Monday, October 15, 2018

Evaluating the 2018 Kitchen and Cutting Gardens

It's never too early to start dreaming; to start planning for the next gardening season. First, however, it helps to assess the previous year's successes and failures. I evaluate each year's vegetable crop for flavor, disease resistance, and performance. I determine which varieties we liked and which failed. I assess flowers for their visual appeal and impact, considering their color interest, texture, and unique features. This isn't as big a job as it sounds because from year to year I tend to repeat the tried and true, with just a few new varieties. There are unexpected failures and successes, however, that are often weather related. This summer's record rainfall and numerous violent storms were enormously challenging. As a result, I spent far less time on maintenance than usual. The gardens quickly became a jungle. You can see the rapid growth in the two pictures above: The bottom photograph, taken at the end of May, shows grandson, Jonathan, admiring the neat beds after we had sowed peas, beets, pole beans, bush beans, zucchini, cucumber, parsnips, carrots, cosmos, and nasturtium. I captured the top picture only 81/2 weeks later. This annual miracle never ceases to amaze me. We followed the plan I developed back in March; you can read about it HERE. When Jon and I had finished the direct sowing, I planted the peppers, tomatoes, zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons that I had started indoors from seeds.  Row covers protect cabbage, kale, and broccoli from insect damage. In the cold frame, I started Swiss chard and lettuce. We anxiously awaited all the seeds to germinate and the seedlings to develop.

Swiss chard and lettuce in the cold frame
Parsnip seeds are the last to germinate, so we are excited when they appear.

Today, the combination kitchen and cutting gardens are a tangled mess. I dodged raindrops to take the following picture this morning:

Here are some of this year's vegetables that performed well:

One zucchini plant is enough to keep us in vegetable dishes and zucchini bread
I protected the beautiful red cabbage from insect damage with a row cover
 'Mammoth Melting' snow peas continued to produce even in the heat of summer
Red beets are always very successful for me - tried and true 'Detroit Dark Red'

For the third successive season, I had little success with tomatoes - they were too soft and watery. Three strikes and they are out. I decided against growing any next year as I can't justify the amount of work involved. Likewise, the peppers were disappointing. We didn't like the texture and flavor of the pole beans, but loved the bush variety. I plan to purchase 'Rattlesnake' pole beans next year. Of the many I've grown over the years, it's delicious and is very interesting visually.

The 'Straight Eight' cucumbers and 'Blue Lake' bush beans were wonderful. Not so the peppers and tomatoes.
Peppers started well but did not receive enough sun due to the rainy summer

We are expecting our first frost this week. Then I will begin harvesting the parsnips. You have probably heard me say that they taste so much better after being touched with frost.

I still have carrots and parsnips to harvest.
The garden in July. The ferny plant, bottom left, is cosmos

The cutting-garden flowers suffered from the dreadful wet, stormy weather, plus it was often too wet, too hot, or too humid for me to spend time outdoors deadheading. The late cosmos are still blooming, although mostly blown flat to the ground. The zinnias are fading fast; the first frost will finish them all.

Cosmos bloomed late and is still producing its pretty flowers
Nasturtium and marigolds bloomed reliably
As 2019 is the year of the snapdragon, I will plant them again next year. Maybe some will reseed.
Essential for pollinators, the stand of milkweed at the bottom of the kitchen/cutting garden
The bees and butterflies were busy in my cutting garden all summer in spite of the awful weather
There were so many monarchs this year, even on the fading zinnias

I have some brassica plants for the cold frame, as I hope to extend the season. Unfortunately, the heavy rain found its way into the back of the cold frame making the soil too wet for planting. I need to contact my handyman for help. Maybe a gutter under the eaves ...

Swiss chard in the very wet cold frame and a tray of brassicas
Cauliflower,  Brussel sprouts, and broccoli waiting to be planted.

I feel my kitchen garden and my cutting garden were less successful than usual this year. By making an honest evaluation I am able to plan for the next garden season. I know it will be much better! Don't you agree?

I am linking to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day even though it was too wet to take pictures of today's flowers for the meme. I look forward to visiting Carol's wonderful blog, May Dreams Gardens, to see what is blooming around the world on this Bloom Day.

