Monday, February 21, 2011

New Composter. New Strawberries. Tree Peony Buds.

Tree peony buds promise of spring.

Got some more bare root strawberry starts. These are TriStar. Popular day-neutral. Cheap, $9.99 for 25 plants. Now several of the planters contain strawberry plants. They looked brown and depressing in the bundles but once planted and watered some had green leaves. Not sure if I ever bough bare root strawberries before. Seems pretty easy.

Ning and I put together his new composting barrel. It took about an hour. We should have done a YouTube, it was rather simple yet complicated at the same time. Turns nicely. Kitchen scraps will go into this one. We also added some starter compost as inoculum. Now a turn a day keeps the compost cooking.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fruit and Rose Bed Renovation

Front border "Fruit & Rose Bed". Actually, as many lilacs as roses. They are starting to come into their own, closest to the curb. As the roses reach their life span, the lilacs will fill in. Weeds pulled, although I know there are still grass roots under the surface. Still, looking a lot better. Compost is added around the lilacs and roses. Over the next week or two, I'm planning to add bark nuggets to the currently bare areas.

Side view, showing the completed, mulched areas as well. Getting closer... That hardy Windmill Palm is 8 years old. I trimmed the lower leaves, to make it look more "palm-like". It's a good, low maintenance, low water demand tree for this area.

Out in the yard

Pieris is blooming. It's easily taken for granted, but what else blooms in early february? I like the old name, Andromeda.

I transplanted this oriental poppy from a hidden, inconvenient spot. I grew it from seeds about 8 years ago. Nice big red flower. The inspiration was, my grandfather grew poppies from seeds. Something tells me he thought they were opium poppies. They're not! I've been beleiving they're too sensitive to be transplanted, but I don't know where I got that idea. The plant and its roots looks a lot like a dandelion, which can be chopped off and regrow, so maybe it's more resilient than I thought. I hope so.

These are some of my "Quincy" chinese chives, descendents of plants I grew from seeds 40 years ago. I left on the dried flowers to mark the spot and protect new shoots, but I like the appearance of new plants coming up through the dried stems.

Shiro plum. Closer.... closer.....

Radishes planted 3 weeks ago in barrel. The chicken wire is there to reduce cat and squirrel digging. Seems to help.

Close up of radishes. It's been raining.

Chinese chives in barrel planter. These clusters are about 5 years old. This is a promise of dumplings in March or April.

Helleborus. The flowers tend to droop, so it's good to grow them in a raised location, such as a retaining wall. Quite pretty. And blooming in early February. Cool!

This helleborus is even droopier... and prettier.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A little progress.

As discussed, the Stanley plum and Montmorency cherry are in the ground now. I cleaned up about 200 more square feet of front border. Probably 1,000 square feet done, 500 to go, my wild guess. Moved a couple of roses and a peony to more convenient spots. There was also a cluster of Chinese chives that I saved from my parent's yard a few years ago, that I had grown from seeds 40 years ago. Moved them to a slightly better spot where I can keep an eye on them. Another case of Darwin at work - I did my best, but if they don't survive this move, the've taken their place with the dodo bird as far as my yard is concerned. I think the roses will make it but digging up the peony involved slicing through some huge tubers. It was unavoidable. My guess is it will sulk for a year then resume former blooming.

Pulled away a lot of the creeping phlox. The idea with that groundcover was it would keep weeds away. Instead, it sheltered crabgrass and other grassy weeds. So I'm pulling it all up.

I gave the blueberries and rhododendrons a scoop of Whitney's organic acid shrub fertilizer, and mixed with the compost mulch.

Roses have an inch of growth. Chinese chives are a few inches tall. Pussy willow is blooming. Stone fruit buds are swelling. As I type it's raining like crazy.

Now I've done it.

I was at Home Depot buying tree-rings for two miniature apple trees on Thursday. They are reasonably cheap, cement-composite edging that will keep grass away from the tree trunks, hold in the compost and mulch, and make my life slightly easier, less maintenance. I also installed them on Thursday, my day off, removing grass from around those baby trees, and applying a mulch of compost. While at the store, I saw bare root fruit trees. Well, sort of bare root, they have been placed into large plastic containers with potting soil so they look like container-grown, but I think they are really bare root.

I don't know what's got into me. Yesterday I returned and bought a Montmorency Cherry and a Stanley Plum. The cherry is another tart (pie) cherry. I don't know if it is red juice - something I like. Rationale is as with the other tart cherries, later bloom less likely to be killed by frost, compared with sweet cherries. Plus I enjoy making pies and it's hard to find real pie-cherries at the grocery store. The pic is from References list Montmorency as self-pollinating as well, so no concerns about going from flower to flower and tree to tree with a paintbrush. Plan is to keep it pruned small as I do all of my fruit trees. I don't know where I will plant it. Dumb idea to buy a tree not knowing where it will be, even though I've thought about it for several days.

