09 May 2010

This is how my garden grows...

With all de hustle and de bustle (as Indigo Montoya would say) of late surrounding our Student Exhibition Gardens, it's sometimes hard to remember that I actually have a garden of my own to enjoy. I was able to spend some quality time in it recently and found a few surprises.

You might recall the record-breaking snow we had back in February - this is what my garden looked like then:

And when the thaw came, here's what was left of the veggie garden:

And the ornamental garden:

Not a pretty sight, huh? I was amazed at just how many weeds managed to survive 3' of snow and total saturation. Stupid weeds. As I waged war against them, a few rays of hope shot up out of the ground. Take this Leucanthemum x siberian 'Brightside'. Not looking so bright now, is it? But it survived, and looked as if it was going to make a go of things. Considering that two of its companions bit the dust in last summer's flood, I was quite proud of its tenacity and wasn't afraid to tell it so, even though a few people within ear shot gave me funny looks.

Sadly, the veg garden didn't fare so well. This is what a couple of blizzards and subsequent snow melt will do to an artichoke plant. Can you say, 'mush'?

We also had a freak hot spell in April that threw everything all out of whack. Trees and shrubs that shouldn't have come out until May burst indecently into bloom, bulbs weren't sure what to do with themselves, and the perennials in my garden suddenly exploded. A good spring cleaning revealed the stalwarts and re-established order in the beds, some of which received a new crop of herbs and veggies.

Last year this was the squash bed. This year I planted peas (we're growing several crops to sell to the Terrace Restaurant here at Longwood to help raise funds for our trip abroad which is in - quick check of the calendar - three weeks!!), along with a few rows of carrots and some radishes. A few volunteer seedlings of the fabulous Mina lobata that set the rebar tree aflame are being allowed to stay, so long as they behave themselves (but the bloom is so amazing, I might be willing to look the other way if they don't).

Over on the ornamental side, I was shocked - shocked, I tell you - to see that Leucanthemum living up to its name after all!

I decided to make a few changes in the ornamental garden. In addition to veg for the restaurant, we're growing cut flowers to sell to the floral design classes offered through the Continuing Ed. Dept. Since many of my ornamentals bit the dust last year, I decided to have a go at floral crop production. One square will be the herb garden (many of which will flavor the culinary delights in the restaurant as well as some of my own concoctions). One square will be given over entirely to cut flowers, the third will be a combination of cuts and ornamentals that made it through the winter, like this Tanacetum coccineum 'Robinson's Dark Crimson' which is more of a Dark Fuchsia but I say any flower that comes back this cheerily after being buried under 36" of snow can change its color if it wants to!

The final square will remain ornamental as the perennials and biennials I planted last year are finally showing off. The Cercidiphyllum japonicum previously in this square was given to my housemate, who planted it at his home in neighboring Lancaster County (may the scent of cotton candy always inspire fond memories of me!).

I relocated my container to fill the void and removed the winter greens. Note to self: wear gloves when handling Holly leaves. Some of the cut Cornus branches rooted and leafed out so they're staying. The thyme also regained its variegation and one of my esteemed classmates tells me the Muhlenbergia capillaris is a slow starter so I'm giving it time to wake up before deciding whether or not it gets shovel-pruned. I plan to sow some Sweet Pea seeds in the container and let them ramble up the Cornus. Just to mix things up, I'm toying with the idea of combining annuals with herbs and a veg or two.

And just look at these guys!

These Pansies are no pansies! Who knew such a dainty flower could be so hardy!? These were leftovers from our Greenhouse Management class last summer. Most of those crops were sold at the end of the term with our mums, but there was enough left to share and plant in our gardens.

And here's another pleasant surprise: the Phlomis tuberosa 'Bronze Flamingo' decided to show up after all! I started with three; one croaked, one was seriously set back by last summer's rain and is still lagging behind this one, which seemed to be doing just fine until the 40 mph winds that came through yesterday. I fear it will develop a permanent tilt.

I also discovered what happens when you don't deadhead Verbena bonariensis: you weed Verbena bonariensis. For weeks!

We still have about a week or so before the last frost date so I'm concentrating on prepping the beds for the cut flowers and planting out the veggies that will tolerate lower temps should they surprise us. The extended forecast calls for mild temps with some showers here and there, so I'm pretty optimistic that my garden will grow quite well this year.

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