Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Great Gardeners Deserve Great Onions!

After all these years the arrival of a seed catalog from a company that I love still gets me excited about the garden all over again.  Yesterday we were on the way out when we picked up the mail.  The name Dixondale Farms  on a thick manila envelope was a welcome sight.  I am a person with a powerful curiosity and I would have loved to rip open the envelope right there in the car,  However the envelope was carefully sealed with plenty of clear shipping tape.  There was nothing for it, but to wait until I got home to open it.  Waiting only intensified my excitement.  When I did get to open the envelope, inside I discovered these beautiful catalogs and a nice letter from Mary Caddell.

This year their catalog features a photo of one of my bodacious braids of  Red Marble Cippolini onions.  I have always loved to braid my onions.   I braid them between two strands of garden twine.  The more onions you add, the heavier the braid gets and the tighter the strings hold together.  I could not have been more delighted when I was asked for this picture for use in their catalog.  After all I consider them the very best supplier of onions plants in the country.  Plants and Stones has never done any advertising.  We are not in the business of endorsing garden products.  Any recommendations we make are unsolicited and reflect our true feelings.

What a great looking plate of sliced onions.  I love the way the brilliant  color goes all the way to the center of the onion.  How about a beautiful slice of onion on a burger.  My Dad used to get two nice slices of homemade bread, slather one with butter and make a sandwich using one big slice of an onion like this one.  When I look at a plate of sliced onions I can see him and the way he enjoyed those onion sandwiches.  Some of us would join him, leaving the others to complain about our onion breath.  It was so worth it!!!

These onions grow to a very nice size here.  We did plant a few close to keep them small.  Here I peeled a small Red Cippolini.  The outside skins are dark  red, but the onions themselves are almost magenta. This is one of my favorite colors.  I wonder how many people grow onions that match their winter vest?  What a delight it is to add this brilliant color minced in tuna or potato salad.  Pretty little purple onion rings make up for the loss of summer flowers in my salads.  However, don't use them for French onion soup. Long cooking  makes them sweet and delicious, but the color change to death gray is unfortunate and unappetizing.

I will have to decide which of my gardening friends will receive  the extra catalogs.  Fortunately you can get one of these great onion catalogs and your own picture of my beautiful onion braid  by clicking on Dixondale Farms and ordering one.

Let's not forget that  Ed planted and harvested the onions.  He weeded the center of the bed where I can't reach.  Without him I could never have so much garden fun!  Usually we wait to order our onions until January or at least December.  Perhaps I should get my order in early since more of my friends will be ordering onion plants too.  They have lots and lots of onions for sale, but I want to make sure I get mine!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wild Arbutus Protected

Recent beady snow in the air has changed our focus.  Garden work must wait while our attention shifts to tasks that must be finished before freeze up and snowfall.  Several days have been devoted to repairing the gravel driveway.  Washouts and ruts are being filled so that the snow plow has a reasonably flat surface to clear.  This naturally occurring arbutus group also needed help.

Growing at the edge of the gravel bank seems like a poor choice.  Bulldozed more than one half a century ago, this ground has had that time period to revert to a natural state.  Uneven ground filled with large and small stones would not seem to promote the growth of this difficult wildflower.  Some years we enjoy the sweet early flowers here while at other times we can find no trace of the plant.  This past early spring, I found rabbit pellets in great quantity where the arbutus grows.  As an evergreen plant, arbutus is one of the few sources of fresh food at that time of year.

Snow melt revealed no visible trace of arbutus plants here.  Arbutus delays new leaf and stem growth until after the business of flowering is complete.  These plants had no flowers but still they remained dormant until the time was right for new leaves and stems to grow.  Left with only a scrap of crown and an intact root system, these plants began to show new growth.  Their recovery seems to be a miracle of sorts.

The combination of a field stone wall and a wire cage should keep the foragers at bay.  Nestled in a depression, the cage cannot be pushed aside by a woodchuck's snout.  Hopefully the rabbit will not be able to find wiggle room sufficient to slip under the wire.  We will visit this site frequently to see if our precautions meet the challenge.

New leaf growth was the single job done here this year.  No flower buds were set.  Another full normal growing season will be required before any flowers appear on these plants.  That is a long time to wait for flowers but wait we will.

For now, this job is finished.  Fallen leaves were spread to cover most signs of recent work.  The stones were left exposed but moss and lichens will soon hide them.  An old heavily used rusty wire cage almost goes unnoticed.  The stones were carefully set and they should remain in place for many years.  The wire cage will rust away leaving a shallow stone well to puzzle those who follow me on this land.  If they are persistent, they may find an occasional arbutus plant in bloom.   

One note on the unusual clothing in use.  Many years of time spent working in sunlight has left sun damaged skin.  A Solumbra helmet liner and a long sleeved  shirt protect almost all of the skin but create a strange visual appearance.  We have not way of knowing what passersby  think when the see the wild man strangely dressed working among his posies.