Posts Tagged ‘Seeds’

Deciduous Conifers

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Of the few deciduous conifers that exist on this planet the Larch, or Larix, is probably the best known.  There are some 11 species of it that grow from the Western US across the to the Atlantic seaboard and others that grow across Europe to Siberia and into the Himalayas and beyond to China and Japan.  The one I’m showing you here is a form of the Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi, called “Diana”.  It’s a uniquely contorted form that bends and twists as it grows fast to a small tree of maybe 30 feet tall, in not much time, given that it’s grown 3 – 3 1/2 feet for the last two years I’ve had it and it’s still growing this year.  It turns an amazing golden yellow in fall and can be seen from the house it’s so bright and clear in its color.

We won’t get much shade from this tree but its form and texture makes up for that quite well.   This tree is in the Pinaceae, or Pine family, along with another of these deciduous conifers called the Pseudolarix, or Golden larch.  It’s not a true larch but sure does look like one. Another great tree for fall color too.  It goes bare in the fall too.  So don’t be shocked when that lovely conifer you have in the front yard loses its leaves in the autumn.  They’ll come back in the spring all feathery and bright green and new.

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This tree in the Cypress family, or Cupressaceae, is well know in the south eastern parts of the US.  It’s a variety of the  Swamp Cypress that inhabits the swamps and wetlands of that area. This is the Taxodium distichum variety called a “Peve Minaret” for the developer of it in Holland.   This is a dwarf form of the tree that will only grow to 10-20 feet tall, depending on which web site you read.  I’ve only seen them get to 10 feet or so myself so we’ll see how it goes. The species tree grows to 100 -150 feet and is a valuable timber tree for commerce in its native habitat.  The wood is known for its ability to withstand rot, as is true with many plants in the Cypress family.  Not surprising, as it grows in water.  It also develops “knees”, or roots that come up above the water line.  Very cool…

This tree turns a lovely shade of orangish brown before it drops its needles in late fall.  It’s late to leaf out in the spring too but the foliage is such a treat it’s well worth the wait.  It’s one of my “pettable” trees because it’s so soft to the touch and easy to be around.  Not prickly like so many conifers are.  This tree is only 5 years old from a 5 ft tree, and it’s now over 10 feet tall and 7 feet across so it’s going to get much bigger in time.  Maybe  it’ll get to that 20 ft. mark.  I’d like that, but since it only puts on about a foot each year, as is typical for many mid sized dwarf trees, it’ll take another 1o years or more to get there.  I can wait…

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This one is perhaps my favorite tree in the garden.  Maybe.  I have so many I love.  This is a variety of the famous Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides.  This variety is called “Miss Grace” and it’s a weeper that I had to train up to get it to its current height of 9 feet.  Though it’s the smallest of the redwoods, the species will grow to over 200 feet tall in central China where it was just “discovered” in the early 1940’s.  It was found in the fossil record just before then and was a surprise to be found living still in its native habitat.  Its’s endangered there but its seeds have been sent to arboreta and nurseries all over the world.  I planted my first one for my folks back in the early 70’s and I sure would like to see it now.  It must be close to 80 feet by now I’d guess.  Wow!  I wish my folks had been able to keep that home…. ah well.  But I digress…

The story of this particular cultivar, “Miss Grace”, is that the nurseryman that found it thought it was going to be a weeper and trail along the ground.  But overnight the nursery workers tied it up to be a tree, so that’s what happened.  I worked hard to get mine this tall but it wouldn’t stay put when I tried it to get it to 10 feet and it fell over about 2 months after I took off the training stakes.  So now it weeps down all over itself.  It’s another one of my “pettables” because it’s so incredibly soft to the touch.  It turns a lovely shade of orangish brown, like the Taxodium, in the fall before it loses its needles.  It grows a little slower than the other ones, at several inches a year, so it’ll be a treat to see how big it will get in time.  I’m excited to see how it does.

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Some folks will say I’m cheating with this one.  Many people call this a conifer but it’s not really one.  It’s clearly related it’s true, but it’s not truly a cone bearing tree like the confers.  It’s a Gymnosperm tho like confers but is closer to the cycads (like Sago Palms…) than the conifers.  But I’m including it anyway because so many people call it one, including the  American Conifer Society.  So I’m fine with putting it in this list.  This is a Ginkgo biloba variety called “Jade Butterflies”.  It’s a relatively small dwarf tree that will grow to the usual 10-20 feet tall, but so far it’s only gotten to about 8 feet in my garden.  It’s grown about a foot a year tho so it won’t take it long to get to full size.  The leaves look like small butterflies which is why it’s named for them.  I can see it, but it’s a  fanciful name, as so many botanical names are.  That’s OK, it suits it.

This is a unique tree, being the only member of its family -the Ginkgoaceae – and has been around for over 270 million years in its current form.  It’s called a living fossil and it truly is.  Here in Washington State we have a State Park called the Ginkgo Petrified Forest and we visited it last year on a trip across the country.  It was amazing to see the little leaves in the rocks and to imagine this tree being around way before the dinosaurs and humans by ages.  It’s truly a piece of living history.  There are some giant trees of this type growing all over the world now so it’s a treat to have a small one here in our small garden.

