garden diary: 22 february 2016

a wrinkle!  prairie moon nursery just emailed to say that some of the plants i ordered (in the interest of having multiple back-ups, i ordered enough plant plugs for some of my top potential combinations in case the winter sowing does not come through) aren’t going to happen.  somehow, they had an issue with their entire seed stock of prairie dock this year.  how does that even happen?

thinking i’m going to go for compass plant instead.  i know i wanted some prairie dock just to play with, mainly inspired by this combo from perennial combinations:

echinacea, grasses, compass plant

but i did WS an entire flat of that, so maybe my seed stock won’t suffer like theirs did.  the actual potential combo will go something like this:

compass plant, big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), pinelands milkweed (asclepias humistrata), echinacea ‘pow wow white’, sisyrinchium ‘quaint and queer’

there is this huge wet…meadow, basically, on a quarter of my yard.  i’ve sort of divided it into sections, in rings, really, going from the outside in.  i’m working on a huge wet meadow design for the largest and most consistently wet area, and i’ve started a kind of hedge of willows that i plan to underplant with sedges (fox sedge), ascelpias incarnata, and perhaps some blazing stars and/or blue flag irises (iris versicolor.  i ordered and winter-sowed an ounce of seed from prairie moon).  immediately behind this border is a swale that is pretty dry, and the incline behind that is very dry and kind of sandy.  i have in mind for that to stabilize the slight incline with sisyrinchium ‘quaint and queer’ which i bought from plant delights nursery in 2015 (alas, they seem to have no more inventory of that this year) as well as some ascelpias humistrata that i both winter sowed in a flat and made seed bombs out of.  it’s called ‘pinelands’ milkweed and it seemed appropriate for the soil.  behind that will be a large grouping of echinacea ‘pow wow white’.  i seed-bombed that last fall and then winter sowed a flat (backups again).  behind that, compass plant and big bluestem grass, and next to that a large grouping of ascelpias syriaca – seed bombs again, though i did find a huge stash of it growing wild on route 32 (sawkill road) in kingston, and when the seed pods opened i helped myself shamelessly to them, and winter sowed the seeds.  (also growing in this wild stash was monarda didyma, and i snipped several spent stalks into paper bags for their seeds as well)


in the swale itself i am considering a combination of yellowroot and arkansas bluestar.  one of the gardeners at catskill native nursery last summer was telling me about a bike trip he took through the ozarks, and how he saw those plants growing wild in shallow ditches.


roses by many, many names (part one)

i have spent much of this week contemplating roses, which is weird because i sort of hate them.  maybe i’ve just read too many books that talk about how much work they are, or lost too many david austin grafts to horrendous winter kill (5 or 6 last year alone, i believe), but roses, man, i dunno.

except i keep going after them, keep planning around them, keep ordering them, keep planting them, re-designed an entire bed last year (and re-built half of it) to accommodate them.  maybe i feel better equipped?  my current rose bible is roses without chemicals by former NYBG rose curator Peter E. Kukielski.  and last year, i skipped the tempting david austins (mostly) in favor of own-root samplings from roses unlimited in south carolina.

none of them were (or are, i presume) big enough to bloom yet, but all of them watered in well, showed little or no disease, and, i think thanks to the large pelargoniums i conspicuously planted all over the bed, seemed untempting to japanese beetles, who preferred my knock out rose standard on the other side of the yard.  (we’ll see what happens if they bloom this year)

my rose bed is a looooong L-shape that runs against a small rock wall (a retaining ledge against a small slope and a natural stream), forks to the west at a 90-degree angle, and continues along the fence of my vegetable garden.

a very, very, very rough sketch of my rose bed at the end of 2015

last year i added a lot of roses, and do not have a completely accurate idea of what ended up where.  i was mostly just glad i got everything into the ground and watered in a timely fashion.  i know for a fact that at least two roses have to move:  the two climbing ‘rosanna’ roses i ordered last year have a greater destiny for themselves by adorning the living willow archway i am putting in against the orchard fence.

so this week i contemplated roses.  by this i mean i printed out little flash cards of what my shopping list might be and re-arranged them until i had them paired up and in groups that were pleasing to me.  this was the first grouping i decided on:

roses 2016 group 1
clockwise from top:  out of rosenheim, chords moonlight, mandarin ice, plum perfect, KOSMOS, eifelzauber, poseidon

i imagine this grouping going along the vegetable garden fence, with the moonlight (which is a climber) going up the garden fence.

i was able to order all of these from either palatine roses or roses unlimited, giving me a selection of both own-root and grafted, though, i confess, i do not have the experience yet to grasp the subtleties in the OR-vs-grafted debate.  i just know that, given my past rate of winter kill, in general i would prefer a plant that does not stage a coup from below the bud union every year, even if the plants themselves may need a few extra seasons to be at their full strength.  that said, i want to try the palatine grafts because they are from ontario – maybe it is silly, but i feel more confident trying grafts that also come from a northern location.

i want also to consider underplanting.  i have too much bare mulch in the bed and a large seed bank hiding under there.  i am not sure what my ‘matrix’ plant might be yet, but my inspiration is for something wild – large, rambunctious, with plenty of grasses and perennials interspersed to keep everything from feeling too bare or too arranged.  some annuals, too – a rainbow of zinnias and nicotianas, to start with.

my inspiration photo, from pinterest:  what looks like stipa, drumstick alliums, yarrow and mexican sunflowers

i’ve done some winter sowing to this effect, a large mix of flowers in a 30-quart underbed box: zinnias, prairie dropseed, yarrows, ‘cherry brandy’ rudbeckias, tinker bell nicotianas and some annual milkweeds. i also planted ‘a big mix of little alliums’ from white flower farm in the fall.

