Fried Bananas

Fried Bananas
in full sun with purple petunias

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sowing Seeds in Winter

Last year I did a little bit of Winter Sowing.  Just some Petunias and some Hosta (Dorothy Benedict x OP).  Winter Sowing involves planting seeds in small transparent plastic flats and putting them outside for the Winter.  In the Spring you get some nice tiny little plants.  I had some success with this and I will do it again for Annuals that I want for next Spring.

This year I will do that, but also I will do some Indoor Sowing as well.  I bought a 4 foot plant light from Amazon and I will sow some Hosta from streaked parents as well as a few annuals that might not do well with the Winter Sowing method as above.  Today I sowed some Hosta seed for indoor growing.  Here are the seeds:
  • Lakeside Knicknack x OP (open pollinated)
  • Lakeside Breeder #4 x OP
  • Epsom Derby x OP (a gift from Rick Goodenough from his garden)
  • William Lachman x OP
My goal this year is to look to get some streaked Hostas that I can use for breeding my own plants.  I got two Streakers from the DBxOP seeds last year.  I hope to get about 30% streaked Hostas (that's the average) from these seeds.  Plus I'll keep anything that looks architecturally interesting to me out of this group.  I've sown about 30 seeds per package, except for the seeds from Rick of which I sowed about double that.  It will keep me busy during the Winter months keeping these seedlings going.

I've also planted two different Hippeastrum (aka Amaryllis) and some Paperwhite Narcissus for indoor plants this winter.  Here's a pic of Hippeastrum 'Charisma' which just bloomed today.
Hippeastrum 'Charisma'

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gardening in December

With the mild temperatures this December, the ground is not frozen anywhere on my property.  This has given me the opportunity to continue to develop a few beds that I will plant next Spring.  Yesterday I actually planted 6 Allium Gigantum bulbs in the daylily bed.  These were 75% off at HD and thus I paid 60 cents for bulbs that usually cost several dollars each.  These went into the ground with no problem.

Mostly, however, I have been working on the soil prep for what I will call the Deck Bed.  This is an area off of the deck that used to be a monstrosity of an above ground pool.  The soil in this area consists of about 2 inches of sand below which is at least a foot of compacted clay and gravel.  After having thousands of gallons of water sitting on top of this area for many years, the soil is heavily compacted.  It has taken me about a week of tilling and digging to get the soil loosened enough for it to drain.  This is an area that is a circle 28 feet in diameter so I can't make enough compost to cover it.  I'm going to have to truck in some 50/50 (compost/topsoil) from a local dairy farm in order to give the soil the proper amount of organic matter.

I dug out this boulder earlier this week.  This thing weighs at least as much as I do (about 200 lbs) and it was 3 feet below ground.  It took me two days with a 6 foot steel digging bar to get it out of the ground and place it in the garden in a way that would be attractive. 

I ran into another boulder this morning.  Unfortunately this one is about 3 feet wide by 4 feet long and must weigh thousands of pounds.  At one point it is only about 6 inches below grade.  I'm not sure what to do about this but it's clear that it is not going anywhere.  Here's a picture of the Deck Garden taken late this afternoon.
The large boulder is at about 8 o'clock as you look at the circle.  The boulder in the pic about is at about 9:30.  This garden is going to be a mixed border of shrubs and perennials.  In the growing months it gets almost full sun, so there won't be any Hosta.  At least not until we grown some shade.  I plan to plant a Stewartia Pseudocamelia tree somewhere in this circle that will eventually make some shade.  The idea is that this garden will create a separation visually that will divide the deck area from the back Hosta gardens.  It's going to be right off the deck so it will be the first thing you see coming out of the back door.  This will be my major project for next year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Chores

Most of November is cleanup and there certainly is a lot to do in that area, as I still have distressed trees that need to be trimmed or in some cases removed.  But another task is to prepare beds for planting next Spring.  Today I did that by the fence, as I am putting in a privacy screen of five Arborvitae (Thuja Orientalis 'Emerald Green'.   These are narrow columnar shaped Arborvitae.  They will grow about 3 feet wide and 12 feet high in about 10 years.  The plants I bought were half price at HD last month and they are wintering over in a holding area in pots that are sunk in the ground.  They are about 5 feet high so they have some growing to do.  I'm building a mound about a foot high by the fence in which to plant them so that they will be taller sooner.

First I had to kill the grass in this area.  Since I wasn't planting until Spring I decided not to use Roundup, but to use a chemical free method.  I place flattened cardboard and layers of newspaper in the planting bed.  This was after I used string and lime to line out the area and then removed the grass along the edge of the bed.  The cardboard newspaper barrier will eventually break down and decompose.  But not until the grass beneath has been killed due to lack of light.  I took some soil from an area on the west side of the property.  This soil looks like it was stored there for many years in a pile.  It's full of roots and weeds,  but I'm sifting it before bringing it over to build the mound.  I'll add some organic material to this area as well as soil.  By the Springtime it should be all set to move the Arborvitae without the use of herbicide.

I have another bed to prep this fall, but I don't know if I will get to it as there is so much cleanup to do.  We'll see.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Still Planting

The October Nor'easter notwithstanding, I haven't stopped purchasing or planting.  Yesterday I put in 75 daffodils (Ice Follies) in the driveway bed.  These were the bulbs that were a replacement order from last year.  Eden sent me an extra 25 bulbs due to the fact that they sent me the wrong bulbs last year.  I had to remove some snow from the bed, but the soil was nice and diggable as I used a bulb planter to put these in.  The work went quickly.

Cornus Sericea 'Silver and Gold' from Tower Hill
Today I went to Weston Nurseries because their end of year sale was too good to pass up.  I picked up a Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy', a Hydrangea 'Bella Ana', and Cornus Sericea 'Silver and Gold' along with a few tulips that I will force by bringing them into the house in the winter time.  Here's a pic of Cornus Sericea 'Silver and Gold'.  This is a plant I've been looking for for a long time.  It's actually a red twig dogwood, but the branches are a gold color instead of red.  As you can see from the picture it also has variegated foliage.  It also grows golden colored berries that the birds go crazy for.  So it's a 4 season shrub.  Right now I've put all these purchases in  a holding area, but I already know where Silver and Gold will go.  It will be placed on the hill in the back garden to provide some protection from the afternoon sun for the Hosta in that bed.  This is an old fashioned shrub that you see a lot in older gardens, but it's hard to find in nurseries.  Nurseries want to sell the latest and greatest stuff and oldies, but goodies like Silver and Gold get crowded out.  At half price I couldn't pass this one up.  Here's what mine looks like right now. 

I've been accepted into the Master Gardener's program by the Mass Horticultural Society.  In order to become a Master Gardener you have to take a full course in Horticulture, pass a test and then volunteer so many hours in different areas.  This is something I am looking forward to.  The course begins in February and runs through next Spring.  It should expand my knowledge a great deal.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Anniversary Storm

October 30th is my anniversary.  35 years.   Unfortunately dinner and movie plans were cancelled, since we were in the middle of a nasty Nor'easter.  We ended up with a foot of heavy wet  snow.  It fell on the trees and shrubs that were full of leaves.  The result was that many trees suffered broken branches.  Most of the Oaks dropped large branches on the Hosta gardens.  The Hostas won't be affected.  They were pretty much done for the season.  But there's a lot of cleanup to do.  The large JM in the front lost several large branches, but it still looks OK.  Many of the lilacs were bent over to the ground but they responded when I cleaned off the snow.  The large Rose of Sharon in the White Garden was flattened to the ground.  I'm hoping it will bounce back, but it may need significant pruning to restore it.  Other trees and shrubs have responded well to being cleaned up.  We will have a lot of branches to chip later in November and a lot of chainsaw work to do.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snow in October

Well the first frost we had was accompanied by ice and about a half inch of snow over all the grassy surfaces.  Even the roads became icy last night as this morning's commute was full of accidents.  The Hostas seemed to survive OK, the New Guinea Impatiens melted as I expected.  More snow due tomorrow night, a Nor'easter with 5 plus inches predicted along with strong winds.  Hmm.  That's should put things into dormancy.

