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Garden journal - all of 2012

 

as you can see, spiders find their way into my stash of recycled pots...
March 03, 2012. OK, so it's been a disgracefully long time since I've written here. I was going to post an update after the freak Halloween snowstorm hit and took out large parts of our curly willows (among other things) – but the photos were on Amy's camera, and I never got around to pulling them over. That event pretty much spelled the end of the season: whatever outside time was available in November was taken up by lopping off the destroyed branches (using a newly acquired electric chainsaw), chopping the bigger bits up into firewood and kindling, and clearing out all of the other storm debris. Somehow, a fitting end to a gardening season that started to go south from July onward. As a result of the generally cool and wet conditions in late summer and fall, I didn't get around to much seed collecting – which in turn meant I did hardly any seed trading. Without the enticement of lots of new varieties to try, my seed-starting season got off to a slow start, but I'm glad to report that by now it has kicked into gear. Following shipments from the HPS/MAG and NARGS seed exchanges (with lots more coming soon from the NARGS surplus round!), I have six shoplights in action to keep the various seedlings happy and growing. The rest of them will go into service soon.
So let's start off this year's round of journaling with my traditional seedling picture. In this case, seedlings of Amphicarpaea bracteata, whose enticing common name is American hog peanut. This is one of those plants that I've managed to grow from seed successfully on several occasions, but have never grown to maturity. A common problem with vines, for me: they don't belong in my nursery area (where there is nothing to climb), so I set the seedlings out in various other garden areas, usually out of the way, where I won't remember to give them some water in times of drought, or make sure that they grow clear of their rapidly growing neighbors once the busy time of late spring comes around. But I'm going to do my best this year to follow the progress of the hog peanut sisters. They are native to moist woods of the northeastern United States, where they show off their clusters of pretty pale pink flowers. My garden doesn't much resemble moist woods, but I'm going to try to keep them happy as best I can.

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March 04, 2012. I think it's about two years ago that I started working on a page about the different species of Digitalis that our garden has harbored through the seasons. Things got in the way, and the partially finished page just languished in linkless webspace. Finally, I found the time this week to put the finishing touches on the article, which now joins its neighbors celebrating the clans of amsonia, thalictrum, geranium, and scutellaria. As with those others, I hope to expand and refine the content of the article as my experience with the foxgloves grows. If you've not yet grown many of the species described, I suggest you try a few new ones!

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Sarcococca hookeriana
March 17, 2012. Fragrance eludes me. I'm olfactorily challenged. While many gardeners go to great lengths to plan and build fragrance gardens, and describe the multitudes of sweet scents wafting their way as they amble through their gardens, for me the sense of smell is mostly an afterthought. I don't know why – I don't seem to have trouble spotting (and enjoying) the smell of fresh bread being baked in a nearby bakery, or the sinful scent of a Cinnabon outlet. Perhaps the sensitivity of my nose is tied closely to the satisfaction receptors in my stomach – which probably wouldn't much appreciate a meal of lilacs. In any case, I find my enjoyment in gardening elsewhere, but I sometimes feel like I'm missing out. Like with sweet box, whose creamy white little flowers have appeared early this year. They aren't much to look at, but many horticulturists wax poetically about their sweet scent. I put it to the test today, and found I had to stick my nose just about right up to the flowers to discern the fragrance. It was sweet, indeed, but unlikely to charm me from a distance. Oh well, I'll continue to enjoy the visual, tactile, and gustatory delights of my garden – along with the olfactory ones that are so powerful that they defeat my scent defenses (some roses come to mind, as do the aforementioned lilacs).
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March 22, 2012. It's not often that Amy likes something in the garden enough that she comes to fetch me from a far corner of the yard to point it out to me – so when she does, I pay attention! The combination that caught her eye this evening, just before dusk set in, was a low-growing assembly of Puschkinia scilloides and myrtle spurge, planted underneath a viburnum in our front yard that is just barely starting to leaf out. The squill has been there for years, from a long-ago bag of mixed bulbs, while the spurge seeded itself in that position (as it does in many places near its mother plant in our rock garden). In our garden, early spring bloomers usually act solo, surrounded by barren garden areas – so it's nice to see a duo working together so nicely.
