Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Easy Care Gladiola

Showy gladiolas elicit strong opinions from gardeners, as they are diva plants in the garden.  Some love their dramatic, tall spikes of bold colors, while others (such as the well-known English gardener Alan Titchmarsh) hate them with a passion.  I personally like gladiolas and enjoy their showiness - but on the other hand, I hate how much work they take.  I have to stake each one in the summer so they don't fall over from their top-heavy blooms, and I have to dig them up for the winter, as they are not usually hardy in my zone.

I don't like gladiolas that much.


Thankfully there are other, easier-going types of gladiolas.  They may not be as showy as those dramatic divas, but neither do they act like it.  They are the smaller, hardier glads, such as the species Byzantine Gladiolus (Gladiolus communis ssp Byzanthinus), which I have in my garden.

Byzantine Gladioli
Native to the Mediterranean area, this gladiolus grows to 2 or 3 feet tall and doesn't need to be staked. It is also hardy up to zone 5, so I don't have to dig them up the fall.  Even those gardeners that say they don't like glads appreciate the gracefulness of this one, which more closely resembles a wildflower than a showy diva.


Sometimes known as Sword Lily, Jacob's Ladder, or Turkish flag, Byzantine gladioli corms (similar to bulbs) are usually planted in fall and bloom their bright magenta flowers at the end of spring through early summer.  They like full sun and well-drained soil, though they will tolerate part shade and even heavy clay if in a dryer area.  Over time they multiply to form nice stands of flowers that I've seen the hummingbirds enjoy.

stands of Byzantine gladioli next to Geranium sanguineum
According to Old House Gardens, less hardy imposters are sometimes sold under the name of Byzantine gladiolus, so you do have to buy them from a reputable source.  (I've always bought mine from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.)  I've grown this gladioli in both North Carolina and up here in Massachusetts and have had great success with it.  I just plant the corms in fall and let them do their thing.


Beautiful gladiolas with little care from me?
That's a winner!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Salad Success

Ever have a plant that just won't grow for you?  Or even a whole group of plants?  For me, it was greens.  It didn't really matter what type - if it went in a salad, it probably wouldn't grow for me.

Spinach 'Bloomsdale'
Seeds wouldn't germinate.  It would be too hot or too cold.  Slugs ate the lettuce.  Grubs ate the spinach.  Whatever the reason, I never ended up with enough greens for a even a garnish, much less an actual salad.

Corn Salad 'Bistro'
This year, however, I was determined that things were going to be different.  It was going to be THE YEAR.  I sowed early greens in well-prepared raised beds and under the protection of a row tunnel.  I soaked and germinated my stubborn spinach seeds between damp paper towels in a baggie and then planted them in seedling trays indoors.  Lettuce seeds were also started indoors before careful transplanting into the veggie bed.

Did it work?  Did all my efforts pay off?

claytonia, spinach, lettuce, and corn salad
It was a resounding success.

To my delight, this year all of my salad greens grew - almost too well!  I can probably now invite the entire neighborhood over for salad and garnish some pasta plates while I'm at it.

one of many harvests of Claytonia
I grew four different types of greens this spring, and they all did well.  My favorite was Claytonia, also called miner's lettuce after being used by California Gold Rush miners to prevent scurvy.  Native to western North America, it has mild-tasting, succulent type leaves and eventually little white edible flowers.  It was both the easiest green to grow and the most productive.  I couldn't eat it all and started giving bags of it away!

Lettuce 'Four Seasons'
The 'Four Seasons' Lettuce was delicious, productive, and the prettiest of them all, with its beautiful red-tinged leaves.  Corn Salad, aka Mâche, did well and was the earliest of the greens to grow.  Last on the list was spinach.  I love spinach, but it was most notable for both taking the most work to grow and for bolting the earliest in the warm weather.  I did still get quite enough for a salad or two, though.


I call that success!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Yellow Fever

The eagerly-awaited daffodil season started the end of March this year.  Of course, with the cold and snowy April we had this year, the earliest daffodils ended up looking a little chilly.


Thankfully the weather finally warmed up, and I think all of the spring flowers started blooming at once!

Clockwise from top: the very fragrant Narcissus x odorus flore pleno, Narcissus 'Cragford', Narcissus 'Electrus'
Anyone who sees my garden in spring can guess just how much I love daffodils.  My collection somehow keeps growing every year.  The botanical name for daffodil is 'Narcissus', named either for the Greek word for intoxicated (narcotic) or for the Greek hunter from mythology who fell in love with the beauty of his own reflection.  Either reason is pretty fitting...

Narcissus 'Audubon'
Which is my favorite?  It would be so hard to pick just one, but every time I see the small and delicate-looking 'Beryl' with its wind-swept petals, I fall in love.  Photos never do this one justice.

Narcissus 'Beryl'
My favorite varieties are the miniature daffodils, whose blooms are often only the size of a quarter - or even as small as a dime.   And there's always room to tuck just a few more little ones in the garden, isn't there?

Miniature daffodils in my garden:
Top - N. 'Mite', Middle - N. fernandesii, N. 'Toto', N. 'Sun Disc', Bottom - N. 'Hawera', N. 'Xit'
If you really want to see a large number of different daffodils, though, go to a daffodil show.  The past couple of years I've started bringing daffodils to the Seven States Daffodil Show at Tower Hill Botanical Garden.

Seven States Daffodil Show in 2017
It is so much fun to get together with other daffodil-lovers and to see so many different varieties of daffodils all in one room.

the unusual-looking Narcissus 'Rip van Winkle'
There was worry that with the late spring we wouldn't have as many daffodils up and blooming in time for the early May show, but our fears were unfounded.  There was even extra excitement, as a couple guests judges from California flew in for the show, including Dr. Harold Kooporwitz, a noted daffodil hybridizer.

just one of several rows full of daffodils
So many beautiful blooms in one room!  Of course, one of the best parts is perusing the daffodils for new varieties that one might want for their garden...

A collection of 10 different miniature daffodils
(including a couple that I don't have that would look lovely in my garden...)
Even the daffodils outside somehow knew that there was a show going on and didn't want to be left out.  Tower Hill's Field of Daffodils was in full bloom just in time for the show.

Field of Daffodils at Tower Hill Botanical Garden
If you decide to visit a daffodil show, however, do be careful.  Those crazy people who love and collect daffodils are said to have 'yellow fever'...

N. 'Altun Ha'
and I've found it's quite contagious.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...