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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

2-deserted-beach-and-mikeNo matter where you are in Rhode Island, you cannot be more than 45 minutes away from the Atlantic Ocean. One of the many advantages of being a gardener in the Ocean State is easy access to seaweed whenever the need or mood arises.

5-seaweed-and-shellsLate every fall after Thanksgiving, Mike starts his winter compost pile. In addition to loads of shredded leaves, he adds potato, apple and banana peels and other raw vegetative waste plus coffee grinds and tea bags. Then he mixes in a special  ingredient — seaweed. We call seaweed “seafood” for roses — or any other plant — because it contains a wealth of nutrients plants need, including all the major and minor nutrients but no weeds, weed seeds, insects or diseases.

The Rhode Island state constitution guarantees each citizen the right to gather seaweed below the high water mark from any beach. So, on a bright and sunny day in December we traveled the 45 minutes to Newport where I grew up, planning to arrive at the time when the tidal tables, published daily in the newspaper, indicated low tide.  One of our favorite seaweed stashes is at Easton’s Beach also known as 1st Beach to locals.  Low tide was at 11 AM and when we arrived at noon, we saw the parking lot full of occupied cars with people eating lunch and enjoying the view. The beach itself, though, was deserted.

6-mike-gathering-seaweedAfter unloading his muck buckets and grabbing his rake, Mike and I walked down to the beach, and while dressed for a December day in New England, we were pleasantly surprised that the day was warm and the raw wind that blows in off the Atlantic in late fall was non-existent.

Usually we harvest seaweed after an ocean storm churns up and washes in the crème de crème of seaweed. But no storms were predicted for the imminent future, so we hoped that enough seaweed had washed ashore with the incoming tide.

3-gathering-seaweedWe indeed found clumps of seaweed covered with fine beach sand deposited along the high water mark which made it easy for Mike to spear with his special short-handled beach rake, shaking off the excess sand and tossing it into the bucket.

8-surfer

Meanwhile, I watched as the beach filled up with people walking their dogs, children running along the water’s edge and stopping to stare out into the vastness of the Atlantic and a lone surfer measuring the waves.

1-children-on-beachMike filled several buckets with seaweed, along with some quahog and scallop shells, all the while chatting with folks walking by and explaining to them, when asked,  why he was “cleaning the beach.” After an hour, we packed up, a little reluctant to leave, realizing that we had chosen the perfect day to go “seaweeding.”

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Music

Years ago I bought a cook book titled “Glorious Garlic” and it has some terrific recipes. Little did I know when I bought it that Mike and I some day would seriously grow garlic. Mike refers to us as “Garlicteers.” Not only do we love to eat garlic (Mike makes delicious garlic mashed potatoes), but we also enjoy growing garlic in addition to our roses.

It all started a few years ago when we planted a few cloves of garlic around our roses because we wanted to determine if garlic is really a deterrent against black spot. Since we planted it among our sustainable roses which don’t get black spot, we couldn’t tell if it helped or not. But it didn’t hurt and provided us with some delicious fresh garlic that summer.

Garlic Bed

Last October we got serious about planting garlic. Mike prepared a garlic bed, amending the soil, and we mail ordered Hardneck garlic, better for the cold New England climate than Softneck Garlic, from Green Mountain Garlic in Vermont.

According to Green Mountain Garlic, there are 3 types of Hardnecks: Racamboles, Porcelain and Purple Stripe. When we ordered our garlic the end of July 2014, we were a little late and the only garlic available was the Porcelains. We ordered ½ pound each of 2 varieties: Music and Romanian Red, which gave us 3 bulbs of each variety, about 13 -15 cloves of each bulb. Along with our harvest from the previous year of 2 unknown garlic varieties that we were given by friends from the Connecticut Rose Society, we had about 50 cloves to plant.

Digging up Garlic

Garlic is easy to grow and once it was planted at the end of October 2014, we had nothing left to do but wait. By the end of March 2015, after most of the snow had finally melted, we saw the garlic pushing up through the still-hard soil. In early June the curly garlic scapes appeared and we followed Green Mountain’s instructions and clipped them off and used them like chives. Quite tasty. By the first week in July, just as predicted, the garlic leaves turned yellow, a sign that they were ready to harvest. We dug up a few heads to see if they were ready to go then decided to wait 1 more week before we harvested them all in the middle of July.

Harvested-Garlic

Mike bundled them up by variety and hung them on our patio under the awning – the only place we had that was warm, dry, out of the sun with good air circulation. We let them cure for 4 weeks until the clove wrappers were dry, then we trimmed the stems and the roots, cleaned them off and stored them in mesh bags.

