It really appealed to all five senses, which is one of the ultimate achievements of a garden, I think.
OK, moving on. "Alice's Wonderland" probably did the best job of applying the show's theme. I have to admit that I was a little creeped out by the Queen of Hearts...
...and in general this type of fantasy-related design is not my thing. But, it did result in a garden that was truly based on Lewis Carroll's works. I think the fact that there is a new Tim Burton movie of Alice in Wonderland happens to be a coincidence, but a lucky one for the show, definitely. Plus I liked the crushed glass pathway.
The Conservatory Garden was just that--a replica of a conservatory. It featured four seasons of themes, such as a Christmas section and a tropical section, and while it definitely had some beautiful plants, like dew-soaked fritillarias....
...and a beautiful lady-slipper orchid...
...in the end it was like a conservatory and was basically just eye candy.
The bonsai exhibit by the Chicago Botanic Garden was cool because it was very different from everything else.
And the ferns and heucheras reminded me of my own dry shade garden. (I don't even remember which display these came from, I think Miss Saigon??)
I must also mention that there was a prairie restoration exhibit entitled "Jekyll and Hyde," which is a clever play on the evil buckthorn- and garlic mustard-filled degraded landscape and the sweet and healthy restored prairie landscape. Like restoration work itself, this vignette was educational and honorable but not splashy and eye-catching, and I inexplicably took no pictures of it. That's pretty lame coming from someone who purports to be a native plant nerd and resident of the Prairie State. Feel free to boo.
There is one more thing I discovered at this show that wasn't actually a plant. It's the Seed Keeper Kit, which is a storage system for seed packs. I'm really sorry I don't have a picture, so I encourage you to check it out on the website. I thought this was just ingenious, particularly as someone who has tons of seed packets crammed into a bowl in my living room. And it's not just a tupperware container with dividers; it has gloves, bags, plant markers, a ruler and more to help with seed organization and planting. Plus, the creators and company owners, Kerri and Carol, were as friendly and enthusiastic as could be. You've got to respect it when people find a need being unmet and take action to be entrepreneurs!
So in short I enjoyed the show and left with a new-found appreciation for potagers, even if the entire event didn't blow me out of the water. By the time we left in mid-afternoon the place was packed, and I was glad for two reasons: one, that so many people were turning out for a garden event and, two, that we had an opportunity to explore before the masses got there!
For the F&G Show 2010, that's a wrap! (Pun intended)
Monday, March 8, 2010
One year ago today I started this blog! Its birthday is at an appropriate time of year for a gardening blog, I think, since spring is just around the corner and it coincides with the annual Chicago Flower & Garden Show (about which I will have more very soon, and from which the above picture was taken; see Mr. McGregor's Daughter for a re-cap).
I thought back on some of my favorite gardening/blogging moments from the past year, and a number of events, and the posts they inspired, stand out. Of course, the Garden Blogger's Spring Fling was a highlight, which included lots of time in beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces, from the Chicago Botanic Garden to Rick Bayless's home garden a community vegetable garden. Most importantly, it was a wonderful opportunity to make friends with fellow garden bloggers. I am sad to say that I will have to miss this year's meet-up in Buffalo; I will be there in spirit!
One of my proudest gardening accomplishments this past year was creating my rain garden, which I am happy I could share with the blogoverse. It already performed admirably by absorbing the ridiculous amounts of fall rain we had, and never once overflowed or sat festering for even a couple hours! I can't wait to see how it does this year, and I'm already thinking of plants to add.
The soggy, weird weather also led me to conduct a little experiment for avoiding/getting rid of powdery mildew. I got some great suggestions from readers including Garden Girl. The results were a little inconclusive between my dormant oil mixture and milk mixture since they both seemed to work equally well. I intend to try them both again this year.
Personally, I had fun choosing my MVP for 2009, the Most Valuable Plant. Great blue lobelia was the surprise winner, and if it weren't for needing a blog post idea I probably wouldn't have thought to evaluate my plants in this way. I look forward to doing it again this year!
Lastly, I enjoyed having the opportunity to share book reviews. I am an ardent bibliophile and I really like writing book reviews, so it's been great having a forum for that too! See here, here, and here for the last three (OK, I think they're the only three).
Most of all I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who read this blog! It's been a wonderful writing outlet and I'm so thankful to be a part of such a supportive and fun community!!
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The seed-growing season is officially underway! With this very humble set-up, I have planted seeds of native forbs that I have been stratifying (and in some cases scarifying) for much of the winter: Canadian columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), blue columbine (A. caerulea), yellow coneflower (Ratbida pinnata), and nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum). Today I noticed the very first tiny shoots of Allium seedlings! That's germination is less than a week!
These pictures were taken a few days ago, and I'm happy to report that much of snow in the background has melted now that we've had a few sunny, relatively warm days. The light is not an actual grow light by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's a regular desk lamp with a 15-watt fluorescent bulb, and I really can't say if it's providing a helpful amount of light. But it was cheap and it can't hurt, right?
I don't have a heat mat, which is bothering me but not to the point where I've felt I should make the effort to get one. That could change with Round 2 of seed starting in a couple weeks.
Speaking of Round 2, that will be the big one. I'll be starting rudbeckia, agastache, cosmos, alchemilla, phlox, two kinds of basil, and some other random blue columbine seeds that didn't get planted in the current batch. Aside from the basil, I'm going to start all my vegetable seeds outdoors. We'll see if that turns out to be a wise choice. I'm also going to have to get creative about marking which seedlings are in which containers. I have my nice little popsicle-stick tags, but they're too tall for the tray and when they're standing up I can't close the lid. Whoops. Maybe I'll break them to be shorter?
I haven't seen any sign of flowers in the garden yet, but it's starting to feel like spring!