The first week of May, Robbie was kind enough to harvest the last of the 'Lacinato' or 'Black Tuscan' Kale, which is a new feature in our garden and one that we'll never again be without. Delicious, gorgeous, nutritious, etc.--and easy to grow. Here's Robbie's harvest face:
We've been nose-to-the-grindstone on several design projects this summer and didn't plant a fall crop of tomatoes, but the standouts from the spring crop are in:
We planted these heirloom varieties, all raised from seeds obtained from Seed Savers Exchange: 'Crnkovic Yugoslavian'; 'Federle'; 'Beams Yellow Pear'; 'Paul Robeson'; 'Dester'; 'Italian Heirloom'; 'Hillbilly Potato Leaf'; 'Red Fig'; and 'Money Maker'.
First, the overall winner for the year: Crnkovic Yugoslavian! As described by SSE:
"Brought into the U.S. by Yasha Crnkovic, a colleague of SSE member Carolyn Male. Heavy yields of pink beefsteak fruits which weigh up to a pound each. Fruits have near perfect shoulders that almost never crack. Delicious full tomato flavor. Indeterminate, 70-90 days from transplant."
True to its reputation, this old heirloom was a knockout in the garden this year:
'Crnkovic Yugoslavian' was the outstanding workhorse of the garden this year--giant meaty fruits produced consistently through the season.
Fruits were quite large--I swear we had one up to 2 lbs, but I failed to actually weigh it--and the plants vigorous and undemanding. We only prep our soil with our homemade compost, and I add a handful of a canadian sphagnum peat/bone meal/epsom salt blend in each planting hole. From then on, they get a weekly- to bi-weekly dose of fish emulsion. That's it. 'Crnkovic Yugoslavian' is a big, meaty tomato with classic acidic tomato flavor, and produced loads of fruits right up into July.
This year saw 'Paul Robeson' fare better than in the past:
'Paul Robeson' is considered a connoiseur's tomato for its rich texture and smoky flavor.
There was some cracking, but nothing too bad. Their seductive dark coloring and succulent texture make these a variety to plant every year.
'Hillbilly Potato Leaf' started off with a bang--2 to 3 nice big fruits, each photo perfect. Production quickly dropped off when temperatures rose, and shut down completely by mid-June. Blah.
'Hillbilly Potato Leaf' looked great, and the two or three we got were, but not impressive enough to grant them real estate next year.
'Federle' was pretty decent. It was late to produce--the first fruits appeared early, but took a good while to ripen; but it produced well into July, consistently offering large fruits with very dense form and a firm, dry texture:
'Federle' has both an interesting shape and an interesting texture--almost like an apple.
We'll add 'Crnkovic Yugoslavian' to the must-have list and keep 'Paul Robeson' and 'Beam's Yellow Pear' too. Honorable mentions go to 'Italian Heirloom', who was a workhorse but gave increasingly small fruit as the temps rose, and 'Red Fig' which is basically a red version of the yellow pear. Nice, but not a must-have.
We're moving in to seeding our Kale, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, etc. in preparation for fall harvest, so check back on a report on varieties we're testing from Gourmet Seed this year.
Catching up to this post, and haven't yet gotten the professional pics in, but here are a few from the 'Sparklephene' wedding last year. Keep in mind, the couple is beyond creative, into body art, sugar skulls, and cool stuff in general, and they wanted something DIFFERENT:
Fairy Tale Manor is a beautiful antique farmhouse venue and to fit the lovely fireplace entry, we created a one-of-a-kind floral skull. We started with old saloon doors and some scrap cedar for a frame, and enameled it gunmetal silver:
From there, we built a sturdy foam panel and worked the skull out of various colors of lichen and moss, with touches of paint for shading.
The eyes are rhinestone brooches, the teeth are rhinestones, dominoes, and faux ivory beads, and the floral highlights are with orchids. It's flanked with sanded natural grapevine, candles, calla lilies, and green hanging amaranth:
Thankfully, today is supposed to be the last of the intensely hot days of summer. We ended up not planting a mid-summer crop of tomatoes, which I'm now thankful for not having to water, but we had a bumper crop in early summer. We grow all of our tomatoes from seed as part of the ClubCorp Charity Classic Plant Sale, and keep an informal trial approach to what performs best. These were the heroes this year:
This is a fantastic, relatively hard-to-find old heirloom with outstanding rich flavor, strong growth, and consistent productivity. It produced large, gorgeous dark fruits that stood out from all of the others.
As indicated by the photo, these were a bit more prone to cracking, but that was due more to drenching spring rains followed by bone-dry baking--and my failure to mitigate the steep decline in time. Still, these are gorgeous, rich fruits of a nice medium size, excellent for slicing, and very productive. Very heat tolerant.
