Saturday, February 15, 2014

Garden Visit: Very Belated Post on the 2013 PHS Pop Up Garden

Each year the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has been creating a “pop-up” garden in the summer on a different vacant lot each time. May through October of 2013 the Pop-Up garden was at 313 South Broad Street, which is diagonally across the street from the enormous Kimmel Center. It is also right near my alma mater, The University of the Arts. Since I have been taking web design classes in the evenings at University of the Arts, I decided it would be fun to check out the Pop-Up garden while there one night. So one night in September, after an orientation I had to attend, Brian met me at the Pop-Up garden. The following are photos that he took with his cell phone.

The entrance to the PHS 2013 Pop-Up Garden...

The Garces Group provided food and drinks that could be purchased.

There was a large picnic area and additional seating behind it on risers.

The church in the background brings back memories for me. When I went to college and lived in the city, I could hear the ringing of the bells from this church tower.

Here you can see the curved glass roof of the Kimmel Center across the street. (When I went to college at UArts, the Kimmel Center wasn’t there yet. We had a park on that lot and I was upset to hear it was going to be torn down for the Kimmel Center. I even participated in a protest to try to prevent it from happening. I have to admit, it’s a beautiful building, though, and I have enjoyed seeing some Philadelphia Orchestra concerts there. I just wish they could’ve built it without tearing down the park.)

There weren’t a lot of plants in the Pop-Up garden, it was more like a beer garden than an actual garden. But they had some really interesting and unusual plants. Several were tropicals, which I guess works out ok for them since this garden is meant to be temporary. Unfortunately, the plants weren’t labeled and I had to try to figure out the plant names by looking at their plant list online.

This is a sub-tropical plant called Solanum Quitoense (Bed of Thorns). It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the leaves have dangerous-looking purple thorns that line the veins and there are round, fuzzy fruits that will eventually ripen into something that looks similar to an orange. According to Wikipedia, the fruit tastes like a combination of rhubarb and lime. The purple-leaved plant is a type of Coleus called Solenostemon Scutellarioides Sedona.

This is a balloon flower called asclepias physocarpa. It has these really interesting hairy pods on it. It is also sometimes called the “Family Jewel Tree.” Too bad it wasn’t blooming because from what I see on Annie’s Annuals website, it is a stunning tropical flower. But then I guess if it was blooming, I wouldn’t have had the chance to see the fascinating seed pods. I want one of these. I wonder if I can grow one in my greenhouse.

This vine with its unusually shaped leaves is called ipomea x multifida, or Cardinal Climber. I definitely wish I had seen this in bloom. It has bright red flowers that look similar to morning glory flowers. I recently discovered Margaret Roach’s website and she has a post on the Cardinal Climber And Its Cousins, Annual Vines That Are Hummingbird Favorites. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because she used to write for Martha Stewart Magazine. I am addicted to her website lately.

So even though there wasn’t a large area of plants in the PHS Pop-Up Garden in 2013, I discovered some really fascinating new plants and look forward to seeing what they do this summer.

Speaking of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society...the Philadelphia Flower Show is coming soon! Wahoo! Can’t wait for March!

Sounding Like a Broken Record

I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record talking about snow all of the time lately. Not only am I sounding like a broken record, but we are also breaking records for total amount of snowfall. On average, we have tended around 14 inches total for the winter, with it being much less than that the last couple of years. This year we are above 53 inches...and winter isn’t over yet! It feels like we get one snowstorm after another. Just as it starts to melt, we get walloped with another one.

This last snowstorm was a double whammy that was spread out over 32 hours. Add that to the snow that was still on the ground and we are well over a foot. The bottom two steps to the back porch are totally covered in snow.

You can’t even see the boxwoods in this photo, except for the ones in the large pots, because they are completely covered in snow. Same with the raised beds. I swear they are still there...somewhere. The snow is up to the bottom of the garden bench.

