Sunday, January 30, 2011


Cinnamon.... or Not

There has been some discussion lately on one of the Lists I read about using cinnamon to deal with fungi, algae and other such nasties in seedpots. The first thing that got my attention is that the cinnamon you buy at the grocery store is not cinnamon. Apparently it's a mix of cassia and other things finely ground, with a bit of cinnamon oil added. Apparently real cinnamon is very sharp and not a bit like what we like in our apple pies. Who knew? Anyway, even the stuff I have in my spice rack is supposed to kill algae. I've just sprinkled tiny pinches of it on the surface of the fern tray that is currently suffering an algae attack. We'll see what happens!

Seed-starting Mix

Mixed up another large batch of  mix for seed-starting. I bought all the bags of African Violet Soil the garden store had, plus a large bag of vermiculite and several bags of what they call 'Seed Starting Mix' which is really just finely ground peat moss and perlite. I mixed everything together in a large plastic feed bin. These bins are sold at the Farm Supply and are great for lots of things. They're about the size of large garbage pails, but shorter and wider, have polyprop rope handles, and are made of quite sturdy plastic. Unfortunately they don't come with lids, but most of the time that doesn't matter. I have several parked behind the house right now and I dump my kitchen compostables in them while the snow is too deep for me to get to the real compost pile. In the spring it will be easy to wheelbarrow them to the pile and dump them. Anyway, my super mixture filled the feed bin. I watered it a bit and covered it with a piece of plywood, and I'm ready to fill pots for seeds or transplanting seedlies. Some of my ferns are ready to go into larger pots so that will be today's entertainment.

Commercial seed-starting mixes tend to be all peat and additives, and I find it doesn't work well for me. The mix itself soon separates into a thick layer of dry peat on top of a potful of smelly wet whatever, with, of course, a dead plant in the middle.  I did hear that the mixes contain wetting agents which are supposed to solve this problem, but some of my seedlies and fern babies need to stay in their pots for months, and the wetting agents only work for a few weeks. Might be true. In any case, I have found I have much better success with African Violet Soil mixed with some inorganics. Used to be able to get a product called Turface which is a lot like ground-up terra-cotta pots, but I can't get any this year. It was heavy, which helped keep small pots from tipping over, and it helped a lot with drainage. I'm hoping the vermiculite will do that. Perlite works, but floats too much.

Toronto Gardens

Found a great blog! It's two sisters writing about their gardening life in the East Toronto area. I've listed it on the side under Toronto Gardens - take a look. It's so good I even signed up as a follower!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January Chill

It's been pretty cold for the last couple of days. Minus 27C and supposed to get even colder tonight. Brrrr. But it's not cold in the plant shed! It was a treat to go up there this afternoon and inspect the orchids, several of which are coming into bloom for the first time.I bought them as small plants at the Ottawa Orchid Show in 2009. I can't afford the large plants and anyway I would worry about killing them as I don't have that much experience with orchids. The fun part of buying seedlings is that you never quite know what you are going to get, and you could get something really nifty, but of course the down side is that it is equally possible that what you'll get will be something dull. I bought six, and all of them have grown well. One bloomed in December with a gorgeous, and very large, white flower with a yellow lip. I've managed to lose the label so can't tell you the name, but it was some sort of Catleya cross. Today there is a similar one with several large frilly lemon yellow blooms just starting to open, and these two:

Slc. Hsin Buu Lady
Lctna. Lawless Gloriana

The red one is a bit twisted on the stalk, just like the leftmost of the yellow flowers. Not sure what causes this. I tried not to change the plants' orientation once the flower buds appeared, but maybe I did. Or maybe they will still straighten out, or maybe it is because this is their first flowering and they will be better next time. Anyway, they were a nice treat on a cold day!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Newish Year

First, Dear Reader, Happy New Year! All the Best to you for 2011! May all your garden favourites flourish... may the weeds take a breather.... may it rain when you need it... all those good things I wish for you in the coming year!

Well, it's been busy around here. I took a couple of weeks off over Christmas (off from work, not from thinking about plants) and between the naps, cups of tea, sudoku puzzles, naps, snacks, more puzzles, more cups of tea, rests and so on, I'm just about worn out.

Luckily, seeds are arriving soon. I've ordered all I could from both the North American Rock Garden Society  and the Alpine Garden Society. Some will be the quick germinating sorts, which I won't start until later, but the others I plan to pot up and put on the floor in the plant shed, which I used to call my greenhouse but which is now too dilapidated for that name, to stay cool for a couple of months. It stays pretty close to 40F down there and is pretty dark. Then in early April I'll put them up where they'll be warmer and hopefully they'll germinate. Can't offhand remember what I asked for, but I'm sure they'll be interesting. I know some Solidagos are coming, and two Violas (lanceolata and Selkirki) which I have been looking for.

Now these violets illustrate a problem. I want to have them, because they are known to be native to my area. But if I get seeds from, as in this case, Britain, they won't be the local form. Does this matter? I feel it does, so will keep these violets, should I get them to grow, in the cultivated garden and not let them into the woods. Some day I may get the local forms, and those I will allow in the wild area.

Amaryllis are starting. I have a huge new one coming on in the Studio. It's called 'Bolero', and is the biggest 'Ryll I've ever seen. The stem is a good 3' tall and the flowers are 10" across and there were 5 on the first stem. The second one is just opening and promises 5 more. A photographic challenge for sure! Of course I have too many Amaryllises. It started with buying one for Christmas, then somebody gave me one, then a friend said, 'Ah, Lis likes Amaryllis' and gifted me with several more.... before I knew it there were over 50 of them. Of course I had to purchase a few of the really nifty ones, too. 'Giraffe', for example, is so different it's a hoot. One mistake I made last summer: I planted several bulbs of the same varieties together in large pots, thinking I'd have a great show. Unfortunately, the bulbs went dormant at different times, creating a watering problem, and now they are re-starting at different times. One of three in one pot is about a foot high while the other two are rock-solid dormant. Won't do that again!