gabriola garden

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Brandy, Blue Girl, and American Dream

Our second heatwave of the summer just broke. I had to put a warm vest on this morning, since it was kind of chilly. They’re calling for showers on the weekend. Our garden will be grateful.

My vegetables are growing, along with Sara’s flowers. I planted the tomatoes too closely together, so I might have to cut a few branches to let the sun get to the fruit on the lower ones. Right now I have only a few tiny, green fruit, the plants are mostly flowering. We’ve switched to Iguana Juice Bloom at feeding time.

The squash and the zucchini are growing, but they have a long way to go before they become giant ribbon-winners. The garlic and the scallions are doing fine. The tender sweet peas and the scarlet running beans are thriving. The beans are mostly in flower, but we already have a few peas for the picking. Sara snuck some into the salad the other night, and they were crunchy and delicious.

Sara’s hybrid Tea Roses are blooming. Hedgehog’s favorite is the “Brandy” variety, while I am still amazed by the “Blue Girl.” It provides fragrant, large double flowers and is billed as disease resistant. I spray all the Roses with Scorpion Juice, just in case. This miracle liquid wards off all sorts of pathogens.

The “Purple Passion” Rose had only two buds open until now, with more on the way. Learning to prune roses is an acquired science. Hybrid teas, for instance, have to be liberated from dead, or diseased, or crossing over shoots in the spring. Any remaining branches have to be cut back by half. Always make the cut sloping away from an outward facing bud. Tip back all the shoots in the fall to minimize damage from winter winds.

Sara’s Delphinium “Magic Fountains” is also billed as Dark Blue/White Bee, because of the white center in each blue bloom. It just opened. Alongside her orange miniature roses grow some Coreopsis rosea “American Dream,” which you can see in the picture.

June and Jim will have had a double thrill, by the time this week is over. On Tuesday, Sara took them to Playland in Vancouver. They usually go before the Pacific National Exhibition opens, it’s not as crowded before then. June loved the rides that spin you in a circle, while Jim preferred the large roller coaster. They were disappointed that they didn’t win anything on the Midway.

Sara tried to explain to them that this is a big city amusement park, and it’s different from the local Gabriola Fair. Here the teenagers working the various attractions on the Midway know all the children and they go out of their way to help them to win, even a small prize. Hedgehog complained that none of the soft toys at Playland were worth the effort. “They were ugly,” complained our daughter.

Tomorrow night we’re taking them to Vancouver again for the huge fireworks. China is competing against Italy, the Czech Republic, and Mexico this year. We go to at least one each year and stay with friends. The ferry only runs at a certain time. These fireworks are truly spectacular—they’re synchronized to music. On Saturday night half-a-million people turn out to see them!

posted by Tim at 1:45 AM | 0 comments

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bunnies, Blooms, and Serenity

Our faithful bunny Hoppy had a mishap the other day. He went out into the courtyard to escape the heat and a hanging plant narrowly escaped conking him on the head. One of the cats had exited the bedroom window above the wooden grid of the courtyard, in order to munch on some catnip. We planted it in a hanging pot on purpose, to keep our numerous cats from harvesting it too quickly. But the kitty loosened the hook and the heavy pot plunged, almost flattening our bunny. Glad to report that both bunny and catnip are alright.

Sara’s Double Purple Coneflower is flourishing. It was billed as among the Top 10 for 2006 from Heritage Perennials. The Golden Splendor Lilian Trumpet is at my eye level, and I’m five eleven. The Scarlet Runner Beans are filling up the bamboo structure quite nicely. The Miniature Rose is yellow orange and exquisite.

Our long stemmed Daisies are very prolific this year, providing the garden with that classical touch. When she was five I tried to teach Hedgehog the “she loves me, she loves me not” counting game with the petals of a daisy, and she got real mad at me for destroying the flower. The light purple Daylily has a name, it’s called Catherine Woodbury.

Aside from the flowers in the pictures, the Cranesbill Geranium (Rozanne) is filling up one section of Sara’s flowerbed with its characteristic blue blooms, and the Candelabra Primrose (Primula x bulleesiana) is showing its gratitude for Sara’s frequent waterings. This shrublike plant with its reddish orange flowers doesn’t relate well to drought, it prefers moist soil.

