Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

A Spring Garden Walk

Welcome to the front entrance to our home.  The tree in the center is a cultivar of the Port Orford Cedar, or Lawson Cypress, called “Wissel’s Saguaro”, due to its branches sticking out like the arms of a Saguaro cactus.  An interesting creature to greet our visitors.  The shrub with the red berries behind it is a large Nandina domestica “Moyer’s Red”.

Entering the front garden.   There used to be a large Arborvitae shrub where all the small plants on the left are now.  It was some 8′ across and 7′ tall.  That was until the snow hit in February and crushed the life out of the center of it.  We had to remove the whole plant (tons of work!) and replace it with a new collection of wonderful plants.  We lost our privacy but gained a new view of the garden entrance.  It feels very welcoming now as you enter under the arch formed by the Japanese maple on the left and the Oregon Green Pine on the right.  The wonky looking sign in front is from the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, designating us as a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.  We welcome many wild creatures here.

Taking the next steps into the garden.  On the left you can just see a very fragrant Winter Daphne, and on the right is a gorgeous PJM Regal Rhododendron in full bloom.  The bench is a fine place to sit and read or just view the garden.

A better view of the Daphne, with a species Hinoki Cypress over it.   The tree will get large in time and provide a nice sheltered corner for the front porch.  At the right is a large Sappho Rhododendron waiting to bloom.  The hanging items are a hummingbird feeder, a wasp trap and our rainbow wind sock.  More food for the birds and safety and beauty for us.

Sitting on the bench and looking back at the entrance to the garden.  The large deciduous tree on the right is a Sango Kaku Japanese maple and the conifer on the left is the Oregon Green Pine.  You can see a bit of the arch they create together.  The large shrub in front of the bench is a Mr. Bowling Ball arborvitae.  It has very interesting foliage and cool winter color.

The stone path leading to the back garden.  On the left is a small Weeping White Spruce we put in to replace the large Blue Spruce we removed last fall because it was going to get too big.  A sad loss but it’ll save us heartache in years to come.  The hedge on the right is deciduous and just greening up.  It’s been here for over 40 years and it’s still going strong!

Entering the back garden from the path by the house.  The walk is covered with several inches of bark to keep it clean and attractive.  Nothing will grow there because it’s too shady.  Oh the left you can just see the light lavender flowers of the Rhododendron cilpenense and a bit of a red Unryu camellia.  The small Magnolia on the right suffered greatly in the snow and will never be the same.  But I staked it up a lot and it will recover at least somewhat.  Much patience will be required!

A view of the center of the back garden.  You can’t see the trees too well because they’re still dormant.  They’ll look much more lush in a few weeks.  Sorry it’s so dark here – it was an overcast day, as is common in April here in Seattle.

The center from a side view. The large shrub on the left is a dwarf Coast Redwood called “Kelley’s Prostrate” that only grows to 2 feet tall and about 7 feet wide, so far.  The species gets a huge 360 feet tall.  It’s so nice to have the redwood foliage here in our small garden that could never accommodate the larger species tree.  The fountain gives us hours of pleasure listening to its gentle sounds, much like a small creek or stream.  Imagination does wonders when your eyes are closed!

Looking into the side of the garden a bit further down from the last shot.  The small pink flowers on the right belong to a “Howard McMinn” Manzanita, and the bright pink one on the lower left is a “Kramer’s Rote” heath.  Above the heath is a small Lily of the Valley shrub and at the back is a large “Pink Icicle” camellia just coming into bloom.

You’ll see this as you walk the path I showed in the last photo.  The tree in the back is a “Wintergreen” Japanese Umbrella Pine, which also took a hit in the snow.  All these branches used to stand straight up.  Now they’re all wonky.  I doubt they’ll pull themselves back up, but ya never know.  I’ll give it time before I do any corrective pruning.  On the right you can just see the trunk of a contorted Japanese Larch called Diana.  The branches twist and turn most interestingly.  It’s been leafing out for a month now with its small bright apple-green needles.  I’ll do a post on it someday.

This is taken from the same spot as the last one only turned a bit to the right.  You can see the camellia and the cool lantern we had made for us out of wrought iron.  It helps light up the small deck you can see below it.  In the back is a large Radicans cryptomeria which will dominate the area in years to come.

A few more steps bring us to this shot of the deck, with the lawn and the house in the background.  This little deck is a sweet place to hang out and read or just listen to the sounds of the fountain next to it (you can’t see it here).  The upper deck by the house is a great place to spend some time sunbathing in private, and is a good place to have company over for cookouts.

