Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gardening With Annuals

I can't think of a better way to provide a dramatic splash of living color than with the simple beauty of colorful annuals! I was honored this week to visit a lovely garden planted almost entirely with annual plants. Each year, Bill Kresge creates a garden from seed to bloom with spectacular results. Like most gardeners, he begins planning for the new garden season during the winter when he peruses the seed catalogs and places his seed orders. He begins sowing flats of seeds in early March, starting with pansies, and cares for them in an impressive greenhouse behind his home. Bill starts approximately 1,200 plants from seed each spring. Back in May, I toured his greenhouse and he showed me his seed-started techniques. I learned a lot.

Bill's greenhouse when I visited in May
Some of the 100+ plants started this year.
Bill is never happier than when working in his greenhouse.

What are annuals? --

Annuals are fun and flamboyant flowering and foliage plants that germinate, grow, flower, produce seed, and die -- all within a single growing season.
-- Lynn Adams, 100 Easy Annuals

Perennials, on the other hand, live for three or more growing seasons and usually have a short blooming period. Bill does grow some perennials, which he also starts from seed. The three or four hibiscus plants of different colors at the front of the house are perennials that he grew from seed ten - twelve years ago.

Hibiscus just beginning to bloom. The pink one is 'Disco Belle Raspberry'
Marigolds and zinnias are among the stars of this garden.
Marigold Targetes erecta 'Gardland Orange' and Marigold 'Lofty Lady'

I must confess I do like the orange and yellow combination -- orange on its own, not so much. The Zinnia 'Zahara' series are impressively resistant to powdery mildew. I put them on my list for next year.

Zinnia 'Double Zahara' and Zinnia 'Zahara Yellow'

I fell in love the stunning rustic color of the coneflower 'Chim Chiminee.'

Coneflower, Rudbeckia hirta 'Chim Chiminee'

Near the front door, a bed of snapdragons gives a cheerful welcome. I admired the fulness of the plants -- my snapdragons don't branch like these. Bill advised me to pinch off the tops of the seedlings by as much as 1/3 to encourage branching. Great advice! I guess I've been too wimpy with my pinching off.

Nearby, the large angel's trumpet with white blooms is just one plant. Bill grew the single dahlias from seed, not tubers.

Clockwise from top: Angel's trumpet Brugmansia, single dahlias, and Angelonia.

I admired the non-climbing Morning Glory for it's pure cobalt blue petals and distinctive markings. Blue is a favorite color of mine in the garden and this beauty is another addition to my list for next year.

Dwarf Morning Glory Convolvulus 'Royal Ensign'

The foundation bed along the greenhouse contains an unusual annual chrysanthemum 'Primrose gem.' They have sweet primrose 'buttons' with a golden eye. Bill ordered the seeds from the Thompson and Morgan catalog 7 years ago. He sowed a portion each year and it is amazing that the seeds were still viable after so long. Unfortunately, he used the last of them this year. Thomson and Morgan, while still functioning in England, seem to have gone out of business here in the U.S.

Chrysanthemum coronarium 'Primrose gem'

There are lots of varieties of zinnias in the bed across from the greenhouse.

Zinnia bed

I needed to touch the velvety cockscomb in one of the foundation beds. I should grow this for my grandchildren who adore lambs ears for that reason. I added it to my list.

Cockscomb celosia cristata

Three more blue favorites of mine ...

Dwarf pincushion flower Scabiosa columbaria 'Blue Note'

The agastache was full of honey bees, but none would stay still long enough for me to photograph them.

Hyssop Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'

Balloon Flower Platycodon grandiflorus 'Komanchi'
At last, I manage to take a photograph of one of the many bees in this garden.

There are many advantages to growing annuals. Here are a few.
Annuals are ...
  • long blooming, flowering early until the first frost.
  • relatively inexpensive.
  • easy to grow with the right site and soil preparation.
  • temporary, so you can change your landscape every year.
  • versatile with many sizes and colors.
Annuals are hard to beat for showy, season-long color. Some are self-seeding meaning you may have new flowers the following year without having to plant them, though not necessarily where you want them. For information on growing annuals click here to read an excellent article from Cornell and here for one from the Arizona Extension.

In conclusion, annuals allow the gardener a chance to experiment with color, height, texture, and form. If you make a mistake it's only for one growing season -- my kind of flower.
Do you grow annuals in your garden?

I've shown only a small sampling of the variety of blooms in Bill's stunning garden and hardly did justice to it. My thanks to Bill and his wife Gale for sharing with me.

Happy Gardening!
Pamela x

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Lotus Flower

 The pure beauty of the lotus flower holds 
a benign spiritual promise...

The lotus flower has different meanings between cultures: The ancient Egyptians associated it with creation and rebirth; Buddhism and Hinduism see it as a symbol of purity and beauty respectively. One myth describes how, during the time of the Creation, a giant lotus flower grew out of a pond and from it the sun rose. The pink lotus flower is considered sacred within the highest realms of Buddhism as it emerges slowly from dirty, muddy ponds, remaining clean. Egyptians depicted the lotus flower in various works of art, often as a border or held in the hands of a god. It is the national flower of India.

An equatic perennial, the lotus flower should not be confused with the water lily. Unlike the water lily, it only comes in pink hues or white.

Lotus Nelumbo nucifera
One lotus flower is like a 
complete world ...
Author unknown

My lotus flower blooms; I am awed by its beauty.

The pond is at its loveliest today; even the tropical canna sports its exotic flower.

Canna x generalis

The water canna lily, though not a true lily, has high wildlife value. With large, oval shaped, green leaf blades, it can grow over 60 inches tall. The canna has the ability to remove large amounts of nutrient contamination from ponds. Not usually a fan of orange flowers, I love its orange-spattered yellow petals.