For comparison, here is a shot that was taken in October of 2013 of the entrance to the Kitchen Garden. Ah, to be October again...

It does look pretty when it sticks to all of the branches, but that also means it could do some damage with all that heavy snow.

The birds have temporarily lost one of their favorite resting places on the wisteria since it is now snow-covered. Instead they are seeking shelter under the eaves of the shed and in the birdhouses. Why these birds have decided to stick out this winter here, I have no clue. I’m wondering if they are second-guessing their choice to stay.

This was taken from inside the greenhouse at the top of the steps, looking towards the area I call my Secret Garden. Remember those boxwoods I showed a picture of a couple of weeks ago where I was worried because they were almost totally flattened by the snow? Well, you can barely even see them here now. The snow is almost up to the porch. I like the funny tiered design the snow made on the wrought-iron table. It looks like a wedding cake.

If I were a bird, this would be my birdhouse. This guy has the right idea with all of that warm, cozy nesting material. Hope it keeps you warm and dry, my little friend. Now go check out the birdseed I just put in the feeder for you.

P.S. It’s snowing again. We are expecting another 1-4 inches today. When will it end?!?!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Revisiting Last Year’s Kitchen Garden

The only part of my garden that has ever been really “planned” is my Kitchen Garden. I planned the design of it and I meticulously plan what will be planted and when every year. I keep notes, a chart and a map in order to keep track of what I planted where and how well (or not well) it did. I use this information to plan for the next year. That is what I have been doing today – I have been going over last year’s information, looking through what seeds I have left over that I may be able to use again this year, and thinking about what I may need to buy. This year I plan on using a lot of leftover seed from last year and hope that it is still viable.

This was my list of plants for the Kitchen Garden in 2013. You can see the plant, variety, if it was a plant or seeds, where the plant or seed came from, when planted, the year the plant or seed was bought, what distance to thin seedlings to, and if the plant or seed was successful or not.

Click to enlarge.

Next is the map of my Kitchen Garden in both Spring and in Fall of 2013. I color code: Anything in black is a perennial that comes back each year, anything in red is a new plant, anything in blue are new seeds I planted.

Click to enlarge.

Some notes I had made for myself regarding the Kitchen Garden in the Spring of 2013:

Things that did well: garlic chives (plants I’ve had for a couple of years), basil (plants), parsley (curled variety as plants), radishes, hot pepper (Mariachi plant from Haines Garden Center), turnips (were very abundant), swiss chard (plant), cucumbers, cilantro, green beans, lima beans, spinach, arugula, romaine, bibb lettuce, gourmet leaf mix lettuce, kale (plant).

Things that did NOT do well: red gomphrena, breadseed poppies, summer savory, love in the mist (got a couple of flowers), tomatoes (were late), chervil, acorn squash, nasturtium, yellow squash (got disease), beets (only a few), fairy tale eggplant (tiny tiny), sweet pepper, toy choi (tried in spring and fall and bolted before ready to harvest both times). Tarragon and marjoram were small. 

Parsley, basil and summer savory: Had planted seeds, but didn’t do well, so bought plants and they did well after that.

Some notes I had made for myself regarding the Kitchen Garden in the Fall of 2013:

Things that did well in fall: sorrell (plants), orange cosmos (plants), basil (plants), hot pepper (Mariachi plant), garlic chives, lima beans, arugula, parsley (curled variety as plants).

Planted plants and seeds weekend before Labor Day: zucchini (plants), spinach (plants), cauliflower (plants), iceberg lettuce (plants), arugula, gourmet leaf mix, turnips, radishes. From this planting of seeds and plants, the only thing that really did well was the arugula, with a little spinach and gourmet leaf mix.

When I update my plant list and map for 2014, I will be sure to post them.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Snow That Never Melts

Some people might enjoy snow that never melts. I’m not one of them, though. This has been the winter that never ends, the winter that keeps on giving...and apparently it will give more tomorrow with an expected 1-3 inches of more snow. I can’t help but wonder what this is doing to my plants. This is the coldest and one of the snowiest winters I can remember. Will the more tender of my perennials survive? Will my shrubs survive the mountains of snow and ice that keep getting piled on them?

