Six on Saturday – emerging seeds and a slow spring

Shileau inspecting the new spruces April 6 2018

Shileau inspecting two new spruce trees.  A good friend buys them every fall, keeping them in their pots to decorate her city patio; then I plant them in the yard in early spring.  They generally (but not always) survive, although I have to do a lot of root pruning and root untangling after removing them from their 10 or 15 gallon plastic containers.

This past week brought blustery cold winds to the County and all Southern Ontario – lots of downed trees, fallen branches, rain, snow flurries and power outages.  We were fortunate to escape wind damage or flooding even with the sump pump out of action for a few hours at the height of Wednesday night’s storm.  That said, bulbs continued to push up outside, and seeds started to sprout inside.  Here are my Six on Saturday, with a tip of my Tilly to The Propagator for this theme.

emerging Tulips April 6 2018

These short red early kaufmanniana Tulips have a lovely mottled leaf.  This is their third spring in my heavy clay soil – I’m hoping they’ll continue to bloom for a few more years.

Allium Globemaster April 6 2018

Hard to imagine but within a month this little rosette of leaves will have become a three foot Allium Globemaster.  First time growing them so I’m looking forward to a nice show.

Allium Purple Sensation April 6 2018

I’ve had Allium Purple Sensation for many, many years.  These are new bulbs  I planted last fall but I also collected seeds and have started to propagate larger numbers (I hope!).

Chocolate Sprinkles grape tomatoe - yogurt vs Jiffee pot April 6 2018 1

Grape tomato seedlings started two weeks ago – I’m experimenting using different growing containers.

Chocolate Sprinkles grape tomatoe - yogurt vs Jiffee pot April 6 2018

I was surprised to notice that the tomatoes started in yogurt containers are almost twice as large as the ones grown in more traditional peat pots.  Wow!  Is it maybe because moisture levels are more easily managed?  ie growing media in plastic doesn’t dry out as quickly as in the peat pot?

DIY – seed starting by Re-using

I love yogurt (or for non North Americans, Yoghurt) – have some every morning, sometimes as a topping for melons, berries or nuts, sometime right from the little plastic container. Of course, all these containers go into the recycling bin, and I can only hope some intrepid company is melting them down to make new plastic thingamjigs somewhere in the world.

I also love the three “R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and it struck me a few weeks ago that I can possibly Reuse before Recycling, and save a few pennies as well. So I started collecting the yogurt containers, large and small, to use for seed starting.

I’m not sure if it will work. The wonderful thing abut using Jiffy® pots is you don’t need to disturb seedling roots when planting out. With the yogurt containers, I’ll have to carefully slide the root mass into the planting hole. So I’ll be conducting a quasi-scientific study — half of my new tomato seedlings in Jiffy, half in yogurt. All else will be the same (starting medium, heat and light while in front of the window, and side by side in the garden). I’m looking forward to the results!

Seed starting DIY 1 March 18 2018

Here are some of my seeds this year. There’s a grape tomato from Stokes® called Chocolate Sprinkles and an All American Selection cocktail tomato from Earthworks Seeds called Red Racer. I love cocktail tomatoes – they’re the perfect size for salads. I’m also trying to start my chard this way – this variety is Scarlet Charlotte from Renee’s Garden. They recommend starting them outside when there is no danger of a hard frost, but in my experience the rabbits think chard seedlings are an appetizer so I’m hoping that by planting a lot of larger plants I may get a harvest.

Seed starting DIY 2 March 18 2018

I wasn’t sure how to put drainage holes in the bottom of the yogurt cups so I tried with secateurs and a knife before realizing plain ol’ kitchen scissors work best.

Seed starting DIY 3 March 18 2018

I wanted three triangle holes – the scissors provided the cleanest and easiest cut.

Seed starting DIY 4 March 18 2018

I’ve never done this before but the Stokes seed pack suggested soaking the Jiffy pot in warm water before adding growing medium. It makes sense – otherwise the sphagnum peat moss would pull moisture from the medium, causing it to dry our faster and making watering a bit trickier.

Seed starting DIY 5 March 18 2018

The final result – four pots for each tomato variety, two started in a yogurt container and two in the Jiffy pot, and a whole lot of chard! The tray is now covered and on top of the freezer where it’s a titch warmer than my windowsill (if I had an electric heating mat I’d use it – maybe next year!)

