Monday, May 23, 2011

Tulip Joy

Tulipa 'Daydream' in Our Garden
Last fall, when chipmunks had dug out and eaten most of the tulip bulbs, I was faced with three choices. The first would require the critters enter the "vacation module" to be transported elsewhere. Second choice...forget about tulips and move on! Third, change my attitude and accept that a portion of the bulbs will be eaten and try to control the damage with a dressing of bloodmeal and dried hot chilli pepper seeds. Accepting the inevitable third choice, I merrily strolled along to the local nursery, with an aim to include more hot color in the spring garden. Tulipa 'Daydream', a Darwin Hybrid, delivered...sizzle hot...wonderfully fragrant, it absolutely glowed. Sadly, she has not lasted as long as I would have liked but......beautiful in the leaving.

'Ballerina' is still on point, a longer bloomer, smelling truly of oranges. Both of these varieties have brightened the many gloomy days we have experienced, withstanding relentless rain ......grateful, as we are, for the odd sunny day.

'Ballerina' with 'Daydream'
 In the front bed, as you come up the drive, 'Canadian Liberator' is giving a great show! It's deep bright red blooms on tall sturdy stems light up this woodland part of the garden. The hope was, dogwood  'Constellation' would flower at the same time, but this year, I think they will miss each other.
Click on photos to enlarge

'Canadian Liberator', a Triumph tulip named in honor of the Canadian Soldiers who liberated Holland in WW II

Sunday, May 15, 2011

More About Tomatoes

The spring rains continue; any day now the "girls" will leave their pots to be planted out.  Many are getting leggy and even though they are hardening off outside, there is little sun to warm them. The transition from  inside to outside takes place over a period of ten days or so, in a framed plastic greenhouse. The zipper has long since given up the ghost, so we use document clips to close the sides during the night. If really cold weather is expected, we drape a blanket over and tuck garden fleece around the bottom.

This year, we are trying a number of new varieties like Mexico Midget and Tasmanian Chocolate Dwarf, seed shared by Year Round Veggie Gardener originating from Craig the Tomatoman. The latter I plan to put in the raised bed assuming as a dwarf  it will be easy to harvest (as well as Rosella Purple also a dwarf). Wentzell, a local tomato, should do very well for our area and I'm also hoping Granadero, a paste, will produce high yields but good flavor.  Wonder how it will measure up to the one San Marzano we purchased at the local farmers market.

As for the purple black types (which I favor), we are trying Black Plum, Black Cherry, Purple Prince, Pruden's Purple and Rosella Purple. For some brightness....Woodle Orange from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed , Sun Gold Cherry and German Gold.

We have grown Green Zebra in the past and found, if  left that little bit too long, it felt soft and mealy in the mouth and lost a lot of flavor. It really needs picking early, when it is still firm and so, a bit tart..perfect for salsas with some chopped purple hot pepper, lime juice, onion and of our best fresh salsa tomatoes and so, they're back in the garden this year. (This green tomato must be high in pectin as the salsa is almost jelly)

And now for something completely different, OSU Blue from Annapolis Valley Seeds.  There are many pros and cons about it's flavor and blue color, so think we will just 'see for ourselves' how this does in our climate on the South Shore here in Nova Scotia. If nothing else, it's unique but I'm hoping it will be much more than that.

Imagine all those colors... orange, red, yellow, blue, purple black, served on a large white platter; sitting in the shade on a hot summer day sharing the garden's bounty with friends and family.  That's what I imagine as I baby them along, encouraging them to grow big and strong, telling  them "the soft spring rains are here now and once the soil gets a little bit warmer, you can go outside to play"....

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Chestnut Tree

Click on photos to Enlarge
While the weatherman says "more rain forecast", the garden does 'the happy dance'. One tree, in particular, shines for me this time of year, with it's almost primal leaves unfurling from enormous buds at the end of long slim smooth limbs. She is, Aesculus x carnea 'Briotti'; the Red Horse Chestnut.

Ours is about eleven years old and was first planted in full sun, however, it surely didn't like that as the leaves scorched the first two summers. So, we moved it, with fingers crossed, to the dappled shade side of the lot and except for a haircut during Hurricane Juan, she has continued to thrive. Last year though, there was bark damage I attributed to a bobcat, but that seems to have healed now to some degree. Referring to my garden books, it looks as if we were wise to move 'Briotti', and our quick draining acid soil is preferred above others. We never get any conkers off it, as the squirrels have them straight away before they can even form into hard nuts...still, I wouldn't be without it and hope it lives a nice long life.

The leaves are now unfurling.........

.........forming it's flowers, each in it's own orchestrated, beautiful way.

Soon, 'Briotti' will be a sea of bloom, covered in bees, back dropped by pine, maple and spruce. If you have room for this Chestnut, I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thinnings and True Confessions

Do you garden with a partner or is it " all yours"?  We two share in the decision making regarding many things here but our approach is different when it comes to planting seeds. He likes following the packet directions:  Lettuce "Butterhead Speckles".. seed depth 1/8 inches; seed space 1 inch; row spacing 8 inches. I tend to ignore the packet totally, make a line in the soil and throw the seeds in, twenty seconds or less and I'm done!  Actually, no line at all would suit me just fine...fill the entire space with seeds and let them fight it's all good, early, green eating. What has evolved in the partnership is what you see above...a compromise ;-)  rows planted intensely.

Arugula, India Mizuna, baby red Pac choi, tiny lovely new D'Avignon radish, first crescents of spinach, spears of early Egyptian Walking Onion and garlic...the whole lot tossed in a sweet and mildly vinegar/lemon dressing... there's punch in them there greens!

True Confessions...I was not always fussed about bitter or hot pepper tasting greens...nope! I didn't like arugula at all three years ago. However, I found out, these types of home harvested European style early greens do not compare to store bought. Most impressive..they love growing in cool temps here in Nova Scotia, so, we are able to eat a great salad, sown in April or even March under a cold frame or fleece, that feels soft in the mouth, and a joy to the taste buds.

Transplants are growing big and strong and are hardening off. Weather, quite frankly, has been the shoots, with a day here and there to make you think 'it won't be long now'..but back to rain and gray and more gray and rain. Trying to keep upbeat...tulips just about ready to open and heh...hyacinths are now in bloom!