Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot Weather Tips

In the hot weather, outside work continues, although I start earlier (sometimes 7am) so I can finish up by noon and retreat inside during the hottest part of the day.  I've been drying lots of culinary herbs - mints, basil, tarragon, thymes, catnip, chamomile, and savory.  I'm also drying flowers for use and sale in the shop - lavender is done, along with yarrow, love-in-a-mist seed pods, larkspur and cornflower.  Now I'm working on annual statice, showy kent beauty oregano and herrenhausen oregano.  These are both wonderful plants -grown not for flavor, but for their pretty flowers.

After perennial flowers have bloomed, it's a good idea to cut them back.  After blooming, they often decline in appearance.  Cutting them back hard - usually to a few inches above the ground, encourages the emergence of new growth.  You'll often see new growth at the base or in the middle of the plant.  This indicates the plant will benefit from hard trimming.  Some perennials will rebloom later in the season if they are cut back after their first bloom.

Lots of people have been admiring our hollyhocks once they bloomed.  They did not reseed particularly well this year.  I think many seeds rotted or washed away with last fall's flood.  But the ones that did come back are lovely.  So many people talk about a relative having hollyhocks in their yards.  Most do not remember them having rust.  Rust is a fungus disease caused by spores which proliferate in hot, humid weather.  Rust and other fungal diseases like powdery mildew must be treated with a fungicide.  Remember, it will not remove the fungus on the plant, it will only prevent it from getting worse.  In order to have clean plants, you must treat them before you see any signs of rust, and continue through the hot, humid weather.

Starting to see some more, larger butterflies - a couple monarchs, black swallowtails, and red admirals.  I saw a monarch feeding on butterfly weed.  This is a 'cousin' to wild milkweed and also swamp milkweed, which are host plants for the monarch caterpillars, as well as nectar sources for butterflies.

Our plant sale continues.  Lots of good prices!  Try a new plant or tuck in another in an empty spot in the garden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seasonal Progression

I've always enjoyed the progression of the seasons, so much so that I think I'd have a hard time living in an area that didn't see a seasonal change. 

Growing up in Mt. Gretna, PA, it was simple to see the change.  Spring brought all the new growth in the woods, new green leaves unfurling and the discovery of all the woodland flowers, like Jack in the pulpit, trailing arbutus and lady's slippers.  And the rhododendrons - Wow!  Summer was magical with the whole place awakening (this was in the old days when year-round residents were in the minority).  Lots of cool green shade and days spent at the lake.  Autumn was perhaps the best - beautiful, brilliant foliage and the lovely leaf mold smell.  And winter was quiet and white like a blanket had been pulled up around you. 

I still love that progression.  I think of it in the vegetable garden.  How fun to pick the first sugar peas and cook them up.  I have a few recipes I pull out to enjoy as soon as they start.  Then the small but sweet alpine strawberries.  I enjoy them on cereal, but my favorite is to just eat them in the garden, still warm from the sun.  Then the wild black raspberries - so sweet.  Next, green beans and yellow beans so I can make three bean salad.  Then tomatoes to enjoy with all the basil I've grown, and peppers too.  I've stopped growing cukes, since I no longer make pickles.  And I've never grown squash.  There are so many floating around and someone's always looking to give some away.

Lucy loves the garden too.  All I have to say is let's go pick sugar peas or beans and off she goes.  Strawberries she'll pick by herself and she also loves raspberries and mulberries.

Of course, the flower gardens present the same progression.  Early spring starts with bleeding hear, candytuft, columbine and dame's rocket.  Close on their heels are big, beautiful oriental poppies and fragrant dianthus.  Then, spiky purple catmint and lavender along with pink Jupiter's beard and bright magenta rose campion.  Summer brings daylilies, yellow St. John's wort, echinacea, anise hyssop, black-eyed Susans and brilliant blue plumbago.  A feast for the eyes!