Bearded Iris

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When I look at Bearded Iris in my garden, I think of my grandparents. They had a gorgeous collection of them interspersed throughout their backyard, as well as a dedicated bed for them.

I have had Iris since I started my own gardens and always loved how one bloom would open, one at a time, so a beautiful stem that has multiple buds would last a long time, as each bud would open. Now that ‘Iris Season’ is upon us, I felt I needed to write about a sentimental favourite.

Iris are rhizomes - an underground root-like system, which stored the plant’s food for winter or during dormant periods.the roots come off of the rhizomes as do the stems, a clever means of propagation.


Bearded Iris are characterized bu their beards - a pattern of hairs on the Falls (downward hanging part) which acts as a guide to insects seeking nectar. The three main components are:

Standards - 3 upright divisions

Falls - three lower hanging divisions

Style Branches - 3 small branches between the Standards and the Falls

The perfect symmetry of threes!

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Many have varied colour combinations with different colours of Standards from the Falls - called bicolour. Beards can also have varied colours as well.

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Bearded Iris are further broken down into three main categories - Dwarf (Mini), Intermediate, and Tall Bearded. I love the early spring blooms of the Dwarf varieties, often providing early splashes of colour when there is very very little. Dwarf varieties are very hardy and multiply quickly and need to be divided. The Intermediates - an in between size - provide a nice mid height in a Garden bed, gracefully seen just above the border plants. Then come the Tall Bearded Iris - can be up to 40+ inches in height - very ephemeral!

By planting all three types a full month or more of blooming Irises can be achieved.

They do require dividing to prevent overcrowding, and after blooming is finished trim the leaves back to ‘the fan’ as means of disease control.

Irises also need space and at least 1/2 Day of sun - basically sun and good drainage! Actually Irises do best in moderately fertile soil!!!

These are some of our Favourites growing on the Farm

Gypsy Romance

Gypsy Romance

Lovely Señorita

Lovely Señorita

Downtown Brown

Downtown Brown

Ghost Writer

Ghost Writer

Toronto

Toronto

Rum Is The Reason

Rum Is The Reason

Recurring Delight

Recurring Delight

Urban Cowgirl

Urban Cowgirl

Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons

Cantina

Cantina

Peonies

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I have always loved Peonies so it was a must have in my first Garden at My first home. I researched and found a Canadian Peony Grower and ordered from what I thought was a huge selection of Peonies. This was 27 years ago! Little did I know just how many varieties there really are. I had purchased some Tree Peonies that I planted out at various gardens around the property. When I started the flower business I felt I had to invest in Peonies as well. The internet introduced me to a few great sources with really big Selections of herbaceous, ITOH and Tree Peonies. Adelman’s Peonies and Klehm’s Song Sparrow have incredible root stalks and huge selection available. I would also encourage anyone to joining either or both Canadian and American Peony Societies for a wealth of information and additional sources for peony roots.

But Peonies are an investment for a number of reasons. First, plan your location carefully because Peonies don’t like to be moved. Second, you must dis-bud for the first two years or even a third. Disbudding forces new root development which means more eyes (and stems) the following year. It is difficult to do because you will want to see the bloom ‘in person’ but the payoff is loads of blooms in the end. If you move them you have to repeat the process of three year wait for bloom! Third, plan your garden to include Early, Mid and Late Season varieties so you can have a month or so of continuous peony blooms!!!!!

There are three main types of peonies - Herbaceous, Tree, Itoh. Herbaceous are the most common types usually seen. Tree peonies are a deciduous for of peony, and usually a grafted onto a herbaceous root stalk, but have enormous almost fake looking blooms. Itohs are a cross between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony but in flower colours not normally seen in either type of peony. Certainly combinations of all three in a garden add to the display created by their characteristics. The herbaceous peony has softer stems that die back each fall to the ground (and should be trimmed back to the ground). The Tree Peony, on the other hand, is deciduous meaning that it resumes growth from where it left off in the fall. The only catch is that they need a little extra care as the buds can be hit hard by spring frost, and our winter winds can be extra hard on them. Itohs are crosses of these two and utilize the best qualities of each. They die back to the ground each fall making them less susceptible to hard Spring frosts, and the flowers are similar to Tree peonies with even more colour variations.

