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Emptying the Greenhouse

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh, the greenhouse was crammed. And the weather predictions were for upper 80's and low 90's over the weekend. Yiiikes. I was not about to allow all the plants I'd been growing all winter to be fried. Ever since the fan broke in my greenhouse, I've been trying to get it emptied and planted out before it gets really hot. I hated the drone of that fan anyway, and if it's hot enough for it to be running, it's too hot for the plants. At least that was my rationale for not having somebody come out to install a new fan. So I had the devil chasing me to get the Pod emptied before the big heat hit.

I have to say I was as pleased with my plants this year as any. I was a good girl and pinched back the geraniums instead of letting them all get huge. I toughened my stance on bringing in big huge pots of flowers from the yard. It would only be cuttings this year. And I didn't go nuts--just one or two cuttings of each.

One difference this year from others is that I switched from giving liquid fertilizer (Peter's, dissolved in water) to Osmocote, which is fertilizer bound up in round, time-release pellets. You mix it into the soil and it does its work steadily and slowly as the months go by. What a difference. Instead of the huge spurts of top-heavy growth, I got slow, steady, sturdy growth in my plants.

Gartenmeister fuschia, the first time I've grown a decent specimen indoors. Yay!

Heliotrope, which smells like cherry pie. It's now out in the flower border. Rabbits don't like it. Yay again.

The poet's jasmine loves Osmocote. It was looking sickly and yellow, and Osmocote and some pyrethrins brought it back from Red Spider Miteland. It has a heavy, musky scent all its own. I crave it. And it blooms year 'round. What a dinkum plantie.

These are the geraniums I can't live without: star geraniums in red and hot pink, little bitty Grey Sprite, Occold Shield with its chestnut-splotched chartreuse leaves, Vancouver Centennial with its chestnut star-shaped leaves edged in chartreuse; Rosina Read in pink, Wilhelm Langguth with its white-bordered leaves, Frank Headley with its ridiculously white leaves and salmon flowers. The list goes on. At one time I had 28 varieties of miniature and dwarf and fancy-leaved gerania. They are my weakness. Well, one of my weaknesses. People of passion have many weaknesses.

But now it was time for them to go back out in the big world.
And so I planted them in nine planters and five baskets, all to keep them out of the reach of wabbits. Wabbits are huge geranium fans. They like them so much they chew them into tiny bits, leaving a neat pile of leaves and stem chunks where once there was a plant. Leaving me jumping up and down, firing my sixguns fruitlessly in the air like Yosemite Sam.

So what's a geranium freak to do? Why, elevate them, of course. You're never going to get rid of rabbits. The really precious plants go in hanging baskets, and the rest in planters, which are themselves elevated to about 18 inches, which is high enough to deter all but climbing rabbits (and they sometimes do climb to get to them). RRRRRR. Chet Baker. Where are you when they are doing that?
Sleeping? Cooling my tummeh in the green grass? I do not know. Rabbits are crafty. They do it at night, when I am asleep in my Jedd Bed. That's what I think. You cannot blame me for what the bunnehs do, Mether.

Here is my HotPot, with a red star geranium (so called because the leaves and flowers are like pointy stars), Occold Shield, and Vancouver Centennial. I put it next to the cool Bird Spa, and get photos of warblers in the crazy foliage. By September, Vancouver Centennial will look like a chestnut and chartreuse waterfall over the whole pot.
And here's the Cool Pot in the shade of a birch, with Gartenmeister fuchsia and a pink and purple fuchsia I love. Other than having to spray them with pyrethrins or insecticidal soap every couple of days for whitefly, I like growing fuchsias. Once they go outside, I don't have to spray them any more, nor do I want to, because the hummingbirds are visiting then.

You can see the elevational element in all my plantings. Of necessity. I'd love to have planters right on the ground, but then there would be no plants in them. And forget planting geraniums right in the ground around here. Gone, overnight. Good thing I like planting in containers, huh?

Mary Alice, my giant hibiscus tree, was made into a standard by rabbits, who ate every bit of foliage they could reach.
She's too tall now for rabbits, and the spicebush swallowtails love her so much.
I'm forever carving away at this miniature Ficus benjamina "Too Little." It's waist high to me now, and it's easier to keep the scale under control on a small tree. Still and all, scale and ficus go together like white and rice. They're awfully sticky plants, with all the scale pee dropping from them. Bleh. Still, it makes a very nice miniature tree. I guess it qualifies as a tropical bonsai at this point.

Phoebe got this jade tree as a tiny cutting from her first grade teacher, Mr. Jennings. Marty's gone now, cut down in his prime by cancer, but Marty the jade tree, and our loving memories of him, live on. He was an amazing teacher, a loving disciplinarian, and he taught those first graders to read in nothing flat.

That's an awful big jade tree, six years later. Chet can stand in Marty's shade.

Speaking of trees, I've trained a little gardenia into a great big standard with a braided trunk.
Every stem tip has a flower bud. It killed me to keep pinching it back to keep its nice round shape, and it ticked the plant off to have its new growth continually pinched off, and I knew as I did it I was preventing the possibility of flowers, and I haven't smelt a gardenia flower since way last summer, but... when this thing finally bursts into bloom after a year of pinching and training it will all be worth it. Woo!

