Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another Greenhouse Day

Left to right: Basil, Cilantro, Giant Pumpkins, a Carving Pumpkin seedling, and a Castor Bean seedling (Ricinus communis)

When I bought a package of peat pots to start off my giant pumpkin seeds, I realized they weren't all that expensive (10 cents/pot) so I went back and bought a few more packages.  Now I'm growing everything in them.  The idea with peat pots is, when it is time to transfer them out to the garden, the plants hardly know they are being transplanted because they are planted with the pot directly into the soil.  The plant's roots easily grow right through.  Eventually the pot disintegrates, but I've heard peat pots can wick enough moisture out of the soil to kill the seedling so it is important to completely bury the pot.

Some more peat pot shots:

Freshly planted Corn
Left: Castor bean seedlings (Ricinus communis); Center: Echium pininana, Echium fastuosum, and Ecium wildpretii;   Right: Carving pumpkins, Walking Stick Kale, Watermelon, English daisies, and Tomatoes.

About a month ago, I took 10 Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet) cuttings.  All of them are rooting, and three of them are ready to be potted up today.

Here is the step by step process I took to get them to root:

1. I cut off 1' long branches, making sure there was a node at the bottom of the cutting.
2. I trimmed off all the larger leaves to help minimize water loss (they wilted for about the first day).
3. I stuck them in a glass with about 6"-8" of bottled (non-chlorinated) water and placed them in a high-light, 65 degree environment out of direct sunlight
4. I changed the water about once a week.
5. I waited for them to grow roots.  Once they got to the point where they had enough roots to be sustained in soil, I potted them up into 1 gallon pots.
Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet)

Finally, the potatoes are growing quickly after being planted just two weeks ago.  I think the 60 degree temperature of the greenhouse is just about perfect for them.

Solanum tuberosum 'Adirondack Blue'

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunting High and Low

Most backyard gardeners would probably describe themselves as creative/unorganized types.  I certainly fall into that category.  We don't make grocery lists.  Our desks are always a mess.  We currently have 12 different projects going on in the garden.  So while it might not come as a shock to you left-brained folks, I know the right-brainers are going to marvel at the fact that I keep up a plant wish list.  It's even updated as plants I obtain are deleted while new plants I discover are added.  Organized, right?  It's just a list, so there are unfortunately no pictures, but it's easy enough to copy and paste the names into Google.  The actual list contains over 100 plants, but just for you I whittled them down into the 30 most important: 

1. Agave bracteosa
2. Agave havardiana
3. Agave utahensis v. eborispina
4. Asarum europaeum
5. Beesia deltophylla
6. Berberis julianae
7. Chionanthus virginicus
8. Cinnamomum japonicum
9. Citrus ichangensis
10. Citrus tachibana
11. Cyclamen hederifolium
12. Daphniphyllum macropodum
13. Disporum cantoniense
14. Elaeagnus ebbingei
15. Eucalyptus mitchelliana
16. Eucryphia lucida
17. Eucryphia moorei
18. Fascicularia pitcairnifolia
19. Fatsia polycarpa
20. Fritillaria imperialis
21. Himalayacalamus falconeri 'Damarapa'
22. Lithocarpus henryi
23. Magnolia wilsonii
24. Mahonia duclouxiana
25. Musa 'Orinoco'
26. Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Tom Thumb'
27. Rhododendrom kesangiae
28. Rhododendron macabeanum
29. Stipa gigantea
30. Yucca baccata

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Perpetual Precipitation = Primrose Paradise

Primula vulgaris (Common primrose)
In Seattle, March comes in like a lion and out like a duck.  The weather can be cold and rainy (like this year) or it can be mild and rainy with occasional warm stretches - even getting up into the 70s (not like this year).  It's pretty much always going to be raining though.  Luckily some sunshine has coincided with the weekend for once.

Edgeworthia chrysantha
Edgeworthias have the typical fragrance and small flowers of winter bloomers, but mine doesn't bloom until early spring.  It's probably a Seattle thing.

Arundo donax (Giant reed grass)
The grass above, Arundo donax, has usually died to the ground by this time of year.  This is the first year it has kept at least some of its leaves on its 12-foot high stalks, which leads me to hope it will continue growing from where it left off and possibly go to seed...

Sophora microphylla
Speaking of going to seed, my newly obtained Sophora microphylla is about to bloom.  I will most definitely be trying to propagate this plant.  The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle grows black locust trees around the African Savanna exhibit to mimic the acacias growing in the actual savanna, but they should be growing this tree instead!

Magnolia stellata
Glowing fuzz on the flower buds of Magnolia stellata (Star magnolia).

And finally, this Primula vulgaris ssp. sibthorpii has been in bloom like this ever since Far Reaches Farm shipped it to me six weeks ago. 

Primula vulgaris ssp. sibthorpii

Monday, March 19, 2012

Goodbye Winter!

Winter is officially over, and it really was a decent winter horticulturally speaking even with all the snow and ice in January.  No hard freezes - just an unusual occurrence in January where the temperature stayed in the upper 20's for about 36 hours.  And other than this past week, it really hasn't been incredibly rainy or stormy.  All my valuable zone 8 plants look very much alive.  I even have a couple zone 9 plants like Strelitzia nicolai (Giant bird of Paradise) and a Philodendron bipinnatifidum that were kept outside all winter and are still alive.  They both have quite a bit of leaf damage but I think they should make a full recovery once we start getting some warm weather.  So, thank you, winter, for not being as bad as you could have been.  May you rest in peace.  Now, spring, learn a thing or two from winter and go easy on us!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Taunting Begins.

