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March 05, 2016

Saturday Gardening Thread: Twisty Turny [Y-not and KT]

Y-not: Greetings gardening morons and moronettes! Welcome to your Saturday Gardening Thread.

In honor of Ted Cruz, today's thread is brought to you by, what else?

Yours truly is out in meatspace working as a KY GOP caucus official, so KT will be "pushing the button" and launching the Gardening Thread today. This is a rather complex process involving two keys that must be turned simultaneously, a box of ball bearings, and a live chicken. (Pssst, don't tell PETA!)

But before handing the reins over to KT, a few items that crossed my timeline this week...

In addition to Texas bluebonnets, another sign of Spring is expected to be early this year:

Even though we saw some cherry blossoms this winter, peak bloom will occur from March 31 through April 3 this year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival announced this morning.

That's earlier than the historical average of April 4 as well as what we've seen in recent years, according to Cherry Blossom Watch. Peak bloom happens when at least 70 percent of the trees surrounding the tidal basin are blossoming. Changes in weather could revise the forecast in the coming weeks.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival will occur from March 20 to April 17.

Fans of the Gardening Thread might remember that last March we had an entire post devoted to Signs of Spring. Make sure to check it out if you need a boost!

Perhaps your garden still looks more like this:

If so, you might enjoy thinking less about plants and more about how you might furnish your garden or patio. Some nice ideas here:

If you like something a little more modern, there are some nice pieces here. Or maybe you're a do-it-yourselfer.

If any of you have pictures of neat garden or patio furnishing you'd like to show the group, send me an email at bailesworth AT gmail and we'll post them in a future thread.

And now, without further ado, heeeere's KT:


For those who caught the discussion last week on the Calendar of the First French Republic, we are now in the month of Ventose, the windy month. It includes parts of February and March. Any wind where you are?

At least one person on Twitter still seems nostalgic for the association between revolution and the romance of rural life represented by that calendar. There are some nice botanical prints for the plants celebrated during the month of Ventose.

O.K., I'm back in March now, in the USA. I thought it would be nice to discuss some plants that sway in the breeze today. But first, I ran across a video with which you might like to sway along, to get into the mood. It includes elbows in motion for Morons still feeling the end of football season at AoSHQ. For Moronettes, there's a guy who knows how to tango. And like Y-not says, Dino never needed autotune. Cool then, cool now.

Actually, all the garden topics I decided to focus on today were inspired by last week's thread which included some excellent comments. Y-not is planning to put in an arbor in her back yard. This prompted some interesting discussion of vines. I hope that we can aggregate some of what we learn from The Horde about vines, particularly grapes, into some sensible summaries. But there were also some vines nobody brought up for use on arbors.

Tromboncino Squash

There are many nice annual flower vines to grow during the first year or two you have an arbor, as your permanent plants become established. I would like to know if you have a favorite annual vine, or maybe a warning about annual vines to avoid. I have a sort of wacky idea for growing some dramatic veggies on an arbor that first year.

One year I grew Cucuzzi gourds and Tromboncino squash together on a fence. They did well together. The vines of both are fairly rampant. I imagined what it would be like walking under a trellis in the moonlight with fruits resembling baseball bats or snakes (the gourds), plus trombones (the squashes), swaying in the breeze all around me. Sitting under an arbor with those fruits swaying above might be interesting, too.

We have already discussed growing and cooking Cucuzzi gourds, a type of Lagenaria. Today, I am focusing on Tromboncino squash, like Tromboncino Albegna. Perfect for Y-not's future arbor, don't you think?

Tromboncino squashes were developed from the same species as butternuts (Cucurbita moschata), but they taste better as summer squash than as winter squash. They are good sauteed with garlic or onion when young, or in soups and casseroles when older. They are sometimes called "zucchini" but their flavor and texture are different from the zucchini we all know, which is from a different species of squash (C. pepo). When allowed to mature into winter squash, they are not particularly sweet and they have sort of a stringy texture. They could probably be used as a substitute for ripe spaghetti squash, maybe with some spaghetti sauce.

Tromboncino squash is one of those strange and yummy veggies non-gardeners usually only see at farmer's markets. Entertaining information and cooking ideas at the link.

C. moschata squashes have solid stems, so they have greater resistance to squash vine borers than some squashes. We don't have squash vine borers here, but this species seems to do better than other squashes in our hot-summer climate. They have no prickles on their stems or leaves, which can be a big plus on a trellis or arbor. Growing on a support should make it easier to control squash bugs, too.

There are some butternut-type squashes that get bigger than Tromboncino squashes. I don't know that I would attempt to grow them on an arbor. One is the Tahitian or Tahitian Melon squash. Sweet enough to eat raw when ripe. Requires a very long season. Can reach 30 pounds. Long and skinny. Seed used to be harder to come by than it is now. Argonaut hybrid is a sweet butternut that can grow to 30 pounds or more. It is elongated, but not like Tromboncino or Tahitian squashes.


Flowers, vines or trees swaying in a gentle breeze are lovely. But heavy winds can be a real problem in the yard or garden. My Sunset Western Garden Book includes a list of plants that are resistant to drying interior winds in the West. The section on vines is very, very short. And the closest thing to a vine I see in their list of plants that tolerate salty sea winds is the Ground Morning Glory, which can trail to 3 feet. Do you have experience coping with wind in the garden?

Sometimes plantings or garden structures we think will block wind end up producing turbulence instead. This is a big consideration in planning for fences and windbreaks. Some of the more experienced builders and planters in The Horde may be able to help us avoid pitfalls due to wind and turbulence when we come up with nifty new ideas for the yard or garden. I noticed some mention of "top-heavy" plants in the comments last week, for example. Important to think about when building a trellis or arbor.

I did not expect last week's discussion of Vincent van Gogh, genetic disease and botanical chemistry to lead to insights about the depiction of turbulence in some of his paintings. I find it fascinating that Physicists Love Vincent van Gogh. The mathematically-predictable depiction of turbulence in, for example, "Starry Night" was apparently not evident in paintings completed during the artist's saner periods. This may help explain the unexpected emotional reaction I had to one of his original paintings hanging in the Jeu de Paume, but not to others.

For those unfamiliar with turbulence, it happens to be one of the hardest questions in physics. . .

Nobel-prize winning physicist Werner Heisenberg even reportedly once said: "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: 'Why relativity?' and 'Why turbulence?' I really believe he will have an answer for the first."

And yet, van Gogh represented "turbulence" in paintings ... while sitting in an asylum.

This bit of information makes the song about the painting more interesting. Too bad that Vincent van Gogh's intuition about the chemistry of paint was not as good as his intuition about physics. Many of his famous sunflowers are turning brown.

Keep this in mind when producing still life paintings of your garden flowers. Your garden paintings might be famous someday, too. You never know.

Y-not: Thanks KT!

One more link to put a "Spring" in your step:

For those who don't know, Frances Mayes is the author of "Under the Tuscan Sun."

What's happening in YOUR gardens this week?

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:30 PM

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