I grew these annual flowers last year and saved their seed with the hope that they would be viable — and then spring rolled around and I forgot all about them amidst the millions of other seeds that needed to be started.
So when I happened upon ready-to-go transplants, 3 for $10 at a local garden shop, I decided to splurge. They were so gorgeous last year; I had to have them in the garden again.
I have grown other salpiglossis flowers from seed, and while they were lovely, like stained glass married to a soft watercolour painting, they do not compare with the velvety softness of ‘Chocolate Royale.’ These large blooms are so rich, dark and dreamy, I half expect them to smell like a steaming glass of hot cocoa.
They don’t. But they get me every time.
This week’s herbaria is a little late as we had a few rain showers that prevented me from putting it together earlier. I try to avoid creating colour themes when I choose these, but it was inevitable as many of these plants were chosen because their current state is fleeting and probably won’t be around next week.
Before I introduce this week’s plants, I just want to say how much I am enjoying this project. I have walked through the garden these last few Wed mornings with an eye to what I will add to the box and I can’t tell you how much joy I find in artfully assembling the collection. This task taps into a part of my child brain that needs stimulation. It’s fun to see the images compile in a folder on my computer and I look forward to months from now when there are weeks of boxes within boxes within boxes all together.
Again there is so much going on in the garden right now it was hard to narrow it down to 9 plants that represent the garden as it is. I tried to chose plants that are at their peak or blooms that may not be around for next week’s collection. Still, there are a few like the Chocolate Cosmos that I know will be around for some time yet, but I was simply too excited to leave them out.
This week’s Herbaria is a tribute to columbine (Aquilegia) and some of its friends. There’s a lot going on in the garden right now, but chances are good that this will be the last week that they are all blooming at the same time and I was eager to see them assembled together as a collection.
Aquilegia are charming, graceful, meadow flowers that dance and sway in the breeze on long, thin stems. They are generally very profuse self-seeders, although I planted a deep wine colored double last year that broke the rule and did not reproduce or come back, period. [Shakes fist] Despite the rare exception, they are very easy plants to grow and the toughest of the bunch will succeed in surprisingly shady locations.
Aquilegia are a diverse group with plants in a wide range of forms, colors, and flower shapes. I tend towards the simple native types and the elegant double flowers. I am generally not a fan of the two-toned or very open flowers, although you can see that there is an exception in my collection. Of the flowers and leaves I have assembled below, there is one missing that I was not able to add here, a dark double called ‘Black Barlow.’ I put it in as a bare root early this spring and it will be another year before the flowers make an appearance. Plus, Davin moved it and I don’t know exactly where it is so I couldn’t find a leaf to include.
In the future I hope to add the native Aquilegia canadensis to my garden, but I’m waiting to get one in trade. I just can’t bring myself to purchase a plant that reproduces so readily!
Building an outdoor compost bin was the very first thing we did when we started working on the new yard last spring. We made our bin on the cheap by upcycling a busted futon frame that was left in the yard by former occupants. So far the bin has worked beautifully, but like all one-bin systems it has its downsides. Keeping the bin aerated is a chore, and the fresh, ready-made compost is a pain to extract from the very bottom of the pile. The bin is also open to vermin, and while nesting rodents can be discouraged simply by keeping a well-maintained pile, I have had at least one unwelcome occupant in my years working with D.I.Y compost piles.
Homemade bins are very viable and often far superior to the cheap black plastic contraptions sold by the City (our kept falling apart and eventually housed a wasp nest), but they are not ideal. For that reason I have longed to try a really good composting system, specifically a tumbler that makes easy work of turning a heavy pile. Still, when eartheasy contacted me about trying out the Jora JK125 Tumbling Composter I was intrigued but extremely hesitant as I wasn’t sure where or how I would cram a second composting unit into an already jam-packed, narrow urban yard.
Over the years, my motto as an obsessive plant hoarder working within exceptionally tight spaces has been, “I’ll make it fit.” And somehow, magically, I always do. The only reason I was able to to manage it here is because the Jora is a self-contained unit. It smells a bit when the balance of greens and browns is off, but even then we’re only subjected to a marginally funky smell when the lid is opened. Beyond that, it’s a really easy composting system to live with. I specifically located my D.I.Y bin way at the back of the garden, away from the house, but I was able to cram the Jora into our outdoor seating area, nearly touching the table I eat at. So far so good. Some people decorate their outdoor living areas with decorative water features, attractive container plantings, or charming woodstoves. I sit down to dinner next to an industrial-green, powder-coated steel, 33 gallon compost bin.