Today is the last full day of winter, but I don't think too many people around here are celebrating.  In the Northwest, spring is like a 2nd winter.  The weather is negligibly warmer, barely drier, and not that much sunnier.  Here is the forecast for the first five days of spring in Seattle:

Spring is the season when Alaska throws it's left-over crummy weather directly toward us.  The only real difference from winter is a longer day length.  Let's be thankful that is not easily changed.  I remember a few years ago when March was half a degree colder than February.  To top it off, mother nature occasionally teases us with a sunny day or two during the middle of the week - usually right before several weeks of constant rain and/or snow.

But in spite of the cold and miserable weather, many plants continue to put on new growth.  I don't know why or how they do this.  Above, Paeonia suffruticosa is already preparing bloom.

Below, a patch of kale that was planted last summer in the vegetable garden is starting to bolt.  The seed heads are actually not too bad tasting.

I also planted some potatoes that I saved from last year.  I dug these up in October, put the big ones in the refrigerator to eat, and stored the small ones in this box.  I should have stored them in a box within a box so it would be completely dark since I discovered the smallest amount of light will trigger growth.

The two varieties pictured here are Yukon Gold and Adirondack Blue.  I also got some Adirondack Red potatoes a couple months ago and have already planted them in pots.

Last year, I wanted to get the potatoes off to an early start so I did this technique which worked really well:  I got several 3-5 gallon plastic pots, put about 4" of potting mix in the bottom, laid the potatoes in, then sprinkled another 2-3" of potting mix over the top to cover the potatoes.  I then placed the pots in the greenhouse where the potatoes quickly started to grow.  As they grew, I added more potting mix in the pots.  In early May, I planted them out in the garden.  By the end of summer, the number of potatoes had increased tenfold.

There are never enough seed trays at this time of year.

Growing in the tray below, from left to right, are some red bell peppers, English daisies, watermelon, walking stick kale, and carving pumpkins.  Also in the lower-right corner of this picture are three Berberis darwinii seedlings collected from the Arboretum. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Free Rock?

I just noticed this 80-pound rock on the sidewalk a couple of days ago.  It's not stealing to take it, right?  It would be a nice addition to the garden.  It's on the sidewalk, and could be a potential tripping hazard.  I should take it before anyone gets hurt.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Field Trip to Seattle University

Akebia trifoliata
It's not really a field trip...I am lucky enough to live only a couple blocks away from Seattle University, where they have an incredible selection of plants growing throughout their 48-acre campus.  Above, an Akebia trifoliata grows on an arbor at one of the school's main entrances.

Helleborus orientalis
Their selection of hellebores is fairly extensive.  Above, clumps of Helleborus orientalis are growing to perfection.

Iris foetidissima & Acanthus mollis
The evergreen leaves and red berries on Iris foetidissima give it a bit of a subtropical allure.  In the background is Acanthus mollis (Bear's breeches).

Daffodils blooming three weeks before the end of winter!

Helleborus argutifolius
This might look like a grouping of 10-15 separate hellebores, but the light-green flowered hellebore in the center of the picture is growing from one solitary clump.  It's giaganitc!  I believe it is a Helleborus argutifolius.  The Helleborus orientalis growing in the foreground is of normal size and shows just how big the other one is.

Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'
They have several very, very large Hollywood Junipers (Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa').

Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'
When I first saw these, I thought they were miniature greenhouses:

They are in fact skylights to an indoor corridor below, which makes this a green roof.  Look at the size of those pine trees - not bad for being on a roof! 

There were a number of azaleas in bloom all throughout the campus.

Finally, I was thinking how odd it was to have a rail going into grass, as if anyone needing a rail would want to walk around in the grass.  But I'm now realizing this is probably some artistic symbolism.  I thought the way the kept their grass with weeds and all was actually very attractive.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Plants Waking Up Right Now

I don't know why this Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' has decided it's a good idea to fully leaf out with a good deal of winter still left, but I am grateful that it takes the risk.  The red-tinged, translucent new growth glows in the sunlight, making this time of year its high season in terms of interest.  By summertime it fades into just another old shrub.

Euphorbias are such weird plants.  This Euphorbia characias is starting to shoot its chartreuse suction cup stalks toward the sky.

There is no such thing as having too many hellebores - especially black ones.

The cold-hardy banana (Musa basjoo) has sailed through this cold season without any protection.  The pseudo-stems are currently about 10' tall, so I'm hoping they will reach their full height of about 20' this summer.

Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) make a great edible landscaping plant for us in the Northwest.  They should be grown in the perennial border as opposed to the vegetable garden.  The flowering stalks completely die down in the fall, but new rosettes of foliage resume growing from the roots and if the winter is mild like it was this year, they can be almost considered evergreen.  Few things grow as rapidly in our miserable March weather as artichokes.

Here is my pea scaffolding.  It's a bit wobbly, but anything made of bamboo and zip ties has to be indestructible, right?  There are some radishes to the right of the stepping stones that have already sprouted.

Finally, a shot of the rapidly emerging leaves of Cardiocrinum giganteum (Giant Himalayan lily).  This will be its third year, meaning 3-5 more years before blooming.

This Blog Is Now Famous!

None other than Far Reaches Farm has posted a link to my blog on their homepage.  Here is what they said about it:

Thank you Far Reaches Farm...I can't wait to check out your nursery this summer!