One would think that with an entire week off from work, that I would be able to post at least three times during this past week, ( and full disclosure – it’s now been 2 weeks!), but somehow, I never made it to the computer – not a bad thing, maybe it’s best if I just share some random happenings in the garden these few weeks. That’s OK, right? NOTE – the images won’t match up with the text, since what I am writing about has not yet made it into the garden! The images? They are what are in bloom right now, or represent what is happening here this week.
Last Sunday, after I had just came back from a double lecture and house party at the home of nurserywoman Ellen Hornig honoring the Swedish botanist and nurseryman Peter Korn, ( an excellent speaker I should mention — and some of you will be able to catch the last of his talks at the Tri-State NARGS meeting on at the New York Botanical Garden next week), he is on his last stops on this amazing North American Rock Garden Society speakers tour sponsored by the Berkshire Chapter (Massachusetts) of NARGS – I learned so much from his talk, and even though I didn’t have a note pad handy, I was inspired to do the following (which you might be interested in trying, as well). I thought that I would share these interesting plants and ideas with you. A little random as well, but hey – it’s a post, right?
|Speaking of annual vines, this Mina lobata is looking mighty fine this fall.|
Peter Korn’s garden just outside Gothenburg in Sweden looks incredible. Some fine images can be seen on the Prarie Break blog written by the great and powerful Panayoti Kelaidis of the Denver Botanic Garden. This was where I was first introduced to Peter’s work. He showed us how he move tons (yes, tons) of soil off of a mountain hillside over the past decade, to expose the rocks below, and then how he brought in tons of sand (of a large size so that drainage for his plants would be excellent – his tip today? Buy sand that will fall apart even if squeezed in ones fist while damp. Many mountain alpines and even woodland plants and bulbs (as well as Onco Iris) will thrive in such a medium. The more I hear about sand and pumice used as soil, the more I am convinced to truck more in.
Planting Ideas from Peter Korn
1. Plant thousands of Triteleia laxa (or as many as you can afford) (some catalogs will list the genus as Brodiaea)- Apparently, they’ve been lumped together by taxonomists along with Dichelostemma and Bloomeria.
Triteleia laxa are purported to be hardy (or so, I’ve been told by Peter – to USDA zone 5), and although they may not be new to you Californian or West coast gardeners, for us in the East, they are not something one sees. I was so surprised to see how many Peter planted in his gardens, in sand beds, the alpine gardens and even in his rooftop plantings. He said to order a 1000 bulbs at a time (I may start with 500), as they are inexpensive. True, perhaps in Sweden, but here, one can get 500 bulbs for around $35. That’s more affordable.
|The chickens are maturing. All egg-layers, I can’t wait until spring when he days begin to lengthen and they start laying for the first time.|
The choicest variety is one called ‘Queen Fabiola’, but I think any of the named selections will be precious. Be sure to plant in drifts, for 6 or 8 bulbs will not deliver the look one wants. I am adding them to my more natural planting in the front of our house.
He suggests the named varieties, particularly Triteleia laxa ‘ Queen Fabiola’, which one can find in any of the larger commercial Dutch bulb catalogs, but if you want more interesting species or selections, you may want to try some of the special catalogs – such as Telos Rare Bulbs.
2. Try Ledbouria ovalifolia in the garden – particular one selection sold under the name ‘Dowie Human’ –I just have to find it! — mark my words (well, Peter Korn’s), Lednouria ovalifolia will be in every Dutch bulb catalog that fill your mailbox within 5 years (apparently they are propagating it with big hopes), and you will want it. Plant Delights once had it, but I can no longer find it anywhere, I may have to settle for an un-named selection from seed.
Yes, I said Zone 5.
3. The best tulip trick ever which none of us do
Not buying tulips anymore because they only bloom for one or two years? Here is what you are doing wrong.
Tulips, many of which hail from the steppes of Turkey and the Caucasus require hot, dry summers. I never knew this, but you know all of those fields of colorful tulips grown in Holland? Those bulbs are planted late (November) and when they are done blooming, and after the foliage has died back, they don’t stay dormant in their fields. The soil would be too cool with the short summer, and even too damp.
Most if not all commercial growers of Tulips dig their bulbs and store them in warm and dry warehouses for the summer. The cooler and damp underground temperatures inhibit growth, and bulbs slowly deteriorate with each year. They then plant the cleaned bulbs out again with the arrival of each autumn. This technique is particualary important with the species tulips, many of which come from a higher elevation and demand a hot, dry dusty bake like the would received in their hot and dry meadows in Afghanistan or Turkey.
I was grateful to be reminded of this habit, which my parents used to do each June when the foliage began to fade on the tulips. Now we need to be realistic, there is no such thing as a properly perennialized tulip, in many ways, they are temporary visitors in all of our gardens, but with careful treatment like this, one can have tulips for 5-10 years, but as I said, the best results will come from the species or wild forms which can last for years in pots (in a greenhoue or outside in a sand bed), if lifted and dried off every summer. Give them all a bit of the hot, dry steppe of Caucases, to keep them believing that they are still in the remote environment.
All of this is kind of simple advice, loaded with common sense when you think about it. If there is one tip that I walked away with from Peter Korn’s talk was that microclimates exist even in small gardens and plants will perform best if you first have travelled to where they grow in nature (Armenia, Patagonia, etc), so that you can site the plant at the most ideal spot. He had many examples of a gentiana or Lewisia which faltered one meter above on a slope, or rotted in too much moisture 2 meters lower, but which thrived and prospered in a 3 foot zone where everything seemed just right, and perfect. He knew from observing the plant in the wild, the the long roots may need to be dipping into an under group stream, but that the crown of the plants needed to be in hot, dry scree.
|Yeah–this ‘other’ Daphne ( or just Daph, Daff, or Doodles) also looks pretty cute, as it starts to rain again. She may be the runt, but talk about personality! Goofy, crazy and lovable (most of the time, anyway!).|
So many of us simply come home from a plant sale or a nursery, and just dig a hole with trowel, and dump the plant into regular ‘ol garden soil in much the same why one might plant a petunia. A rare, Colorado lupine may appreciate the top, northside of a ledge, where there are cooling breezes, and where it can grow in coarse sand. A primula may apprreciate a crevice with an overlapping rock which acts like a roof to protect it from rain. So many things factors one can learn, when one observed planted in their native habitat or site.
No one really wants to bother with let’s say a large, floppy parrot flame tulip which is slowly declining over a few years looking more like a mounting parrolet than it;s honky freshly plants Dutch grown bulbs which was forced to employ chastity for years ( snapping off the flower and dead heading afterwards), to build up strength and vigor.