Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve

Wishing everyone a peaceful, reflective end to 2014 as we awaken to a New Year tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dahlia Year in Review

I thought that it would be a good idea, before the calendar turned over to a new year and my memory of the 2014 garden completely vanished, to write a brief synopsis of the successes that I enjoyed this past year in my dahlia garden. Let's start with the "new-to-me" varieties that I grew. I really liked most of the new ones that I tried this year but 4 really stood out as favorites. I loved the coloring on the collarette "NTAC Eliza".

The striking single "Eclipse".

The BB semi-cactus "Tahoma Endeavor"

And you know I love incurved cactus dahlias. Here's the B sized dark pink "Sandrine".

It was a challenging dahlia year because of the intense heat. We set a record for days with a high over 90 degrees and many of the dahlias suffered. It was often the case that before the front of a fully double dahlia had completely opened, the back had already collapsed because of the heat. And the cucumber beetles, always a pest, were extra bad this Summer. But even with all of these challenges, certain dahlias still had a banner year. Among them were every variety that had the waterlily form. For whatever reason, this form of dahlia, in all of the varieties that I grew, performed exceptionally.

I was especially please that my "Joal Louisa", that is so difficult to keep year after year, produced a perfect bloom for me just in time for the Portland Show. And once entered it won Best Waterlily in the Show.

As I said, all of the waterlilies grew so well. Here's a really full "Kelgai Ann". I was able to enter one of these blooms in the Lane County Show.

Here's a young "Ken's Rarity" bloom. Such striking contrasting colors. I entered a single bloom of this variety in both the Portland Show and the Lane County Show.

A single bloom of "Red Velvet". This variety is another early bloomer. This picture was taken July 24th and the two plants kept on producing blooms until they were cut down in October.

I don't think any waterlily form variety did better than "Pam Howden". As always, it was one of my first dahlias to begin blooming and it continued to bloom until I cut down the plants. I was able to enter both a 1-bloom and a 3-bloom entry in the Douglas County Show. But I was especially happy with the bouquets that graced my kitchen table after the show season. For at least 3 weeks straight I made a bouquet consisting off all "Pam Howden" blooms plus one "Red Velvet" bloom. It made such a simple, beautiful bouquet.

Another success of the 2014 growing season were many of my "Majestic Kerkrade" plants. I am one of the last people that still grows this variety that was introduced back in 1977. You can't find a commercial source for it any more but I just love it's strong color combination of yellow and pink and sharp cactus form. But the last few years my blooms haven't been very good and I wondered if my stock was deteriorating. I was concerned it might worsened past the point of no return. But suddenly this Summer, for goodness knows what reason, I had three plant begin to produce perfect blooms once again. And one of those blooms timed so that I could enter it in the Portland Show where it won a 1st and Best of type. I was careful to mark those plants and saved the tubers from just those three plants this Fall. I am hoping than this wasn't a one-year fluke and that my stock is once again strong of this older beauty. 

Another variety that had a stellar Summer was "Camano Cloud". Once again it was one of my early bloomers and it just kept pumping out perfectly formed blooms all Summer long.

Unfortunately, none of the blooms timed right for me to enter in a show but I still got to enjoy them in my garden all Summer long.

The last overall success in the dahlia garden this year were my Poms. All of my Pom varieties grew well and produced vigorously. In the three dahlia shows that I participated in this September, I was able to enter five 1-bloom and five 3-bloom Pom entries. In Douglas County, my 1-bloom entry of "Stoneleigh Joyce" won best 1-bloom Pom in Show. Ans once the show season concluded, I had cherry small bouquets of mixed Pom varieties on the counter for weeks.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Witch Hazels

Well, it's just a few days after Christmas but both of our witch hazel plants are in full bloom.

I have to blame this on the very warm and mild temperatures that we have enjoyed this past November and  December. November had 20 days where the high exceeded 50 degrees and so far we have had 17 days over 50 degrees this month. In comparison, last year I wrote a post about the witch hazel blooms on January 18th, almost 3 weeks later than this year.

No matter the date, we need to enjoy their beauty when it appears.

I don't think that the red witch hazel in the front flowerbed has ever been covered with so many blooms.

We need to move this plant to a better location where it will have more room to grow. Reading online it looks like the ideal time for transplanting will be after the flowering is done, but before the leaves appear.

