Friday, August 29, 2014

Favorite Plant in the Garden this Week - Gaura

One of my all-summer long favorite plants is Gaura lindheimeri.

The "white" flowered Gaura (which still has some pink, especially in the buds) is the hardiest and largest variety, growing to 3 foot tall and hardy up to zone 5. Pink colored varieties can sometimes be shorter both in height and in lifespan but often have more colorful foliage.

Gaura are drought hardy, derived from plants that are native to Texas, but unlike some drought hardy plants they can tolerate more frequent rains.

Gaura will self seed in your garden but have shallow root systems and are easy to remove if they show up where you don't want them. They are also easy to move, but they will wilt horribly at first. They will also cross breed with each other. Most of my volunteers come up white. I'm not sure if that means that white is the dominant color or if they're just more prolific.

Best of all these plants bloom from mid-summer through killing frost AND the pollinators like them.

Thanks to Danger Garden for this meme.

Monday, August 25, 2014

View of a Garden, from the BATHROOM?

Many thoughtful garden planners consider the view from inside when planning their garden. I want to make sure that my windows aren't blocked by overly tall plants, for example.

Except the downstairs bathroom where this is the view.

Isn't that a great view? Better yet, we can leave the window open and not have to worry about anyone seeing anything they shouldn't. The only 'peeping toms' we get are the occasional sparrow and more than occasionally insect life. 

Am I the only nutter who looks for invertebrates while seated in the bathroom? Actually I kind of hope that's not a common thing cause if it is, and you're view isn't like mine...

Our upstairs window is actually inside the shower. We had heavily frosted glass put in for privacy but if I open the TOP half of the window and stand on my toes I can look down into my backyard [What else am I going to do while the conditioner is working it's magic?]

and I see that The Husband left tools outside.


And I can watch the hummingbirds fight over the feeder.

And I can monitor the progress of Dutch Elm Disease on the large, gorgeous Elm tree out back. So far it's showing only a few signs but I've been told it's about the right age to start failing and it has dropped a lot of limbs... When we decide it's a hazard to the house and have to take it down it's going to really increase the amount of sun in our backyard. 

I'm actually keeping that in mind when I choose plantings.

Right behind the Elm (and invisible) is a sapling shag bark hickory. I want to bring the elm down early enough to let it grow into the gap in the tree line. Everything else in the tree line seems to be what the locals call "trash maples" (I think they're silver maples). If only it was easy to transplant largish trees so I could CHOOSE my semi-mature trees...

Yes, I am obsessed with my garden, what gave it away?

Friday, August 22, 2014

What is this?

Spotted in a public garden in Burlington, Vermont in mid-August.

The location was bad for photos but I got "blooms" and foliage. Any ideas?

UPDATE: Thanks to Emily and Donna for the quick identifications. This is Sanguisorba tenuifolia purpura, also known as Japanese Purple Burnet. When I hit the Google this morning the "common" names seemed to vary between websites. If you like this plant, or want to know more, better stick with the Latin.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Favorite Plant of the Week - Pycnathium muticum

My favorite plant in the garden during late summer is Pycnathium muticum, a type of mountain mint.

This plant is actually, really and truly native to my area (and most of the states east of the Mississippi, except Florida). I see lots of plants for sale locally that are called natives but really didn't used to occur here until the nursery trade brought them in on the wave of let's-plant-natives craze. That's why I like the PLANTS database. It's a good place to double check those sorts of things if they're important to you.

Pycnathium muticum gets to be about 3 foot tall and as wide as you will let it. You can control it by pulling, the new runners don't have deep roots, but it is quite an aggressive spreader. Perfect for that Hell Strip.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden plant finder database this variety of Mt. Mint tolerates full sun to part shade and medium water.

I don't water mine, ever, and it's in relatively poor soil. I would suggest that natural rainfall is sufficient in areas except the extremely dry ones.

The flowers are pale and small and the bracts are a paler green than the foliage so not showy flowers. Not fragrant blooms, either. I'd like to see them in a photo that shows the ultraviolet range because the bees and wasps and occasional beetle pollinator have no problems finding the blooms so there must be something I can't detect that's attracting them.

This plant is Hymenoptera Heroin (Hymenoptera is the scientific name for the order that includes bees, wasps and ants).

Amazingly neither The Husband nor myself has been stung while admiring or working around this plant (knock wood) despite the fact that for over a month is it practically crawling with bees and wasps.

