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Apr 26

Don't be seduced, don't be a Sallie Dookey

Just over a century ago, a gardener in Richmond, Virginia established a Japanese garden, importing plants from all over the world. Her name was Sallie Dookey. She died and her garden was left to the city.

In 1951, an entymologist noticed a new alien Asian insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, on a Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) on a nearby property. It was thought to have come from Sallie Dookey’s garden. The Asian hemlocks and spruces that this parasite was known to feed on have resistance to the pest.

The North American hemlock does not.
Read more
Apr 13

Never enough compost

Every year I produce more compost. But there's never enough.

I have three large bins in which the kitchen waste from the past winter is breaking down – they won’t be ‘cooked’ until July - and two composted piles from last summer that will just need sieving when they unfreeze.

I also have four bins of leaves from the fall of 2011 which have turned into leaf mould, an excellent mulch and, if sieved, a useful element of potting mix. Another large wire bin, filled with leaves from 2012, won’t be ready to use until the spring of 2014.

I need still more material to meet the potting needs of a small nursery so I have to buy. Last year I explained why I don’t use peat and suggested mushroom compost as part of the mix.Read more
Mar 20

Growing under lights brings spring closer

Officially, it’s the first day of spring, but it’s chilly outside and it snowed last night, and will again tonight and tomorrow, so it’s lucky I have tiny Lupin seedlings to tell me winter hasn’t long to go.

They’re an inch or so tall, the first set of true palmate leaves appearing under the white glare of the growlights. Unlike other perennial seed I started at the beginning of February and plunged into a snow bank (they’re still out there but will be coming in to warm up under light next week), these Lupins are a warm germinator. They don’t need a cold treatment to break dormancy.

But I noticed on the website of Gardens North, where I got the seeds from, that they should be sandpapered before starting, which is something done to seeds with hard outer shells, so the germ inside can push out easily. I rubbed them between a couple of pieces of sandpaper and soaked them overnight for good measure, popped them into little pots filled with with a potting soil mix, covered with sheet of black plastic and placed the lot on top of the fridge – a nice warm place for germination. They sprouted within two days, on March 9, so I moved them to light and they’ve been growing slowly ever since. Perennials tend to be slow – with none of that explosion of life that an annual will give you. Read more