Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dream runs & trying again

Some little gardening projects come off just how you hoped, while with others your dreams are dashed just when you thought it was all going to be a success. When that happens, there's only one solution – try again! Down in the spot I call 'Coleus Corner' both little stories are playing out again this summer, but this time I'm hoping for two successes out of two attempts, rather than my one-all draw last summer. Let me explain...

First of all, the good news. Coleus Corner is up and growing again this year, a completely different bunch of leaf colours and patterns compared with last year, but nevertheless a happily tropical looking little splash of colour in a spot which had previously spent too many years being dusty old Dullsville.

Pictured above, for comparison, the coleus patch on February 10, 2008 (so helpful these digital camera file info thingys - they keep track of what I shot when much better than my memory could ever manage.) As you can see, the leaf colours and patterns are different compared with this year. If anything, last year's were better, and that's because this patch grew entirely from seed, while this year's patch was a mix of seed plus some seedlings to fill in a few gaps where this year's seed germination had been rather poor. Can't beat seed when you're looking for variety!

So, at least with the coleus patch I can simply note that it's working well again. However, deeper down in Coleus Corner, I'm nervously trying to prevent a repeat of last year's disaster with my ornamental gingers.

Here's a photo taken 10 minutes ago, with the dramatic flower spike opening out, ready to put on a show. These ginger flowers sit on top of 1.5-2m long canes. You can see the plant's broadish green leaves here, too, plus little red colourations where the leaves join the stems. From one plant I now have about seven canes coming up, and this is the most advanced of the flower spikes. Last year things got to this stage, and then one morning....

I came outside to discover oodles and oodles of caterpillar frass all over the flower stems. They'd had a great old feast overnight. Every flower had been munch totally, and I never saw a speck of flowering ginger – I still don't know what colour the flowers are! I hadn't realised that caterpillars would be a problem, but apparently there is one type of caterpillar which just loves munching on ginger plants.

So this year it's war! I'm using a new 'organic' spray that's said to control caterpillars, but after the miserable failure of the 'organic' fruit fly spray with my tomatoes (posted about in 'crop failure' recently here) I have a level of confidence somewhere between low and rock-bottom that I'll be seeing ginger flowers in the next few weeks.

There's only one option at this stage, and that's to hang in there. Sure, I'm visiting my ginger plants often and seeing if I can actually spot the little blighters, but so far I haven't seen anything untoward. The suspense is bearable, and the compensation of a cheery Coleus Corner putting on its quiet riot just a few feet away soothes all visits to that part of the garden. Somehow I think that despite my armed patrols, nature will simply take its course – hopefully this year by allowing these spectacular flowers to bloom!


Anonymous said...

Jamie, if I've learned nothing else about gardening, it is that persistence is the gardener's best friend. :) Good luck with the ginger -- your Coleus look terrific!

George Africa said...

Hello Jamie;

Your picture of the coleus made me try to recall a coleus grower I ran into one time. It finally came back to me. Glasshouse Works Some really interesting coleus colors and sizes out there now.Look great as container plantings too.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener