Sunday, November 18, 2012

heirloom bulbs from Old House Gardens

I came upon Old House Gardens while researching for next year's plantings. A couple of things appealed to me about OHG.

*User friendly format/website.
*Friendly, honest, and knowledgeable.
*The descriptions and photos of the flowers they offer are extremely helpful.
*Quantities generally start small depending on the flower, which is perfect for me.
*Ordering is easy.

Despite TH having warned me to not over do it with the plantings, I selected a few more bulbs to grow on the balcony. And seeing as I was not limited to buying 10 or more in a pack, I was not worried about over planting next year as I did during my first year.

With that said, I'm really excited about planting the bulbs I got from Old House Gardens. Firstly, they're super nice and professional regarding customer care. They kept me informed at each step of the my order being processed. Secondly, I love that they send and include handwritten letters. It just makes the relationship personable, and I appreciate these things.

The bulbs arrived safely and carefully packed in the box! The bulbs are packaged in brown paper bags with the description stapled to each bag. The lily bulbs was packaged in a plastic bag with some wood shavings. A kind hand written note was included along with planting instructions and a copy of their color catalog though more bulbs are offered online.

My order included the following:
(photos and description are from the Old House Garden website)

The Black Parrot tulip. I've seen other photos of the Black Parrot from other online bulb sellers but this one cried out to me. I thought this would be nice addition to the black and white theme for the balcony garden.

"The best parrot tulip of the 20th century and dramatic enough to be showcased on the covers of both Martha Stewart Living and Horticulture, ‘Black Parrot’ is a dark, glossy maroon, exuberantly ruffled and frilled."

Orange Favorite tulip. And then I saw this and the black and white theme balcony garden went out the window. Another parrot tulip with beautiful and complimentary colors.

"This deliciously fragrant flower is “one of the best of all tulips,” writes Anna Pavord in her monumental Bulb, although it’s “not for the faint-hearted.” (Does that sound like a challenge?) Its “exceptionally long” buds open into “stupendous,” glossy, ruffled blooms of orange feathered with wisps of rose and green."

Florentine tulip. I could not resist getting a few of these adorable yellow tulips. I love how the outer petals curl at the tips. The description certainly helped to seal the deal!

"Violet-scented and informal, this charming wildflower has small, yellow, almond-shaped flowers that nod in bud and then open wide in the sun."

Coral Lily. While browsing through OHG's website, I saw these cute lilies and I just had to have this in our garden!

"...this pixie lily has glossy, red-to-orange flowers that are bright but never gaudy."

And, I was pleased to learn in their recent newsletter that they would be including extra bulbs to orders that are shipped to areas affected by Super Hurricane Sandy. My package arrived with an extra bag of Brilliant Star tulip bulbs. I'm really looking forward to planting them and seeing them bloom!

"Its glossy red petals are pointed, giving it a star-like form, and when they open wide in the sun to reveal their bright yellow and black center, the effect is truly “grand, rich, and dazzling” "

I would definitely return to Old House Gardens in the future for spring planting flowers. They have a great selection. The prices are reasonable in my opinion. I recommend going to them if you're seeking some beautiful and unique flowers to grow in your garden especially if you want to set yourself apart from your neighbors.

The sequence of the photos are in the same order as they were packaged in the photo above.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

preparing for winter and spring

I ordered some bulbs from Brent and Becky's Bulbs:

tulipa 'Paul Scherer'
Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc'
Hyacinthus orientalis Fairly White
Iris-dwarf 'Pauline'
Brent and Becky's Bulbs are one of few vendors who sell bulbs in small quantities, and the prices are reasonable too. They have a great collection of flowers to choose from especially for tulips and irises. My orders arrived relatively fast so I was pleased. The bulbs are carefully packaged in plastic netted pouches with labels of the flowers which can be used as a garden label to remind you what you've planted. It came with clear planting instructions, and I got a catalog too!

When I finally got around to planting them, I layered some of the bulbs . I planted the bulbs in one of the Root Pouch containers. I layered the bulbs so the container will hopefully continue to flower from early spring into summer. I learned about this from a YouTube video that explained layering bulbs in a container.

I also tidied up the balcony. Most of the tomato plants have been tossed. Only Root Pouch containers filled with potting mix remain. Empty Root Pouches will be tossed into the washing machine.

The mini rose bushes are doing very well and continue to grow and produce flowers. Despite their growth and flowering, they continue to be plagued by green aphids. I am diligent about brushing them off the rose buds, which seems to be where they like to cluster or at new growth. I also spray the bushes down with an organic product that also contains neem oil. It seems to be more effective in ridding the mini rose bushes of the fungal infection it was having. The aphids don't like the spray and eventually die but return.

