Friday, April 30, 2010

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (viola)

(please note: the picture to the right is the viola in front of a Virginia Bluebell--that's what the long wide leaves behind are all about)

Last year Rose and I started some seeds for a viola from Burpee called Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. I don't see it at Burpee this year, but it looks like Thompson and Morgan has it still.

This was one of our success stories last year--it grew easily from the seeds and thrived in the front garden (partial shade). This year is even better as it self sowed, not only in the 3 spots we put plants last year, but also other random places throughout the garden.

I would expect in another year it will be acting as a very pretty ground-cover around the other plants!

As you can see, it blooms profusely, and even the tiny seedlings have a bloom or two on them! The blooms start out white (with tiny dark purple faces) and the next day are light lilac, the following day are a deeper shade, sort of a medium purple. So, each plant ends up with a lovely shading of flowers all mixed together. Very nice.

Also lovely, of course, is the fact that this year we did nothing but watch them come up and bloom--especially nice given my slow start this year.

I had also planted some freckles violets last year that I got with a "money off" coupon from a place called Spring Hill Nursery. These also reseeded (or spread?) and came up again this year (they are perennials, but they're in new places, as well).

I wasn't sure I wanted a "twist" on violets with the freckles instead of solid color--I really wanted an old-fashioned look in my garden--but I was getting plants for the cost of shipping and they didn't have a classic purple and I really wanted some kind of violet, so this is what I ordered. Turns out I really love the way they look with the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow violas--guess God was looking after me on my headfirst dive into this new world of planting my own garden, more than I knew!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


They're here!

We bought our condo in the fall and the development people had come in with some landscape "elements" of their own devising (aka they put in whatever they wanted).

So, after the fact I checked the plastic tags attached to the plants and had no idea whatsoever what "Syringa vulgaris" might be. Thankfully, armed with my trusty Google, I looked it up and found--much to my delight--that we had LILACS!

Lilacs are a funny thing, they only bloom for a week or two and then they're gone, but with their lovely shape and color and their strong, absolutely heavenly scent, for that one week or so it's magic.

You almost wouldn't think something with so short a period of glory would be so popular, but I guess I'm not the only one who thinks something so wonderful is worth the wait.

When I was very little, maybe 4 or 5, my friend had lilacs around the rectory where she lived and we used to pretend we were fairies, we'd pick single lilac flowers and try to sip honey out of the end. Needless to say, it never worked, but even many years later, the scent still brings me right back to that time.

I heard somewhere about old forgotten homesteads in what's now wooded areas where lilacs by the door stoop stone are one of the few signs that there was once a family living there. Don't know if it's true, but it's a lovely thought, isn't it?

For something so short lived, lilac blossom have made a big impression. Louisa May Alcott wrote a book called Under the Lilacs (I tried to read it once, but in my humble opinion, there may just be a reason it's one of her lesser know works), in the ballet Sleeping Beauty it's the Lilac Fairy that puts everyone to sleep.

And then there's Walt Whitman with lilacs as a metaphor in his poetic elegy for Lincoln
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"

And now I promise to get out of my poetic lilac-inspired fugue and get back to growing things. But, since I still think it's beautiful, I'll let Whitman stay in his own fugue and have the last lilacey words.

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle -- and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

(flower fairy from © The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker 2008)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hey, look, things are happening!

This year, mainly due to some minor yet hassley health issues, I did not get around to starting seeds indoors in time to make it to the garden in proper time, so I'm going to need to pick up tomatoes as seedlings.

But...I've still gotten a bit of a seed fix by sowing some seeds outdoors last weekend. I've planted some more bachelors buttons (they did very well last year), as well as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, beets and (with a wish and a prayer to the weather) some runner beans.

We haven't had frost in a while, and don't have any in the forecast, but it's still a little early.

So, I'll be posting more on each of those plants as I get on with it, but I want to talk about the beans now, before I live to regret putting them in so early!

I grew bush beans a few years ago on our apartment balcony. They did ok, but not crazy-good and they took a lot of space and when they were done, they were really done. I don't remember that happening with my grandma's bush beans, especially when I was out there picking them (hours and hours, I'm sure!), but I've read that bush beans are like that and pole beans aren't.

If you read back to 2009, you'll see that last year I planted Morning Glories and Moonflowers to climb on a homemade trellis by our shed. The Moonflowers got eaten before they had the chance to vine, and the Morning Glories grew beautifully but never flowered (I've heard that happens if they're fertilized, but I didn't so I don't know what happened--never had that problem before!). Not much glory in that.

But I've been watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and, as I always like nearly free fresh food anyway, I thought I'd put in some pole beans. After looking around at my choices, I switched course only slightly (apparently, runner beans aren't quite the same--whatever) and got a pack of Scarlet Emperor Runner Beans (packed by Botanical Interests--this is a fun seed company--go on and let their website pull you in, you won't be sorry!).

If the internet is to be believed (and when is it not, right?) Scarlet Emperors have gorgeous red flowers, tasty snap beans when picked young, yummy lima-like beans when mature, and pretty mottled dried beans when, well, when you dry them, I guess.

And, runner beans are supposed to produce all season long!

So, despite temps in the high 30's just after I planted them, I'm holding out hope and dreaming of fresh picked, fresh cooked green beans, most likely eaten while gloating over the utter loveliness of the stunning red flowers on my trellis, most likely while watching a flock of humming-birds fly in formation while (insert humming-bird verb here-what is it they do with flowers? sip? peck?) -ing on those stunning flowers and thanking me profusely.

Might not happen, but if we can have some good eating, I'll be more than happy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Late Start to the Garden this Year-by Rose

Somehow it's late April already! We didn't do any gardening until the last few days, and now (I can't say why) a lot of plants from last year popped up, and we got some new seedlings, and our garden, front and back, looks really good! Well, I guess that's just luck.