The Aquilegia vulgaris has very striking flowers, but its other name has a frightening association. In the vernacular, it’s called Columbine. Most people won’t be able to say that name without thinking of that ill-fated high school in the States where two students went on a shooting spree. These are things that came to mind, as did gratitude, when our kids asked to be home-schooled.

Ever since Sara fed them with Iguana Juice Bloom, our geraniums in the window boxes have perked up and are growing like there’s no tomorrow. It’s amazing to watch the effect that this 100% organic plant nutrient has on all our plants. My vegetables are progressing very nicely, thanks to Iguana Juice Grow and the other outstanding products we use from Advanced Nutrients.

We had to use Bug Away recently, because we had a slight infestation of spider mites. Aside from this and a touch of Black Spot on the roses early on, we haven’t had too much trouble this year, thanks to Scorpion Juice, no doubt, which inoculates our plants against most pathogens.

Since we got rid of the Black Spot, our roses have been rewarding us with clusters of magnificent blooms. It calms my spirit to see the beauty of each individual rose. It’s easy to see how this flower has been used for centuries as a symbol of love and spiritual awakening.

Sara and I travelled to Hungary before the kids were born and we visited the tomb of a Turkish saint, named Gϋl Baba. He was also known as the Father of the Roses, and spent many years in Budapest, during the Turkish occupation. Some of the rose bushes he planted high on top of a hill are still blooming next to the small circular building, which houses his sarcophagus.

The spiritual peace in that hilltop garden is marred only by the pockmarks of bullets that cover the building, a reminder of two world wars and one major revolution. As another insane conflict is threatening the peace of our world, it is well to remember the existence of rose gardens such as this where the spirit can take solace from strife and help transcend the pain and violence by an infusion of beauty and serenity.

posted by Tim at 1:25 PM | 0 comments

Friday, July 14, 2006

Border Beauty, Bullies, and Self Design

According to Sara, our Clamatus is called “Polish Ivy,” the rich colored Daylilly is Hemerocallis “Velveteen,” the purple flower is from the Malva family, while the Butterfly Bush is called “Border Beauty.” The daisies are just ordinary, long stemmed daisies, or “Margaretas,” as we used to call them in Europe, and I forgot to ask Sara what the small flowers in the picture are called.

Oh, the flaming orange blossom is a Calendula. We’re waiting for some Windflower buds to open, Anemone Hybride “Krienhilde,” to be more specific. It grows very tall (over four feet) and blooms August to October, if we’re lucky. It takes full or part sun and can be grown in USDA Zone 4, able to take temperatures down to -30 degrees F.

We had some rain, thank goodness, but the weekend promises to be sunny again, so I’m sure the temperature will rise accordingly. Speaking of temperatures rising, Jim (our eight-year-old) lost it the other day, when Hedgehog (our ten-year-old daughter, June) got to go to the mainland with her mother, but he wasn’t allowed to tag along.

They took the ferry to a department store in the city, to look for reasonably priced feminine apparel for Hedgehog. She said that she would be embarrassed if her brother saw her trying things on. So I had to smother the flames by taking Jim to our local steak house for lunch—we had sizzling steak sandwiches.

I generally don’t barbecue meat anymore, since the females of our clan are vegetarians. So it turned out to be boys day out, and we even got to go for a long walk in a forested park after we ate. Jim opened up about the bullies at school and asked to be home-schooled again, just like his sister. We started off teaching them both at home, until Jim asked to be enrolled in the local elementary school.

I told him that I would have to discuss it with his mother, since she’s in charge of their academic progress. June is enrolled in a self-design program that has established a virtual community throughout BC, so I’m sure that Sara will agree to sign Jim up for it starting September. They learn things that interest them at their own pace, which is much better than regimented education, IMO.

We’ve treated the roots of all our plants with Piranha and Tarantula, in order to colonize them with beneficial fungi and bacteria. It makes a major difference in the size of my vegetables and the number of buds on Sara’s flowers. These two magic ingredients are made by Advanced Nutrients, the same company that manufactures the 100% organic nutrients that we feed our plants.

Hoppy the bunny loves to hop out to the courtyard and lounge around in some of the pots we have out there. We don’t mind, as long as he doesn’t dig up the soil or harvests the plant with his teeth. Once he’s taken a big bite out of Hedgehog’s rubber boots, so now we keep our footwear safely off the floor.