The weather has been amazing for over a week now, with short-sleeve temperatures from dawn to dusk. That means that gardening has started early, which is fine by me. I'd be delighted if the early-season warmth was offset by some mid-July coolness!
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March 25, 2012. Assessing winter damage – an annual spring ritual in the garden. I start so many species from seed every year, including ones that aren't quite hardy or that need the sharpest drainage to survive, that probably fewer than half of my new attempts are successful. This past winter was exceptionally mild, which gave marginally hardy plants a leg up on survival – but for some reason, frost heaving was more of a problem in our nursery area than I remember it being in years past. Nearly all of the vinyl-blind plant markers lay strewn about in the nursery beds, leaving me to guess which plants they belong to – if in fact there still are plants; there's an awful lot of bare ground, which may be due as much to the drought - wet double-punch of last year's summer and fall as to anything winter wrought. The photo here is of a barely surviving Bergeranthus jamesii; as ugly as it is in this heaved-up, freeze-discolored state, it's actually a triumph, because this plant is not rated as hardy to our normally zone 6 garden. In the next few weeks, as more of last year's seedlings make their re-appearance, I'll be taking inventory and moving them "live" to areas of the garden that need sprucing up. There are many of those, so I have my work cut out for me!
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March 28, 2012. When I overhauled the rock garden a few years ago, I constructed the south-facing side as a fairly steep slope, with just narrow slots of planting space between the upward rocks. My aim was to establish drought- and heat-tolerant plants that would appreciate excellent drainage on that side of the garden. This spring, the vision is coming to some sort of fruition: the sedums, sempervivums, eryngium venustum, and penstemons are doing a nice job of filling the spaces, with some fine cascading action. The photo also highlights the fact that, due to my rock selection strategy (pick up any rock you can find at construction sites etc.), the rock garden isn't exactly convincing replica of a natural mountainscape. But for now, I'm content with the performance of the plants. If only the finnickier species reserved for the north and east sides of the garden would prove as hardy and resilient, I'd have it made!
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March 29, 2012. Disaster strikes! The warm early-spring weather colluded with an overnight freeze into the mid-20s to do in the flowers and buds on our hybrid magnolias - the Betty shown in this picture as well as Elizabeth. The latter was already severely damaged by our freak Halloween snowstorm last year, which severed its main header as well as several main branches, so that it only seems fitting that the flower display is aborted this spring. Betty will rebloom sporadically throughout the year; I hope that Elizabeth will once again grow into a graceful small tree as years of new growth erase the damage done last fall. For now, she has all the grace of a gangly teenager covered in zits!
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April 08, 2012. We interrupt our programming for this brief message (sounds like a nice event!):

April Johnson, Landscape and Garden Visionary of Rodale Institute, will give a talk called “Creating Backyard Water Gardens” on Thursday, April 26th at 6:30PM at the Lower Macungie Township Community Center located at 3450 Brookside Rd., Macungie. She will demonstrate how to create your own backyard water oasis. Learn how to create a water feature from whiskey barrels. She will talk about plants, fish and frogs, water quality, and how to keep your pond healthy throughout all seasons. There will also be a slideshow of larger water features to get your creative juices flowing, and plenty of time for questions and answers. Come to this presentation and see what water gardens can bring to your backyard. Lower Macungie Library is sponsoring this event. Please register at the library’s circulation desk or contact the library at 610-966-6864.
 

April 15, 2012. April: time for combing through the plants that survived summer and winter in my nursery areas (disappointingly few, this year), and finding places for them in the various garden areas. For the most part, that's not a hard thing to do, since last season left so many holes in the garden beds. But the little ones, which can really only go into the rock garden (or get lost as soon as bigger neighbors in the regular borders overpower them) can be harder to place. So I decided to use a little hypertufa trough to house a few of them (a couple different species of miniature limonium, a bergeranthus, and edraianthus, and a cluster of unknown alliums). I've never really tried planting in troughs (and I'll need something bigger if I want to be more serious about it), but I hope that this will allow me to keep these little guys alive for up close inspection (and maybe winter protection). It doesn't look like much for now, but if the experiment is at least half-way successful, I'll be posting an update here a bit later in the year. Fingers crossed.
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April 23, 2012. The double take. You think you spot a plant with a very interesting flower: it's a different color than usual, or much smaller, or appears at the wrong time of year. Only upon closer inspection is it obvious that the flower belongs to a different plant, which has sneakily commingled with its more obvious neighbor to a surprising effect. Some gardeners specialize in making these things happen on purpose: they grow clematis vines into shrubs to make it seem like the shrubs are in glorious outerworldly bloom when the clematis flowers open, or they painstakingly ensure that neighboring plants in the border mingle and combine well. As for me, any double takes occur by accident – usually a happy accident. In my old age, I may become better at planning how my garden unfolds through the seasons, but for now I'm content to tuck plants into pockets where I hope they will do well, without much regard for how they'll look with their neighbors. Yesterday's double take came courtesy of a few flowers of candytuft, several stems of which had interloped with a nicely mounded germander (which blooms in a shade of lavender or purple, never white). Hardly spectacular, but worth a getting up close and personal with the combination, and made me chuckle.
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In time, the plants should fill out so they take up more of the interrock space
April 27, 2012. All of my perennial seedlings spend their first season in my orchard nursery area, to grow to a large enough size to survive in one of the regular garden areas (or into the plant sale, as the case may be). The nursery area is divided into about 20 sections by rows of bricks, which makes it easier for me to record and recall which plants I've placed where. It also conveniently divides the area into sections with more or less sun exposure, and better or poorer drainage. The two areas with most sun exposure are where most of my smaller rock garden plants start out their outdoor life. To accommodate their wishes for excellent drainage, I've amended the soil in those sections with sand and grit. Sure enough, the drainage is pretty good – but that brings the opposite problem: keeping them supplied with enough moisture through the hottest weeks of summer. Rock gardening is not synonymous with xeriscaping: many of those little plants appreciate and require a regular supply of water, which can be difficult to provide in a free-draining, unmulched expanse of sun-soaked garden. Partly as a consequence of this (but also due to the fact that even the best draining soil cannot make up for the winter conditions in Pennsylvania, which aren't friendly to plants requiring dry crowns through winter), I lose more than half of the plants I set into these sections every year. What's worse, the soil conditions are perfect for frost-heaving my plant markers (strips of vinyl blinds), so that in early spring I get to look at something resembling the aftermath of Mount St. Helens' eruption: tags laying criss-cross everywhere across the bed, with little indication of what should be where. This spring, I decided to try something new: I broke up a bunch of flat bluestone rocks left over from garden pathway projects into irregular pieces a few inches on a side, and have started placing these shards around the seedlings as I'm setting them out. I also make sure to stick the plant markers all the way down into the soil, and setting a shard on top of them. The effect, I hope, will be to provide a mulch of sorts for the small plants; one that doesn't collect water as organic mulches do, and that won't get incorporated into the rest of the soil as pebble or gravel mulches would. But it should still serve prevent evaporation, thereby keeping the soil underneath the rocks cooler and moister, while allowing all the water that lands onto the bed (from rain or overhead watering) to find its way into the soil. Meanwhile, I hope the rocks will keep those plant markers in place through winter. Of course I won't know if this is just a waste of time till much further into the season – and the final verdict won't come until next spring. For now, it just looks like a strange patchwork of rocks. Which suits me fine.
The smallish area shown in the photo holds a surprisingly large number of plants, including anemones, several species of draba, penstemon, and limonium, and erigeron.
