Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today at "The Farm"

Still don't have a name for the 2 Acres in Battleground. I planted the final Paw Paw tree. The others have weathered their transplanting and are essentially unchanged from their planting appearance. The big leaves tend to catch the wind, and are a bit torn from that. Hybridizers take heed: The big leaves are an issue. The Paw Paw might do better with smaller leaves. I saw some much larger Paw Paws at a local nursery - no variety name. I assume they are seedlings. They also had persimmons the same way. Life is too short to waste on no-name varieties unless you have room for multiple trees. So I passed on those. I've been wanting to plant a shade tree. It's in honor of my birthday which is coming up. I figure a shade tree sequesters more CO2 than the fruit trees, so counts for more of a "thank you" to the world for supplying me with oxygen, and climate, and nutrition. I found some sale trees at a big box store. They look fairly decent - not much the worse for sitting in the lot for the summer. I chose a red-leaf maple to serve as my "Birthday Tree".

OK, I also chose a couple of their close-out fruit trees.
An Asian Pear (Hosui, a russeted type) to serve as a pollinator for the Asian Pear already on the property, and which had one - only one - yellow fruit, non-russeted. Not knowing the variety, by choosing one with a different appearing fruit, it should serve as pollinator. I think. Monrovia describes Hosui as drought resistant and heat tolerant - so once established should not need a lot of watering. The tree is a bit misshapen, but that is OK, it will either give it character, or pruning and training will change that.
Toka Plum, from Grandpa's Orchard, identical to the pic from Fedco. The site claims "This fruit was introduced in 1911 by Dr. N.E. Hansen at the South Dakota Experiment Station as a hybrid of the Japanese and European types" but I read elsewhere it is a hybrid of an "apricot plum" with an "American plum".

OK, I bought 2 Asian plums. The first was Satsuma. I saw a couple of other varieties, and wanting a pollinator and something different from the first choice, came home and googled on pollinators for Satsuma. Toka is listed as a pollenizer for Satsuma, on the Burnt Ridge Nursery site. Toka is also listed as self fertile. Seems like a reasonable pair, so now I have then both. Not all sites agree about these as a pollinizing pair, it is confusing.

I might plant at least some of these trees tomorrow and through the weekend. I don't know if I have the energy to plant 4 trees on one day. I've done it before, so maybe.
Currently 58 degrees. This year I'm actually excited about fall. There are lots of fruit trees, trees, shrubs, and perennials to plant. Fall is the perfect time for that. Will also be wanting to make some raised beds for veggies and flowers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Almost Done With Iris Care

This is a bit of an experiment. These were close-out, and not too special looking. Maybe different enough from my existing irises to add to the variety, a little. For a couple of dollars, hard to lose. Obviously much, much more dried out than the mail order rhizomes. Advantages of the mail order places that I used: better selection, by far, much fresher rhizomes. by far. Disadvantages, more costly. I think some of the mail order houses will send just as dried out selections as these store-bought rhizomes, as I recall from past orders. Those were from budget mail order houses, not the Iris specialists.
"Orange Harvest", listed as a rebloomer. I've had so few re-blooms, I won't count on it. Schreiner's describes Orange Harvest.... "Reblooming Iris Society has identified Orange Harvest as a very dependable rebloomer throughout most of the country". Developed in 1988. Several sales sites describe Orange Harvest as "slightly fragrant".
"Red Hawk". Developed in 1995. The differences in color, for illustrations of this iris, are amazing. It must have colors that don't photograph well. Commanche Acres Iris Gardens states "Pronounced sweet fragrance." Good.
I chose the largest, most plump rhizomes from the store bins. It's interesting that they can be so dried out, and still grow.
Here they are, planted. I took a lesson from orchids, and planted with the old end / cut end next to the container edge, and the growth end / fan toward the center. This gives some room for a little growth, at least one season. Which is all I am interested in here. The growth medium is a fast draining wood-compost-based medium that I used last year for garlic, with great success. After watering-in these rhizomes, and inserting labels, they are set for the fall.

Saving Seeds

Collected more seeds today. Saved them in regular postal envelopes. My seed box is a small wooden file box that I bought at a yard sale, good fit for the envelopes.
Yellow pod bush beans. These are a tasty bean that grew well this year. I "think" they are open pollinated, and they are the only beans that I grew at the time, so they should grow true.
Daylily seeds. These are some of the results from my hybridizing. I'll have to look up how to grow them. My plan is to find a place to grow them out to bloom, and keep anything I like, throw away hybrids I don't like. No way to know until I see them grow and bloom. Just for fun.
These are "Oriental Snow Pea Sweet Taiwan". Similar for the beans I haven't grown any other pea, so unless they are a hybrid, they should grow true.


