Friday, June 29, 2007
We took yesterday at a somewhat more leisurely pace, still using our "Turistica" hop on, hop off bus pass. We toured the southern end of the city, seeing some of the Olympic venues when Barcelona hosted them in 1992 and taking in the Mies Van Der Rohe pavillion and the Joan Miro Museum. Alexa and her granddad visited the Farnsworth house last month in Plano, IL and she said the pavillion was similar in design. On exhibit was the famous Barcelona chair that he designed in 1929 and still looks quite contemporary today. The girls have also enjoyed the modern art we have seen here in Spain. Last week when the whole group was together, the girls voted Madrid their favorite city and the Prado and the Reina Sophia Art Museum (which specializes in modern art) their favorite museums. When we were in Paris seven years ago, their favorite art museum was the Pompadieu Center, which also houses a fine collection of modern art.
Alexa and Julia are off doing their laundry in preparation for going to Dublin after we leave here on Sunday. When they get back we will ramble down "Las Ramblas" in search of dinner, since it is almost 9pm and actually early for dinner by Spain standards. I must say I could get used to the afternoon siesta and late dinners. Lori, any chance we could close say from between 2 and 4 in the afternoon? Of course the rest of the staff might not be too happy staying open then until 9pm.
See you next week.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
We had a little kerfuffle with the luggage. Not wanting to carry our back packs with us, we walked from the bus station to the train station to leave our bags in a storage locker, but the train station had closed the lockers. Ever since the Atocha station bombing in Madrid, security has been very tight. The few places we have left our luggage, such as Cordoba, the bags had to go through security. The train station in Avila was too small to have that service. So back down to the bus station to leave our bags there. We spent a few hours sight seeing, had dinner, then spent about 5 hours cooling our heels at the train station waiting for the train.
Taking the night train always seems like such a great idea, but it never works out that way in practice. In this case the train´s air conditioning ran all night and we were freezing. The seats did not recline and it was hard to sleep. When we arrived in Santiago, we had the same luggage problem and ended up going out to the airport to leave our bags there, then taking the airport shuttle back into town.
Santiago itself was great. It is the terminus of one of three medieval pilgrimages to holy places. In this case the bones of St. James were supposedly found in a field here and the cathedral was built. Today many people make the 500 mile walk from France. When we were there a group of bicyclists rode into the square and celebrated.
In Barcelona we decided to buy the "hop on, hop off" tourist bus ticket as a quick and easy way to get an overview of the city and then go back to see the highpoints. We spent yesterday seeing the Anton Gaudi sights, including the Sagreda Familia, still under construction for over 100 years, and several of the houses that he designed and built. Today we will do a different bus route and tomorrow we will go to Montserrat.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Winterizing Roses: After dealing with diseases and Japanese beetles, one of the most asked questions about roses we get here a C´side is how to winter them over successfully. Roses can be a little tricky and even I lose one every so often. Winterizing roses actually begins when you first purchase your roses. Be sure to purchase roses that are hardy for your area, which in our case means Zone 4-5, depending on where you live. Even though we have encouraged you to fertilize frequently during the spring and summer growing months, stop fertilizing around August 1 or two months before the first frost date in your area. Growth that occurs after over fertilization will produce weak, spindly canes that will have a hard time surviving our winters. The canes need to have time to develop into thick, study stems. Finally, resist the urge to prune in the fall. The best way to winter over your roses is to use rose collars. These are plastic rings that go around the base of the plant and are back-filled with black dirt. Mound the dirt 6-12 inches over the base of the plant, then be sure to pull it away from the plant in the spring as the plants come out of dormancy. Spring is the best time to prune back the dead canes.
Shrub roses generally don´t need the rose collars and their growth habit makes it difficult to use them, anyway. Come spring prune back the dead wood and give them an over all shaping. They can be cut back to 12-18 inches, as can your hybrid teas.
The answer to last week´s trivia quiz: Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries also are related to roses in the sub-family Rosoideae - (rose-OY-dee-ee).