Hanging-GarlicThe difference between fresh and store-bought garlic is amazing. I could tell that as soon as I chopped up my first Romanian Red which just oozed out pungent garlic oil. I added chopped garlic to our home-grown green beans and the garlic flavor was just amazing. We tried Music next and found it was a bit milder. What I liked about both, besides their freshness and intense flavor, was the ease in peeling, unlike some of the garlic I bought at the market.

Our yield was almost 100%. We lost 1 clove to a curious squirrel who had dug it up and discarded it on the grass when she decided it wasn’t an acorn. Mike plans on expanding our garlic patch and I’ve already ordered a 3rd variety from Green Mountain Garlic called Spanish Red, a Racombole variety that is described as having a rich, robust flavor. I can’t wait to try it!

Garlic and roses, great companion plants!

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Garden of Glass Chihuly Garden and Glass

Garden of Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass

When we traveled to Seattle Washington last May, we had planned an active itinerary of what to see and places to go. High on our list was Pike’s Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Woodlawn Rose Garden. Of course, the list included the Space Needle – the iconic symbol of Seattle – and while we were there we were also eager to go to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition that was located right next door

Pike's-PlaceOur hotel was within easy walking distance of Pike’s Place Market, so the day we arrived in Seattle, we decided to have lunch at Pike’s Place. However, visiting on a Sunday turned out not to be a good idea, since it was so crowded that we could barely move, let alone find a place to sit down and eat. But we did enjoy watching the crowds swarm around the big fish stalls and especially liked the very busy flower stalls that were absolutely packed with a never ending supply of inexpensive floral bouquets. Every one we saw seemed to be carrying a bunch of these colorful flowers.

Flower-Stall

Fish-StallWe find it helpful to go on a city tour early in our trips in order to get a sense of the layout of a new city. Mike had chosen Shutter Tours, an excellent small-tour company that brought us to some out of-the-way places we would have missed on our own. As a bonus, the tour guide provided welcome tips on taking photos. So on the day after our arrival in Seattle, we were driven through the city of Seattle then a ride out to Snoqualmie Falls. Then it was on to a stop at the Fremont Troll under the Seattle highway overpass followed by a look at Ballard Locks and Fisherman’s Terminal. The Locks were particularly interesting since it was Memorial Day and we were able to see the traffic jam of pleasure boats queuing up in the locks to get home.

Troll

Ballard-LocksThe next day we took the hotel courtesy car out to the Space Needle with plans to view Chihuly Garden and Glass. We were a little disappointed to find out that most of the indoor exhibits, like the Northwest Room, Sealife Room, and the Ikebana and Float Boat room we had seen at the Chiluly exhibit at Boston Museum of Fine Arts a few years ago. But we were fortunate to arrive just in time for a fascinating demonstration of glass blowing.

Glass-BlowingThe most impressive part of our visit was the Chihuly Glasshouse, a 40 foot tall structure where a colorful display of glass flowers hung above and around us, part of a 100-foot long suspended sculpture. It was an amazing piece of art and as I looked up, juxtaposed above the sculpture was the iconic Space Needle.

Greenhouse

Space-Needle-and-GreenhAs impressive as the Glasshouse was, I think the Chihuly Garden outside was just as striking, not so much for its live plantings but for the monumental glass sculptures and colorful installations of glass art displayed artfully among and around the trees, shrubs, and plants. The bright colors – blues, oranges, purples, reds – were truly amazing.

Chihuly-GardenIf you visit Seattle, put the Chihuly Garden and Glass on your ‘must-see” list. This Garden of Glass is a garden like no other and one you’ll never forget.

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Crocus

After months of bitter cold and snowy weather, winter finally let go and Spring has arrived. As Mike and I waited for the weather to warm up, we kept watching for signs of typical early spring growth in our garden. Finally, in late March it came. Our crocuses bloomed, the garlic we planted last fall broke ground and the buds on our roses have started to swell with the promise of new growth. I had been hoping that our clematis and delphinium made it through this difficult winter and, at last, saw tender shoots pushing their way up this past weekend.

Garlic

Garlic

I keep adding to my Spring To Do List in my “Journal” but know I’ll have to wait a bit longer before I can get outside and start gardening. The soil is still too cold to plant the seeds we bought last month and there’s still a strong chance of frost. While we patiently wait for forsythia to bloom, a reliable signal to start spring pruning, we have begun garden clean-ups and removal of any heavily damaged rose canes. While the snow cover from this winter provided good insulation from the cold, it also resulted in quite a few broken canes.

Damaged rose canes

Damaged rose canes

Another spring task is the annual “potting-up” that takes a week, depending on the weather. Mike first pots up the ‘maidens’ from last year’s budding – he bud grafts approximately 70 roses each year, concentrating mainly on Brownell roses and other favorite varieties that are out of patent and hard to find. Then he pots up the rootstock which just arrived a few days ago from Canada. Lastly, he prunes and re-pots all the roses wintered over in the crib. He enjoys working in chilly early spring weather, sunlight shining brightly before nearby trees cast shade over the garden. This annual ritual is his first activity in the garden since before Christmas. Which reminds me that I haven’t entered potting up on our To-Do List yet.

