February 27, 2012
Camellia sasanqua is known as a fall or winter-blooming Camellia. But, mine seems to want to wait until closer to spring to strut its stuff.
Years ago, I was given a tiny but beautiful Yuletide camellia as a Christmas gift. When I received it, it had a few lingering blooms still on it.
That’s the thing, growers push these young’ns all to bloom in fall. This gets them looking their best just in time for those doing last autumn installations to snap them up and pop them into the garden before everything comes to a screeching halt for winter. And with a name like Yuletide, we’re all expecting these gorgeous evergreens to bloom in time for Christmas, right?
After that first year, my potted Camellia continued to bloom sometime in winter — usually right after Christmas. Never at Christmas. So much for being a entry decoration for the holidays.
Then, the time came to plant it in the ground. And guess what happened then?
Yes, it grew larger. But, it also began to bloom later and later each year.
That is, if it bloomed at all.
Those tough blossoms definitely don’t care for a hard winter freeze, and if they get hit hard enough. They turn black & fall off the bush. Last year that happened to mine, and I got only a measly handful of pretty blooms.
This year was mild. We did have one icy blast that hit just as the Camellia was getting ready to bloom. I assumed it would drop its buds, but despite getting frozen and a late start opening, it is putting on its showiest display ever.
I’m reminded that these shrubs are definitely worth growing in the Pacific Northwest. Evergreen. Colorful. And kinda consistently bloom during the “off season”.
But guess what? These beautiful 2012 blooms started opening right around Valentine’s day.
So who’s with me? I propose we rename this one: Camellia sasanqua ‘Valentine’.
It sure as hell isn’t opening any gifts for us during the Yuletide anymore.
November 30, 2011
Unfortunately, I’ve been stuck inside sick lately, so garden design is about all I can do. Viewing the garden from the inside out is a good design reminder. Yes, a garden should be fragrant and beautiful and experiential when you’re in it. But, it designed right, it should be equally delightful to someone trapped in bed in need of some earthly healing. Fortunately, for me, I’ve got rooms with garden views that — even in on a bare, wet, wintery day — brighten my outlook no matter how crappy I feel.
Need tips to get a better outlook on your garden? Consider these simple ideas:
- Attract Wildlife: Build good soil that worms and beetles love, and you’ll have birds scratching away for them. Add in a water feature, birdbath or dish stone, and they’ll come to bathe and drink. Provide berry-filled bushes like Cotoneaster, and once those berries ferment, the robins will provide hours of goofy, drunken entertainment. Plant fall and winter bloomers like Arbutus unedo and Witchhazel, and you may see hummingbirds year-round.
- Don’t Block Your Views: Remember to think about how big a plant will get as it grows. Don’t plant a big shrub right by your picture window, or soon enough you won’t be able to see your picture view. Instead, build your privacy by planting bigger things further from the house.
- Balance Privacy and Light: While you may want a big, full, leafy garden in spring and summer to provide privacy at times when you’re in the garden all the time, remember that you may want some spaces open in winter to allow in light. Keep this in mind when mixing evergreens and deciduous plants in the garden. A well-placed evergreen will give you winter interest but not block views or precious winter sun. A poorly placed one may leave you in the dark all winter long.
- Art & Structure: A well placed, freeze proof container, a beautiful stone or even some all-season furniture can give the garden substance and an inviting sense of place even on a frigid winter day, viewed from the warm comfort of your favorite reading chair. In summer, when perennials are tall and the garden is full, these artistic elements may disappear from view, hidden by glorious foliage and flowers. But, that’s okay. Forgetting them during summer will only add to your appreciation of them after the leaves have fallen, the perennials go dormant and the snow sprinkles them with crystalline highlights.
Every home and garden has its own set of special challenges. There may be other things you can do to make sure your garden is as equally beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Don’t hesitate to get in touch to schedule a Garden Mentors session or buy a holiday gift for someone else to figure out how to make your garden as appealing as possible — from every viewpoint, every day of the year!
November 18, 2011
Forecasters warned us to prepare for snow last night. Harvesting last crops is part of my prep for snow. I expected to get a few greens, a head of cabbage, and maybe some lingering root crops. But, tomatoes and cucumbers definitely weren’t on my November harvest radar last night.
