Central Virginia Organic Gardener

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday Lagniappe: Big Trees, Little Trees

Can you see the see the tiny, newly planted trees in this landscape?  These folks have 6, huge, mature, loblolly pines in their yard and just recently planted more than a dozen tree seedlings!  As you can see (look for the stakes) some are planted right next to the huge trees (wonder how they managed to avoid the roots) and others nearby.  I am skeptical about the placement of these trees- some seem to be species that will grow into very tall trees when mature, and they have no space to do so.  In addition, the existing mature trees will suck up all available water and nutrients in the yard (I am surprised the grass looks so good- these folks must water and fertilize frequently) robbing these seedlings of what they need to survive.  The prediction for these seedlings is dismal.  I will have to check it out over the next few years to see what happens.
The bottom line, that many gardeners (including myself in the past) often violate is to know the mature size of the plant and make sure you have the space for it before you plant!  If not, you will crowd out other plants already in the space, the new plant may be malformed and weak, or you it might threaten nearby plants and structures (like the neighbor who planted a row of tiny Leland cypress plants directly under power lines, only to have to chop these fast-growing trees down 5 years later).
Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Partial Success with Peaches

This was the WORST season to grow peaches organically in Virginia in the 10 years I have been growing them here.  We had so much rain, I either could not use the regular organic sprays (they would wash off or it was raining when I was free) and rain encourages the awful molds and rots that affect peaches.  I had also decided that this might be the season I would take out all three trees.

A few months ago I posted the first photo below in a blog on bagging my peaches.  This labor-intensive method is used for apples in some situations, but not as often for stone fruits.  I took regular paper lunch sacks and used a stapler to hold the bags on, after I had gathered in the edges.
My first concern was that the bags would not last for the few months till harvest. Even with all this rain, they lasted just fine (a few fell off due to being put on poorly).

(below is a photo of my typical harvest- they peaches look OK and have enough usable flesh on them, but might have little caterpillars inside).

Did this method work?  After a fashion.  I probably bagged the peaches too late, after some insects had laid their eggs under the skin and they had been exposed to disease.  Some of the bagged peaches did spoil or fell off.  But, enough came through looking good that I decided to keep two trees and try again next year.  The peach on the left, below, was bagged, the one on the right was not.  You can see the bagged peach is imperfect, but it was intact, had no rot and no unwelcome creature inside.  I did have to take the bag off when the peach reached full size- it seems that peaches need some sun to fully ripen.  But, even though other peaches on the trees were infected with fungal rots, many bagged peaches did just fine.

So, lessons for next year:
1. Spray early with Surround, a kaolin clay mix, and antifungals then
2. bag as many peaches as I can, after thinning.  I will probably try this with my apple tree too!

I am also going to be severely pruning the trees (more so than I already have).  Peaches need this, and these particular trees are shading too much of my veg garden.  

I hope this works. I love peaches, but commercial peaches are in the top 5 of pesticide-residue fruit and have multiple chemicals sprayed on them.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Lagniappe: Rocks in the....

I have a very occasional peice "Love it or Hate it?" but I thought the answer was obvious here.  People living somehwere nearish to me have removed the few perennials they had (mostly daylilies) and replaced them with...rocks (and this photo only shows a portion of the total rocked area).  They used the kind of rock you use for drainage or for a driveway.  Gray, chunks of...rock.  I understand why businesses (and apparently some homeowners) do this, thinking it is a permanent mulch, and will not need to be replaced.  I'm guessing weeds will still come up, unless they sterilized the soil bed, applied a landscape fabric and no weed seeds fall on the area.  But even then.  This is really one of the more unattractive landscapes I have seen.  That, and the hedges these folks cut into balls.  I would rather waist high weeds.

Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Field Trip: Botanique, a Pitcher Plant Nursery and Preservation Program

My husband and I recently made a field trip visit to Botanique, a pitcher (and other) plant nursery near Stanardsville, VA, owned by Robert Sacilotto and Butch Bailey http://www.pitcherplant.com/
I am seldom at a loss for words, but this is one of those times.