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the onion forest
May 07, 2012. I think it was two years ago that I planted some Egyptian walking onion (sent to me in a generous trade) as well as some 'He Shi Ko' Japanese bunching onion (grown from seed). I left them in place to observe their habit (especially the walking onion, which I'd heard much about) last year, and was duly amused. This spring, the vegetable garden was a giant mess – awful perennial weeds such as mugwort, bindweed, and thistles run rampant through the fertile soil, undeterred by the mulch I applied in fall, and took a good few hours to beat into submission (actually, I'm still working on some parts of it). But one section of the garden looked vibrant and bountiful: the onion forest. In the photo here, the walking onions are on the left, and the ones just opening their puffy flowers in the back are the bunching onions. Alas, as good as they looked, I couldn't justify keeping them in place (I don't actually find much use for them in the kitchen), so I moved just a couple of each to a smaller corner of the garden, and reclaimed the segment for other veggies. Perhaps my fun new assortment of peppers: I finally paid a visit to Meadowview Farms in Bowers, the storied Mennonite operation that offers hundreds of different varieties of hot and sweet peppers (as well as other vegetables and garden staples) for sale. Upon returning, I found that I was so taken by the interesting varieties that I sort of forgot to buy a few plain old jalapenos. Oh well, I'll make some creative culinary substitutions this summer!
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May 12, 2012. First significant butterfly sighting of the year. On an early morning stroll through the garden, this red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) alighted on a boulder in our curve garden, and sat there sunning itself for a while. Conveniently, I was on my round of garden photography, so I snapped a few pictures. Although I've seen its kind before, red admirals aren't the most common butterflies to visit the Lush Gardens. Judging by the state of its left wing, this one has been flying around for a few days. I'm glad it chose our garden as its hangout for part of its short life span!

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May 15, 2012. Columbines are marvellously promiscuous. Through the years, I've grown numerous species, along with some named varieties of common columbine, and most likely some hybrids. Their volunteer offspring is always welcome, and for the most part the results are predictable: the majority of seedlings turn out to be Nora Barlow-type doubles in shades of plum or purple, or in a white/pink bicolor. Sometimes, we're charmed by a more traditionally shaped bicolor. But every so often, something really surprising shows up. So it was this spring, when the plant in this photo turned up (uninvited, but oh so welcome) at the front of our driveway bed. It's not exactly like any variety we've grown, although if I had to guess at its ancestry I'd include our purple Nora Barlow and the curiously shaped 'Cap de Rositier' as parents. Regardless of how it came to be, I'm wowed by the neat arrangement of the petals, as well as the quite subtle two-tone purple coloration. I'd be delighted if this one decides to produce look-alike children!
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June 01, 2012. Double take, take two. While the original double take I posted a few weeks ago is amazingly still hanging on, a new one popped up in a different part of the garden. Our driveway bed is home to several thuggish but irresistable (in fragrance, such as chocolate mint, or in cutness, such as alpine strawberry) plants. The most prolific of the bunch is evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa 'Rosea'), which emerges somewhat late in spring (early May, usually), but makes up for it by quickly extending its whispy stems. While those stems are just sturdy enough to stand up on their own, they gratefully accept whatever support they can find from neighboring plants. Then, within a month of waking up, they suddenly burst into bloom and color a large swath of the bed in a pleasant pastel pink. The Russian sage in the photo here is at the left-most extent of the Oenothera's stand, and so I was surprised and amused this week to see what appeared to be a large pink flower sprouting from its upright stem (which isn't due to bloom for some months yet.
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June 03, 2012. Young love. The nodding buds of Allium senescens ssp. montanum var. glaucum (what a mouthful!) are delightful to watch up close; I like the way the stems are sculpted, as if they were extruded from a fanciful playdough pasta maker die, as well as the perfect curves with which they bend around to hang their clusters of tightly shut flowerbuds, still wrapped in translucent membranes, as they prepare to display their pink insides. By then, the flowers will have turned upright to show themselves to the world. The little fly atop this love scene can hardly wait...

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June 08, 2012. When it comes to the cherries, this is one of the good years – no significant fungal problems (which is amazing, considering all the rainy weather we've been having lately), and I got to them before the birds made significant inroads on the crop. I'd been watching them turn a little redder every day, and yesterday I jumped, to get a decent harvest of sour cherries. Hopefully they'll make their way into a cherry pie by the end of the weekend. What I didn't realize until after I brought my bowl of cherries in, was that I had a hitchhiker. The little guy in the photo is most likely a baby cricket. I'm sure he's very well camouflaged when scurrying across a leaf. Across a deep red cherry, not so much.