Rootstock

Rootstock

One of our projects we will begin this month is redesigning our mature rose garden. We plan to do it in stages and Mike has been anxious to start by rebuilding the rose bed where Clair Matin has been growing splendidly for 18 years.

Clair Matin, Climbing Rose

Clair Matin, Climbing Rose

All the rose beds in this garden are currently raised but we have decided in the redesign to replace them with flat beds except for the two end beds of climbing roses that anchor our “garden room” on each side. Since shade from the tall maple trees we once had is no longer a factor, some of the beds will be reconfigured, totally rebuilt and hardscape added. I’d love to have a moon gate as an entrance to our newly designed garden – like the one I saw at the Boston Flower Show this year – but I will settle for an arbor instead.5.-Moon-Gate

Happy Spring!

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Sunflower What’s with sunflowers?
I see them widely planted and yet had never been tempted to try them myself. But that changed last spring when Angelina and I were presented with a unique opportunity. Due to the removal of a large maple tree because of hurricane damage the previous year, we created a border in a now-sunny location along our new deer fence. Since we had no clear vision at the time of what this border should be and did not want to waste a growing season by doing nothing, we settled on an eclectic mix of garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, string beans and sunflowers.

 

Side Garden in August

Side Garden in August

Side Garden after Blizzard

Side Garden after Blizzard

We both wanted the vegetables and Angelina lobbied to include sunflowers. Even though it was getting late in the spring to plant seeds, I bought two packets of leftover sunflower seeds for $1 each at a local discount store and planted them in late May, having no idea what to expect. Would they be fussy, high maintenance plants? Tough to grow? Attract unwanted animals?

 

Sunflowers-over-Fence-9.

Well, no worries. I planted one long row along the fence by poking my index finger into soft soil and dropping a seed in, covered it up and watered. That’s it. A week later these tiny seedlings appeared and started to grow…and grow…and grow… Sunflowers-in-VaseThey grew as tall as the six-foot deer fence and then grew another six feet. Our neighbors enjoyed them as much as we did. By late July they started to bloom into an eye-popping blast of bright yellow that continued into the early fall. Sunflower-and-blue-sky
While the tomatoes, eggplant and garlic grew superbly and the string beans never quit, the stars of the garden were the towering, frisbee-sized flower heads. What had started off as a diverse assortment of miscellaneous plants melded together by mid-summer into an unusual yet attractive garden that we could never have planned.
As I sit here writing in January, the Blizzard of 2015, as it is now called, howls outside. But as snow drifts across the driveway and the temperature sinks towards zero and the news media predicts winter doom, I think of those great golden sunflowers from last summer smiling at me.

 
If, as Angelina likes to say, gardening begins in January with your imagination, then it also continues through warm reflections of gardens past.

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Good as Gold

Good as Gold

Today is the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight in the year. Starting tomorrow, the amount of daily sunshine will start to increase, imperceptibly at first, unnoticeable until late in January during the coldest part of the year.

Hilled up Rose

Hilled up Rose

The winter solstice is the official end of my gardening season. The gardens have been winterized – each rose lightly pruned and hilled up with a foot or so of horse manure. The potted roses have been gathered together into a large, open-topped wooden crib covered with leaves that allow rain and snow-melt to percolate through. (The winter protection in the garden as well as the cribs serves to keep roses dormant until late March avoiding premature loss of dormancy during mid-winter freeze/thaw cycles.)  The long canes of large shrub roses and climbers have been trimmed or pegged and transplanting is complete.

Crib with Potted Roses

Crib with Potted Roses

It’s done! Whew.

Each year I tell myself that I will start this process sooner and be done sooner but I never am and it’s always after Thanksgiving before it’s complete.

Looking back at this past season, I’m reminded again that all gardens are dynamic entities, always changing in some way all the time. I like to have a hand in this natural morphing and, for the first time in several years, I replaced a large number of varieties in the back garden last May. Since one rose has to go before another rose can be planted, I put in 16 new varieties and said good bye to a few old favorites that were past their prime as well as some others that had worn out their welcome. Of them all, the big surprise was a new hybrid tea named Good as Gold that I planted with some reluctance since I am phasing hybrid teas out of the gardens altogether. But this variety was new and I was very curious about its color. And what color it was – a true gold with peachy undertones.