These unusual little beauties are gorgeous AND flavorful. The one negative comment I heard was how thick-skinned the fruit is--they can be a bit tough, especially the later fruit produced in higher heat. Still, they are out-of-this-world productive, and look beautiful in salad. Definitely a keeper.
Again, one that was more prone to cracking, but see above as to why--I take the blame. These were productive, but fruit size was negatively correlated to temperature. The earlier fruit was large and plentiful, dropping off as the time went by. Still, I can't say enough about how delicious these are--it's the sweetest tomato I've ever tried, and I eat while I pick, straight off the vines.
Of the 38 varieties we grew at the farm this year, these were easily the top five, and each was a new treat. Oldies-but-goodies remain 'Yellow Pear'--one that we can't live without for it's astounding abundance of delicious, pear-shaped tiny fruits produced in pendulous clusters. 'Principe Borghese' was another great new addition this year; it's an heirloom Italian sauce tomato that produced very heavily.
On the other hand, the worst performers were 'San Marzano', 'Roma', 'Pink Brandywine', and 'Mortgage Lifter'. They're all great varieties, but for whatever reason, they didn't work for us this year. Granted, this is our first year on this land, and caring for soil organically yields long-term benefits that multiply as the years go by--so I expect we'll have varying results with next year's trials.
While we're on the topic of trials, even though they're not tomatoes: the best peppers were 'Greek Pepperoncini'--an ASTOUNDING producer of crisp, flavorful little delicacies that lend themselves perfectly to pickling; 'Pasilla Bajillo'--a Mexican Mole pepper that took all season to reach size and color, but look beautiful; and by all accounts the best of them all:
NuMex Joe E. Parker Chile Pepper, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, again via North Haven Gardens seed selection in their store: I can't say enough about them. They're delicious with a nice kick fresh off the bush, but these lush, giant chiles were astronomically enhanced by the grill-roast-and bag-steam method. We will have these every year as long as we grow.
In closing, here's a photo from early July, of a single morning's pickings:
This weekend, we're seeding broccoli, cabbage, chard, kale, carrots, spinach, and lettuce, and let's hope they all do as well!
So far, I've failed at my attempt to keep up with the post-per-week commitment I thought I'd made...with pictures, though, I've done a bit better. Here are several photos of blooming meadow plants over the past month and a half, and a few of the visitors they've attracted. This is important to me, as it's interesting to keep up with how our small piece of land changes through the seasons, and we're nearly at the year mark (July).
We had lots of Green Milkweed, Asclepias viridis, and it's one of my favorites. It's on to seed now, and making it's large, characteristic seed pods:
And attracting a crowd of little occupants, some of whom didn't appreciate having their picture taken:
I was really, really excited to find Baptisia alba blooming; I'd found loads of plants in seed before but hadn't seen it blooming in person. We have about four patches of this lovely legume coming up across the meadow:
Loads of Drummond's wild onion, Allium drummondii, all over, with scores of visitors every day. They've gone to seed now, but I'm already looking forward to them next year:
In our native seed mix, which only partially made an appearance due to the fact that we didn't till or prep in any way other than mowing, we had some interesting Phlox, most of all this one:
And scores upon scores of Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, which really brought on the butterflies. Here it is with an Oak Hairstreak, Satyrium favonium, butterfly visiting:
And again with a Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui:
Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa, attracted tons of butterflies, especially large Swallowtails. It's a nuisance non-native plant introduced as a productive covercrop, but it's certainly beautiful when blooming in large masses:
This caterpillar caught my eye while I was croutching down to photograph a butterfly nearby--I'm a big fan of cool camouflage strategies, and this was a great one:
We had lots and lots of Variegated Fritillary butterflies, Euptoieta claudia:
And we're still seeing Eastern Commas, Polygonia comma:
I think this one is a Southern Dogface, Colias cesonia, but welcome corrections from those who know--I'm relatively new at Butterfly ID:
Now, we're enjoying masses of wild Rose Gentian, Sabatia campestris:
But MOST exciting of all was the discovery of Lady's Tresses Orchids, Spiranthes cernua, naturalized throughout the meadow, with new patches discovered in several places over the last two weeks:
Very, very nice! I've taken about 300 photographs, but all having been via the camera in my phone, they're a bit lacking--this is the best I have managed.
Well, at least I'm a bit caught up, but there's certainly more. We have several completed projects and weddings that I need to get up, too, so there's plenty more to come.
Now THESE are tulips! This is the second-blooming of the three tulip hybrids in 'Threedom'--a blend from Colorblends bulbs. They've been blooming for over three weeks, and there's still a third to come.
These are as large as my hand, and "peony style" --they have multiple petals. Gorgeous form, amazing color, and even a bright, fresh citrusy fragrance.
Planting a vegetable garden this year? It's peak time for planting tomatoes, and in light of this, we're offering our organically-grown @ Brookhaven Tomato plants for pre-sale ahead of this year's ClubCorp Charity Classic Plant Sale, April 5th through 8th.