Finally got the replacement daffodil bulbs from Eden Brothers.  They sent me an additional 75 Ice Follies daffodils as a means of making up for their mistake last year.  That means I have 125 bulbs to plant this Fall.  I hope that snow melts soon, so that I can get these in the ground.  Here's what it looks like.
Narcissus 'Ice Follies'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

White Garden

Well, I finished mulching the White Garden today.  It took two days to do it and it took about 2 1/2 yards of mulch, because this bed is so big.  There are two large plants in this garden, a Rose of Sharon that is about 15 feet high and as wide that was here when we bought the property, and a Kousa dogwood that was given to me by the Country School parents in Weston.  The Kousa is two years old  and is doing well.  It will continue to get bigger and provide more shade for the North side of this garden.  Most of what I have put into the garden thus far have been Hosta, Heuchera and Daylilies.  I've also recently added two Peonies, a Hibiscus, some Echinacea, Irises, and Phlox Paniculata 'David'.  I've also planted lots of bulbs including white crocus, Daffodil Mt. Hood, Allium (white of course) and Lilies.  

I found the Lily bulbs that were dug up by the squirrels, at least I found 4 of them.  Apparently, they didn't like the taste of the bulbs with the repellent I put on them and thus spit them out.  I stepped on one yesterday and then scoured the yard for the others.  They were a little worse for wear after having been dug up and half eaten by squirrels, but I replanted them anyway.   We'll see if they remain in the ground and if they grow next Spring.  Odd that the squirrels haven't bothered with Oriental Lily 'Casablanca' only 'Siberia'. 

Well there is much more room in the White Garden, especially in the sun areas.  I still have to find the plants for next Spring.  Having room to plant is a good thing. 
Hosta Fire and Ice in front of a white salvia in the White Garden

Tomorrow, more mulching, some digging and picking up leaves with the lawnmower.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hosta Meeting

Went to Tower Hill Botanic Garden today for the meeting of the New England Hosta Society.  Nice group.  I spent $20 on raffle tix and won a $25 gift certificate at Mason Hollow Nursery.  This is one of my favorite places to shop so it's a bargain.  I also won a Variegated Liriope and some clay pots.  Not bad.  There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill in that room.  Many of the people there hosted the AHS convention tour this past summer and their gardens are unbelievable.   Maybe someday my garden may be considered worthy of a tour.  Certainly it isn't yet.

Well today I put some dog poop on top of the one Lily Siberica bulb that I have left.  It appears that squirrels dug up and ate the other four.  I understand that dog poop will deter them.  Since we have plenty of that I used it after replanting the only bulb left.  We'll see if this control really works.

Yesterday I bought 5 Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja Orientalis 'Emerald Green').  These were on sale for about $18 each (50% off).  They are about 5 feet tall each in 3 gallon pots.  They will be planted along the fence to provide a screen between our deck and the neighbor's yard.  In 10 years they grown 10-12 feet high and 3-4 feet wide.  They'll get wintered over in a holding bed and then planted in the spring.  I need to build up the soil into a berm in that area.

Picture of Dryopteris Brilliance in the Umbrella Pine border.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More mulch

Well I'm exactly half way through the 6 yards of mulch.  I finished the SE Shirishiwanum bed and then re-did the Crabapple bed.  I then started and got about a third of the way through the White Garden bed.  That finished the first pile of three yards and now I'll use the rest to finish the White Garden,  mulch the expanded front beds and then start of the center back bed.  The left back bed will receive a shredded leaf layer of mulch.  I want to see if it's possible to use that organic mulch on a regular basis.

