Observations and propagations

4/22/2011 Super Parfait Raspberry Dianthus first bloom of the yearIt seems that both of the dianthus specimens I moved to the lily bed are Super Parfait Raspberry. I suspect that the remaining dianthus still struggling in the purple bed is also a Super Parfait Raspberry (it comes with a marker with the name Raspberry). It appears that these Super Parfaits are intolerant of heat and the harsh Texas climate. The picoteed dianthus sitting in the corner of the purple bed has escaped identification. I am uncertain about labeling it a Telstar purple picotee since I only planted it last year. It stands to reason that it is a more recent cultivar, probably a Floral Lace dianthus. However, the foliage tends toward the lighter green of chinensis, rather than the barbatus blue and this particular specimen seems to trudge uncomfortably through our hot Texas summer. However I decided to take a cutting. With luck and some rooting hormone, I hope to duplicate it.

4/22/2011 Victoria Blue salvia first bloom of the yearMy hopes of the bicolor salvia coccinea returning are fulfilled. The purple bed is dotted by dozens of seedlings. Some of them even made it into my planter boxes. I potted a few seedlings with the intention of filling some holes in the front yard beds. I can’t wait to see them bloom. Meanwhile, the first Victoria Blue salvia bloom in the front yard bed grabbed our attention. There are 3 specimens growing back from rootstock, surprising given the extreme winter weather we experienced. The Seabreeze salvia farinacea that I’m growing from seed seem less vigorous however. They are now being overshadowed by the Lady in Red coccinea plants. I suspect the Ladies will be ready for hardening in a week, while the Seabreezes continue to struggle. Perhaps I should have gone with the traditional Mealy Cup Sage seeds, which tend to have finer foliage, lower habit and vigorous nature than the Victorias or Seabreezes.

4/22/2011 Purple Flash Ornamental Pepper in the wildI was thrilled to find a seedling start of last year’s ornamental pepper, Purple Flash, growing next to the purple bed border. I am awaiting for it to get some height and strength before relocating it into position. My other ornamental pepper starts have begun to look livelier. In comparison to the Purple Flash, Calico seems a little weaker, less vigorous. The Calicos also appear less variegated in this stage, though here and there, they are flecked with white. Also timid from the start are the Jupiter sweet bell peppers. While the Thai chili peppers have grown fuller with their transfer outside, the bells have been flagging, attacked by unknown predators. I’ve planted the Red Rubin basil among them in hopes of deterring insects, but I feel I may have to resort to an insecticidal soon. Maybe I should replant the oregano and/or thyme in the bed to offer the peppers extra protection.

4/22/2011 Scented Geranium Prince RupertThe peppers aren’t the only plants under siege. The hostas again have become prime targets in the front yard shade bed. I’ve dusted the ground underneath them with Bayer Advanced multi-pest killer, but I think I had better results with Ortho’s EcoSense insecticidal spray Unfortunately, I believe the line has been discontinued, so I’m trying their Elementals line. I’ve been wishing for a companion planting of heucheras or scented geraniums that will protect the hostas, but it may already be too late since the damage is extensive. I should have begun sooner with a systemic solution.

If the scented geranium didn’t grow so tall, I would be more likely to plant them into the shade bed. But my last specimen grew up to 4 feet tall, and seem likely candidates for back of the garden planting. I’m thinking common sage might also provide some benefits, though I determined that the Tricolor I purchased last week has already displayed some damage. I’ve taken a couple of cuttings along with a Pesto Basil cutting to root and propagate under grow lights.

4/22/2011 Compact White Ballerina Gaura first wave of bloomsI’ve returned the garlic chives back indoors, and made additional sowings in all 6 of my current pots. I’ve also begun a pot of common chives. It seems the chives respond well to regulated temperatures, and keeping them under clear plastic covers has encouraged more seed starts. I’ve also laid down a thin layer of soilless mix, and they responded even better. Taking a cue from this, I spread more of the mix on top of the marigold seeds. Even though they are said to be vigorous, I’d estimate only 25-30% of the unprotected starts germinated.

The petunias respond extremely well to being uncovered for a few weeks. They struggled under the humidity dome for so long, and now they have quadrupled in size. I’m more conservative with the iceplants after losing the first batch of starts. Now that half of the crop are at least half an inch in size, I’ve put them out into the regular tray while keeping the weakest under cover.

