Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Violas and Alliums: Wild and Cultivated
Yikes, I started this post last Sunday and here it is Friday and I haven't finished it. Seems most of the week was taken up by weeding and that's part of the subject matter here, so it's still current. But let's look at something nice first. Here's the first bloom on a self-sown viola. One of the children of last spring's planting of Historic Florist Mix violas.
Now for it's weedy cousin. Even though it's a weed and even though it's threatening to take over the vegetable garden, I love this tiny little Johnny-Jump-Up-like flower. If it's growing where it isn't in the way, I just leave it. I'll probably kick myself someday.
Its Latin name is Viola arvensis, meaning Viola of the fields, and is native to Europe. Apparently it was once considered a subspecies of Viola tricolor, the ancestor of our Johnny-Jump-Ups. You can see the resemblance.
If Viola arvensis is my favorite weed at the moment, then Allium vineale is my most hated. This wild Allium, aka Wild Garlic, is another European import. Sources disagree on whether it's edible but if it is, I'd have plenty of Alliums to eat even if I never planted another one. This stuff is coming up everywhere and it has to be dug out to get the bulb and the roots. If you just pull on it, you only get the top. Here's a picture of it infesting a clump of thyme.
But there's good Allium news in the garden too. The garlic I planted last fall is growing vigorously now.
This is 'Red Toch'. Never grown that variety before, so I can't say much about it yet, except that it's the largest so far.
The Evergreen Bunching Onions planted last fall are growing very well also, and I've been sampling them over the last few weeks. I think I'm supposed to leave them alone to make bigger clumps, but so far I've been digging up clumps, peeling off the largest stalk from the clump and replanting the rest. I have more bunching onion seedlings coming along so I should have enough even if I get too impatient and eat these before they multiply. The other multiplier onions I planted last fall (Egyptian Top Set and Yellow Potato Onion) are sprouting sporadically.
Is anybody interested in a short tutorial on growing and using green garlic? Or...? I have several blog posts in draft form and need help deciding what to post next.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
When Life Hands You Weeds...
See the little white flowers? Don't they make a nice filler? That's Cardamine hirsuta aka Hairy or Hoary Bittercress. I haven't been bold enough to try it in a salad yet, but at least the flowers will not be leaving seeds in the garden.
I spent all afternoon weeding the kitchen garden. The worst weed at present is wild garlic. It's coming up everywhere - even the paths made of a layer of newspaper with wood chips on top. I was not inclined to take a picture. Maybe after it's all cleaned up.
The other plants in the bouquet, by the way, are Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete', Chionodoxa sardensis, Lycopodium obscurum (from the woods), and some Maple and Blueberry twigs.
If you'd like to see some really cute tiny bouquets, visit Donna at Mother Nature's Garden. Her garden is a little further along than mine, but I plan to copy her ideas when the tulips and muscari are in bloom. (Thanks, Donna!)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Bloom Day: The Pictures
The sun reappeared yesterday! And now it's gone again. Should be back by tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some of the flowers blooming at Tangled Branches North this morning.
My favorite bulb this week is Chionodoxa sardensis. Such a bright clear blue. The flowers are small, as are so many good things.
Haven't made up my mind whether I like the intense yellow Narcissus obvallaris next to the coral bark Japanese maple.
A Pine Knot hellebore. Invisible from a distance, but look how pretty close up. Same flower, different angle.
As long as the Ruby Giant crocuses are blooming, I'll keep posting pictures.
I meant to show you how nice the Scilla siberica looks next to Sedum rupestre 'Angelina', but Angelina insisted it was all about her.
The flower parade is just beginning.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day
...has been rained out.
The sky has been lightly but steadily precipitating on us in central Virginia since Thursday night. So, no Bloom Day pictures, but a couple of lists from memory instead.
At Tangled Branches South:
- Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'
- Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
- Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'
- Chionodoxa sardensis
- maybe, possibly, a self-sown Viola (too muddy to go look for it)
- Galanthus nivalis (still!)
- Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'
- Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' (past its prime)
- Chionodoxa sardensis
- Scilla siberica
- Eranthis hyemalis (or cilicica)
- My early Violet of unknown identity
- Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
- Narcissus obvallaris
Labels: in bloom
Thursday, March 12, 2009
This Year's Hellebores
I'm still working on learning to love hellebores. I think part of my problem is that I've always mail-ordered them from mixed color lots and ended up with mostly mauve-y pinks that I just don't like very much. Even if I did like that color, it doesn't show up well in the woodland garden against the leaf litter mulch. Five of these flowers are Pine Knot hybrids from a mixed lot that Wayside Gardens offered a few years ago. The other two are from a single plant of a Royal Heritage hybrid, I think also from Wayside Gardens.