Full circle – this is a shot of the walkway we entered the back garden through.  The bare tree on the left is an “Eddie’s White Wonder” dogwood just about to burst into bloom.  It got Anthracnose last year so we’re spraying it with Neem oil every week or so to try to eradicate it.  It won’t kill the tree but it looks terrible as the summer progresses.  I hope we can kill it off!

Here we circle back to the inner yard to see the veggie gardens and the greenhouse on your left.  The water barrel gives us enough to water the greenhouse most of the year, except in summer when it doesn’t rain. (Yes, we have Very dry summers here!)

A closer view of the greenhouse.  You can see the seed starting bed on the left with its plastic cover that holds in the moisture and heat to help the seeds germinate.  I put the curtain over the lower part of the door so I can go out and work in the greenhouse naked without spooking the neighbors.  I do it outdoors too when they’re all gone.  More on that later on!

Here’s one of the veggie gardens.  We planted the trees and heathers along the north end to tie the beds to the other parts of the garden.  We lost some planting space but still have plenty of room for many crops.  The bees love the heather flowers and they help pollinate the garden.  We grew enough onions and carrots last year that we’re still eating them today.  It’s so yummy to grow your own food.  We even have some Kale that overwintered in the back by the fence.  Sweet and tasty!

This is the last shot.  It shows how the veggie gardens and the ornamental ones merge with the path through the lawn between them.  We have gates on all sides of the garden to be able to visit the neighbors.  So far we’ve had good ones, though we’re waiting to see who buys the house next door.  They all help make this a great neighborhood to live in!

So that’s the tour.  Sorry it was an overcast day, but I hope the photos came out well enough for you to see what I was hoping to show you.  It’s an exciting time in the garden now with so many plants bursting with their new spring blossoms and others just breaking dormancy and starting to leaf out.  It’ll all look so different in a few weeks as the trees put on their new summer leaves and the other plants continue to bloom.  It’s such a joy to be in a garden in the Spring!

May your own gardens grow bountifully!

Steve

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A Spring Walk-Around

 

So much has been happening in the garden lately I don’t really know where to begin. So I thought I’d do a little tour of the whole place to show what’s happening in a general way. I started out in the front yard and worked my way around the side to the back and then did some shots there touring the garden. I tried to put the most significant plant names in the pictures so you’d know them.

I began at the front entrance to the garden where the Oregon Green Pine shares the space with the Globe Arborvitae which still has its lovely bronze winter color. The next shot shows the Sango-Kaku Japanese maple starting to leaf out. It’s a bit slower than some of the others but it’s starting t0 look like a real tree again now. Lovely new leaves shine against the red stems.

This is a shot of the main front yard looking towards a couple of new trees since last year. In the center is a maple called a Korean Butterfly maple from North Korea, also known as Acer tschnoskii ssp. Koreanum. Very rare I understand and quite lovely. Across on the right is a purple leaved form of Katsura called the Red Fox, or Rot Fuchs in Germany where it was found. It’s a smaller form of the larger growing species. On the left is a Sorbaria sorbifolia “Sem” or Ural False Sprirea. It’s the one with the pinkish leaves.

Looking out from the back you can see the center of the yard from a different perspective. We like to sit on the bench that sits here to just relax and look at the garden in the evenings or whenever we have some spare time. It’s cool to see it from this way where it’s so very private in the yard and we hear the street but can’t really see it. Nice….

Here’s a look down the north side of the house to the back, showing off the Vine maple I just planted a few weeks ago. I’ve had it in a pot for years and it’s good to get it in the ground finally. I had to find a place for it first but I did eventually. It’ll grow to shield us from the neighbors a bit and give an arching entryway to the back yard from the front. As well as turning lovely fall colors it’s a beautiful tree all year and a native too.

Next is a shot of the whole garden from the deck. You can see how it all fits together here, more or less. Next I moved to the south side of the garden and shot a picture of the path that walks into it towards the Yew Pine or Podocarpus macrophyllus. It’s grown all over in the Central Valley of CA where I grew up but is rare here. It gets 20-30 feet tall eventually but it’ll take awhile, like so many others I’ve planted. I must think I’m gonna live a Long time, eh? 🙂

The Metasequoia Miss Grace holds the edge of the path to the back of the garden and you can see the Cryptomeria elegans a bit in back of it too, tho its winter color is fading to green now it’s still beautiful and about to start growing now. Most of the other Cryptomerias are growing now so I’m excited about that.