Until then we can just enjoy the display.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mowing Project #1

With the dry October we had, I wasn't able to work on my yearly "clean-up" of the property. There are many, many meadows and trails that I like to mow each year. It makes a nice area in which to hike each Winter and also provides a clean backdrop for the wildflower displays each Spring. But with such bone dry conditions, even in mid-October, it was too dangerous to mow. Then, as the rain finally returned in November, I had to switch my attention to digging dahlia tubers. So now it is the last week of December and I haven't been able to mow even once yet. Today was the day to change that! Rain was in the forecast for late afternoon, so Dad and I got out around noon to attack the small area behind the shop.

We started by using the blade on the trimmer and attacking blackberry vines. Then we switched to the string trimmer. Dad cut back the tall grass and I followed with the lawn mower. It is always amazing what a difference an hour or two of work makes. Many years ago, we won a large sack of nameless yellow daffodil bulbs at a plant meeting. We randomly planted them in this area and they have really done well. Unlike most of the named varieties that we have planted over the years, these have naturalized and multiplied just like they are suppose to. So now, with the area freshly mowed, we will be able to fully enjoy the flowing daffodils this Spring. 

Right as I was finishing mowing this area, I hit a rock. It killed the engine and then a wheel fell off! As I searched for the wheel, it began to rain. We packed everything up and headed inside for the day. Our timing couldn't have been better. Tonight, with it rainy and cold outside, we built a fire and enjoyed a peaceful Winter's evening inside.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mudroom Clean-up

The sun came out today in wonderful, long spells and we hit a high of 50 degrees. Since I was drawn to the outdoors, I decided to work in the mudroom flowerbed, where I could enjoy the warmth of the sun each time it poked out from behind the few white clouds. I spent just over an hour cutting back most of the dead foliage and stems.

Even though it is only December 26th, there is so much new growth. Both clumps of "tete-a-tete" narcissus are over an inch tall now.

As I cut back last year's growth on almost all of the perennials, I discovered each time that next year's plant has already begun to form. While this is exciting it is also worrisome. We have a 5 days spell of nights in the low 20's ahead. Hopefully all of these young leaves are hardy enough to withstand some very cold nights.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Peace on Earth

All is calm, all is bright........

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Soltice

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen,
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land;
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Garlic Planting - Finally!

Today I finally got around to planting my garlic. I have been meaning to for the last 6 weeks, but something else always took a priority over that task. Today I finally had the time and the weather cooperated as well. It hit 61 degrees today, so it was a super pleasant day to be working outside under sunny blue skies.

I started by dividing the garlic bulbs that I saved. I always set aside the two largest bulbs of each variety to use as my planting stock for the next season. Here are three of the "Chesnook Red" cloves. They have such pretty pink papery skins. 

Then I divided my "Russian Red" bulbs. One of the bulbs of this variety that I saved as planting stock, the cloves were actually starting to sprout. They knew I was way behind with my planting! Once I finished with the odoriferous job of dividing up the bulbs into individual cloves, it was time to plant.

I started out by building the new raised planting bed. It is just about 20' long. Then I laid out the cloves on top of the bed and adjusted the spacing until I was happy.

I ended up planting 19 "Chesnook Red" cloves.

And I planted 11 "Russian Red" cloves. Before I stuck each clove in the ground, I added a small helping of bone meal to each hole and worked it in. Then I dropped each clove in, pointed end up, and covered them up

As I was laying our the hoops and remay, Solomon joined me to "help". Everyone was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

Eventually I got the hoops set in and the remay fastened down. Now it is just a matter of watching and waiting. I think the garlic will still sprout and grow just fine. My only real concern is that planting the cloves this late will affect the final bulb size of next year's crop. But concern for July's harvest can wait. Today I will enjoy getting this task off of my "to-do" list and soaking in the December sunshine.

Monday, December 1, 2014

First 2015 Catalog Arrives

The first 2015 seed catalog arrived in the mail today. While it is always so much fun to look through the new catalogs, reading about the newest varieties and planning next year's garden, December 1st is too early for me. I need to get through the Christmas rush  -and plant my garlic!- first. Once the quiet, dark days of January arrive I will happily grab my stack of new catalogs and get lost in the planning and the dreaming.