Herbaceous peonies have 5 main types:

  1. Single - one or more rows of petals (guards) which surround a centre of stamens

  2. Anenome and Japanese - partially transformed stamens - petal like, that are not pollen bearing

  3. Semi double -Greater number of petals emerging from the crown of the flower

  4. Double -Multiple petals emerging from. the crown of the flower to there point that the crown is covered by the petals.

  5. Bomb - guard petals (outside) are shorter than the petaloid. There are no stakes as they are transformed into petals, and there is no pollen present.

    I have no photos of a Bomb peony but a good example is Red Charm.

    Photos of each example and the variety follow.

Nosegay - Single Peony

Nosegay - Single Peony

Coral Charm, Coral Supreme and Paula Fay - Semi Doubles

Coral Charm, Coral Supreme and Paula Fay - Semi Doubles

Wilford Johnson - Double Peony

Wilford Johnson - Double Peony

Chocolate Soldier - Japanese or Anenome

Chocolate Soldier - Japanese or Anenome

Itoh Peonies or intersectionals

Cora Louise

Cora Louise

Tree Peonies

Tree Peony - I lost the name of this variety!

Tree Peony - I lost the name of this variety!

Tree Peony -I lost the name of this variety too! I have had them both for 18+ years. My mom had the same variety.

Tree Peony -I lost the name of this variety too! I have had them both for 18+ years. My mom had the same variety.

Early Spring Flowers

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Tulips and daffodils are about to begin popping out ion the ground, bringing Spring with it. Jim and I established these new beds last October, in time for planting them out, and planning the low tunnels over the top of them to force the Tulips to bloom in time for Easter 2019. The Daffodils are placed in permanent locations about the property. Most of these tulips will be dug up right before they are cut inorder to produce the long stems required for florists and customers. then the soil will be amend and used for another crop this year.

Petit Four Daffodils getting ready to bloom.

Petit Four Daffodils getting ready to bloom.

Tulips planting in fall.

Tulips planting in fall.

I am a Parrot Tulip nut, so I’ve planted as many varieties as I could get my hands on. A new favourite of mine are double or Peony Flowering Tulips, and the incredible variety available. The more traditional early and mid-season varieties provide over a month of bloom in a garden, while the majority of Double Tulips are late blooming varieties so they are finishing just as Peonies are starting. I am vigilant (along with the dogs) at keeping deer and rodents from eating the tulips, resorting to cages over rows and new this coming season Electric fence used for ducks last season. Another trick to keeping both rodents and deer away from tulips is to create a wire teepee over the row or clump in your garden. it only has to be there until the tulips are tall enough 6” high, because they aren’t the tender morsels they were when they were shorter. Squirrels are another matter entirely!

Salmon Parrot Tulip

Salmon Parrot Tulip

Charming Lady - photo courtesy of Unicorn Blooms

Charming Lady - photo courtesy of Unicorn Blooms

Darwin Hybrids and Triumph Tulips

Darwin Hybrids and Triumph Tulips

This Spring/Winter it seems we are covering over 4 beds - 3 tulips and one for Ranunculus and Anenomes to hasten the bloom along for earlier bloom, as well as another long bed with tulips blooming in season. The mother three beds will be covered as the weather permits. High winds and extreme cold were called for later the day we put this tunnel up.

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This is the first low tunnel up over Parrot Tulips. Next two rows are tulips and last is the Ranunculus & Anenome row

Naturalized Spring bulbs amongst the Lilacs.

Naturalized Spring bulbs amongst the Lilacs.

Scilla - a handful planted out 25 years ago - now they are everywhere in the wooded area.

Scilla - a handful planted out 25 years ago - now they are everywhere in the wooded area.

The specialty Daffodils are my big excitement. My favourite of 2018 was ‘Art Design’ thanks to Unicorn Blooms of Canada, and this year we will have even more varieties. The one thing to remember about cut Daffodils is that in an arrangement they will kill off the rest of the flowers unless properly treated. Assuming you are mixing Daffodils with other cut flowers, you must cut the Daffs and put into a vase by themselves for about an hour, this stops the release of the compound from their stems into the water. Then you can add them into a mixed bouquet. Just remember that if you are cutting the stems of your bouquet 2 days later the same procedure will have to followed. But they are worth trouble if you are going to mix them in with other flowers.

Art Design Daffodil

Art Design Daffodil

Apricot Whirl Daffodil

Apricot Whirl Daffodil

Daffodils are an wonderful long lasting investment in any garden. Yes, the bulbs cost more than Tulips, but they come back every year without diminishment, and multiply as well, if you deadhead the blooms. I love them massed together (as I do Tulips) and naturalize them into the surrounding area. Only issue is not cutting the grass until the leaves die back (Jim hates this). The leaves have to die back in order to provide energy for next year’s bloom. The beautiful shock of colour from naturalized Daffodils in the woods or in and around our property always makes me hopeful for summer. Deer don’t eat them!

Assortment of colour and type of Daffodils

Assortment of colour and type of Daffodils

Front of perennial bed lined with daffodils and second row of daffodils is in front of a peony bed.

Front of perennial bed lined with daffodils and second row of daffodils is in front of a peony bed.

Fritilaria is a new addition for us this year. we are trying them out so there are only two varieties available. Who knows, I may have increase the varieties and total numbers for next year. Hopefully I will have some photos of this years blooms to add to my gallery for 2020.

Spring gardens are often some of the most beautiful due to colours, abundance and bit of hopefulness they bring after a long cold winter. Bulbs are generally very easy care and other than rodents and deer - will bloom year after year.




Ranunculus & Anenomes

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Ranunculus and Anenomes were new to me two years ago. New varieties have made them very popular for wedding work and very desirable by florists, so I thought I would give them a try. I have not had the greatest experience with them but, mistakes can smarten you up, sometimes. I am determined to get them right.

They grow well in pots as well in an area not too windy, a mistake I made last year. But in our climate (Zone 5b) they have to be pulled and stored over winter each year, which add to the labour involved.

I start them on early February by soaking and pre-sprouting to give them a jump start, as they bloom about 90 days later. I have had a struggle with locating them in a spot where the wind and Hot sun won’t do them in. I think I have the problem licked this year so Spring is looking up!

Soaked Ranunculus ready to place in moistened vermiculite for pre-sprouting.

Soaked Ranunculus ready to place in moistened vermiculite for pre-sprouting.

Keeping vigil over soaked tubers making sure moisture is maintained.

Keeping vigil over soaked tubers making sure moisture is maintained.

Three weeks later each little club looks like this!

Three weeks later each little club looks like this!

These are pre-sprouted Ranunculi from last year.

These are pre-sprouted Ranunculi from last year.

Worth all the trouble!

Worth all the trouble!

Just starting to open!

Just starting to open!

So after three weeks of soaking and pre-sprout little Anenomes are starting to sprout so they get booted up!

So after three weeks of soaking and pre-sprout little Anenomes are starting to sprout so they get booted up!

I do admit to trying an experiment over the winter to see what I had to do to improve my chances of not having to dig up my tubers and corms. Fall planted Ranunculus & Anenomes are more productive than Spring planted and our Climate makes it impossible to have fall plantings of them. So I planted out a small number of tubers & corms in the fall, surrounded by a thick layer of straw. Then I added a very healthy amount of mulched leaves covering them and then covered the whole area as a low tunnel. They looked good at the end of December, but January was very cold and so is February at the moment. I am worried that they may not have made it but if they do I know what I need to do next fall so I can do fall plantings now!




Growing & Dividing Dahlias

Dahlia Labyrinth

Dahlia Labyrinth




Dahlias love sun, and it is recommended that they receive at least 6-8 hours of sun per day. The more sun the more blooms.

Dahlias can be planted out in workable soil when the soil temperature has reached 60 F. Dig a hole that is 4-6 inches deep and lay the tuber horizontally in the hole. If the dahlias have shoots longer than 2-3” then pinch them back to one inch. It will encourage stronger stalks. It is also a good time to put in garden stakes if using them. Usually the May long weekend in Canada Zone 5b.

At this point your dahlias need little water, until sprouts have appeared above ground. But once they start growing they will require a deep watering twice a week and little more if very warm. If you are using. Fertilizer, use low nitrogen fertilizer. Stop using altogether in late August.