Prince Edward County Seedy Saturday Report

It must be a sign that folks in the County are tired of winter and itching to get their hands dirty and digging in the garden – the Picton Seedy Saturday was packed right from the get go.  Dozens of vendors were there selling seeds and other garden related do-dads; local horticulture related societies were there providing information; presentations were made and everyone, I’m sure, left the school gym feeling inspired, loaded with seeds and making plans for spring planting.  Next seedy stop for me will be March 24 at the Quinte West Seedy Saturday in Trenton.

The busiest spot was the seed exchange tables:

Seed Exchange table at Picton Seedy Saturday - 1006 a.m.

Seed Exchange table just after opening…

Seed Exchange table at Picton Seedy Saturday - 1017 a.m.

Seed Exchange table 10 minutes later…

Fuller Native Plant Nursery was there – I’ve written about this great Belleville nursery before; it’s where I purchased my first Echinacea pallida and Silphium perfoliatum seeds two years ago.

There were lots and lots of heritage, hard to find and unusual seeds available, and a number of booths with seed and gardening related stuff.

Thyme Again at Picton Seedy Saturday

Lorraine from Thyme Again Gardens had seeds, condiments and spices from their organic farm in Carrying Place.

Hawthorn Herbals at Picton Seedy Saturday

Registered herbalist Tamara from Hawthorn Herbals  had a variety of herb related products and was talking about some of the really interesting workshops she’ll be running this year.

Green Wheel Farm with sunfloweer sprouts at Pictin Seedy Saturday

Green Wheel Farms and a tray of sunflower sprouts.  They had a variety of micro greens including cabbage, mustard and pea and are keen to share the story of their Belleville off-grid (ie bicycle powered), sustainable farming operation that uses reclaimed urban land to help educate and provide micro greens to local schools.

It’s Seedy Saturday Time!

Hollyhock seeds

Hollyhock Seeds (Alcea rosea) – I have a lot of these packaged and ready to share.

While I’ve spent the past six weeks with my head in the snow and my body in front of a cozy fire, other gardeners have been busy planning for the 2018 growing season.   Yes, I’ve received and perused a few seed catalogues, with their glowing descriptions and lovely pictures of the wonders that could show up in my garden, but I haven’t ordered anything.

That’s because for me, the growing season starts in earnest with Seedy Saturday – the day when local(ish) seed sellers and gardeners set up tables and displays in a school gym or community hall to sell or, better yet, swap seeds.  Some of my favourite annuals, perennials and vegetables have come from a Seedy Saturday table:  Echinacea pallida, Silphium perfoliatum, Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato, Alcea rosea…. the list goes on.

For County dwellers, the Picton Seedy Saturday is next Saturday, February 24!  Trenton is March 24, Cobourg March 17, Kingston March 10… You can check out Seedy Saturday dates for the whole province (or country) on the Seeds of Diversity website — in fact, check out the whole site.  It has a ton of great information about seed saving and starting.

In the Toronto area – the first Seedy Saturday is this Saturday at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.Others, from Scarborough to Etobicoke and points in between,  follow throughout February and March.

Often these events are more than just tables of seeds – there are educational displays, talks by professionals and lots of information sharing.  It really is the perfect opportunity to get the gardening juices flowing after a long cold winter, to meet and share stories with other enthusiastic gardeners and to discover new plant varieties.

So mark you calendar, I hope to see you there!

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

Echinacea pallida July 8 2017

Pale Purple Coneflower – Echinacea pallida – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

Silphium perfoliatum July 29 2017

Cup Plant – Silphium perfoliatum – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

 

Daylily Dreamin’

Bonibrae Daylilies 7

Bonibrae Daylilies

Daylilies (Hemerocalis spp) started to bloom in early June in my back garden.  Well, one lovely tall spidery lemon yellow variety of daylily anyway.  The common orange ‘ditch daylily’ started to open July 1, as they do every year.  Stella d’Oro about three weeks ago and the rest, large brash colourful varieties, just this past week.

I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about daylilies but I do really like them.  A lot.  They’ll grow almost anywhere and bloom reliably given enough sunlight.  They are drought tolerant once established (long, fleshy tubourous roots helps them get through dry periods), deer and rabbits don’t find them tasty and, best of all, can be used in multiples ways.

Want a wide swath of specific colour?  Have a micro garden that needs a flash of brightness?  Want to savour a light fragrance in the evening?  Want to surprise visitors with a bizarre shape or colour combination next to a well traveled garden path?