For many years, I had a patch of Sempervivum (Hens and Chickens) under a cherry tree. The area against the tree is raised. Grass had taken over the area. Over the past 2 years, I haven't watered it. The area is in direct sun. Yesterday I picked through the grass and found these specimens. The ultimate goal is to remove anything recoverable, then either let it go to grass, or clean the area completely and mulch. The tree is gradually dying, so maybe remove the tree and start over. Meanwhile, here are the Sempervivums. This is a testament to their rugged nature - covered with grass, full sun, and no watering for 2 years. These plants came from my parents' yard in Illinois, years ago. My Dad told me he got them from his parents' yard long before that. I have quite a few others, from the same original two starts that I brought here - but nice to recover these too. They are soft, dried, wrinkly, but I think they are alive. The "tap-root" may just be stem. Blurry. It was evening. These were planted in the Battleground place, in a bed that I recently improved with compost and planted. Planting just involved using a trowel to make a slit in the ground, insert the "root" so that the plant is a ground level, then firm the soil. I did water it in to settle the soil and get them started. As always, "We'll see". I read that Medieval European peasants throw Sempervivum onto their straw roofs to grow and deter lightening strikes. If true, they survived very dry conditions to grow on the roof. So maybe these will recover too.

Asian Pears

Just when the plums are finishing, the Asian pears are ripening. Cool!

Rescuing a Sick Bearded Iris

This one was 'Diety'. It is a new rhizome. I noted the leaves were turning yellow, and on inspection saw that the leaves were rotted at the base. There are 2 options. Actually, 3. First, I probably watered too much. I've taken this lesson to heart, and with the start of cooler weather have stopped watering all of my iris starts and rescues. Time to let them meet the fall, anyway. Option two, it came with a bacterial or fungal infection. To that end, I sliced off the growing end, leaving this portion and a couple of buds. That may not be enough to grow, but why not try? Then, I let it dry for 2 days out of the sun. Yesterday I let it soak in a 10% bleach solution = 9 tablespoons water plus 1 tablespoon bleach, for about one hour. Then I let it dry overnight. Now, I will plant in a container in a well-drained growth medium. If it rots anyway, I'll throw it into the trash to avoid spread of disease. If it grows, that's a sign of how tough bearded iris can be. Option 3. I did see a slug in the container. If it was just slug damage, this may be an over reaction. This is a timely lesson to me, it's time to let nature manage the irises. I was taking extra care of them due to the heat, and starting new beds, and recovering irises from neglected areas. I don't want to overdo it and cause rot. So time to let them be. Except for removing weeds - that is a given.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heritage Iris Varieties

These varieties are from Old House Gardens, and the photos are theirs. I hope it's OK that I post them - given that I link to their website. They have an interesting was of shipping iris - they grow them through the winter, then clean the plants and ship in the Spring, for same-spring bloom. This is what they say: "They’re freshly dug the day we ship them, they can take light frost, and to bloom their first summer they must get growing again ASAP. If necessary, store in the fridge for 2-3 days or “heel in” briefly in moist sand or soil." They take orders now, and payment is with the order. There is faith on my part that I'll be alive and growing plants in April. If not, then it doesn't matter. I'm trying not to obtain any two that are too similar to each other, and aiming for classic form and fragrance when possible. My plan is to have the heritage irises in a bed of their own, separate from the modern hybrids. That way they stand out on their own without being overwhelmed by the flashier new hybrids, and I can appreciate their fragrance as well. These may also serve as sources for hybridizing, if I feel so inclined. There is the issue of diploidy (most old varieties) and tetraploidy (most new varieties) making them genetically incompatible so I'm not sure where I will go with that. Caprice, developed in 1898, reportedly strong grape fragrance. Caprice is also described on the Historic Iris Preservation Society website as having a "sweet grape fragrance". Florentina, collected in 1500. Not a variety, but a species. Unclear from the site about fragrance, although that's one of the reasons I'm buying it. From the Old House Garden's site, "since at least the 1500s its rhizomes have been dried and sold as orris-root, a prized ingredient in herbal medicines and perfumery."  Pacific Bulb Society states this iris is 27 inches tall (good, I do't want more super tall varieties that dominate the garden and fall over in the rain), is a natural hybrid, not a species, and is fragrant.  Also a species, and the description includes, "Fragrant and tough, it was grown in ancient Rome, carried east on the Silk Road..." Indian Chief, 1929. Not as old as the first two, but still a heritage variety. HIPS does not mention fragrance. Iris Dalmatica 1597. From the web site, "Pallida Dalmatica, 1597 ...tall, pale lavender, tough as nails, with a Concord grape fragrance that, as Elizabeth Lawrence wrote, “fills the borders and drifts into the house.” (Also from a 1597 description)... “exceedingly sweet” scent.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hollywood Plums