Check out this Excel Doc for a full list of the 33 varieties we've grown and have available for $2.50 each in quart sizes. All proceeds benefit MDA Augie's Quest, The Family Health Center, and the Employee Partner Care Foundation.
We have some fairly rare and hard-to-find varieties as well as some tried-and-true favorites. Check them out and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase. Quantities are limited!
After a mild winter, spring is here and everything is beginning to burst forth in bloom! Here are a few quick pics from around the farm and club:
These wild-type Tulips are called 'Honky Tonk' (T. clusiana) and are blooming beautifully in our perennial border, where they should have a decent chance of naturalizing.
California Poppy (Escholtzia californica) preparing to dazzle with color. We seeded these last fall, and they're growing rampantly! They're annual, but vigorously re-seed themselves, which we'll welcome in our large areas.
'Thalia' Daffodils from North Haven Gardens--all of the daffs we planted last fall are in a perfect area for naturalizing, and we hope these lovely white beauties return for many years.
My newest favorite daffodil:
This is a closeup of an heirloom daff, 'W.P. Milner' that dates back to 1869. He's a small plant, only up to about 6-7" in bloom, but so lovely and long-lasting. These are in a great naturalized grouping and we'll look forward to them carpeting the area as they continue to spread.
Tulip blend 'Sultans of Spring' showing off at Brookhaven's pool complex, a fantastic spring display.
Tulip 'Blue Diamond' just passing its peak in some large bowls at the pools.
These 'Parrot Blend' Tulips from ColorBlends bulbs are among my favorites we used this year. Neatly fringed with Sweet Alyssum, they made these cast iron urns look like flaming torches from a distance.
This is probably my favorite time of the year as a gardener...of course, spring and summer are fantastic, too, but late winter is hard to beat. By this time, plant geeks like me are salivating over plant and seed catalogs and rearing to get out in the garden and dig. During February, I need two things: a huge windfall of spending money and the ability to clone myself at least a dozen times. My head is full of plans, concepts, projects, to-do lists, and add-on ideas that flow ceaselessly forth throughout the day--and often, at night. One idea is rarely fully formed before five more have appeared. I can picture right now three of the five arbors I want to build (their designs evolve continually) at least six dozen different bird and mason bee houses I'm wanting to make, endless deck configurations, four hundred (at least) plants that jostle for first-place on my 'must get soon' list, several dozen fruit trees I already wish were added to our newly planted orchard, and on, and on, and on.
Oh, and the soil preparations--for those of us installing new planting spaces into native soil, winter is the *best* time to build, enrich, and cultivate the soil in a slow, healthy way. Sure, you can dump your amendments, till and plant all in a day...but when possible, it's best to start slowly, add a bit at a time, turn the soil gently, and allow the natural process to occur at a more natural rate. Let the organic matter and native soil get to know each other and blend, rest, turn, and allow weed seeds to germinate a few times before they're turned under again. I hate tilling mechanically--it's lovely in the short-term, but can actually damage soil structure--particularly when it's done too quickly or when the soil is wet--and should be done as little as possible. So, at this time of year, you'll find me nearly every afternoon turning over spadeful after spadeful of soil out in the veggie plots. Planting time is just around the corner, and it's coming along steadily.
A few discoveries recently in the meadow:
A nice patch of native Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, at the edge of the woods where it's enjoying a bright patch of sun. We'll transplant some of this into perennial spaces and leave a good bit behind to grow naturally.
A lovely Goldenrod, possibly either Solidago canadensis or S. altissima, but it's in plentiful supply along the edges where meadow meets woods.
Two roses I propagated for addition to various locations at the farm: I haven't been able to positively identify either, but they've been part of the plantings at Brookhaven for decades, and I've been meaning to get cuttings for years. Finally, late last summer, I got some and they've done very well--I'll transplant them this weekend:
This is my favorite rose on our grounds here--it matures to a creamy, honey-yellow color, but looks like a lantern lit from within when it's buds are young. The scent is actually slightly lemony, too--it's a tough rose, growing and blooming reliably in a fairly unhospitable and rarely tended location. Irma, my grounds forewoman, was instructed to cut it out by the roots years ago by the Horticulturist at that time--thankfully, she disobeyed those directions, and hid the cut back canes with a thick layer of mulch--and saved this rose's life. Good ol' Irma.
Looks like a fairly simple pink rose, right? While the color might be fairly common, it's vigor is special--this rose forms a shrub up to 8' in height with a slight fountain-like habit. It's not a climber--I feel sure--but the trunks can be 4" in diameter or more and it forms a dense thicket. It's smothered with blossoms from March through November, and produces loads and loads of sweet hips each year. I can't wait for my yearlings to mature. Again, not positively identified, so input is welcome!