Daylilies can do it all.

A neighbour and I visited Bonibrae Daylilies, just north of Bloomfield,  over the weekend.  Next to a small grove of ancient maple trees, Barry & Margaret Matthie maintain about an acre of daylilies, carefully cultivated in well mulched rows.  The maples provide welcome shade for visitors and the many varieties of Hosta they also sell. Barry hybridizes and grows from seed the daylilies in their fields and sells them either in person or via mail to aficionados across the continent  – most of the plants in the field are $15 each for a very generous size clump lifted by Barry for you; a few of the more rare varieties can be $100 – a price not uncommon for collectors.

For me, the glory of this nursery is experienced wandering through the rows of daylilies,  marveling at the colours and shapes, whiffing the occasional sweet scent and imagining where, in your own garden, you can add one of these beauties.

For the next few weeks the nursery is open almost every day – if you’re contemplating getting a daylily this is the place to visit.  Even if you’re not a gardener, this is a place to visit – think of it as a living art gallery – a place to overload your ocular sensors  on a warm summer day.

Star of the Show

As the growing season progresses I find that some plants, even amongst dozens that may be blooming, steal the show.  Lilac and Lupin in spring.  Sunflowers (seeds sown late to ensure autumn flowers) and Asters in the fall and, before the bright orange Rudbeckia starts, the tall and serene majesty of Hollyhocks.

They’ve just starting blooming this past week in The County and you’ll see them in ditches and gardens everywhere.  In the garden, they can provide a screen for something you want to hide.  They can be a dramatic focal point to a driveway entrance.  They can stand alone, in a clump, at the side of the road – a colourful distraction for Sunday drivers.

My favourite Hollyhocks are the ones I start from seed collected from friends’ and neighbours’ gardens.  It just means more to see them sprouting from the soil.  The waiting for the second year (because Hollyhocks are biennial and don’t bloom the first year), to see what colour they are, is worth it.

This year, I’m loving the pastel shades that have appeared for the first time.  The flowers appear so delicate, yet are born on the six and seven foot stalks that make you take a second glance, make you want to walk over to appreciate them better.  And provide motivation to start thinking about collecting seeds for next year.

That’s a show stopper.

pink Hollyhock July 2017yellow Hollyhock July 2017Hollyhock

location, location, location…

Let me confess first that I should have known better.  In fact, I DID know better, yet I did it anyway.  I planted something in a spot I knew was just not suitable, a spot that was already getting a tad overcrowded, didn’t have quite the right requirements, a spot that meant something, sooner rather than later, would need to be moved.

The victims are two pots of Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) I started from seed the winter of 2016.  I was excited to see the seeds offered at Trenton’s Seedy Saturday that year – I remembered studying this plant at school and seeing pictures of HUGE clumps growing in a moist meadow near Ottawa.  Called a Cup Plant because the leaves grow together at the stem to create a cup that catches water, it’s in the Aster family, and the same genus as the Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant) – another favourite. 

Cup Plant - Silphium perfoliatum June 24 2017

Two leaves joining together at the stalk to form a cup

Many bee and butterfly species are attracted to the small sunflower-like yellow flowers and small birds gobble up its seeds in later summer into the fall.

 

But did ya see the word ‘HUGE’ in the previous paragraph?  And the words ‘moist meadow’?  Four to 10 feet tall!!  Clumps six feet across!!  What was I thinking???

After starting them indoors in four inch peat pots then transferring them to one gallon plastic pots, I planted them in the Island Bed – about two feet from a prized  Paeonia tenuifolia (Fernleaf Peony – given to me by a friend many years ago as a root division with a single eye) and three feet from a joyful Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple – which is itself slated to eventually be VERY tall and wide!).  I knew they had to be at the back of something and I didn’t want them to be all by themselves in the middle of the yard, not even the front field where it gets very wet (ie floods) in the spring – something the plant actually appreciates.

In semi-desperation I planted them where I was able, thinking I’d have a few years before they (or their neighbours) would need to be moved.  Alas, this year, their first full year in the ground, the clumps are already about seven feet high — that’s with flowers yet to spring forth from the top!

Lesson Learned (yet again…):  think of the mature size of a plant before planting!

Silphium perfoliatum July 23 2017

The poor Fernleaf Peony is just to the bottom left of the Cup Plant