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.