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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #328 - There are a few truly hardy chrysantemums that might be a better
September 22, 2018

Colchicum are the magical heralds of autumn. It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather is they appear in the last two weeks of September with unfailing regularity. I’ve checked back through my photo catalogue and the dates vary from the 18th to the 26th of September and that one from the 26th was taken in Raleigh, N Carolina. The ones pictured here with the multiple smaller flowers were a double flowered variety when they were planted several years ago but the extra petals seemed to have disappeared. They are large, rather expensive, bulbs but they last for many years and multiply. I dug up a large clump of them last fall, separated them and planted them in several spots along the fence and they are all now in bloom. I spend some time showing people the difference between Colchicum and the Autumn Crocus which bloom much later. We gather the stamens of one Autumn Crocus to make Saffron and all parts of Colchicum are quite poisonous so it helps to know the difference. I was quite dismayed this week when I tried to point out the mislabeling of the Colchicum bulbs at my local garden centre and they were quite dismissive of my attempts.

Mosaiculture is an incredible show featuring about 45 larger than life sculptures that used some 5.5 million plants to make the outer covering. It’s still on in Gatineau Quebec, just across the river from the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. This is its second year and probably its last for quite some time. Oct. 15 is their last day so if you can, make the effort to see it. This sculpture, Tree of Birds, is new this year and is amazing. It features about 55 birds that are accurate representations of actual species and each one is flying off the end of a branch and probably out of this world as each is an endangered species. Not only is it a horticultural marvel it is also quite a moving testament to our world’s loss. It stands about 18 M high and it will keep you circling it observing each bird for quite some time. I was touring with my 10 year old grandson who was captivated and who was being my cameraman for the day and I have “several” pictures of it from every angle. All of the other sculptures are equally dramatic and can easily keep you engaged for a whole afternoon. It was also fascinating to both of us to watch the group of young people whose summer job it was to continually prune and trim all of those plants to maintain the various shapes and textures.

This large lump of root is something that showed up in my mailbox this week. Last spring at the Peony Festival I was the auctioneer at the Peony society’s dinner and I organized the Assistant Gardener to be the successful bidder for this hunk of Peony root. It’s arrival this week is an indication that this is the correct time of year to divide and plant Peonies. It is a piece of Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii usually known as Molly The Witch from her rather unpronounceable botanical name. Molly is a species Peony with mid sized, clear yellow, single flowers and is somewhat difficult to find and apparently a bit difficult to grow. Obviously, from the size of the root, the person who donated it to the auction was having no trouble growing it. I’ve given it a choice location where it will get lots of sun with some late afternoon shade and in well drained soil that I amended with a quantity of my compost. We’ll eagerly watch and wait next spring to see if she emerges and hopefully even blooms although that might be asking a bit much in her first year.

The first of the autumn cool season vegetables, this Pak Choi, is almost ready for the dinner table. Pak Choi is a great vegetable for the home gardener. It grows quite rapidly and lends itself to a variety of recipes. I’ll probably pick the first one next week then slice it in half and grill it, maybe coated with a little hoisin sauce. Needs only a few minutes over a low to medium grill just to slightly soften it and allow it to absorb the hoisin. There has been a little damage to some of the early leaves but I couldn’t find the culprit. I suspect the tribe of Japanese Beetles that have made my garden their home this year. They have probably gone back to my Roses. All of the other cool season veggies are thriving in the subirrigation containers and we are anticipating a delicious autumn. On the other hand all of the Eggplant have suddenly turned yellow and stopped growing. There are many small fruit to be harvested from them and we will continue to enjoy those for a couple of weeks.

This pretty pink flower has been blooming in the front bed for a few weeks. It is a hardy Chrysanthemum and will return to grace the same spot next year. The garden centres and big box stores are filled with perfectly formed Chrysanthemums at this time of year and I have been know to buy a few for my containers but they are not the least bit hardy and will give you a few weeks now and then they are done. This one in the garden is a much better investment as it is truly hardy and will return for many years. It can even be divided after a few years to give you more. A little careful pruning in the late spring will keep it in a tighter form and produce many more blooms but even left unattended it will brighten up your autumn garden for several weeks. Ignore the large displays at the front of the garden centre and wander the aisles of perennials and you should find a few of these hardy types looking for a home.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

C Asks? I planted Morning Glory in amongst our pole beans for the first time this year, and the display is beautiful! But now that seed heads are starting to appear, I'm worried about millions of unwanted morning glories next summer. Any suggestions?

Ken Answers! It depends on the Morning Glories. Heavenly Blue and a couple of similar ones will not overwinter and remain viable. The smaller flowered types usually with purple and darker flowers and somewhat hairy leaves will self seed and become a nuisance. If that's what you have then you can try to keep up with picking off the seed pods but that is a bit of a task.

Kay Asks? My son has grown these huge Zucchini over the summer. You talk about baking them. Once they are baked do you freeze them? It's knowing what to do with them. I really enjoy your newsletters & find them very interesting.

Ken Answers! I have never tried baking regular Zucchini. It is possible to cut up winter squash and freeze it raw or bake it first. I would bake a sample portion of what you have and see if the result was worth freezing. I have cut them into long sections, removed the soft seedy centre and then stuffed them and baked them.

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