I wandered the yard as best as I could in the snow this afternoon to survey any damage. I tried to hurry-up about it because I am still recovering from a stupid sinus infection that I got when I had the flu last week. I’ll probably get scolded by loved ones after this post since I promised I was going to stay inside today and rest.

I have two tall planters and three smaller ones just outside the screened-in back porch that I put there this past year once I discovered that there was gravel there and digging was impossible. The three small planters have boxwood in them. They are laden with ice and snow right now.

I also have four or five boxwood that line the path that leads to the back garden gate. These boxwood were some of the first things I planted when we moved here, so they are well-established. At least three of them have tops that are flattened by snow. I am tempted to try to clear these off, but they are so frozen in that I am afraid I would do more harm than help.

I have three other boxwoods in the L-shaped area by the greenhouse that I call my Secret Garden. These are a different variety and have been here for about four years or more. They are almost totally flattened by ice and snow. Ugh, it’s heartbreaking. I hope they make it.

I will admit that when the snow isn’t suffocating my shrubs, it can be pretty. Like here with the dried sedum flowers in my Flower Garden.

And it is does look kind of neat hanging on the dried hydrangea flowers.

The Kitchen Garden should be no worse for wear since almost everything that I plant in here are annual vegetables and flowers that get planted from seed in the early spring. The boxwoods at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden are actually looking ok.

The four boxwoods that surround the standard rose are a bit flattened, but not as bad as the others in the yard.

This was taken from the back corner looking towards the Flower Garden and shed.

This was taken as you enter the backyard through the garden gate. You can see the icicles hanging from the shed roof.

No feathered friends in the birdhouse right now, but they were happy that I put out more birdseed today.

That was about the extent of my ramblings in the yard this afternoon. Now it’s time to get back to resting and recovering.

Monday, February 3, 2014

More Snow, the Flu, and Longing for Spring

Called out of work today because I am sick with the flu. I have only had the flu one other time in my life and forgot how horrible it is. Was supposed to start my web design classes for this semester tonight, but thankfully it was cancelled due to snow. Yes, more snow. Seems like we haven’t seen the ground all winter. Can’t seem to get away from the cold and bursts of snow this year.

I took these two videos this morning of the snow. This one was taken looking out the family room window.

This one was taken from the screened-in back porch. Izzy and Molly have cameo appearances. (Molly hasn’t left my side since I’ve been sick. She is truly my own personal Florence Nightingale.)

I recently started reading “The Wild Gardener” by Peter Loewer. Not sure why it took me so long to read this when I have had it for a few years. It is mentioned by horticulturalists, naturalists, and garden writers as being one of their most influential books. It is not at all what I thought it would be and has been thoroughly entertaining. I don’t want to say too much about it since I will blog about it once I’m finished, but there was a part that I read last night that made me long for spring.

“Every spring when the late snows are over, the high winds that break tree limbs subside, the rains that rival those of Ranchipur cease, and the water doesn’t freeze in the birdbath every night, we gardeners go out into the garden to garden. Usually, whatever day we choose turns out to be rather dismal. But it gives us a chance to putter about in the muck and think about that day soon to come that the weather forecaster will, in the nightly recap, call one of the year’s best.

In most of Canada, in the great Northwest, down to Georgia, west to California, and north to Alaska, that fabled day – usually the end of April and the beginning of May – dawns with a glory not seen since the previous fall. We don our boots, take up spades and shovels, grasp our sturdy rakes, unwind the hose, and go out into the sunshine.”

That is what I am thinking about today as I lie in bed feeling like utter crap and looking at more snow falling. I am looking forward to that day that I can walk out into the sunshine with shovel in hand and get back to what makes me feel alive, well and at peace.