The Heather Garden has as a centerpiece a Ginkgo called Jade Butterflies that gets about 10 feet tall and will provide a unique aspect to this area. It’s very unique and a living fossil. In the next row is a side path view of the deck of another Cryptomeria called Radicans, that put on a full foot and 1/2 of growth last year after I planted it in June. Amazing! I think it might put on 2-3 feet or more this year. I sure hope so! You can also see the Viburnum rhitidophyllum next to it on the left. I thought it was going to die a year ago but I pruned it back and eventually it came out great and now grows fully and is about to bloom. Wow, the resilience of these plants amazes me.

Next you see the Metaseaquoia again as we look to the north along the back path. And then we look at the same path from the north looking south. You can see the Mountain Hemlock on the right side and perhaps the Wissel’s Saguaro Lawson Cypress on the left down low. They’re very interesting with their arms like a Saguaro cactus. I’m waiting patiently for them to grow their 6 inches a year…

The Red Pygmy Japanese maple is leafing out and putting on some 6-10 inches of growth. I didn’t really realize these maples would put on so much growth in such a short time. These had leaves come on in about a week or so. Incredible and beautiful. Also from the deck you can see the Sequoiadendron giganteum “Pendula” on the left here along the edge of the walk from the deck to the lawn as we look at it. It’s growing more than anything I’ve got so far I think, tho the Radcans might just surpass it.

Here’s one of the north side of the yard with the Inverleith pine starting to put on its candles, and the Choke Cherry “Nero’ covered in bloom buds. The Black Dragon Sugi is putting on new growth too and the Baileys Creek Dogwood is putting on leaves and about to start to grow. When it does I’ll have to be ready to prune it cause it grows Fast and Full. I’ll have to keep training it up to be a tree for me.

This is a common Bloodgood Japanese maple that has just sat here for the last two years but this year it’s putting on that 6-10 inches of growth the Red Pygmy is doing. I’m amazed and thrilled to see this finally. I’d wondered if something was wrong but it takes time for things to establish themselves at times and that’s what happened here. You can perhaps see that the new growth is flimsy and flows down to the ground but it comes back up in time. I’m very happy about this plant now.

This one is of the fountain in full flow. It’s sound is just so soothing to listen to when we’re out in the yard working or just sitting and relaxing, tho we don’t really do that enough. It’s been a treat tho we had to replace part of it that froze this winter cause we didn’t drain it. Ooops! Oh well it’s OK and working fine now that we replaced the broken piece. It should be cool now, for awhile, till the next bad freeze anyway. Maybe we’ll drain it this year….

The back corner has the Alberta Spruce putting on lot of new growth and looking lovely. The Mountain Hemlock is much later so won’t put on growth for another month probably. It’s a high elevation plant usually so that makes sense it’d grow later. This corner is one of the parts of the garden that has a real NW flavor to it when you sit there. It just feels like it belongs here so well. And the hemlock has grown a lot in the few years it’s been there too.

Here’s a lone shot of our poor veggie garden. I was very late getting my seeds started this year so will have to see what happens with my tomatoes in particular. The onions are growing well and the radishes and even the lettuce as well as the India mustard that overwintered along with the Swiss Chard in the back beds. We’ve planted greens but they haven’t come up yet or the carrots either. But they will soon as well as the corn we have starting in the greenhouse to plant out soon. We’re still eating the onions we grew last year so we get good return from this garden and it’s so much fun to do. It isn’t really cost effective but it soothes our souls and make us happy to do so it’s totally worth it.

This is a shot of the garden from the deck outside the back door of the house. In the middle is a new addition – a Sciadopitys verticilatta or Japanese Umbrella Pine. They say of it that it’s a pine but it’s not a pine… In other words it looks like one, sort of, but not really. It looks like it’s made of wax or plastic almost but it’s so slow growing that it’ll stay in its pot for years. I’m thrilled to have this new plant in the garden, even on the deck.

The last shot is another view of the overall back garden. The Plum is almost done blooming now and we did some pruning of it recently to lighten the load but we have more to do still. The cherry in back is in full bloom still but will be finished soon. It’s been pruned a bit to to get off the dead wood.

Overall this garden is very small but it’s got a lot of components to it that make it feel much bigger. Especially once you get into it you feel the size of it more and I’ve tried to give you a sense of what it’s like to walk around in it while it’s a bit sunny out today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of a tour. I’ll do more on specific plants later on.

Hoping Spring is Springing for you now!

Steve

Onion Art

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A cousin of mine just sent me these photos from France and I thought they were so cool I just wanted to share them. I don’t have much to say about them because I didn’t get any information,  just the pictures. But they are so unique and original I thought maybe some other folks would appreciate seeing them. That’s it. A simple post for a change… 😉

Enjoy!