Pamela x

A birthday gift that makes me smile!

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rest In Peace

Amarettos Top Dude
7/10/1998 - 9/27/2018

For those of you who didn't read my posting on Facebook, I am sorry to tell you my sweet Dude passed away this week. He was the gentlest, cutest miniature horse. He was a wonderful friend to me and his buddy Billy Goat. We will miss him enormously. When I worked in the garden, he was always there at the fence, watching my every move, and waiting for me to toss him a tasty weed. I included him in my blog postings because he was an important part of my garden story. Here is a link to an article I wrote about him a couple of years ago:

In the article, believing that Billy would go first, I mentioned that we were thinking of adding a young goat to the family, so that Dude would not be left alone. We did nothing at the time. Then we realized that Billy would be the one needing a new buddy, so two weeks ago, we purchased a nine-week-old Nigerian pygmy goat. He is black (like Dude) and we named him Doodles in Dude's honor. Billy is obviously grieving and we hope that Doodles will give him some comfort.


 Rest in Peace, Dude. 
Welcome little Doodles.

Pamela x

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Bloom Day Flowers --Three Days Late

I spent the weekend working in my gardens for the first time in weeks. The weather was perfect: sunny and not too hot for me. I weeded, removed dead stuff, pulled weeds, planted bulbs, weeded, divided perennials, pulled weeds, deadheaded, and did I mention weeds? I finished cleaning up the cottage garden yesterday morning; the guys mowed before the rain from the aftermath of hurricane Florence. I loved the feeling of accomplishment that ensued as I looked around my 'tidied' gardens. The rain rolled in before I could take pictures. Fortunately, I had photographed flowering plants on Saturday because that day was Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day (GBBD.)  Occurring on the 15th of each month, GBBD, hosted by the lovely Carol of May Dreams Gardens, is when gardeners from around the world showcase what is blooming in their gardens. I'm sorry that I didn't have time to finish my Bloom Day post until today -- better late than never, right?

The Serenity Garden, like my other gardens, is 'in the pink': I have more pink blooms than fall-colored ones although the first day of autumn is rapidly approaching.

Pink turtle head Chelone 'Hot lips', pink sedum 'Autum Joy' and reblooming 'Golden Mound' spirea
Serenity Garden  with hot-pink Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Blooming 'Golden Mound' Spirea surrounds the serene statue, Allegrain's 'Bather'
Pink hydrangea and purple callibrachoa

I like pink (this is why I planted so many pink plants) but my favorite color has to be blue. I love September when the blue mist shrub is blooming in the cottage garden.

Blue mist shrub Caryopteris is a bee magnet in the Cottage Garden

Also in the cottage garden's large herbaceous bed:

Top: Cleome. Bottom: Perennial geranium and Canna 'Striata'
Sweet autumn clematis makes a pretty backdrop to cottage-garden flowers.

The fence around the kitchen garden is adorned with a blooming rose and nasturtiums peeping through from the other side.

Nasturtium 'Enana Rosa Cereza' and Rosa 'Peace'

In Abundance garden, Joe Pye continues to put on a show. There are lots of buds and a few flowers on New England asters.

New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and Eupatorium dubium Joe Pye Weed 'Baby Joe.'
Click on the picture to enlarge and see two monarchs on zinnias in the cutting garden

The cutting garden is inside the kitchen garden where I picked the last zucchini; should I sautee it or make zucchini bread? We are still harvesting pole beans, Swiss chard, red beets, and carrots. The parsnips look ready, but I always wait until after they have been touched by frost for the best flavor.

Zucchini Calabacin 'Fordhook'

Stunning coleus in the stone garden adds beautiful warm color. I usually start plants early, indoors, from seed.

Coleus sp.
The Stone Garden is my container garden.

Another annual that is serving me well this year is the fuschia on the back porch. We removed the hummingbird feeder from this spot, because it attracted black bears. The fuschia proved to be a wonderful substitute, drawing hummingbirds every day. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the hummers -- they don't hang around long enough.

Fuschia sp.
The native plant white snakeroot Agetina altissima blooming next to the outhouse.

Finally, a sign of fall ...