Next week I will talk about companion planting with roses and I have picked up a few new ideas from a few gardens we visited on our trip to Spain.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
When we left Madrid we took the AVE (fast train) to Toledo. We upgraded accomodations and stayed in a lovely hotel in the heart of the old city. It was still relatively inexpensive but not as cheap as the MAD Hostel in Madrid. The cathedral there is very gothic in style. We also spent some time seeing the city´s Jewish history. We enjoyed a great traditional meal at a small restaurant near our hotel. We left the next morning for Cordoba, which meant we took the train back to Madrid, then boarded another one for Cordoba. It took less than 2 hours to get there. We spent the morning and part of the afternoon touring the Mezquite, the Christiana de los Reynes and some lovely gardens. The synagogue we wanted to visit was closed. Cordoba is the high point of Moorish rule in Spain. The mezquite is a gorgeous building with high ceilings and many columns and arches to hold it up! No flying buttresses yet. We rented our car and then visited the archeological ruins of the medina before heading to Granada.
Usually, we take public transportation when traveling in Europe. It is relatively inexpensive and usually convenient to the city center. With five people in our group it was cheaper to rent the car, though that can present some problems. Narrow streets are only a minor nuisance compared with some of the other problems we encountered. Signage, as in street signs, can be sparse or even non-existent. Traffic circles I can usually deal with, but here in Spain they have "jug handle" left turns that I always miss, resulting in an illegal U turn to get where I need to go. It helps to have a great navigator, as I did, to get around in the car.
Well back to Granada. Our mission in Granada was to visit the Alhambra. If Cordoba was the high water mark of Moorish occupation, then Granada was the low point. This was the last Moorish stand before being driven out of the Iberian peninsula and the reconquest of Spain by the Christians was complete. The Alhambra was impressive, but I think our group liked the Mesquite best. After our tour we drove to Tarifa, the southern most tip of Spain and only 10 miles from Africa. Friday we took the ferry to Tangiers, Morocco and enjoyed a tour of the city and area with our guide, Aziz.
Anywhere else we would have gone on our own, but after talking with several friends and reviewing a few guide books, we decided 5 unaccompanied females would not be a good idea. The mother of our young friend Julia estimates that 10 percent of touring is wasted, either in time or money, and since we were only there for the day and wanted to make the most of it, we decided to hire the guide. And it was worth every penny and then some. I picked his name from the Rick Steve´s guide to Spain. I was able to e-mail to make the arrangements and I called him that morning just to confirm the arrangements. We visited sights outside the city we would never have gotten to and we never would have made our way through the intricate twists and turns of the kasbah. The tour through the market was fascinating and we enjoyed a typical Moroccan lunch at the end. This excursion got everybody´s vote for "Best Day."
We were sad to put our two friends on the train this morning and hope they had a great flight home. We are on to Santiago de la Compostela and then flying to Barcelona for 5 days.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I am traveling with my youngest daughter, her friend, my friend and her 15 year old. Anyone who knows me, know I am notoriously cheap when it comes to accomodations so we are staying at hostels and pensiones. The hostel here in Madrid is the Mad Hostel, and is pretty nice. The beds are running $14 per night and it does include a continental breakfast. We are in a 6 bed room (there are five of us) and figured what were the odds of a single person showing up. But what do you know, we shared our room each night first with a young man from Texas and then with a young man from Mexico. Not their lucky day. This morning we leave for Toledo and then for points south, including a day trip to Morocco, which the kids are definetely excited about.
It always helps when traveling in a group to travel with people who have similar tastes, food schedules, etc. I am a big breakfast eater. It can be difficult if someone in the group isn´t, since then the whole meal schedule gets thrown off. I always tell my kids, "Eat when you are hungry or when you get the chance!" Not that it ever works, because there is always one who gets up late and misses the free breakfast, then makes you stop at 10am because they are starving. I also enjoy stopping at the local market and selecting fruit, cheese, salami, bread etc. for lunch on the run. It is usually less expensive than eating in a restaurant and it is fun to shop with the locals.
