Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weeds of the Balcony, Not-Quite-Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Edition

Inspired by this tweet, not quite in time for Wordless Wednesday or Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, here it is, the "weed" that's been enchanting me these past couple of days: Willowherb (Epilobium, genus that includes Fireweed).

I only noticed it when its tiny, pink flowers started opening this past weekend. Each flower is less than 1/4" across, with four bilobed petals. They're arranged in racemes, on long-ish opposite pedicels that emerge from leaf axils.

I think the flowers may be opening and closing in response to how much sun there is. It looks like there are four stamens in each flower, but they're too tiny to see with the naked eye and my pseudo-macro photography-fu is failing me.

Leaves are opposite, dentate with short, short petioles at less than 1/8" long. Lower on the plant, branches appear to emerge from leaf axils.I guess they'd be called suckers if you were talking about tomato plants.

I've yet to figure out the species. It is well-behaved (so far) and quite small at no more than 9 inches tall. Some species of Epilobium can be weedy apparently, propagating abundantly via rhizomes and/or fluffy seeds.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An 800 pound gorilla and its showy, svelte friend

The Di Cicco broccoli is developing a head and taking over cedar planter number 2. Also in the same planter but obscured by this monster is, believe it or not, Purple Peacock broccoli, and Red Russian and Dinosaur kale. Stunning how big they've become since planting out in mid-May. Lesson learned: Di Cicco is not space-efficient!

Purple Peacock, on the other hand, seems like an ideal broccoli to grow when you're short on space and I'm beginning to understand why Linda from Tree and Twig Farm sent me these seeds. Not only are the showy purple-veined leaves attractive (as you can infer from this picture of it as a seedling), they're also edible (it is a broccoli-kale cross)! Best of all, the plant itself is petite - maybe a third of the size of the monster Di Cicco. Perfect for balcony container gardening!

Sadly, I have no good pictures of this small-space gem but I'll make sure to post any in the fall if I can squeeze in a second crop.

A new favourite: Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'

Housefly on Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam' I got as part of the city's annual flower giveaway. I know: flies are not as glamourous as some of the other insects in this post, but these have been the only insects around the balcony during these past couple of torrentially rainy days.

I wasn't a fan of Coreopsis in general, but the sparse rosemary-like leaves and Moonbeam-y yellow flowers have charmed me. The windy balcony rail planter is not the best location, though, because hard gusts buffeting the plants have snapped more than one stem.

Also, I have discovered compelling video is hard to shoot. I was planning on putting together a little montage of the balcony garden, but coming up with footage that didn't bore even me to tears is difficult.

Mystery seeds

These germinating seeds turned up in the herb planter on the balcony rail. Any idea what they are?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pulsatilla update

Here's a couple of Pulsatilla species that I sowed indoors around March 26th. They were transplanted into the cedar planter that I built in late May, and are still quite small (the second true leaves only developed after the transplant). That's a Canadian dime (same size as an American 10c piece) in the pictures for scale.

Pulsatilla campanella

Pulsatilla pratensis subsp. nigricans
Ink and Penstemon and I are having an informal grow-along. She reports that her black pasque flower is also still quite small, and that there's quite a long way to go before flowers can be expected. Hopefully they will survive to see that day. Year one, I suppose, is devoted to growing out those spindly roots.

The prairie crocus (Pulsatilla patens) seedlings that grew up with these guys didn't make it through the hardening-off process, but a seedling did appear May 30 in the wintersown pots, so there's hope yet.

Balcony o' bugs

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weeds of the Balcony

I've been taking a very relaxed approach this year to weeding the planters on my balcony. Crazy? Perhaps not so, given that I'm more inspired by what I find growing in abandoned lots, parking lots, and in the wild, than in "nicely maintained" gardens. So I'm genuinely curious about what these volunteers will grow up to be.

Robin's Plantain (Erigeron pulchellus)
I am also hoping that some of them are offspring of the dried Misanthus sinensis stalks I stuck in one of the cedar planters last fall.

I am sure so far that I've identified a variety of smartweed based on leaf shape and hairlessness and the presence of ocreae (membranous sheathes where branches emerge). Initially, I thought it was Polygonum persicaria, or Lady's Thumb, based on the characteristic blotch on the leaf (presumably, the thumbprint of a lady with sooty hands).

However, the ocreae in Lady's Thumb are fringed with hairs and my specimen is decidedly unhairy all over. Despite the presence of the blotch, it is likely that my specimen is the very similar Pennsylvania Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum) or Green Smartweed (Polygonum scabrum). An ocrea is a membranous sheath that surrounds the point where a stem branches off.

Unhairy ocrea rules out Lady's Thumb
In any case, the adult plants of the possible species are all pretty uninteresting looking (and too big for the front of the planter), so it gets yanked.

Back to its roots
I stumbled on the initial Lady's Thumb ID by opening every weed name link in Qu├ębec's weed identification guide and seizing on the one with the picture of a blotchy, elongated leaf. But it's been pretty hard going when doing a directed search based on the observed characteristics of immature plants. There are many weed ID sites with indices of common and Latin names, but few (such as this one from Michigan State) offer a key-based approach to identification.

Bok choy!

The bok choy that I started indoors way back at the end of March have gotten huge: each plant is more than a foot across, with some older leaves bigger than my face (the orange thing in the picture below is a marigold flower for scale).

The recent heat has caused the bok choy I had planned on eating to start to bolt.

As lovely as I find the flowers, I intend to eat these guys before they bloom.

So off with head one! Nothing fancy to hand but a big old bread knife. Now to figure out what to do with my bounty. Thinking of noodles and Chinese barbecue pork and bok choy for dinner ... for the rest of the week.

Mind you, I've got a whole other head on the front balcony still bolting away, plus a couple of other heads out back on top of that. I think this is what the call too much of a good thing.