Tree Coming Down

Tree Coming Down

The biggest change, though, came from the loss of a very large maple tree that provided shade for both our home and gardens. It was damaged in Super Storm Sandy and had to be removed in November last year. This summer, as expected, the rose garden was infused with morning sunshine that it never had before and responded with robust growth and bloomed almost a week earlier than it has in the past. Plus the insidious invasion of nutrient-robbing tree roots into the rose garden finally ceased. That was the good news. The bad news was the totally unexpected intense mid-afternoon heat that blasted our once-cool shady patio. When temps hit 113F in mid July, it was time for an awning which was installed a month later. I sweat just thinking about it.

New Awning

New Awning

Bud Grafting Workshop

Bud Grafting Workshop

Each season brings its own special pleasures. I love opening the gardens in the chilly, very bright sunshine of early spring, then watching them grow like crazy in May and explode into bloom in June. I look forward to the annual bud grafting workshop in August after the second flush. Then autumn roses with their extra bright colors blossom in September, this third bloom cycle is the swan song for the year.

Now it’s over for 2013 and Angelina and I are looking forward, as we always do, to four months off to get ready for next season. We have plenty to do in the meantime with a busy calendar of lectures scheduled for 2014 plus a trip to Ireland in May.

So, on this “shortest” day of the year, as one season quietly slips away, I look towards the next and all its inherent change, expected and otherwise, with the same grand anticipation as I do every year. It never gets old.

Happy Holidays.

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Easy to Grow Rose: Kiss Me

Easy to Grow Rose: Kiss Me

2014 promises to be an interesting year.

Angelina and I are planning a trip to Ireland in May exactly 100 years after my grandfather, Thomas Healey, immigrated to the United States. He had been an estate gardener, first in Ireland and later in Scotland, then continued that occupation when he arrived in Southboro, Massachusetts as a young man. That must be where my green thumb comes from.

Mike at Newport Flower Show

Mike at Newport Flower Show

2014 is also shaping up to be another busy season on the lecture circuit. We have accepted invitations to speak from garden clubs and other horticultural organizations as well as from the three major New England spring flower shows. (See the complete list of 2014 programs, dates, and times on our 2014 new Lecture Series page.)

Tranquillity

Tranquillity

The season opener is for the Rhode Island Rose Society on Saturday, February 8 when we roll out the updated David Austin’s English Roses for New England Gardens program featuring new Austin introductions for 2014. We especially like Tranquility, a medium sized, almost thornless rosebush with buds that start out showing red and yellow as the sepals fall but turn  pure white when fully open. The rosette-shaped flowers with a whopping 110 petals and a light apple fragrance, are hardy to zone 5. Given our affection for white roses, Tranquility is on our plant list for 2014.

On Friday, February 21, we’ll once again be in the Providence Convention Center at the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show. The program, Discovering Easy-Care Roses, reveals the secret that plant selection is the single most important step in successful rose gardening. The following day we’re back at the Rhode Island show demonstrating The Art of Pruning Roses. Pruning roses is not alchemy; come and let us show you how.

Spring Pruning

Spring Pruning

We’re off to Hartford, CT on Sunday, February 23 to the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show. This is our first visit to the Connecticut flower show and we will deliver our most popular program, Six Simple Steps to Successful Rose Gardening, twice that afternoon. “Backyard Paradise” is the show theme and our PowerPoint program fits right in. We have been accepting more and more invitations to Connecticut venues in recent years and we look forward to catching up with old friends at the 2014 Connecticut flower show.

Angelina and I return to the Boston Flower & Garden Show on the Ides of March with the David Austin program which segues nicely into their 2014 show theme, “Romance in the Garden.” Americans love everything British, from literature to movies to TV to gardening, and our program introduces sturdy, old fashioned, fragrant English roses to New England gardeners. You will be gobsmacked by this presentation.

Our annual bud grafting workshop is scheduled for Saturday, August 2 in our garden. Bud grafting roses is a method of propagation that hasn’t changed in ages.  We provide the rootstock and demonstrate the simple technique of grafting then you graft your own varieties and take them home. This hands-on workshop is free but we charge a materials fee for the potted rootstock.

Mike & Angelina

Mike & Angelina

In between all this, our schedule is full of garden club bookings along with presentations to various horticultural organizations.  Occasionally, we customize programs and in the past have developed special one-of-a-kind seminars. One of our favorites is conducting the Six Simple Steps program in an outdoor garden setting in June using fresh roses from the garden instead of PowerPoint slides.

My grandfather, who could grow anything, would be amazed if he could see how horticulture has changed in 100 years. I think he would approve of the great improvements in flowers and vegetables especially the dramatic increases in winter hardiness and disease resistance in ornamentals. I know he would absolutely love the flower shows as much as we do.

Keep checking the Lecture Series page as we add bookings throughout the season and if you need a program at the last minute for any reason, maybe we can help. Contact us at mike@rosesolutions.net.

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