Well, that is all for now. Hope the weather is nice in Crystal Lake and John, don´t forget to water my plants!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
One way to ensure at least one growing season, is to plant the rose properly. This means selecting the proper site, with full sun and good drainage. Full sun means 7-8 hours of sun, although it doesn’t have to be all at one time and in this case, more is better. To check for drainage, dig a hole 18" deep and fill it with water. If the hole drains within 5-6 hours, you have adequate drainage. If not, consider raising the soil level by using top soil or building a raised bed. Roses also prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil. Having slightly acidic soil allows the plant to take up nutrients more efficiently. We ask a lot of our roses (all those magnificent blooms) and to perform roses need a soil that is light, porous, moisture holding and full of nutrients. To achieve this, most soils, especially ours here in No. Illinois, need to be amended. A 50-50 blend of native soil and some type of organic compost is best. There are many products available commercially. Composted cow manure, mushroom compost, or Cotton Burr compost are recommended.
If you are planting a large bed, you can dig the compost in the whole bed. Otherwise, when you back fill the planting hole, use a 50-50 mix of native soil and compost. When digging the hole, dig it at least 2 feet in diameter and slightly deeper that the container you purchased the rose in. It does not hurt to plant the rose graft an inch or two below the soil surface. This helps protect the bud union during our winters. It is extremely important that you dig the hole at least 2 feet in diameter so that the feeder roots, the ones responsible for taking up water and nutrients, can get established. Adding bone meal or super phosphate at the root level when planting will also help these feeder roots develop. We also recommend using a root stimulator, such as Plant Start or Quick Start, when planting. These are low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus, to encourage root growth over top growth. Once the plant is established (6 weeks or so), you can switch to a regular fertilizer.
Summer Care for Roses
Assuming you have established plants, the most important thing you can do for your roses is water and fertilize. Use a good rose or all purpose perennial fertilizer. I usually recommend using a granular, slow release fertilizer, so that nutrients are being leached into the soil continuously. If you use a water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro, you will have to fertilize every time you water, or at least once a week. I’m not that motivated. Spread the fertilizer in a 2-3 foot diameter circle around the plant and work into the top several inches of soil, then water thoroughly. Fertilize once a month until August 1. Fertilizing after that time will cause weak canes to develop that will not survive the winter. Also this is a good time to quit deadheading. Deadheading also encourages new growth which leads to weakened canes.
Most plants need an inch of water a week. They prefer to be watered deeply to encourage the roots to grow deep rather than frequent, shallow waterings. It is best to water in the morning, and to water the soil rather than spray the foliage.
Deadheading In order to keep roses blooming it is important to remove the spent blooms, called deadheading. For the first deadheading of the season, you can cut back to 1/4 inch above the first set of 3 leaves. After that you can deadhead back to the first 5 leaf set.
Rose Diseases and PestsRoses are susceptible to fungal infestations and several insects. Powdery mildew and blackspot are two of the most common fungi. Fungi are usually present in the soil and are best dealt with before you see them on your plants. Use a good systemic such as the Bonide Rose 3 in 1 that is a fungicide, miticide and insecticide. It is sprayed on the leaves on a regular basis. If you find powdery mildew or black spot on your rose leaves, remove the leaves and throw in the trash and begin a spray program. Make sure you water properly as this will help reduce the incidence of fungal infestations.
Roses are also susceptible to aphids and Japanese beetles. The aphids will be killed if you use the Rose 3 in 1. If you want an organice treatment, you can release ladybugs into the rose garden and they will eat the aphids. We had a customer in last week with another insect problem, the rose slug. The rose slug is actually the larvae stage of the sawfly and it can skeletonize a rose leaf very quickly.
Garden Trivia Quiz: Thorns develop from the branch tissue of a plant. The "thorns" of the rose are actually the superficial outgrowth of the stem and are correctly termed "prickles." Now, doesn't that make you feel better?
June is National Rose Month, so in honor of this distinction I will be blogging about roses. I love roses. As I often say, I am a martyr to my roses. I put up with the thorns (which I don’t do for any other plant), I fertilize, I deadhead, I replace if one croaks over the winter, and I come home from work every night in July and August and spray those darn Japanese beetles. I have tea roses (mostly) and some shrub roses surrounding a bird bath. After my pond, my rose garden is my favorite spot. So, please indulge me while we spend some time this month on roses.
