Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bloom Day - Greetings from Europe!

Today I report from my mother's garden in Europe. No, I won't tell you the country but you can pretty much tell by the soil color. Interestingly, we both are in USDA zone 5 but our frost-free dates differ by a month. She already has knee-high potatoes, for goodness sake!
I put so much work in that garden over 12 years so I feel the right to share some blooms.
It's still the 15th in my time zone so I hope I won't be the last one for the party. There is so much going on in my mom's garden it's hard to start.

Outside of the garden there is an abandoned lot which she turned into a flax meadow.


Inside we've got a whole Iris Festival.
Dutch Irises are simply amazing

Bearded irises are great too!





I never liked clematis but I may need to reconsider. That blue one is simply gorgeous.


White peonies.... oh, the joy!

I've never seen such a plain garden flower (pansy) looking so gordeous pansies_May15_2012

These perennial poppies are 6 inches across! maki_May_15_2012

Also we started harvesting strawberries yesterday. I guess this is what happiness looks like (minus the jetlag).

Cheers, Lucy

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - April 2012

May came early this year, what a joy! I've got red, yellow and orange tulips

red and yellow tulips
orange tulip

Blue scilla
scilla siberica

White hyacinths
white hyacinth with a honeybee

And even alpine strawberry flowers.
alpine strawberry Ruegen

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Things I wish I figured out sooner

  1. Many perennials don't bloom from seed the first year. Sounds easy enough, isn't it? But I didn't know that when I planted coneflowers at the back of a carefully designed flower bed. And waited. And waited.
  2.  Four O'Clocks are perennials. When you hear the loud "thump" digging in flower bed it's not a shovel that broke, it's a taproot of Mirabilis.
  3. Don't step in blooming flower bed in sandals. Ever. Bee stings HURT.
  4. Flowers are not veggies, they don't look good in rows!
  5. Alpine strawberry plants can get as big as regular strawberries. Those teeny-tiny leaves in the woods are small because they lack sunlight and nutrients.
  6. Plant labels can be messed up. The probability of getting all white blooms from a 12-pack of mixed hyacinth bulbs is 1 in 200 millions. I have better chances winning a lottery jackpot. Labeling error at a nursery is far more likely.
  7. Cucumbers don't transplant well. The attempts to fill the gaps in rows by moving cucumber plants are futile.
  8. Yes, mint spreads like crazy. No, several cups of mint tea aren't worth the trouble of pulling runners from strawberry patch, between thorny raspberry canes, from the lawn and even neighbor's garden plot.
  9. A single zucchini plant can take 9 square feet of space and is a powdery mildew magnet.
  10. Voles love beets. I didn't harvest a single beet in two years. Wish I didn't chase that snake out of my garden.
  11. Peat pots plus unheated greenhouse in early May equals stressed tomato seedlings. Water evaporates freely from a peat pot surface lowering root zone temperature quite a bit. Two people out of 30 used peat pots in our community garden and we both ended up with purplish seedlings and delayed growth.
  12.  99-cent tomato cages not only break, they bend under the weight of tomatoes.
  13. Mulching tomato plants with straw significantly cuts on early blight.
  14. Osmocote slow-release pellets are too slow for me. It seems like they don't dissolve at all.
  15. Putting 80 lb of bagged soil in a wheelbarrow and going downhill can be spectacular, especially if you own weight is 110 lb. Not quite the "barrel of bricks" fallacy but a capsized cart nonetheless.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why I'm not planting blue tomatoes

 I noticed that breeders usually improve on one plant trait at a time disregarding the rest. Take Caroline raspberry I planted last year. It's productive, has huge berries, up to an inch long, but the taste is somewhat bland. Giant strawberries are tasteless too. A beautiful Romanesco broccoli has strange texture making it inedible both raw and cooked for me. People keep complaining about the taste and the long season requirements of yellow watermelons. That's why I'm not jumping on a blue tomato bandwagon just yet.

There are several varieties on the market including the famous Indigo Rose tomato from Jim Myers at OSU or the whole "blue tomato" family" from Tom Wagner but they are all quite new. People worked hard to achieve the color goal so I feel a great taste is just too much to ask. I would patiently wait for them to introduce Brandywine or Sungold traits into the fruit even if it takes decades to accomplish.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March 2012

 Weeeee! Crocuses!
After a week of 60-degrees temperatures I ventured into my garden hoping to see something, anything in bloom and was handsomely rewarded by the sight yellow crocuses:

yellow crocus after rain

These bulbs were planted back in 2010. Last year they bloomed in the middle of April. I heard that the established crocuses come earlier in the following years but it's totally unexpected. Yellow crocuses bloomed last in 2011 but now they are the first. Hmmm...

Also, I planted peas today in my zone 5b garden (please don't laugh!). If they freeze - so be it, these were the seeds from 2010 that had to be used somehow.
One of my phalaenopsis orchids has finally opened its blooms. Its full name is Doritaenopsis 'I-Hsin Sesame'. It was a hand-me-down from a friend and apparently I don't like the flowers, for some reason they creep me out. The plant will probably go back to the previous owner, at least until it's done blooming.

