The Efficiency of Factory Farming

Apparently it’s September.  Every time I look at the calendar it kind of surprises me that the year can fly by so quickly but really?  September?  It’s becoming harder and harder to convince myself that summer won’t end.

potager flowers

The view of the vegetable garden (aka Potager) in early September.

Many people consider September to be an autumn month.  I’m going to assume you know where I stand on that theory.  I bet those same people consider the vegetable garden to be the most appropriate place for growing vegetables,  and not a catch-all spot for all the flowers and shrubs which couldn’t fit into the regular borders and beds.   Neat, productive, raised beds bursting with produce are nice enough, but at this time of year I love the flowery, seedy look of a vegetable garden gone wild, even with all the overgrowth, bugs, and mildew 🙂

canna cannova rose

A sign of the season.  The bold colors say summer but the seed pods and overgrown vines say autumn.  A big spiderweb even sets it up for a halloween look.  In case you’re wondering these are some ‘Cannova Rose’ seedlings which I started this spring just to see how they turn out.  I think it was a success!

There were a few things which did manage to come out of the potager which were worth eating.  Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and loads of zucchini  all somehow managed to find enough room to produce a harvest, as well as a meager crop of onions.  The onions looked so promising in April, but I think they just wanted more sun.

birdfood sunflowers

I was so close to wasting this space on corn.  Instead I bought a few ears at the farmstand and filled the bed with sunflower seedlings which were weeded out from other parts of the garden.  ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranths seedlings became a convenient complement to the sunflowers when I forgot to weed them out after the garlic was harvested.

Now the garden is mostly given over to the annuals which I rip out so religiously in May, but always seem to overlook in June.  The verbena, persicaria, sunflowers, and chrysanthemums quickly take advantage of the opening and I’m always happy to see them thrive.

colchicum x agrippinum

Of course there had to be a few bulbs in here and there as well.  When I crawled in under the sunflowers I found the colchicum x agrippinum patch in full bloom.  I’m a big fan of these late summer bloomers.

I do have plenty of flowering things which were planted on purpose as well.  The colchicums (autumn crocus, naked ladies, meadow saffron) are looking great right now and I can’t help but show a few pictures.  Actually I’m sure you’ll see more pictures in a later post.  For some reason the vegetable beds are where I’ve planted most of them, and even though the companion plantings are haphazard, the flowers themselves are very convenient to admire when planted out this way.

colchicum speciosum

Colchicum speciosum surrounded by mildewed phlox and verbena.  A fresh flower in the middle of all that decay is always such a treat.

Although I planted a few bulbs on purpose (if you can call it that when you’re wandering around with a plant and a trowel and no forethought to where it would go when you bought it) those plants are in the minority.  The most spectacular things invited themselves.

potager flowers

The marigold border and a gifted zinnia were the plan (thanks Kimberley!) and the peppers were the purpose, but the perfection came from self sown verbenas and the intense blue of Browallia americana. 

Up until June I pull out every last ‘Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate’ seedling (Persicaria orientalis).  Their 6+ feet of rapid, vigorous growth tends to intimidate the lettuce but eventually a few are overlooked and before I know it I’m ducking under the dangling chains of dark pink flowers every time I do the garden rounds.

kiss me over the garden gate

Persicaria orientalis towering over the failed onion bed.  For the record purslane and crabgrass had more to do with the underwhelming onion harvest than one too many flower seedlings 😉

The last thing to thrill me in the veggie patch are chrysanthemums.  I love how they and the colchicums wrap up summer around here.

potager flowers

I’m starting to sound like a broken record with the seeding out thing (assuming people still remember what broken records sound like) but even this chrysanthemum came on its own.  I guess that’s what barren soil and general neglect can do… plus the weeding out of nastier things of course.  I love the color and big flowers 🙂  

The back beds of the potager have the worst soil and get the least attention.  During most summers even the weeds struggle to take root since the soil crusts up and most seedlings can’t even get a root down before they die… except for quack grass (similar to couch grass).  I spent a few sweat filled summer afternoons tracing back grass roots and sifting soil, trying to get every last shoot.  Of course I didn’t but at least it’s one battle in this war where I took the upper hand.

hardy garden chrysanthemum

This is the chrysanthemum which started it all.  A seed exchange packet of “collected from ‘Innocence'” survived drought and flood and freeze and still looks great.  It does need a Chelsea chop in June to control floppiness, but that’s all. 

My neighbor put in some excellently neat and tidy raised beds this spring which grew some beautiful beets and salad and armloads of other produce.  His vegetables know their place and his flowers are neatly nestled into orderly mulch beds which surround the house.  My wife was very impressed. I have to admit I liked it as well but just don’t know if I can give up this spontaneous jungle.  Time will tell.

My apologies for not having shown any vegetables in this vegetable garden update.

Why wait for spring?

I’m halfway enjoying fall this year.  Yes, everything is dying, it’s too dry, and we face months of snowy gloom, but right now the fall bulbs are blooming and it’s a little bit of rebirth right before *the end* (sorry but I will never actually look forward to the arrival of winter).  The hardy cyclamen, in this case cyclamen hederifolium, have been blooming for several weeks now.

naturalized cyclamen

I was ambitious this year and spread a little shredded wood mulch around the cyclamen bed. For a while it looked immaculate under the cherry….. but within minutes the dirty little tree resumed its leaf dropping….

Last winter the polar vortex was brutal on these little guys.  Fortunately they’ve shrugged off the foliage loss and act as if nothing at all happened.  I wish I had clearer photos, but out of the dozens of cyclamen pictures I took, these were the only two which came out halfway in focus.  I need a photo mentor who can begin to point out some of my worst mistakes 🙂

hardy cyclamen hederifolium

For me the best thing about these hardy cyclamen hederifolium are the leaf patterns, but the flowers aren’t too shabby either….

