Back to Back Issues Page
Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #384 - The no mildew Impatiens were a great success.
September 12, 2021

Yes, It’s been a while. Dallying has not disappeared it just took a break and that’s because I did something I haven’t done in years. I took a holiday away from the garden in the middle of the summer. Newfoundland is a glorious place to visit and even more so when our whole family is gathering for our son’s wedding. My favourite picture of the whole affair is 10 of our 13 grandchildren sitting in a row and all dressed up for the occasion. The two English girls could not travel here because of Covid and the eldest is fighting forest fires in B.C. and was a touch busy this summer. How did the weeds know that we weren’t at home watching them so that they could grow even faster??

This picture is obviously not the grandchildren but rather the seed pods of Clematis aromatica which are arguably more delightful than the flowers especially if you can catch them with some great backlighting. It’s a shrubby type of Clematis that will be cut back to the ground each year and allowed to climb this ancient gate that is placed in the garden just for it. It’s not quite shrubby enough to stand without some support. This issue of Dallying will be a bit longer than usual to try and catch up on the many things that have been happening in the garden.

Autumn brings harvest time and this year was a good year for Squash. All four varieties produced well, some better than others. We like a squash with a good rich flavour and we are slowly trying each type to see which ones we prefer. The yellow Acorn, Goldilocks was a 2021 All America winner but it was not our favourite. Nice compact plant with a high yield but the flavour was a bit mild for our tastes. All is not lost, it will make a nice soup with maybe a bit of curry added. If you have limited space it is a great choice. All of these Squash are sitting on the deck in the sunshine curing so that they will last longer in the basement over the winter. We like our Squash but would prefer not eating it 20 nights in a row.

Now! If you are looking for a plant that is hardy and thrives everywhere you don’t want it to, then try my arch enemy, Perennial Sow Thistle, Sonchus arvensis . I carefully pulled out as much as I could of this invader, knowing that I was leaving behind lots of deep roots. I let it regrow to this size and sprayed it with Roundup and went on that holiday. This is how good it looks after the holiday. A second attack with the Roundup now seems to be killing off most of it but I will have to start cutting and digging some more before I can declare this bed free of this persistent pest. This is, of course, the one bed in the front yard that I’m planning to keep as I downsize and eliminate many of the others. Continual removal of the above ground green shoots will, in theory, also wear out the roots regenerative properties, so I will keep on pulling.

There’s always a new mystery in the garden. This year it is Sunflowers. I did not plant any this year or last year, but, there were several spots where clumps of Sunflower seeds germinated and grew as a clump like the one in the picture. Where did those seeds come from and why were they in clumps. I can accept that a bird might have dropped one from the feeder but surely birds don’t bury them in clumps. Would a squirrel or chipmunk manage to defeat the squirrel proof feeder, yes, and then grab a mouthful of seeds and bury them in one location? We will continue to enjoy those Sunflowers while always wondering how they got there.

These little flashes of pink caught my eye the other day as I was walking past this garden. I stopped and realized that they were the seeds in the opened seed pods of my species Peony Molly the Witch. Now I have a dilemma. The curious horticulturist is intrigued by these seeds and the possibility to germinate and grow them. The aging gardener who is trying to downsize is reading the instructions for growing Peonies from seed and wondering if he wants to undertake what is probably a five year process to get a flowering plant. Soak in water for a few days, a few months in damp peat moss in the fridge, then into some warmth and look for roots to emerge, then transplant and let them develop for the next 3 - 4 years. I can tell you that they are now in the fridge.

In a strange garden year, here is another interesting piece. The Brussels Sprouts that are growing in the subirrigation containers did not thrive this year but these ones planted into the soil are huge. That green rod for the fence is almost a metre tall and the Sprouts are clearly well passed that height. Each leaf axil has a lovely little Sprout developing and we eagerly anticipate their first presence on our dinner plate. That, of course, won’t happen for another month as they really appreciate a light frost or two. That frost tells the plant that winter is coming and it starts to turn its starches into sugars to help the plant survive the winter and just incidentally makes them a much tastier vegetable. A little hollandaise sauce never hurts either.

And here is another mystery? I tried one, Imara x, of the two new varieties of mildew resistant Impatiens and they grew well, with no sign of that horrible downy mildew. The mystery is in the size of the growth in these two adjacent pots. They almost touch each other but as you can see one is much larger then the other. They are positioned such that one is in almost full sun, the shorter one and the taller one is around the other side of the post and gets noticeably less sun. The bright sun obviously keeps the plants thriving but with much shorter internodes while the slightly shaded one is stretching a bit to reach that reduced sun. A couple of other pots that are in heavier shade did grow reasonably well but not nearly as full as either of these two. My unscientific conclusion is that whatever they did to introduce the disease resistance also made them slightly happier with some increased sunlight. I will continue to put Impatiens back into my regular list of annuals for shade but won’t hesitate to also grow them with lots of sunshine.

I have become quite comfortable doing my presentations on Zoom and one of the big advantages is the ability to speak to groups that are too far away to travel to. I will admit to missing the feel of a live audience but we will continue to Zoom to your meetings as long as we have to. Maybe the long distance capability will be one of the few positive things to develop out of this pandemic. If your group is looking for a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker, check out my web site’s, speaker page.

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.

Claire Asks? When is the best time of year to transplant Peonies?

Ken Answers! The short answer is NOW. Peonies can stay in one location for 30+ years but if your changing garden needs to have one moved then anytime between now and the end of October is the perfect time. I just dug up Paula Faye, a short semi double pink, from one of the gardens I’m trying to eliminate and have a few extra pieces that I might be persuaded to part with for $10 if you can come and get them.

Back to Back Issues Page