25 October 2009

How many PG students does it take to plant a flower bulb?

Answer: A lot! Not to mention the full time staff!

All those labels can only mean one thing...


It all starts in the Idea Garden. First the annual beds are demoed, much to the shock and horror of our guests ("WHY on earth are you RIPPING OUT all those BEAUTIFUL PLANTS!?"). If I had a dollar for every time I heard that. Or for, "Why are you putting all those onions out there?" You doubt me, don't you!

After ripping out all those beautiful plants and consoling sufficient numbers of disturbed guests the beds are tilled, raked, leveled, and raked again.

The bulbs in the Idea Garden are set out in a grid pattern. To establish the pattern, two people fumble around with the dibbler and get it just so, then we "walk the dibble" to mark the squares.

Greg's been framed! Or should I say dibbled!?

Once each square is marked, bulbs are set around the perimeter of the squares. From there the squares are filled in with the type of bulb specified on the plan.

Then we get to work setting out all 75,000 bulbs. Yes, I said 75,000.

This is our supervisor Smokey. He personally inspects all the baskets of bulbs.

"Now let's see, was that 56,872 or 56,873?"

And it seems to go on and on and on...

Many hands make, uh, oh you get the picture...

After a week or so in the Idea Garden, the fun moves over to the Brick Walk...

The patterns here are much more intricate.

And there are a lot more bulbs. A LOT more!

Like, about 100,000 more! Yes, I said 100,000 more!

And we can't forget the Square Fountain garden.
After the bulbs are placed and planted, the beds are smoothed over and protected from hungry critters with netting.

Just when we think it's all over, the beds in front of the Visitors' Center beckon!

And then, finally, all the bulbs are tucked into their beds for a nice winter slumber. Come spring, they will wake up and...well, you'll just have to come back and see!

19 October 2009

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.

Or so Anonymous says. What Anonymous obviously doesn't know is that the weeds in my garden multiply like rabbits; no sooner do I pull them all out than more spring up in their place. This is what I get for not mulching. But mulch, I discovered, is the perfect winter hang out for the evil pests that devoured most of my garden (another reason not to like Brussels Sprouts).

So, to mulch or not to mulch (she ponders, gesturing her upturned palms in a see-saw fashion); that is the question. Do I mulch and have more pests, or not mulch and have more weeds? Fortunately the garden is ready to be tucked up for the winter and I won't have to worry about it until spring.
In the meantime, the veg garden is quietly going to its winter rest. The Broom Corn has been harvested for its seeds and the tassels put out to dry in the hopes that they will one day find new use sweeping dust from my floor. The sweet corn stalks have all been chopped down and the stumps left to decompose and return their nutrient goodness to the soil. The Marigolds were looking pretty sad to I yanked those, too.
Only a few herbs and the artichoke are still going strong although I've yet to see one flower head on the artichoke. I can't decide whether to leave the few cabbages. I'm told the flowers attract over 20 species of lepidoptera, but some of those are bound to be crop eating savages! Decisions, decisions.

On a recent trip to Philly I loaded up on veg seeds at the flower shop in Reading Terminal Market. New on my to-grow list are leeks, 'Bordeaux' spinach, 'Red Giant' mustard, peppers ('California Wonder' - I couldn't resist), spaghetti squash (inspired by my classmate Gavin who contrived an ingenious little hammock for his), cucumber 'Spacemaster' because I like compact, well-behaved veggies, 'Royal Burgundy' bush beans, and 'Scarlet Nantes' carrots. I'll definitely grow onions and tomatoes again (fingers crossed for better tomato weather next year!), and some Swiss chard (must remember to erect the deer-resistant fortress), and of course sweet corn. I found a red variety in an on-line catalog. "Really red! Really sweet!" the copy read. How could I not try that!? Can you imagine fresh sweet corn muffins with the yellow batter, red corn kernels, green jalapenos, and orange cheddar!? It'll be like eating vegetable confetti! We'll see what else crosses my path either from catalogs or the stores.

Since we are honored to be the first Professional Gardener class that will have a display garden out for all the public to see, keeping our gardens on The Row next year is optional. I opted to not only keep my garden but to see how much produce I can grow for myself from it. Kind of like a CSA for one! But maybe I'll work out a deal with my esteemed classmates who are also continuing to be farmers! To that end, I decided to give up the ornamental portion of my plot and turn it over to veggies. I will, however, have a few select ornamentals for cutting and splashes of color. I MUST have sweet peas in my garden, and straw flower for cutting and drying (another England memory). Marigolds and Nasturtium are supposed to help keep the bugs at bay, and no veggie garden is complete without sunflowers, in my opinion.

And the Mina lobata was such a hit, I can't imagine not seeing it flaming away all summer. Plus the hummingbirds are real fans!

In the ornamental portion of the garden, things still look pretty decent, though the first frost of the season (October 19th) did a number on the Coleus.

The Cardoon, like its cousin, hasn't flowered but the heat we got at the end of summer really gave it a kick start size-wise. It never did achieve the goal I had hoped for of a towering mass of thistledom but here again, I'll blame the weather. Note the particolored mum in the front - that's from our growing project. Some of us had odd numbers of cuttings so we planted them randomly into containers just to see what they'd look like. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

So, as my thoughts turn to next year, I can't help but think what I might have done differently in my garden. For one, I wouldn't have been so timid about this new climate and just dove on in. If a plant failed, I'd chalk it up to a new learning experience and try again. As it was, my garden got a late start due to my dithering and didn't get any help from the weather, so it could have been better. Secondly, I would have followed my classmates who are from these here parts around at the nursery and taken better note of the things they were buying. Gavin's and Emma's gardens were both stunning, and they know what to look for on this side of the country when it comes to plants! Thirdly, I would have mulched. OK, there, I said it! Mulch!

Looks like I'll be spending lots of time next year finding new and creative ways to keep the pests off my peas!