Monday, May 28, 2007


Most people in the US don't get mail delivery on Memorial Day, but this was a special package:

Behold the cuteness:

Note the gardening hands. Desperately in need of a manicure!

This one has attitude, doesn't she?

The colorful ones are brown egg laying pullets.

The chunky yellow ones are Cornish hybrids, aka "meat-type" birds.

They figured out the drinking part right away.

And lost no time in catching up on the day's news.

The dog is so happy. She loves babies of all kinds and we haven't had baby chicks in a few years.

Tower of Flower

This clematis has had its good years and its off years. This year is definitely one of its best. After deciding that it would never get more than 6 or 7 feet high, I planted a wisteria opposite its post, and that may have inspired the clematis to climb much higher this year.

And the wisteria must have been reading my mind ("if that thing doesn't bloom this spring it's outta' here") because it has put out a few blossoms of its own. Still, it's the clematis that is getting all the good reviews right now. I like how it complements the azalea on the other side of the walkway.

Which in turn, shows off the cat to great advantage.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Doing Something About the Weather

It's cold on Tiger Mountain. Not USDA hardiness zone cold. Oh, no. The USDA says I'm Zone 8, which is also the zone for much of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Missisippi. Riiiight. I beg to differ on the zone itself, because I get single-digit (Fahrenheit) lows every winter, sometimes for weeks at a time. So, lets say I'm zone 7. That's still the hardiness zone for parts of the above-mentioned Southern states, central California, parts of Arizona. Think hot, muggy nights, hotter muggier days. Not my always-sleep-with-a-blanket-and-never-wish-for-air-conditioning climate.

No, it's not the winter cold we are dealing with here, it's the spring, summer, and fall cold. We're past the last freeze date but overnight lows are consistently in the low 40's and will remain below 50 well into July, when they will occasionally inch up into the low 50's, until August, when it cools off again. Daytime highs can be all over the place, from the 60's to the 90's, but the nights stay cold, even in the greenhouse, which provides plenty of daytime heat, but loses it rather quickly when the sun goes down. Not good for most solanums--eggplant, peppers, tomatoes--which refuse to set fruit at temps below 50 degrees.

So, I broke down and purchased heating cables for the greenhouse planting beds. My conscience and I struggled with the contradiction of using artificial heat to grow food when one of the reasons for growing my own food is to reduce our energy consumption. I've finally rationalized (wonderful thing, rationalization) that the increased harvests will more than offset the energy consumption from the heating cables. The cables are thermostatically controlled to shut off at 71 degrees, so they should be working only at night.

A week ago I buried a heat cable and a soaker hose in one of the planting beds, and planted out some sacrificial tomato plants.

The plants were so leggy from living in pots on the windowsill that I had to lay them in trenches, with the roots of each one practically touching its neighbor.

To trap the heat, I draped the bed with grow-therm:

I ran the lead to a min-max thermometer to the center of the bed, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

I'm delighted to report that, even with nighttime temperature in the rest of the greenhouse being in the mid-low 40s every night, under the tent it's been consistently 10 degrees warmer, right into the magic numbers needed for my heat-loving plants. The tomatoes are thriving. I've never known them to grow this fast. I can hardly wait to dig over the other bed and plant out my peppers, eggplant, and melons, all of which produce meager crops last summer, just as soon as the lettuce that's growing there begins to bolt.

And I can't help wondering--do you suppose I could grow okra?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Catnip Junkie

I loved this photo of one of Yolanda Elizabet's cats blissed-out on catnip. My cats are such terrible junkies that the catnip has to be protected from their predations. I moved a couple of seedlings into the greenhouse last fall and they went undisturbed for several months until I left the door open one day and one of the cats wandered in, probably looking for a nice warm place to take a . . . nap. Now when they see me headed for the greenhouse they race to be at the door when I open it. The catnip plants are somewhat the worse for wear, but at least now when one of the cats misses evening curfew, before I start worrying that a predator has gotten to him, I know to check the greenhouse.


Volunteer of the Month

I took my hanging fuchsia baskets down from their winter location in the greenhouse the other day. Only one of the 4 survived the extra-cold winter but it was time for some new plants anyway. I was surprised to see this cute little violet nestled alongside the fuchsia. Surprised, because in the summer these baskets hang a good 15 feet above the ground (second-storey porch), and I don't have any of this type of violet growing in my yard. I think it's a marsh violet, viola cucullata, in which case I may well have hundreds of these growing in my yard next if I leave this one to set seed. Aw, but they're so cute when they're little!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

I have been a bad blogger lately and for that I apologize. So much stuff going on (yes, work, what else?) that I can barely find time to garden, let alone write about gardening. I've composed dozens of posts in my head, of course, each one more thoughtful/enlightening/witty than the last. I'm so sorry I haven't been able to share them with you.

It's been cold on Tiger Mountain! So much so that my window sills are still crammed with tender vegetable plants that in another year would have been in the greenhouse by now. But night time lows are still in the 30's every night, even inside the greenhouse. Zone 4 and 5 gardeners who envied everything that was growing for me in March and April, you can gloat now. Irises aren't showing buds. The peas I planted in February are thriving but not a single blossom. That peony that was shooting skyward and setting buds on April 9? Six weeks later it’s still just in bud:

But. Enough complaining. On to what's in bloom on Tiger Mountain on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Because it’s been too cold for most of my perennials, it’s mostly shrubs that are in bloom this month:
daphne ‘Carol Mackie’
enkianthus campanulatus
evergreen and deciduous azaleas.
double file virburnum
viburnum sargentii
Aronia melanocarpa
clematis x cartmanii 'Avalanche', a pretty little evergreen clematis, blooming for the first time ever.

There are some perennials in bloom:
columbine (lots of different cultivars), icelandic poppies (they're loving this weather!), and a lovely little single peony I acquired in 2003, Paeonia veitchii var. woodwardii, also bloomed for the first time ever. Worth the wait.
Finally, because I haven’t been time to weed out my “be careful what you wish for” plants, there’s myosotis (forget-me-not) and sweet woodruff everywhere!

azalea (
I think this one is R. calendulaceum) and myosotis

enkianthus and myosotis

viburnum plicatum (double file viburnum) and sweet woodruff

aquilegia and mysotis

aquilegia and sweet woodruff

Iceland poppy and myosotis

viburnum sargentii (these flowers turn into clusters of golden berries in the fall) I cropped out the myosotis, but trust me, it's there.

In the meadow: buttercup, aka ranunculus repens, aka the bad ranunculus, to distinguish it from the sweet non-invasive ranunculus in my borders.

In the woods: Pacific Dogwood, Stinging Nettle (marking the end of the nettle foraging season), thimbleberry, and Himalayan blackberry (aaargh)

Breaking bud: Joseph's Coat climbing rose. Ignore the black spot on the leaves. That's what I do.