Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pansies from Seed

Pansies are definitely in my top ten favorite flowers! I always have a few pots of them growing in the spring and early summer, until it gets too hot for them here. This was my first year to grow them from seed, and I have been quite pleased with the results! However, one thing I would do differently is to start them earlier. Pansies generally take around 12 weeks from seed to bloom. Mine were started the last week in January, when I received my seed, so didn't bloom until early May. My goal is to get them to flower by early April, so I can enjoy them longer! In order to do that , I'm thinking I should start them at least by the first of the year. Some sources say to chill for 2 weeks after sowing and the ones I did this with did germinate faster. (So now my starting date is pushed back into December!) The dilemma is that Pansy seed is not reliably viable after one year, and the seed catalogs don't usually come out until sometime in January, so by the time I get my fresh seed, I am already behind schedule! I am considering the following options:

1. Save and plant seed from this year's pansies. The types I grew are all F1 hybrids, however, so offspring may or may not come back true. It might be fun to experiment and see just how many flowers come true and how many revert to characteristics of the parent plants. Not sure I want to spend 12 weeks on an experiment, though!

2. Buy extra commercial seeds, then seal and store in the freezer, so they will already be pre-chilled for next year. Sow heavier to make up for the older seed, and hope they germinate!

3. Try an open pollinated type called Historic Florist Mix from Select Seeds, my favorite heirloom flower seed catalog. The description reads,
"These sprightly smaller pansies with expressive whiskery faces and a light sweet fragrance are just what you are looking for if the six pack specials of huge floppy sort just don't tickle your fancy. Called tufted pansies way back in the 1800's."
These do have the cutest whiskered faces! But the flowers are smaller as they are actually Violas. I could save seeds from these from year to year without having them revert to something different. But,.....violas take even longer to bloom, from 14-16 weeks! These may self-sow as most violas do, but may not bloom as early as I would like them to.

4. Winter Sow the seeds. (See previous post on Winter Sowing. ) Not sure that this method would yield the early blooms I am wanting, either. I did winter sow some Violas this year and they bloomed a couple weeks after my pansies.

So we shall see....maybe I will try all of the above and see what works best to give me a longer bloom time for this favorite flower!

This pansy is called 'Denim Blue'. It is a color selection from the Baby Bingo series.

'Maxim Marina' Pansy growing in a favorite old yellow enamelware pot. I have affectionately nicknamed it Old Yeller. My dear daughter has been known to covet this beloved old pot, and even asked me once if she could have it. Of course, I said "Yes,........ I will leave it to you in my will!"

Cute whiskered face of 'Ultima Morpho' Pansy, a Mid-blue and soft yellow bi-color. (The first photo in this post is this type, as well.) They vary a bit from plant to plant in the color of the flowers, some having more white than yellow. These subtle differences make them even more interesting and appealing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rainy Days

"God created rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done."

I came across this quote a few days ago as I was perusing some other garden blogs, and it is so true for me, it made me laugh!

In the above photo, taken after a rain, is Ladies Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), a plant whose foliage and chartreuse colored flowers are attractive, but not showy. The most unique and fascinating feature of this plant, in my opinion, is the way the velvet-like hairs on the leaves catch the glistening dew and raindrops, which then bead up and shine like hundreds of tiny diamonds!

My discovery for the day.... I hope you enjoy it, too. Now I am off to do my housework!

Pretty Peas!

Lest you suspect I only grow flowers here, today I will include a blossom of the vegetable sort from my kitchen garden. The great thing about a vegetable bloom is that it means the fruit will soon follow! In this case, it will be our favorite early summer veggie, Sugar Snap Peas. This variety is 'Sugar Sprint' from Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon. The vines only grow to around 26 inches, so a tall trellis is not needed. I use the short wire type fence usually sold for flower borders. The peas have that same wonderful , sweet crunch as the original Sugar Snap variety. I am really hungry for one right now. :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Old Faithful Poppies

Before we made my Cottage/Kitchen garden in our front yard, I used to garden on our 1/3 acre plot just across the road. Many years ago, I started some Oriental poppies from seed and planted them there. Even though the plot is now covered in prairie grass, the poppies still pop up every spring, and each time I am still a bit surprised by the brilliant burst of color in the landscape! It usually prompts me to take a closer look and then wander around my old garden 'ruins', looking for signs of what used to be. I found Oregano and Lemon Balm, still bravely emerging from a former herb bed, Shasta daisies, Horseradish, and some tough as nails Comfrey at the edge of the garden. Although I really enjoy my present garden, it is always a bit sad and nostalgic to visit the old, where memories linger of Scarlet Runner Bean tepees and Sunflower houses....planted for my children, now grown and gone.

Old Faithful poppies, amidst the grass seed heads.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nature's Palette

Take a moment and think......What image does it evoke in your mind when you think of the colors Orange and Purple? If you are like me, it conjures up an unfitting combination of clashing colors, disharmonious, even distasteful!

But in the design of nature it turns out to be quite the opposite, as in this planting of Dame's rocket, with Spanish poppy in the foreground. I wish I could take credit for this lovely pairing, but it was quite unplanned, and as is often the case in such circumstances, has an appealing cottage charm!

I got the orange Spanish poppy at a local Farmer's market last spring, and in an attempt to get it in the ground quickly, just plopped it in an empty spot in a flower bed I had created the previous year next to a garden shed. The shed, because it is on a slope, had to have several blocks placed under it to make it level. This left a huge gap between the ground and the bottom of the shed which, in my opinion, was quite unattractive! So my plan was to cover the gap with tall plants....which included the Dame's rocket for Spring and Hollyhocks for later in the season.

This delightful poppy (Papaver rupigragum) is a native of Spain. It has finely cut silvery blue foliage, and grows to about 2 ft. Most have single, soft orange flowers, but this particular plant is the double flowered form, which according to one source, is "rarely seen and even more rarely obtainable". I don't know yet if planting the seeds will produce double flowered plants, or if I will need to propagate by root cuttings, but I would like to have more plants like these!

The seed pods droop gracefully until they are ready to bloom. In this photo you can see some of the seed heads remaining after the petals have dropped. This poppy is said to flower off and on throughout the summer, though most other poppies flower only once in early summer. It will always have a home here in my flower gardens!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sign of Summer

Although by the calendar, it isn't officially summer yet.... a sure sign for me is the sighting of the first California Poppy! This one, in my bed of peas, was the first to bloom a couple of days ago. If you look closely, you can see the pea tendril wrapped around it's stem. They re-seed like crazy and come up everywhere, but I am happy to weed them out in order to save a few to enjoy all summer long. They are like sunshine in the garden, adding their brightness wherever they bloom!

My dear daughter used to love 'helping' the poppies bloom by pulling off their caps. (Okay, I admit I have done this, too....they are simply irresistible!)

This wonderful bi-color showed up in my garden last year. I saved the seed, but misplaced it and couldn't find it this year, so I hope it comes back again!

A photo from a couple of years ago..... CA poppy in front of hollyhock foilage.

The same photo as above, with Photoshop effects.
Even without the color you can see the elegance of form possessed by this humble wildflower!

Lovely Lupines

Lupines are the classic spring flower. The only thing that could be improved about them is if they had a longer bloom time!

I love this shade of blue, which has been rather elusive for me. Many times I bought plants labeled 'Gallery Blue' which turned out to be pink instead. I will save seeds from this one!

A luscious baby pink! Notice the one in front just starting to bloom.

Here is the same baby pink a couple of days later, with the flower in front revealing it's color.
I like planting at least two plants together for this effect. They look nice together and if I don't happen to like one of the colors, I can pinch it out and let the other remain. I do this with snapdragons, also.

Bi-color twins, against the morning sun.

Next year I hope to have some new Lupine colors, as I started seeds this spring of variety called 'Russell's Prize Mix'. I am hoping for some yellows and whites, but will have to wait until next spring for the flowers. Check back then for an update!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dirt makes me Happy!

On May 7th, in honor of my 52nd birthday, my dear husband treated me with a trip to Green Things, my favorite local 'Mom & Pop' nursery. I enjoyed the browse, but left with only 2 plants! However, I was delighted to also leave with the following:

2 Bags - Black Gold Cocoblend Potting Soil (I love this stuff! It holds moisture well in outdoor containers because of the cocofiber, contains worm castings, one of the best fertilizers available, and is Organic to boot, which is very important to me! )
1 Bale - Peat Moss
1 Bag - Sunshine Organic Planting mix
2 Bags - Glacier Gold Potting Soil
2 Bags - Chicken Manure
(for my squash!)
1 package of Rootone hormone powder (for taking cuttings)
1 Bag - Perlite

Some say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but this girls prefers dirt! (in all it's many forms!)

As for the plants, you may be marveling at my great restraint in only buying two, so you might be curious as to what I chose. One was a Swan River daisy (Brachyscome multifida - 'Metallic Blue' ) which has tiny bluish purple daisy-like flowers. I always grow this in an old enamelware teapot which sits on the corner of my deck railing, near the front door. It is a sort of ritual for me, I guess.
The other plant I brought home was a real jewel that I have been admiring for a couple of years now. It is from the new Big Sky series of Echinacea and is called 'Sundown'. The description on the tag reads, "many blooms with overlapping coral petals tipped in salmon." The colors of these new coneflowers are stunning, and I hope to eventually collect a few more. Coneflowers play an important role in the flower garden in late summer. When other plants are languishing, they bring forth their bright and long-lasting blooms, adding their much needed color in our hot August days.

To round out the evening, we had dinner at the Mexican restaurant and took a liesurely stroll around the block. All in all, it was a special birthday...... Thanks, Honey!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Passalong Plants

Don't you just love them? These are the old fashioned plants that have survived in gardens for decades by being handed from one person to another.
A favorite 'passalong plant' in my garden is in bloom now. I call it Grannie Annie's Purple Columbine. It came from my son-in-law's grandmother's house as a tiny seedling a few years ago. It is now in it's glory.... loaded with charming old fashioned 'bonnet' type blooms of a deep purple. Each time I see it, it evokes pleasant memories of the gracious woman from whose home it originated. It is a special plant because it came from a special lady.
Passalong plants are a lovely way to share with friends!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mystery Plant

A few weeks ago, my dear daughter was home to visit, and commented on a lovely blue flowering plant growing near our front step. She asked me what it was, and I replied that I had purchased it at a plant sale by the local garden club the previous spring, with the label 'Forget-Me-Not'. She noted that the leaves looked quite different than on her plant at home....hers being more long and narrow and mine more heart shaped. Several days later I was researching a plant in my favorite reference book "Flowers: From Seed to Bloom" and there, next to the photo I was looking at, was a photo of my "mystery" plant. It goes by the name of Brunnera, (sounds like crooner- uh) also called......can you guess? .....'False Forget-Me-Not'!

By any name, it is a lovely plant that thrives in part shade and blooms early. Here it enjoys a spot near pink Bleeding Heart and is flanked on either side by Palace Purple Coral Bells and Lady's Mantle.
The plant world is so vast. I am ever grateful for all the beauty that our Creator God has placed here for us to enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Winter Sowing

This was my first year to do what is called "winter sowing". Most of the plants in the photo were started in February or March. The photo was taken in mid-March, with most containers having already sprouted. I used mostly milk jugs cut in half, drainage holes added to bottom, and filled with about 3 inches of potting soil. After the seeds are sown and watered, the jugs are taped back together with duct tape, labeled and set outside with the lids off for ventilation. I also used plastic 'greens' containers from Costco, with slits in the covers for ventilation, and a few plastic liter bottles. I had 80+ containers, mostly flowers, but also some lettuce, kale, herbs, etc. The containers function as a mini-greenhouse and the plants come up when they are ready. This method yields hardy plants with good root systems and many plants need the cold action they get outside to germinate. I was very successful with this method and have waaaaay too many plant babies, who are now getting adopted out to friends and neighbors! :-)
For more information check out this link: http://wintersown.org/