Dilip's 2006 Garden Journal

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's quite warm in the 80s again. The backyard seems to fill out even more each day, and my azaleas are almost in full bloom. The kerria japonica is starting to fade.

Many of my roses have buds, and my second bush, after Mothersday, has open blossoms, the David Austin shrub rose Mayflower! I planted the stevia and Italian basil in my herb bed. I retracted the mulch mounds blanketing the individual rose bushes. The "red tip" photinia in the back has many clusters of white flowers, and the burning bush in the side has many small flowers.

My Fred Boutin lavender that I planted in spring 2003 is dead, but the neighboring two lavender bushes (Otto Quast is the variety), have even more blooms. I found a good description of Otto Quast on the website of a Washington state nursery, Maxwelton Valley Gardens:

This hardier variety of Spanish lavender is exceptional for its bold, purple-bracted flower spikes, blooming from early spring until a hard freeze. In a good year, it may flower in nearly every month (ours is still blooming on January first, after a week and a half of light frosts). It also has more attractive foliage in winter than most common lavender varieties. The fragrance is a little softer than other lavenders, but is still entirely deeply scented enough to be satisfying.

Cutting off the spent flowerheads a few times a year will encourage stronger rebloom and will tidy the plants, but isn't absolutely necessary. 'Otto Quast' will remain more compact if it is cut back a little after flushes of bloom, otherwise, it can spread to be three or more feet wide. Like most plants which bloom nearly all the time, and like many other lavenders, plants of this variety will need to be replaced every three or four years, as they seem to exhaust themselves otherwise. Cuttings from your present plants will provide you with abundant replacements, or you can purchase new plants, if you prefer.

It is very drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and light soils, and has no pests. It's great in the poor soils, harsh winds, and salt spray at the seaside, as well as inland. It attracts birds, butterflies, and human beings.

I guess my bush took a few years to become so prolific and attractive. That description sounds like my Otto Quast is a winner!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Wow, it feels like summer - it hit 88 or 89°F today! Here in zone 7b the average last frost date is today, April 15, so basil and other annuals can start going in now. I visited the Carrboro Farmer's Market and found a vendor selling heirloom tomatoes - I love to eat heirlooms! My wife and I were thinking of growing some vegetables in pots with drip irrigation on the deck, as I've done in the past - so now we'll have heirloom tomatoes to grow!

I bought a small 4-pack "rainbow sampler" of:
  • Green Zebra (80 days to fruit; we occasionally buy and enjoy this variety - rather hard, small, with green and light green stripes; not actually an heirloom, but an open-pollinated variety from 1985)
  • Orange Oxheart (90 days, heart-shaped fruit, deep orange skin and flesh, dense flesh with few seeds, good for salsa and canning)
  • Black Prince (70-90 days, introduced from Russia, small-medium size, red-brown with dark shoulders over green)
  • Caspian Pink (80 days, also from Russia, large pinkish red beefsteak fruit, early and prolific)

(I hadn't heard of the last three varieties). I also bought some stevia and basil.

The following are not my pictures, but I thought I would include them to know what to expect in late June or early July. Picture of Green Zebra from seedfest.co.uk, Orange Oxheart from reimerseeds.com, Black Prince from tradewindsfruit.com, and Caspian Pink from victoryseeds.com:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yikes, in the last day or two, my 'Mothersday' rose, which normally first opens in early May, opened from its bud. Here you can see this first rose bloom of the season today. A number of the other roses have buds, too. I noticed yesterday that one of my lavender plants (I think it is Otto Quast Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast', that I planted spring 2004) is blooming! That also seems a little early. The lawn has been ready for a cut for almost a week now, so I did the first lawn mowing of the year. The azaleas are all open or opening, and kerria japonica is at peak bloom.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Today I planted the Yellow Lady Banks Rose. I made a mistake back in early March 1995 when I put my first rose bed in on the far side of the driveway. I had built a bed out of 8" high and 5" wide 8' and 5.5' long railroad timbers to contain the bed with inside dimensions 64"x94" (I left 17" margins and planted six roses 30" apart). The roses did okay for a few years; in fact, I planted Great Scott in March 1998 and won a best-of-show award for a bloom in the Raleigh Rose Show a few months later! But the roses soon stopped doing so well, and it could be because the site was poorly selected with tall trees nearby which have thrown more shadow on that bed over the years, or because I really should not have used railroad ties, poisonous arsenic and all. I decided to let that bed go with little or no care, and have been wondering what to plant there - something that I wouldn't eat (i.e., not herbs) and something dealing well with light shade.

But Lady Banks may work in that bed! I planted her near the far edge of the bed. My thought is that early in the season, there is lots of sun. She grows fast, and I'm planning on training her onto the tall sweet gum tree nearby, where she should get more sun as she climbs.

I gently pruned my winter-blooming honeysuckle by just taking off a little bit of growth here and there, pruning for shape. Not much at all needed to come off. There are still a few fragrant white blooms on the bush.

The kerria japonica is nearing peak bloom! The burning bush (euonymus) is nicely leafing out.