Meanwhile, the bonsais are all potted up and leafing out beautifully. I gave them a huge root pruning this spring, which always gets them going strong.

My favorite. Or one of them. A Japanese maple, perfect subject for bonsai. This one, in the pot 25 years. A coon knocked it off the deck and split its trunk in 1993. I thought it would die, but I taped it together with electrician's tape and hoped for the best. This is the glorious result. I suppose I owe that coon.

The tree comes up to about mid-thigh on me, just FYI.

The bleeding heart has expanded beautifully. Bill indulged in some little solar lamps that delight us all out of proportion to their cost. We love to sit out in lawnchairs and watch them come on, just as the whip-poor-wills start to sing. Nepeta "Walker's Low" and King Alfred daffies. Too bad I don't have cats, that catnip is rampant. (But I don't miss them ).

I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my gardens, container and otherwise. They make me feel alive.


I am in awe of your gardening prowess!!! So, so inspiring.

We are still waiting for the truly warmer weather to reach us, and I have leggy, giant heirloom maters to plant out...they grow impatient under flourescents...

Where DOOOO you find the time... and energy??? Or, if you're on some special regimen of supplements, vitamins, and Mountain Dew I want to know the precise formulation...

Thank you, Julie, for the beautiful tour of your greenhouse and landscape. FYI, I braid all of my ficus benjamina trees when they're very young and supple. They turn out simply beautiful for a semi-deciduous tree.
Don't you always feel "renewed" after working with your plants? I do!

Well, you sure do flowers, don't you?
After all that work, my back would be killing me.
But, the results are stunning.
You think heliotrope smells like cherry pie? Huh--it smells like vanilla to me.

Julie - I can't tell you how wonderful today's blog made me feel. I haven't done a real planting in about 5 years now. Usually when I look at blogs about gardening or flowers all I feel is guilt that I can't/haven't/didn't but when I read yours I felt something else.

Pleasure in being able to sneak a peek and snuffle. Of course, now I have to go google a bunch of stuff you mentioned so from one science nerd to the Master Science Chimp... thanks for the bliss!

I always love your garden posts, you've got such a fabulous collection of plants and they always look so lush, verdant and colourful. It makes me itch for a garden of my own that I can get my hands dirty in and have the satisfaction of watching grown and develop into something beautiful.

I think the really neat thing about your garden is that you tackle a lot of things that most of us would be too intimidated to take on - bonsai, for instance, or growing from cuttings over the winter in your greenhouse, or your huge collection of orchids. It really makes the reader feel like these things are within the capability of the average person, not just the specialty enthusiasts.

Oh, to see all those wonderful specimens ready to come out and play for the season! I love the geraniums too. Such beautifully hearty flowers. I love the variety of things you have Julie, and I think the "elevation" makes them showcased even more perfectly! :c)

Of course I enjoyed the tour of your gardens Julie. Absolutely lovely! When are they going to invent scratch and sniff technology for the computer so I can smell all your flowers?! I am inspired to get my garden going. If you have any tips for shade gardening, I'm all ears... I have very little sun up by my house where the majority of my flowers are grown.

Cyberthrush, personally I think she uses a combination of Mountain Dew, Red Bull and Jolt!

And you have 80 acreas!!!!!! Oh what a lot of work! How can you sit back and paint????? We moved to a new place which has 12 acreas. I've done a lot of planting the past 3 years....and I've just begun and we have so much rubbish to remove. Today I posted on my blog a still life image I did of some pink geraniums. Drop by and "smell the flowers" at http://photographyhints.blogspot.come much farm rubbish to remove!!!

Tease me more, you glorious green thumbed friend!

I really enjoyed the tour. What a wonderful and beautiful place you've created.

Gorgeous! That peek into your greenhouse pod screams "summer's right around the corner" if you ask me. I can smell the sunlight and geraniums in there - no scratching required.
I'm with the others who are motivated and inspired by your willingness to try anything and to share the great results. I've been holding off planting anything new at our house because of our (most likely) pending move, but I've been enjoying what's there. Lots of hostas and bleeding hearts and lilies and irises poking up. Buds on the lilac trees (are they trees?) and one 'wild' rose bush in the bend of our driveway that apparently thrives on being run over by the plow in winter. Plus my herbs and flowers in our messy little bed.
This morning we had a true bird visitation. I like to think it was a reward for our resolution to soak everything around us in while we're near it. Saw a male Baltimore Oriole eating peanuts from our feeder, then perched on our front railing. The phoebe nest out back is looking neat and sturdy. And for the first time in over a year a pair of cardinals was in the yard.

Nothing like a good punch of nature to rekindle your spirits!

I love all your beautiful potted plants Julie and I'm jealous that you're able to put them outside already (I think I heard the dreaded words "patchy frost" in tonight's forecast).
I'm especially partial to Phoebe's big jade plant. I have one that my dad gave me that he planted when he first started teaching (over 50 years ago!) It loves being outside all summer.
Thanks for the tip on Osmocote--I'll look for that on my next garden center visit.

wow! wow! I love full flowers


I love this post - this is like a glimpse into a magical world. Thank you!

Angela Roberts, Sterling, VA

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