Wednesday, May 30, 2012

More Artichokes

      On May 25th, I harvested three more artichokes.  They are very pretty, but you surely don't want to mess with the little spines all over the choke.  It is best to snip them off with scissors before steaming the chokes.  There are still two more chokes on the plant, for a total now of six.

Three more artichokes,  5/25/2012

First Tomatoes

     I had my first tomatoes yesterday!  Even before June!  They are little, bitty tomatoes called Tiny Tim.  And I am glad that I ate a couple, because they were gone today.  Please don't tell me that the voles like tomatoes as their last salad course.

Tomatoes in May,  5/28/2012

      I have had the little plant in the cold frame for at least six weeks.  The difficulty was not to keep it warm enough, but rather not to cook it when days were consistently in the sixties.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Perennial Geranium

      The true geranium, Geranium endressii, is a pretty little perennial that blooms here in Delaware in mid to late May.  Some of our Forget Me Nots have moved in right next to clumps of the geraniums, making a nice combination of pastel colors.

Perennial Geranium,  5/28/2012

      Though they multiply by seed, they did it very slowly for me.  The tap root is quite long for a fairly small plant, so dig a big chunk of soil out if transplanting.  They tend to be very unhappy about a move if you whack off half of the tap root.  They will send up a few flowers for much of the summer, and don't suffer too much from a drought.  A very desirable addition to a perennial garden.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mid May Blooms

Siberian Iris,  5/18/2012
      I can't recall exactly how long we have had our Siberian Iris, but I suspect it is better than twenty years.  And it is still a treat to see the blooms every year.  It is extremely hardy, borders on being invasive, and may require major digging efforts to remove.  Yet, I recommend it.  In fact, a few year's ago we shared some with our daughter.  Her husband has separated clumps, then separated them again.  Their results:

Butterfly Bed,  5/19/2012

Rob's Island Bed,  5/19/2012
      A little can go a long way.  He has been moving clumps to his school to soften the barren landscape.  It will be there a long time from now.

My back garden,  5/18/2012
      This shot is of the back yard garden.  The bearded Iris are on their way out, as the Siberian Iris are on their way in.  The light blue ground cover "Forget Me Not" is in prime blooming mode.  The somewhat darker purple at the middle left is Veronica.  This bed is still over crowded, so many of these plants are still available for road trips.

Shasta Daisies,  5/18/2012
      The Shasta Daisies are also in full bloom.  A big clump of daisies is such a soothing sight for me.  They are so tall now that a big rain will knock them over.  They self seed with abandon.

Bletilla,  5/18/2012
      The Bletilla, is a temperate, terrestrial genus of orchids containing nine species.  Mine have survived here for maybe twenty years, though they have not multiplied.  I need to move mine as they are under the weigela which blooms at the same time and has a similarly colored flower.  Yet I am afraid to move them because they have been happy in this location.  The white "Alba" variety that I had is long gone.

Saint John's Wort,  5/18/2012
      The Saint John's Wort was a volunteer that popped up next to the porch.  It had such a pretty leaf that we left the plant to grow.  It rewarded us with these beautiful little yellow flowers, and went on to multiply slowly.  We transplanted some babies to the difficult area under the maple tree.  They have thrived there, and continue to spread slowly as a low bush ground cover.

Mock Orange,  5/18/2012
      The mock orange is another shrub that has self seeded successfully under the maple tree.  This year has seen a very prolific season of bloom.

Mock Orange
Amaryllis,  5/20/2012
      This amaryllis has been with us for a long time, multiplying from one bulb to six.  I have another pot of the same flower, so I must have divided it at sometime in this past.  Obviously it needs dividing again.  It overwinters on the porch, where the temperature gets to a minimum of 42 degrees.  It is not watered at all over the winter, yet in the spring sends up new growth signalling the start of the watering for the new year.

And that makes it happy

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ah, Artichoke

      The primary stem artichoke was starting to open just a bit.  I think that means it was starting to develop to the flowering stage, and away from the eating stage.  Nope, not on my watch.

My First Artichoke!     5/18/2012
      So I cut the choke off, and took him for a ride.  We steamed him for dinner, and with melted butter for dipping, he sure was good.  I hope the three remaining chokes will grow to at least this size.
      When I harvested the choke, I took a lot of stem.  Hoping the middle of the stem would have edible flesh like marrow in a bone.  And it looked exactly like that from the cross section of the stem.  And indeed was edible, with an even stronger flavor than the leaf petals.  Future harvests will include the stem pieces.
      There were quite a few sugar ants on the choke when I harvested it.  They were farming some colonies of aphids living under the lowermost petals.  The ants feed on the waste "honeydew" that the aphids produce.  In return, the ants protect the aphids from predators.  In some cases, the ants carry the aphid eggs back to the ant colony for winter storage, then return the eggs to proper plants in the spring.  Thus increasing George's chances of having aphids.  But overall, mostly harmless and totally organic.  Removal of the worthless little bottom petals took care of both sets of critters.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Community Garden Benefit

      For most of my gardening life, I have been a person who gives away the extra daffodil bulbs or tomatoes, or gasp, a bulb or two of garlic.  Now maybe the saying "Tis better to give than to receive" might be politically correct, it is fun to receive as well on occasion.  This morning I picked a bunch of extra scallions and stopped by a gardener's plot on my way out of the park.  His nephew has a plot right next to his, and the nephew has swiss chard planted much too densely.  Would I like to help out by thinning the chard patch?  Well, yes.

