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March 12, 2016

Saturday Gardening Thread: Spring Ahead (of Cabbage) [Y-not and KT]


Good afternoon, gardening morons and moronettes!

It's that time of year again: time to "Spring ahead." Old-timers will recall we talked a little bit about the origins of Daylight Saving Time in a previous Gardening Thread.

There is so much ugliness out there right now, how about starting the thread with a lovely song?

Here's a partial translation:

Eres para mi la flor mas bella del jardin

You are for me the most beautiful flower of the garden

Lo sabes tu que siempre me cuido de ti

You know it that I always take care of you

Gardening trends

Follow this link to see Monrovia's list of gardening trends. I thought the RipeNear.Me tool was interesting. Here's how they describe themselves:

We were founded by Alistair Martin and Helena Martin in Adelaide, Australia - two foodies passionate about local and fresh produce. Particularly the rare and exotic variety!

In winter of 2012 they noticed so many citrus trees scattered about the suburbs full of fruit that nobody was eating. And yet local stores were selling plenty of them - even some that were imported! It just didn't make sense. So, an idea was born: Why not have a site that allows foodies to connect with growers? Wouldn't it be cool if we could get all our fresh food from the local neighbourhood?... And so we started on our quest.

On a related note, I've been looking for good tools for finding farmer's markets and small direct-to-consumer farmers. There are plenty of websites out there, without a doubt, but I've found most of them are poorly maintained with out of date links and the link. Do any of you have a favorite website or app that you use?

Gardening develops character

Via moron Wodeshed, here's a nice article at The Federalist about the many side-benefits of gardening. A brief excerpt:

Jefferson made no bones about it: "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness," he said. As a wealthy landowner, he was freer from the drudgery working the earth requires than most people of his day, but modern America's wealth is so great that even the poorest American can now emulate Jefferson, gardening for delight and self-reliance rather than economic necessity.

Besides cultivating happiness and wonder at the natural world, gardening also facilitates other very American traits. These include friendship, a love for the unusual and spectacular, reverence for hard work, a love of exploration, self-reliance and personal responsibility, good-natured competition, generosity, experimentation, openness to new cultures and ideas, optimism, humility about the limits of human potential, and a goodwill between generations.

Many of these virtues are slipping away from our culture, or transforming into defects, but gardening offers one small, simple way to begin reclaiming them.

I've appreciated being able to use my interest in gardening to strike up conversations with strangers, particularly since moving to a new part of the country. What benefits have you derived from your interest in gardening?

To the moon, Alice!

This crossed my Twitter feed last week:

Ever wonder what they've learned from those experiments involving plant growth in space? Here's something from a couple of years ago:

Gravity is an important influence on root growth, but the scientists found that their space plants didn't need it to flourish. The research team from the University of Florida in Gainesville thinks this ability is related to a plant's inherent ability to orient itself as it grows. Seeds germinated on the International Space Station sprouted roots that behaved like they would on Earth -- growing away from the seed to seek nutrients and water in exactly the same pattern observed with gravity.

Obviously being able to grow plants in space is essential to any future colonization efforts. Here's another more recent report:

It was one small bite for man, one giant meal for mankind.

On a gustatory adventure never attempted by humanity, astronauts have for the first time dined on a harvest sown in space. The verdict from astronaut Scott Kelly: "Tastes good. Kinda like arugula." It was a strangely appropriate comment, given that arugula is also known as rocket.

Kelly was one of three American astronauts who tried lettuce grown on board the International Space Station as part of a Nasa experiment on Monday.

The crew members of Expedition 44 harvested space-grown red romaine lettuce heads on Monday. They first cleaned them with sanitizing wipes, then tried them raw, then dressed the roughage with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and Italian balsamic vinegar.

Interesting that romaine tasted like arugula, especially when you consider this:

Since the early days of manned spaceflight, astronauts have reported that eats taste different in microgravity. Many said that flavors are dulled and they crave fare that is spicier and considerably more tart than they would prefer on Earth. It's not uncommon for space travelers to enjoy cuisine in space that they couldn't stand at home, and vice versa.

Arugula is often described as "peppery" and is generally regarded as a strongly-flavored green. I wonder what's going on here. Any theories?

Speaking of greens, here's KT!

Growing o' the Green

Hello, Horde. How are your gardens looking? Anybody inundated in the last round of floods?

It has been nice to get a little rain around here. The landscape is mostly still green, but I don't expect that to last long without supplemental water. I am trying to stay ahead of the weeds.


Cabbage is on sale at our local supermarket. This is my yearly reminder that St. Patrick's Day is coming. My favorite cabbage (excluding the Asian kinds, which are actually mustards) is Savoy cabbage. I can buy it in cities nearby, but not in our little town. Savoy cabbage tastes best when the weather is cold. I grew some last year. It was good. The heads got pretty big. I found a few ugly fat moth caterpillars in some of them.

I like the idea of the smaller, quicker-growing cabbages to reduce insect invasion. Smaller cabbages also help avoid those deteriorating big half-cabbages in the refrigerator. Pinetree offers seed for the Gonzales mini-cabbage (55 days), plus a few others that can be spaced closely. Their smallest Savoy hybrid is Alcosa.

Gardener to Farmer reminds us that there are many options available in seed catalogs. Check descriptions to see which cultivars are best suited to your climate. Jung offers a hybrid called Megaton. You never know when you might find a surprise like the one below if you grow this big cultivar. Are you planting cabbages this season?

