Saturday, January 26, 2013

Frogs Turn Up The Volume

Preparing the nursery for Spring means staying a little later on sunny days in the Winter.  We wound down the day in the northern part of Wildwood Farm, near a stream that empties into the Kenwood Marsh, as the sun set.

It felt like we were at a concert instead of the middle of a meadow.  As the light faded, the volume of noise from crickets, birds, and frogs grew.  We stopped and listened for a few minutes; it was pretty impressive.  The frogs were definitely the loudest!

Of course, the frogs had to be loving the 50 degree weather in mid January and extra water!  Frogs and other beneficial amphibians can make do with puddles if you’d like to attract them to your yard.  Standing water can be bad for foundations but out in the garden it can be a real asset for a healthy habitat.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Making a List, Checking it Twice

All gardeners know that thinking about a list of plants for spring is almost as much fun as making a list for Santa.  There are so many possibilities!  Whether the wish list is filled with big puffy cactus dahlias or graceful arching Japanese Maples, we all hope more space and more money magically appears for our garden.

When we think of stocking the nursery and gardens for Spring, our eyes are often bigger than our grounds.  New variegated dogwoods [Cornus Rutgers Celestial Shadow], early blooming Hankerchief Trees [Davidia involuncrata Lady Sunshine], and variegated Gingkos [Ginkgo biloba Majestic Butterfly] are some of the plants we just can’t resist.  Of course, we’ll also add to our collection of Maples.
By the time Spring rolls around, Wildwood Farm will be bulging at the seams with amazing plants.  Best of all, most of them are right at home in a small backyard setting.  That’s not to say our mature trees can’t hold their own in a wide open space!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Party Planning

Birthday parties are always fun affairs.  Blowing out candles, eating the frosting first, and opening up goody bags are some of our earliest memories of birthdays. 

At Wildwood Farm, we're busy brainstorming activities that will make our 38th Birthday Party one to remember.  Planning this birthday party is a bit different though - the focus will be on the guests.  We want to make sure the goody bag has plenty of treasures for gardeners and their plants.  A big cake overflowing with flowers, is definitely a must.  Balloons, streamers, and tunes will set the mood.

Nature is an important part of the business too.  So we'll have talks and demonstrations that celebrate all the pollinators and beneficials that make everything possible.  It's hard to give a bee a goody bag but planting a long blooming perennial might be the next best thing.

We still have some time before April 28th to refine the afternoon festivities.  Stay tuned and mark your calendar!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Sap is Rising

At Wildwood Farm, we’re doing some light pruning of fruit trees, maples, and dogwoods.  With each cut, small droplets of sap seep out of the trees and roll down the trunk.  Some people will say not to prune when the sap is rising.  We say better late than never – having a branch break off next summer because it was too long and had too much fruit is something we don’t want.

The glistening tips of each cut are a sight you’ll only see this time of year.  And the sap flowing down the trunk reminds us of stories an old neighbor told us about growing up in Vermont.  She grew up near a Maple Syrup ‘Farm’.  A vast network of stents and pipes connected the trees to a central gathering station.  She would taste fresh syrup just as the farm finished boiling off the water.

Of course, most ‘maple syrup’ these days is really high fructose corn syrup.  If you thought that corn plants don’t have sap, don’t worry, you’re correct.  It takes a laboratory to manipulate corn molecules into a sweet syrup form.  The documentary King Corn explains the logic, environmental effects, and profits associated with corn syrup.

Who knows what humans will think of next? Japanese Maple Syrup?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Starting From Seed

Propagating plants falls into three categories: grafting, cuttings, and seeds.  Of the three, starting a plant from seed is the least complicated approach.  Reduced to the basics, it only involves burying a seed in the soil.  After millions of years, mother nature decided this was the best approach.

Of course, if you have one seed and you want it to germinate there are some extra precautions to take.  At Wildwood Farm, we’re taking some of these extra steps to ensure we have Dogwood seedlings to use as rootstock for summer grafting.  Dogwood seeds, like many types of seeds, need a period of cold before they will germinate.

Winter will do.  So will the refrigerator, and it’s much safer.  Before you put the seed in the frig, clean off all the pulp/ fruit.  Then, moisten some soil, squeeze out excess water by hand, and seal it a ziplock.  If you’re only doing a few seeds, you can start them in a 4” container and save yourself a step later [transplanting].  After three months of cold, the seeds will be ready to plant.

Some seeds, like Viburnum, need a period of warm before the cold.  They’re the primadona seeds.  At this point, we’re at month two of cold stratification for our dogwoods.  It’s important to check them at month two to see if they’re germinating.  No roots were showing so we put them back for another month.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Breath of Fresh Air

This time of year the skies are often cloudy, daylight hours are fleeting, and a window usually separates our view of the garden.  Summoning the willpower to slog through gardening tasks can be tough.  On the few bright sunny days, we’d rather be doing something refreshing and cheery.

A park can be a great place to enjoy these days.  Whether it’s a famous national park or a small regional one, hiking along a ridgeline can be energizing and inspiring.  Views of wide open spaces seem to clear minds.  They also afford many ideas for gardening and design.  A seemingly uniform green hillside can have grasses of different heights, variations of blues and browns mixed in, small valleys with steeper drops, and rock outcroppings.  At walking speed, it’s easier to spot these nuances than cruising through a park with a camera out the window.

Biking is also a great way to tour parks.  On a ride through Mt. Tam last weekend, I saw small waterfalls, fern grottos, huge redwoods, rolling meadows, crashing waves and native perennials clinging to the side of the road.

While rushing out to enjoy sunny days is second nature, slowing down can be the best way to take in the rays and the view.