Winter is coming and the plants know it!
I generally do not take stock in either of the two Farmers Almanacs but this year I did note the article 'Almanac says get ready for colder, snowier winter'; Ric Stevens; Associated Press. His reading and comparison of both almanacs suggest cooler temperatures and heavier snows for this winter here in the Midwest. Almanacs were originally based on Phenology - and for most extent they still are today.
What is Phenology? While the term is new, the science goes back antiquity! No, no, no I am not talking about the pseudo-science of Phrenology which was analyzing the bumps on your head; but rather the study and observation of how plants, animals, atmospheric observations can be used to predict weather changes. Again I note some of these tools have been used forever, and have been found to be very VERY accurate indicators. (Examples: your bathroom toilet can be used to watch air pressure; or if you feed birds you can tell if a storm is coming by how frantically they search for food!)
Aside from trying to keep up with the hot weather and watering, I honestly suspect that the plants in my garden are suggesting an early winter! Take, for example, Popcorn. It is either a very temperamental plant for how temperatures effect it or it knows something about what will happen this fall as it has lost 4 of its 6 leaves to both colder temperatures and heat; I do have other plants that have dried edged leaves but those are more likely to be from the heat, they also have not let them go as willingly as Popcorn has.
My evidence goes further in that before this last string of 90° weather we did have 50° nights and the next string of 50° nights will be here by the time this is published. That combination of events does not generally occur until MID-October, but not in September by my recollection. The situation becomes even more interesting with prediction of a 40° night as well. The combination of events begins to make gardeners everywhere in the midwest wonder how to prepare for winter.
I normally cut my hosta back on the SECOND 50° day of fall - right before the temperature plummets into the 30ºs. This feels just to early to do that. Should I trust nature or should I hold on and wait till October to prepare for Fall/Winter. Ric Stevens did not indicate if the Almanacs suggested an early or late change of seasons. I think I will hold off just a bit to do my annual cutting.
The Saga of the Blue Mammoth
Before reading the reader needs to understand that Blue Mammoth hosta can grow up to 3 feet tall and out to 8 feet in diameter. "How's the Blue Mammoth?" has become the running 'joke' around here, and the following will help to explain why:
In 2011 I said to my mother "Could you see if Kelley and Kelley (the family nursery) has EITHER T-Rex or Blue Mammoth. Two weeks later she swings by with BOTH. I had presumed she knew the size that each gets. SO anyway ... I politely accept both and rearrange my garden for both knowing neither will grow to their full size in this garden - not to say even one would to begin with.
Winter passes and mid-spring 2012 comes around.
I look around at my garden and there is T-Rex being polite and small (as it ought to be at that point for a immature hosta plant). And the other hosta come up, but there is no Blue Mammoth ... . Now I know I am not that bad of a gardener, and I know I planted each the same way. So I say to myself ... "Maybe it needs company ..." and so I go out and purchase not one, but TWO Blue Mammoths. A few weeks later they come (along with some other replacement Hosta for that year. I proceed to plant them and during the process of planting I look UP through leaves to the sky. The immensity of this hosta size begins to sink into me first hand. "Oh my word! What have I gotten myself into!" I know I have other plants to deal with so I don't stop for long to take in the full possible implications. As the summer passes six leaves come up for Blue Mammoth during the season so I assume everything was going acceptably well with them, and surely next year I'll get this herd of Blue Mammoths to start.
The Winter of 2012 comes and goes as well … and spring 2013 comes.
Once again I look around and see other hosta up - yes T-Rex is there (and still small - but again that is still ok at this point) but again NO Blue Mammoth - NOT even a root system remains in the ground. So at this point I am really stumped as to why this is happening (In fact I pulled Dixie Chickadee through and historically mini-hosta are the hardest hosta for me to grow). So ... holding my breath I say, "If two don't do it ... let's try ... THREE! There has got to be a one out of three chance of one of them coming up." Now between ordering these plants and their delivery my family has one of it's extremely rare family reunions for the branch of the family that manages K&K Nursery. So I recount the previous events to my cousin three times removed on my fathers side who manages the place (and his wife). He is just as stumped as I am. He says 'keep in touch' which suggests he has some interest in this saga and the where this event is leading to for NEXT spring. His wife, who is also a professional gardener, also understands the desire to simply GROW a specific plant.
At this point I was also quietly reminded to all these events I had sent to three persons (S.I. in NH, B.E. in central MN, and my mother) each a Blue Mammoth Hosta some years ago. B.E.'s plant was in her own words 'murdered by a deer!'; but when the time comes she wants to try another one. S.I. also planted her's when it arrived and this year she announced that it has grown to FIVE feet in height. Remember what I said about Blue Mammoth dimensions as they are only supposed to grow three (3) feet tall; the tallest hosta known is 4 feet tall. Whatever she's doing to it is right; and I have no reason to believe she's bluffing about her plant. My mother's has kept hers small as she prefers to keep small constrained hostas. Mind you there's nothing wrong with that type of gardening.