Hand weeding is the only way to control weeds around dahlias. If you are using mulch them apply it after sprouts have emerged, but keep it away from the base of the tuber to allow water to penetrate properly.

Topping or pinching to promote shorter bushier plants and more blooms, is always recommended. Pinch the centre shoot just above the third set leaves (plants are about 12-18 inches tall). Disbudding means getting rid of side buds leaving centre bud only

We sell only single division tubers, field grown, divided, stored and shipped to you. Tuber size has nothing to do with the size of the plant or bloom.

In the fall, after a true ‘killing frost’, wait 2 weeks or so, to help set the tuber, then begin digging them up. The stems and leaves will be black or brown at this point. The clump will have built up over the summer, and some can be quite large. Cut the stock to about 6” to give you a handle for the clump. I use a pitchfork or a spade and start about 12” or so away from the stalk. I carefully move around the clump to loosen the soil, then gently lift up the clump, then grab the stem to hold onto. Mark you variety at this time, so you know what you are dividing later.

Some schools of thought are to wash each clump, then dry them, in a protected area for at least 24 hours before dividing and/or storing for the winter. I prefer to leave some dirt on my clumps, but I do dry them for a few depending upon how wet they are (weather determinant).I do not split tubers till the spring, but I do trim back the stalks to around one inch or so. I label the clump and store them in milk/produce crates in a cool area that always remains between 40-50F (as long as they don’t freeze). I can say that I have reduced my winter losses by using this method, and in our climate , sometimes it is faster to get the clumps out of the ground and drying instead of worrying about dividing. My failures have been our to not allowing enough time for clumps to ‘cure’ sufficiently, and they are usually my last ones, because it is colder and wetter.

I do not recommend sealing plastic containers for tuber storage they hold in too much moisture, and are conducive to tuber rot. There are several potential mediums to use in whatever storage container you use such as Wood Shavings, Peat Moss, and Vermiculite, all are good.

Dividing clumps may seem like a daunting task, but not so much, just rather imperfect. I use very sharp garden shears and cut the clump into halves, then quarters if I cannot see eyes at the time that I start dividing. But a viable tuber MUST have one eye, and they are located near the centre stalk. I prefer individual tubers not clumps for planting out. The clumps run the risk of one or more tubers rotting and taking out the entire plant, even at 16” tall.

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The bonus of Dahlias aside from long bloom time is the multiplication factor. One tuber becomes many quickly sometimes. But not all Dahlias are great tuber producers, and may only reap a couple per year vs. Ten or more from one tuber.

They are often a few things you should look for as your dahlias grow, which signal significant disease. If you see stunted, almost twisted plants, or pale curled leaves then your plant likely has a virus. Viruses are spread by blood sucking insects and nematodes (the bad ones). Unfortunately you will have to dig out your plant and destroy it - DO NOT COMPOST IT! Burning is actually best plan, if you can. Clean up in the garden of excess debris is very important. Sterilize you cutting tools before cutting anything else with them. I use a jar of Bleach for the job, just to prevent any cross contamination.

DAHLIAS

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The dahlia tuber sale is coming up in Early April, so keep an eye out. I am starting to wake my dahlias up a little earlier this year - just trying it out, to see if speeds up my processing them. I normally don’t start dividing until mid to late March, but I am trying something new. I prefer to wait and list my tubers for sale once I know what I have at the end of winter. There is nothing worse than finding out in April that a variety is unavailable, after you planned for it.

Dahlias are a huge investment in time, digging, dividing, storing every year…and then they bloom kin med July to Canadian Thanksgiving here, and you forget how much work they really are, while you marvel at their beauty and variety! I always say will try to narrow down the varieties or grow fewer dahlias but it never works!

Spring bulbs truly initiate our season for us, followed by Peonies and Ranunculus, Calla Lillies and then Dahlias, Sunflowers and Asters (this year). Dahlias are our Main Focal Flower in August, September and October, and sometimes in a good year mid July! This means that a lot of time and real estate are devoted to these beauties. We use dahlias in our Bouquet Subscriptions and Market Bouquets as well as wedding flowers.

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I have to admit I love raised beds for dahlias, and it has been a blessing, with 2017 flooding this area as it did. They really are fairly easy to grow otherwise. I find that the white ones are the most susceptible to pest damage - bugs I mean. Treatment of them is very particular, with fine mesh bags over the buds. it is time consuming but the payoff is worth the trouble.

