25 April 2007

holy moly

The Allium moly bulbs have arrived. Gosh, they're small (about the size of a clove of garlic), and some (about 12) are moldy and soft, but I'm not complaining. I'm glad they're here. Can't wait to get them into the ground this weekend. I have just the spot for them. I'm going to plant all 96 in one square yard, four inches deep. Fortunately, I won't have to dig 96 little holes or even one giant hole, because the soil under the ancient maple is moist and soft and full of decomposed leaves. All I'll have to do is poke my index finger into the ground, take it out, and then drop in a bulb.

23 April 2007

planted this weekend

B went to Agway on Thursday and bought a number of different kinds of potatoes, which he planted in three boxes in his vegetable garden yesterday. Among them is Cobbler, which is supposed to mash particularly well. He planted red potatoes, blue potatoes, Yukon gold, and a potato that is red through and through, well, actually pink. He also planted some mesclun and arugula. We haven't ever planted so many early spring crops.

I planted some onions around the peas, which have sprouted! Before we left for a reunion of my college singing group on Friday afternoon, I put the sweet pea seeds in to soak. I should have soaked them for only 24 hours, but I didn't get around to planting them in the chicken coop until Sunday afternoon. I think they'll be fine. I've read around on various blogs that sweet peas can be difficult, so I don't know what to expect. I've also read they grow best in cool weather and like to have their feet cool, too, so once they're up, I'll mulch around them. I cut back the sweet autumn clematis in the chicken coop a few weeks ago and am eager to see the first sprouts from that.

In the flower gardens, the aconitum is up, the "David" phlox is coming up (I may move it from the back of the phlox patch to the front, because it seems not to grow as tall as the other varieties I've planted), and at least one clump of blue-eyed grass made it through the winter. The red lupines are up, the sedums are sprouting, and the peonies, daylilies, and gaura are showing signs of life. I cleaned up around the stachys, and cut back the thyme, nepeta, and artemisia. We'll see how it all comes along.

I love this time of year.

05 April 2007


Well, I spoke too soon. Maybe the plow guy will have to come back. My sister in Schenectady tells me she woke to a dusting of snow, while one of our neighbors in Washington County is digging out from about five inches of the stuff.

Hope the peas are all right! I know the daffodils will be fine.

03 April 2007

daffodils with a definite attitude . . . part 2

allium moly

Last year, when money was especially tight, I was leafing through the catalog from McC&Z and saw a description of Allium moly:

“Flowering onions,” “society garlic,” or “lily leek.” Grows almost like a ground cover, forming broad clumps. Produces two flat, lance-shaped leaves about 12 inches long of blue-green with a metallic sheen. Short, cheery yellow umbels. Grown in southern Europe for centuries to bring good luck and prosperity. Uses: border, rock garden, talisman. (Height 12", Zones 3–8, S/SSH, 96/sq. yd.)

Well! I thought. Who can't use some good luck and prosperity? Did I order some? Nope, not last year. But then I received McC&Z’s spring 2007 catalog in the mail and saw the description of the bulbs again. I thought of the perfect place for 96 little alliums, too: in the roundish bed under the ancient maples at the bottom of the driveway. Last spring I planted three Hosta “Blue Angel” in a nice asymmetric clump (or so they will be when they’re bigger), and in September we put in a family of about 11 cushion mums at one end of that bed; they were beautiful all fall. I don’t expect they survived the winter, but we can always buy more come August. I’m planning on putting my allium bulbs at the other end of the bed. (FYI, you don’t need to be rich to order 96 bulbs of Allium moly: I spent about $14.00 plus shipping.)

behind the garage, april 2006

From last year's garden journal:
1 April 2006, Saturday

Cleaned out behind the garage (looks pretty nice, eh?); were just an amazing number of raspberry canes there. So brambly and hard to pull up. G&N evidently used the space to dump their old Christmas trees, too, as well as wreaths; I found a number of old rusted wreath forms. Very funny, our similar impulses.

Went to the hardware store this afternoon with the chain saw. To sharpen it is $3.00; K did it in 10 minutes, and he said that while it wasn’t very dull, I’d probably notice a big difference in the way it cut.

Man, that saw works well with a sharp chain. Amazing. Got three trees chopped into short lengths that are now stacked in the meadow to dry. B did a lot more work on the orchard, and we are, between the two of us, really cleaning things up.
We’ve continued to clean things up. It’s a slow process. We cut branches and drag them to the huge brush pile we call “the habitat” (justification for having a big pile of dead branches in the middle of the orchard; if animals can use it for shelter, it’s all right with us!). In the course of a year and a half, however, it’s become less “habitat” and more “fire hazard.” So, slowly, slowly we’re feeding it into a chipper and spreading the wood chips onto paths through the woods beside and behind the house.

