Sunday, October 30, 2005

Roses from the Santa Cruz County Fair

Cleaning off my desk today (the eternal struggle), I found the list of roses I noted from the exhibits at the Santa Cruz County Fair this year. All of these are lovely, and all are fragrant unless otherwise noted. HT is hybrid tea. SRC are the ones I starred on the list, meaning I really, really, REALLY loved them.

  • Disneyland, HT, deep rich orange

  • Sundance, HT, orange tipped

  • Michaelangelo, HT, lemon, exquisite! SRC

  • Shining Hour, HT, yellow

  • Garden Party, white, especially nice shape

  • Midnight Blue Mauve, blackish-blue (looks nicer than it sounds)

  • Othello, dark, David Austin rose

  • Gemini, no scent, white with red edges

  • Daybreaker, pink/yellow, gloriously shaded SRC

  • Flirtations, pink/yellow, ruffled SRC

  • Peppermint Twist, no scent, lovely red/white variegated

  • Purple Tiger, intensely sweet fragrance, purple/white variegated

I have photos of some, which I'll try to catch up on and post later. Somwhere I have notes on minatures and on dahlias, which are in another pile of paper somewhere! One dahlia was mentioned on this list, tacked on after the roses: 'Vernon Rose', a truly giant big-as-your-face type dahlia. Wow. Corralitos Gardens had some truly spectacular dahlias on exhibit, and I need to figure out where I can put dahlias for 2006, because I really want to grow some next year. I don't need the humungous ones, but there are scads of lovely tangerine-sized ones, which arrange well with other things.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Raised Bed Redux

Somewhere between my rapturous exploration of the possibilities of recycled-plastic raised bed kits and now, I had a bit of a revelation. I could subscribe to a pair of organic farm CSA subscriptions for a couple of years for the money I was thinking of spending on raised bed garden kits. "Oh, but they will last for years!" "They are reusable!" and so on. All true. I still want to grow what I want to grow, and I don't eat nearly enough salad to make a CSA subscription as useable as it should be. So I still want raised beds. But I should plan something more affordable, and save the money toward our little patch of land up north someday.

So today I went looking for advice on cinder block raised beds, as I think those might be affordable and easy to build, and have the advantage of holding in heat during the cooler months. In fact, I'm thinking that covering a bed or two with black plastic, and letting it drape over the sides, would really warm up the soil. The blocks are light gray, so I could leave them as-is in the summer, or make a light lime wash to whiten them for maximum reflectivity.

I was browsing today for info on building cinderblock raised beds (for my own garden) and found that a common theme was using them as affordable and sturdy accessible gardening beds. If constructed well, they can be leaned on by gardeners who may need a little extra support when standing up, for instance.

Found lots of good ideas in a cinder block garden advice request from the (fascinating!) Square Foot Gardening forum at GardenWeb. Among the excellent suggestions:

  • planting invasive plants such as mint in the holes where they can stay contained

  • growing strawberries the same way (I imagine they benefit from the warmth and from being off the ground away from snails)

  • nasturtiums and marigolds in the holes, to form a bug-repelling border

  • using concrete stain in nice colors to relieve the dull grey
  • getting cap blocks in a contrasting color instead of planting in the holes

  • using more expensive split-face block, which looks much nicer

  • lining the bed with sturdy plastic to keep it from drying out quickly

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Local Heritage in the Garden: Santa Clara Canner Tomato

On a treasure hunt for famed yellow tomato "Aunt Gertie's Gold", I found the lengthy list of seeds available from Heirloom Tomatoes (, worth a mention on its own, as neighbor for 18+ years took over site after grower passed away). Naturally, I couldn't resist reading the whole list, including many rare and little-mentioned heirloom tomatoes, and found a little bit of local history preserved: the Santa Clara Canner! The entry noted it as "Extremely solid, large deep oblate 8-10 oz red/orange beefsteaks with excellent flavor. Holds together exceptionally well when processed. Started the California canning industry.". Well! Time to do a little research!

A bit of search engine tiddlypum found further mention of this variety. Tomato Grower's classfies it as a 'late' variety (80 days from plants set in the garden), and says "Don't be fooled by the name, as this tomato is much more than just a canner. Its history suggests that it originated in Italy and was used in the California canning industry. ... large harvests ... very good, rich and complex flavor. Fruit is very juicy yet full of solid meat, making it fine for canning but just as good for eating off the vine. ..." Appalachian Seeds describes it similarly, but more succinctly: "Italian heirloom believed to be responsible for the start of the tomato canning industry in California. Smooth flavored with thick walls, these reddish orange beefsteaks are perfect for canning." (Don't be fooled by the '2002' on the top of their web catalog page, they're still around and going strong!)

