Saturday, November 10, 2012

Some Like it Hot

Some science behind our flavor preferences, with some practical advice to keep squirrels from birdfeeders.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Master Gardener Herb Garden

Please welcome a new contributor to the blog, Carol Kagan.  Carol recently moved to Franklin County from Prince George's County, Maryland where she was a Master Gardener for 8 years.  She is attending the current series of classes with the new set of Pennsylvania Master Gardeners.  She has a special interest in herbs and has been working with the herb team documenting the refurbishment/re-creation of the Demonstration Herb Garden.  Here is her post on that effort:

The demonstration herb garden has come a long way since last summer. After cleaning out the overly abundant herbs, the 44’x20’ plot was leveled.
The garden will be an informal design using raised beds, a different technique from the other gardens.
Wooden beds were built and installed that include a central octagon, small side beds and beds around the edges.
The beds were filled with manure donated by the riding center and top soil.
In the spring, the beds will be planted with various themes. A fragrance garden with lavender, roses and scented geraniums, a dye garden with lady’s bedstraw, betony and flax, and an everlasting garden with yarrow, wormwood and goldenrod are planned.
An historical theme garden will include herbs from literature and those used for medicinal purposes in the past. Kitchen and household gardens will include pennyroyal, flax and culinary herbs. Two front beds will be rotating themes such as Native American herbs and herbs for grilling.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Surviving Sandy and the First Few Frosts

Castor Bean Bloom (Ricinus communis)
I looked around my landscape this past weekend to see what survived the storm and the 3 or 4 light frosts we've had so far.  Here are the pictures.  Of course we were very lucky that there was minimal damage in our area, with only a short loss of power.

Castor Bean Seed Pod (Ricinus communis)

Castor Bean Plant (Ricinus communis)
So beautiful, but oh so Wicked. 

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia's - these are descendants from some seed heads I gleaned in 2003 from the area that is now used for the Perennial Demonstration Garden, back when we trialed ornamental plants there.

The variety was Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset' although you can see if you check the link, they've lost their double petals and picked up some color variations via natural crosses, or reverting to ancestral progenitors from the original hybrid cross, I assume.

Can't complain about the price, though.

The long season bloom time for a perennial is very welcome.

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia hirta
Rudbeckia hirta
Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed

Asclepias turberosa - Butterfly Weed

I collect seed from multiple sources, including the Wildlife Area, and anywhere else I see the seed pods for this native wildflower and butterfly attractor, so no telling the provenance.

Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed

Asclepias physocarpa or Gomphocarpus physocarpus Balloon Milkweed
Another milkweed, although native to South Africa.  Unique seed pods, leading to some interesting other common names.  Excellent larval host plant for the Monarch Butterfly.  Seed pods look great in dried arrangements.  This is my fourth year growing them, seeds originally saved from Steve's cut flower trials.  Although perennial in their native Zone 8 growing area, seeds started indoors in mid March allows for us to grow them as annuals here.  I always start a flat or two for the plant sale, so you can get them then.

Blue Salvia or Salvia farinacea
Another zone 7-8 perennial grown as an annual here in our climate.  These were grown from leftover seeds from earlier year cut flower trials.  They were simply marked "Salvia" in a cellophane envelope, so I had no information about them prior to growing them, which made them difficult to sell at our plant sale.  They have been blooming continuously since July and haven't yet succumbed to frost, and aside from planting them in late May, I've done virtually nothing to nuture them.  More information here and here.

Tithonia rotundifolia or Mexican Sunflower
I only have middling success growing these from saved seed year to year.  Luckily, Laurie Collins starts them, so when I have a failure, like I did this year, she always comes to the rescue with a few plants for me. 

I think this is a dwarf variety, 'Fiesta del Sol', although I didn't mark it when I planted it, so can't be sure.

My Monkshood, to go along with Mary's and Nancy's.

'Yummy' Bell Pepper
One pepper plant left, surviving not only the frosts and storm, but critter depredation as well.  This is an heirloom variety of small, tapered, sweet, orange-when-ripe bell pepper called 'Yummy' that I grow from saved seed every year.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit or Arisaema triphyllum
I think of Jack-in-the-Pulpits as an early, spring woodland species that normally, have gone to seed by this time of year, so I have no idea why this fella is coming up and just starting to bloom now.  All my established ones are gone, with just a few of the red berries visible on the ground.  I tried googling around for information that would explain this late blooming phenomenon, but came up empty.  If anyone out there has more information, please let me know and I'll share it here.

Update: 11:50 pm 11/6 - I sent the picture of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit to Dr. Linda Chalker Scott who responded that the phenomenon is probably an example of ecodormancy - a plant's reaction to somewhat adverse, or abnormal enviromental conditions.  Early season warmth?  Mid-summer drought?  Late season warmth?  I have been unable to find a good source to further describe and explain the term.  You can try here, and here.  There doesn't appear to be a Wikipedia entry.  I forwarded the picture to Dr. Bert Cregg, another one of the Garden Professors, who asked for examples in his post linked above.