Late Blooming Flowers of September

Its time for garden cleanup here and with a half-acre garden I need to start early. I love cleaning up in the fall as I get to enjoy the subtleties of the changing seasons. The leaves are beginning to change colour and the plants are setting seed. The birds are loving the seed heads and I will leave many plants standing for them to feed upon.

Late blooming flowers of september

I noticed that the dogwood has its fruit just waiting for the birds to come and enjoy it.

Late blooming flowers of september

The Asters are in full bloom much to the bee’s delight. I planted this clump in a container last year and its done well with minimal watering.

late blooming flowers of september

I combined the Aster with a grass called ‘Morning Light’ which didn’t do as well as I thought it would. I removed a couple of clumps of dead growth in hopes it will do better next year. I filled the container with Heuchera that I had propagated. One plant gave me about fifteen new plants and they had to go somewhere. On the right the Heuchera leaves are beginning to change colour. I had brought a huge pot of Artemisia home last year when my mom moved to a condo. So far I have only planted it in this container but have enough to do a whole garden in the spring. I will leave the Lemon Gem Marigolds for a couple more weeks. It’s hard to remove plants that are doing so well and Marigolds will often bloom until first frost.

late blooming flowers of september

What surprised me yesterday was seeing honeysuckle in bloom. I know what you are thinking. It’s so invasive. Well, this plant actually died back for over a year and now its back. Hubby may have weeded it out by accident, we are not sure. Having fragrance in the garden in late September is a bonus. There is lots of room for it to grow on the thirty foot long arbor.

late blooming flowers of september

The Roses are quickly fading but they are producing hips adding red to the garden.

late blooming flowers of september

This is a climber along my back fence. Can you believe there are still buds on this plant?

late blooming flowers of september

As I tidy the garden I plan for the following year. Do I need to add some bulbs here? Where am I lacking in colour? Can I ever beat the battle with morning glory and horsetail? I know that answer. Asters, Sedum and Rudbeckia finish the show in my garden. Rose leaves drop by the hundreds under the arbor and its a daily job to clean them up. I am never too tidy in the garden as I leave bits of twigs and plant debris behind. That leftover debris is valuable nesting material come spring. Some gardens are left to be covered in a mulch of leaves. Others are cleaned up to prevent disease, especially under the roses.

DSC07267

The bees are still busy in the garden enjoying the flowers in bloom. There is always something blooming in my garden. Once the Sedum and Asters finish the Viburnum bodnantense will burst into bloom for the winter.  It’s another month yet until frost arrives so its time to enjoy the crisp cool mornings and sunny days that are left.

Pumpkin Surprise at the School Garden

pumpkin surprise at the school garden

Its been a busy day as I try to get the children’s school garden in ship-shape before the children arrive next week. The weeds had grown and I couldn’t have thistles in the garden. I am glad the cleanup is now done and we are ready for forty children to arrive. They will be so excited to see the pumpkin patch. Mildew has taken its toll on the leaves but the children won’t care. They will race to see the pumpkins at every chance they get. How big will they be? Are they ready to pick? Will we use them for Halloween? I will be bombarded with questions next week.

pumpkin surprise at the school garden

Some surprising things happened with the pumpkins this year. If you look at the top photo the plants are actually planted in the raised bed with the scarecrow but the vines have travelled. This is one large plant! What really surprised me is that when I went to lift one of the vines in the second bed, it had rooted to the soil. Many plants will root like this but I didn’t expect it to happen with pumpkins.

pumpkin surprise at the school garden

This rooting has almost given the plants a new life as they develop new fruit. It’s now the end of September so this pumpkin may never develop but with good weather forecasted, you never know.

pumpkin surprise at the school garden

So far we only have five pumpkins on the plants. When I planted the Howden pumpkin seeds I researched more about them and it said they would be your usual grocery store pumpkin. Well, let’s just say they are a lot bigger than that. I am not sure if I will be able to lift them without hubby’s help. You see, we will be taking the pumpkins to the school and using them to make pumpkin soup. There is nothing better than learning how to grow and eat from the garden.

Pumpkin surprise at the school garden

I think at our first class, we will do some measuring, learn about circumference. My small food scale won’t work on this big guy. I may have to use a bathroom scale. I am sure I will have eager children wanting to help lift this pumpkin, don’t you?

