Adding Venus Plants to the Garden

Venus rules roses as well as fruits, especially the really succulent ones, and I have bought a bunch of those plants to give some Venus juiciness to the hedgestead. I have so much Saturn action going on here with the mandrakes, belladonnas, tobacco, and so forth that I thought maybe  a little balance was called for. Plus, these are all small fruits, which are friendlier to folks with high blood sugar on account of the higher ratio of fiber to sugar than with bigger fruits like apples or even cherries.  Needless to say, finding berries in organic form can be tough, and what’s more, they usually come from, say, Chile instead of my yard. Also, small fruits generally do not need any spraying and require only simple pruning, which suits me, as I hate pruning. So I figured I absolutely NEEDED to spend the money on these plants–not to mention that during the winter, hard-core gardeners have a difficult time not trying to buy spring. I hope I have better luck with these than I have with the raspberries, which are apparently not in a very happy place, although they did give some fruit last year. I had better luck the year I bought a couple pots, put them down next to the oil tank and forgot about them. They grew right through the bottom of their pots and were very productive!

Way-back chaos

I received my ten blackberry bushes from Nourse Farms. I deliberately chose a thorny variety because these are going to go at the back end of my lot, the “way-back,” which is now fenceless. I’ll put up a flimsy fence just to protect the neighbor’s toddlers from the thorns, but the real protection will be the blackberry bushes themselves. This is a shady area, but they should get sun because the neighbors have not got any trees (everyone around here cuts them down because they are ‘dirty’–yes, you heard that right: leaves are dirt). My lot has a lot of trees, and my neighbor on the other side, Old Man Sevin, is always carping at me about why don’t I get rid of them. He loves birds and squirrels; where does he think they live? Besides, I love trees just for their beauty and shade. They do make gardening challenging, though, and I am trying to deal with that challenge in various ways, partly through choosing to grow herbs, fruits, leafy greens, peas, and beans that can all tolerate shade. At any rate, I got into the way-back and cut down a bunch of dead branches, unwanted saplings of the ubiquitous Norway maple, and pulled down wild grape vines that were smothering the lilacs back there. I also began to chop up the large quantity of brush that’s been piled by there. I can see that this is going to be a long job.

Apothecary rose, with L to R, front to back: serviceberry, wild sunflowers, white hyssop, Solomon's seal, black hollyhock, and costmary

At any rate, I have my hands full. I received the apothecary rose I ordered last June from David Austin Roses. I’ve grown some of their roses before but had to leave them behind in the last two places I’ve lived in, on account of the ground being frozen when I moved. I hope the next time I will be able to take most of my plants with me. I’ve been wanting to grow this particular rose for a long time but always got suckered either by the big lush English roses or the scrappy natives. For instance, my prairie rose, Rosa setigera, which I grew from seed, is colonizing a large area by the patio as we speak–once a year it produces wonderful single roses with a light rose scent. Rosa officinalis, which is what I ordered, is just the opposite of the prairie rose–a rose long cultivated for medicinal and culinary uses.  Eventually I hope I can try making rose petal wine with it, but I think for now I have a better chance of doing that with the prairie rose’s production. It didn’t make many roses last year, since it was furthering its turf, so I hope this year it will make a bunch and I can try either that or a mead with rose petals. I put the apothecary rose in the ground next to the white hyssop and Solomon’s seal and in front of the wild sunflowers and queen of the meadow. Looks like there will be a massive amount of wild sunflowers this year. They are so cheerful, and I enjoy seeing the goldfinches hanging on the flowers and picking out the seeds while they chatter to each other. The wild sunflower seeds are also edible by people, but they sure would require some work to husk, since they are pretty small.

Meanwhile, I’ve also received the red, pink, and white currants, the red gooseberries, and the jostaberry from Raintree. Every time I see the nane “jostaberry,” I think of some Scandahoovian berry saying “Dun’t esk me–I’m yust a berry.” About half the plants I have bought from Raintree have kicked the bucket, and honestly, I thought this particular order I placed last January did not go through. At first I was disappointed that it hadn’t, but I figured I already had enough to do. Then this spring, when I saw how many plants did not make it through the winter, I thought it was a good thing the order didn’t go through–rather than being disappointing, it saved disappointment. But then it did go through! <shrug> I hope, since the plants that survived were precisely currants and gooseberries, that these currants and gooseberries will also be happy to live in my yard. The big problem is going to be finding a place to put them. I had determined to put them along the east side of the house, which is presently one of the few non-cultivated areas. Then I read that not getting sufficient sun cuts down fruit production with these plants, but OTOH, too much sun burns the leaves, so the front yard is out also–and besides, the front yard is to be occupied by massive herb/flower plantings and two Cornelian cherries. I put the gooseberries and one of the currants in the ground yesterday in the shady nook area, and the other three currants went into pots until I can figure out where to put them. I need to go through the aged lilacs along the side of the yard and pull out the dead ones again, and I can probably tuck them in there.

One plant I got from Raintree that is doing quite well this spring is the Victoria plum (which of course they no longer sell). It’s already got lots of leaves on it and seems quite happy in its corner against the south wall of the house. I have kept this tree in a large pot because it is definitely something I would like to move with me when the time comes, and unlike the currants, gooseberries, blackberries, and yust-a-berries, would not be easy to propagate by cuttings. It’s got good history, going back to 1840 Sussex. It’s self-fertile and produces plums good for cooking or eating fresh. So if it ever makes any plums, I will have it made plum-wise. I would be happy if it flowers this year, though, since it’s still a young’un.

I did read something neat the other day in a book I got a while ago and am just now really plowing through, Creative Propagation. Or heck, was it Uncommon Fruits? Wherever it was, I read that it was no big deal to propagate gooseberries and currants from seed, taking only 2-3 years for the plants to get to fruiting stage. That’s real fast, IME, so I am definitely going to be trying that. They do require 60 days of cold stratification, but that is easy enough to arrange. I have to say re the book Creative Propagation that I think I’ve finally been convinced to try germinating seeds all in a bunch in a single pot, a propagation method I have always associated with the Brits (and it is a British book). I thought this was too fiddly a method for me since once they germinate, you’ve got to carefully “prick them out” and put them in their own pots. Seemed like a waste of time to me when I could just plant them in peat pellets singly or at most 3 to a pellet.  But I do end up wasting a lot of pellets that way when the seeds don’t germinate or when something drops dead. And there is something about the peat pellets that does not like to be used more than once. Re-used pellets seem to become little tenements of germs or something that negatively affects propagation and seedlings. Now also that I have gotten used to pulling germinated seed out of wet paper towels as part of using the paper towel method to germinate seeds (which I highly highly recommend for cold stratifiers, btw), it doesn’t seem very fiddly to “prick out” seedlings from a pot. And it would save the world a heck of a lot of peat pellets and me a lot of money, as those things are pricey even when you buy them in quantity. I have about 400 plastic pots that could be used for starting seeds, so no problem there. And I have found a decent recipe I am going to try for potting soil that uses rice hulls instead of vermiculite or perlite.

I got out and tilled the area in the front yard where I will be putting in the sun-loving flowers and herbs that I am growing for seed production and beauty. That was quite a bit of work, since I doubled the size of what I planted last year.  I will have to retill that over the next few days while the grass rots down. The soil back there, though, is way less rocky than the soil in the back yard. I don’t know why that is. I did everything I could to make my exacavation as neat as possible so that no one could complain about it.

9 comments to Adding Venus Plants to the Garden

  • petoskystone

    oh, my…your way-back is certainly going to give you a work-out! much luck with the berries.

  • faustianbargain

    you got so much land! i can imagine putting up a yurt or a hobbit shed in the middle of that mini shaded forest..:) i cant write anymore..writer’s block or something like that. i have been thinking about taking a week or two off from work and disappear into a make shift tent out back under the eucalyptus trees..maybe that will bring me back to balance.

    on another note..i recently found out from your alchemyworks site that cinquefoil is also a venus herb. last year, i rescued a bunch of herbs from the soil and potted them..they seem to be doing incredibly well..i seem to have ended up with doubles of wormwood, mugwort, cinquefoil, soapwort and motherwort. i couldnt remember why i even have the cinquefoil..wondering what to do with it..it is beautiful and lush..such lovely leaves..

  • faustianbargain

    i love david austin roses..they never fail to disappoint me..although i got one last year as a bare root..this one> http://www.davidaustinroses.com/american/showrose.asp?showr=1097 ..it did well last year..as pictured in the website, but this year..i think it suckered or something and i have a dark maroon rose growing instead…has that happened to you? is it grafted or to a different rootstock? how do i get back my lovely pink sharifa asma?

    • herba15

      I think you are right and it suckered. I thought these were on own-root roses. Guess not. It does seem odd that it flowered, though. When I have had roses that got top-killed, the bottom suckered but never made any flowers. I would contact them and tell them what happened. They should replace it.

      I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. I get so much comment spam that sometimes real comments get buried. I can’t figure out why your comments keep having to be approved, either. They are supposed to just go up there automatically after a poster’s post has been approved once.

  • faustianbargain

    i think any comment with a link is set automatically up for moderation by your settings to prevent spam/redirection to dodgy sites.

    example: http://www (dot) guardian (dot) co (dot) uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/may/18/homebrew-from-the-hedgerow > this should go through because i replaced . with (dot)

    (i think..we’ll see!)

    • herba15

      Maybe. But for some reason I almost always have to approve your comments. Maybe your ip address is dynamic. It’s okay, but I just wanted you to know that sometimes there is a lag time. I get a lot of spam and I worry that I might accidentally delete a legit comment, too. 85 spam comments today, for instance.

  • faustianbargain

    you’d think spam would have gone down after the rapture. oh well..

    • herba15

      Lol! Too bad the rapture was a bust. I wanted to post “Don’t let the door slam on your way out!” But I resisted this Satanical impulse.

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