Garden Notes : Magenta morning
May hurtled by while we waited for balmier weather. The gardens grew, and so did the weeds, and here we are in June, choking on pollen. Outside the iris, hesperis, and many vast Rhododendron roseum elegans cast a magenta aura. A vase of gardenias sits on my dining table, a metaphor of luxury in my house I never would have imagined. The flowers come from the plant I acquired in 1966 or 1967. A milk carton offer promised a plant for a quarter, just cut out the label, so I sent for two. The two tiny plants were quite dissimilar and one eventually bit the dust. The remaining plant has survived many ups and downs. An offspring propagated from it, planted outdoors in Chilmark, proved to be root hardy this past winter.
I paid a visit to the Community Solar Greenhouse in Oak Bluffs last week to make good on my longstanding intention to give the support of my membership to this project. Surprisingly, a wide selection of large, healthy tomato plants is still available, also beautiful peppers, eggplants, rosemary - as well as ornamentals. I left with assorted tomatoes, all of which are now installed and looking happy, their root balls planted deeply for additional stem rooting.
Gardens & cooking
The chef Amanda Hesser, in an op-ed piece in the May 31 New York Times asserts, '...cooking is to gardening what parenting is to childbirth.' I am pleased about so many new Island vegetable gardens. Some new growers will inevitably meet disappointment, but many are about to commence one of the most absorbing activities I know of, one that educates and creates opportunities for learning, cooking, eating, and sharing.
A spring narrative of our vegetable garden is the battle of the cutworm. By the time the creature has pupated and flown off as one of several species of dingy moth, the damage is long done. Moth? Now I make a knuckleheaded connection, those cutworms are caterpillars. The ah-hah moment: Bacillus thuringiensis!
Particularly difficult for me to establish are crops of Swiss chard, whether planted as plugs or direct sown. (This might be an indication of the value of Swiss chard in every garden: even cutworms recognize its nutritiousness.) I have done night patrol and constructed collars and other protection. Today I Bt (Bacillus thringiensis) almost the entire garden, instead of just the weekly application to the cole crops.
Amsonia: blue star flower
The big three - iris, peonies, and poppies - steal the show in early June perennial gardens on the Vineyard, but they need company. A less common perennial, amsonia, provides the fill-in presence, height, and icy blue color that augment the above-mentioned plants and contributes long-season interest in the garden.