I hope the 2012 gardening year was as interesting and rewarding for you as it was for me. A wet, cool spring led into a hot dry summer followed by a long, very pleasant autumn — albeit very dry.
Of course, I experienced both successes and setbacks; let me tell you about some of them.
In the vegetable patch, I continue to grow kohlrabi "Kossack"; we enjoy eating this wonderful vegetable and sharing some with friends. I had a great crop again this year and have a supply in the fridge, which should do us well into the winter.
I tried coloured carrots this year as an experiment and I must say I was not impressed. The purple and yellow ones were not bad but the white ones were tough and unpalatable.
None of the coloured carrots was as sweet as the normal orange ones we grow — I shall stick to orange ones from now on. The coloured ones did add a bit of colour to some culinary dishes, but their quality, in my opinion, is inferior.
I grew a bush variety of snap peas called "Sugar Lace" and I was greatly impressed. I planted them late — in mid-June — so that they would start producing when the regular sugar snap peas had run their course.
The plan worked well, and Sugar Lace produced dandy edible pod peas in profusion right up until late September, long after all the other peas in our garden were long gone.
I continue to preach the benefits of succession planting and reaped the benefits by having a profusion of lettuce and radish — and the aforementioned peas — all summer long. We harvested the last radishes and lettuce in mid-October, leaving only an unheated cold frame full of lettuce to take us well into November.
In terms of the flower garden, I also encountered some successes and some challenges.
In the spring, I bought a taro root — a.k.a. "elephant ear". Although it produced several large decorative leaves over the summer, I probably won’t include it in my garden next year.
I grew my elephant ear in a large pot and although I moved it into the sunroom during inclement weather, the leaves tended to yellow around the margins. I have seen spectacular specimens in other gardens so perhaps it was more that I didn’t have the right location to effectively use the plant; it just didn’t seem to fit my style of garden.
I used a number of calibrachoa — a.k.a. "Million Bells" — in my mixed containers this year and I was blown away by how wonderful these plants are. They bloomed and bloomed, right up until Thanksgiving weekend, and their wonderful cascading growth habit added great beauty to many of my containers.
My hardy roses hardly had a chance to bloom as the deer finally found their way into my rose garden, which they have never bothered before during the summer. I have always fenced this part of the garden during the winter since it contains our bird feeders, which are like magnets to deer in the wintertime. I will have to add more permanent fencing — more wrought iron I expect.
I have always grown geraniums and this year I included even more of them, using them in almost all of my mixed containers. They loved the dry, sunny weather and put on a spectacular display. I will keep them over winter and use them again next year.
I often use creeping Jenny in my hanging baskets and this year, for some reason, the plants hardly produced any trailing stems. I may rethink using it again.
I tried sunpatiens this year; they remind me of New Guinea Impatiens except that they are much taller and can take full sun. I used 10 magenta ones in a long planter and a couple on pink ones in mixed pots on the driveway.
I was very pleased with their performance except that the plants that I purchased from a local greenhouse were quite small and they didn’t really get going until well into August. I will recommend to the greenhouse owners that they perhaps need to start the plants a bit earlier — I will look for larger plants next spring.
It was a good year — the golden zucchini produced an endless supply of fruits, the heliopsis were stunning, the peonies outstanding, the cabbages massive — I could go on and on ...
I already cannot wait until spring arrives once more!
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.