part of me wants to say that it’s been unusually cool and rainy for the past several weeks and then i remember that no, actually, it is meant to be about this temperature (50’s and 60’s) with a liberal application of rain showers this time of year and it just hasn’t happened recently (3 years? longer? last year this time it had already hit 90 and baked most of my plants).
so i have decided to be methodical (or obsessive, whichever adjective you prefer) and to dedicate this welcome cool and rainy period to doing perennial upkeep chores like dividing and transplanting.
including (especially??) my baptisias. much googling revealed that it is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that baptisias have huge gnarly roots that hate being divided but i found a naysayer in plant guru tony avent, who was quoted on a garden forum saying that is a total myth. i’m a contrarian so i went with that. my “vanilla creme” produced many little shoots for me – my “lunar eclipse” reluctantly gave me two for the price of one – my “white knight” was completely uninterested in tony avent’s opinion.
tick count: 1 number of times i was bleeding: 3 proof that there is a god and she wants me to be happy: a pizza in the freezer for dinner (hallelujah) proof that for every up there is a down: i looked at my finished to-do list and man, it felt like a lot more work while i was doing it
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:
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:
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.
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