Steve

PS. I credit my cousin Marilyn for sending these to me and her cousin in France Patrick for sending them to her… There are many circles that connect with this one here… 😉

Growing a Greenhouse

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I posted awhile ago about my greenhouse, when it was still in the throes of clean up and I was far from this day of amazement when I have things growing all over the place. I seem to have good luck in starting certain things from seed and then transplanting them to small pots and finally to the garden. This year I focused on tomatoes and some greens and of course some corn. Here’s some pictures of the greenhouse in full production mode.

The first shot is one of the whole greenhouse from the doorway. It shows the starting bed on the left where I have heating cables in the soil to allow for greater germination of the seeds. I cover it all with a plastic cover to keep it moist and it works great to start all sorts of things.

There are a lot of corn plants in the starting bed and on the right are the ones that are growing to to become plants for the garden. You can see a lot of tomatoes and some other seedlings, like zinnias, one of my grandmother’s favorites which I wanted to plant a lot of this year just for nostalgia’s sake, and because I also love them. The second shot shows the zinnias by themselves.

Next is a permanent part of the greenhouse under the starting bench. I wanted to have some tender plants growing year round so I planted a Tradescantia Purple leaf form that sprawls all over the floor and I have to keep it trimmed back some. There’s also a nice Persian Cyclamen that blooms quite nicely in winter and later into spring, tho it’s done now. It makes for a lovely scene under the bench for some year round color and foliage. There’s also a native fern growing wild in the tradescantia that I’ll have to remove someday as it’ll get too big but it’s so pretty now I’ll leave it.

In the next one you can just barely see the little peppers on the plants I held over thru the winter in the greenhouse and pruned back to allow for new growth.  To my surprise and joy they came back strongly and have been blooming well and already have set some fruit. How welcome to see because the peppers from this year are just still sitting there. So it’s lucky I have the ones from last year to have some fresh hot peppers for my cooking as they grow and develop.

There’s also a shot itself of the corn which we started in flats and then transplant out to the garden. We also give a lot of them away to neighbors. We do the same with tomatoes and this year I went kinda hog wild and planted far more than I can use and I suspect I’ll have a hard time giving them away. If you’re in the Seattle area give me a holler and I’ll share with you. I’ll have to get creative to see what to do with all of these local plants that are doing so well.

I bought some heirloom tomatoes from the Seed Savers’s Exchange this year – a Ukranian Purple, a Beams Yellow Pear, and an Emmy that is a golden orange that they sent as a bonus to me, like I needed more seeds! I also planted a local variety called Siberia because it’s a short season grower and we don’t have a long hot summer here in the Northwest. So I’m hoping it will put on some good fruit. Last year I did all heirlooms and they dd so well I thought I’d try them again. I plan to plant at least 4 types of tomatoes and see how they all do. We’ve already started planting the veggie garden with some greens I started earlier and some onion sets and some lettuce starts we got at the nursery. It’s looking good.

So I’m keeping this a short post. I just wanted to share what it’s like to have a greenhouse and how wonderful it is to be able to start your own plants. Some I have better luck with than others but it’s OK. I’ll have plenty of plants to put out into the garden and tho it may not be totally cost effective to do all this it sure does pay off in the good it does for my soul to garden and take care of these baby plants till they can become the giants some of them become. I can’t wait to see the results. If you have a greenhouse or just a cold frame I hope you’re having good luck yourself in growing things so you can plant them soon. We intend to put things out this weekend so they’ll have a good chance of growing into good size plants soon.

Happy gardening to you all and good luck with your starts.

Steve

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds

Seed Catalogues

Well I’m finally getting around to it. I’ve had some seed catalogues for awhile now and I’ve been procrastinating about ordering seeds from them, but I think it’s time I get to work and do it. I’ve decided to mostly try to go for heirlooms this year since I had such good luck with some last time around so I’m focusing mostly on one catalogue – the Seed Savers Exchange.

The Seed Saver’s Exchange is a unique and remarkable entity. They encourage the saving of open pollinated heirloom seeds from all over the world in an effort to maintain the genetic diversity of our plant life. You may know this but if you don’t you should. Our genetic pool is dwindling precariously as more scientists plan more genetically modified and patented seeds. Now a farmer often can’t save their own seeds and has to buy new ones every year from the seed supplier because of patents and protections. It’s a dumb thing to do. And terrible for 3rd World farmers who should be saving their seed for money’s sake but instead are forced to buy from their suppliers. It’s a scam of monstrous proportions.

We only have a few varieties of many of the major plants we rely on for food. One is corn. We generally use only a couple of varieties of corn for all those thousands of acres of it plants all over the country. It would be a calamity if some scourge attacked the crops and we had nothing to fall back on. That’s where Seed Savers comes in. They have genetic stock of all sorts of old style varieties that still bear really well and are open pollinated and non patented so you can grow your food and save your own seeds, thus making the plants stronger and more adapted to your climate every year.