How to Collect Lettuce Seeds

how to collect lettuce seed

If you have been keeping up with my latest posts you will know that I like to collect my own seed. Why would someone want to save seeds? Well, for one thing it will save me money next year when I start to plan my spring garden. I save seeds from flowers and vegetables as most are so easy to save. It also makes me feel more self-reliant. I left a few of my lettuce plants to mature this summer. Usually most of us harvest our lettuce and use it in the kitchen. I left a couple of plants to go to seed. Each summer as the weather warms up cool season plants start to bolt. It’s the reaction to the longer days of summer and increasing temperatures. The plant sees this as a time to produce seeds. Sometimes its hard to know how a plant produces seeds. Seeds are commonly found on a plant inside the flower after it finishes blooming. Lettuce is no different. Above you can see the red lettuce plant at my community garden. Before collecting seed, check the original packing to see if your seed was open pollinated. If so go ahead and harvest seeds. To be honest, even if it’s a hybrid, what have you got to lose? It may not be the same plant that you grew this year but it will still be lettuce. Even open pollinated seed will cross-pollinate so unless you isolated your lettuce plants, they may not be exactly the same. For me I like to see what I get, it’s all about the surprise.
how to collect lettuce seed

Here is the romaine lettuce ‘Little Gem’ that I grew. It doesn’t look anything like the nice clump of green leaves it was in the spring. The central stem has grown over two feet high and a profusion of tiny yellow daisies appeared. Here you can see some yellow buds just about to open.

how to collect lettuce seed

Once the yellow daisies are finished blooming, they look very similar to dandelion fluff. It’s at this point that you want to harvest your seeds before they blow away in the wind.

how to collect lettuce seed

Carefully pick off each brown capsule using a paper lunch bag to catch the seeds so you do not lose any. You can cut off the ones that are ready and leave the green pods to mature a bit more on the plant.

how to collect lettuce seed

I love how the plant has these fuzzy adaptations which make seed travel easy. It’s no doubt the fairy like threads will blow around in the wind helping to spread the seed. With seed it’s all about survival of the fittest. Seed may blow miles away but unless conditions are right it may never germinate. I like to think that I am saving them from an unknown future. A gal can try, right?

how to collect lettuce seed

Once you have brought the stems and seed heads inside, I like to leave them in the paper bag to dry for a few days. I just popped the bag on top of my fridge and forgot about it.  The plan is to have the seeds dry by themselves and later package them.

how to collect lettuce seed

I took the bag down after a few days and shook them out gently on to a plate. This is what I had so far. You can take the seed pods and rub them in your fingers and the seeds will be released.

how to collect lettuce seed

This is what I was able to get from just a few seed pods. This is more than enough for my garden next year. Any extras I will package up for our seed swap next February. There is nothing more rewarding than trading seeds with friends!

How to Collect Dahlia Seeds

Dahlia Alpen Cherub, collecting dahlia seeds

Its been a busy summer with lots of out-of-town company so things kind of got behind in the garden. To my surprise, I went to water my Dahlias and saw that the finished flowers had not only turned brown but had almost a papery feel. I am usually pretty good at deadheading Dahlias as I want them to keep producing flowers. I showed hubby the spent flower as I cut it off the plant to tidy it up. The petals had fallen apart in my hand. There was what looked like a seed inside the petal. I normally propagate my plants vegetatively by dividing tubers. This is the easiest way to increase your plants. The idea of growing Dahlias from  seed intrigued me. I needed a challenge.

how to collect dahlia seeds

I asked my friends on twitter if they could be grown from seed. My friend, Joseph Tychonievich, encouraged me to try growing from seed. He is the author of the book, ‘Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener’. I have read his book and it inspired me to think out of the box. If you look at the photo above, this is what the finished flower looked like when I brought it inside. Each petal is now papery thin and inside each one is a dark seed.

how to collect dahlia seeds

I pulled each petal off the main part of the flower and placed them on  some paper towel. Using something white to place seeds on just made it easier to see them.

How to collect dahlia seeds

I carefully went through each piece and here you can see how the seed is attached to the base of the petal.

