I’ve got several deadlines on tap, a chipped filling that has exposed something that should not be exposed, and a bad case of writer’s block, so today’s post will be nearly wordless. These photos were taken on a trip to Shelburne several weeks ago to visit Brian Bixley’s garden, Lilactree Farm.
Brian and his wife purchased the property, a former cattle farm I believe, in the late 1960′s. They’ve divided up the land nearest to the house into garden rooms that are surrounded by tall hedges and filled with trees. It was open and treeless originally. Many of the rooms radiate from this bird bath.
They’re waiting for me to stop taking pictures and catch up. We haven’t even entered the property by this point. I could have spent my life exploring the flora on that road!
Perennial sweet peas and geraniums have self-seeded alongside the road just off of the property.
Gorgeous and easy to maintain, but they don’t have that signature sweet pea scent.
When the country road was expanded, Brian tossed seeds of thyme and other drought tolerant plants into the ditch. That ditch is nicer than my street garden. If I had it to do all over again….
About a month ago, I wrote a guest post for Apartment Therapy/Re-Nest on propagating herbs by cuttings. This is how I quickly double my basil harvest every summer at no extra cost. Basil grows easily from seed too, but stem cuttings are fast and easy — they’ll produce roots in water in about a week or two! By mid-summer my collection of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) are huge! Why not take a few cuttings and share the wealth with friends?
On the Re-Nest site someone asked a question about taking cuttings from bolting plants. I have not been able to post a comment so I am adding a reply here.
SoRad: We grow basil like an annual in colder climates, but in tropical conditions the plant is a perennial. There are also varieties of basil that are reproduced by cuttings only… they don’t produce seed. Some basil varieties bolt quickly and constantly, while others only do-so when the weather gets really hot.
Bolting when it comes to basil is more about the conditions a particular variety prefers rather than “age.” It is better to take cuttings from plants that aren’t under heat-stress, but I have found that it can be done successfully — your best bet is to move the rooting cuttings to a cooler spot.
My most recent Globe and Mail Kitchen Gardening article is on sweet potatoes and chronicles an experiment I took up by chance, growing sweet potatoes in a shopping bag.
While in Dominica I learned that when there is not enough soil fertility to produce tubers, sweet potato leaves are cooked or steamed like spinach. I haven’t tried it yet, but think this would be a good option when starting the plant too late in the growing season. I have some slips on hand right now that I might plant for this reason.
When I wrote about the Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium) last it was on April 30, 2010 when the seedling was still living in the greenhouse. It had just begun to produce its thorns and I was beginning to get a glimpse into what I’d signed on for.
It is now July 1 and the plant has been living outdoors in soil for just over a month or so. When it came time to plant, I decided to grow it in a large pot, rather than in the ground. The final mature growth of this thorny Tomato Family plant is estimated to come in at around 5′ tall. I had a feeling it was going to be fairly treacherous to grow. Planting it into a garden bed meant there would be a greater chance of scratching myself on the thorns. I am not a particularly graceful person. I bash into door frames fairly regularly. I live in small spaces and I garden in cramped quarters, which means I regularly come into close contact with plants whether I want to or not. As the Morelle de Balbis grows it becomes more and more apparent that this is not a plant I want rubbing up against my skin.
Shortly after planting. I used straw mulch to help lock in moisture and keep weed seeds from sprouting.
I did not have any room left in the big pots on my roof, so I decided to plant it in a container in “the new space.” Oh, didn’t I tell you? There is a FOURTH garden this year. The fourth is a yard share, located through a secret door in the back garden of friend. One of my goals for this year was to get a bigger garden space. And when it didn’t happen through the City allotment garden network, a friend stepped up and asked me to join their space. I am so grateful.
With other gardeners in the space, I had to be especially mindful of this plant’s placement. As a part of the garden’s revamp in the spring, we decided to make use of a sunny spot along a fence by lining up large recycling bins for container growing. I planted the Morelle de Balbis in the furthest bin along the fence where I hoped it would receive minimal contact.
About a month after planting. The Morelle de Balbis is in the centre and is flanked by two determinate tomato plants: ‘Black Seaman’ and ‘Whippersnapper.’ All are under-planted with different varieties of basil.
Happy Summer Solstice!!!
My third article in this season’s Globe & Mail Kitchen Gardening column was published on Saturday. The topic is growing nasturtiums to eat.
One of my goals with the series is to publish articles while there is still time for as many gardeners across Canada as possible to get that particular plant into the soil (I am writing to a Canadian audience with these articles…. not easy since Canada is massive and growing conditions vary radically). As a result, my nasturtium article was published before my own plants had flowered. They still haven’t! There are lots more nasturtium varieties than can be found in the local gardening shop — I try to grow a different variety every year. This summer I am growing ‘Creamsicle.’ I can’t wait for the soft orange flowers to come up.
Meanwhile, my friend Barry was daring and put his seeds into the soil well before the last frost date for our region. As luck would have it the weather was unseasonably warm and his flowers are already up. I managed to shoot the very first open bloom on the day my article and photos were due. How’s that for timing?
Here it is:
The variety is called ‘Mahogany’.
Do you have a favorite nasturtium variety? Which variety are you trying for the first time this year?