2011

Welcome visitors

2011 - Welcome visitors

Prelude

I know what you must have been thinking: they will never make it, opening the garden to visitors.  Well, you are wrong; the day has finally arrived: the Hosta Mill is ready for the first visitors.  This doesn't mean all is perfect, not even that the landscaping is finished.  Visiting the Hosta Mill will be visiting a work in progress. 

Furthermore we'll be keeping a detailed diary this year.  The reason why ? A few weeks ago Piet Vriend, president of the Dutch Hosta Society asked me to give a lecture on hosta gardening.  Immediately I realized the creation and growing of the Hosta Mill garden had been documented to a certain extend, but there are really not that many pictures, and almost none that give an overview of the whole garden.  Because 2011 has to become a year full of pictures, it seems like a good idea to document everything as we go, from the first weeding in spring until the disposal of the last leaves in autumn.

 2011 planning

2010 was different from the years before: I used a more systematic approach to organize work in the garden.  This new way of gardening has proven to be very effective.

  • The number of new collection plants was rather limited and a fairly large quantity of plants were sold.  At the end of 2010, as a consequence, the number of plants in the collection was reduced significantly.  This reduces work quite a bit.
  • Weed control was maintained reasonably well all year round; the only part of the garden that got infested was the "hosta garden".  The front yard, hosta lane and the "woods" were free of weeds during most of the year.
  • We didn't have a big drought like in 2009.  Most container plants were placed in a wooden frame that is lined with plastic.  This reduces greatly the time and effort that has to be put in watering.
  • All container plants that required fresh soil were repotted in 2010;  the potting soil was a commercial mixture in a big bag; a coated fertilizer was added.  This speeded up the repotting process dramatically.
  • Slugs and snail were battled intensely the year round. During the first weeks in 2010 I did not use ammonium for spraying yet.  This gave the snails a head start, from which the garden did not fully recover.  Another error I made was going to early in the night.  The snails are most active around 11 at night, I usually went out around 10.  Despite this I can only hope there has been a significant drop in the total number of snails.  The mission for 2011 is clear: keep the pressure on.  I guess this is the most important task for this year.
  • Far less time was spent on routine chores:  I no longer make my own labels, so only the printing has to be done.  Using a commercial potting soil is a real benefit.  Watering only takes a fraction of the time it used to do.  Weeding an area that is almost free of weeds is a joy, compared to trying to clean up a patch that is overgrown with weeds.

Winter was cold, with loads of snow, but, until now it has been more plant friendly than last year.  The snow lasted for a long time, covering the pots with an insulating blanket.  The snow was followed by a long cold period, so the plants didn't feel the urge to send up any shoots.  By now the garden is covered in new shoots, so I can only hope we've had the last of the great cold.  To be on the safe side, I have some large sheets of black plastic ready to cover up the plants in the "nursery" if necessary.

2011 planning is rather straight forward: carry on like we did in 2010.  More room will be available for young or new plants; they will be planted out there until they have grown big enough to plant them out in the garden.

March

March 14

The first day of they year that keeps a promise of spring.  I'm home because I have an appointment in the afternoon and the kids are at school, so that leaves me with a couple of hours to start the spring cleaning of the garden.  I started out in the "woods": there were some piles of dead leaves left from autumn and the ivy that's used for hedging needed to be trimmed back.  You may wonder why the dead leaves were not removed before winter.  Well, I wanted a good shelter for my snails during winter.  Not that I've suddenly developed a soft spot for the slimy ones.  No, removing the leaves just before spring means removing all the snails (and eggs) that found shelter there. Because a layer of compost was spread out last August, there were not very much weeds around.  I picked everything by hand, so the new hosta sprouts wouldn't get damaged.  One hour and a half later the woods look in great shape.

next in line is the hosta garden.  In between hedges and plant blocks a lot of leaves have piled up, but they are removed easily.  But there are load of weeds; not only wild plants, but also a lot of seedlings from other perennials.  Two hours later the patch looks a lot better, but my back keeps telling me it's time to call it a day.

After my appointment, I still have a little time left to take a look at the "nursery".  Loads and loads of dead leaves here to. A couple of wheel barrels later things look a whole lot better.  I'm glad I already did some serious weed control in the containers over the past weeks, every time the weather allowed it.

In a matter of hours a lot has changed.  Most of the garden is ready to receive the first hostas.  Just one thing left to do: fertilizing.  All patches that are clean, even the pots, get a sprinkle of NPK-pellets.

The first shoots for 2011: Hosta 'Mieke'

March 15

After a long day at work, I think it's time to check up on my buddies, the snails.  I find 10 brave ones; they don't have to worry any more what they'll be eating that night.

March 21

Spring has arrived.  Over the last week, hosta shoots have emerged all over the place.  At noon, temperatures reach a mild 12 C, nights still bring frost.  The only tasks right now are weed control and removing dead leaves. The hosta garden is almost clean now.  De heermoes doesn't show yet; scattered across the garden are some patches of, a problem that has to be taken care of as soon as possible.  I haven't used any fertilizer yet; I'm waiting for the rain to come.

In between the "nursery" and the "hosta patch" is a row of bamboo.  It has suffered a lot from the severe frost during the last winters, resulting in loads of dead shoots and a thick carpet of dead leaves at its feet. This is the ideal habitat for snails.  It's tough, removing the dead branches and clearing the soil, but the hedge looks a whole lot better afterwards.  I don't even want to guess how many snails were destroyed in the process.  There's little more about them I can do at this stage but wait for a couple of wet, warm nights.  Once the snails are awake it time for their weekly ammonium showers.

April

April 2

Spent half a day trimming hedges, box and yew.  Had to stop when the electric hedge shears gave up.  But what a difference it makes, a garden divided by really straight lines: from a mess to a piece of heaven in a matter of hours.  No night frost is predicted for the next fortnight; there is finally hope for the best hosta spring in years.

April 6

It's like arriving in a different garden every night I come home: new eyes and leaves are popping up everywhere so fast it's hard to believe.  But, come leaves, come the dreaded holes in leaves: vineyard snails.  Yesterday the night was dry (dry air).  The nightly snail hunt was rather unsuccessful: 40 snails, hardly worth mentioning.  Today however we had a little rain and temperatures are rather high: snail weather.  It's not hard to recognize those that have just come out of hibernation: their house still are dirty and stained.  Other ones are shining in all their glory.  Probably the ones refreshed by the rain and a nice hosta snack.  370 are caught, in all different sizes. 410 SNAILS IN JUST 2 NIGHTS.  Not bad at all; if I can keep up this pace, the population in the garden must be decimated in a short time.  Next weekend, with a fresh supply of ammonia, spraying can start again.   And I have a secret weapon: a system pesticide, meant for white fly and other sucking insects appears to be effective against snails as well.  The plants itself becomes toxic.  Alas, the plants have to be in full leaf before it can be used successfully.