Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Does Spring Always Have To Be So Busy?

Spring has found us in what seems to be a frenzy of "busyness".
We have just finished the marathon of Plant Sale preparation and execution. The very early spring meant we had more time to dig plants, and seemingly didn't quite know when to stop.
All went well on the two sale days this past weekend, and we thank those who dropped by.
Our next venture is a two part Garden Course on the next two Thursdays. We have done these for Antigonish County Recreation for a few seasons. Our "theme" this year is soil, of course, plus a session on flowering shrubs.
The following week we are participating in GASHA's Wellness Fair at St. Martha's Hospital. I guess we need to somehow show that gardening is a contributor to "wellness".
One of the ever present problems here at The Willow Garden is the surplus and crowdedness of so many rhododendrons and azaleas (to a lesser extent). Bill's nursery beds seem to overflow, and we often can't get plants moved on to more spacious beds.
Bill did one foray into moving plant a few weeks ago. The newly expanded "gulley" bed received a contribution of about twenty rhodies that were ermarked for moving. They included neat stuff plus some named plants that we wanted to be able to show better.
We had the brilliant notion of trying to persuade members of the Atlantic Rhododendron & Horticultural Soc. to make some "field trips" and perhaps find some plants here to expand their plantings.
It has proven to be quite difficult to explain to those who have never visited our garden just how much and varied material there is. Even photographs don't really help.
The mystery involved in finding out over time what a certain seed lot will produce, appeals to some more than others. There are many plants from as far back as 2001 that we still can't pin a certain description to.
A tremendous amount of guesswork goes on after inspecting the qualities of both the Seed  and Pollen parents. Most hybridizers have some aim when making a cross, but the outcome is usually not very straight forward.
We feel that a reasonably good plant form is as important as the bloom. Rhododendrons do, with any luck, have foliage all year and flowers for only a short time!
I prepared a mini-list of some representatives from several nursery bed areas to try and illustatrate some of the diverse crosses and to get a hint at what the "aim" of some were. It often requires thousands of seedlings to find that one so-called perfect plant, so our relatively small sample size likely may not do. We are often very pleasantly surprised by various outcomes and hope to persuade others that it is a worthwhile pursuit.
Granted, many plants will need a bit of TLC when moving to new homes. We get to see the good, the bad and the ugly as we peruse the various rows of plants.
We should have been far more ruthless and thrown many "over the fence" long ago.
A crowded plant will often have a "bald'" side where it was shaded by its neighbors. This can usually be rectified in about a year by planting that  bald side towards the sun.
Some of our seedlings simply need to grow in a slightly warmer part of the province. The hardiness of some of the parents is "pushing it" for our area.