Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long Blooming Perennials

My garden doesn't look anything like this today.
But, I can dream, can't I?

I was awakened by howling winds... dark grey skies, blowing snow. I probably wouldn't mind so much if it hadn't been for that glorious early start to spring 2 weeks ago.

Alyssum is one of the first perennials to flower in my spring garden. (Not counting bulbs.)

That's when the weather warmed so beautifully I was able to spring into action and clean up one of my flower beds.

As Alyssum begins to fade, pale blue Jacobs Ladder bursts into bloom.

Then as quickly as spring arrived, it disappeared. Under another foot of snow. Unseasonably cold March days. No more tromping around the garden ~ at least not for awhile.

After Jacobs Ladder comes a sea of multicolored Columbines.

So, today I'm dreaming about my assembly line perennials. They may not be ultra-cool or super exotic. But they serve a happy purpose. These girls bloom in rapid succession all summer long.

Columbines grow amidst big clumps of perennial Geraniums.

Blue blooms first. Then pink steps in to pick up the slack.

Come 4th of July, Jupiter's Beard celebrate their own independence. It doesn't matter how often I thin the herd, they still grow up to be monsters.

In the dog days of summer, Yarrow creates a polka dot mess of bright color:

Soon after, fall-blooming Asters add new life to my gardens, indicating the sorry change of seasons:

Which serves as the wake up call for Sedum:

Sedum finishes blooming right about the time I'm so over gardening it isn't even funny.

The only real downside to a perennial garden is that even the long-blooming perennials only flower for 6-8 weeks, as opposed to 4 months of flowers with annuals. But, I still think perens are the way to go.

If I had to hand out report cards, these gals would graduate at the top of their class. The perennials listed here provide bright, gorgeous color from early spring to late fall.
  1. Alyssum
  2. Jacobs Ladder
  3. Columbine
  4. Cranesbill Geraniums
  5. Achillea Yarrow
  6. Rudbeckia
  7. Jupiter's Beard
  8. Solidago
  9. Asters
  10. Sedum
* They might flower at different times in your garden. Things are weird in the mountains.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Advice on Peas. Pretty Please?

Got a note from Dave, the pea lover, wondering what's a good variety to plant and is there such a thing as a safe planting date in the mountains?

First, the easy question. There is no safe planting date. However! My neighbors have learned that the last hard freeze of the winter ALWAYS happens the week AFTER I plant MY veggie garden. So, if you wait until I screw up you should be in pretty good shape.

If you're more of a leader than a follower here are a couple of options:

1) Sow by seed quick-growing peas that mature in 65-80 days.
2) Or, start them indoors. I plant mine in plastic drinking cups. They grow on the deck for the month of May (so I can haul them indoors on an exceptionally cold night.) I put them in the ground around June 15th.
* This is sadly abnormal in comparison to low lander veggie gardeners but mountain growing seasons are on a different timetable. We get started later but we can usually harvest later, too.

There are tons of pea varieties - English peas, snap peas, snow peas (edible pods) and, the most misunderstood of all, the Black Eyed Peas. These are considered beans if you live in the north or a highly entertaining band if you're younger than me.

Kelvedon Wonder ~ one of my favorites. It's a fast growing, tasty variety that shrugs off pea wilt and other disasters. Matures in 65 days.

Sugar Ann and Sugar Mel ~ (Don't they sound like the cutest couple?) Quick, crisp and delicious. Ready for picking in about 60 days.

Alderman (aka Tall Telephone) ~ the yummiest pea you've ever gobbled. They say this big guy requires 75 days - but it's closer to 100. Start him indoors and gift him with a tall fence. He'll climb 8 feet if you let him.

Sun-kissed, vine-ripened, fresh-picked, barely fertilized:
  • Peas produce their own nitrogen but they'll love you forever if you give them an extra shot of phosphorus.
  • Peas are a cool season veggie. Cool, not cold. Dave's overly-anxious neighbor pushes aside the snow to plant seeds directly into the ground very early. That's a different outcome for the tortoise and the hare. Peas need warmth to sprout so, sure! You can plant them early but they'll wait for warmer weather to germinate. If you plant them later chances are good they'll reach the finish line at about the same time.

Give Peas a Second Chance!
Saving pea seed is simple. Allow the pods to dry until brown on the vines. Hand shell them and plant the following spring.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grow an Irish Garden

I've had a love affair with the Emerald Isle for as long as I've been on this planet. On days, when life becomes unruly, I close my eyes and daydream about an imaginary cottage ~ with a brightly blooming Irish garden ~ in some out of the way spot that never gets cell phone service.

Flourishing in this imaginary place are all my Irish Garden favorites:



Bellis perennis

Ox Eye Daisy



Plus lots and lots of cool, bright, soft and squishy... Irish Moss.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

* Plant an Irish Garden
Perennials: Bellis perennis, Primula vulgaris, Ranunculus ficaria, Achillea millefolium Leucanthemum vulgare. Bushes: Cytisus scoparius, Ulex europeaus Ligistrum vulgare, Viburnum opulus. Ground Cover: Sagina subulata

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paper Yellows

March winds howled relentlessly for 3 long days. Picking at my sanity like a hungry bird.

I'd toss and turn, shake off strange nightmares, and try it again. Come morning, I'd stumble toward the coffee pot in a sleepy fog.

Then oh so abruptly, relief. The noisy wind stopped. It quietly began to snow. Soft gently falling flakes that invite me to see a magic in winter most gardeners do not.

Even though it was night time, Bad Dog and I donned the snowshoes and took a little hike. Soaking in the silence, returning to normal, I rediscovered my smile.

When we got home the toilet exploded. So, I've been having a week.

Fortunately, for me, so have the indoor Daffodils and that's a good thing.

Narcissus has been hopelessly hybridized to the point it's hard to know what you're growing. But this variety, Narcissus papyraceus, will always have a special spot in my window.

They're commonly colored white and called Paperwhites. I get all the white I need outdoors in the form of snow. These are the rebels of that Tazetta group, Paper Yellows.