You might think that writing about good weather would tempt the fates. I’ll thumb my nose at the fates and go ahead and write that this spring is the best spring, gardenwise, ever in all the decades since I’ve been gardening. The flowers have been more vibrant with color and, it seems, also in greater profusion. The air has been particularly fragrant, especially now with the intoxicating aroma of black locust blooms following closely on the heels of autumn olive’s sweet scent.
My fruit trees are most thankful for this spring’s beneficence. In all the years of growing fruit here on the farmden, never has the landscape been so brightened by snowballs of white blooms of plum and pear trees, pinkish blossoms of apples, and peaches’ pure pink blossoms.
The now-fallen petals are no cause for wistfulness, because those clusters of flowers have now morphed into clusters of …
Lee Reich’s 13TH (?) ANNUAL PLANT SALE
(of mostly lesser grown but delectable fruits)
Because of covid, the sale is now online, with scheduled pickups here at the farmden in New Paltz, NY.
Limited quantities of plants are still available (September Sun female kiwiberry, various varieties of fig, Blue Sunset lowbush blueberry, and Pineapple Crush white alpine strawberry). All are truly delectable fruits on truly beautiful planats. So order soon.
Hauling manure hardly seems to make sense these days, considering that lugging 500 pounds of horse manure gives plants about the same amount of food as a 50 pound bag of 10-10-10. And the latter for only about ten bucks!
Human manure piles, China, 1900
But whereas 10-10-10 supplies only food (and only three of the sixteen needed nutrients at that), manure has other benefits: it aerates the soil; it helps soil capture and cling to water; and it renders nutrients already in the soil more available to plants. Nutrients from synthetic fertilizers are used up or washed out of the soil by the end of a season, yet benefits from each application of manure last for years. Even ingredients of a concentrated organic fertilizer have little benefit as far as soil aeration and water retention are concerned.
I spent an hour or so today working on my sculptures. Yes, they were out in the garden. No, they were not stone renderings of fish spouting water into a pond or of ethereal females sprinkling the ground with flower petals. These sculptures are quite large and, as you might guess, the are green, with leaves.
Some of the sculptures have been completed; some are works in progress. The easiest of these sculptures are nothing more than short hedges, one of boxwood and the the other of yew. Each makes a cozy enclosure, the yew for my front stoop and the boxwood for a bed of Smooth (Hills-of-Snow) hydrangea, a hop vine climbing a trellis, and a Sweet Autumn clematis climbing a brick wall.
With flat tops and nearly vertical sides, both hedges are quick and easy to prune. They both widen slightly from head to toe because, …
I have some of the nicest volunteers in my garden. Some of them have been people, many of them are plants, and one of my favorites – among the plants, that is – is columbine. Years ago, I planted some native columbines, those dainty plants whose orange and yellow flowers hover on thin stalks above their ferny foliage. Since being planted, these wildings self-seed – volunteer, that is — every year in various nooks and crannies around my yard, such as in the thin crevice of soil between my bluestone front path and the adjacent stone wall.
I once also planted cultivated columbines, the common McKana Giants, and their offspring have been volunteering around the yard as well. Flowers and foliage of these more cultivated sorts are similar to the natives, just bigger in all respects, which is not necessarily better. Or worse. Just different.
It’s spring, a time when a man’s thoughts turn to . . . flowers, of course. (At least this man’s thoughts, some of them, do.) Sure, I’ve been reveling in the colorful progression of blossoms beginning, this year, with cornelian cherry and hellebore on about the first day of spring, and moving on to forsythia, plum, Asian pear, flowering quince, European pear, cherry, and — probably by the time you read this — apple followed by shipova. All this is the flamboyance of spring.
This year, I’ve also been admiring a few of the more subtle flowers of spring.
MAPLE BEAUTIES, AND OTHERS
Some of the maples are now in bloom. Sugar maples (Acer saccharum) is perhaps the prettiest and most useful of the maples. Unfortunately, it’s also the least tolerant of compacted or wet soils, or a warming climate. The beauty of sugar maples lies not just in the leaves’ autumn show …
The UPS guy arrived yesterday with a long, narrow cardboard box containing the latest addition to my menagerie, a menagerie of mostly Mediterranean plants. “Mostly” because not all of them have roots in the Mediterranean. But all of them thrive and are grown in Mediterranean climates of mild winters and sunny summers.
My collection is a “menagerie” because, although all the plants thrive and are grown in Mediterranean climates, the makeup is quite diverse. There’s the evergreen pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana that also goes under the common name feijoa), olive, rosemary, bay laurel, and Meyer lemon.
Pollinating pineapple guava
And a few of the plants — black mulberry (Morus nigra), Pakistani mulberry (Morus macroura), pomegranate, and fig — go dormant and lose their leaves in winter.
Pakistan mulberry fruit
Here at the farmden, winter temperatures can plummet to minus 20°F, so getting these plants to thrive …
Eek! Mice (or rabbits)! Not the animals but the damage they have wrought. The bark on virtually all my pear grafts of last year has been nibbled off enough to kill the grafts.
Once I calmed down, I realized that all was not lost. All the chewing was above ground level, leaving a small amount of intact bark still in place. The plants aren’t dead, just their portions above the chewing. The near-ground portions could be grafted again.
Daisy showered with petals (more on this later)
(Most fruit trees neither come true from seed nor root readily from cuttings, so are propagated by grafting a scion — a short length of one-year-old stem — of the desired variety onto a rootstock. The rootstock is the same kind of plant as the scion variety and could be a seedling or a variety developed for special rootstock purposes. My …
I don’t know about your propagation space, but mine is getting overcrowded. Yes, now with a greenhouse, I’ve got more room than in the the past when I grew seedlings in windowsills or in my basement under lights. But my greenhouse is small, and with greenhouse beds home to fig trees and early spring lettuce, arugula, and other greenery, seedlings are relegated to a 12 by 2 foot shelf along the north wall.
I make the most of that shelf by “pricking out.” Snicker if you will at this Britishism, but pricking out is a way to get a lot of bang for your buck space-wise, whether in a greenhouse, on a windowsill, or beneath lights. It also makes more economical use of seeds.
The process begins, for me, with either 4 by 6 inch or 6 by 8 inch seed flats, which are plastic pans a couple of …