Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Persimmon Update

I have written about my Ichi Ki Kei Jiro persimmon before (a fuyu type).  The tree is fabulous: beautiful in fruit and in fall. and very productive.  Nothing really bothers it.  This year I estimate I got over 150 persimmons from one tree (and I planted two more last fall!)  You can purchase this tree (a small tree) through the good folks at Edible Landscaping (http://ediblelandscaping.com/buyPlants.php) (they also have other fabulous plants).


Fall persimmon foliage

The fruits from fuyu persimmons, unlike the native American persimmon, are not astringent and are eaten while still firm, like an apple.  They are seedless, crispy and sweet.  And. when you dehydrate them, they are amazing!
A bowlful!

Candy in the dehydrator!

As my friends know, I studies for my certificate in botanical illustration so I could document my garden.  Here is my persimmon drawing:

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Field Trip: Denver Botanic Gardens



I recently had the opportunity to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens. I have been to a bunch of botanic gardens, but the Denver Gardens is a standout.

Display of bee houses at the DBG

Why is it a stand out?  There were three characteristic that I noted.  First, the planting beds in the garden were full, there was no space for weeds to invade and no real empty spots.  Second, someone has paid a great deal of attention to the plant architecture, that is, the height, spacing, color, texture and form were perfect, sometimes in total harmony, other times pleasant surprises.  Third, there were some real show-stopping plantings, for example huge pots full of flowering brugmansia (Angels' trumpet) and towering castor bean plants:


The garden has many, themed garden rooms and a great conservatory.  If you go, plan to stay all day!
Some more "eye candy" for you:

From top left: Chihuly glass "tree," perennial walk, tropical bromeliads, desert garden and the brugmansia.

From top left: colorful flowers, the stunning staghorn sumac, potted sedum, 2 photos of Chihuly glass on the lake.

Boat on the lake with Chihuly glass

And, for the veg gardeners, nice chard! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Growing Cotton

I have written about growing cotton before.  Now I want to post some photos from a good friend who grows it too (she got me started!  And here initials are JT, too!). This year, she grew black cotton. No, the actual cotton is not black, but the leaves and unopened boll are deep red-purple, a color often referred to in the horticultural world as "black." The blooms are a pretty shade or pink, unlike the cream-tinged-with-green-and-pink of the blooms of the standard cotton plant.  Handsome plant.
Eye candy time!
Top left, clockwise: a black cotton plant next to a regular cotton plant; bright white cotton coming out of a newly opened boll; a beautiful cotton flower (cotton is a member of the hibiscus family) and: the unopened boll.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NEVER prune in the fall!

A great explanation of why you should never prune trees and shrub in the fall.  Put those pruners away until winter!
http://www.rodalenews.com/fall-pruning?cid=social_20141013_33468537

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gardening with Nature

Even though I feel I have been gardening thoughtfully, with the environment in mind, I have been re-thinking aspects of my yard and garden.  Here are a few examples.  I had wanted to remove what I thought was a "scrubby" tree from my backyard, until I learned it was a native wild cherry that was a host for many native insects (they can't eat or nest in most imported, exotic plants). I learned about the severe decline of the monarch butterfly, so I started its native host plant, the common milkweed, to plant in a new flower bed I am constructing.  I had already gotten rid of most of a half acre of grass, which requires too many inputs of chemical and water to justify growing. and, of course, I use no artificial fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

Would you like to go to a more natural style of gardening?  Here are 15 ideas for an "Ecobenefical Landscape:"
http://www.ecobeneficial.com/2014/09/fall-checklist-ecobeneficial-landscape/

[this is an endorsement of these  ideas, not necessarily this consulting company].

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hudson Valley Seed Library

This past weekend I went to Accord, NY, to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, 
a farm that specializes in growing organic and open-pollinated heirloom seeds 
( http://www.seedlibrary.org/about-us-hvsl/ ) that was started at the site of old 
camp resort in 2004.  This is the time of year when plants are harvested for seed
or have already been harvested.  It was odd, from a gardener's perspective to see
so many of these plants gone to seed! It is always an embarrassment to me to see
lettuce, for example, gone to seed in my garden!  And, of course, I try to pick 
my veggies at the best point for eating, which is usually far earlier than the seed
production stage!
In the photo collage above: red zinnias going to seed, center top (counter clock-
wise): red lettuce seed heads, de-seeded squash in the compost pile, onions drying and
eggplants being allowed to mature to form seeds.
This company also sponsors a yearly contest for artists to design some of their seed
packs: 

This might inspire me to use more open-pollinated plants and save my own seed!
Happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commercial Potting Soil

I know, a very exciting photo, of dirt!  This is a nationally-available brand of potting soil with fertilizer and I have finally gotten fed up with it.  I am now starting to make my own.  Why?  Mushrooms.  Huh?  I have been using this and similar soils for outdoor container plants and house plants.  Lately, my house plants have been sprouting various fungi!  Which I think is not so good for indoor air quality, especially for those with allergies.  Why is this happening?
Well, turn over the bag and read the ingredients.  Many of these potting mixes list "forestry by products" " forestry products" or "wood chips."  You can even see some in the photo.  Wood chips take awhile to decompose and often sprout mushrooms and fungi in order to break down.  They provide zip in regard to plant nutrients, except, perhaps, over the very long haul.  They are there so the forestry industry can get rid of excess, undesirable wood waste.
Another reason to dislike these products is the harsh, chemical salt fertilizers they contain.  These are like feeding your kids on white sugar, not healthy at all.
I am now making my own potting soil, a mix of worm compost (other well-aged compost will do), peat or coir fibers and perlite.  I think my house plants and I will be the better for it!
Happy gardening!