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June 28, 2012. Just a quick follow-up on the experiment I described two months ago for mulching my rockery nursery area with flat stone. As expected: a) the more vigorous seedlings have filled in nicely, and are starting to cover the flat-rock mulch; b) many finnicky seedlings have unceremoniously passed away, as they always do despite my attempts to provide them just the right conditions, leaving some bare spots among the rock mosaic. So far, I'll call the experiment a success, but the real proof will be in what I find when the garden wakes up next spring.
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August 05, 2012. If you've explored my site in detail, you know that my garden is full of frogs – of the ornamental variety. So when the pump that powered a sad little waterfall in our patio pond gave up the ghost, and we went to buy a replacement at the local home improvement store, my eye fell on a frog-shaped pond fountain on the shelf below. Not high art by any stretch of the imagination, but hey, it spits pretty far, making a much better water-in-the-garden sound than my waterfall ever did. The rest of the little pond is pretty sad right now, having been ignored in recent years. The cattails are falling over each other, and the waterlilies get shaded out too much by neighboring shrubs to do much in the way of flowering. The fish rarely show themselves (we don't feed them, but there's plenty to eat); so the primary points of interest right now are Mr. spitter frog, and his cold-blooded live look-alikes.
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August 11, 2012. Right outside our back door onto the patio runs a strip of border plantings, between the concrete pavers of our patio and the foundation of the house. It's been a messy zone forever, even though it's home to plenty of nice plants. Trouble is, many of them are self-seeding thugs (like the Astrantia major to the left of the door) or spreading-smothering sprawlers (like the Geranium wallichianum to the right). I like 'm all, and I put up with the untidiness without too much grumbling. And every once in a while I'm rewarded with unexpected bits of beauty emerging from the mess. Like the Lobelia gerardii in this picture. It's supposed to be an upright-growing perennial, holding its flowers in vertical succession along the flower stalk. But garden conditions conspired to cause the stalk on this one to grow or lean almost horizontally instead. And see what happened: the secondardy flower stems that normally cluster closely along the central upright took off skyward from the lateral support instead, sending their flowers into a much broader display and generally making for quite a different overall appearance. I'd never plan it that way, but isn't it cool to run into surprises like that from time to time?
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August 14, 2012. This is the second year I've grown Chinese yard-long beans (Vigna unguiculata). The first time around, several years ago, I marveled at the long, deep burgundy pods, and admired the vines as they grew into a teepee in our vegetable garden – but I never got around to eating those beans, partly because I wasn't sure how to make them taste good. I was determined to do better this year, so when the beans started getting to harvest size, I looked up some recipe ideas online, and armed with a few ideas concocted a side dish of cut yard-long beans. Quite simple really: beans cut into pieces of two-three inches long, stir-fried in some vegetable oil with a good bit of minced onion, some garlic, some ground fresh ginger, and soy sauce – and a hot aji chili or two fried along for a few minutes, then discarded.They came out quite tasty – both the ones I harvested with relatively filled-out pods, as the younger pods with barely developed beans had good flavor and texture. Interestingly, the beans stayed purple. I'm used to scarlet runner beans turning green as they are cooked, and the online references I found for yard-long beans suggested that they too would lose their striking color – but at least in this treatment (frying, not boiling), the purple remained. The dish was easy to prepare, so I think we'll be enjoying its flavor a few more times this season: there are plenty more beans on the way.
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August 18, 2012. Speaking of yardlong beans – I've been trying for some time now to capture their flowers in a photograph. At almost any time I've looked, they just show their otherworldly pink-tan pouch buds, which appear in pairs on the vines. One morning, I spotted a single open flower, but when I returned later in the day, it was no longer there. I'd check every morning before work, around sunrise, and every evening after work, but never saw any flowers. Still, there were plenty of beans developing, so obviously flowers were opening and getting pollinated. My tentative conclusion was that the flowers must open in the morning when the sunshine reaches them, and close up some time later in the day. So my chance for seeing flowers had to be on the weekend. Sure enough, this morning I headed out around 8:30, when the first sun rays were peeking over the evergreens in the back of our yard into the vegetable garden, and found exactly one flower open. It's a nice one, too – pity they're so shy.