How to collect dahlia seeds

Out of three blooms I have over sixty seeds which means I could have sixty new Dahlias next year. Will they look the same as the mother plant that I took the seeds from? They could be different. The seeds came from a Dahlia by the name of Alpen Cherub, a collarette type which the bees love. It’s a soft white but Dahlias can be cross pollinated by insects so it may be completely different next year. I had a dark purple coloured collarette Dahlia close by so maybe it will have some difference in the colour. I won’t know until next year.

how to collect dahlia seeds

 

 

This is all I had left after the seeds were picked off. I am excited to try this new growing method with my Dahlias. I may just get a new plant in the future, who knows?

Loving Delta’s Fine Foliage

I have to give a big shout out to the parks department of Delta today. All summer I have watched the containers and hanging baskets grow and bloom in the downtown core of Ladner. This year has been the best year ever!

loving Delta's fine foliage

Down Delta street, we have large containers filled with tropical looking foliage. Our hot summer has really helped these plants provide us an excellent show of colour. You see it’s not just about flowers. Foliage can really make things pop. The container above is certainly not my best photo with the glaring sun doing it no favours. I just had to show the Canna and their flowers. The use of Ipomoea, Coleus and Artemisia really makes this container. When planting a container you want to follow the thriller, filler and spiller method. Here the Canna is the thriller taking the show as the center focal point. The Coleus is the filler and the sweet potato vine or Ipomoea and Artemisia are the spillers.

loving Delta's fine foliage

Lantana adds vibrant colour to this container and the deep red veining in the Coleus marries the dark foliage of the Canna above.

loving Delta's fine foliage

All the plantings along Delta street are a bit different. Take time to check them out before fall arrives. I love the mix of foliage in this container. The use of dark-leaved fibrous begonias adds to the contrast with the leaves of sweet potato vine.

Loving Delta's fine foliage

The leaves of the begonias blend with the veining of the Coleus and the stems of the center plant. It’s all about the details which we sometimes overlook in our own plantings.

Loving Delta's fine foliage

When planning a container try to use a mix of foliage textures like this one. The large heart-shaped leaves of Colacasia are a dramatic contrast to the ones of Coleus nearby. All of these plants can be found at local garden centers. Some of them are considered pretty tender and will not survive our winters without bringing them inside a warm greenhouse or overwintering the tender roots in a cool garage. They are definitely worth growing just for the drama they add to the garden.

 

Cherokee Purple Tomato-A Chefs Favourite & How to Save Seeds

I was harvesting tomatoes this week and was surprised to see the difference between tomatoes growing outside and in my greenhouse. I grow about twenty different kinds of tomatoes and its a big seed collecting time for me. I need to select the best tomatoes for seed saving.

How to save cherokee purple tomato seeds

The Cherokee Purple tomato on the left was grown outside. It has the markings expected from harsh changes in outdoor conditions although its been the hottest and driest summer in a long time. The one on the left was grown in the ground with a mulch of wet newspaper and straw which meant watering was minimal. The Cherokee Purple tomato on the right was grown in a greenhouse, in a five gallon container and watered daily. Check out how smooth the skin is on the greenhouse tomato. Its kind of what most people look for in a tomato. I posted this photo on gardenchat the other night and someone asked me if the tomatoes tasted the same. It was time for a taste test.

How to save tomato seeds

Yes, the one grown outside had slightly better flavour but not by enough. It was a close choice. I was making a tomato pie last night and realized I should show you how the Cherokee purple tomato looks inside. Its dark rich red colour is amazing. As a seed saver I was worried I wouldn’t find any seeds. It was hard to see them. The flavour of this tomato is one that will have you growing it each year. Its warm richness, not too acidic flavour is prized by chefs. It is a meaty tomato and great for fresh slicing and for cooking.

How to save tomato seeds

So where were the seeds? This seed crazy person had to figure it out. I cut the tomato again and there they were. Its like this tomato has hidden back pockets. You have to carefully scoop out the sides just along the underside of the skin. Trust me its hiding a lot of seeds.

