Tuesday, September 24, 2013

late summer blooms

I've planted a few varieties of bulbs in the spring so we may have some pretty flowers on the balcony to enjoy along side our potted veg. These included dahlias, daylilies, gladioli, and irises. A few daylilies appeared in early summer but they faded within a week, maybe a week and a half. 

The dahlias and gladioli were all stalks and green foliage. I was beginning to accept that we would not see any flowers from this year but perhaps next year? But then I noticed signs of flowers about to emerge.

Bishop of Llandaff dahlia

One of the varieties of dahlias I planted, the Bishop of Llandaff is supposed to be dwarf variety but as it turned out, it just continued to grow taller and taller. It is stands taller than TH but it's got flowers. Well, currently one has appeared. I can see buds of future flowers dotted around the tops of this particular dahlia. Unlike the other dahlias, it's foliage is dark. The color of the BoL is quite striking. You can't miss it even though it is over our heads.

The first dahlia to make an appearance is the White Fawn. It is dense with white petals that have hints of fresh green. The flower head is small and reminds me of pom-poms.
White dahlia

I have two other dahlia varieties. I don't know if they will make an appearance. One of the stalks was taken down because one of the tomato plants was knocked over by strong winds. Luckily the stalk continues to produce leaves. And maybe it has enough strength and energy to produce flowers.  

The mini roses I acquired last year have made a strong come back. They have been most rewarding and are among TH's favorites. The pink/mauve roses is the best at producing roses. 

White rose

The white mini rose bush has also done well but isn't a strong producer of flowers as the pink one.  And when a white rose does bloom, it's quite a sight! 

The red one is the smallest of our mini rose collection and produces beautiful mini red roses. It's leaves are also tiny and dark compared with the other mini rose bushes. 
mini red roses

Mini red rose

Pink rose

Yellow rose
The yellow mini rose bush surprised us with a resurgence. It was down to one plant and the chances of its survival didn't look positive. It had barley any leaves and it looked quite sad. It fought on though because it's producing deep yellow mini roses! This mini rose bush is also in bed with a strawberry plant too. I recall throwing a dried up strawberry into its pot. I didn't think it was going to take. I love that they are growing together.

I also planted some gladiolu bulbs. I didn't get the ruffled petal variety. Instead, I prefer the simple white petals accented with a deep purple or crimson center. They are supposed to be fragrant but I wasn't able to detect a scent. In any case, they're a nice addition to the balcony garden. I honestly didn't think the gladioli were going to show up. One day, while I was surveying the plants, I noticed that something had pierced the tall blade like leaves and realized that it was the stem that was emerging from the bulb. And then I noticed the bobbed heads of flower heads.
Abyssinian Gladiolus
Lucky Star Gladiolus

Monday, September 2, 2013

the summer growing season

Summer is coming to an end, and we're now seeing tomatoes on our plants. The summer started with tomato plants growing slowly and when they showed flowers, they didn't set fruit. The flowers withered or dropped. It wasn't until late into summer that the tomato flowers began to set fruit and eventually signs of tomatoes were popping up all over the place.

Heirloom tomatoes Early stage
Todd County Amish 
Green zebra Heirloom tomatoes

One of the black zebra variety finally ripened after hanging on the vine all summer. TH and I enjoyed it sliced into wedges, with a bit a quality fruity olive oil, basil, and salt. It was the best tomato we have had in a long time! So much so that's it got TH excited and pleased. Before he was a bit annoyed that the tomato plants weren't producing tomatoes.

 This guy finally ripened and he looks beautiful! He tasted even better; a little bit of sea salt and fruity olive oil - yum!   This is one of the zebra varieties that we bought. Isis Candy Heirloom tomatoes

The chili pepper plants have done well too. The jalapeno plants didn't produce to many peppers. The cayenne pepper plants are full of hanging cayenne peppers. They're long and still green. They should be turning red soon. And it's still producing flowers! The cherry pepper plants did well and produced some nice red peppers. Unfortunately, they were not producing enough to collect so I can pickle them. And it was susceptible to spider mites, too! And they too, continue to produce flowers. And the habenero plants are finally producing flowers, which will in turn become habenero peppers. I'm looking forward to collecting these hot babies!


 And lastly but not least, one of our pots of strawberry plants are producing another round of strawberries. This time, these are bigger than the last ones I collected. However, they lacked flavor and sweetness. Regardless, the fact that they are still producing fruit is welcomed.

Winged insect

Sunday, September 1, 2013

personal notes on growing tulips in containers

White tulip Despite my brief and limited success with growing tulips in containers on the balcony followed by an aphid infestation, I'm not giving up. I admit it was frustrating but the limited success I did have was inspiring. I can grow tulips, in containers, and on the balcony.

