Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Flowers For Your Garden

Trying to keep a garden blooming and romantic can be somewhat difficult during the colder months of the year, as there are fewer flowers that will bloom and stay healthy. Of course, depending on the nature of your garden - indoor or outdoor, for example, or whether you focus primarily on flowers or other aspects - it may be perfectly suited for the fall and winter. But, if you are specifically trying to strike a romantic note, it certainly can't hurt to have a few flowers in full bloom. Not all flowers are well suited to the cooler seasons, but there are still several popular options, many of which can be found at local gardening centres or even at Marks & Spencer! Here are a few examples of flowers to consider for the fall season.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Romantic Garden Images

Busy with e-book writing, so no real post today. However, I was looking out my window this AM and after the recent post tropical storm or remnants or Hurricane Sandy in southern Ontario, I noticed I have very few leaves left on the trees, just a few hangers on. While the grass is still green there is little else left - one lone fall aster  is drooping over the stone path in a dead faint. These romantic garden images are pre-winter pick-me-ups, a little color on a colorless day. 

Photo © Copyright Geoff Harris
  Beautiful Iron Work Tunnel
Part of the walled garden at Osborne House, UK

     Photo © Copyright Paul Gillett
A woodland walk at Doddington Place, North Downs, UK ... romanticism at its best

     Photo © Copyright Richard Croft
A romantic entry to the Himalayan gardens at Riverhill House, Kent ... give me a Gothic arch and I'll be a happy gardener

 Photo © Copyright Paul Farmer
This is a before picture of the Italian Garden at Easton Lodge in Essex, England. I absolutely love this. They have restored it since this photo was taken and it's a little too pristine now for my taste. I liked this less formal, slightly unkempt version, more English than Italian. See the update here The Forgotten Gardens of Easton Lodge.

Photo © Copyright Derek Harper
The Wisteria Pergola at Well Hall Pleasaunce, Eltham, England ... love the blue borders in the background along with the mauve wisteria ... lovely combination and great design.

 Photo © Copyright Pam Fray
 A romanic garden path in Quex Park, Birchington, Kent

Photo © Copyright Oliver Dixon
A lovely formal English garden, Newbrough Lodge, Northumberland

          Photo © Copyright Richard Croft
I love everything about this long border at Holywell Hall from the colors to the tall yew and all the climbing on the garden wall.

 Photo © Copyright Peter Barr
  Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd, Wales
This is a 17th century manor house. Both house and gardens were restored in the first half of the 20th century. It has an interesting history and the house is presumably haunted.

Photo © Copyright  Derek Harper
Coleton Fishacre Garden is situated by the sea at Pudcombe Cove. The gulf stream brings a semi-tropical climate which allows for many plants that won't grow in the north of England. I love this garden. The forms and colors of the foliage make it especially beautiful ... even with the absence of flowers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Preparing the Garden for Fall With Garden Writers From the Past

 ... or preparing in fall for spring

While researching my e-books this month, I've pulled numerous titles from my bookshelves. I've long been a collector of vintage and antique gardening books. They are fascinating, especially those mid-century gardening books in which the writers were great proponents of Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)... that miracle pestiside. Oh, if they only knew. The sale or use of DDT in Canada today constitutes a violation of the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). Not sure about the US or other countries. Anyway, I digress. This post wasn't meant to be about DDT. I'll save that for another day.

I have an original late 19th century (c1870) edition of Play and Profit in My Garden, written by Reverend E. P. Roe and published by Dodd Mead, New York. Those Victorian  reverends, learned men, fed the publishing houses with a plethora of books on a variety of topics, not just of the faith and daily prayer type. This particular book is about growing a market garden. It's full of good and useful information. It's also a delightful read. While he wrote primarily about growing fruits and vegetables, getting bigger yields etc., (something my blog has nothing to do with unless it's snobbed up with words like "potager" and "espalier"...), he does write, albeit briefly, about "remembering those sweet friends that have brightened our eyes all summer,"  the flower garden, and how to prepare some plants for winter. (Yes, it took me a long time to get to the point.) 