Well, that’s a tour of  some deciduous conifers.  The only one I didn’t mention was the Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glypstrobus – like the Metasequoia glyptostroboides which was named for it.)  I feel privileged to have at least 3 ( maybe 4) of the 5 (maybe  6) deciduous conifers on the planet.  I try to have a great variety of plants in this garden and now have over 200 different varieties or cultivars.   It’s a lot of why we call this a Sanctuary, and sometimes a mini Botanical Garden.  I purposefully sought out these deciduous conifers for their unique status and their wonderful habits of growth.  I like it that they lose their leaves and die back each year.  It’s nice to provide a different option for the garden instead of a dark heavy conifer.  These are all much lighter feeling and the loss of leaves makes them look delicate and fine.  Just my opinion, but I find them fascinating.  I hope you do too.

No, they aren’t dead! 🙂

Steve

 

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Night Scented Tobacco

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I’m ashamed to say I don’t have the correct botanical name for this plant. I planted it in my greenhouse as a seed two years ago and grew it over the winter for two years to get it to where I could plant it out this spring. I had about 1/2 a dozen of them but this is the only one that got to blooming size. It’s a beauty and has really fragrant flowers, even in daytime let alone at night when it really shines. It’s just lovely.

 

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Here it is  in the bed of mostly wild flowers I re-seed every year with some seeds I save and some I get new. You can see the old heads of Phacelia or Bee’s Friend in here, and some Clarkia and of course the old Hollyhock that has been there for 3 or 4 years now. And the poppies of course. I have yet to make poppy seed cookies with the seeds but I’m saving them and replant them every year to great joy. They’re so beautiful.

 

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And finally here’s a shot I took by sticking my camera up under the plant so I could see the underside of the flowers. They’re stars! You get a good sense of how they look from this vantage point. I’m hoping I can save some seeds of this one for next year, or maybe two years if it follows the way it’s grown and takes me two years to get a blooming plant. It’s all worth it and maybe next year my greenhouse heating cable will work right and I won’t lose all my seedlings like I did this year. Ah well, the vagaries of gardening, eh?

Smelling the flowers,

Steve

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

Preparing the Greenhouse

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As you can see by this shot I haven’t been paying much attention to my greenhouse lately. I’ve been too busy with other things and frankly it hasn’t been time. But it’s getting to be that way soon. As you can tell it’s time to do some clean up. The tomatoes that bore such nice fruit in the summer have faded almost entirely away and the hot peppers that produced such luscious spicy additions to our meals are starting to wane and they need eating soon or drying anyway. It’s time to spread the soil from the pots on the garden and clean up the benches. I need to wipe them down with a dilute bleach solution to make sure of killing any spores or diseases that might have come in during the growing season. Last year I had mold and I don’t want that again.

It’s time for me to start looking more seriously thru the endless piles of gardening and seed catalogues I get and order some things to grow next year. I know it’s too early to actually plant them but it’s going to be time soon enough. I’m still pretty new at this greenhouse business, having only had this one for less than 3 years and I’m still learning when to do what. I have my books to be sure and I do read up on when to plant things but I don’t have the innate knowledge of it that I do of the rest of my garden as a whole. I have so much to learn it overwhelms me. I want to do it right of course but this is one area where I have to be patient and to allow myself to make mistakes. At times it seems hopeless. But I love it.

I’m so happy to have this wonderful place to play and work in. Right now it’s not raining, for a change, but when it does I revel in just going out in the greenhouse and standing there and listening to the rain on the roof and hearing it rushing into the rain barrel outside. The barrel keeps the Greenhouse watered from the rains fine for most of the year until late summer when I have to fill it with the hose. I don’t have plumbing in this structure. So I use watering cans and they work swell. I haven’t had to water much lately because it’s so moist in there. In fact there’s a de-humidifier running now that helps keep the moisture down. It’s time to have the heat on too so that the tea plants and the other things that are still growing there have warmth on some of these nights when the fountains freeze over outside and there’s frost on the pumpkins when I get up in the mornings.

It’s time to get the starting bed ready too. To get it ready to turn on the wire heater that heats up the sand I have there that I set my seed flats on. Then I roll down the plastic covering and I have a mini seed starting bed right inside of the greenhouse. It’ll be time soon to do that. I don’t want to be too early but I don’t want to wait too late either. I believe in being prepared and it’s never too early to clean things up and make sure that all systems are functioning well and in good working order. That’s my task for now . Preparing things for later on when it’s time to plant. Because once things get going there’s not a lot of space for these sorts of things and you have to do them now when it’s empty. It gets full in here later on when things are in full growth.

I so enjoy the growing season. I’ve gotten really good at transplanting seedlings from the flats to larger containers and I love working with the tiny things and seeing them grow as they put out new roots into the soil. It’s so exciting and I’m thrilled to think that this cycle will all be beginning again soon. But not yet. First comes the cleanup and then rearranging things and getting ready for planting. So I have awhile. But it’s time to get serious about it all and I will soon. It just takes getting started and once I get into it I’ll have the whole place ship shape in no time and it’ll be ready for those little seeds to be placed gently in their flats and start the whole process over again. I love gardening and having a greenhouse extends what I can do so much. I feel so lucky to have this beautiful place that functions so well for me. It gave a lot of joy to many people the last couple of years. I think it’ll do the same this year. After I get it Prepared.

Happy greenhouse gardening,

Steve

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