Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Triumph and Tragedy

Better late than never?  I try to cover all the highs and lows at the end of the week but time is slip slip slipping away from me.  Here we are Wednesday already.

Regardless of date the garden continues on its merry way.  I have been ignoring the flower bed behind the garage as I've been busy working on other areas.  A quick look this week told me I had better pay more attention.  The exceptionally exuberant plume poppy has expanded its reach and needs to be chopped back and the weeds are putting up a strong showing too.  Unfortunately the hollyhocks are not doing as well.


Yellow spots are decorating the emerging leaves, a sign of rust that will eventually defoliate the plants.  I thinned out the hollyhocks back in October hoping more air circulation between the plants would help.  I also cut back all the affected leaves and disposed of them in the garbage.  However, it looks like it was in vain.  I worry about this virus spreading to other plants and I really don't like dealing with sickly plants so I will be pulling these plants in the near future.  The question of what to replace them with has been hovering in the back of my mind.  I placed a Veronica in this area late last summer but it didn't survive the winter.  The pow wow white echinacea I also planted is alive but not thriving.  Triumphantly mother nature decided to solve the problem for me.


Funny things happen in a compost pile and when you put compost on a flower bed even funnier things occur.  There are baby lupines like the one pictured above scattered throughout the bed growing happily alongside the plume poppy and in between the hollyhocks.  I could not have thought of a better combination myself.

The warm weather we have been receiving lately has really moved the season along at a quick pace.  The strawberry plants I put in last year are now blooming profusely with the promise of red berries to come.


We were in for a shock though this week when the temperatures started to dip and the weatherman told us a frost was forecast!  Panic stricken I ran home and recruited Jody to help me bundle up the garden for the night.


A frost would kill all the precious strawberry blooms and that would mean no fruit.  This large orange tarp was used to cover up the strawberry bed and various pieces of wood were used to hold it down.  (and yes, if you look closely we also used gutters.  We still haven't finished putting them all back up on the house).

In addition to tarps we used blankets, buckets, juice jugs, pots - whatever we could find we grabbed to cover up tender plants.  Ironically I had been frantically planting tomatoes the day before thinking I was late getting them in the ground.

There's even an overturned laundry sink protecting plants.
Rocks - and tires - were used to weight things down so the wind didn't blow the covers off.
The following day I was scrambling to cover tomatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, and basil so they wouldn't freeze.


This red glass vase was turned upside down and placed over a cucumber to protect it from the cold.  Dirt was mounded around the edges to keep out the cold and keep the vase from tipping over.

Also a worry was the apple orchard.  The trees have begun to bloom and a cold snap could destroy the flowers.  With no flowers to pollinate there's no chance for apples to form.


There's no blanket big enough to cover this old tree so we simply had to wait it out and hope for the best.  Luck was with us as the frost never did occur.  It was a lucky miss for many many farmers as strawberries, blueberries, pears and apples are all blooming right now.


Thankfully we get to enjoy the sweet scent of apple blossoms for a few more days to come.

24 comments:

  1. I'm so glad everything was safe from the almost-frost. :o) I'd pull the hollyhock, too. I'm going to have to cut down a small rose with never ending black spot. I don't love it enough to spend every minute spraying it and it's already infected other bushes.
    Do delphiniums grow well in your area? They are super cold hardy and tall enough to replace the hollyhock. Here's another idea - make a bean teepee and grow an annual vine up it while you decide what to stick in that spot. :o)

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    1. Tammy, what an idea! I received purple beans as a gift this year and wanted to plant them just cause I thought the purple blooms would be fabulous. This might be just the spot.

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  2. You know M...so many plants are far more hardy than I ever gave them credit for! Go with your instinct first....then, listen to the weatherperson. I loved the red glass over cuke..a wise choice.

    I did a few mutterings about plume poppy in an earlier comment ..was it with you? It is wonderful but...watch out..it can be invasive..but oh so beautiful.

    Nothing like apple blossom time heh...the scent...spring is here!!

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    1. That plume poppy is certainly aggressive, one reason I stuck it behind the garage. It really needs its space. The runners seem easy to pull up though so I'll hang on a while yet, the leaves are just too pretty.

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  3. I love your impromptu crop protection measures! And am very glad they were not necessary in the end, would be so sad not to have any apples. Shame about your hollyhocks, but I am with you when it comes to dealing with diva plants that refuse to thrive, and your self-sown solution sounds lovely.