Gardening Trivia Quiz
Last week’s question had to do with the banana plant. The answer is below. For this month we will have questions, obviously, relating to roses. One issue that comes up often in the rose garden is the problem of thorns. What is the correct name for the pokey things that are on the rose stems? (Just as a hint, I got most of my information for these blogs from the ARS web site.) If you know the answer, or even if you don’t, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Roses can be grouped in to three main classes: Species (wild roses), Old Garden Roses, those in existence before 1867, and Modern Roses, or those not in existence before 1867. Within the Old and Modern classification there are shrub, tea and climbing tea, as well as hybrids. Here at C’side, we classify our roses as either hybrid tea (including grandiflora and floribunda), shrub, David Austin (Old English roses) and climbers.
Grandiflora- This rose is a cross between the hybrid tea and the grandiflora. It is characterized by having clusters of flowers on long stems. It is a taller rose than the floribunda and works well as a screen or in the back of the garden. Generally, it is not as fragrant as either the hybrid tea or the floribunda.
Greenhouse Staff Gets a Break
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Our own Laura Fergus was the staff winner last week for correctly answering the question about what family rosemary, sage, oregano, thiyme and marjoram belong to. Young Pamela wants to institute a new rule for staff--no Google-ing. Just to clarify, only the Countryside staff has to get the correct answer to win the batch of mini-chocolate chip muffins. The rest of you will still get the coupon even if the answer is not correct. Obviously, this is a marketing gimmick, but I still would like to hear from you and it is nice to know someone is out there reading this. This week's question is a toughy: True or False (or as we say in Italian: vero o falso): The banana has no trunk. It is held upright by a tightly wrapped bundle of leaf stalks. Thus the banana is not a true tree. Good luck. E-mail me with your answer at email@example.com.
The other day a customer wiped us out of our entire horseradish supply. I couldn’t help but ask what he was going to use it for, since it does spread once established, and how much horseradish sauce does the average person use in year, anyway. Well, his recipe for horseradish is an old family recipe and the sauce is in huge demand from his family and friends. He agreed to share the recipe with us as it is posted on his blog. So here is the address for those of you who are interested: http://www.sardawg.org./ . It is listed under the tab "dawg recipes."
It is finally warm enough to plant the veggies. If any of you attended our spring gardening seminars in April, the vegetable seminar focused on integrating vegetables into your ornamental beds. Many vegetables make great foliage additions to the garden and have the added benefit of being edible. One of my favorites is the Bright Lights Swiss Chard. When I was in France last August, the Bright Lights was used extensively in many of the municipal flower beds in Paris and elsewhere. The leaves of the swiss chard can be used like spinach and the swiss chard won’t bolt in the heat like spinach does. In addition, Bright Lights has great coloration in the stalks. Eggplant is also a great plant to use in the ornamental bed. The star-like purple flower is very attractive as are the resulting purple or pink fruits that add color to garden. Sliced and grilled is a great way to serve it this summer.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
There are many definitions of heirloom vegetables. For some people the vegetable variety must be "old." What constitutes old is open for discussion. The year 1951 is often used as the cut off date as this was the beginning of mechanized agriculture and the need for vegetables that withstood large scale production. Others use WWII as the date as people often shared seeds from their "Victory" gardens. Heirloom plants must be open-pollinated so that the resulting seed will germinate "true to type," that is saved seed will germinate the next year and be just like its parent. Hybridized plants often produce sterile seed that does not germinate or does not grow "true to type."
Some heirlooms can be difficult to grow as they have not been bred to be disease resistance. When growing heirloom varieties it is important to use good horticultural practices. Water only the soil and water only in the morning. This will help to reduce fungal infestations. If your garden allows it, rotate your crops every year. Be careful when mulching and only mulch between the rows, not right up to the plant. If fungal infestations are a problem, start applying fungicides before the problem arises. Prevention really is worth a pound of cure, since it is hard, if not impossible to eradicate an infestation once it becomes apparent. There are several organic and low toxicity products available on the market.
One thing everyone does agree upon is that heirloom vegetables taste better. Below is a list of some of the more popular varieties.