Our own Santa Clara Master Gardeners' group has included the Santa Clara Canner in its annual spring plant sale for several years. This past year's entry reads, "Used in CA canning industry, juicy yet solid, very prolific, flattened rounded - large fruit. Big robust healthy plant.". Carolyn Male's "100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden" even has an entry. Gosh! Am I late to this party, or what?! Regardless, I've got seeds on the way, and this local heirloom will be a lovely part of my garden next year.

Standing in a Field of Poppies

Our faithful dry-landscape favorite, the California poppy, makes a wonderful display with such favorites as Russian sage or trailing rosemary. I've seen a couple of variants out there, creamy white or mellow pastels, but nothing too exciting. Well, I've been looking in the wrong place! Our gardening chums across the pond have taken Eschscholzia californica (Papaveraceae), given her ruffles, frills, and thrown open the wardrobe to a stunning array of colors. Wow!

So here I am, reading the new Thompson & Morgan Seed Catalog, and I see this lovely pink, cream, and gold flower on the inside cover, labelled "Eschscholzia 'Summer Sorbet'". A closer look shows "californica" and I realize "oh!". Now I'm completely rethinking my spring/summer 2006 landscaping for the front of our place. This past year, it's been a half wine barrel with ranunculus, linaria, alyssumhumble half-barrel starring various annuals from Home Depot and OSH: linaria and ranunculus in the early spring, snapdragons and viola later, and alyssum always. Now there's some bright yellow and orange calendula there, pumpkin and sun colors to combat the slowly shrinking days. I enjoy a cottage-garden type of look rather than formal landscaping, but I respect the reality of California summers and want to use minimal water. These new fancy Cal poppies may well give me exactly what I'm seeking!

Now, on to the gorgeous flowers themselves! I've linked the pix to the T&M page itself, rather than to a larger image.

These are the fancy of the fancy, lovely gradations of color, complex tones. First the rich pinks of Summer Sorbet,
Summer Sorbet Eschscholzia, a featured 'annual of the year' for 2006. I can see that going wonderfully around a plant stand with a pot of trailing 'the Wave' petunias, and probably thriving just on the watering overflow from the petunias. Can't get beyond the orange? How about dialing up the complexity with the sophisticated Apricot Flambeau? Apricot Flambeau Eschscholzia For really stunning complexity, especially to brighten up staid hedges or the now-boring green leaves of gone-by bulbs, the rich maroons and creams of Champagne & Roses will draw the eye. Champagne and Roses Eschscholzia

For those who love bright, clear, mono-colors, wait, there's something for you too! If you are tired of plain orange (lovely as it is), try the zap of adding deep apricots and flamboyant pinks with Monarch Mixed Eschscholzia Monarch Mixed, or try the yellow razzle of Eschscholzia Thai Silk Lemon Bush Thai Silk Lemon Bush.

Here we're cheating, because while this is a Papaver, it's an orientale-- T&M's new 'Fruit Punch', full of pink, rose, plum, and magenta shades. Papaver orientale 'Fruit Punch'

How I adore seed catalog time! Now on to page three. Gracious, it's going to be a long (and splendid) day.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Garden Desktop: Cosmos Closeup

Brighten up your desktop with my garden! But no commercial use, please. The photo is a link to the 1024x768 desktop wallpaper-sized version.

I've been remiss in posting garden desktops-- busy summer! Now that lots of the garden is dormant, I should have time to catch up. OK, quasi-dormant. I need to get compost this weekend from the SMaRT Center, start broccoli, plant beets and carrots, and so on. :-)

'Sonata' Cosmos, 2nd generation, growing in a large pot at our old place in San Jose. First generation was a 6-pack from OSH, 2nd generation was saved seed. I'd noticed small birds landing in the cosmos in the fall, when I'd gotten way behind on deadheading the flowers. Then I realized, "oh, the seeds must be ripe!" Cosmos seeds look like little twisted fat caraway seeds, and it's an easy plant to grow. You do have to keep removing the dead flowers if you want it to keep going, though, as once it's set seed, it's done for the year.

Sonata Cosmos Flower

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Creating a Seed Swapping Match Application

Here's where my other bloglife intersects with this one. I'm just starting to build SeedMatcher, a seed saving and swapping application based on the new Ning web application playground.

Here's the description that was too long for a simple app tag description: Facilitate swapping of heirloom vegetable and flower seeds. Use tagging to match varietals, climate zones, and other factors. Support labelling seed batches (eg custom seed packets), linking to garden journals, photos of how specific seed batches grew, recording germination trials, etc.

In other news, I painstakingly cleaned and spread out the seeds from the kabocha we cooked for Rosh Hashanah last night. It was labelled as an "Ebisi-Delicata hybrid", though it certainly looked quite blandly kabocha. The flavor is superb, though, and it has the heavy, yam-like flesh of an Ebisi type squash. I've got maybe a half-cup or more of seed, now mostly dried, and I have a germination test going in a damp paper towel between two saucers. Got my fingers crossed. The offspring of F1 hybrids can take after either parent, or be the worst of both, but these squashes are such winners that I just have to try.