How to save tomato seeds

Lots of seeds are in the bottom of this jar along with the juice of the tomato. If you look closely at the seed you will see a jelly like substance around the seed. This is what you will be removing through the fermenting process.

how to save tomato seeds

 

I scoop the seeds into a clean mason jar and added a bit of water. I add just an inch, no more.

how to save tomato seeds

I cut a piece of parchment paper and write the name of the tomato and date on it and secure it on the jar using a jar ring. If you come over I will have jars of fermenting seeds lined up in the dining room where its darker. So why do I ferment my tomato seeds? It helps to remove the gelatinous coating from the seeds and will help to prevent any diseases from staying on the seed. I sure don’t need any fungal problems. Leave your seeds to ferment in the jars for about four to five days.

how to save tomato seeds

 

When you see mould starting to form on the surface of the water, its time to rinse them off. I know its pretty gross but I have seen worse.Take your seeds to the kitchen sink and remove the lid. Add some fresh water to your mouldy seed mixture. Let the seeds settle to the bottom of the jar. Slowly pour the water out of the jar over the sink being carefully to just let a bit out at a time. You want to see the mouldy stuff and any tomato pulp go into the sink, not your seeds. You may have to keep adding a bit of water and repeat the process several times. Each time the seeds get a bit cleaner. This is what you want.

how to save tomato seeds

Remember the label you used on the jar. Do not throw it away. Place it under or over your seeds once on a plate. Place your seeds on a ceramic or plastic plate. Do not use paper plates or paper towels or you will have a hard time trying to pry your seeds off the paper. If you have excess water from placing the seeds on the plate, you can gently dab with the corner of a piece of paper towel to soak some of the water up. Leave the seeds to dry on the plate for a few days. Once completely dry lift the seeds off and place into an envelope for storage. Be sure to mark the variety of the tomato and date packaged on the envelope. Store your seeds in a cool dry dark place. I like to store mine in a box in my garage where they are easy to find in the spring or when you are perusing all those seed catalogues in January.

 

The Black Garden at VanDusen Botanical Garden

Yesterday I had to give a short lecture at Vandusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver and as a treat afterwards I walked the garden to see what was in bloom. For those of you that haven’t been to the garden, it covers about 55 acres and was opened in 1975. Before that my mom remembers golfing on the property as it used to be the old Shaughnessy golf course.  That golf course moved their location and the property sat for many years until it was opened as a public garden.

Black garden plants you can grow

As I wandered the garden I came across the Black Garden. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What a special garden! As soon as I saw the black Colacasia, I knew I would like this garden. The large ebony leaves of Colacasia give this garden a tropical feel. Colacasia is only hardy in zones 8-10 so it would definitely need protection here. I would most likely treat this plant as an annual. Let’s take a look at the plants that were used in the Black Garden at VanDusen.

Black garden plants you can grow

One of the plants was bat flower but I am not sure if that’s the rose-coloured flower in back. I love that this garden labels its plants. I can take the names down and try to recreate my own black  garden at home. I know, it’s a dream, when would I have the time?

Black garden plants you can grow

Black Mondo grass was used throughout the garden and as edging along the pathway. I love this hardy perennial. Once established it does spread but it’s always welcome in my garden. It’s easy to divide in the spring to use in containers or other areas of the garden. I grows to about six inches high in my garden but at VanDusen it was a bit taller.

Black garden plants

 

Sweet potato vine or Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ added that punch of chartreuse next to its sister in a dark, deep purple. These vines are annuals and will not overwinter in our climate. They are lovely in this garden used just behind the border of Mondo grass.

Black garden plants

You can see here the Colacasia is flanked by Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, Pelargonium ‘Persian Queen’, Coleus, and purple leaf Weigela or Weigela florida ‘Verweig 3′. Check out the red berries in the back adding to the overall colour scheme.

black garden plants

Bringing up the back of the chorus line of colour is Cimicifuga, probably ‘Brunette’ with its dark foliage. Its arching stems swaying in the breeze adding vertical interest to the garden. This is a large plant and it comes back every year. Use it at the back of the border in full sun to partial shade. The Cimicifuga is flanked by tall Cannas with red-orange flowers.

The black garden- VanDusen Botanicalgarden

Here is a full shot of one side of the garden. Its jam-packed with plants combining annuals, perennials and shrubs and trees. This is one area of VanDusen Botanical Garden that you don’t want to miss.