Archive for August 2010

Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.27.2010

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It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:  
Earlier this week my friends and cohorts of the Garden Designers Roundtable discussed "inviting nature into the garden".  What things have you done in your landscape to encourage visits from birds, butterflies, and other wildlife? Please share your stories with us here!

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Saving Seeds

There are a lot of seeds you can easily save yourself to plant next year. At the end of summer you can see the seeds forming and drying, soon to fall to the ground. At our garden we have already saved some radishes, broccoli, kale, peas, and beans, and stored them in a dry place in paper bags or envelopes to plant when we need them again.

After the petals fall we will collect seeds from flowers as well, like Calendula which is a beneficial companion plant for repelling insects, and is a versatile herb commonly used as a remedy for skin problems. Calendula is an annual so it needs to be re-planted each year. This is what our Calendula looks like in 3 stages from flower to drying seeds.

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Design . . . FAIL!

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Two years ago, the narrow planting strip between my patio and koi pond was a colorful mass of annual 'Wave' petunias.  In fact, it was just a bit too colorful! I felt it detracted from the more subtle, pastel colors of the waterlily flowers. I was ready to plant something perennial; something with winter color and structure, as well.  I thought I'd found the perfect plant with this low growing, gray-blue succulent, Sedum D. var Glanduliferum. NOT!

After almost two growing seasons, I'm ready to relocate these plants (to the compost pile!) and try something new. This is a hot spot, with poor soil that must be hand watered by a sometimes inattentive gardener (that would be me).  Turkish veronica, Veronica liwanensis, to the rescue!

This xeric, evergreen groundcover, native to the Pontiac Mountains in northeastern Turkey, will be covered with cobalt blue flowers in April and May.  The fine texture of the foliage will offer a nice contrast to that of the pond's waterlilies.

As any true gardener, I am ever hopeful.

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Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.20.2010

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Western sand cherry, Prunus besseyi
It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:
Are you a forager? There are a number of native plants that have edible, ripening berries at this time of year including chokecherry, currant and buffaloberry.  (Although edible is a relative term---most of these fruits need a big infusion of sugar to make them palatable to modern Americans.)  One of my favorites, pictured above, is western sand cherry. The ripe fruits are about 1/2" in diameter and are lustrous black in color. These native shrubs, and the dwarf cultivar 'Pawnee Buttes', are widely used in xeric landscape plantings, so you may not have to look far to find them.  

What do you forage for (Pssssst--no need to share your secret gathering spot!), and how do you prepare it?

For a good article on what NOT to eat, read this article on toxic weeds from Horticulture magazine.

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What a Zucchini! Plus Purple Potatoes

Yesterday we couldn't believe the size of our Tromboncino zucchinis. We found this climbing zucchini plant at West Coast seeds and it seems to be the answer to growing zuchini in small spaces, and just look at how neat they look!

We Harvested a bunch of purple potatoes too, so beautiful, they're almost irridescent!

The next thing we'll be harvesting lots of will be tomatoes, just lookj at the plants in bed#10, and this is just one plot.

And soon it will be time to do a bunch of seed collecting so we have seeds saved for next years garden.

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August is a Great Month to . . .

. . . divide and transplant iris!

If your iris plants had few or no flowers last spring then either the roots (rhizomes) have become overcrowded, the planting area is too shady, or both, as in this example:


 Mid-July through August is the ideal time here on Colorado's Front Range to work on your iris beds.  Use a garden fork or small hand tool to gently lift the rhizomes from the ground.

  With your hands or a small, sharp knife, remove any soft, rotted portions of the rhizome.  Reduce the rhizome into 4"-8" pieces, making sure to include one or two leaf "fans" for each piece.

Before replanting your iris, make sure their new home is:
  • In full sun
  • Weed free
  • Has well draining soil (spade in 2" of well-aged compost)
Set the rhizomes in a shallow depression and just cover them with soil. (A slightly exposed rhizome is better than a buried one.)  Trim the foliage back, leaving the leaves about 6"-8" long.