I noticed one of the galore punk strawberry plants have produced runners. I plucked them off and planted them in separate pots with used potting mix. One runner had small roots while another had longer roots. I have two pots with strawberry plant offshoots. Looking forward to next spring.

photos of the flowers used in this post is from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

pickled with pickling

The tomato plants continued to produce fruit into October even though the temperatures were cooking down. Though the plants had tomatoes, they were green and given the cool temperatures, I doubt they would ripen.

I had read one of my favorite blogs that I follow, Garden Betty, and she wrote about pickling her green tomatoes. I thought it was a great way to make use of the green tomatoes from the balcony garden.

I collected the green tomatoes from the plants and pickled them during the first weekend in October. I used the basic brine recipe from Garden Betty. I also followed her instructions for a curry flavored brine. And I made my version of a garlicky and hopefully spicy brine by using one of the cayenne peppers in each half quart jar. And I also had enough to make a Thai inspired brine using the lemongrass from the balcony garden and the rest of the cayenne peppers.

After a month in the fridge, I tried them. To my delight, my first time pickling was a success. They tasted pretty damn good if I say so myself. The green tomatoes still had a crunch and a snap to it. The brine mellowed out. It wasn't too salty and the flavored vinegar permeated the green tomatoes.

TH also liked them!

I must say that the curry flavored pickled green tomatoes were okay. It has a peculiar taste but I think it has to do with the curry powder I used. I think I will have to use a different or higher quality curry that compliment the green tomato and try pickling again with curry powder.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

planting for spring 2013

I was busy with the balcony garden, getting ready for next year. I planted the tulip bulbs I got from the farm; white tulips. I also planted the bearded Dutch irises too; Immortality (white) and Michigan Pride (yellow with a deep reddish orange accent). I also planted the pansy seeds too!

I have more bulbs to plant like the crocuses and irises i started the balcony garden with. I also plan to acquire more tulip bulbs. Not sure where else I can find tulip bulbs sold individually.

spring on the balcony

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

producing ever more

It is October and the temperatures have dropped. And yet, the tomato plants and hot pepper plants continue to produce flower and fruit. It's baffling to me, or perhaps this is not surprising to seasoned gardeners. In any case, it's great to see! The tomatoes have been very juicy and tasty! The jalapeño still lack the heat I expect but the cayenne does pack a surprising punch!

I am pleased that I will continue to have tomatoes and hot peppers into autumn.

More tomatoes!


Jalapeno Plant

Cayenne Peppers

sunflowers: week 10

I'm very pleased to see that the sunflowers have bloomed! TH explained that the bigger one bloomed Wednesday. The second one which grew crookedly is opening up.

Seeing the sunflowers makes me happy. I certainly feel more confident about growing flowers. For whatever reason, I thought growing flowers from seeds would be more difficult. Had I known how easy it is to grow sunflowers, I would have planted all the seeds and I would not have bothered to thin out what I planted originally.

Well, I have seeds for next year.



the Farm in Green Village

Last weekend TH and I went to The Farm in Green Village because I was told that they sell individual tulip bulbs. I eventually found out the Farm isn't literally a farm but a garden center.

The Farm at Green Village

The Farm at Green Village

The Farm is beautifully landscaped. There is a giant pond with fountains. Trees and plants are spread out around the property. The Farm keeps a limited number of animals. on the day we visited, we saw some peacocks and chickens. There were also roosters crowing away. There is a main building, a greenhouse of sorts, where more plants and garden accessories and supplies are set out for sale. Potted mums were plentiful at The Farm.

The Farm was also decorated for Halloween. A section of the parking lot was set up with gourds and pumpkins for sale. Even the main building had ghouls and skeletons hanging around.





There's even a koi pond filled with varying sizes of carp. The area with the koi pond was landscaped with an Asian theme. A pair of bronzed dogs sat diligently at the base of the steps leading to the koi pond.


Guard dog

as I mentioned earlier, we visited the Farm because I was told that they sold individual tulip bulbs as well as other flowers. The truth is, they sold a limited color of loose tulip bulbs (red, white, pink, and yellow) and iris rhizomes (a good variety). I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed there weren't more colors available as loose. We were interested in "black" tulips but they were sold in a pack of 15!

We enjoyed visiting the Farm. It's a very pretty garden center but I don't know if it was worth the drive out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

sunflowers: week 8

I am pleased to see that the sunflower seedlings are doing well despite pests and mildew. All three surviving seedlings have started to show the starts of a bud. I don't know how big they will grow but their color will be a happy welcome.

garden tomato soup

It was a productive Sunday on the balcony garden. I was cleaning up dead and dried leaves from the tomato plants. Surprisingly, our plants are still producing tomatoes; flowering and pollinating themselves. This is also true for the jalapeño and cayenne pepper plants. One particular plant just keeps on producing though I must admit, it's not that spicy.

