Gardening

A Tinge of Frost

A tinge of frost adds a unique beauty to plants. It’s a fleeting beauty. Once the temperature rises the tinge of frost becomes a memory, unless drawn outside to digitally capture frost-kissed plants in the garden.

These views greeted me this morning, urging me to grab the camera and head into my Connecticut garden, even before sipping my first cup of coffee.

Leaving seed heads standing through the colder months adds garden interest even without blooms. Sedum seed heads catch the eye when viewed in front of an evergreen shrub.

Sedum seed head contrasts nicely with Ilex compacts

Sedum seed head contrasts nicely with Ilex compacta

But the beauty of Ilex compacta leaves stand on their own, particularly when kissed by frost, giving  them a variegated look.

Frost-tinged Ilex compacta

Frost-tinged Ilex compacta

Adjacently-planted rose and lavender complement each other in every season.

Frost-tinged rose bud

Frost-tinged rose bud backed by a lavender shrub

But lavender, too, is lovely on its own.

Frost-tinged lavender

Frost-tinged lavender

The holly and the ivy take on a special glow when covered in frost. Holly berries are a perennial favorite.

Frost-tinged holly berries

Frost-tinged holly berries

Frost highlights the details of ivy leaves.

Frost-tinged ivy

Frost-tinged ivy

Even lifeless leaves and buds look special draped in frost’s silvery glow. Frost transforms browning bayberry leaves,

Frost-kissed bayberry leaves

Frost-kissed bayberry leaves

and adorns a common coneflower seed head.

Frost-kissed echinacea

Frost-kissed echinacea

A reddish glow gives holiday flare to azalea leaves,

Frost-tinged azalea leaves

Frost-tinged azalea leaves

and turns pieris buds into Mother Nature’s holiday decorations.

Frost-tinged pieris buds

Frost-tinged pieris buds

 

 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

Leeks – You Can Grow That!

Being no stranger to growing plants in the Allium family – onions, scallions, garlic, chives, and many ornamentals – leeks had always scared me off. It certainly was not their flavor, which I love. It was the supposed extra care – hilling soil around the growing stalks – that caused me to leave leeks off my garden list of edibles. Boy was I wrong! Leeks are a great You Can Grow That! edible plant.

You Can Grow That! is a monthly blogging meme started by C.L. Fornari – she blogs at Coffee for Roses – to encourage anyone, novice or seasoned gardener, to stick their hands in the soil to grow something. Having grown plants for nearly 40 years, I’m still amazed by the power in each tiny seed.

I start seeds indoors, under lights, every spring. Each year, to expand my knowledge, I try growing at least one new plant or variety. Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) were my 2014 choice; the King Richard variety offered by Botanical Interests. I started two small flats in early March and grew them under lights until night temperatures in my zone 6 Connecticut garden remained above the hard freeze level. That’s when the leeks went into the mini-greenhouse in a protected, full-sun location. They moved to their summer home, a raised-bed, sometime in late May.

I planted the thin seedlings into a six-inch deep trench dug into the soil of the raised bed, then gently hilled soil up around the small transplants, leaving some of the green ends above soil level. After watching, watering, and waiting, the seedlings had grown enough to hill even more soil around the growing stalks. This is done to obtain the long white-flesh area – the edible part – at the base of each stalk. As the leeks grew, occasionally mounding more soil around each stalk took little time and effort. Once the soil was mounded to a total of 8 to 9 inches (remember, they were planted in 6-inch deep trenches), I added 2 inches of shredded straw to help keep soil moisture even and prevent weed growth.

For the rest of the growing season I pretty much ignored the leeks. By the time I harvested a couple in early autumn, they had grown quite large. Still, I left most in the ground for later harvest.

Leeks, harvested Thanksgiving week in sough-central Connecticut.

Leeks, harvested Thanksgiving week in south-central Connecticut.

Here’s how they looked when harvested right before Thanksgiving. The center leek is actually a bit more mature than recommended. The aim is to harvest before the ends begin to bulb.

There’s about a half-dozen more still in the raised bed, which is now covered as a mini hoop house for extra cold-weather protection. I expect to be harvesting leeks well into the winter.

These beauties were so easy to grow, and took up so little raised-bed real estate, that their now on my yearly edible plant list. And … they are delicious, imparting a mild oniony flavor to foods.

Northern gardeners can start leek seeds inside 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost. After risk of a killing freeze passes, transplant leeks, 4-6 inches apart, into a trench at least 6 inches deep. Water regularly and mound soil up around growing plants as noted above. Gardeners in milder climates can sow leeks outdoors in spring for fall harvest or in late summer for harvesting the following spring.

For more growing suggestions, head to the You Can Grow That! website and read about other great edible and ornamental plants to grow. Then sit back and dream of all you could do in next year’s garden.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

Science for Gardeners: Bees, Ladybugs, Dragonflies

Science is fascinating, especially science that relates to gardeners and gardening. Below are synopses of three interesting articles about bees, ladybugs and dragonflies.

Canada moves to protect bees.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Ontario, Canada is first territory in North America to restrict neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides implicated in bee die-off. Following a winter in which 58% of Ontario’s bees died, government officials developed a plan to reduce such pesticide use 80% by 2017. In 2013 the European Union placed a two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid use. The US is not expected to consider any neonicotinoid restrictions until 2018.

Multiple studies have implicated neonicotinoids, habitat loss, and disease as contributors to bee die-off. Read more in this Salon article.

 

Invite ladybugs Indoors.

Ladybug

Ladybug

Most gardeners understand how valuable ladybugs are in controlling aphids and other pesky garden plant pests, but may not be inclined to welcome ladybugs indoors when they begin seeking out warmer habitats as cold weather hits. Jessica Ware, of Rutgers University-Newark suggests we actually welcome ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, inside to manage unwanted houseplant pests. Read more in this ScienceDaily article.

 

Dragonflies: how do they fly like that?

Ever watch a dragonfly perform aerial aerobatics? It’s all in their wings … four of them, each controlled by different muscles according tho this article in ScienceDaily. Dragonflies can rotate each wing which allows them to alter the aerodynamic forces acting on each wing, and can change the directions in which they flap each wing. These traits allow them more aerial freedom than any fixed-wing aircraft could ever achieve.