The pond enhances the beauty of the cottage garden which is reaching its peak bloom time. Purple cone flowers, campanula, daylilies, yarrow, gooseneck loosestrife, and phlox are full of blossoms. Butterflies and bees are busy.

The main cottage garden border
The border at the edge of the pond -- you can just see the lotus leaves in the center.
A mirror adds depth and gives the herbaceous border another dimension.
Daylilies and snapdragons in the horseshoe garden.

At the entrance to our farm, the butterfly garden has really filled out with liatris, white phlox, purple cone flowers, butterfly weed and cleome.

The first monarch butterfly to visit my garden this year, spent several hours in the butterfly garden with numerous fritillaries for company.

The herbaceous border along the south side of the kitchen garden is a little slower coming to full color. The double red hollyhock in the middle should have reached six feet high, but was pruned by a deer early in the season.

Hollyhock Alcea rosea 'Chater's Double Red'.
Phlox inside the kitchen garden

As always, the shade garden provides a cool retreat from the heat of the day.

Most of the hostas are in flower in the shade garden now.
The miniature/dwarf hostas in some of the fairy gardens bloomed on the day of the garden tour -- so thoughtful of them. I believe I bought the one shown here from Carolyn's Shade Garden several years ago. Check out Carolyn's beautiful blog if you are not familiar with it.

One of my 'Mouse Ears' miniature hostas.

I am linking with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day -- a day late I'm afraid. Do check out her July posting for blooms from around the world. Thank you, Carol, for hosting!

We are still experiencing more rainfall than normal, but when the sun shines, like today, it is just perfect. Enjoy!

Pamela x

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Kitchen Garden Update

The vegetables in the kitchen garden appear to love enormous amounts of rain. We received twelve inches in June and surely must top that amount this month. While the vegetables look amazing with their large, green foliage, weather-related problems abound: Weeds also love wet weather, slugs create havoc, and not enough sunshine means less blossoms. Daily, I expect to see powdery mildew, but only a few phlox have succumbed. Everything considered, gardeners in other parts of the country are experiencing flooding and worse, so I must not complain. Safe to say, though, I have never experienced a gardening season as wet as this one.

We decided a plain wooden farm bench would be useful and attractive for the kitchen garden, but we haven't yet found one we like. In the meantime, H.H. brought home two green metal chairs he spotted on the side of the road with a "Free" label on them. 

A good place to sit and admire our labor between the showers.

So happy the lettuce hasn't bolted yet even with no protection from the hot sun. I make a lettuce salad tossed with a simple vinaigrette dressing -- delicious.

Lettuce under the cucumber frame.
Two large yellow blossoms on the squash plant promise we'll have zucchinis soon.

I planted two types of beets, 'Detroit Dark Red' and beet 'Chioggia' which looks like a candy cane when sliced. The former I plant every year, but 'Chioggia' is new to me and I am anxious to see how it turns out. I direct-sowed nasturtium at one end of the beets bed, but I forgot to scrape the seeds with a file, so they were slow to germinate. Next year I'll give them a head start indoors. Note the tall milk weed against the fence. The pots are filled with zinnias and marigolds which, hating the weather, haven't started to bloom yet -- probably at least two weeks late.

Beet 'Chioggia' at the top, 'Detroit Dark Red' in the middle, and nasturtium.

Parsnips, always the slowest seeds to germinate, have made an appearance. They require a long growing period, and the root is best harvested after the first frost, so they have plenty of time yet. We always have some for Christmas dinner.

Carrots and parsnips at front. Melons in the top planting box.

I'm amazed how healthy the tomatoes seem in spite of the wet weather. Lots of fruit on 'Big Boy.'

I think this is 'Big Boy.' I'm not going out in the rain to check (yes, it's pouring again.)

The peppers really don't like cloudy days but have begun to flower, so I'm hoping for success.

Bell Pepper

Japanese beetles, that arrived earlier this week, busily devour everything. I handpick as many as I can, dropping them into soapy water, but it's something of a losing battle. They love the pole beans.

Pole beans with borage in the planter behind them.

I grow several perennial and annual flowers in the kitchen garden to encourage pollinators. My first phlox to bloom has powdery mildew. I sprayed with an organic fungicide, but the continual rain just washes it off.

Phlox with lungwort at its feet. Both have powdery mildew.

As a testament to the crazy weather, pansies just began blooming in front of the mirror in the side border of the kitchen garden.  I placed the pea tunnel there, and planted morning glory on both sides. The seeds were very slow to germinate, although I soaked them first. I think maybe I soaked them for too long then the rain delayed them more. The ones started early indoors are in full bloom and climbing arbors.

Pansies in front of mirror.

I grow chocolate mint and a few herbs in the kitchen garden. Feverfew and lemon balm are companions there.

Feverfew and lemon balm.

I have a bigger variety of herbs in the patio garden -- which is filling out nicely. Some of the herbs have yellowing leaves at the bottom because they don't like so much water. I am pleased, however, that the planter seems to be draining well considering the circumstances.

I decided I prefer the term 'patio garden' to trug or planter.
Double feverfew that my friend, Bill, started from seed.

I planted Bill's feverfew here, and placed a tub of it in the kitchen garden, too.

Feverfew Double White

Cherry tomatoes in the patio garden.

If you would like to see my 2015 Kitchen Garden Plan you can read about it here. I'm linking with the Virtual Garden Club -- go to Dee's blog and check out what other gardeners are growing in their veggie gardens.

The rescheduled Monroe County Garden Club tour takes place on Sunday. The weatherman promises a better day than the original, washed-out one. I love showing people my garden and hope for lots of visitors this time!

Enjoy your weekend, dear friends.
Pamela x

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