I'll share what he wrote, skipping over the fruit and veggie bits ...   

" And now we come to the main and special work of the season, preparation for the future. First we will remember those sweet friends that have brightened our eyes all summer. Flower seeds will be gathered and labelled, plants that we wish to preserve will now be put in pots, tender bulbs such as the tube rose and gladiolus, taken up and stowed in a cool dry place. Then, that spring will be doubly welcomed, we will make our crocus, tulip and hyacinth beds. The last two named should be planted four inches deep, and the smaller bulbs about half the distance. When severe frosts commence, some course litter should be thrown over the beds. Space will not permit me to into the subject of flowers to that degree that inclination prompts. Moreover, the mercenary phase of these papers rather forbids it, as my play has been so closely linked with profit." 

*I'm fairly certain the "tube rose" is tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa.)

*Re: "Course litter"... another 19th century term. I'm quite sure he didn't mean cat litter. In his day, domestic cats had free access to the outside world and the few cat owners who kept their cats indoors used litter of dirt or torn-up newspapers. Nor did he mean crude or rude chewing gum wrappers, grocery store receipts, empty coffee cups and other things "littering" roads and sidewalks. Course litter is probably a mulch of compost. I can't find the term used anywhere else. If anyone knows otherwise, please comment. Could it be an old term for mulch?

 Another old gardening book I pulled off my shelves dates to about 1900, A Year's Gardening, by Basil Hargrave. Need I mention it's an English gardening book?  Mr. Hargrave was another gardener who loved his fruits and veggies, but he did mention flowers on occasion, primarily in the calendar section of the book. Here are his fall prep tips. I'm going to begin the list with September and follow up over the coming days in upcoming posts, but keep in mind, he wrote for the English gardener gardening in an English climate.
1. Prepare a small bed in a suitable situation of good sandy loam for the planting of Dog's-Tooth Violets––beautiful in their spring flowering and compact foliage.
2. Plant the bulbs of the Dog's Tooth Violet in the bed prepared yesterday. To get the best effect plant rather closely and use both the white and red varieties. (I agree about planting them closely, but my choice would be one color as it's easier on the eyes. Also, is there a red dog's tooth violet? Could this be a lost variety?) 
3. Now is a good season of the year for planting bulbs in the open.  Put in some Aelsromeria today, giving them a dry soil and a sunny position, and planting them some 9 inches deep. (And over the coming calendar days, he goes on to suggest planting other bulb and tuber plants, like English and Spanish Irises and Fritillarias)
4.  Look to the Dahlias and if you wish to obtain first-class specimens of flowers, disbud and thin the shoots, tying them carefully where required.
 5. Continue to give attention to the Dahlias. Give them a good soaking of manure water, if the weather be dry, and protect the choice blooms from the sun scorching heat by caps of paper. Be vigilant against earwigs, examining the traps frequently and destroying the traps. (Manure water is likely manure tea. Most gardeners know the benefits of manure tea, but I'll leave a simple recipe at the end of this post. Re: "Caps of Paper" – perhaps they didn't have paper lunch bags back in the day and used "caps of paper" instead  – a good idea, probably made from torn up newspaper and tied with string. Re: Earwig traps ... I'll dig a little, find some information on earwig traps and add it to the end of this post. 
 6. See to the Hollyhocks, thinning and tying the shoots where necessary, and supplying them with manure water as a means of prolonging their bloom. Keep a continuous watch for earwigs. (Well, that partially shows the importance of manure tea)
7.  Plant out the young pansy cuttings which have rooted well and prick out the seedlings which are sufficiently advanced. (It does seem late for this sort of thing, but remember, it's written for the English gardener. Also, pansies are hardy and can grow on longer than many other bedding plants. In North America, the pansy, while generally considered an annual, often returns for the next growing season in some locations, even in lower plant hardiness zones.)
8. Prick out the seedlings from the open air sowing of Polyanthuses and Auriculas, planting them into a bed of good soil and in a shady situation. 
9. Give attention to the Lilies of the Valley. See that the bed is in proper condition and give it a top-dressing of well-rotted manure. 
10.  Take a general look round the flower garden and see what arrangements are best for the further planting of spring flowering bulbs. Cut down the stems of all perennials which have ceased to flower. (Personally, I never do that last bit. In my zone 5b garden, I wait until early spring, letting the dieback help protect the plants against the bracing cold.)
11. He continues to push for the planting of bulbs.  "Snowdrops, squills (scillas), Snakeshead fritillaria and  Bulbocodium vernum."
12.  Make a further clearing of the borders in preparation for the planting of spring flowers, taking up the annuals which are over ... adding manure where necessary.
13.  Lift the gladioli (and Trigidia tiger-flower) which are dying down and store them away in a dry shed. It is a good plan to tie them in bunches and hang them from the rafters.
14.  Lift those roots of Marvel of Peru which you have decided to store during the winter (how does he know that?) and replant in the spring. This method produces larger plants than can be obtained when treated as an annual or biennial. (Marvel of Peru is Mirabilis jalapa also known as four o'clock flower, because it generally flowers in late afternoon.)
15.  Look to the roses and cut back any perpetuals that seem to have a chance of a third bloom. (I'm assuming he means hybrid perpetuals. They were must-have roses a hundred years ago.)
16.  Give some special attention today to the roses generally, cutting off each flower immediately, or even before, it comes to maturity and assisting the trees in any other way which may tend to prolong bloom. (I think he's just suggesting we dead-head our rose to encourage further bloom.)
17. Devote the three last days of the month to more particular attention to the routine work––to the lawn, the paths, the edgings, the removal of withered stems and flowers and all weeds, the clearing away of all growth that is dead or useless etc., etc.
More fall tips from Mr. Hargrave coming soon.