It is said that a "picture is worth a thousand words" right?  Or is that "pitcher?"  These plants are just stunning.  Above is one small area of one bed in one of the gardens at the nursery.
The greenhouse is in the left background of this photo, where the tropical plants are kept.
Sarracenia alata or S. alata x rubra, one of the exotic pitchers with unusual coloring.

More pitcher profusion.

 Pitchers and pink calapogon orchids.

Robert gave us a tour of the nursery and a more knowledgeable horticulturalist I have never met.  The nursery is more than a wholesale and retail sales enterprise, Robert and Butch are working to preserve many species of pitcher plants, some endangered.  In other cases, Robert rescues whole colonies of plants where they are threatened by development.  Robert hopes to apply for tax-exempt status and one day start a foundation dedicated to the preservation of these wonderful native and exotic plants.

From a consumer perspective, I received excellent service. My plants arrived in perfect condition with all the instructions I needed to plant them.  The website contains lots of good information on growing these gems.  Building a bog bed is not difficult.  If you like these exotic plants, and have a sunny spot, I highly recommend growing them... and this nursery!

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday Lagniappe: Passion is Bloomin' 'Round Here!

One of the most exotic flowers, to my mind, native to N. and S. America, is the passionflower (passiflora species).  This green/white beauty is the result of a rooted cutting given to me by a kind neighbor.  Check out the purple, white and blue corona (fringe) around the green center.  Stunning!
Enjoy! Happy Gardening!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Air Layering

Air layering is a technique used to propagate certain plants, like camellias or fruit plants that have seedless fruit (grafting is also used, but that requires a rootstock).  I have written before about my love for my non-astringent Asian persimmon.  This is one wonderful fruit tree, easy to grow, no pests that I have noted in this region.  The leaves are handsome and the fruit is stunning:

The fruit is sweet, crisp and does not have that weird mouthfeel of American Persimmons.  These can be sliced and eaten fresh or dehydrated.

I would like to get the hang of air layering this plant to make more.  I made a poor attempt once, and it did not work.  So, I read up on it and am trying it again.  I found a branch of the plant that I was intending to prune off in winter anyway. I removed three sets of leaves. I scraped some thin, vertical slits in the branch and packed it with throughly wetted long-fiber sphagmun moss (the kind you see covering the soil in a decorative house plant, like an orchid or bromeliad).  I wrapped some bubble wrap (the small bubble kind) and wrapped again in reflective, foil-like plastic that I saved from some food item.  Then, I "tied off" each end with twist ties.

What should happen (if the plant is able and willing) is that the branch will be stimulated into rooting into the peat in this little packet.  In fall, I should be able to cut off the branch below the twist tie, and gently unwrap it. If I see roots, I will pot it up immediately in a very light, wet soil, covering the whole thing with a clear plastic bag.  I will keep it safe in my garage over winter and hope to have a new seedling!

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday Lagniappe: Sedum Forest

It does not take much to amuse me (that's a good thing, right?).  Around the stone wall of my pond, I planted sedums.  They tolerate growing near rocks, don't mind being tucked in the odd crevice here or there, and do not want rich soil.  This past June, one of my ground hugging (I thought) sedum did this (photo above), forming what I think of as a tiny sedum forest!  It made my day!
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday Lagniappe: Seed Pack Art

I have seen some lovely seed packet art, including that from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.  The Washington Post recently reported on commissions given to artists by Hudson Valley Seeds to grace their seed packs, illustrated above.  To read the article, go to:


This project combines two of my loves, art and gardening (even if the company expressly did not want the kind of art I do, botanical illustration, on the packets...I can still really appreciate the creativity shown here!).  I want to purchase these seeds just to get the art!

Happy gardening!  Get out there in the cool of the morning to beat the heat!