Doritaenopsis I-Hsin Sesame

The spotting pattern on each tepal looks pretty unique. I wonder if it is formed in the (fetal?) development process in the same way as zebra stripes and human fingerprints. Forensic botany, anyone?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap day surprises

This is what I have outside in our corner of New York. We had couple of inches of snow since noon and it's still going strong.
And this is what I have inside. Today I noticed new growth on my Oncidium "Gower Ramsey" orchid. Is it a spike? Is it a new pseudobulb? Time will tell.
This plant is yet another rescue from Lowe's. It's been only 2 and a half month since repotting, the plant is supposed to be growing a strong root system in order to recover but at the bottom of my heart I really want this to be a spike. Oncidium Gower Ramsey new growth

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pothos is a chthonic monster

Every year I cut and discard about 30 feet of pothos vines from a single plant. It inevitably grows back with such a vigor that I'm afraid to sleep in a room where the plant is. I imagine it pulling the vines towards my neck at night or even leaving the pot and walking around triffid-style.
Yesterday I found out that my concerns weren't that unfounded. The plant damaged a wall. No, seriously.  The pothos' aerial roots penetrated 2 layers of paint and were going for a drywall...

pothos is a chthonic monster

At least it's a source of pride for my husband. He mocks my orchids for slow growth and is proud of the amount of vegetation "his" plant produces. He takes ownership of the plant because he convinced me to accept this hand-me-down 3 years ago and usually stands alongside me during annual trimmings and screams: "No! Leave that vine! Take a half of the other one, not a whole!" Watering, fertilizing, repotting, removing dead leaves and other plant management is on me. Am I getting a sneak peek into our future parenthood? :)

I have minus one orchid credit my husband says

Yesterday I acquired a new orchid at Lowe's bringing the total count to 8. When repotting I inadvertently made that 9.
Not sure if it's me who broke off a pseudobulb clump from Oncidium or it's the nursery that put two plants in one pot.
The nursery (sunbulb.com aka better-gro) has rather poor reputation though. Once I bought their orchid in 4'' pot which, upon discovery, had a 2'' pot inside stuffed with moldy peat moss and a miserable Cattleya with barely any roots left.

Yep, that tiny pot with overflowing Cattleya was masqueraded by sphagnum moss in a bigger pot. I removed and cleaned the plant immediately 'cause I couldn't stand that horror a second longer. What a sham!

Update from March 7

 I feel the need to apologize for bashing Sunbulb guys. Orchid they sell seem to be in good shape.
Apparently it's normal to see large number of dead roots while repotting cattleya; these plants don't like root disturbance as noted by a commenter. Also some oncidiums can break off easily; today I managed to break a new orchid in three while washing and repotting (shhh, don't tell my husband I bought more of them!).
It's interesting how the same facts get interpreted differently depending on context. When I see a dead root on my old orchid I trim it and think "ok, normal part of life". When I see a dead root on a new acquisition I tend to fret "I paid money for THAT?".

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2012

Despite a mild and snow-less winter (November is 4 months long this season!) my garden is a barren land now; even the garlic shoots have disappeared. Good thing I put some bulbs for forcing last fall for the first time in my life. The choice of bulbs was pretty random ($2 leftover bags of mixed Darwin hybrids from ChristmasTreeShops) but the blooms are very nice.
Even a Christmas cactus (which I call "El Monstro" around the house) that was full of flowers on Thanksgiving has one more gift for me to enjoy!
forced Darwin hybrid tulips

Christmas cactus

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A secret to happiness: not to read garden blogs more than 2 zones up.
I've seen someone comment that their hardiness zone didn't change from 8 to 9! Cruel, cruel people

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New map of cold hardiness

The USDA has released new plant hardiness map for the US. I am still in good old zone 5, so no lemon trees for me.I've heard that the fun does not begin until zone 8. Apparently, there are 2 mechanisms of cold resistance in plants and the first one only provides damage protection down to that zone.
Also, most of the United Kingdom territory is zone 8. Now I know why British gardening books look so ridiculous sometimes (Wisteria pruning in January? Hello??)

Amazing Amaryllis

The year 2011 had been difficult for me. I've been looking for a job since January. In summer I started a 6-month long course of treatment which made me very sick. By September things were not going well and the winter was coming. I resolved to have plants blooming at home all winter to have something to look forward to.

My favorite spring flower is tulip so I started forcing a whole bunch of tulip, crocus and muscari bulbs back in October. 12 weeks of chilling seemed to be a lot of time so I also got some "no-chilling" bulbs: paperwhites, iris reticulata and amaryllis to get the flowers faster.

The paperwhites are not coming back: they are bland, floppy and have a strange smell. Iris retuculata bulbs are sitting in the pots with 1-inch shoots for the last 10 weeks or so.
But amaryllis... Boy, are they gorgeous! I'm really not into lilies and lily-like flowers but these plants are impressive. I guess this is the essence of my gardening life: success and failure go hand in hand.

My first bulb, a presumably "Red Lion" amaryllis. It bloomed only 5 weeks after planting!

Amaryllis Red Lion

When a local garden center advertised 75% off amaryllis sale I grabbed some more bulbs including this amazing "Faro" variety. While the flowers seem to be on the shorter stems due to the bulb sprouting extensively in the store, there are 2 flower spikes with 7 flowers each!

Amaryllis Faro

So far I am firmly on track with my goal: have flowers in the house from Thanksgiving until spring.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I am Lucy and I love growing plants.

In the summer I work on a 700 square feet plot in a community garden in Upstate New York (USDA Zone 5). I also have some plants living in my home.

I am married and have a degree in science field. Besides gardening, I enjoy hiking, plant breeding, science projects and long drives.

I wanted to write a blog for quite a while. This journal is an attempt to mix gardening notes with random musings about the world. Thanks for stopping by!