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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #402- Annual flowers provide season long colour and the new varieties ar
August 25, 2023

It has a been a strange season with some things thriving and others napping. These amazing Begonias x Red on Chocolate are certainly in the thriving group. Those containers are about 30 cm across and 30 cm deep and those amazing plants I grew from pelleted seed sown in early February. Begonias have the tiniest seeds and there is only one plant in each of those containers. I have to make sure I keep them well watered because the plants are so big and heavy they will tip over if the soil gets dry and light. They are on the North side of the house and gets a few hours of sun each day but are starting to get less as the sun sinks lower in the sky. I do fertilize them at about half strength every time they are watered. The seed was purchased from Stokes seeds I take my time watering them each day to just stand there and admire them.

Here’s another great success this year. The Garlic bulbs were extra large and each plant produced a magnificent bulb. They are laying in the sun drying before they head to the cold room for the winter. The best looking buds will be broken up into individual cloves to be replanted in late September to start next year’s crop.

This late blooming Allium was a wonderful surprise in the middle of the Hosta bed because I have no memory of planting it or what variety it is. You only have smell it to realize that it is in fact a member of the Allium family. It seems to thrive even though it is in the shade of the great Walnut tree.

The Swiss Chard is another success this year and by this time of year the leaves are getting quite large. That allows me to trot out one of our favourite recipes. I stuff and roll these big leaves and bake them in a Tomato sauce. The stuffing can be almost anything. I use a mixture of rice, ground beef and some of that Garlic and whatever other herbs or spices seem to be something we might like. Swiss Chard is mostly a cool season crop and these plants have been wandering along all summer and are now thriving. Cooking is a rather creative activity in my kitchen and the results are usually at least edible and frequently very good. My recipes are here.

A packet of Zinnia profusion bicolour arrived this spring for me to trial. Like most Zinnias they are easy and quick to grow from seed and this variety was an AAS winner in 2021. We made a small bed to support the position of this bird bath and planted the Zinnias there. You can see what a great success they have been. Filling in completely and providing a splash of all season colour. The idea for that small bed was to make it easier to mow the grass around the bird bath which needs to be in that location to indicate the municipal water shut off valve. Neccesity is the mother of invention.

It has been a very damp and somewhat cool summer but these lovely Tomatoeshave finally decided to grace our dinner plates or sometimes we just stand in the garden with a salt shaker and pig out. I had a problem last year with a condition called Tomato yellow shoulder where the fruit does not completely ripen, leaving the stem end with hard yellow shoulders. The problem can be from high heat, a lack of potassium and/or incorrect ph. I grow my Tomatoes in my sub-irrigation containers which are filled with a soilless mix high in peat moss so we have always added lime each year to raise the Ph. This year I did not add the lime and found the fertilizer with the highest potassium to use in those containers. Success, no yellow shoulder this year. It’s great when you can not only diagnose the problem but actually cure it. The relatively cool weather may also have contributed to our success.

I have a new favourite annual. Verbena bonariensis. It’s not new at all but has always been a bit tricky to grow and very tall. It’s height is one of its features but made it a bit susceptible to highwinds. Last year a new variety with more intense blue colour ansd shorter stems, Vanity, won an All America Award and I was able to grow it easily. I find it an amazing filler scattered through the perennial bed as it is in this photo. It rises above the non-flowering perennials and brightens up the whole bed. Its bright blue flowers are also a pollinator magnet, keeping the garden filled with butterflies all season. I first saw it several years ago interplanted in a bed of peach coloured Roses and the effect was stunning.

You may have noticed that this edition of “Dallying” features three Annuals. I have come to appreciate the rapidly growing variety of annuals and the many uses they have in providing continuous colour in our gardens. I am working on a new presentation about those varieties and their uses for all of the clubs that give me an opportunity to speak to them. Follow this link to see all of my presentations and just fill out the speaker request form and we will find a suitable date and topic.

If you have any gardening questions just “reply” to this newsletter and I will attempt to answer them.

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