Friday, February 19, 2010

Flower Show Time

Spring must be near, because the flower shows have started. I played hooky today and spent the day at the Rhode Island Spring Flower & Garden Show in Providence. It's the earliest one in the area and there is something wonderful about smelling dirt and seeing plants in bloom in February.

It always amazes me how whole buildings can be brought into a convention center and set up to look like they just belong there. The time and effort required is Hurculean I'm sure. This was
my favorite, a stone house with a moss roof and a stone heart shaped entrance framing the building. It can't be seen well in the picture (double click on it to enlarge the picture) but the top was all grapevines and had a birds nest sitting in the middle. And of course, it was surrounded by incredible plantings.

Here are some other pictures of displays and blooms that struck my fancy...

The lighting on this display gave an ethereal, other-worldly cast on a chapel-like stone building as if it was caught at sunset bathed in red and pink. Accenting the building was a pond in front, dramatic red dogwood branches, daffodils and flowering shrubs. On the side of this were a few fallen down tombstones, surrounded by crocus and primose. Like stepping into a fairyland.

Lady slippers and other orchids to the right. I've never been able to keep an orchid alive, never mind have these beautiful blooms, but I love admiring them.

And then there's the whimsy. This was a whole VW bus from 60's decorated in peace and love, parked in the middle of a man-made forrest. This was the back...unfortunately I dropped my camera and it decided it didn't want to work anymore so I couldn't get a picture of the front which was quite spectacular. Even had a couple hippies sitting in the front that looked like they were made of moss. Groovy!

I attended a fun demonstration on making herbal vinegars by Paul Split, a horticultural consultant who does demonstrations all over the place ( I make plenty of herbal vinegars but got some new ideas as well as a good source for bottles. Paul is a great presenter, and I appreciated his extolling the virtues of organic gardening to the crowd while making his vinegars.

I also attended a lecture by Julie Moir Messervey on the Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love based on her new book. Well organized, practical and inspiring, her slides were beautiful and I wanted to run home and start putting in new gardens all over the place.

I finished up the day going through the vendor area. I bought some heirloom seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library - a Dragon's Tongue bean and scarlet Flax - and a neat herb grinder. I usually always buy pussywillows at this show but couldn't find any so headed to the parking garage. In the elevator, wasn't there a woman with 2 bunches of pussywillows. I asked where she had found them and she told me those were the last 2. So no pussywillows this year from the show, but it was a wonderful day. How many days until Spring?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seeds, Glorious Seeds

Sometimes I just love snowstorms. I started this blog a week ago, but have been too busy to sit down and finish it. But snow days make me stop running around, stay in and I finally have some time to get some things done. Like this blog! And I find the garden breathtaking in the snow. I leave some echinacea heads purposely for winter interest (and the birds) and the hawthorn tree, fence and woods all look lovely covered with snow. Sitting by the fire, gazing at the snow covered garden with the snow falling is very peaceful and calming.

But this blog was about seeds. I put in the store seed order last week, a bit late (I left all my order info at home by mistake when I went to Florida) but in plenty of time for starting indoors. It's always a dilema - what to buy, how many, and trying to predict what people will want to grow this year. On the upside, it's wonderful to be able to order freely not having to think about what will fit in my garden or how many seedlings can I fit under the grow lights. For the store, I can buy everything I want. On the downside, it's hard to know what will sell and to make sure not to have too many left at the end of the season (which become my personal stash for next year).
But there are limits to how much I can buy, so I have to make the tough decision such as what types of basil (there are so many) and why didn't people seem interested in purple basil last year? It's so beautiful in the garden, delicious and makes a great herb vinegar in a beautiful red color. I like to have different things along with the usual parsley, cilantro, etc. so I'm trying a purple throated mullein this year and a Hopi ceremonial tobacco. Will others think these sound as interesting to try in the garden as me? Sure hope so!

I started selling more vegetable seeds last year and they were very popular. I primarily stock the heirloom and rarer types. I get all my seeds from Seeds of Change they are certified organic, well packaged and I appreciate the company's efforts to preserve biodiversity and support sustainable organic agriculture. And if people don't buy all these great heirloom seeds, they won't keep offering them I'm sure so I see it as my little part in keeping these alive.

So what did I order this year? Several bush beans - Jacob's cattle, a traditional heirloom and Tendergreen, another heirloom with purple specks that is purported to be "a great mainstay for the home garden". The usual rainbow colored chards, a rare medicinal burdock, Takinogawa Gobo, and Shiraz Tall Top beets with great tops and roots. How to pick among so many cucumbers? When in doubt, I pick what I would like to have in my garden (and will have) and picked a Lemon cucumber, Satsuki Madori, a rare Asian variety with few seeds and Smart Pickle, an early maturing pickling cuke. Same with tomatoes, so many choices so I picked a few heirloom cherries and slicing tomatoes. I rounded it out with some pumpkins, spinach, squash, kale, peas, watermelon, peppers, chicory and eggplant. A good selection of greens with lettuces, arugula, komatsuna, mizuna and mesclun mix rounded out the veggies.

And then there's the flowers. I stick to the edibles pretty much with a good selection of nasturiums, including a new Peach Melba which looks so pretty in the picture, an edible sunflower and lemon and tangerine gem marigolds. Calendula and foxglove round out the flowers with one of my old fashioned favorites, Love Lies Bleeding.

So I'm anxiously waiting for them to arrive and get some started. I try not to start my seeds too early and am already feeling the itch to get some going. But I'm holding back and getting my supplies all set. How many times have I had seedings too large for their little pots ready to go in the garden in April? One too many so I have learned to wait and work on the garden layout for the year. Maybe the topic of the next blog!