Similar for the Stanley Plum. Not sure where I will plant it. This is also listed in most references as self pollinating. Unlike my other plum trees, which are Asian plums, this is a European plum, not the same species at all so really qualifies as a totally different beast. So I'm not replicating other fruits. Pic is from, which I like very much but is too far from me.This pic of Stanley Plum flowers also from Which kind of makes the point, my "backyard" orchard isn't all about fruit, it's about flowers, fragrance, growing stuff, puttering, and super-slow food, and a "green" thing to do. I'll find a spot for it, I have several places in mind.

Part of my rationale is I suspect the genetic dwarf peaches won't last too long, and I'll want replacements. Peach Leaf Curl is too much hassle. It takes a few years to get fruits, so I want a head start. I can move them next Spring if needed, they won't be too big. The trees are actually quite large, though, 6 foot. I will prune them back severely once Spring is here, to promote low branching, "Backyard Orchard Culture" low branch training.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday off, with chores

I forgot that I had today off, and went to work. After insisting that I was scheduled, I looked at the schedule and... oops.

So I came home, cleared some more grass-invaded border, hauled a truckload of prunings and brush to the recycling & composting center, and returned home with a half cubic yard of composted yard trimmings. Moved two roses into a better spot. Neither had great roots, but they should be OK. This will be a "Darwin year": where survival of the fittest means they either make it with the care that I can give, or they don't. No pampering for fruits and roses and shrubs that don't thrive. Even so, I surrounded the moved roses with compost, then did the same with the night-planted Indian Free peach and Almaden Duke cherry. Placed circular concrete aggregate border around 2 miniature apple trees (Liberty and Jonagold), clearing / weeding the center and adding a couple inches of compost. So no more grass invasion, or at least minimal. I'm gradually installing edging to prevent grass invasion along the entire front border, but it's a lot of work pulling out the old grass, so it takes time.

What else.... moved a yellow shrub peony to a raised location, above a retaining wall. It only grows to about a foot tall, and the flowers, while very beautiful, huge, and fragrant, droop and can't be seen unless the viewer is on their knees. This is a weird peony, not big enough to be a "tree peony" but with woody stems that add an inch or two per year, not dying down like other peonies. It's nice as a cut flower. I'm convinced it's an intersectional, a cross between tree peony and herbaceous peony, much like this one - Garden Treasure. (Wow, these cost a fortune! It came with the house, I'm too cheap to pay that much or a plant!) Peonies don't like being moved, but it's been moved before and did OK after a year of sulking. This peony sends out underground stolons with new stems, so it spreads laterally instead of vertically. I cut off a couple as a gift, maybe they will survive too. The main plant was also given a liberal ground covering couple of shovel fulls of compost.

Oh, planted 2 half-barrels with the new Seascape day-neutral strawberries. That's about a dozen plants, so I need to figure out what to do with the other dozen.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Orchid Show at Missouri Botanical Garden

This weekend I paid a visit to my ill mom in the midwest. On the trip back, I stayed overnight in St. Louis. My choice of dates was interesting - this was just after one of the greatest blizzards in recent history. Still, Saturday the snow stopped and the roads cleared and I had a chance to visit the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden. This is something I was looking forward to, a lot.

My photos don't do it justice. It was amazing. The orchids were huge, the room was filled with fragrance, and the displays were awesome. I would make the trip just for this alone.

This Phaius may be recognizable from a recent posting, under an entirely different name. From the illustrations from the "Temple of Flora". Interesting coincidence.

Love the Cymbidiums.

The displays dwarf the visitors.

There are various Mayan-inspired displays. Makes me wonder if Bateman's "The Orchids of Mexico and Guatemala" was the inspiration. Too much coincidence not to be the case.

The orchid show was not in the climatron, but afterwards I walked around the botanical garden, and this was a nice scene of that massive tropical "flying saucer". Much of the garden was almost abandoned - it was serenely beautiful.

Oh, that's me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Planting in the dark

Wow, the Almaden Duke Cherry and the Indian Free (Blood) Peach came yesterday via UPS. I knew they would be coming because UPS sent an email

No chance this weekend to plant them. I dug the holes before work, and when I got home there was the package. So I planted them in the dark, via flashlight.

Nice looking trees, as usual for Raintree.

The strawberry plants are in the fridge until I can plant them.