We keep the courtyard gate firmly latched to keep him from my vegetable garden. I don’t want to wake up one day to find that he has munched on my lettuce or carrots. We feed him store bought vegetables and keep the good stuff for ourselves. Hey, I know it’s selfish, but the pet food bill in our house is quite hefty each week, as you can well imagine.

posted by Tim at 2:45 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Campanulas, Calendulas, and Kittens

The scent of the blossoms on the butterfly bush is delicately sweet and pungent. The lilies that I call Tiger Lily are probably not that, but they are robust and beautiful. The Sweet William is close to the ground, but it perks up the edge of Sara’s flowerbed. My beans are starting to fill in the bamboo structure, and Sara planted some marigolds to keep them company.

The blazing red of the healthy roses is living proof that Iguana Juice Bloom does work its magic. The heatwave in this part of the continent has broken, and we had a few cloudy days with a huge drop in temperature. But it’s still pleasant to spend time outdoors and the garden still has to be watered, since precipitation is practically nil.

Sara’s Campanula latiflora is drying up already, but three other campanula varieties have yet to burst into bloom. Campanula “Pritchard’s Variety,” Campanula Blue Bell, and Campanula Birch Hybrid are yet to bear flowers, I guess they’re late bloomers.

We’re also waiting on a Mullein (Verbascum Phoeniceum “Violetta”) and a Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) bearing chartreuse flowers. Also yet to burst forth is a Peachleaf Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) with its light blue petals. The Lavender “Ashdown Forest” is already thriving and attracting honey bees, and the hardy perennial Petrovskia atriplicifolia “Filigran” or Russian Sage, is also growing like a good shrub should. It’s flowers are purple, and it’s billed as “deer resistant.”

Sara’s got a couple of Hostas growing in window boxes, along with a Viola Sorbet mixture of perennial Pansy. The black-eyed Susans have yet to open, neither has the Purple-Leaved Jacob’s Ladder with its star-shaped rich blue flowers.

Hedgehog (our 10-year-old daughter, June) picked out two purple Baloon flowers at the garden store, to make up for the one that was eaten by slugs last month. Sara bought a purple Passion Vine (Alato-Caerulea) which needs a trellis to grow on and requires full sun to flourish. It also requires a well-balanced fertilizer, so we nourished it with Iguana Juice Grow and once it flowers we’ll be giving it Iguana Juice Bloom.

During the heat wave it was dangerous to turn on the hose, because the kids would inadvertently appear and want to have a water fight. I bought a battery-powered water gun for Jim (our 8-year old son) and a water shield gun for June, figuring that she needed more protection, she’s not as aggressive. Was I surprised when she grabbed the hose out of my hand and attacked her brother with such vehemence, that after a few minutes I had to put a stop to it. But it helped all of us to cool down in the extremely hot sun.

Some of Sara’s flowers weren’t meant to be exposed to such blazing sun, so we utilized a beach umbrella and created shade for that part of the flowerbed. Usually the trees provide enough shade during the hottest part of the afternoon, but the sun stayed burning hot well into the evening.

Sara has been doing housekeeping in her flower garden. She transplanted a few of her flowers, figuring they would look better in a different part of the garden. I tried to tell her to wait until late fall to do this, but she was impatient. She noticed that some of the roots weren’t as strong as she would have liked, so we started using a product called Voodoo Juice, which is billed as a Microbial Rhizosphere Colonizer. It contains five strains of microbes that not only help the roots to absorb nutrients better, but also dramatically increase the size of the root mass. We’ll report back about how well this works.

The kittens are growing and cat feeding time at our household is a family affair. Nina, Pinta, and Maria show up, but so do the four kittens, Snowball, Snowstorm, Dusty, and Domino. The young ones join in for the Friskies adult meal and leave their kitten food untouched. Then our Golden Retriever Max appears and licks the bowl clean. Not a morsel wasted!

Pinta and Maria are fixed, as is Max, but the kids wanted to see kittens being born, so Nina has yet to undergo the operation. Did you know that they have a birth control pill for female cats? Our vet bills tend to be astronomical, so now I hesitate to take any of our pets in, since I’m sure to come out a couple of hundred dollars poorer.

IMO a lot of it is unnecessary. When I was growing up in Europe, we rarely took our pets to a vet, and they lived healthy, happy lives.

posted by Tim at 1:01 AM | 2 comments