I haven’t gotten into that much yet tho I’ve been saving some seed for years. But mostly flowers. Now I’m going to try saving my veggie seed as well. I’ve been going thru the Seed Savers catalogue and have found a plethora of wonderful plants that sound just so yummy to eat that I’m barely into the booklet and already I have more than I’ll probably plant. But I want to try some things in the greenhouse again this yer so I have to order some things soon so I have a chance for growing them before I get to the real work of the outer garden.

I want to plant some old fashion zinnias this year. They were my grandmothers favorites and I try to grow them every year but haven’t for a year or two. So this year I’m getting some special red ones that have been around since the 1800’s sometime. They’ll make a great border for the fr0nt of the yard where the street is. I have Oregon grape and nandina as a back drop next to the Thuja pyrimidalis  and it will look so pretty with the red zinnias all across it.

I’ve found several other flowers that I want to plant too. But mostly now I’m focusing on veggies. I’ve got an Early Bird Turnip Beet that grows a huge red beet that will have lovely greens to munch on in the interim while I wait for the beets to grow. They talk in the catalogue about baking beets and carrots for the best flavors. I haven’t tried this yet but I intend to. I do it with yams all the time and they turn out so well. I’m sure the beets will do just as well.

I’ve also picked out a couple of varieties of carrots – a Nantes variety for keeping since they do it so well and an Oxheart for the same but I also picked out one called Dragon for it’s red skin that just looks so delicious I had to try it. I love root crops tho they aren’t always easy to grow for me. I’m still somewhat of a novice to veggie gardens as I haven’t had a place for it for too long but I do remember some things. And carrots do well for us so it makes sense to want a lot of them. They keep well.

As far as keeping goes, the best plants for us have been our yellow onions we buy from a local nursery in bags ready to plant. We’ve grown them for 3 years running now and the bulbs stay firm and lush all thru the winter and into spring. We have a whole bx of them in the garage just waiting for us to come to pick them to eat. They’re quite yummy and have a sharp flavor that goes well with strir frys and Mexican dishes. I love onions. They say they increase your sex drive but I dunno if that’s really true. Sounds good tho eh? 😉

I love eggplant and have had good luck with the Japanese variety in the greenhouse a year ago so I’m going to try some again. It’s a different variety and has a longer fruit so I hope they make it in time. I figure I’ll start the seeds of them now since they’ll always be in a sheltered place and that way I can increase the growing season. I’ve done tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse the last two years and had mixed results. The first year I got a tomato specifically for greenhouses and they did quite well.

The peppers did wonderfully. I plan to grow more of them this year but haven’t decided on which varieties I should try yet. I ate the ones I liked and didn’t save seeds, darn it, so will have to start new, but there are so many types to try. I’ll do OK I’m sure. I love the possibilities with all the peppers. And of course I like the hot ones the best. Ah well.

I couldn’t get by without greens and I intend to grow my usual Bok Choy, using one of the Seed Saver special varieties. I also want to try some Tatsoi which is an Asian green that looks to be quite tasty and has a rosette of rounded leaves and will form a nice head. I tend to just pick the bok choy as I need it and let the plants keep on growing rather than try for heads like the markets do. Maybe I’ll see if I can get some to head up this year, just for a change.

And of course I have some Red Russian Kale which looks to be beautiful and will last thru the winter and only get sweeter as it tends to do when it chills. Kale is so full of good stuff and it lasts so well in the garden it’s always nice to have fresh greens in the depths of winter and we enjoy it immensely. This variety it so lovely with its red veins and light green leaves, so different from regular kale with its darkness and full bodied leaves. These look like they’d be delicious.

I have so much more work to do still. I have to finish going thru the catalogue and finding out everything I’d Like to grow and then I have to get real and narrow it down to what’s likely for me to be Able to grow and come to a happy compromise. I’ll stil buy too many seeds I’m sure. I always do but then they do last for some time usually and I do keep them. In fact I still have some good seeds left but I may just do the heirlooms this year and see how they do.

It’s exciting to feel yourself a part of a movement to reclaim our horticultural heritage. I’m a member of the Seed Savers Exchange and get a discount on my purchases but if not I’d buy from them without the discount. I think they do such good work. Such essential work. I hope some of you decide to try to find them. You can Google them I suspect but I’ll give an address just in case. They’re at: Seed Saver’s Exchange, 3094 N. Winn Road, Decorah, IA, 52101. Look them up and check them out. You may find a whole new world of seeds to try!

Happy seed shopping,

Steve

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