Friday, June 7, 2013

Heirloom Zinnias: Frost, Seed and Seedling

This spring, for the first time, I planted zinnias from seeds I saved myself. Last spring, I'd planted two varieties from Renee's Garden, a green heirloom zinnia and a "raspberry sorbet" variety. From July through October, we had the most amazing garden full of green and pink zinnias and butterflies. And then one night the frost came, and Capel with his camera caught and froze them ...

After that, I couldn't resist. I cut off a basket full of dead heads and saved them over the winter, in the garage. Nothing special. They just sat there in this basket all winter long.

A few weeks ago, maybe a month now, I crumbled up 3 or 4 seed heads in the garden, not knowing exactly what would happen. Now, I've got more seedlings than I know what to do with--springing up everywhere at the roots of the tulips and allium and poppies. Growing things from seeds is a more messy business, I think. But, in the end, something more satisfying to me. I like the anticipation of not knowing, now, what colors they might be. And watching them grow from nothing into giant surprises. 

It takes awhile and the waiting and growing are maybe not as beautiful, in some ways, as the flowering. But they'll sure be pretty when the allium are long done.

Author's note: the Capel photos of frost zinnias are copyright Capel States. These photos may not be copied, printed or re-posted without the express permission of the photographer.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Patio Update: jousting crabgrass and creeping thyme

Yesterday and today, I've been working on the patio again. The last post on this topic is here. The basic story is the villan Jousting Crab Grass and his army trying to take over the patio, with the lowly family of Thyme ranged against him with their trusty Sherry at their side.

Here is Creeping Thyme:

and Mint Thyme:

Thyme and Crab Grass facing off:

Crab Grass bent on overtaking Thyme by springing up from within:

So, these photos are all of the right half of the patio. You notice that there are not many crab grass seedlings in the photos. On the right hand side of the patio, it seems that by using corn gluten this spring and a various array of measures last year (including weeks of hand weeding combined with the unplanned coincidence of a tarp laid down over that half for 3 weeks in the fall when we renovated the bath), there are noticeably fewer crab grass seedlings on this half of the patio.

Sherry, being Sherry, attacks the easier side first. The result here ...

here ...

and here, a modest collection of the Crab Grass avant-garde, now dead ...

You can see how small they are at this stage. If you look closely, you will see that their roots quickly grow to be 2-3 times longer than the leaves above ground. Last year, I looked at the thousands of tiny seedlings and thought, "I could never pick out that many seedlings. These are too small to pull out. I'll let them get bigger, let some of the littlest die from the competition, and then I can pick the survivors out, when they're bigger and easier to get a hold of." WRONG MOVE! Their roots are unbelievably tenacious. It is by far, let me repeat, by far much, much, much easier to get them out when they're tiny. Tedious? Yes. But not even a fraction of the work that it takes to remove grown plants in August, let me tell you.

So, here some cleared patio.

Here, the world's tiniest bit of Mint Thyme, holding down the fort on one corner.

And my poster child, the mother ship of Creeping Thyme.

And ... the other half of the patio, where Sherry has enlisted multiple allies in the fight against Crab Grass and his army: other weeds ...

The weed ally strategy is not working quite as well. Crab Grass is encroaching in a bad way, and already hundreds and hundreds of tiny two-leaved seedlings are arrayed in formation between each and every brick ...

right among the ally weeds (traitors!) ...

Our work is cut out for us today. Many Crab Grass foot soldiers to be plucked out by their tiny roots. And, still waiting to be planted, in the Thyme family's defense: cousins Pink Chintz Thyme, Wooly Thyme, and Minus Thyme ...

And a few allied species to come to the aid of Thyme in the shade:  Blue Star Creeper, Raoulia, and Corsican Mint.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's blooming now?

It's June, and time for summer flowers ...

Here are some shy shady green bloomers, back by the patio.

And of course at least one weed. Here, clover.

Patio pots.

The last of the allium and chives ...


More pots.

The new garden.

Dianthus and sea thrift, hens and chicks,

and peony.



And down at their roots, begonia.

Almost ready to pop -- mountain laurel.

And, the mystery bush. One of my next research projects.