We figure we have about a month and a half of good brush-cutting weather left before the trees leaf out and the grass begins to grow. I wonder how much we can get accomplished in that time?

peas & potatoes

The past weekend was glorious: lovely temperatures and sun on Saturday and Sunday. I worked outside a bit on Saturday—in between rehearsing for Palm Sunday at church and playing with the dog. Pruned the dead wood and dried blossoms from a tree hydrangea on the southeast corner of the house and moved gravel back onto the driveway from the lawn. I hope we won’t need to have the driveway plowed any more until November or December!

On Sunday, after church, I planted some snow peas and shelling peas. The envelopes they came in said peas can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, so work it I did. I’m looking forward to seeing some green shoots out in the vegetable garden.

The soil was very cool, but dry enough that I was able to spread it smoothly over the peas. I’m always amazed when seeds that I put directly into the ground actually turn into plants. The process doesn’t seem quite as miraculous to me when I start plants from seed indoors, but seeing a row of tiny green seedlings out in the garden always takes my breath away.

Last year B planted potatoes on Good Friday, 14 April 2006. His Grannie always planted them on Good Friday in Kentucky, so he thought he’d give it a try in upstate New York. Nothing showed for about two or three weeks, during which time we worried that the potatoes had rotted in the ground or had been eaten by a vole with a hankering for home fries. Eventually, though, they took root and sent up shoots, and we had a generous harvest of red, blue, and yellow spuds in August. Ah! B says potatoes have been the most satisfying vegetable he’s grown so far, and he’s grown some beautiful tomatoes, squash, beans, beets, and onions in the past two years. He tells me he’s going to devote an entire 4×4-foot square to potatoes this year. We won't be at Pleasant Hill on Good Friday 2007, but he hopes to get the potatoes into the ground soon after.

the L&S slope

Am trying to figure out what to do with the slope behind the house. It’s very long and very steep. At this point the slope is just weedy and unattractive, but I think it could be beautiful.

We had thought initially that we would plant lots of wildflower-y perennials on it, like bee balm and black-eyed susan, and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, when we tried that, we didn’t keep up with the weeding, because it’s hard to weed on a slope, so that idea kind of fizzled.

Then we thought, hmmm, let’s plant a lot of Rosa rugosa and let that fill in. So last year we got a bunch of bareroot Rosa rugosa from the Saratoga County Soil & Water Conservation District. We figured they’d help control erosion in addition to making our slope look like a sand dune at the ocean. B planted them on the steepest section, where it looks like there may have been a bit of a landslide at one point: There’s a big mound of sandy soil in front of a sort of caved-in area. I don’t know whether G&N had this soil brought in to fill in or what, but it’s a mess.

So now there is some Rosa rugosa there. It didn’t do much last year, but I think the plants might have been settling in (in the sleep, creep, leap fashion I’ve read so much about). Rosa rugosa is supposed to get to be 4–6 feet tall, which would be lovely. I’d be most grateful if it would eventually fill in so that it chokes out the weeds on that part of the slope.

But now what to do about the rest of the L&S (long and steep) slope?

There’s a beautiful old house outside of Salem that has a swimming pool that has been sort of built up from the ground surrounding it. The owner (or his landscaper) planted some kind of creeping juniper around it, and I really love how it looks. Kind of rough, but uniform, too. Very tidy and cool.

Then, a few months back I was taking a walk along the Hudson River Park near the West Side Highway in Manhattan, and I saw a planting I liked of evergreen shrubs interspersed with clumps of grasses, so now I’m thinking creeping evergreen punctuated by grasses. A planting like that would provide a ton of visual interest in the wintertime (as it does in the Hudson River Park).

So, I’ve got a catalog from WG that I’m looking at. It has beautiful photographs, but the plants are on the expensive side, and I’ve read around that the quality of the stock is not so great. I’m sure I could find other sources for these grasses. Here are a few that sound nice to me and would survive in Zone 4:
  • Miscanthus sinensis “Gracillimus”: I love the name.
  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster”: Friend A grows this in his rooftop garden in Manhattan, and the sound it makes when the wind blows through it is wonderful.
  • Festuca ovina “Elijah’s Blue”: A grows this one, too. It’s really blue!
  • Hakonechloa macra “Aureola”: I’ve seen this planted in Manhattan, and it looks like flowing water, all of the blades running in one direction. Very unusual. It’s more for shade, so maybe I’d plant some down by the road next to the ancient maple.
  • Juncus effuses “Unicorn” (spiral rush): Wow!
  • Panicum virgatum “Shenandoah”: Gorgeous, and anything named Shenandoah belongs in our garden. As does anything that “takes drought and neglect.”