Lavenders in Bloom

June 5th, 2017

L. stoechas 'Marshwood', 'Helmsdale' & 'Otto Quast' blooming.

L. stoechas ‘Marshwood’, ‘Helmsdale’ & ‘Otto Quast’ blooming.

Despite the cold start to the season, the lavenders have begun to bloom.  And the L. stoechas are the first to bloom in the Pacific Northwest.  They are not particularly hardy but if the soil drains really well, they will get through most of our winters, although this past winter was a bit of a challenge for them.  I hold with pruning in the late summer as opposed to waiting until early spring because lavenders are less likely to become misshapen and broken by snow if they have been pruned and shaped a bit.  These lavenders have recovered nicely.

This lavender is a self seeder.    Normally i would pull them up but I'm glad I left this one.

This lavender is a self seeder. Normally I would pull them up but I’m glad I left this one.

Dead or Alive

April 17th, 2017

One example of numerous dead brugmansias in the greenhouse.

One example of numerous dead brugmansias in the greenhouse.

It’s mid march and slowly warming up.  I am now looking hopefully at my plants for signs of growth but instead I am seeing what looks like a fair number of dead plants. First off, in the greenhouse, which is heated during cold spells, it looks like all of my brugmansias have died. A couple of these plants I have had for more than 10 years. and it’s not like this is the first cold winter we’ve had, but it requires a fine balance to heat a small greenhouse in the winter.  Too much heat and there are more mildew problems or weak growth, too little and plants die. The brugmansia-about eight of them-look dead to me, but I won’t write them off yet.

In the garden several lavenders look a little unhappy as well. Actually dead. But I know lavenders can look almost dead and then I am amazed how they leaf up and bush out. Looking at these ‘dead’ plants there doesn’t seem to be logic to what may have died. In the front of our property, where the growing conditions are quite harsh because of the wind and lack of soil, the lavenders look ok.

I don't actually hold out any hope for these lavenders.

I don’t actually hold out any hope for the two lavenders on the right.

They never grow very lush on that part of the property but they have definitely survived this winter. In a bed of five lavenders, under the sheltering branches of a fir tree, four of the lavenders look the healthiest of all the lavenders on my property whereas the fifth looks dead. And the dead one is the lavender I would have pegged as the hardiest of the five. Likewise, here and there, more lavenders look dead but I will wait before pulling them up. In a normal winter, maybe one will die but often not.

Even my rhododendrons have not been spared. A couple have died and several have been misshapen by the heavy late snow. Foxgloves too. A potentially beautiful self seeded patch thrived in their first summer last year, and I was so looking forward to the display this year. All dead. And I have already

Brugmsansia showing signs of life after all.

Brugmsansia showing signs of life after all.

pulled up a whole bed of strawberry plants that looked like they had root rot although they were planted in a tiered bed and in what I would have considered well draining soil. Sigh.

Note: this blog did not get posted when I wrote it, so now, three weeks later, I am so happy to see signs of life on two of my brugmansias. They definately won’t  bloom as they did in previous years but at least I can take some cuttings and look forward to healthy, robust plants in a couple of years.

 

 

And some plants have not only survived but are putting out their best.

 

armandi clamatis at sunset

This armandi clamatis is not particularly hardy but the foliage and roots are sheltered by the eaves on the studio roof. A stunning show as usual.

 

Spring Chores

March 28th, 2017

After a cold start to march–more snow–it looks like we can finally get our hands into the soil. I had already got out in February and planted some onion sets in my home garden but my garden at the commons was still covered then in snow. So last weekend, being dryish, I was able to plant onion sets down there. I was glad I had managed to prepare the onion bed when I was planting garlic in the fall as the heavy rainfall before winter set in, prevented me from getting back down there to clean up and the soil right now is way too wet to work. I am embarrassed to show you the plot but here it is.

Commons garden plot

My plot is dry compared to many others but still way to wet to work in.

The plots in this section of the commons are about 200 square feet so not large, but still large enough to haul out an amazing amount of produce. I plant the bulk of my tomatoes for canning here and mostly veggies that can handle a bit of neglect. The plot is very close to my home and it’s easy to run up and harvest items when wanted.

Looking at the plot on the weekend I wondered how I would plant it this year. I really like changing a garden around which is a bit difficult to do when you have permanent raised beds. At home I satisfy this need for change by moving perennial plants around ie. in the fall I moved a dwarf apple tree from the back of the garden to the front. I plant herbs in the borders, then I move them all out a couple of years later. Flowers in, then flowers out. I double up raised beds and then I might tier a couple. I take out some wood beds and replace them with stones. And I use pots. So, it’s subtle, but it’s always changing a bit.

garden planThe commons garden isn’t big enough for real design but it is still possible to have a bit of fun with it.In the fall I decided that I would remove half of my permanent beds but, before I could finish, the rains set in and put an end to my efforts. What I will do now is just use boards and rebar and fashion the beds as I need them. It’s a bit more work but not big space.  So here is my plan for this year.  Maybe not so much a plan as a guide. My gardens always have a main path that allows for a wheelbarrow and then the feeder paths might be narrower but not so narrow that I have to balance on one foot and a hand while trying to weed.

And finally, back to my home garden where I have been able to move a few things from the sometimes heated greenhouse to the totally unheated greenhouse which means I can utilize my propagating stand for its intended purpose. Flats with peppers, more onions, leeks, and then tomatoes have all been seeded. In the garden, buds are starting to swell on the dwarf fruit trees, rhubarb is poking above the soil and the strawberries plants are looking a little denuded without their dead leaves but perky after their cleanup. Now we move forward into my favourite time of the year.

 

Enough Already!

February 24th, 2017

On feb 1st I started writing a blog about how excited I get when the calendar turns to february; the month I think of as the return to two digit temperatures and noticeably longer days. But it was cold. A couple of days later it snowed, and it snowed the next day and a couple of days after that still more snow. Then it just was plain freezing for another week.

My garden lay buried for a good two weeks. In feb!

My garden lay buried for a good two weeks. In feb!

We got a reprieve for a few days when the rains moved in and finally washed away the snow but not until the snow absorbed tons of moisture and and broke limbs on trees and splayed shrubs. Then I think ok, that’s it, and it was nice for a couple of days, but it got cold again. Today it snowed. And it’s cold tonight and will continue cold. It’s been cold for three months and I am not used to this much cold in a winter. The nights, yes, but the days, especially at this time of year, usually get pleasant, but it’s painful trying to work outside most days. (What a whiny west coaster, eh?).

I want to clean up the garden and to get planting but instead spend my spare time in the studio-not so bad-and wait. On workable days  I get out for a couple of hours and tackle something.  Here is a list of a few things that got done:
– planted some onion seeds and put them on a heat mat in the greenhouse.
– cleaned up the strawberries on dry days (because I didn’t do a final clean up of them in the fall)
– washed pots for use in transplanting
– start transplanting my small potted lavenders into bigger pots (still keeping them in the greenhouse)
– pruned some shrubs and the espaliered apple tree
– manured the rhubarb and raspberries
– picked up a load of manure and many trugs of seaweed

That’s it. Not very impressive compared to my usual feb but at least some chores got scratched off the list.

In a few days it is march, and in a few weeks, the equinox. I am so looking forward to some warmth and some colour.

Bulbs underneath the Pansy tree.

Bulbs underneath the Pansy tree.

Almost enough garden.

December 9th, 2016

Lately I’ve been looking at my garden and thinking how small it is. Even while acknowledging that this is an affliction that hits me every now and then, especially in the winter and early spring, I walk around looking for expansion space on my property. But then I will be reminded of how hard I work to process all the produce and herbs that do come from my existing garden. Like tonight we had our evening plans cancelled-which included supper out-because of the snow, so we quickly settled on a pasta meal.  That meant into the pantry to pull a jar of tomato sauce from the shelf along with an onion and a garlic from last summer’s garden. Then from the spice drawer, dehydrated oregano and parsley also from the garden.  Allowed to simmer for a bit, it became a great sauce with that still fresh tomato flavour and I thought of the 200 pounds of tomatoes I had skinned, cut, drained, simmered for an hour or so then froze or canned. That was a lot of work. And that was just the tomatoes. More space would mean I would plant more. But what I have keeps me very busy. It is enough garden.