As gardening tasks go, this is pretty light work. And, man, is it worth it!

Many thanks to Sandra West of TLC Garden Services for letting me photograph her during a busy day on her job site! For more inspiration and information visit Iris 4-U.

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Reaching for The Sun

The squash and beans have really taken off at The Cambie Square Garden. The squash have grown all over the hedge lining the garden and we keep finding the fruits hiding in little pockets here and there and the beans are getting so tall that some have grown up the lamp post to the point that we cannot reach them any longer We also have a sunflower that is trying to reach up to the sun.

We did a little cleanup of the garden as well, removing the old pea plants that have finished for the year so we can plant more winter crops. We found a few aphids and removed them to prevent them from spreading to other crops.

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Holy Corn and Potatoes Batman

This weekend was the first rain we've had in Vancouver in weeks but we still had a great turnout at The Cambie Square Garden on Sunday. Noone even minded the rain and worked away together to harvest quite the bounty. We harvested lots of potatoes and corn and some really beautiful carrots too.

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Buddleia Buffet

Chow time! Come and get it! Soup's on at the all-you-can-eat Buddleia Buffet!  Butterfly bush really does attract the butterflies - and all manner of nectar loving insects - and my 20 year old Buddleia davidii 'Dark Knight' always provides a great show.

Yesterday afternoon I was thrilled to see dozens of these little Peck's Skipper butterflies flitting around. Their golden color was a beautiful contrast to the purple blossoms and made them easier to see, despite their small (less than 1") size.

I was standing in the garden trying to identify these little guys with my ancient Golden Nature Guide to Butterflies and Moths, when one of them landed right on "their" page of my open book!  Ah, life in the garden.

This West Coast Lady is considerably larger. There were several of them feeding on the shrub, too.

And of course, loads of giant bumblebees bumbling around. 

 A Monarch fluttered past, but didn't settle in to dine (hence no photo). They're not unheard of here, but I don't see them very often, so that was a real treat.

Consider adding a butterfly bush to your garden. They need full sun and moderately moist to dry soil. Several different colors are available, and a number of dwarf varieties, too.  For great mid-summer color, fragrance, and butterflies galore, think Buddleia!

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Friday Afternoon Garden Club 8.6.2010

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Purslane between flagstones --- what a pain!
It’s FAC time in The Art Garden!  Grab your favorite beverage and pull up a chair.  You didn’t really want to work this afternoon anyway, did you?  Leave a comment to join the garden party.
Today’s topic:

Weeds love August! What weeds are you dealing with in your garden these days?  Perennial bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is my biggest, ongoing challenge, but this time of year I have plenty of annual purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and ridgeseed spruge (Euphorbia glyptosperma) to get after, too. My ornamental plantings are fairly dense, and my soil is mulched, so pulling the weeds by hand is usually the best method for me.  I'll attack that purslane (above) with my trusty hori-hori knife.
What is your peskiest weed problem? How do you manage it? Have you ever completely eradicated a weed from your garden successfully?  What was your technique?

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That seems to be my life these days. Our bumper crop of apricots is finally ripe, and will not go to waste.  We've been using a dehydrator  for  some batches, and prepping others for freezing by cooking them briefly in a light syrup of dark brown sugar and brandy.  Here's my recipe if you'd like to give it a try:

4 cups of halved, pitted apricots*
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cheap brandy

Combine in a non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.   Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer 5-10 minutes, until apricots are tender.
Allow fruit and syrup to cool to room temperature then pack in  containers (I use plastic bags rated for freezer use) and freeze.
Alternatively, you can remove the apricots from the syrup with a slotted spoon and continue to cook down the syrup to a thicker consistency. Serve apricots and syrup over ice cream, pancakes, pork loin, etc. Enjoy!

* For best color, toss apricots - as you pit them - into a mixture of 2 quarts of water and 2 Tablespoons of "Fruit Fresh" (dextrose, ascorbic acid, citric acid).  Lemon juice and water would probably do the same thing...

Next up?  Apricot fruit leather!


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