Due to illnesses and then an injury hitting some of those nearest and dearest to me, this hasn’t been quite the spring I envisioned. (Please wear helmets when you motorcycle, friends, the life you save might just be your own.) There has been a lot of bouncing between hospitals, nursing facilities, and such. And a lot of realizing how lucky we are. The injury, at least, has been stressful and inconvenient- but not tragic. That’s been an important distinction to keep in mind.
Although we’re not exactly on schedule with everything around the house and garden, I believe that all of the chaos lately has made my husband and I appreciate the quiet moments we have been able to snatch gardening all the more. Including here:
Plots at the community garden
We’ve had a plot or two at our town’s community garden every summer since it was created. This summer, we decided not to grow veggies in our plot. (In the past, we were perhaps overly ambitious with our plots, and ended up leaving too much of what we grew to rot.) Instead of veggies we are growing flowers from seeds this time. The idea is to grow a little cutting garden. Hopefully it will be pretty, we’ll get some bouquets out of it, the other gardeners will enjoy seeing it, and it will attract beneficial polinators to the other plots.
For this first attempt at growing a cutting garden, we went for plants we’ve successfully grown from seeds before in our yard. We were going for ease! To that end, my husband planted a mix of zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, and nasturtium seeds in our plot last week. Some are already peeking up:
Can’t wait to see it grow!
Ahh, peonies. Easy-going, romantic, and full of variety. I love them in the garden. I love them as cut flowers. I just think their old-fashioned beauty is charming. They make me think of my grandmothers. Here’s a look at the peonies blooming in our garden this spring:
‘Pink Spritzer’ peony
‘Paree Fru Fru’ peony
Mystery fancy-single type bush peony: there were some distressed, unknown varieties of peonies for sale for very cheap at the Dawes sale a few years ago. I got 2. 1 made it, 1 didn’t. This is the surprise peony that survived, isn’t it striking?
‘Ann Cousins’ (I think!) peony with bonus false indigo
There are so many gorgeous varieties of peonies to choose from. (Around 3,000 is the estimate I keep finding.) It is both hard to choose because they are all so tempting—and easy because one can hardly go wrong! I love the sheer extravagance of the bomb-type flowers (like the Ann Cousins)- absolutely worth the effort of hooping/staking to deal with the drooping. I also love the exoticism of the fancy single type blooms (like the Pink Spritzer) and their relatively lighter blooms don’t tend to droop or need hoops/stakes.This year, we picked up a ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony plant at the Chadwick Arboretum sale- a pink bomb flower that has been available since 1906. Such a classic, I can hardly wait for it to bloom next year. 🙂
What’s your favorite peony variety?
Including native plants in our garden that appeal to butterflies, bugs, and birds is important to me and to my husband. Sterile suburban yards, with neatly trimmed grass and maybe a bed or two of petunias are such missed opportunities, both to provide habitat for a host of creatures and to enjoy lovely floral displays!
One native we’ve had luck growing? Lupinus perennis, also known as wild lupine, native lupine, perennial lupine, or sundial lupine. This beauty attracts a variety of bees and butterflies. It is also the ONLY host plant for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly caterpillars. Read more about the Karner Blue butterfly here: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/kbb/kbb_fact.html.
Aren’t they striking?!? They like kind of rough conditions: dry, slightly sandy, and very sunny spots are preferred. We started with a tiny seedling we picked up at the OSU Chadwick Arboretum plant sale years ago, from a booth run by the plant pathology grad students. Its seeds have spread a bit, which we love. Volunteer wild lupine plants? Yes, please!
If you’re in the right zone to grow them, I highly recommend walking on the wild side and making some room for wild lupine in your garden. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’ll help you attract beneficial bugs to your garden -and potentially provide crucial habitat to an endangered species of butterfly. Win win win.
Folk wisdom in our parts holds that you should be safe to plant annuals, vegetables, and what-not after May 15th. So of course there was a frost warning on for last night. And of course, my husband had actually managed to get all of our vegetables in the ground early this year, getting everything settled last week:
Wonderful, right? We were determined not to lose anything. But our sheet collection was already claimed by some tender Japanese Maples and baby trees we wanted to cover, so what to do? I hit upon the idea of buying some extra paper yard waste bags and popping them over the tomato cages for the tomato plants. We’ll use the bags soon enough in our battle against the weeds, and I figured they’d be quick to put in place and would provide ample protection against any frost. Take a look:
Open a yard waste bag completely
Easy as pie!
On the recommendation of a customer from my job, we also tried using a large empty plastic cat-litter bin over one larger tomato plant that we hadn’t caged yet, and an empty plastic coffee bin over a pepper plant. But we didn’t have enough empty stuff in our recycling bin to cover everything in our veggie patch, and I’m a bit leery of using plastic stuff for this purpose. Plants can get damaged if they’re touching the plastic and it freezes. So for the rest of our pepper and okra plants, we used paper sandwich bags.
Much like with the yard waste bags, we opened them first. Then we ripped about an inch up along each of the corner folds so we could make little flaps. We placed the bags over our little uncaged veggies and put dirt on the flaps to hold things in place as it was a bit windy. Here’s how everything looked covered up:
I am pleased to report that, although we did experience some frost, bagging our veggies did the trick. Everything looked wonderful once it was safe to uncover things. Will absolutely remember this option in the future!