I planted Lilium 'Siberia' today.  Five bulbs directly behind Peony Krinkled White in the White Garden.  Before planting I sprayed them with Bobex.  Bobex is an animal repellant that includes castor oil.  I'm hoping it will prevent voles from eating the bulbs.  I also plan to spray the entire bed with castor oil after frost.  Hopefully, this will keep critters from eating the bulbs.  Of all the bulbs I've planted, none seem to have been eaten thus far.  I noticed a daffodil bulb in the back bed that had been dug up, probably by squirrels.  But I'm not worried about daffodils they're poisonous.  The Crocus, Lilies and Tulips are the bulbs in jeopardy.  So far so good.

Here's a pic of Lily Siberia.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


It was still foggy and misty this morning until about 11:00 a.m.  The total of rain that we had yesterday was 1.5 inches.  A good amount that should keep everything well watered for a few days. 

Autumn Frost mulched
The second 3 yards of mulch was delivered this morning at 7:00 a.m.  It was still dark at that time so I waited til about 9 to begin to spread it.  This is going to take me a while since I'm weeding before spreading the mulch.  Today I finished the back NE foundation bed and the little section on the NW side of the foundation as well.  I also got about halfway through the Shirashiwanum bed  on the SE side.  That was slow going due to the fact that it was full of weeds.  However, it looks like 6 yards is going to be plenty of mulch.  I may end up with more than I need.  If so, I'll put some under a tarp and save it for when I need it later.  The mulch that I got from Whittier's is hemlock and it is of high quality.  It's very fine, with no large pieces.  It's a natural color, not that ugly red, or black or brown of dyed mulch, and it looks great in the beds.  Here's a pic of H. Autumn Frost newly surrounded by mulch.

Two things arrived today.  UPS brought 5 bulbs of the Oriental Lily 'Siberia'.  Siberia is an all white cultivar supposed to be superior to Casablanca.  We'll see.  It will be planted near Casablanca  in the shadow of Peony 'Krinkled White' in the White Garden.  Should be a nice addition to that garden.

The other item arrived by Post.  It is seeds from Lakeside Breeder #4.  I bought these from M&M seeds, actually it's from Jeff Miller at Land of the Giants.  There were a lot of seeds in the envelope.  I think I'll freeze these for a while before planting them this winter.  Thus far I have seeds from Lakeside Breeder #4, Hi Ho Silver, and Epson Derby.  The seeds from Epson Derby are a gift from Rick Goodenough.  They are OP and consist of a scape full of seed pods.  I had pulled off the pods and put them in an envelope to dry.  Today I checked the envelope and some of the pods had opened.  They are full of seeds.  More seeds than I can possibly plant.  Should be fun this winter seeing if I can get anything interesting from these seeds.  I may winter sow some of the Epson Derby seeds because there are so many.

Tomorrow I'll plant the Lily bulbs and see if I can finish weeding and mulching two more beds.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a Rainy Day, it's a rainy day...

It's raining outside so I can't go out and play.   Thus far we have had a little more than 3/4 of an inch of rain, as it's been raining pretty much all day.  I ordered 6 yards of hemlock mulch (3 were delivered today, 3 will come tomorrow) from Whittier Farms in Sutton.  It's bark mulch not organic mulch, but it is local and it's in bulk.  It cost $286 delivered.  So I'll be spreading it over the next few days or more.  I hope that this will cover the SE bed, the NE foundation bed and the White Garden bed with a little left over to add to the front and the Crabapple beds.  I only want about an inch to an inch and a half over these beds.  We'll see if it's enough. 

Got a new shovel at Sears.  It's guaranteed for life, so if I break it digging out a rock, it'll be replaced.  I also looked at the Emerald Green Arborvitae at HD in Oxford.  They're on sale at 50% off and about 5-6 feet tall.  I need these along the fence for a privacy screen.  I will need to borrow a truck to get them here, and I need to figure out how many I need.  They'll be about $14 a piece.  I can hold these until Spring in a holding bed.