So, this morning when I walked into our unheated greenhouse to see how my decorative succulents had fared the frigid, snow-less night, I was shocked to see these last summer crops waiting for me. Grown from seed much earlier this year, my Saucy Paste tomatoes and Marketmore cukes gave me these late garden jewels, which Kula apparently thinks should be dog treats or toys.
She’s not going to get them. They’re going in tonight’s salad!
What’s still growing in your veggie garden this late November?
April 04, 2011
By now gardeners are either shopping for cold hardy crops at nurseries and plant sales, or they’re finding that their seedlings are ready to go into the earth. Even if early season crops can handle cool, wet temperatures, a hardy hail may destroy them.
To protect tender, young starts from the snow, hail, wind and even birds that peck away at newly planted tasty goodness like broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, and rabe, consider adding some sort of hoop or cloche to get them started.
Although floating row cover (aka horticultural fleece) is a nice protective layer that will also raise soil temperatures a bit and keep out flying pests, but it won’t do much to keep the plants from crashing under the weight a rapid-fire hailstorm.
Instead, something like a plastic hoop house or a glass cloche over your new plantings will help keep out the flying pests, raise temperatures to speed up growth and provide transitional protection for plants just out of a greenhouse, and scatter any pummeling ice hammering down from the sky.
Keep in mind that hoops can end up raising temperatures too much if days get really hot and sunny, so be sure to check and vent them regularly. Venting will also keep up airflow, which helps deter fungal damping off, which will kill your seedlings just as rapidly as a good icy beating.
Also, be sure to check soil moisture. By sheeting your crops water-repelling substances, you may be sheeting water away from their roots too. Open your hoops on days when the rain is gentle; close them at night and when freezing rains sleet down to earth.
November 16, 2010
Last year I learned the hard way: many winter crops simply won’t survive a hard freeze even if they’re well mulched and kept under hoop houses. I lost a late crop of broccoli and cauliflower last year despite my best efforts to keep them protected from freezing temperatures.
Many readers from across the US are already sending in reports of snow, and my local forecasters are predicting anything from clear, freezing cold to snow for lowland Seattle by this weekend. Because that cold is coming, I hope you’ll join me in making the rounds through your gardens over the next few days to harvest what you can. I know that my last few chard plants, growing exposed to the elements, won’t be anything more than mush following a freeze. Same for the tops of the last enormous beets in our front beds. The last cherry tomatoes in the unheated greenhouse still have a few tasty morsels to share; those definitely will crash in a freeze. Plus, a few onions are still out there as are a couple of carrots. So, before our temperatures dip into the low 30s later this week, I’ll be gathering up all these goodies. Roasted root veggies, tossed with the tasty garden tomatoes still ripening on the window sills and cellared garlic and Delicata squash will be a fantastic reward on a snowy winter day!
In addition to my woody herbs, the one crop in my garden that might withstand the cold: red, winter kale. I’ll probably harvest a bit of it and leave a few plants behind as well as an experiment – let’s see how much this hardy plant really enjoys a good freeze!
March 12, 2010
Yesterday, I read on Willi’s Digginfood.com blog about Gardening Gone Wild‘s Picture This photo contest. So, I hustled over to the GGW site to learn more. The theme for submissions is Awakening, chosen by March contest judge and fabulous garden photographer Saxon Holt.
I culled through a number of photos taken over many years in the garden and had nearly given up on finding a submission that felt right. Then, this morning, as I was sipping my first cup of coffee, I glimpsed our resident hummingbird sipping his morning cuppa from one of my Ribes sanguineum.
The memories came rushing back of a March years ago when the Ribes out my then-office window was just opening, under a layer of slushy snow. This plant surges forth regardless of surprising cusp-of-spring weather, and it welcomes many birds and insects back to my garden as they too awaken. Hummingbirds, bees of all kinds, Bush tits and even Chickadees feed from it as spring begins to overtake old man winter. And, I? I know spring has sprung — even in snow — when these pink blossoms appear and my hummingbird feeds fearlessly upon it mere inches from me in the garden.
So, here is my photo submission for the March 2010 Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Contest: