As you can see from the photo, this week’s garden was dominated by the invasion of the pom-pom flowers. The other major development is the heat. It is absolutely blazing out right now. In fact was already so hot by noon (when I took this photo) that I had to switch out one of my original choices because it started wilting seconds after picking it. I couldn’t keep it happy in the box long enough to take a decent photo!
This is it. This is when it begins. It’s there now, but you have to look for it.
Be a detective. Turn your attention way down to the ground. Can you see it?
Today you might have to crouch down low or look up high to get a glimpse, but within just a few weeks it will all be happening so fast all around you, you will wish for it to slow down just a bit so you can catch your breath.
There are several pansies and violas that claim to be black, but when it comes down to it they are purple, more or less. Ever since Mr. Brown Thumb posted about his not exactly black, black viola, I have been meaning to pull out a photo of Viola cornuta ‘Black Magic’, the blackest flower I have ever seen. It lives! The black viola lives! The colour in my photo above is pretty true to life — there’s no Photoshop trickery at work here. In fact, I’d say it looks a little more purple in this light than it does on the average day. From afar it has a smoky softness about it.
I bought a single pot of it this year, and only one pot because boy did it break the bank. I’ve complained about the “Not 99 Cent Pansy” before, however this plant, this single, solitary plant, ran about $7.99.
But it was worth it. I’ve had it for over a month now and I look at it fondly every day.
When I was in the West Indies, I was surprised to see how much people coveted strawberries. While I was salivating over golden apple and fresh bananas, West Indians were paying through the nose for a basket of pathetic, well-traveled berry-like objects. I don’t think strawberries grow very well in extreme tropical heat. That didn’t stop one gardener I visited in Dominica from trying. As my own strawberries begin to set fruit and ripen I wonder if her little plant has made it and if she was able to savor a few homegrown berries this year.
Here in Toronto, it’s not too late to start strawberries. My first article of the season for the Globe & Mail explains how, but did not include this photo of a mixed planting I put together using an old honey tin I bought at a yard sale. If you are going to use something like this, don’t forget to add drainage holes. I made several in the bottom using a large nail I keep on hand for this purpose. Everything in this pot is edible, including the flowers.
One Each of: An unknown hybrid strawberry (the berries are ripening now!), ‘Golden’ sage (it is not hardy here and does not grow very big), ‘Gem Apricot Antique’ viola (may soon have to be replace for something more heat tolerant as the summer kicks in, or you can just pull it out when it kicks it and let the strawberry and sage spread.)
We have been enjoying an unseasonably warm March here in Toronto that has lead into the warmest early April I can recall, ever. Temperatures are supposed to soar this weekend, sending gardeners (including me) into a flurry of activity. I have already sown spinach and mâche into containers on the roof. The chives have been shooting up slowly over the last few weeks, and I am starting to identify lettuce seedlings that have self sown where I let mature plants go to seed last season. I intend to spend this weekend cleaning up, amending the container soil, and getting all of the gardens into shape.
Meanwhile, over at the greenhouse, my little seedlings are go. I started tomatoes and peppers on March 5 and have sown the odd thing here and there since. I’m enjoying the simplicity of this stage of the growing season very much. I’ve been through this stage countless times now and you’d think it would get dull, but it never does. Every year there is something new and even the same old same old haven’t lost their appeal. On a basic level I am amazed by my plants’ progress every time I visit the greenhouse. I am relishing just observing the beauty of new seeds as they come out of the package and discovering the early growth stages of plants I have never grown from seed before. This is a happy time all around.
These are a pansy called ‘Caramel Spice’ from Botanical Interests. It’s a little late to start pansies and violas from seed as they are typically started in January. In fact, I just bought the first pansy cell-packs of the season yesterday. Unfortunately, these seeds came late but I figured I might as well give it a shot anyways. I can always try tucking them into a cooler spot once the summer heat hits and hope they make it to the fall cool-down.
This is cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), one of my fun experiments for the 2010 growing season. Cardoon is a gorgeous, and rather massive plant that looks an awful lot like an artichoke or giant thistle. In fact, they’re related. What’s interesting is that you eat the stems of the plant, not the flower bud as you do with an artichoke. But before you harvest it you’ve got to “blanch” it, much like celery, by covering the stems with a large box or some other cover to keep light out and soften the leaves. Perhaps a bit complicated but my curiosity has got the better of me so here we go. Another fun fact: cardoon is often used as a vegetarian rennet substitute in cheese making.
I like the seedlings at this stage; so perfect.