And that's why I love it and why it's my favorite plant of the season.

thanks to Danger Garden for this meme

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tomato Review

Now that all of my tomato plants are in full production I thought it was a good time to review the varieties that I tried this year and think about what I'm going to do next year.

This is one day's harvest. I don't get this much EVERY DAY, usually it takes 2-3 days to build up to this. Is that a humble enough brag? These were picked the day after we got an inch of rain - notice the splitting.

First up: Baby Boomer



This plant was the first to produce fruit. The early fruit didn't have a strong flavor (not like grocery store tomatoes, bland compared to some of my other plants) but they've improved over the summer. They've continued to produce a large amount of fruit with no signs of diseases. I will probably plant this one again next year.

Next: Brandy Boy

[can you tell I spent the morning chopping up and freezing tomatoes? And that I hadn't gotten to work in the garden yet (no dirt under the nails? horror!)]


This is supposed to be an improved version of Brandywine, with more disease resistance and more fruit (I grew Brandywine one year and got ONE tomato off the plant. I think it needs longer summers than we get here in New England, all my choices this year were listed as "short season" plants)
I didn't have any ripe ones when I took these pictures (I had harvested already and froze down that day's Brandy Boys). They do have some disease issues and the tomatoes go over quickly. The taste is excellent but they don't produce much so I have mixed feelings about this one. First tomato: Aug. 1.

Next: Fresh Salsa



Reject. Lots of meat in the fruit but late starting and very bland. Might as well buy canned tomatoes. Definitely not planting again.

Next: Honey Bunch



Relatively early fruiter, very productive, good taste. Will plant again.

Next: Magic Mountain



Good taste, solid performer, prolific. First fruit Aug 1. Will plant again next year.

Next: Napa Grape



EXCELLENT. Early fruit and prolific. Great Taste. I prefer the taste of the smaller tomatoes to most medium and large sizes. These are great to snack on while I'm working in the garden. Definitely will plant again.

Next: Patio Princess



First fruit July 22. Not strongly flavored but a nice compact plant that produces plentiful fruit. Not high on my list for next year but if I wanted a tomato for a pot this would be a good choice.

Next: Summer Girl



First fruit July 22, acidic but good taste. The lower leaves are dying back now, I don't think that's a sign of anything other than that it's late summer and The Husband failed to water the week I was gone. It's a maybe for replanting.

Last Up: Sunchocola



FANTASTIC flavor in a brownish tomato. Prolific. First fruit July 22. A must for replanting.

In Summary. I planted 9 plants on May 3 (gasp! So early for north of Boston! My neighbors gossip about me because of this. I'm actually serious. They don't plant until after Memorial Day. In the 5 years I've lived here we haven't had a May frost in my yard but they remember when May frosts were common. Yet another sign of global climate change.). I ordered the plants as starts from Burpee and was pleased with the quality when they arrived.

I planted in a raised bed with purchased garden soil, purchased compost (some cow manure, some mushroom), and composted leaf mold (self composted). I watered on an as needed basis with a soaker hose. The plants were fertilized when planted with Neptune's Harvest Fish Fertilizer and have not been fed since. 

I dug extra large holes, filled them with water, let them drain then filled then with the diluted fish fertilizer and let them drain again before planting.

Next year I will most likely order plants from Burpee again. Specifically Brandy Boy, Honeybunch, Mt. Magic, Napa Grape and Sunchocola. Since the 9 plants did so well despite the crowding I will probably try three of four new varieties to bring me back up to 8 or 9 plants. We'll see if my freezer supply lasts all winter or not.

I have to say I am QUITE PLEASED with my garden this year.

Got any recommended varieties?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up August 2014

The in-laws are sill here so once again I'm rushing out a post without proper ID of the plants.

Technically not foliage but I love the way these Asclepias seed pods look 

Purple Basil 

Another houseplant? This Calathea is enjoying a summer outside and looks GREAT. She's going to pout when she has to come back inside for the winter, I just know it. 

Heuchera cinnamon curls 

Elderberry Black Lace (Sambucus) 

Cornus Garden Glow. If you ever see this for sale and have room in your garden I can't recommend it enough. Be forewarned, though, it gets bigger than the growers claim. 

A nice Heather 

Healthy foliage on Meadow Rue 

NOT a houseplant. I used a couple of Palms in pots in the garden this year. They got a little sunburned but they look nice.
[Palms in Pots is the name of my next 50s retro band - THIS meme is from John Scalzi and has nothing to do with plants. Normally]

Thanks to Pam at Digging for the Foliage Follow Up meme