Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Images from The Exotic Garden (address: 62 Boulevard du Jardin Exotique, Monaco)
Lower left is the harbor, our ship the Viking Star is the bigger one on the far right (but not that much bigger than some of the private yachts).
On our Mediterranean cruise this March we were fortunate to stop at the Exotic Gardens of Monaco. It is amazing what you can do when (1) you are the king of a principality, (2) you are rich enough to employ several hundred gardeners, and (3) have several generations of family that contribute to the garden.
Although we did not see the entire garden, what we did see was impressive. These four acres are set on a rocky hillside and was opened in 1933 by Prince Albert I. Although dominated by succulents, there are also roses and I even found some spring bulbs. Only later did I pause to think about how that was possible in this temperate climate with not enough of a cold period for bulbs to bloom naturally. I would hazard a guess that they kept the bulbs in cold storage and planted them outside to enjoy this spring. Just like we would do to force bulbs, except on a larger scale. Again, money and labor can create a wonderful garden.
Most of all I love the address of this garden.
Wouldn’t you love to live on Boulevard du Jardin Exotique?
Inspiration at Bashaw Valley Farm and Greenhouse
"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien
I was reminded this winter of what it feels like to be at least a little lost in a new store. I wandered into my local quilt shop, River’s Edge Antique & Quilt Loft in Hayward with a pattern and a few pieces of fabric from my stash. My goal was to make a crib quilt for a new baby that will be joining our family this spring. Upon entering I see a few bolts of cloth but am disappointed with the limited selection. But Wait! The name of the shop should have clued me in that there was more and there certainly was upstairs. My stumbling about reminded me that we are beginners at some point and these specialized businesses that support our crafts and passions are there to help us.
My brother Charlie on the left, my sister Linda and me on the right. We moved before my two younger brothers could be pictured by this particular shrub.
The pictures above are just two of many snapshots taken by our Mom in front of the Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia). Every time I pass one in full bloom a flood of memories race through my mind. Our Bridal Wreath was the go-to backdrop for confirmation, graduation and just plain nice-day pictures. It is helpful that this shrub blooms when these events are happening.
In looking through old family photo albums I see each generation had a favorite shrub. Lilacs and arborvitae appear to be the winners for earlier times. Before we moved to the house with the Spirea, a lilac bush figured predominately in our outdoor posed pictures.
The old-fashioned Bridal Wreath Spirea (botanical name: Spiraea prunifolia) is a non-native in the Rose family. Reliably hardy to 30 below (zone 4), it grows best in full sun but will tolerate part shade as long as it gets 4-6 hours of daily sunshine. Leave it room to grow to its mature size of 4-8 feet tall and wide and the flowers will fill its arching branches. The flowers attract butterflies and pollinators in the spring.
No need to prune this shrub, but if you must, do so right after it is done blooming so it has enough time to set flower buds for next spring. According to Melinda Myers in her Gardening in Wisconsin, removing the flower tips as the blooms fade can improve next year's bloom. Renewal pruning of this suckering shrub can be done by removing one-third of the oldest stems to the ground.
I've planted a Golden Bridalwreath Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei 'Levgold') in my Zone 3 garden that gets about 4 hours of sunshine daily with success. It is rated a Zone 4 plant so the test will be this spring since we had 33 below temperatures this winter. I've got my fingers crossed on this one.
Do you have a favorite backdrop for your family photos? If not, maybe this is one you will consider planting.
Late winter and early spring are the time to check out catalogs, place seed orders and start seeds. Learn more about several seed starting techniques from Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in an upcoming webinar. Sue has volunteered her time to create and deliver this webinar that will feature: deciphering catalog and seed package jargon, proper planting conditions and several techniques including the winter sown planted method that you can start now.
This webinar can be attended from any home computer or device with an internet connection, microphone and camera. Instructions to access the course will be provided a few days before the start of the class. Registration is required through WITC at courses.witc.edu Enter "Early Seed Starting" in the search box. The registration fee is $13.50, and for those 62+ it is $9.00 .
Most spring bulbs need a 12-15 week chilling period. Try dwarf species or hybrids for the best results. I plant mine in potting soil in nursery pots and put them in the vegetable crisper of the beer refrigerator and covered with plastic to keep in the moisture. Avoid putting them with other fruits and vegetables that may emit a gas that will cause them to rot. Be sure to label with the date and species.
Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are the exception needing no chilling period. I keep those bulbs in the fridge unpotted.
Here are some bulbs that are especially suited to forcing:
Here in the North we don't find it unusual to have "summer" and "snow" in the same sentence. This post is about one of my favorite spring bulbs, the Giant or Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’. Leucojum is a small genus of bulbous plants belonging to the Amaryllis family. Currently the genus includes only two known species; the giant or summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum). These bulbs are similar to the more common Galanthus or snowdrops. The snowdrops usually are first to rise -- often peeking through the snow. Leucojum or snowflakes, follow later. My Summer Snowflakes are just ending their bloom period after giving me enjoyment and some darn nice bouquets for three weeks.
Definition of “Falsy”: Okay, I’ll let you look up the definition. For this article I’m using the term to define plants that have in their common name the word “False”.
I wander around nurseries with hardly any idea about what I want, hoping that I will see something interesting to fit my garden. I’ve found some good plants this way. And I like wandering around greenhouses. However, this is not the best way to select plants because when I get home I end up walking around my garden with said plant in hand wondering where to put this new acquisition.
I have some criteria for perennials in my garden: longevity, low maintenance, hardy in my climate, resistant to diseases and pests, no winter protection needed, long blooming or attractive foliage, not invasive, and doesn’t need staking. But sometimes I just want to have fun and I throw all those important criteria out. Sometimes that fun is something that has an interesting name.
In the next few weeks I’m going to write about plants that have such unappealing names it’s a wonder they are offered by greenhouses and nurseries. It’s a testament to how good these plants are that they have overcome horrible common names. When at the garden center, don’t dismiss these after looking at their name tags. I’m placing these plants into five categories.
I know it doesn't look like much but the first leaf of the lilac indicates that it is time to plant beets, cole crops (broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips, etc.), lettuce, and spinach. This is not just folklore but backed up phenology, the study of the timing of natural events. Lilacs are most commonly used for observation and to time gardening activity. I checked the soil temperature in my garden, it is 55-60 degrees. That is well in the range for these crops.
Here are some other indicators for planting:
May is one of the busiest months for gardening. That is especially so this year with our very late spring. Compressed into a few shorts weeks is garden clean-up from the long winter, prepping the vegetable and annual beds, visiting the garden centers for fresh new plants, and planting. Planting should be delayed until frost danger is at a minimum. Let’s face it, in our northern zone frost danger can happen any time during the growing season. Let’s get gardening!
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* Vegetable Basics, May 3 1:00 - 3:00 pm, offered at WITC campuses in Hayward, Ladysmith, Balsam Lake, Superior, Ashland, and Rice Lake. Register with WITC at witc.edu in continuing education