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September 12, 2012. It must be getting late in the season: my habanero peppers are ripening up! When I first started gardening, I had lots of fun growing all kinds of chile peppers, including each of the different Capsicum species. However, my kids were mostly averse to spicy foods, so I dropped the habit in most recent years, usually growing only a jalapeno plant or two. But this year, I made a stop at a local greenhouse famous for its multitude of pepper varieties, and picked up a few different kinds - including an aji, which makes skinny scarlet-red hot peppers, and for the first time in many years, some habaneros (C. chinense). I selected the 'Chichen Itza' variety, which is supposed to be orange – but it looks more like salmon or peach to me. In any case, I now stand to harvest a nice number of these hot chiles, which of course raises the question: what will I do with them? The answer may very well be "nothing", but if I find some time I'll try to use them to make a roasted-pepper hot sauce, which I did once or twice all those years back. I love habaneros because they have such a distinctive flavor in addition to their heat, and that comes through nicely in the sauce. So yeah, I really should try to find the time to do that.
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September 17, 2012. The side garden is such a mess right now, I seldom make the effort of walking along its congested paths. But yesterday afternoon, camera in hand, I made the trek, slashing through the jungle growth (OK, I exaggerate, but only a bit), to find this lovely view. The photograph doesn't really do it justice, but the sunshine back-lighting the masses of Anemone 'Prince Henry' flowers made magic in this little neglected corner of the garden. It should give me inspiration to do some serious house-cleaning around that area. Somebody remind me of that early next spring, please!

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September 26, 2012. Many of the annuals in our garden don't come into their own until the tail end of the season. That goes for both of the ones seeking attention with their orange-red flowers in this picture, taken in our curve garden. Both have been blooming for a while, but they get better as the season goes on. The Mexican sunflowers always take a while to settle into the garden – no matter how hard I try to keep them happy, they always seem to go into a prolonged sulk after setting them from their seedling pots into the garden. Then they kind of hide while the spring and summer flowers do their thing, until all of a sudden in late summer, there they are, ready to wow. Meanwhile, the Salvia rotundifolia do their thing, growing slenderly upright, weaving in and out of neighboring plants, hardly seen in their green state. They start blooming a little earlier than the Tithonia, but the first flowers appear sparsely on only a few stems. By early fall, they finally attain some color mass. Even though there is no color contrast, I like the combination of the two.
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Blue Pepe
October 10, 2012. Somehow, 2012 turned into the year of the nasturtium, at least from our back patio's perspective. I hadn't routinely grown these charming trailers in quite a few years – usually, by the time it's April, and Tropaeolum comes up on my list of seeds to start, I'm already too overwhelmed with perennial seedlings and other garden duties, and the nasturtium seeds have to linger in my seed box for yet another year. Luckily, they maintain their viability for quite a few years, so when I found myself with a bit more ambition this past April, I started four different varieties, and got some seedlings of each. Not all survived, but the three varieties that did all found their way into clay pots on our patio. They looked attractive there all year, with their elegantly rounded leaves – small and blue-green for the 'Blue Pepe' variety, larger and grassy green for the others. Flowers took their time in arriving, and even when they showed up in summer, there were only one or two flowers open on any plant at any one time. But now, in the final weeks of the garden season, they have stepped up their game, with a much more floriferous display. Sure, some of their leaves are fading, and their neighbors are starting to look bedraggled, but in the rough-and-tumble of the fall garden, that's par for the course. I've enjoyed those nasturtiums this year, and hope to try some more varieties in years to come.