Of my six plants, the only ones I like much are both Pine Knot hybrids.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Old Books: Vegetable Gardening for Amateurs
OK, I like old gardening books. You may have noticed. And I love Google Books for finding and digitizing them. Once upon a time, you had to have access to a good used bookstore or a library that doesn't discard books just because they're old. And you had to rely on serendipity to find items of interest (although I almost always find items of interest browsing at random). But now you can search the text with a few keystrokes.
Continuing my lettuce quest from the previous post, I found that 'Hanson' - the lettuce in the first excerpt - is still available. Further searching turned up a reference to it in Garden Steps.
I began to read the introduction and it sounded as if it was written yesterday instead of 1917.
Ever heard of the Edible Schoolyard Project? Alice Waters wasn't the first person to think of it.
The book goes on to give good and timeless advice, excepting the part about Sprays and Poisons. One thing I really like is that planting times are frequently given by phenological signs instead of calendar dates.
I'll try to remember that when planting the tomatoes this year.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Kitchen Gardens and More Crocuses
We spent a good part of the weekend working on the vegetable garden at Tangled Branches South. I'll have a lot more to say about this as the season goes on, but I wanted to share with you a couple of old-time resources I found while researching an upcoming post on my genealogy blog. (Yes, there will be gardening content in the next genealogy post.)
I wondered what varieties of lettuce were commonly grown in 1894. A Google search for kitchen gardens and 1894 turned up a modern-day anthology of edible-garden wisdom from the 19th century. The Kitchen Garden Guide is a free downloadable publication. I didn't have any prior knowledge of it before this morning, and I'm naturally suspicious of free anythings, but this appears genuine and non-spammy. However, if you want to go direct to the source, at least one of the books excerpted by The Kitchen Garden Guide is available in its entirety from Google Books.
How to Make the Garden Pay By Tuisco Greiner
Interesting that the author regarded head lettuce, and then only the best inner leaves, as the pinnacle of lettuce-growing. A hundred years later, confessing to liking iceberg lettuce would leave your gourmet credentials as limp as the leaf lettuce you had to eat.
I've always preferred head lettuce, and then only the inner leaves. No fowls to feed the outer leaves to here, sadly. Greiner follows up his cultivation techniques with a list of varieties. He says there are so many good kinds available now, it was hard to narrow it down for publicaiton.
I can confirm one bit of information from the book. In the winter of 2007-2008, I grew a mix of lettuce varieties (free seed) under a double layer of Agribon fabric. The leaf lettuce rotted (froze, whatever), but the head lettuce survived and made delicious salads very early in the spring.
Meanwhile, back at Tangled Branches North, the Ruby Giant crocuses have burst into bloom. This may be my favorite crocus, another one of the type called snow crocuses or bunch crocuses. Its proper name is Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant', native to hillsides and woodlands from southern Hungary through the northern Balkans. It seems perfectly happy in my northern Virginia woodland, returning and increasing every year.
That's an old clump, and the flowers really are that close together. I went a little bit crazy with the pictures and uploaded 5 of them, but it is one of my favorite crocuses.
Friday, March 06, 2009
The snow earlier in the week was a blessing in a way. For one, it's been a bit dry here and we can use the moisture. But even better, I get to take pictures of spring bulbs flowering in the snow. I always used to fall for these pictures in catalogs, imagining that the flowers forced their way up through the snow. Only much later did I realize that those pictures are taken after late snowfalls on the already blooming plants, just like this.
Even though we received about 6 or 7 inches of snow and the temperatures have been very cold, the early March sun did its work and melted much of it. The crocuses reappeared yesterday from where we had shoveled snow on top of them. They just laughed it off.
Plant photos, top to bottom, are:
Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
Iris reticulata 'Gordon'
Crocus sieberi 'Firefly'
Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Cedar Waxwings and Holly Berries
When birds invade.
Cedar Waxings, Robins, and Grackles descended Tuesday afternoon to eat the holly berries from the little tree in front of the house. By Wednesday morning, every berry was gone from that tree.