A good crop of tree ripened plums - enough to share with friends and coworkers, who loved them. Grocery store plums are hard and sour. The tree-ripened plums are tender, juicy, sweet, and so flavorful!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Iris Seeds / New Hybrids

Here is the result of my hybridizing effort from this Spring. This pod is on the variety Spiced Custard, the pollen parent is Immortality. I think. Seed pod on plant. This is an Iris Pod, not and I-Pod.  They would be cool in a bowl of pine cones and seed heads, or as part of a dried arrangement. A little closer. Cut, envelope labeled Seeds shelled out. They are so loose, they just fall out.

Heritage Iris Order

These are heritage Irises from Green Thumbs Galore in Chattanooga Tennessee. The variety pics are from their website - should be OK since I provide a link. I went Bonkers with irises this year. Not clear on where they will all be planted. These went into containers, for now. New Irises are flashy, with bright, diverse colors and patterns, big flowers, and ruffles. Some are not great in the rain, becoming malformed globs of petals, and stalks that fall over. Fragrance has not been retained in hybridization, except for a few. Heritage irises have simpler form, fewer more muted colors, and smaller flowers. This is a generalization that is not be 100% true. They are more likely to be Fragrant, I think. I hope the smaller simpler flowers and stems will hold up in the rain. I consider this my "test garden". I plan to give away the ones I don't like. That may be a few years down the road. It's not so Darwinian with Irises. They don't die off, even with neglect. They may quit blooming, but so far I haven't had one variety die off. Some - just a couple - did not grow at the outset - all dried out rhizomes from big box stores, planted in late fall. One might have grown but was in a bad spot and hasn't bloomed yet in 3 years. I moved it, we'll see if that's the one, when it blooms. The rhizomes arrived nicely packaged. They appear freshly dug, with no drying of leaf tips. The packaging was slightly moist but no mold or mildew. I get the feeling they were dug up for my order - nice thought. There were fewer roots and more top than some other orders - I don't think that's a problem, just a difference. Transplanting them from the humid summer of TN to the dry summer of WA, and the differences in soil and winter climate, they may have a bit of a shock. No place set aside for them yet. Irises have limited root systems, so I planted in containers. As long as I keep them watered they should be OK. I can moved them into a sheltered spot this winter, if needed. If I get a location cleared and prepared, I'll move them into the ground. I'm curious about how they will do in containers, anyway. The largest really should go into the ground. Loreley. Heritage Iris Preservation Society (HIPS) lists Loreley as developed in 1909. It appears to be a much smaller variety. Hybridized by "Goos & Koenemann" Unknown Variety, "NoID" listed as "purple with silver beard, bitone". Unknown Variety, "NoID" listed as "Lilac". Helen Collingwood. Heritage Iris Preservation Society (HIPS) has better pics. They list Helen as developed in 1949. It's big (40 inches) which is opposite of what I said about old varieties. Also very vigorous. No comment there about fragrence.

Baby Plum Tree

This looks to me like a plum seedling. I planted seeds in this pot in June. No expectations as to germination. These were not pits that I removed seeds from - separate batch - an the seeds were mailed to me from a friend in Georgia. They are a wild, native yellow plum. I'm surprised it did not need stratification, and I don't know how to manage it through the winter, but shouldn't be too difficult. That's assuming it's really a plum and not a weed. Does look plum-like.