Well, almost enough.

lemon & poppy seeds

After supper I set about making some muffins for the next day. I really wanted bran muffins but we were out of honey, so I thought of the poppy seed I had finally got around to sifting earlier in the day. I also knew that one of my lemon bushes had some beautiful lemons on it. So it was going to be lemon and poppy seed muffins. I grabbed the flashlight and set out in the snow for the greenhouse and returned to the kitchen with a plump lemon. An hour later I had a rack of delicious smelling muffins.

lemon & poppy seed muffins

Yum!

 

We’re Back!

December 3rd, 2016

I’m glad november is done as it’s a hard month for me, especially when the rain never seems to end. The studio helps me get through the first of the three dark months. Even on the dullest day, I can easily spend hours working with glass, pulling pieces from my bins, cutting and fitting and be completely oblivious to what’s going on outside my studio window. Now it’s december and I will continue to work in my studio but already I am feeling more up as the big day in December creeps closer–which for me is the 21st.

And a few days ago, something else happened that cheered me up. I got Potagerway back from the hackers. I won’t go into details except that I did not expect to see it again but thanks to the generous efforts of someone, my website was restored. To scroll through the web postings and pictures of the garden makes me excited to start planning for 2017.

So not much is happening in the garden right now but once again I will post a picture of Lavendula multifidia which thrives in the PNW fall. This picture was taken a month ago but the lavender was still going strong when I dug it up two days ago, as we are expecting a cold spell.  Although it is a tender plant, it handles being dug up, potted up and placed in the cool greenhouse for the winter.  After the last spring frost, a light prune and then back into the ground.  Lavendula multifidia does not have a pleasant scent and some may think it’s a bit unruly-although I like that-but the flowers are a bright blue and an interesting shape, and are plentiful.Lavendula multifidia

Planting Dates

May 6th, 2016

I love spring when everything suddenly comes back to life.

I love spring when everything suddenly comes back to life.

Several weeks ago I was planting carrots. Using my favourite tool – I don’t know what it is called – I dragged it down the carrot bed multiple times. Had my carrot name stakes all made up and started filling the rows with seeds then I reigned myself in. It was still march and maybe I should stop at just a few rows and in a couple of weeks do another few and another few a couple of weeks after that. It is so easy to barrel ahead in the spring when the first bit of warm weather arrives. And I almost always push my planting dates but I do know that spring weather is inclined to be fickle.

In early April I had two separate conversations with newbie veggie gardeners. They had both planted their squash and cucumbers in march and our conversations went something like “What are you going to do with them? It’s a bit cold yet to put them out.” “Well, I’ll just keep them in their pots for now.” “Um, I don’t think they will be very happy in their pots for a month or so.” “A month?” “They like it warm. Really warm.” “Well, I’ll probably plant them soon.” “OK. But there’s a good chance you’ll have to replant them.” “Replant?” “Well, maybe you’ll get lucky; it might be a warm spring.” And so it is.

Too warm actually. And already bone dry here on the island. I haven’t put my squash out yet, but I have planted bush beans outside earlier than ever before. Tomatoes are almost all in the ground and, again, never this early. Everything is just way too ahead. And while I love the sun, I miss the cool spring rains. I’m actually a little sad because the heat is stealing the freshness from spring.

These tomatoes will very quickly outgrow their barn cloches.

These tomatoes will very quickly outgrow their barn cloches.

Winter Colour

January 13th, 2016

I thought I would have a lot of time this winter and hoped to spend some of that time working on my website but I don’t know what happened. Time is just flying by and now my head is seriously into the seed catalogues. I did take pictures on the solstice recording all of the flowers that were still in bloom; this in spite of a quite cold week in november. However, recently, several days of hard frost did do in a few of those plants.