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    1. It was quite hilarious seeing all those containers turned over, I had to get a picture, but what a lot of work trying to find enough items to cover up the plants!

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  4. What a relief about the frost. Yes, my Hollyhocks went the way of the dinosaurs because of rust. It's sad; I love that good old fashioned flower.

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    1. Sandy, I love them too. I remember hollyhocks as a kid so have a soft spot for them. but dealing with rust is just too frustrating.

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  5. Hollyhock is forever getting rust, you wonder how the species ever survived without gardeners. Lucky the frost missed your apples. We have been fortunate here to avoid frost, but the days were exceedingly hot last week. That brought the insects in droves. I am never as fortunate as you with my compost heap. I only get the weeds to take root, not the flowers that seeded I would want. You are right, that really is a pretty combo by happenstance.

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    1. Donna, I get plenty of weeds in the compost too but always seem to have a few oddities that I'm never sure where they came from. I can't remember putting lupines in the compost but I must have? Last year I had squash appear out of the compost but they resembled nothing we've eaten so not sure where that came from either. Is it just me or do hollyhocks seem more susceptible to rust now than they did years ago?

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  6. Marguerite I'm glad the frost didn't visit but it's good to be ready just incase, the apple blossom looks beautiful, shame about the hollyhocks but nice to have a replacement, Frances

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    1. as it turns out some blueberry farmers did get frost I hear. We got lucky as we're in a low spot and usually get colder temperatures. Glad I didn't lose my tomatoes though, that would have been devestating after growing them on the last couple months.

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  7. Did I tell you that most of the apple trees in Ontario were affected by a flash freeze a few weeks ago?? No apple crop this year, millions and millions of dollars lost - it's so sad. They bloomed way too early this year - spring came very early and we all enjoyed the lovely weather but it totally screwed up the trees and plants. I've heard it's gotten cold out east again, hopefully it won't last long!

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    1. Jane, I had no idea. That's awful. Farming is such a tricky business, there's just no way to prevent something like that. At least for us the apples are just personal use so it wouldn't really have been a great loss. I was more worried about the strawberries.

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  8. This seems late for a frost. So glad it never materialized! The apple tree is beautiful. Funny about your compost. I noticed something growing in mine the other day - I think it was an avocado pit!

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    1. It really is late for a frost. Our last frost date was over a week ago I believe so this was a big surprise.

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  9. I had rust on some of my Malva sylvestris. Ended up just pulling it all out.
    Glad you were able to cover everything, what a task!!

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    1. Malva is in the hollyhock family so yes it would get rust too. I have malva on other parts of the yard and it hasn't been affected but it's one reason why I want to pull the hollyhock. I really don't want that spreading.

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  10. I'm glad the frost didn't come after all. But, other than the apple tree, you were certainly prepared--talk about using everything but the kitchen sink...wait a minute, you did use a sink:)

    I've had problems with rust on my hollyhocks in recent years, too. I had so many that had been here for years; sadly, their numbers are dwindling.

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    1. LOL - yes I finally found a use for that old laundry sink we pulled out of the bathroom we remodeled!

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  11. I'm glad the frost never materialized. Whenever I see our fruit trees blooming, especially early in the season, I always hold my breath when cold overnight temperatures are forecast. It doesn't take much to set them back when they're in bloom. I love your assortment of plant protectors. The red glass vase is especially fancy. In an uptown garden catalog they'd label it a "cloche" and charge a fortune for it ;)

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    1. Clare I'm laughing but you're right, that gorgeous red 'cloche' would be a high priced item! Early blooming fruit trees are tricky. I've thought of planting pear trees here a few times but am wary of it due to late frosts. Pears bloom even earlier than apples and there would be a high probability of late frosts ruining the blooms.

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  12. Lupine will look wonderful in your garden. It's one of those plants that I've always wanted to grow, but it just doesn't like my conditions. I'll have to enjoy yours instead. :-) -Jean

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    1. What a shame Jean, I would have thought they would grow easily in Maine as I imagine the climate is very similar. In fact there are so many lupines growing wild here that it seems a bit silly to keep them in the garden. They will however combine beautifully with the plume poppy and obviously the conditions are right so I'll let them be.

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