Here's a picture of Hosta Stained Glass from yesterday.  Pretty good looking for Oct 18th.  No frost yet.
H. Stained Glass

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finishing the front - for now

Well I started by digging the few Ailanthus roots that were sticking up in the holding bed in the back.  These roots run long distances and I chase them with a shovel until they "go to ground."  I'm going to need to get a digging bar to work in this area and in the back beds, as the rocks are getting too big for me to get out of the ground.

Before I got too tired I went back to finishinh the front.  Both Galaxy and Rhino Hide had sunk down in their grow bags and needed to be fixed.  So I put an inch or two of composted cow manure around each plant and lifted them up with a garden fork, so that they would be planted at the correct level.  Here's a pic of both after the fix.

Rhino Hide

Next I re-edged the front lawn, placing the excess material by the East fence to start building a berm there.  Some of the grass that came out of the edging I transplanted to the South East side replacing some quack grass.  We'll see if this is a better way of establishing lawn in this area than overseeding.  The front looks good right now, but it needs more mulch since the edging and planting.  I also need to move a full grown azalea (if I can), from next to the maple to further down towards the street.  I want to replace an out of control euyonomous in this area.   But this is a very big job, both the removal of the euyonomous and the moving of the azalea.  I'm not sure I'll get to it this Fall or next Spring.  There are a lot of ailanthus roots in this area also.  This will have to wait until I'm done with the holding bed, the back bed and the fall mulching.

Lastly I checked H. Mirror, Mirror for foliar nematodes.  I took a leaf that had some necrosis in it and cut it into pieces.  I then floated that leaf in a clear glass bowl and put it in a sunny window.  After a few hours I looked at it under a magnifying glass.  No bugs.  I will still keep this in a pot until late next summer.  This plant comes as a gift from a gardener that I know has nems, so I'm being extra careful with it.  It's a great gift plant, and I'm looking forward to seeing it mature.

Supposed to get 2-3 inches of rain tomorrow.  I think I'll go to HD to get a digging bar and order some mulch from Whittier farm.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It Starts

I've been gardening seriously here in Millbury (Zone 5b just south of Worcester, MA) for only a little over a year now.  Having retired in July 2010, I finally got serious about doing the things in this yard that I never had time to do while I was working.

I began by taking a chain saw to a Smoke Tree that I'd always hated, mosty because it was in the wrong place.  I replaced it with a 60 foot daylilly bed along the driveway with a dwarf Butterfly Bush as an anchor.  From there I moved to the other side of the driveway and decided to put in a bed of Hosta.  Unfortunately, that got me interested in Hosta all over again.  
Daylilly Bed in April 2011

I had just begun to create a Hosta bed in Holland before we left there in 2004.  I began to read and research different Hosta plants.  I ordered several plants in the Fall of 2010 from NH Hostas on line and heeled them in over the winter.  As of this writing I have planted over 150 cultivars of Hosta in 8 different beds.

But I'm expanding my horticultural horizons.  I'm putting in a full sun bed just off the back of our deck in a prominent position in the Spring, and it likely won't have a single Hosta in it (we'll see).   

Today I was digging hard.  I planted two Hostas under the Norway Maple in the front yard.  Both were planted in 'Spin Out' bags.  These bags prevent root competition with the Maple roots.  Planting under Maples is difficult in any case, but in this area there are large rocks and invasive Ailanthus Altisima roots to add to the difficulty.  It took me about 5 hours of digging to get these two plants in place.  But these are the last two Hosta I will plant this year.  Galaxy is a streaker that will produce seedlings. It is placed next to its parent plant Francis Williams.  Rhino Hide is a new cultivar that has the thickest leaves of any Hosta to date.  Its slug resistance will help it in this area.  I'm wondering though if it will take the sun as it's on the East side of the Maple.

Tomorrow I hope to finish edging the front beds and then work on the holding bed in the back.  More Ailanthus roots back there.