Weeping Japanese maple leaves are beginning to take on their autumn hue

What signs of the season's change are you seeing in your part of the world?

I hope you had a happy GBBD in your garden, as I did.

Zinnia and cosmos
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Friday, August 31, 2018

The Stars Of My End-of-August Gardens

The stars of my gardens today have to be the abundant monarch butterflies that have returned after many years absence. As always, before the last frost early this year, my indoor seed-starting included zinnias, marigolds, and snapdragons. At the end of May, I transplanted them into the cutting garden that is located in the kitchen garden. I direct-sowed nasturtiums and cosmos at that time. In addition, lots of morning glory and cleome self-seeded from last year. As well as this abundance of brightly colored blooms, the monarchs also enjoy the milkweed growing at the bottom of the kitchen garden. Of course, other types of butterflies and bees continue to visit. It is a joyous year for pollinators.

Zinnias and nasturtium in the cutting garden.

Cosmos was not so successful. I had lots of feathery foliage but only two flowers so far. I thought it was because I fertilized, but local friends tell me they have a similar problem this year. Maybe, it was the lack of sun and too much rain.  

One red blossom and one pink on the feathery cosmos

I've had mixed results with vegetables, but the star has to be my Swiss chard. It's bright-red stalks and healthy leaves are not only beautiful, but nourishing. Tomatoes are ripening, finally, and I still have a few beets and some pole beans.

Top: red beets and swiss chard. Bottom left: tomatoes. Right: pole beans

Abundance Garden needs work; it is an overgrown mess exacerbated by the aforementioned morning glories that are twining around everything. I wont show a picture. Joe pye, however, continues to star there although torrential rains keep beating it down.

Over the cutting garden fence: Joe pye and morning glories

In the main cottage garden, smoke bush has to be the star. It provides proof that foliage is often sufficient; no blooms necessary.


This is proving to be a strange year with flowers blooming at odd times. Phlox 'Bright eyes' is an example: it didn't start to flower until the middle of August. It is peaking now when normally it would be fading.

Phlox 'Bright eyes'

Other plants in the cottage garden are performing as expected: purple cone flower is fading fast, hydrangea 'Pinky Winky' is turning red, cleome is very leggy, and bee balm is almost spent.

Clockwise from top right: Hydrangea 'Pinky winky', bee balm, cleome in front of delphiniums, purple come flower.

Froggy Pond

A reliable perennial that I rarely show you is the heuchera that grows between a rose and a biota in the cottage garden. A shade plant, it is protected from the sun in this location. It bloomed all summer providing an unusual ground cover for a garden that is otherwise in full sun.

Coral bells, heuchera

In the same bed, the sweet autumn clematis is beginning to open its sweet flowers. I was surprised to see it this year as last year it was sickly; I thought I had pulled all of it out. This is the native species that is less invasive. I'm happy to see its return.

Sweet autumn clematis on my favorite wrought-iron trellis.

The shasta daisies are hanging around much longer than usual. Strange year ...

Sweet autumn clematis; the flowers of parsley; shasta daisy

Today, the star of the Horseshoe Garden is the Great blue lobelia. This is another plant that has returned from the grave -- there was no sign of it last year. Amazing.

Great blue lobelia
Daylily 'Lemondrop' having a last fling.

It's no surprise to me that turtlehead is the star of the Serenity Garden at this time of year. I love its abundant pink blooms.

Turtlehead Chelone 'Hot lips'
Serenity Garden

It's been a challenging summer, weatherwise, so I'm happy to show some beauty in my gardens at this time.  Before I close, here is an update on my sweet, sick, miniature horse, Dude. We received very bad news this week when the vet told us that, in addition to Cushing's Disease, Dude has incurable cancer. As long as he isn't suffering, we will keep him comfortable. He is walking and eating well, spending most of his time in the stall with his buddy, Billy Goat. They are inseparable.
Dude with 'deer' friends, with his buddy Billy, and with grandchildren.

Please forgive the lack of botanical names in this posting. I am more often in the stable, and wrote this as quickly as I could, so that I can get back there.

What are the stars of your late-August garden? I would love to know.

Your gardening friend,
Pamela x

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