All the seedings responded well to a lower grow light positioning. The impatiens in particular has shown remarkable growth. I’m debating on hardening them outside soon, with planting in the shade bed when they’ve grown strong. I wish the columbines were just as vigorous. It seems the red columbines tend to be more hearty than the blues; all of the reds germinated in this second run of columbines, where only half of the blues sprouted. In the garden setting, it seems that I am down to 4 of the remaining six columbines that survived the hardening period. I suspect that these are all reds as well.

4/22/2011 Oertel's Rose Yarrow first bloom of the yearFor future reference, annual phlox don’t respond well to indoor lighting. Even the specimen I brought indoors struggled under growlights, losing much of its foliage, but not its bloom power. I plan on replanting it into the blue garden, that is, if the yarrows don’t take over. The yarrows have begun to bloom; they are twice the size they were last year, and show no signs of stopping.

Alas I lost a variegated felicia, perhaps due to lack of sun. The side of the blue bed it was located in hardly received any light, though I imagine that will change with summer. I’ve been on the lookout regularly at the home improvement stores for more specimens of felicia and verbena in hopes of finding my faves again. Meanwhile, I’ve planted out one of three Blue Knoll Chrysanthemums in the blue bed. I am trying to determine space within the lines of violas to plant the other two.

Herb garden work

Despite teeter-tottering temperatures this week, the weather proved mild enough to allow some work in the herb garden during the weekend. I successfully moved all of the herbs: oregano, thyme and pineapple mint into the cinder block border. Following that, the honey raised the bed by another 6 inches (with bought topsoil, compost and leftover Calloway’s shrub mix and Scott’s garden soil). Then we planted variegated society garlic and the lavender stoechas Bella which had been sitting in a pot for some time. Hopefully the lavender will flourish behind the rosemary. Since I first bought it, the lavender blooms have been long-lasting and have shown very little signs of fading.

I am crossing my fingers that the golden oregano and hot & spicy oregano divisions will survive; I was reluctant to move the herbs since they came back this spring so vigorously. My one herb disappointment is the coconut thyme, which appears to require more moisture than the other thymes. Because of its lighter texture and habit, I suspect it may not be able to withstand the coming summer heat.

I planted peppers in the front row, alongside the rosemary: four bell peppers and two chili peppers. I am hoping they will get more circulation and sun being out of the lee of the basil plants I plan on including.

As for the basil plants, I trimmed down the Thai basils to see if that will promote more leafing. Meanwhile, the lime basil that I seeded about a week ago sprouted but were very slow to take off under grow lights. I’m thinking I should try outdoor sowing the seeds since they tend to enjoy the heat and bright lights.

I’ve taken some extra oregano divisions for more baby plantings to give away. Also I’m hoping the garlic chives will do better outdoors, but with all this cool weather we’ve been having, it seems their growth has been slow to moderate. I expect them to take off when we see steady 80-90 degree temps.

Seed my Valentine

The Burpee order arrived yesterday bringing a packet each of the Lady in Red Salvia and Dianthus Valentine. I proceeded to put out 6 Valentine seeds into the growing system. I believe I will sow the Lady in Red Salvia in 3″ pots, given the vigor of these “Texas” or Scarlet sages. Now, all that are left to arrive are the columbines, petunias and ice plant seeds from Swallowtail Gardens.

I thinned some pepper and Thai basil seedlings that I discovered that had doubled up, including the ones I intentionally increased, namely the Thai chili peppers. I am testing the hardiness of two by putting them outside the growing system into a 3″ pot. Technically, I should leave the seedling cells uncovered now, since most of them are putting out their 2nd set of leaves

Meanwhile, I was investigating the dinner trays and thinning some of the impatiens seeds. The impatiens flat needs a vent hole in the dome. Last year’s seeding venture has taught me to expect some sprouting within 7-10 days, if conditions are right. Unlike the fast-growing annuals: one of the alyssum trays is already showing 2 sprouters the 3rd day after sowing. If I had to guess, I would think the white alyssum were the first, being more vigorous than colored alyssum.

However, the biggest surprise was to find a pansy seedling. It’s been 15 days since sowing and I had seen nary a root until this morning. One of the cells hid a sprout, which I discovered while trying to home a chili seedling. So there is hope yet.

More sowing to come!