I'm going to be focused on Full Frame, the country's largest documentary film festival, tomorrow through Sunday, and don't expect to be spending much time in the garden. Next week I hope to work on mulching, particularly the azaleas and hollies in front of the house. By the way, I heard that wisteria at Duke Gardens is blooming!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I got the three new hybrid teas planted. I made a planting mixture of more than half top soil, as well as purchased compost and greensand, and I sprinkled lime, rock phosphate, and earthworm castings after setting the bush in the cone of planting mix. I also sprinkled endomycorrhizal inoculant around the roots to hopefully aid in root nutrient uptake and drought tolerance.

My forsythia by the driveway is such a delight in bloom, and its yellow flowers have lasted a long time. Suddenly today it seemed to have much fewer blooms and is rapidly leafing out. I see more red azalea blooms showing color!

Monday, April 03, 2006

We had very strong thunder and rain early in the morning - loud thunder woke me up at 6a. Later, I heard that there were major tornadoes in the midwest and south, killing 27!

The daytime was nice, but just before dark, the winds got quite strong. In the daytime, I prepared three spots for the three new hybrid tea roses - Double Delight to replace the dead Double Delight at the street end of the main rose bed, Elizabeth Taylor to replace Color Magic, which is dead and occupied "R2s", or the second position in the right-hand (as you face the house) roadside rose bed, in a row closer to the street, and Olympiad to go into the red bed at "L1h" where years ago I had Rose Rhapsody and which died in 2002. I had wanted to plant the roses today, but the winds would dessicate the new roses, so I left them to be planted till tomorrow. Also today, since the flowering almonds are pretty much through blooming, I thinned them a bit and cut them back by about a third.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

We're having even warmer weather today in the mid- to high- 70s! Nights have been in the high 50s. It looks like 70s are here to stay, though in a few nights the temperature is expected to drop to a low of high 40s.

I think all of the cherry blossoms are gone now. The tree is quickly leafing and it is clear which branches are dead; with my wife's help and the help of my pole pruner, we were able to remove most of the dead branches. We also took off one medium sized branch heading right over the roses by the driveway, and removed a few smaller branches to give the roses more light.

I noticed that my Mothersday rose has tiny buds, though at first they are still so small that I thought they could actually be developing leaves - it is a little early for roses. But was I surprised when later in the day I looked more carefully, and there are buds on Mothersday - in fact, one is showing its lovely red color! Unfortunately, Mothersday and Heritage have a few aphids on them. There are more white azaleas open, and the red ones are about to open.

I sprayed all the roses (except the rugosa which I largely leave alone; I usually also neglect the original rose bed that is poorly sited with tall trees nearby, but had extra spray so today sprayed them, too) with a mixture of horticultural oil and baking soda (to keep mildew and fungus in check); hot pepper wax (to ward away insects like aphids); and microbial liquid and kelp (to foliar fertilize and encourage beneficial bacteria).

For some days now, the hollies have been exhibiting their very small white flowers with light fragrance. This is a good time to do some pruning as cuts can be chosen to keep as many flowers on as possible and hence to maximize winter display of berries. I did just a little bit of light pruning, mainly on the two bigger hollies close to the front door.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Finally, we are enjoying warm weather in the 70s. I picked up from nearby Witherspoon Rose Culture, three bare root roses. Elizabeth Taylor (deep pink hybrid tea, bred in 1985 by Von C. Weddle with strong fragrance) is a rose I should have planted some years ago. For the red bed, I got another classic hybrid tea rose, Olympiad (McGredy, 1982, bred with seed from Red Planet and pollen from Pharoah). My Double Delight (one of my favorite hybrid teas with a mix of crimson and cream - the more sun, the more crimson - and a strong, lovely fragrance; hybridized in 1977 by crossing Granada with Garden Party, by Herbert C. Swim and A.E. & A.W. Ellis) in the main rose bed needs replacing, and I got a replacement.

I normally don't buy roses from non specializing stores, but I've been wanting to plant a yellow Lady Banks Rose (Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' , a species/wild rose) for a few years and a friend has offered to give me a cutting. I never got around to getting the cutting, and Witherspoon won't have potted ones ready for a few more weeks, but they are just starting to bloom and my wife is intent on getting one, so we went to Home Depot and got a 5-gallon one about to bloom. She is already about 6' tall and can grow to 30' and more! We are likely to train her to climb one of the sweet gum trees in the front yard.

More white azalea blooms are open. The Kerria Japonica in the left (as you face the house) side yard is rapidly blooming! For a few days now, I have one lone Avalon daffodil (mid- to late- season, large cupped with yellow petals becoming faded buff over time with white cup) blooming on the edge of the middle street-side rose bed; back in late 2000, I had planted 15 Avalon bulbs, as well as 10 of Rijnveld's Early Sensation (trumpet, very early, two-toned yellow). I wonder why the bulbs haven't thrived and multiplied there.

I finally finished pruning my roses - the three beds parallel to the road were left. The red bed looks dramatically different after pruning - Mr. Lincoln in particular had long canes but was reduced to a single cane - but the pith wasn't white and had brown in the center, so I ended up cutting it all the way back to the bud union. This is a strong bush, so I expect rejuvenation.