Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Seed Catalogue Time

Time to get some more catalogues in before I try to make final decisions.

I have Vesey's bulb catalogues, and now I've also placed orders for catalogues from the Halifax Seed Company and Ontario Seeds Company.

I'm trying to shop within Canada (limiting the possibility of bringing in exotics that are prohibited here), and also, wherever possible, helping out the local economy. For example, Ontario Seeds Company is about 100 kilometers from here. I must confess, I also ordered from Stokes, which I think is an American company.

My next step should be to plant only plants native to this region of Ontario.

Maybe I'll get there after I retire, and have a large property. It's so difficult to restrict oneself to such plants when you've got a total of about 300 square feet!


Thursday, February 05, 2004

Starting plants indoors

I've purchased different sorts of contained, lidded plant-starting contraptions and used them in the past, but never with satisfactory results.

I always ended up with the cotyledons, and, if I was lucky, one or two pairs of real leaves before the seedlings got too leggy to support themselves, fell over, and died. Some of the deaths may have been caused by damping off, but I usually worked with sterilized potting soil in a sterilized container, which should eliminate that problem.

Yet, undaunted, I think I'll try again this year. I may start the seeds in vermiculite instead of soil, but I think the biggest change I can make is a stronger light source.

Instead of starting plants in the third-floor east-facing bedroom, I'll use my office at work. Although located on the west side of the building, its aspect is more west-south-west than true west. I hope that will spell the difference between success and failure. I have many plants in my office that seem to be thriving (although they are pretty undemanding in terms of sunlight required: 2 spider plants, 5 ferns, and an African violet; they made it through the dark days of winter). I hope it will be a good spot to start seeds.

I think I'll try two types: sweet peas and foxgloves. I want both in the back yard and they are supposed to be pretty easy to grow from seed. One for sun, one for shade: if nothing else, they should help me determine the sun tolerance extremes of my window sills.

One piece of gardening myth/trivia: plant your seeds before the morning of St. Patrick's Day for best results (this tidbit came from Birds & Blooms Magazine -- it's completely ad-free, and they're on the web at www.birdsandblooms.com.


Monday, February 02, 2004

Dreaming of green things

Things I'd like to grow in my garden this year:

  • Lady's mantle (again). I really like the ruffled velvet look of the leaves, and the way water beads on them.
  • Sweet peas. Joanne grew them on the roof deck at work, and they look very pretty in a Victorian way with their loosely-ruffled blossoms in faded pastel colors, and they smell wonderful.
  • Acidantheras (again). Yes it's a PITA having to plant and dig them up each year, and they need to have support, but I love those six-pointed white flowers with the aubergine touches in the throat, the way they bob in a breeze, and the delicate vanilla fragrance.
  • Salpiglossis, another Victorian flower. It comes in many colors, reminds me of stained glass, and with its yellow throat, looks illuminated from within. Very photogenic.
  • Trilliums. I'm sure there must be a mail-order garden store in Ontario that has cultivated trilliums. I used to bring home bouquets of them for my mother when I was a child in the 'burbs of Montreal. Maybe they could be the spring flower to come up every year along the south fence. Hmmmm.
  • FOXGLOVES!! I don't think I had any last year, and they are one of my favorite flowers. I saved some seed from two years ago, so I'll have to see if it is still viable. It likes shade, so it should do well along the south fence.
  • Okra. Because the flowers are beautiful pale purple hibiscus-like blossoms.
  • Alyssum. White and deep amethyst-colored alyssum to grow between the slates on the path in the back yard. I saw a yard that used it this way in a gardening magazine, and I think it might work nicely in our little yard.

    We have white alyssum self-seeding every year in the front garden, so I might be able to grab some of last fall's seed and shake it around out back. Between alyssum, thyme, moss, and pennyroyal (I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that it will come back) we'll have a fragrant green walkway punctuated with slate stepping stones.

  • Herbs: the sage, parsley, lavender, and bloody dock should all survive the winter, and I'll have to see if the oregano survives. I'd like to plant tarragon again, because ours died last winter; also want marjoram again, because it just gives me a great rush to muss it up and then smell the essential oils that are released; basil, because nothing tastes more like summer than basil, boccancini, tomato slices, a drizzle of good olive oil and a splash of basalmic vineger.
  • Something to attract fall migrating birds and winter visitors (other than the three bird feeders, one suet feeder, and water cascade). The thought of a berry-bearing bush appeals to me: there's a mountain ash in the alleyway behind our yard, and I enjoy watching the robins eat the fruit. A local organization called LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) is willing to advise, dig a hole and subsidize the cost of planting a suitable native fruiting tree.
  • Replace the thread-leafed Japanese maple with a Japanese maple species that is sturdier, taller, and has more mass to the leaves. Maybe I'll donate ours to the office rooftop garden.

Things to remember that I don't want to grow again:

  • Lamium. Too invasive for a garden that is 17ft by 20ft.
  • Creeping myrtle/perriwinkle. Ditto
  • Icelandic/Welsh poppies. Unless I want to faithfully deadhead so I don't have volunteers everywhere.
  • Yellow flowers. Dunno -- yellow just doesn't turn my crank at this point.