Little Orchard revisited

Now I'm thinking about adding another row. There is room. That would be 5 more fruit trees. Which types? Maybe... - Asian Persimmon? I can't get the idea of astringent American varieties out of my mind, even though, apparently, when fully ripe they are very sweet and not astringent. I need to research a bot more. I don't want one that needs a pollinator. Maybe Early Jiro? Pretty fruits, pic from One Green World. Black Sea Jujube. All of these pics are from One Green World. Li Jujube. Chinese Haw That leaves room for one mulberry, probably the same as I have at home, Illinois Everbearing. I love the flavor and the "everbearing" aspect is attractive. So far my home tree has minimal production but is only in its 3rd year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mini Orchard Plan

Most of this is just thinking. I have a mulberry that needs to go somewhere, and would like to add a black mulberry. With need for apple pollinator, maybe a multigraft would be best. Similar for Asian plum. I'm fairly firm on the paw paws, although I don't know if they will survive and thrive. Similar for the peaches. If they suffer major leaf curl, I should give up on those. The "unknown" gets one chance to bloom and/or fruit. If nothing, then I want the space for something productive. I would like a good Asian plum. What else? Pear? A lot of the pleasure is in the thinking.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Getting the little orchard going

The first fig tree was already planted a couple of weeks ago. In addition there is a deer-ravished plum, deer-ravished small apples (2), deer-ravished apricot(?), and one tree that I don't know what it is. Now that I have water, I planted two of the paw paws and 2 peaches. They were in containers, so I had to keep them watered anyway. It's hard to see much here. The post on the far left is the Petite negri fig, which is surviving and not much worse for having been planted in the hottest part of the summer. This is a grid, 3 by 5 for 15 trees total. It was going to be 3 by 6, but the gate location took care of the end three. At least I hadn't planted anything there yet. The grid will be uneven due to a few pre-existing trees, but that's OK. The 2 on the far end are paw paws, and the 2 closer ones are peaches. I debated planting the paw paws. This is not considered the time of year to plant them. These were in containers. One of the main issues is tap root, which if damaged can kill the tree. I opted to carefully slide off the containers, and planted without disturbing the root balls. My usual approach is to spread out the roots, but with paw paws the roots are said to be brittle and easily damaged. My thought is that if I'm not going to disturb the root ball anyway, I might as well plant them now. It was windy - the big leaves looked like they thought there was a hurricane. Might be a mistake. Paw paws are said to require a high humus soil, so I mixed in a lot of compost. The Paw paws are "Sunflower" and "NC-1". I have a small one remaining, which I'll wait until fall to plant. Again, not the best time for paw paws, but if I'm not going to disturb the root ball, they might as well be in the ground. The two peaches were also container grown, which I had planted in plastic barrels this spring. These peaches are reported as Leaf Curl resistant - Charlotte and Oregon Leaf Curl Resistant, and they might as well get the full test. I did spread their roots out, although I tried not to damage any. I sprayed the trees with deer repellent. Paw paws are not considered a deer treat, but I wanted to be careful. As always, we'll see. All 4 trees are loosely tied to posts, and there is a compost mulch. In addition, I scattered dog-yard cleanings as hoped for deer repellent. Doesn't hurt anything here - there is no one around to step in it, and it is close to the little trees. The theory is that deer regard the dog "spoor" as evidence of predators, so will avoid the area. My dogs are not exactly predators - they might wag their tails. But the deer don't know that. I also scattered cilantro seeds, since one of the peaches had cilantro that had gone to seed in its pot, so it was immediately available. I gave them all big doses of water. Three figs south of the house - they will get full south light and heat. Sal's is finally out of its pot, after years of container growth. The King figs are only a foot tall. Might take a while. So small they are difficult to see. They are well mulched, got lots of compost, and metal stakes so they don't get run over. I also plan to move some larger fig trees here when they are dormant.

