Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Garden Grumpies!

Grrr. Wet clay soil. Grrr. Stupid overcast cold days. Grrr, need to plant and my back's not letting me get any work done. The roses have rust and something's eating my baby basil plants. The flower seed I planted to take over when the ranunculus finished didn't take. There's not a single spot of green poking up amidst the dying ranunculus.

It's just not a good week for gardening! Okay, grumping over.

Two weeks ago, I started tearing out the mess that was the bedroom window garden. We still don't know what half of what we tore out of there was. The bulbed thing growing in the corner had probably a hundred and sixty bulbs crammed into a two-foot space. Bulbs were growing down under the concrete lip of the raised bed, squashed so tightly they were almost disk shaped! We still don't know what it was. The sweet broom, which I'm allergic to, came out, as did the tangled and overgrown mat of lambs ear. I have a feeling that the lambs ear is going to be akin to the calla lily catatastrophe. It's never really going to go away.

But now the FUN part starts!

I purchased a beautiful rose at  Evergreen Nursery in San Leandro  this weekend. They're having a 25% off sale through the 23rd. I went looking for Hot Cocoa but fell in love with this Double Delight. It's  probably the most amazing smelling rose I've ever caught scent of! If I can just baby it into settling in, it's going to be spectacular. Of course, after I got it home and started researching, I learned it's very susceptible to black spot.  One day I'll learn that impulse is BAD! (But maybe not quite today...)

Hopefully by mid-summer, I'll be looking out the bedroom window into a glowing bed of red and white gladiolus flanking my sweet and stunning rose bush, with double winky columbine and baby snapdragons poking out here and there! Hey, I can dream, right?

The other good news is that the vegetable garden seems to be doing quite well, what's planted in at least. The peas are loving the cool weather, and the onions and garlic are peeking their tops through the soil. The squash are being a bit slower about things, but I think they're just waiting for sunshine.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting Daffy!

My Dad loved daffodils, especially the big yellow trumpet daffodils that burst out with color the moment spring starts to descend.  I remember when I was kid driving up to the old family homestead in the hills and digging up bulbs from the descendants of the daffodils of his childhood. Those flowers are still growing on the family farm today. So, last year, in honor of Fathers Day, I wanted to order a bunch of daffodil bulbs for our new house.

Only one HUGE problem. I'm allergic to yellow pollens. Daffodils?! NOOOOO! CHOP 'EM DOWN AND BURN EM! EVIL FLOWER! EEEEEVILLL!  Then I discovered that there are 25,000 registered cultivars of daffodil!  A little research and some good faith advice from American Daffodil Society members taught me that the 'pink' varieties produce less pollen, and that Division 11 (Split cupped, or 'butterfly')  types tend disperse their pollen more readily than the standard trumpet types.  Hmm. Off to American Meadows I went, and ordered a variety intended to keep blooms coming from early spring to early summer! (I LOVE Americanmeadows.com!)
Paperwhites in December

First bloomers were the Paperwhites that I picked up at Home Depot on a whim when Scott suggested something around the tree in front. For a $6.99 end-of-season buy, these proved to be awesome. They started in December and were still blooming in January.

Tete-A-Tete w/Pickwick Crocus

Second comers were the wee yellow Tete-A-Tetes that I put along the front walk to contrast with the crocus. I was worried about pollen but we had nearly daily rainshowers and those kept it down. These are what spring is all about!

Mountain Dragon?

Mountain Dragon Butterfly are a Biltmore Estates hybrid. They came up fast and strong, starting bloom before the Tete-A-Tetes faded. These flowers were HUGENORMOUS!  At least four inches across! I was afraid I'd have to stake them like a vampire on a moonlit night, but they held up on stems that seem to have the tensile strength of rebar.  I only got eight bulbs, so I hope they perennialize like crazy! Only one problem. I begin to suspect that these aren't Mountain Dragon. They are far more white and yellow than yellow and orange. Shame on American Meadows if they subbed on me!

Then, these.. Uh... Weeeeeelll...  I don't know what these are. I think they were supposed to be Ice Follies, but as you can see, they definately AREN'T.  Not sure what they are.  Barrett Brownings, maybe? Knock out gorgeous, though, and low pollen enough that I was able to put some in a vase in the bedroom!

 I ordered one of those "Mixed Pink" bags: a handful of cultivars that aren't labeled beyond having some kind of pink bloom. Stupid move on my part, since now I don't know what I have. Lesson learned, I guess.
 Mostly they seem to be two varieties, both with a very sweet pale peach color and a scent reminiscent of hyacinths. The big cups (I suspect "Cool Flame"? ) opened yellow and swiftly turned apricot in the sunlight. The double cups are so heavy they needed staking but I'll forgive them.

Last along were my long anticipated Misty Glens. Pale lime color on sturdy solid-textured petals, with faintly darker green in the center of the cups. They aren't low pollen, so they have to stay in the garden, but that's just fine by me.    Like your average goober, I've misplaced my camera but I'll have pics up as soon as I find it!

Overall, I think my daffodils are a happy success!  I know Dad's shaking his head at me for spending so much on a few flowers, and wondering why I didn't just plant old yellow bulbs from the farm. And maybe, just for the sake of having them, I will.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Straw Bale Gardening?

Straw bale gardening just caught my attention! Has anyone tried this? Anyone have any tips?  I ran across the concept by accident, (making me wish all the more that I'd made it to the San Francisco Home & Garden Show this year) but now I'm seriously intrigued!

The idea is that you take a bale of straw, wet it down and let it start to compost, then you plant things in it. 

It sounds dead simple, doesn't it? We have heavy clay soil, and I figure I can do some bale gardening and then just turn it into the soil at the end of the season. After a couple years, we might actually have soil soft enough to dig in. At least, I think? Maybe?  So, I'm calling around for straw bales. I just seeded a new batch of tomato seeds and they're starting to poke their heads up. I figure by the time I cure a bale, they'll be ready to plant.

If anyone knows of a good local straw supply close to San Leandro, please let me know!