After consulting with the seller who I bought some of the bulbs from, I learned a few things about better care and growing tips for tulips. I will be amending the soil to make it lighter so it will not compact over the bulbs. I have read that tulips bulbs like a sandy soil. As an alternative, I can use perlite. This will help with drainage as tulip bulbs do not like sitting in wet soil. If I decide to plant them again in the rectangular planter, I will drill more hole at the bottom. 

The seller recommended that I feed the bulbs and flowers with a water diluted fertilizer instead of using compost. I'm not sure why she recommended a liquid fertilizer. I am guessing that it may have been too much nutrients and/or that compost compacts, which I have noticed. 

And aphids apparently love tulips especially the leaves. They infested and attacked my ailing tulips; growing colonies were found on the underside of leaves. It was a frightening sight. They really do serious damage to tulips if not proactively dealt with to get rid of them. The seller explained that aphids attack weak plants. I think there is some truth in that. I have read that aphids like to cling to new growth. New growth is more vulnerable and can be easy pickings for pests like aphids. I have seen clusters of aphids gather on my mini rose plants wherever there is new growth.

I know it's possible to grow tulips in containers. There are tons of blog posts and articles about growing tulips on containers.  However, the seller mentioned that certain varieties are harder to grow in containers like the parrot tulips. Despite the warning, I plan to try again. One parrot tulips popped out of the container and blossomed. I know it's possible. Difficulty will not deter me. 

Another lesson I learned is that tulip bulbs are susceptible to mold during storage if not clean of dirt and allowed to dry completely. The tulip bulbs I was able to recover were beginning to be covered with white mold after storing them in paper bags and kept in a cool and dark room. I decided to dispose of them. It wasn't a huge loss for me as I'm not sure they will return next year given how their leaves dried up sooner than normal because of the aphid infestation. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

the good and bad news of carnivorous plants

Well, I'm down to a single carnivorous plant, that's the bad news. The sundew dried up for whatever reason. The butterwort, aka Pinguicula, is the surviving plant. Both were brought outdoors when the weather was consistently warm enough especially after we transplanted our tomato plants. They were a great help in capturing flying pests last year. This summer, the Ping did all of the work.

The good news is that my Ping is growing a flower! Woo-hoo! I'm excited about this as I didn't think it would happen. As with most plants that flower, they're reproducing. Maybe I'll be able to harvest a seed?

Flower bud

I expect that it will blossom soon. Stay tuned for photos is the Ping flower. 

UPDATE: Well, the flower didn't make it. I don't know what happened. I checked the next day and the stem of the flower had fallen over. :(

Sunday, August 25, 2013

beautiful pink mini rose

I just wanted to share this wonderful photo that TH sent of our mini pink rose bush. She's a beauty!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

first harvest summer 2013

Here is our modest harvest of summer 2013. The cayenne pepper finally ripened! As did one of the cherry peppers. Several cherry tomatoes and a yellow plum tomato - I think it's a plum tomato. Do they come yellow? Anyways, we expect more later this summer.
First harvest summer 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

good bye Beni Hime

We determined that our beautiful beni hime was dying or was dead. The leaves had shriveled up and the branches looked dried up. When I bent the dried benches, they broke off with a snap. We pulled the dwarf maple up from the planter and the root ball was almost non-existent. At that point, we knew it was a goner. 

We don't know what caused it to die after it started to leaf again in spring. The soil wasn't water logged. It was moist but not soaked. We didn't notice any apparent signs of disease or pest infestation. I have read that some varieties of dwarf Japanese maples are difficult to grow in containers compared with others. I did not find specific information on Beni Hime. 

TH is especially saddened by the loss of the beni hime. It was a cute dwarf Japanese maple. Anyways, we'll give it some time before we acquire another. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

corky is here

I have been waiting for this day when Corky would appear, and I'm glad I was there when she showed up today. She looks ever so pretty - such a pretty yellow!

Her sisters should be arriving the rest of this week. Perhaps I will see them all on Independence Day?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

strawberry plants: year 2 June update

Strawberries are a sign of summer. Im pleased to report that our alpine strawberry plants are doing quite well - constantly producing fruit. Unfortunately they're left hanging on the plant because TH doesn't think to pick and eat them. The alpine strawberries are tiny and hidden under the layers of large strawberry plant foliage. I have been eating the white ones, which have an unusual mix of pineapple and strawberry taste.

Some of the alpine strawberry plants are doing very while a few did not and I finally decided to pull them out of the planter. I think I will plant borage in those empty pockets, which are good companion plants. 