Deer unfriendly, dry tolerant border

Here is my attempt at a deer unfriendly, drought tolerant border. My timing is bad - except for the irises, it would be better to plant in Spring or Fall. There wasn't much choice, since we just took title of the place, and I wanted to get started. On the plus side, there are lots of perennials on close out. The majority of irises are divisions from home, cleaning up beds that went to weeds, and separating some that desperately needed separating. A couple are new starts, and a few are from the new place, cleaned up and replanted. Two patches are left alone, other than weeding and applying compost. The borders were prepped with a layer of compost, watered a couple of times but otherwise left for a week. That killed much of the invading grass and weeds. Then I dug in the compost, broke up clods, raked with garden rake, and planted. Finally, a layer of compost was added as mulch. This border gets mainly Western sun, with some parts getting Southern sun. While digging, I repeatedly hit stone. Finally, I used a flat shovel, and discovered a walk made from pavers. It's cleaned up and left in place. The Irises are a mix, I did not label except for the new purchases. I'll know when they bloom. I should do a winter project of making labels. The dry tolerant, supposedly deer-unfriendly plants include Lavender, Sage, Marjoram, Monarda, Asclepias, Hibiscus, Oregano, Lemon Thyme, Rosemary, and of course the Irises. I did not plant mints or lemon balm because they are too invasive, but may plant some in the orchard where that doesn't matter. Asclepias was an impulse buy. I had read about it but didn't expect to find any. It seemed difficult to grow and transplant, based on what I read. One problem is the long tap root, which apparently doesn't like to be disturbed. I broke a rule, and planted from the container without pulling roots out from the rootball. Maybe that will work. If not, it isn't a big loss,. They were 60% off. All of the new starts were on close-out. This border is south of the deck and gets Southern and Western sun - hot! It includes sage, chives, Monarda, yarrow, Coreopsis, divisions from Bumble Delite Iris - a small variety, and a daylily. The daylily is not deer repellant, so we'll see what happens. Impulse. The chives was a sizable semi-dormant cluster that I moved from my yard at home. I like eating fresh chives in some sandwiches and in eggs, and they are nice to look at. There are some shasta daisies, which grow wild around the yard. I left those in place. This is a closeup of that front border. There are also some chrysanthemums and lantana. I don't know if deer like those. Also some dusty miller, drought and deer safe, from what I read. Those sausage-shaped brown objects are pine cones. This bed also gets southern and western sun. It contains 2 columnar apple trees, Red Sentinel and Golden Sentinel; some small shrubs, but mostly irises. Deer can destroy small apple trees, so I sprayed with deer repellant. The irises were the remainder of the divisions, I had removed from my home front yard, some rescues that were hidden in grass and under shrubs. Some had been sitting for a couple of weeks before planting, but irises are tough. I trimmed the leaves and stray roots, and planted randomly. Finally, I also planted the Allium gigantium bulbs that I dug up from home, in several places, and and a dozen Allium that appear to be a bit smaller, in a mixed bag that I bought at a big store. I marked the locations where the Allium were planted, so I won't overplant them with something else, since they won't come up until next year. As onion family plants, Alliums are not liked by deer, and they go dormant for the summer so dry is not an issue. The big flowers are fun and bees love them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Garlic Flower

Not open yet, but looks promising. This was the first garlic scape that I split. I've had to remove bulbils 3 times. It looks like it really will bloom. The other 3 plants, which I split the scapes 1 and 3 weeks later, and started removing bulbils 1 and weeks later, do not look like they will bloom. So timing matters. This is an interesting experiment for me. Even if seeds don't set, it's a start that I can build on if the garlic spirit moves me next year.

Iris Progress Report

I went temporarily non-organic for the iris "intensive care unit". I wanted them to get a head start before fall, so rather than leaving them dormant, I've been fertigating them with 1/4 tsp miracle grow for tomatoes, per 2 gallons water. Once they are settled I'll go back to organic. Since Miracle Grow is mineral based, at least I'm not using petrochemicals. I don't know if this is good or not - they may be too green going into fall, so I am stopping the fertigation now. It's helped a lot getting new growth on what looked like very sad rhizomes. Most were "rescued" from what had become a weed patch. This bed is entirely new additions, so they are not rescues. These are American Classic (the largest plant) - amazingly vigorous new growth; NoID miniatures, either blue or yellow, that I rescued from near-dead rhizomes under a cherry tree, also growing fast, and Kissed By The Sun, which does not look so vigorous, but is finally putting on some growth. Edith Wolford, which I thought I might have killed - also very vigorous rejuvenation. There is also a rescued miniature, growing very well. Immortality. I thought these had the best chance, but are putting out average growth. More than some of the ICU irises, and less than some others. The goal with these was to fatten the rhizomes, establish root systems, and get some increase in number of growths - looks like that is accomplished, more or less. I'm violating some iris growing rules here, so we'll see if this is successful, or if I've killed them. I hope I have SOME bloom next May - I will be disappointed if not.

Chilis and Tomatoes

The chili's are doing well considering the little I've done for them. Mainly just watering. One half-barrel is enough to supply 2 people with a few peppers a week, without feeling like we MUST eat them to avoid waste. Ditto for the tomatoes. These are Better Boy, Supersweet 100, and Sungold. I stand by the plant eating them off the vine, they are so good.