gabriola garden

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrating Independence By Gardening

In Canada, we celebrated three days ago. July 1st is Canada Day—this year the 140th anniversary of the founding of our country. However, the kids watch so many American channels, that they became fascinated with July 4th, so I had to tell them all about the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers of the U.S., who acted bravely in 1776.

Sara and I celebrated the Fourth of July by gardening. I thought it was an à propos thing to do, since if you grow enough of your own vegetables, you too can declare your independence from the giant food chains that seem to dominate our consumption in the 21st century.

Add to that growing your own flowers, instead of paying the outrageous prices the stores charge for them. Especially roses around the major holidays. And Sara’s roses this year look every bit as good, and smell every bit as good as those bought in the finest flower shops.

She grew the Hybrid Tea Rose Brandy last year as well, but this year it has really taken off from her repeated applications of Iguana Juice Bloom, along with the supplements, additives, and root enhancers that we mix into our weekly nutrient solution.

Brandy’s giant blooms are nearly six inches in diameter, which is truly a magnificent sight to behold. Many of our neighbors are asking for us to initiate them into our magic gardening club. When we clarify that all the products we use are made by the same Canadian company—Advanced Nutrients—they sort of wish that we had a magic wand or an incantation, instead.

Even Lovely Faerie, Hedgehog’s favorite rose at the moment, is starting to burst its buds into blooms. We’re in the grip of a string of very hot, sunny days, so all of Sara’s blooms are opening up to embrace the life-giving sunshine.

Repeated sprayings of Scorpion Juice and applications of Barricade have the Black Spot under control on the two Rose bushes that were bitten by the few really cold nights this past winter. However, periodically a few black spots return to remind us that fungal infections are not easy to get rid of. Despite the infestation, our generic Pink Rose bush has been putting out exquisite blooms with a lovely, sweet scent. It’s trying its best to beat the Black Spot, once and for all.

A neighbor asked Sara the other night if she favors the color blue. At the moment, many of her flowers are blue, lavender, or purple. But it’s a very subtle blend of various shades of each color, os it’s not bland or boring, by any means. Her Delphiniums are standing proud with their spires and thanking Sara for putting “yogurt crowns” around their infant growth to keep slugs from devouring them.

Many of the Nasturtium leaves have gone into our nightly salads, but the remaining ones have started to bloom, dainty orange and yellow flowers. Sara decided to treat all her flowering plants to a solution of Carbo Load Powder in order to fill them full of essential carbohydrates, which are the building blocks of future budding sites.

“In this way we’ll have blooms well into September and October,” explained Sara, who is now talking about building a Solarium to be able to grow flowers year round. The Delphinium Black Knight, for instance, with its dark purple, extra tall spires, blooms in the Spring and Summer, but may repeat in early Fall. Sara is counting on it!

Several different types of Lilies are starting to bloom as is the Foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis). The latter produces large spires to begin with, but on the Advanced Nutrients diet the towers of dangling bells grew huge this year. A word of caution—keep your pets away from this plant. It is toxic, if eaten.

Sara pointed to Phlox divaricata or “Sweet Lilac” Phlox as thriving on the Iguana diet. “Too bad I planted it in the middle of that flower bed,” she said, “if you could get your nose close to it you’d be able to smell its sweet fragrance.

Periodically, Sara’s flower garden does have lingering clouds of divine smells around various bushes. The Miss Kim Lilac, which unfortunately has finished blooming for the season, was my personal favorite. Its scent used to transport be to heaven.

We were lucky—the Tulip BreakingVirus did not infect any other plants. Sara reported seeing aphids on a few of her blooms, so I’m spraying every other week with a solution of horticultural oil and baking soda, in addition to the Scorpion Juice. I’m also thinking about using Piranha as a foliar spray in order to combat some of our stubborn fungi invaders.

The beneficial fungi in Piranha actually fight off and disable harmful fungi, keeping them from attacking our plants. I’m also going to have to buy more slug bait, since some of our close to the ground vegetables are being chewed by these slimy creatures.

In order to enhance the smell of some of Sara’s blooms, I’m adding some Sweet Leaf into our nutrient mix. The berry sugars and molasses in Sweet Leaf not only enhance the taste of blooms (some flowers are edible) but also boost the potency of their fragrance.

“I’ll have to check the Nutrient Calculator to see how I could fit this ingredient into the mix and still maintain our desired parts per million,” I said to Sara. She’s a great cook, but she doesn’t cook to recipe. She improvises—a pinch of this and a tad of that. She doesn’t understand that in horticulture exact pH and EC and PPM readings are required in order to maximize the yield of our plants.

“Why don’t you just call the AN technical guys, and let them do the figuring,” said Sara, making a lot of sense. Except if everybody did that, the AN support line would be tied up from morning ‘til night.

“Advanced Nutrients is helping us grow the finest flowers and most robust vegetables imaginable. The least I can do is to do the math myself, and not burden their tech guys with all the details. Then I can go to them when I really need help,” was my logic.

Looking forward to in Sara’s flower garden are the blooms of two of my favorites: Purple Cornflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) “Indian Summer.” The latter blooms midsummer to early fall, while the former should be blooming any day now. These beautiful ornamentals are truly pleasing to the eye!

Historians say that George Washington’s household made other use of flowers and herbs. Fruit tarts were flavored with rose, orange-flower, or mint water. Most substantial kitchens in the 18th century had a “still room,” where bushels of rose petals, along with other flowers and herbs, were distilled into small bottles of strong-flavored alcohol.

A totally appropriate drink for the Fourth of July!

posted by Tim at 4:46 PM


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