The pink galore strawberry plants have not been doing well. I was beginning to worry when I noticed the flowers fading without any berry production. Then towards the end of June, I noticed their signature pink blossoms dotting the top of the planter. A few have already started showing strawberry development. 

July should be a very productive month of fruit production. Hopefully, I'll have more positive updates to report. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

tulips: May update

All 6 bulbs of the white tulips bloomed at the beginning of May. It was a very pretty sight!

White tulips

White tulips

The black T. Paul Scherer and black parrot tulips bloomed though with limited success. Only two black TPS tulips bloomed and one black parrot bloomed.

Black parrot

T. Paul Scherer tulip

Black parrot tulip

I did not have any issues with the tulips while they developed and grew until it blossomed and I found aphids on the underside of the leaves! I was horrified and dismayed. I only know this because one of the black parrot tulips was drained of color and withered-looking. When I went to inspect, I discovered a colony of aphids sucking the life out of it!

I was fortunate enough to take descent photos of the tulips because as soon as the tulips bloomed, our zone was hit with heavy rain and strong winds. We have a balcony garden so our plants are sheltered from the rain but the winds really beat our plants especially the tulips. All the petals of the white and black tulips were blown off. A couple of the white tulip stems snapped off, too. The black parrot survived the windy abuse. 

Even after the petals were blown off, the tulips were attacked by aphids. The planter with the white tulips were infested. I turned over leaves and saw a colony. It was a gross and upsetting sight. Whatever is left of the foliage looks terrible. I was going to wait for the leave to yellow before digging them up but now that the leaves are ruined, I will dig up the tulips and inspect their condition and store the good ones until autumn for replanting. 

heirloom irises

TH just sent me these photos he took of the irises that have finally bloomed. I did notice the flower buds this weekend but didn't think they would blossom so soon.

Aren't they pretty?



Sunday, April 28, 2013

sprouting forth

Something has finally sprouted from one of these two pots that have laid bare while the other planters have sprouted forth green life. I still don't know what is growing. It's either the florentine tulip or coral lilies. Eventually, the mystery will be revealed.

tulips: April update

white tulip

The white tulips were the first to peak and two have officially bloomed since I started this post. The other white tulips are at the brink of blooming. It's quite a sight to behold - a planter of white tulips! On closer inspection, the insides have a beautiful yellow accent.

white tulip

The next tulips to bloom will be the purple ones. The flower head grew fuller since last week. The color is also more developed. Hopefully when it blooms, the white hyacinths will still be around and not faded.

T. Paul Scherer

The tulip I'm most excited about is the parrot type. At first I wasn't too keen on parrot tulips but after a bit of research and seeing images of the parrot variety, I became infatuated with their petals that showed so much flair! I am waiting for this black parrot to bloom. I love that I can see the feathering feature of this particular tulip.


The Orange Favorite tulip that I bought with the Black Parrot turned out to be disappointing. I planted both these varieties in the same planter but I don't see signs of the Orange Favorite. I'm wondering if these heirloom types require a bit more nurturing before they bloom or they bloom in the second season after initial planting? It makes me wonder about the condition of the bulbs. I don't want to dig them up just yet. I'll wait until tulip season ends. I was really looking forward to a purple and orange arrangement of flowers on the balcony.

In any case, growing and planting tulips have been an interesting experience. I realize now how to better plant them for next year. I read that tulips prefer a sandy soil so I think i will mix in some sand in the soil for replanting in fall 2013. And I definitely want to layer the bulbs again so the planters will seem like the have continuous show of flowers.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

strawberry plants: year 2 April update

The strawberry plants are coming back and they seem to be returning with a bushier growth. I noticed one of the plants has a flower already!

There are a couple of strawberry plants that look like they may not have made it to the 2013 growing season but I remain hopeful.

From my reading sources of growing strawberry plants, the second year is supposed to yield more fruit as opposed to the first year. I'm looking forward to some tasty strawberries especially of the alpine kind.

Strawberry blossom

Strawberry plant

Saturday, April 20, 2013


As the Jeanne d'arc crocuses faded, the white hyacinths bloomed! They're such a pretty sight to see amongst the surrounding green foliage of other plants.

White hyacinth

our japanese maples

Our dwarf Japanese maples are doing very well ever since we applied compost and rearranged their location on the balcony. They seem to be happier. Their leaves are coming in with such vibrant color.

The Koto No Ito seems to have tiny blossoms as they sprout forth new weeping foliage. The beautiful red leaves of the Tamukeyama fan out like delicate blades. And the initial feather like foliage of the Beni Hime have revealed their small star like leaves.

Koto No Ito


Beni Hime