This year I will be collecting more dahlia seeds in order to start my own seedlings. I will have separate bed specifically for ‘My’ varieties for this purpose. I am crossing my fingers for some interesting seedlings to be produced in 2020.

Dahlia Nick Sr.

Dahlia Nick Sr.

This is was my unknowns bed from 2017!

This is was my unknowns bed from 2017!

SWEET PEAS

In 2018 I decided to collect sweet pea pods through my patch. I had let them go to seed, resulting in a tangled mess, so a “Mix” of seeds was the way to proceed. I would keep some for myself and make the remainder available for sale. I had a wonderful selection of varieties so this seemed like a plan.

What I didn’t figure out was how much work goes into hulling the pods and counting the seeds for packaging. I must admit after a busy Holiday season of overindulging, sorting Sweet Pea seeds ended up being a perfect winter project! Add a terrible head cold and you have a great past time.

A sweet smelling bouquet of colour for the dinner table!

A sweet smelling bouquet of colour for the dinner table!

After several sessions I can finally say I finished the counting and packaging. I should also confess that my love of sweet peas knows no bounds, so I also packaged up the excess I ordered from England, varieties I couldn't easily find here in Canada, and noted as ‘Good for cutting’, and the Butternut Creek Flowers Sweet Pea Collection for 2019 is now set!

I keep a certain number of each variety to plant out myself. The excess plants are offered for sale locally, perfect for someone who only wants a couple or one of a variety. I am thrilled with new varieties I now have on hand for this year. These plants won’t be available until early May - Perfect for Mothers Day! Included with every purchase are growing instructions as well.

3 of the Sweet Pea rows in the raging heat of early summer 2018

3 of the Sweet Pea rows in the raging heat of early summer 2018

Sometime in the next two weeks or so, I will be posting the 2019 list of Varieties available for sale in packages of ten (minimum).

We also saved seeds from our Pumpkin Patch and well as our incredible Zinnias, also as mixes, from 2018, so those seeds will be available as well.

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Happy new Year 2019!

I realized that I hadn't”t written anything for the Blog since March 2017 when the web site launched. I have no one to blame but myself. 2017 turned out to be a very challenging year and ingrained in my memory. I had decided to add 10 new beds in the girls next to the five raised beds we built in 2016. That was when we experienced the wettest summer on record for Kingston. Flooding was thew word for the summer. By late August things started to dry out. I also discovered what gladiolus thrips were once my entire crop was damaged. Organic gardening isn’t impossible but does add to the difficulty level. Trial and error is a good teacher as long as you learn from your mistakes.

Not noted for for being an optimist, it shocks me how I truly believe it will be better next year, just plan better. I think Mother Nature tests one’s resolve when gardening and 2018 provide no exception. After surviving the worst drought ever in 2016 and 2017 the floods, the Ice storm of April 29th, while my poor tulips and daffodils were well on their way was a prefect example. Then suddenly in late May/early June it got ridiculously hot for Kingston. Ugh!

Needless to say we made it through 2018 almost unscathed and looking at 2019 with even more optimism than I thought possible for me muster. We purchased a small tractor which means my Husband Jim is willing to do more work on the farm as long as the tractor is involved. I will be adding some new items to the Web page, and losing a few other, trying new directions, and yes more Workshops! I have a neighbour Debbie who comes over to help me occasionally, as well as my niece Erin, when we need a lot of weeding to be done. The neighbours young sons are hired to do all the heavy work my poor old body either doesn’t want to do, or just plain can’t anymore.

I still manage to avoid a camera whenever possible, but I love seeing photos of our little ‘field of dreams’. My only regret is not starting to do this years ago. Check back to see what we are up to, as I have tried to map out a regular blog post for the year. I am sitting in the living room with a horrible cold and a gorgeous day outside that sees the temperature dropping steadily all day. Enjoy the winter it will new over soon enough!!

On a final note, our Bouquet Subscriptions are available with a prearranged delivery option to. They make wonderful gifts for Valentines Day, Mother’s Day and Just Because. Fresh flowers are always welcome!

Cheers

Liz & Jim