I gathered a bunch more tomatoes, basil, and jalapeños, and made tomato soup. I roasted all ingredients with olive oil, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes. I placed all ingredients in a pot on low heat and picked off the skins that peeked off from roasting it in the oven. Then blended it with a cup of water. I let it come to boil and added balsamic vinegar and salt to taste.

TH loved it.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Last week I wrote about the success of one of the other chili pepper plants, the jalapeños. Another jalapeño plant has also produced some fruit as well. It's not a great abundance but we certainly have more than we normally buy. I love how plentiful they look on a single plant, just dangling the way they are.

jalapeno peppers

sunflowers: week 1

The sunflower seeds I planted last weekend have sprouted seedlings. They look pretty good so far. Hopefully, the others will pop our of the dirt too. I planted 7 to 8 seeds. I'll have to be diligent about thinning them out for healthy ones. Maybe I'll even try to transplant them to single pots. For now, I'm just happy they've come through the ground.

Sunflower seedling

something's eating my basil

damaged basil

We were editing the balcony garden again this weekend, which meant cutting down and unproductive tomato plant. It revealed a partially devoured basil plant and at the base was the culprit playing dead. I've never seen a caterpillar before and it became a curiosity for me. It eventually returned to munching away on some fallen basil leaves. I was amused by the caterpillar devouring the basil leaf.

I then moved it to the remaining leaf of the basil plant so I could record a video of it chomping away.

Eventually, I got rid of it - over the balcony. I hope it doesn't find it's way back to our balcony garden.

munching away

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

thinning out

We edit the garden again and we're more pleased with the space we've taken back. Being a first time gardener, I was a bit overly zealous about growing things. We started off with seeds but I didn't realize I had to thin them out, and when I did, I felt bad about getting rid of the seedlings. Well, I eventually thinned out the herd! Any of the tomato plants that we have that were not producing were chucked. It sounds cruel but we've adopted a policy in the balcony garden. Each plant must earn their keep by producing fruit or flower. We got rid of 3 or 4 unproductive tomato plants. The balcony feels more spacious now and the surviving plants have room to grow bigger.

The marigolds seem to have sprouted all the flowers it could so I removed the whole plants. I noticed one of the basil plants was being eaten by something so I removed that plant. I removed a nasturtium plant too. I got rid of some other herbs too that were not replenshing.

Despite the sad news of having to get rid of some plants, there are some goods news to share. I noticed a couple of the cayenne peppers started to turn color. In fact, I used one in a chili I cooked this past weekend. One of the chili pepper plants has finally produced jalapeño peppers. I guess my manual pollination paid off. I foresee fresh salsa in the near future!

red cayenne pepper

And a cluster of yellow pear-shaped tomatoes ripened this past weekend and I made a tiny tomato salad with some basil from the garden. These little guys were very juicy, sweet, and flavorful. There's more of these to come! We planted these from seeds and we have a few of them plants. And they're producing clusters left and right and continuing to grow taller!

yellow pear-shaped tomatoes

And in fact, I noticed one of the red tomatoes have started to turn color. We were beginning to worry if they would ever ripen or if we would be eating green tomatoes, which we did as a few had fallen off as we were reorganizing the plants on the balcony. I eventually made fried green tomatoes with them, and they tasted great! I also tried green tomatoes with salt and fresh cracked green peppercorns and they also tasted great!

Monday, July 23, 2012

return of the roses

yellow rose

Just when I thought that the mini rose bushes were done with producing anymore flowers, one of them has produced more yellow roses! It's a welcomed sight to the balcony, which is currently mostly green.

dahlias are coming back

arabian nights dahlia

I was getting worried about the Arabian nights dahlias because they were showing signs of distress. The leaves were speckled and turning brown as if drying up. At first I thought it was caused by the organic bug sprays I was using. I have found a few aphids and infestation of spider mites on the dahlias but I was surprised that these little buggers could cause this much trouble.

Despite the dahlias being distressed, they were still producing new growth and flower buds albeit smaller flowers from what they started out blooming. But even the new growths were also showing the speckled leaves.

I then realized that the dahlias were getting too much water. In fact, the planters were sitting in water. The planters containing the dahlias have drainage holes but the water wasn't draining away because it was sitting in a tray of water. I dumped out the water and the dahlias began to show signs of improvement.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


The balcony is a jungle of tomato plants! We got rid of a couple that were not producing, which freed up some air space. It's also too green on the balcony so I've decided to add some color. Apparently, it's not too late to grow sunflowers. I have a packet of seeds and will plant them this weekend.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

orion as seen on our balcony

Orion is a constellation of stars. Orion is also known as a figure in Greek mythology, a giant huntsman. But here on earth, and specially on our balcony, they are a constellation of beautiful flowers with large blooms.

Orion dahlia

Orion dahlia

Orion dahlia