Swiss Chard transplants,  5/17/2012
      These were very nice chard plants, probably just the right size to transplant.  The larger ones went directly in the ground at my home garden.  Smaller and bare rooted plants were replanted to cell packs, and placed in the shade to develop a good root system.

Nice new Chard patch
      These plants probably will wilt badly and look like goners, but I expect they will be fine in a couple of days.  I had good luck with some Swiss chard overwintering this year, so I am happy to get these plants.  I did not mention in my blog my earlier disappointment about my Bright Lights swiss chard seedlings.  Had several six packs of beautiful chard coming along.  Put the flat out on the picnic table six weeks ago to harden off the plants.  Are we thinking squirrel yet?  Yep, they had themselves a lovely treat of minigreens.  Right down to the nubs.  The plants have survived by some miracle, and soon will be able to go into the ground to face their next battle.
      But back to the park story.  As I was really, really about to leave, the nephew asked if I liked radishes.  Well, yes.  By 8:30 AM, I had already eaten three small ones from my meager garden supply.  Well, yes, I would love some radishes.  I have had to practice great restraint to be able to put these in the fridge to share with my wife.  Of course I had to taste test one of the small ones.  Was it good?  Well, yes.  It was actually better than good.  Actually scrumptious.  Is it lunch time yet?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Artichoke Update

Green Globe Artichoke plant,  5/16/2012
      In my earlier post about spotting my first artichoke, I mentioned that I thought the plants got 4 to 5 chokes in total.  I am thrilled to report that this plant has four beautiful buds.  The biggest one is on the center spike, and there are three smaller ones barely visible on side shoots.  This center one is opening ever so slightly.  Does anyone know if I should pick it now even though it is a little small?  I would rather eat it small than to lose it from over development.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday's Flowers

More pictures for my archive, all taken May 11, 2012:

Yellow Bearded Iris

Clematis, magenta
Clematis, light purple

Same plant as last shot
Yellow Bearded Iris, different clump, paler yellow
Purple Columbine
Dutchman's Breeches
Bearded Iris, mixed purple
Native Columbine
Native Columbine, second shot
Perennial Geranium
Same plant as above
Lonicera species, ornamental honeysuckle

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Early May Blooms

      I took a walk about the yard on May fifth to snap some pictures of the flowers that were in bloom.  This morning is gray and rainy, so it makes it nice to be looking at these pictures.

      I love this purple clematis as it has wonderful color, yet is bright enough to really shine.  This plant has is the parent to many surrounding babies.  Though quite popular in my plant giveaway, I think there are still some available.

Same plant,  5/5/2012

      While this clematis is beautiful, the darker blooms just don't grab my attention the way the lighter purple ones do.  Yet floating a flower in a cut glass bowl would be very pretty....

      The Stella de Oro day lily is just coming into bloom.  It has been popular in the giveaway, yet some clumps are big enough still to cut off more divisions.


Yellow Bearded Iris

Native red columbine

      And don't forget the "Forget Me Not".  There are clumps everywhere, particularly in the middle of the beds where taller plants should be.  They would appreciate a road trip.

      Heading around the corner to go to the front yard, we pass a clump of perennial geraniums   

Closer shot of the flowers
      .  What a beautiful flower, and they will bloom off and on over the summer.  They volunteer only sparingly, but are long lived.

Delaware Valley White Azalea

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Artichoke Alert

      I am so excited.  I looked down into the artichoke plant that overwintered in the park garden, and what did I see?  A little artichoke, of my very own.  Wow. Cool.  This was my third attempt at growing artichokes.  Maybe it will be my first success.

Artichoke bud,  5/8/2012
      I did not really expect to see a choke this early in the year.  Figured the plant had to get much bigger.  Now I have to wait until the choke itself gets bigger.  Then I will introduce it to melted butter.  Pictures will follow to document its growth.

      The choke has beautiful purple coloring at the bottom of the individual petals.  Hope it keeps this coloring as it matures.  I have another artichoke plant in a large flower pot that I moved onto the porch for the winter.  Will move that pot out to the garden to get more sun.
      The difficulty with growing artichokes is that they need to go through a cold cycle (vernalization) in order to set buds.  Supposedly you can trick young plants into flowering by keeping them cold, but that did not work for me.  And although they supposedly are able to survive the winter in my zone 7A garden, they often rot instead.  At least they did until this year.  From what I have read, I may get 4 to 5 chokes from this plant this year, and a plant is good for 4 to 5 years.  They send off side shoots, so I hope I can separate the shoots to make more producing plants.  All new to me.
      This Green Globe Artichoke plant was sown 1/28/2011 from seed packaged for the year 2009 from Fedco Seeds.  So I have been trying to grow artichokes since 2009, maybe this is the year!  It did not set flower spikes in 2011 even though it was on the porch for the winter of 2011.
      Two plants were planted over at the park for the summer of 2011, only this one survived the winter, though the second one came teasingly close to making it.  Now I wonder if maybe the voles chewed the root of the second one.  The following picture was taken 1/1/2012.  Note the total lack of snow on the first of the year.  Pretty much the total lack of snow for the entire winter.  The plant on the right is the survivor.

      Anybody out there who has grown artichokes?  Would love to hear about your experience.  Maybe I will go back over to the park now to see if it is any bigger.