Monday, May 16, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: The Tree Peonies


What a wackadoodle spring it's been. First, spring comes early, then winter returns, then it's summer, and now I'm sitting here wrapped up in a blanket in my flannel jammies, wearing my Uggs fringed moccasins to keep warm. I don't know what month it is behaving like, but it is not May.

But it is May. I know, because the peonies are blooming. I've got three types here at Our Little Acre: tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), and intersectional (Itoh) peonies, which are a cross between a tree peony and an herbaceous peony. I used to also have a fernleaf peony (Paeonia ternifolia), but it disappeared one year and has never returned. I loved it and if I ever find another one, I'll buy it again.

The tree peonies are always the first to bloom, followed by the herbaceous and then finally, the intersectionals. (The fernleaf peony, when I had it, bloomed before the tree peonies.)

The buds on the tree peonies are bulbous and larger than those of the
herbaceous peonies. Some of my buds were as large as a racquetball.

Herbaceous peonies are known for their beautiful fragrance - traditional rose-like in nature - but tree peonies not so much. Many people think those stink. But it depends! Of all my tree peonies, only a couple of them have stinky smells. The others have a nice fragrance to them including my largest one, this pink variety that I purchased in 2005 at the Cleveland Flower Show.

This was sold to me as Paeonia suffruticosa 'Sahohime', but it lacks
that cultivar's dark red eye zone.

Paeonia suffruticosa 'Kamatanishiki' really is lavender.

I've purchased the 'Shimanishiki' tree peony twice, but both times, the bloom made it obvious that isn't what I got. I'll keep trying. Maybe the third time is a charm? I think I need to buy it when it's in bloom.

I had so many blooms this year that I cut several to bring in the house and put them in this silver bowl. These are from three different tree peonies, but most of them are from the not-Sahohime.


Tree peony blooms always look to me like they're made of crepe paper.

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In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Rambling In the Garden. Go there to see more beautiful cut flowers and plants!



Sunday, May 8, 2016

2016 - The Year of the Cherry


Several years ago, I received a couple of cherry trees at a garden writer's event. I can't remember the event, and I don't know which kind of cherry trees they are. I planted them and hoped that one day I would have enough cherries to make a pie, even though I don't do pies. If I got cherries, I'd make a pie for my husband, because he loves pies.

Oh, who am I kidding? We've had apple trees for nearly 40 years and he's the one who makes the apple pies. If we get cherries, he'll be the one to make the cherry pie.

The cherry trees didn't get a very good start. One winter a few years ago, we forgot to cage the small trees and the rabbits chewed them right down to the ground. I really thought they'd chewed up our cherry pie dreams. But the trees recovered quite quickly and nicely, even though they're now more cherry shrubs than trees. It was amazing, really.

Last year, we got a cherry. Three blossoms - woo hoo! - but just one cherry. I netted that thing because there was no way the birds were going to get our very first cherry. But in my anxiousness to taste it, I might have picked it too soon. Too soon for a sweet cherry, maybe not too soon for a sour one. So I still don't know if we have sweet or sour cherry trees.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked to the back of the property and was taken aback by those little cherry shrubs.


Hundreds of blossoms! Cherry pies! PIES! More than one. Maybe two pies!



I was an amazing thing. I just stood there and stared at them. And then I ran to the house and got the camera. So. Many. Blossoms.


It can take up to eight years for a cherry tree to produce a fruit crop of any size. It depends on the variety and the climate and growing conditions. In general, cherry trees that are slower to produce fruit will produce for a longer period of time and live longer.

Time will tell as to how many cherries we'll get. You can be sure the entire trees will be netted. And I'll be more patient in picking them this year. But I wish I knew which kind of cherries they were. If any of my garden writer friends remember getting these and can tell me which kind they are, I'd be happy to know.

I'm so excited about the prospect of so many cherries, I think I will make the first pie with them. Unless Romie really wants to. I wouldn't want to deny him that privilege, you know.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walking On Sunshine


I have this kind of love/hate relationship with dandelions and I'm betting you do too. They're the sort of thing that you can't live with because they irritate you so much and you can't live without them because they just won't let you.



At this time of year, they're fairly innocuous, and to be honest, they've got a lot going for them. We've just emerged from winter and seeing the first dandelion bloom pretty much makes each and every one of us smile, even if it's only on the inside. And one or two of them won't hurt anything anyway. Unless you let it go to seed.



One dandelion bloom produces 54 to 172 seeds and one plant will produce more than 2000 seeds. A single acre of dandelions is estimated to have the capability of producing 240,000,000 seeds a year. Not only that, dandelions do this all on their own because they are apomictic. In other words, no sex is required for them to reproduce. No wonder they pop up anywhere and everywhere.

Even though dandelions don't require pollination to produce seed and thus reproduce, they are well-visited by pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, beetles, and moths. Dandelions are one of their earliest sources of nectar and far be it from me to deny the bees their breakfast.

But you could be enjoying dandelions for your breakfast too. Every part of the dandelion is edible, with the roots tasting a lot like parsnips, the young greens making a tasty leafy salad, and the blossoms as the basis for a delicate-tasting jelly. And there's wine.

Dandelions pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. According to nutritiondata.com and the USDA, “This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.”

One serving of dandelion greens (1 cup) has 35 calories, provides 112% of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin A, 32% of Vitamin C, 10% of calcium, and 9% of iron.

We've never had a perfect lawn. Far from it, for several reasons. First of all, we live on an acre that has a lot of grass. We don't weed and feed, and as far as dandelions go, I'm perfectly fine with seeing them peppered throughout the yard as yellow flowers. I don't mind clover either but that's a conversation for another day.

Do we battle dandelions, in spite of all the facts about them that are in the pro column? Sure, because we don't want an entire lawn of them and I don't want them in my gardens. We're not trying to raise them as a crop.

So we dig out the larger ones and we try to mow before they go to seed. We keep just enough around for grandkids to make daisy chains and bring us sunny bouquets. Just enough to provide pollinators with nutrition when it's in limited supply. Just enough to make us smile when we that's exactly what we need.

Kara, age 6, in 1986


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The article, "Walking On Sunshine," first appeared in my weekly newspaper column in the Paulding Progress, published in Paulding, OH.

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