I'll finish up with some pretty words referring to this season by Rosamund Marriott Watson, and taken from her book The Heart of a Garden  written in 1905 and published by the Musson Book Company.

" ... summer's lease has run out, and autumn takes possession of the garden. The lavender has some while since been gathered in, and even the cry of the lavender pedlar, which, oddly enough, runs to the air of an ancient Breton hymn tune, is no longer heard in the streets. Larkspur and lupin, pinks, Mary lilies (probably the Madonna Lily), and mignonette, together with many another fair and fragrant tenants of the prime, are already memories––their candles are all out and the Torch lily rears its stately head above their graves. Autumn has come, indeed, open-handed as ever, and between her bewildering bounties of flower and fruit, the golden largeness of her lower sun, one is too much engaged by the present to consider over-curiously as to the past."

 That said, on to the promised manure recipe.

Manure Tea: An easy recipe.

Manure tea is a brew of water and manure. It is a nutritious drink for plants––a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer. Once brewed, it's can be poured over the soil using a watering can. 

You will need a large plastic bin or garbage pale with lid, rubber gloves, mask, shovel, access to well-rotted manure, a sack or old pillow case and a shovel. Rubber gloves and mask use depend on your "ick factor" level.
  1.  Quarter fill the garbage bucket or bin with water.
  2.  Place the pillow case inside the bin and wrap the top of it over rim. You may have to temporarily tie it in place. 
  3.  Shovel the manure into the pillow case.
  4.  A good ratio is 20% manure to 80% water. 
  5.  Tie the top of the pillow case.
  6.  Close the lid and leave it to cook for a few days. 
  7.  A good manure tea will have turned the color of brewed coffee after a few days.
  8.  At this point, remove the pillowcase, place a sturdy stick across the bin and tie the "manure bag" to    the stick. This ensures it drains into the bin. 
  9.  Remove the "manure bag" only when it no longer drips. Empty the mush into the compost bin.
  10.  If you aren't using the manure tea directly, keep it covered. Otherwise, use within a few days. 
  11.  Do not pour directly over plants, but on the soil around them.
And since I said I'd dig a little to find info on earwig traps, well the World Wide Web doesn't need yet another method. You could try the very complicated looking method found at the Ottawa Horticultural Society, or you could simply buy ready-made Earwig Traps

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