About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 Delphiniums

I just took the delphinium flats out of the fridge where they have been for the past 3 weeks. This year I am growing 200 'Aurora' as well as 200 of a new one called 'New Century'. I'm not sure they are any better than 'Clear Springs' which is what I usually grow. Both 'Aurora' and 'New Century' are hybrids so all the plants of a particular color should look identical. On the other hand, because 'Clear Springs' is open pollinated, each plant is slightly different and that means you sometimes find interesting surprises like nearly turquoise blues or whites with faint green markings in the bees.

I recently read the delphinium section of Hardy Perennials by the English garden writer Graham Rice. In most parts of the USA, delphiniums are short lived perennials so our only option is to obtain seed grown plants. In England it is a different story. England's climate allows delphiniums to be long lived perennials so many individual cultivars (i.e. clones) of delphiniums are available, with names like 'Giotto', 'Summerfield Miranda' and 'Tiddles'. There is a Delphinium Society, special RHS medals for delphiniums and annual RHS trials at Wisley where you can view all the latest delphimiums. I don't know why this seems so eccentric to me, it is really no different than our Hemerocallis, Dahlia and Hosta societies which also have display gardens, medals, and so on. I guess I'm just not enough of a fanatic about any one plant to want to belong to a society devoted to it.

Nevertheless, if I ever have some spare time and space (I can dream, can't I?), I'd like to order some delphinium seed from New Zealand where some of the recent English medal winners have originated. You can check it out here: New Millenium Delphiniums. Of course, these New Millenium delphiniums will not be the dwarf 3-5 foot varieties I grow for cutting, but the 5-8 foot monsters which require a stake dedicated to each flower spike. If anyone decides to grow some, please send some pictures and I will post them here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Project Grow's Heirloom Plant Sale

One of Project Grow's annual fundraisers is an heirloom plant sale. The sale is actually two events held in May. The first is over Mother's Day weekend as part of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens plant sale and the second sale is a Project Grow only event the following weekend in front of People's Food Co-op in Ann Arbor. The sale offers several varieties of basil and peppers, but it is mainly about heirloom tomatoes. The seed strains for these tomatoes are maintained by a hardcore group of Project Grow volunteers who are passionate about tomatoes. Each year they grow dozens of varieties and then save the seeds of their favorites. You can buy these locally raised and selected heirloom seeds at People's Food Co-op, or you can visit the sale and buy plants. Here is a list of the 51 varieties of tomatoes that will be available at this year's sale:


Bicolor Cherry

Brown Berry Cherry
Gajo de Melon
Isis Candy
Lemon Drop
Nell’s Green
Peacevine Cherry
Snow White
Yellow Pear

Orange Banana
Pirkstine Orange
Polish Linguisa
Purple Russian
Speckled Roman

Black Zebra
Cosmonaut Volkov
Costolutto Genovese
Ethel Watkins Best
Green Zebra
Olga’s Yellow Round Chicken
Tiger’s Paw

Burpee Quarter Century
Macrocarpum Lutea
Pixie Red Rock
Principe Borghese
Red Russian

Aunt Astrida’s Latvian Oxheart
Cannestrino di Lucca
Orange Russian 117
Orange Strawberry
Ukranian Bullsheart

Aunt Lillian’s Yellow
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Berkley Tie Dye
Prize-winning Bicolor
Black Krim
Caspian Pink
Cherokee Purple
West Virginia Hillbilly
Kellogg’s Breakfast

Project Grow Community Gardens

Last Fall I became involved again with Project Grow, Ann Arbor's community gardening organization. Founded in 1972, Project Grow is one of the oldest community gardening organizations in the country. Their main endeavor is running about a dozen community garden sites in Ann Arbor. Plots at the gardens are large, about 25 x 30, so you can grow enough food to actually feed a small family. They rent for around $120 per season, but there is a sliding scale for people who cannot afford the full price. In addition, Grow is involved with providing gardening opportunities to children, seniors and special needs gardeners at the Discovery Garden at Leslie Science Center. They also run a program for organic gardening certification at Washtenaw Community College, and hold numerous classes and events. You can read all about them at their website.