A little raggedy, but not bad for the end of December.

A little raggedy, but not bad for the end of December.

One plant I was very pleased with this fall is the tender Lavendula Multifida. I grow and propagate this species to sell but never even offer it to my customers as, I’ve noticed, people think of lavenders as hardy perennials and as soon as you mention that a lavender plant may succumb to a cold, wet winter, people are disinclined to purchase. This is too bad because there are several lavenders that, with a little care or consideration to planting location, will survive most winters here.

These lavenders just kept putting out their bright blue flowers all through the fall.

These lavenders just kept putting out their bright blue flowers all through the fall.

Anyway, in the late summer when a bit of rain was starting again, I wanted some colour in the garden and planted out a dozen gallon sized multifidas. And they thrived. Now these lavenders are anything but aromatic and they do not look like a common lavender but they bloom all summer and into the fall. They may get a bit untidy but a light prune and they are soon back to blooming. They bloomed all through the fall and even on the solstice were putting out new flowers but the subsequent hard frost was too much for them. I am going to leave them and see if they grow back from their roots in the spring. I did dig up a couple of the multifida before the frost and unceremoniously dropped them into 3 gallon pots and then into the greenhouse. They are still blooming. So if you are looking for something a little different, but hard working, take a chance on some of the tender lavenders.

And finally, as is our tradition now, I went out to the cold greenhouse on Jan 1st and picked a couple of lemons for our New Year’s mousse. Mmm, so yummy.

Lemons under fleece in the cold greenhouse.

Lemons under fleece in the cold greenhouse.

The Chicken Pen Composter

November 11th, 2015

Yup, they are already loving it!

Chicken Pen Composter

I don’t know where summer went except I know I was terribly busy. The hot summer brought all of September’s harvesting activities into August and then the showers and cooler September weather slowed everything down, although the self seeders burst into life and bloom.

Huge borage plants sprang up almost overnight.

Huge borage plants sprang up almost overnight.

Finally, I just had to admit that was it, and take everything down so maybe 20 pounds of mostly green tomatoes were on our kitchen counter and slowly being eaten as they ripened. Today, so many were ripe, that they were cut and then roasted with a bit of onion and garlic for tomorrow’s pasta sauce (and some for the freezer). Otherwise all the carrots and potatoes have been cleaned up for storage, basil blended with a bit of oil and frozen, peppers reluctantly cut and frozen as well. They were the best peppers ever this year and I hated not being able to keep them fresh, but I will enjoy them in soups and stews.
So many delicious peppers this year.

So many delicious peppers this year.

One thing I am focusing on right now is putting every bit of organic matter I can into the raised beds because there was not enough water retention in most of the soil this year. Even though mulched and well watered, the veggies wilted. So I am composting directly into the beds – green stuff, seaweed, manure with a layer of straw on top. And, of course, my compost bins are full of the fall cleanup stuff. Recently I have been reading a book – Permaculture for the Rest of Us by Jenni Blackmore – and she describes a chicken composter. The compost is right in the chicken run but in a 5 x 5 shallow wood bin so that the chickens can do their stuff with it and then it can be cleaned out and put in the conventional compost to complete. Great idea as we frequently throw grass, hay, big greens, etc into the pen and it gets picked over, then scattered everywhere. We made a bin today and hauled it up to the run and the chickens came running over to investigate but were a little underwhelmed. Wait till I start filling it. Tomorrow I’m going down the road for a truck load of leaves and instead of putting it in a wire composter for a year, it’s going straight into the chicken composter.

And, to finish, a picture of the last of my lavenders to bloom. Fred Boutin is a late bloomer and flowers often have to be cut off if one does a fall pruning of lavender – which i do. So it was the last of the lavenders to get cleaned up this year.

A late blooming lavender.  Check out the grass in the background, such a sad backdrop at the time, but it is bright green again.

A late blooming lavender. Check out the grass in the background, such a sad backdrop at the time, but it is bright green again.