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October 15, 2012. Back when the internet was a new place, scouting around for worthwhile gardening-related content wasn't quite as straightforward as it is today. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I was a member of several gardening communities (I still have fond memories of silly discussions on Delphi's gardening forum), and there were a few sites that I'd find myself visiting regularly to see what had been published (I don't think RSS was around at the time, so I'd just check back every once in a while). One of those sites was Suite101, which featured several entertaining and knowledgeable editors for gardening topics. Among those, my favorite was Marge Talt's 'Gardening in Shade' column, with weekly articles on a variety of toipcs, mostly odes to interesting plants. She did a whole series on aroids (Wild, Wonderful Aroids); for some reason, the one that I found myself returning to quite often was the article on Pinellias, a genus that I knew very little about at the time (and one that still confounds me, I must admit). Earlier this year, when attempting to go back for a few details once again, I found that it was gone – erased from the internet. Well, not erased altogether: the WayBackMachine at Archive.org has archival copies of an astounding number of web pages stashed away, and they still had most of the content from Marge's page. So I tracked down an old email address for Marge, and wrote to ask permission to republish the article. My hopes of the email reaching its destination were dim, but lo and behold, Marge responded, and gave me the go-ahead – even filling in a few photos that had gone missing from the Wayback archives. So I'm proud to present a new home for Marge Talt's Pinellia Page. It should remain available for as long as Rob's Plants remains online :-)
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October 22, 2012. Offspring from the 'Zebrina' hollyhock mallow I bought in my first season of gardening is still with us many years later. By now, I never know where it will pop up – it's almost a weed in our garden, since I rogue out most of the seedlings that emerge in spring. The plant, like its cousin the hollyhock, is coarse-leaved, and early on in the season just gets in the way and takes up space – space that I'm trying to fill with all kinds of exciting new seedlings and young perennials. But inevitably, a few plants escape my attention – and that's a good thing, in fact I count on it, because I wouldn't want to be rid of the gaudy blooms of Miss Mallow altogether. I was reminded of that again this weekend, when on a balmy-breezy stroll through the decided fall-tinted garden this specimen suddenly caught my eye. How the heck did I miss that the whole summer, right in the middle of the curve garden? Beats me – but it's a fun statement in the garden right now, with most of the other plants in the midst of shutting themselves down for the season. So I hope it drops some seed – or that the seed store left by its ancestors is not yet exhausted from our garden.

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December 22, 2012. Well, heck, it's not anything to do with gardening, but I have only one playground on the web, and this is it. If you're not interested in peg puzzles or java applets, you can safely stop reading now. But if you like a little light distraction in this holiday season, it might be worth a minute or two of your time to visit my new triangle peg game page, which features a little java applet I wrote. My son Max recently decided that he'd like to learn programming in java (to program online games, of course), so like a good father, I figured I should probably find out what java was all about and help him along. And what better idea for a first programming project than solving that immensely frustrating triangular peg puzzle found at Cracker Barrel tables all around? Computers are much better at solving them than I will ever be, so if you want to find the best solution to any starting arrangement of pegs, just take a look. Nothing fancy, mind you.

I guess I should put a little bit of gardening content in this post, just so you won't think I'm totally tuned out of the green scene. Not at all: I started my seed-starting operations for the year a few weeks ago, and already have a tray of pots with little green things poking their heads up. Just last week, NARGS issued this year's trade list, which I quickly perused to place my annual order – and I'm looking forward to the HPS/MAG seed exchange catalog to arrive any day now. All of which isn't particularly photogenic, which is why you get a triangle game picture instead.
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December 24, 2012. 't Was the day before Christmas. The kitchen compost container needed emptying, so I strolled out into the back yard, towards our compost bins in the back of the orchard nursery area - and found the frosty linings on many of the low-growing perennials quite charming - including this Dianthus x roysii. Not sure if this picture really shows the effect too well. But it's likely one of a rather limited number of photo ops showing off plants this winter.
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December 28, 2012. The little curious things you'll find when you go out on a leisurely stroll through the back yard... One of the shrubs planted in the very back of our curve garden is a Sophora davidii. It's a bit of a gangly thing, and I'm never quite sure if it will survive another year – but I keep it around for its pretty flowers. Like the rest of the decidous woodies in our garden, it dropped its leaves some time ago. So I was surprised to see a few areas of new growth when I passed by today. While the majority of the shrub has that winter-dead appearance, one newish branch was fully decked out with the neatly arranged dark-green leaflets that are another of this species' charms. Not weather-beaten older leaves that were just hanging on for dear life, but brand new ones, looking like they're ready to conquer the world! In one or two other places, I spotted much smaller new green sprigs. No doubt, they'll soon be done in by a hard freeze – we haven't had anything below the mid-20s yet this year – but I admire the optimism evident from what I assume is a precocious growth flush.
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Last modified: March 03, 2012
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