Since I expanded my gardening this year from the ornamental vegetable garden to include a rose garden and a cut flower (mostly dahlias) garden, I've had lots to keep me hustling. I've also been adding to the wildflower garden so that it doesn't completely revert back to grass and weeds, and within that, a big bed of poppies that I can't wait to see in bloom. The wildflowers (and grass) are tall enough now that the paths I cut with a string timmer are showing up distinctly.
horse-shoe poppy plot in the wildflower garden
Yesterday, I planted 31 (!) 'Blue Monday' Salvia plugs (that I grew from seed) in the back of the rose garden. If they mature well, that could make a beautiful backdrop. It may be too crowded by the end of the season, as literature says it grows to 12" wide, and I planted them about 6" apart. Will that make them bloom more because they're stressed and want to make seed before they die, or will that make the bloom less satisfactory? We shall see.
Here's what I hope: I hope it blooms profusely and drops seed that will sprout and grow next year, since it's an annual and I don't want to take up the space and time starting it indoors and transplanting again. But if it's as pretty as the pictures I've seen of it, I'll do what I have to. The only problem with that strategy is I won't know whether it's going to self-seed satisfactorily until it's rather late in the game to start indoors.
Then I put 16 mixed color dahlias (also grown from seed) in the currently L-shaped cut flower bed, along with 6 butterfly milkweed plants at the end, hoping for Monarch visits. The black dahlias are a great deal larger than the new transplants, as they germinated quickly and grew rapidly.
Finally there were enough weed-free grass clippings for me to put down a light mulch over the lettuce, tatsoi, arugula, cabbages and carrots. It keeps the soil from drying out so fast in the sun and keeps the rain from splattering mud on the plants. It also adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down, and shades the ground if you need it to stay a little cooler. Theoretically, it will help to keep down weeds, but the clippings I'm able to obtain probably have enough grass and weed seed in them as to cancel out that advantage.
grass mulched beds
Since the red veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) I planted the first week of March never germinated, I was glad I'd started some indoors. Those went out this morning. The first I became aware of this plant two years ago, Lakewood Gardens was selling it with their herbs. They weren't carrying it last year, but I found some at Granddaddy's Garden where they were selling it as an ornamental for the pretty foliage. It's a member of the dock family (in fact, it's also known as bloody dock), so you can view it as a weed, an ornamental or a salad green. I see it as an ornamental salad green. It will develop dark green oblong leaves with deep red veins and what's described as a tart flavor. Since I only ever had one plant at a time, I used the leaves sparingly and don't recall it as particularly tart. But, when you consider that lettuce is rather tasteless, perhaps. However, it isn't something as strikingly strong as arugula, nor bitter like some leafy greens. Maybe if you let it get more mature, but, like my lettuce, I prefer tender baby leaves.
Red veined sorrel seedlings
A couple of days ago, I put out about 30 zinnia seedlings that will be a center row between two rows of onions. The outer row of onions is about three inches tall now, and soon I'll plant the inner row.
After a rain. left row: Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage (interplanted with marigolds);
right row: Zinnias and onions
further right: 'Improved Maestro' peas - with Egyptian walking onions (Allium x proliferum) behind
The beautiful mixed lettuces will be ready any time now for picking as baby leaves, which, as I said, is just the way I like them.
The cover over the window well makes a great place for seedling trays, slanting them toward the sun and backing them up with a reflective white wall.
Here I should mention that Wal-Mart has a bin for recycling the trays that hold the plastic 4- and 6-packs and the plastic 4" pots of vegetables and flowers, and they let you take them if you need them. And this year, I bought some sheets of the packs and some tray liners from Morgan County Seed Company for the incredibly low price of $0.60 for a sheet of the 4- and 6-packs and $0.80 for a tray liner (and I think for a tray, as well). (One sheet contains either eight 4-packs or ten 6-packs.) Holy moly, what a bargain! When I started my seeds in February, I ordered some 6-packs from Amazon at a cost of $0.31 per 6-pack. I didn't look at the price of the 4" pots at Morgan County, but they are no doubt comparable. I reuse all plastic potting material until I've given it away with plants or it falls apart. I do wash them between uses, and if I think there may have been any disease organisms, I either toss the container or bleach it.
Sometimes with an order of seeds, I'll get a free packet of something (probably something they can't sell). Last year, one such offer was something that was labeled as 'Red Crimson' Dianthus. When I looked up that variety on line, it looks like a pretty dark red carnation with a pink center. Mine has beautiful lush foliage, and even though I was expecting some red flowers, that's all it ever was all season last year. It survived the winter, and this is what it's doing now:
I was beginning to think it wasn't even Dianthus, but Googling "carnation with hair-like petals" led me to something called a Turkish carnation. That was also called Dianthus barbatus, and that is apparently Sweet William.
The Missouri Botanical Garden site says it's "a short-lived perennial that is perhaps best grown as a biennial. [...] Seed may be planted directly in the garden in late spring for bloom the following year." That would explain the fact that there were no flowers last year.
Here's a picture of a pink colored Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) from Cool Garden.
I don't know what those spikey bits are called. They're not petals, and they're not sepals (the small green petal-like parts that make a cup for the petals). Perhaps they're what's called bracts, which are actually modified leaves.* At any rate, I'll be watching for some flowers amongst those spines, and assuming they'll be crimson red.
This last picture shows what is turning into my favorite flower bed. Alliums blooming now, oriental lilies and stargazers for summer, early spring hyacinths, a Julia Child rose, and a ground cover of ornamental thyme. Today I dug up the weed infested and otherwise barren ground around it and planted grass seed. It deserves it.
*Okay, I couldn't leave you that way. I looked it up. They are indeed bracts. And, you probably already know, but those lovely red poinsettia petals are not petals at all, but bracts. The flowers of a poinsettia are clustered in that funky little yellow center.
Till next time.