Green Flowers

I found a beautiful book called Green Flowers: Unexpected Beauty for the Garden, Container or Vase

Green in the garden is at once the most common color of foliage and the rarest color found in flowers. Whether you're a home gardener looking for a jolt of freshness or a floral designer seeking inspiration, this charming collection of unexpected plants provides a palette of flowering greens for year-round display.

You can see examples of this book's gorgeous photos, planting notes and cultural recommendations at the link above. You could order it using the AoSHQ Amazon link.

Thinking of sending someone a gift for St. Patrick's Day? Here is a professional example of an all-green arrangement using both flowers and foliage. I find it to be both striking and restful:

Bells of Ireland

The most obvious choice for St. Patrick's Day flower arrangements is Bells of Ireland, or Shell Flower. In the Language of Flowers Bells of Ireland represent good luck. I denounce myself for reinforcing cultural stereotypes.

As penance, below is a non-stereotypical photo from the News & Observer (North Carolina). The bouquet includes Bells of Ireland along with other cool season flowers that could be expected to bloom at about the same time in the garden. You might want to check out the growing recommendations at the link above if you live where summers get hot and humid.

Moluccella laevis is actually from the Middle East rather than from Ireland. It is related to mint and has a slight, pleasant fragrance. Sunset rates it as an annual suitable for all Western climates except Alaska, but notes that the plants suffer in hot, humid climates.

It can be planted in the fall in mild-winter climates, including the low desert. it has some frost tolerance. Refrigerate seed for a week if the weather is warm or if you are starting plants indoors. Transplant seedlings early or they may become stunted. This is a tap-rooted plant that does best in deep, well-drained soil. It likes full sun.

Bells of Ireland will self-sow where happy. Some people say they need light to germinate, so don't cover the seeds too deeply if you decide to plant them.

This plant is a commercial crop in some areas, for the florist trade. North American Farmer has growing instructions (starting with indoor propagation) and tips for using the plant. "Bells of Ireland are best planted near a wall or trellis for support from the wind. Inserting stakes next to the plants and/or tying them to the stake is well recommended to prevent toppling over in the wind." Probably good advice. There are some dwarf cultivars, but regular Bells of Ireland can grow 3 or even 4 feet tall.

Each green "blossom" is actually a calyx surrounding a tiny, mostly white flower. I have to remind myself that there is a flower about to open in the photo below. It is not some otherworldly critter stuck face-first in a green shell.

Bells of Ireland are excellent cut flowers, both fresh and dried. I like the apple-green spikes with dusky purple flowers, with white or with creamy yellow. I also think I would like Bells of Ireland near a plant with purple foliage. Any ideas for good planting partners?

Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose

In last week’s comments, JQ Flyover included a link to a photo of a strawberry jar she has planted with primroses. It is topped by a purple Lenten Rose plant. This got me thinking about hellebores. Some of the blossoms start out green and others take on green or purple tones in the weeks after they bloom. In some climates, you could have green hellebores for St. Patrick’s Day.

There are about 20 species of hellebores. Most of them prefer dappled shade to full shade. Some are more tolerant of warm winters than others. If you are interested in the climate adaptation of various species, I may be able to provide some information in the comments (mainly from Sunset). Some species are evergreen. Some, like the Christmas Rose, are quite hardy and will bloom in the snow. The Lenten Rose is reputedly the easiest of the common garden species to transplant.

Hellebores tend to produce inter-species hybrids easily. Specialists have also done a great deal of work on flower forms, including double forms. There is now a much wider range of colors than in the past. Named varieties and seed strains produce plants with predictable, desirable characteristics.

Most hellebores are toxic and acrid and are therefore deer-proof and rodent-proof. If you have a pet that eats strange stuff even if the strange stuff really tastes nasty, you may need to take some precautions.

The Wiki on hellebores is quite informative. One species was reportedly used in early chemical warfare, to poison the water supply during the Siege of Kirrha in 585 B. C., allowing the slaughter of the entire population. Nevertheless, hellebores have been used for medical treatments, including treatment for insanity.

Some people think that Alexander the Great accidentally killed himself with a hellebore preparation while trying to self-medicate. I don’t know how much evidence there is for this theory.

If you were not frightened off by the information above, you might check out the thumbnails of hybrid and species hellebores near the end of the Wiki. These blooms, and often the plants they grow on, can be quite elegant. There are nurseries that specialize in hellebores.

It appears that today is the last day of the Hellebore Festival at Pine Knot Farms in Southern Virginia. The annual festival attracts people from other nurseries. Customers tend to be serious garden enthusiasts. Take a look at these gorgeous close-ups of hellebores and other early-blooming flowers.

If you are at the "pot luck" stage of interest in hellebores, you could grow some from seed or get some Lenten Roses in Mixed Colors via Amazon. I like them all.

By the way, JeanQ, the little bunnies in the grass are cute as anything. The color of your grandmother's azalea is luscious. I think I know which species it is. Next week? We still have some other topics from past threads to address.

Y-not: Thanks, KT!

To close things up, an Irish jig:

What's going on in YOUR gardens this week?

Please use the Open Thread below this one for political talk. Thanks.

**Typos fixed. Y-not**

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:29 PM

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