Cyclamen are the best, but colchicums follow at a close second.  Actually the colchicums do put on a more impressive show, but it’s all or nothing with these ladies, and ends more quickly than the slow and steady cyclamen display.

colchicum flower bed

Most of my favorite colchicums are together in this bed. It’s bone dry (the third gooseberry bush actually died this summer) but the bulbs seem right at home.

I’ve devoted the way-too-dry-for-vegetables end of the veggie patch to colchicums and daffodils, and they seem happy enough here, but as the garden grows I’m thinking there might be something better to do with this spot for the other 11 months of the year.  Amaranthus once filled the bed, but the soil was too dry for them to survive this summer.

colchicum '‘Harlekijn’ 'Harlequin'

New this year, colchicum ‘‘Harlekijn’ is what I’d call “interesting”. Most pictures show more pink to the bloom, but that might change from year to year. Overall I like the curious rolled (or quilled) petals and they do make for something ‘different’ 🙂

The few colchicums I have planted in the meadow seem just as happy and to my eye look a little more comfortable growing amongst the barely green grass.  In fact the only bulb of colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ to bloom for me is this one planted in the lawn.

colchicum autumnale 'Pleniflorum'

The colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ planted in the official colchicum bed don’t bother blooming. This one in the lawn seems marginally more happy and is even gracing us with the sprouting of a second flower bud.

The (I think ) ‘Lilac Wonder’ planted in the lawn is possibly my favorite colchicum.  It blooms long, large, and heavily and makes quite the pool of color.  I’m thinking next summer might see a lot of these moving around, since they’ve multiplied like rabbits and are ready for dividing, but it’s not something I want to tackle this fall.

colchicum 'lilac wonder' in lawn

Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ growing happily in the (now mowed) meadow.

You might be wondering why I’m even talking about moving flowering bulbs in the fall.  According to what I’ve read and heard (and done) colchicums are ok to move while in bloom.  It’s probably better to wait till the foliage dies in the summer and the bulbs are dormant, but I’m more of a do it while you remember kind of guy, and it’s much easier (and more fun) to move them while in bloom.  You can’t always be a slave to your plants you know, and every now and then they have to just suck it up and deal with things at a less than perfect time.

tranplanting colchicum in bloom

This unknown clump of colchicums which I call “not the giant” comes from a single stray bulb left behind from the last digging. It’s in full bloom and the roots have just begun to sprout from the base of the corm…. even in soil so dry I could have used a dust mask while digging.

Obviously you want to take a little care with the roots while planting, but to be honest I was more concerned about snapping off the blooms.  Instant gardening is what I call this, and the bulbs were planted individually right under the turf without any soil prep.

naturalized colchicum in lawn

Two days later the blooms look as fresh as the day I dug them. After being planted into more bone dry soil… and not even watered while transplanting… this will be a true test of how well colchicum handle autumn transplanting. We’ll revisit next fall!

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening is a truly addicted colchicum lover (I’m just a dabbler), and her recent post on how colchicums know when to bloom asks a lot of the same questions I have.  They’re growing in soil so hard and dry I don’t even know how the roots penetrate the soil, yet they do, and cyclamen perform a similar trick.  Somehow these bulbs seem to have an odd internal clock that just goes off one day and they start growing.  Maybe it’s better I just ignore this heavy thinking and stick to enjoying the blooms, so here’s one last flower to end the post.  Not hardy, it’s one of those odd things that find their way into your online cart and then surprise you when you’ve forgotten all about that weak moment with a gift certificate.

bessera elegans flower

A fascinating flower shape, bessera elegans also comes in a rare deep purple. Mine are just blooming and I love it. Keep in mind though that the foliage is a floppy mess of green. Imagine thin dark green daffodil leaves so spineless they can’t lift themselves up off the ground and you have an accurate picture.

So fall flowers are off to a strong start.  I wish I had an autumn snowdrop to go with them, but I fear I’ve killed off my one bulb.  Obviously I don’t want to talk about it :/

 

Did I do that?

This box showed up on my doorstep Friday and it’s bursting at the seams with colchicum flowers!  The wise gardener orders these bulbs well in advance of autumn so that this scene takes place in the well prepared garden bed, but the procrastinating gardener takes the risk and begs via email for a late order and shipment.colchicums blooming before planting

I may have gone through this kind of poor planning before, so the bare-bulb blooms are no big surprise or worry, but the show would have been ten times better had the bulbs already been planted.  But this order was the result of panic.  A couple weeks ago I realized I didn’t have anywhere near as many colchicums as a self respecting colchicum lover should have, so I immediately went to Daffodils and More, David Burdick’s bulb website.  He dabbles in the colchicums, has an excellent selection, and after a couple emails back and forth I was able to convince him to part with a few, even though they were already headed into blooming stage (as you can see, they don’t need soil or planting in order to bloom!).  They arrived at my doorstep even before my check was cashed and I have to say they’re the best cared for colchicums I have ever received.  Instead of looking worse for their journey they’re already planted in the ground and settling in.  newly planted colchicums

I was halfway tempted to keep them in the box and have them close enough to examine day or night while blooming, but better judgment won out and they were planted the next day.  I just need some groundcover ideas.  Some nice companion plantings would surely make this bed look even better as the bulbs clump up.

This info might be a little too late, but I noticed Brent and Becky’s bulbs just put their colchicums on sale for 50% off. It’s a great deal (and the source of many of my own bulbs) but most have already sold out…. but there are a couple left, and it’s not that I want to encourage any late season colchicum incidents in your own garden, but colchicum byzantinum and colchicum ‘giant’ are two of my favorites……