So if you’ve been reading any posts in this blog, you’ll know that I planted way too much this past year. Such is the way of life during Covid.
I planted during only two seasons this year–Summer and Fall–due to my knee surgery in the spring, Even so, I was able to get a large amount of new-to-me species in the ground. This was my first year planting many tyes of plants: leeks and onions; tomatillos and eggplants; dahlias, snapdragons, and a variety of other annuals; rudbeckias, echinaceas, and other perennial flowers; and turnips, rutabegas; and apples and lilac trees. I also grew the usual: tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs, lettuce, winter squash.
Probably the biggest surprise this past year were my snapdragons (Madame Butterfly Bronze; Rocket mix). The seeds of the snapdragon are as small as grains of ground pepper, and they took a while to germinate and grow. Once they were established, though, it seemed like nothing could kill them. They have long, strong stems; bright , frilly flowers; and they are easy to clean for flower arrangements. They also seem impervious to the heat (we had a record-breaking hot, dry summer this past year) and they were my last flower to die off this fall. I hear that you can plant them early spring, which is my plan this coming year–I should have snapdragons for flower arrangements from May until November.
My second pleasant surprise were my bachelor buttons. I planted the basic “Blue Boy” variety and wasn’t expecting much just from looking at the picture on the seed packet, However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that they grow fast and tall and bloomed quickly. And the color–an electric, true “blue” which is so rare in plants–is absolutely gorgeous. The color is practically fluorescent. I finally understand why describing someone as having “cornflower-blue” eyes is a compliment.
I was also successful in growing both rudbeckias and echinaceas–specifically Autumn Colors rudbeckia and White Swan and Purple Cornflower echinaceas. They were all really slow to germinate and really slow to grow past seedling size. However they did eventually grow! The rudbeckias grew the fastest, and ended up having a really fascinating texture–the petals are almost velvety. And echinacea flowers are unexpectedly hard and spiky. But still, all in all, they were a success.
Another plant that was hugely and surprisingly successful was my nicotania plant (Indian Peace Pipe). The seeds took easily and grew fast–spreading out a 3′ wide diameter within a month before shooting up to 6′ tall with tall spikes and massive leaves. Apparently the seed pack wasn’t lying when it said that the plant could get 6′ tall! It is a huge space hog, however, so I don’t think I’ll grow it next year.
My tomatoes, as usual, grew very well this year. (Honestly, I don’t know of any area in North America where it is hard to grow tomatoes.) This year’s new tomato varieties were Paul Robeson, Carbon, Terracotta, Sun Gold, and Barry’s Crazy Cherry, all of which grew well. I was particularly happy with the taste of the Paul Robeson and Sun Gold tomatoes; I will definitely growing those next year. (Fresh Paul Robeson tomatoes sliced and sprinkled with salt are amazing. And this is coming from someone whose acid reflux prevents her from eating fresh tomatoes!) The Sungolds were sweet and made great gifts to friends and family.
All of the many peppers I grew this year were successful as well. My favorites were pimento peppers, which I picked up as starts from the local nursery, and the Pasilla Bajio Chile Chilaca pepper, which was considerably milder than expected and extremely prolific. It was a great pepper to cook with eggs or fajitas.
The only other veg that was really successful this past year was the garlic. I grew Chesnok red and Duganski, both hardnecks. I ended up harvesting them mid-June as the greens had already started to turn brown and shrivel due to our extremely early summer heat. At first, I thought the crop had failed as bulbs were small, but later I found out that these varieties are just small by nature. Given that, they were both successful!
Successes: Trees and Bushes
This year I purchased three apple trees–Haralson, Fuji, and Honeycrisp. The Fuji was supposed to be a dwarf tree but ended up being a standard sized tree. I got a refund but ended up keeping it. All three have thrived and the Haralson even put out an apple! So far so good.
I also picked up five rose bushes–one Peach Knock-Out and four Double-Red Knock Out roses. All five thrived. Three of the red ones are now lining my side fence, and the fourth is in front of my detached garage. I ended up potting the peach one and giving it to my mother for Mother’s Day–she brought it inside for the winter, and it’s still growing and putting out a ton of blooms.
However, I also purchased a bunch of raspberry bushes, which all died (except for one Ann Gold raspberry) due to some kind of leaf blight. The Japanese maple I bought also died (nursery issue, I believe). One of the lilacs I bought died, and all but two of my hydrangeas also died from some kind of leaf blight. Half of my strawberry pants also died of some kind of unknown issue. In general, it was not a great year for putting live plants into my garden 😦