garden diary: 17 february 2016

oh, shit, my last order (and i swear it, this time, my LAST ORDER) from prairie moon arrived and it is a TON of grasses.  like, even more than i realized.

thank goodness i have 100 gallon pots?

and i ordered the last of my vegetables from adaptive seeds this morning.  final rundown of potential 2016 crops

  • siberian watermelon
  • blacktail mountain watermelon
  • early moonbeam watermelon
  • cream of saskatchewan watermelon
  • iroquois cantaloupe – couldn’t get minnesota midget this year?
  • cannellini bean
  • scarlet runner beans
  • lettuce
  • new mama super sweet corn
  • blue jade dwarf corn
  • barlotto beans
  • ianto’s return fava bean (land race?)
  • grean beauty snow pea
  • magnolia sugar snap

wow.  that is a lot.  (and when i said ‘final’ i clearly forgot that tomatoes count as a crop?)

garden diary: 16 february 2016

i spent the day today contemplating roses, with two resources at my fingertips:  my trusty copy of roses without chemicals, and the 2016 listing of roses from roses unlimited.  i made a list, i made a spreadsheet, i made little flashcards of potential additions and arranged them and re-arranged them until i had combinations i liked.  

(seriously, you’d think i don’t have a day job, when really i just had an extremely uneventful day at the office)

meanwhile, today it was in the 50s and we had maybe half an inch of rain.  my only thought?  i hope my direct-sown poppies didn’t wash away.  i’ve never yet gotten poppies to take and i was so sure i had done the thing properly this year, since the ground never truly froze.  (two weeks ago, i scraped some mulch back to expose the soil, scattered liberally, pressed everything back in and lightly raked the mulch back into place.)

garden diary: 14 february 2016

11 below this morning as i ran out to place the last of yesterday’s plantings.  less windy and therefore more tolerable.

also, after several applications of a hand salve, my knuckles are less broken.  now they are just red and sore.

i found my notes from last year’s rose planning and now that i am armed with the roses unlimited list for 2016 i plan to review it thoroughly.  still missing:  my sketch of the strawberry/annual bed adjacent to the vegetable garden (sad face).  

garden diary: 13 february 2016

it’s 11 degrees outside and it feels like -11, and i’m running around like an idiot trying to set out seed trays.  and when i say running i mean that literally, with the panting, heaving breaths to prove it.  i’ve got a scarf wrapped round my head – over my hat – and covering my nose and mouth and my glasses are so fogged from the condensation that all i can see is a vague sense of white light from the light crust of ice from some earlier minimal snowfall that encrusts the ground.

i had the brilliant idea to cut down the excess on one of my reemay blankets and set up a new station for winter sowing since i had so much to do today – and it was a brilliant idea, only no one told the wind.  the blanket is flapping and twisting and is also, in places, encrusted with ice, and it does not want to cooperate with my master plan.  i laid out seven or eight trays of 18 pots as well as a few gallon pots before i could feel the skin around my knuckles cracking in protest.

best bit:  i still have six or seven more trays to lay out!  also to do:  add marsh phlox and campanula to my container of aruncus for hunk-of-seedlings transplant come sprouting time.  i also need to add some wild geranium to the mayapple container and, if i have any extra, sow a few gallon pots with same to eventually add to the ‘shady streamside’ planting (japanese peony, primula japonica, palm sedge, bergenia, siberian iris).  i’d like to get as many of the trays as possible – i’m daring to hope that i will complete my perennial plantings today – since there is supposed to be snow and rain this week and i need the moisture.

garden diary: 12 february 2016

it’s 4:30 pm on the coldest day so far this winter – an extremely breezy 25 degrees F – and my entire car smells like potting soil.  it’s a fresh smell and it should be reassuring but instead it is a reminder of a broken vow:  i solemnly swear i am done with all of my seeds for this year.

yeah, right.

last week alone was two trips to adam’s faircare to say nothing of the two orders to prairie moon nursery that happened in the dead of night, totally on their own, of course!  i had a hankering to grow my own ornamental grasses instead of paying $25/container for the classics (big and little bluestem, indian grass and prairie dropseed) but that necessitated ordering the seeds AND the containers AND topping up my dwindling soil supply.  since all of the outdoor potting soil stocks have well frozen by now, even if it took much longer than usual, i went with the happy frog brand.  it comes in a nice big 2 cu/ft bag and with a hefty price tag, but damn if it doesn’t smell fantastic.

other than the aforementioned grasses, i really am (really, i swear) nearly finished with the perennial winter sowing chores.  (i say nothing on the subject of annuals)  i’ve got most of them in re-used containers from last year’s nursery purchases, and the remaining lot split between perforated underbed storage containers and propagator’s pots ordered from johnny’s seeds.  i haven’t decided which method i like best – though if the experiment is a total failure i’ll have nothing to compare it to.

my panic arises because it was literally just last week that i realized, amidst a late-night ordering spree, that someone (i.e., me) was going to have to PLANT ALL OF THESE SEEDS come spring.  why i never thought of this before can best be described as denial, i suppose, or the over-enthusiastic naivete of a girl with a new hobby – that is, winter sowing.  once i discovered the secret to unlimited plant-starting space i was lost, and i have an entire binder full of ideas that require plants to execute.

even better worse, the annual bluestone perennials 50/50 sale season has started.  i learned my lesson from ordering last year and have managed to be more judicious in my ordering, but the boxes will still start to pile up eventually.  #truth