Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.
Everything is winding down in the garden. The bee balm is spent, the cardinal flowers are drooping, the tomato plants have withered to spindly stalks.
But I just got an October surprise: morning glories -- beautiful, blue blooms bursting forth on the vine I planted from seed back in late May.
The vine had grown big and vigorous, engulfing my trellis and twining upward to the house. But I hadn't gotten a single flower. I asked some master gardeners about my less-than-glorious morning glories, and they agreed in their assessment that I probably didn't have enough sunlight.
So I checked my vines at mid-day. They seemed to be in full, bright sun, but maybe there weren't enough hours of it to coax the plant into flowering.
I had given up on seeing flowers, at least this growing season. But, lo and behold, they finally made their appearance. Morning glories are supposed to produce flowers about 60 days after planting from seed, but they have been known to take up to 120, according to several gardening websites I checked this morning.
Mine are definitely in the late-bloomer category, but they were worth the wait -- even if I can enjoy them for only a week or two.
What's going on in your garden? Any late-summer -- or fall -- surprises?
As a gardener, part of the fun of traveling is seeing plants you've never seen before. Sometimes they're exotic species that would never make it in Minnesota. All you can do is admire them in their native habitat -- and take a couple pictures to remember them by.
But sometimes you discover plants that you can actually try at home.
I encountered some of both types this month. First we spent a week in South Carolina, a state we'd never visited before, and I got my first real encounter with Spanish moss. Sure, I'd seen it in movies and photos. But seeing it for real -- everywhere -- draped from trees like fluttering gray-green scarves -- was magical and enchanting. It's so different from anything we see up here that I felt like I had stepped into some sort of Southern Gothic Disney theme park -- Bayou Land!.
I'd love to have Spanish moss hanging from my tree branches here in Minnesota, but I know that's never gonna happen.
But closer to home, I discovered a plant I would like to try. We were in Madison, Wis., moving our daughter out of her apartment, and I took a side trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens (http://www.allencentennialgardens.org) on the UW campus.
The garden is a teaching garden for the UW horticulture department, and it's always worth a stroll. So beautiful that it's a sought-after site for weddings, it's also a living laboratory of interesting plant species.
This visit, what caught my eye were some purplish-black tomatoes, darker than any I've ever seen, as dark as an eggplant. The tag said they were 'Indigo Rose.' Back home, at my computer, I looked them up. Apparently Indigo Rose is a new tomato variety developed at Oregon State University. It's not only gorgeous, but it also apparently has a high level of antioxidants, so it's healthy to boot. How does it taste? "Like a tomato," according to one online review.
That's good enough for me!
Several seed companies are now carrying Indigo Rose in their catalogs, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on some next year and trying growing them at home.
What plants have you discovered while traveling? Any you've tried to grow at home?
"Seeds emerge in 7 to 14 days." Those words on the side of the seed packet are among the most hopeful phrases I know. It's a packetful of promise of suppers to come.
Every day I check for signs of tiny seedlings, waiting for that first day there's a glimpse of green, wondering at first if it's only a bit of tree leaf debris before deciding -- yes! -- it's the first brave seedling just at the surface waiting to unfurl. Oh, and there's another one! And another .... Finally the wobbly rows show themselves, arriving promptly within that promised seven-to-14-day window.
I stand back and savor that triumphant moment for a bit, before all the propping and picking that seem far less magical. Then I grab the netting to protect my little darlings from the rabbit's little darlings.
And some 61 days later, when I've almost forgotten to look, I'll accidentally realize it's harvest time, when the shriveled pea seeds have completed their magic transformation into plants loaded with -- I hope -- plump pods. That will give me plenty of time to ponder my staking options. I planted a fairly low growing variety haven't tried before, so I'll have to see whether they warrant staking.
Do you stake your peas or let them fend for themselves? If you do, what's your favorite way to support pea plants? And what seedlings are emerging in your garden?
Can't wait to plant my beans and cucumbers and start the anticipation countdown again.
Flipping through US Weekly last night, I got a big juicy surprise. There, on the back page "Fashion Police" feature, were a bumper crop of celebrities dressed up as garden produce.
The glamorous starlets had been snapped at various red-carpet events wearing designer dresses in gigantic vegetable prints, including tomatoes. turnips and chili peppers.
Veggies have been trending up for several growing seasons. The evidence is everywhere, from urban microfarms and farmers markets, to crop mobs to tattooed hipsters tending their heirloom seedlings.
The new garden books that cross my desk overwhelmingly lean toward edibles and away from pretty flowers.
But the magazine spread was a sign that simple veggies are now crossing from earthy/trendy to high-fashion chic. Which is kind of funny.
The Dolce & Gabbana tomato-print organza dress that Kirsten Dunst was wearing retails for more than $2,000. That's a lot of Beefsteak!
Would you wear a veggie dress? I think I'll stick to showing my love for produce the old-fashioned way -- by digging in the dirt.
What's big and rare and smells disgusting?
The Corpse Flower, an endangered Sumatran plant species with blooms that emit an odor similar to rotting flesh.
There aren't many of these babies in captivity, and they don't bloom very often -- or for very long. But there's one in bloom today, June 29, at the Marjorie McNelly Conservatory in St. Paul's Como Park.
The rarity of this event has prompted the Conservatory to extend its hours. It will be open until 9 p.m. tonight and will reopen at 7 a.m. tomorrow for those who want to have a look -- and catch a whiff.
But the stench only lasts for about a day -- two at most -- so you'll have to hurry.
This particular Corpse Flower has a nickname -- "BOB too" -- because it's the second Corpse Flower in the Conservatory's collection. The Conservatory got the plant through a Gustavus Adolphus College chemistry professor, who collected the seed in Sumatra almost 20 years ago. (Gustavus had a Corpse Flower bloom last summer.)
You can follow the Corpse Flower's progress on a gardener's blog and live web-cam at http://www.comozooconservatory.org/news/corpse-flower-will-soon-make-a-big-stink-check-out-the-webcam/
I haven't yet had the "privilege" of smelling one of these blooms -- how about you? Was it as gross as people say? What did you think it smelled like?
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