Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Tasty Trio

It's year number three for this plant and it's finally producing fruit, albeit in small quantities. But boy, is it tasty. This strawberry plant is called "Mara des Bois" and I bought it from White Flower Farm a few years ago foolishly thinking it would produce a bumper crop of strawberries the first year. It didn't. In fact, I don't think I got a single one. I figured it was just one of my gardening experiments that didn't work out. But in March of last year, I saw foliage emerging and was surprised to see it return. I did get some berries--maybe about 7 over the course of the entire summer. This year it's back again and so far I've gotten about 8 or 9 and I hope that's a promise of many more to come.

My Internet research taught me that "Mara des Bois" is quite well known in French circles which would explain why I know nothing about it. What I do know is that it is a beautiful strawberry in every way: size, shape, color and, most importantly, taste. Whatever my plant yields this year, I'll be thankful for it. In my opinion, this is what a strawberry is supposed to be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Whew, That Was Close!

I was back at the nursery yesterday, in pursuit of a plant that I loved last year but had been unable to find so far this year: Coleus "Fishnet Stockings". I mentioned it in a post last year. I've seen it written about twice already this year. The first article I saw appeared in Fine Gardening magazine and, at that point, I wasn't worried because that's not a magazine that reaches the gardening masses. But then the plant was featured in the Sunday Washington Post a couple of weeks ago. Oh boy. Good luck finding it now.

Off to Merrifield Gardening Center I went yesterday. They had rows upon rows of every kind of coleus imaginable. There were hundreds. You can bet I looked at every single one. And you know how it is when your desire for something increases exponentially in relation to the dimishing probability that you'll ever find it. Desperate, I finally did what I rarely do at nurseries--I asked for help. The people that work at this nursery are so friendly and know what service is all about. The sales assistant offered to check the back stock. Given the tens of thousands of plants on display at this place, I found it hard to believe there even was a back stock. Anyway, she trotted off, leaving me to cool my heels for a while. I told her if she found any, I'd take three. Originally, I only went looking for two but that whole scarcity thing took over.

After about 10 minutes she returned--plants in hand. She said she had almost given up hope but she managed to find four of them mixed in with some other types. Keeping my word, I only took three. I wanted to leave one for the next person who might come in all wild-eyed, looking for Fishnet Stockings.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gap Fillers

When I do mixed plantings, I often combine perennials and annuals in one container. The following year, I'm faced with gaps where the annuals were and I have to decide how to fill them. I've shown an example here. In this galvanized tub, I have three perennials: a heuchera and, barely seen, a chocolate eupatorium and a swedish ivy. A lot of empty space remains where I had annuals planted last year. I found a few more plants at the nursery and to see what the arrangement might look like before I commit any further, I place them in the pot before I remove them from their original containers. Once I'm satisfied, I can go ahead and plant. It's always a good idea to sprinkle in some time-release fertilizer like Osmocote in the planting holes before adding the new members of the container.

In this container, I added coleus "Dipt in Wine" (yes, I bought it just for the name), creeping wire vine, sedum "Vera Jameson", and origanum "Kent Beauty".

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shopping Day

I usually plan my first big shopping trip right around this time because I'm fairly certain that the cooler evenings are behind us. When I first started gardening, I'd make a beeline for the nursery on the first warm spring day (usually early April) because my hands were itching to plant something. And I was never alone. As with most important lessons though, I had to learn the hard way. Invariably, we'd get hit with a blast or two of cold air in the following weeks, leaving me with a bunch of dead plants and fewer dollars in my bank account.

No more. I now wait until Mother's Day. It's worked so far.

I went shopping today. Here's the cart before and after. This is a little more than half of what I'll need to complete my garden this season. Many plants returned this year. I also ordered some things via the Internet. Still on my shopping list: mandevilla, red Abyssinian banana plant, lots of herbs, and some miscellaneous fillers. That will be next weekend's shopping trip.

Stay tuned for more frequent postings and some review material on planting technique. Meanwhile, get those pots cleaned out--it's time to start planting!