So if two of my friends can grow Blue Mammoth - then why can't I?
For the winter of 2013 I am planning on taking one extra precaution for all 11 of my newly planted Hosta this year. I am planning on putting them to bed with straw and a burlap/jute blanket. We'll see if that helps any … I am totally expecting someone to ask next spring, "Hows the Blue Mammoth …?"
The 2014 Season is half way over (late July).
Received another Blue Mammoth (early June) from my mom. As I was planting to the new one I looked for the rhizome cluster from last years. It was found, seemed healthy, and looked as though it had wanted to send a spike up had it been left there. I planted the new one. and quickly replanted the rhizome cluster. The new plant which had been brough by my mother has blossomed, flowered, and faded; but the rhizome cluster never sent anything up. I came close this year, but not close enough. A second Blue Mammoth arrived September 30th as a gift; this clump of Blue Mammoth has three divisions to it so by coincidence as this is the forth year for me to try and I have four plantings of Blue Mammoth ... . I have placed a tomato cage around both Mammoths as the second one is much taller than the first. After 14 days this second one has so far not wilted or drooped from being planted. The plant is still standing tall and I am hoping that this condition will lead to its survival over the winter. Many of the leaves are standing on their own!
As I have a new plants (yet again) maybe I'll get leaves ... next year (2015; ... sigh).
And so the saga continues ...
The Saga of the Blue Mammoth does not end here1 It continues with the series called "The Blue Mayhem Project" elsewhere on this blog site. See October 2014 for the beginning of that documentation.
A Moment to Reflect on History
During the week of September 8th to the 11th (2013) NASA announced that Voyager I had left the Solar System and was moving in free space. The unit is still sending data bask to earth but at its distance it takes up to 15 months to receive its data; and yes the news of this event calculates that the Voyager I spacecraft left the Solar System sometime between LAST May to September of 2012 (depending on the news account you received). This undertaking has taken 30 years to reach this moment in history.
So what does this have to do with Hosta? There is a Hosts by the name of Voyager. It was registered by Alex Malloy, and it seems to have been named in honer of NASA's spacecrafts of the same name. It looks like, from the hosta resources online, this variety might be a little hard to locate; but the sport of this variety, Hosta Spaceship, seems to be a bit easier to locate. Now would be an excellent time to think about adding one of these plants to your garden during next years growing season to celebrate this feat of humanity and this moment in history.
Now if I could just get the parody of Jim Henson's Muppets "Pigs in Space" out of my head … 'Hosta in Space'!
Comments From Readers
The neighbor next door asked what do Hosta leaves look like when they first come up. Before this blog I could not have possibly explained it. Blogs have an advantage in that that one can post images for EVERYONE to see with less hassle.
Depending on where the leaf comes up it may look like one of two things:
IF it comes up from the CENTER of an existing 'hosta round' the leaf will be rolled up much like a small piece of green paper. When looking at these we say were looking at the 'hosta eye'. The hosta has an eye until leaf unfurls or as the hosta sends it's next leaf out from these centers.
If the Hosta grows new division, away from the center plant, they come up first looking like tiny spear points. These are more commonly seen in the spring rather than mid-simmer or fall.
Below are two photos showing each example. To the left is Gorgon with new spikes rising from the ground. To the right is Xanadu Empress Wu with a new leaf shown probably a few hours past eye stage. If you live near by come by and look at what has become of these leaves!
The Plant Notes
You might think nothing could possibly be new at this time of year, but there is!
• Emerald Tiara has sent up a late season flower scape. We'll see if it opens.
• Little Devil has finally sent up a new spike of leaves! I knew it could do it! Yippie!
• Little Sunspot still holds on to an unopened flower scape that has not dried, maybe it will open before season is out during the last of the seasonably cool temperatures?
• Popcorn is down to only two leaves from its high of seven; it arrived with six (6).
At this stage only two hosta have not advanced this year. They are: Blue Mammoth which has remain mostly stable, and Popcorn which has, for most part, only receded in growth this year.
In the next issue of HostasByKelley I will present the summary of this years hosta growth, and try to predict which will survive our next Minnesota winter! I will also call for opinions on two gardening questions for the 2014 season. Those who have followed me in the past know I listen to my readers. Now is time for you to meddle in MY garden! Keep in mind that blogs are different from personal diaries in that they can also be for hearing back from readers as well; not just about providing words for others to read.
[Bells are heard; followed by loosely metered marching of feet]
"That's father calling the herd. They'll be here shortly." Anna said calmly.
"I wondered what those were over the years." Peter responded.
"Parents devised a bell system. If one knows the pattern and tones you can eventually discern its meaning."
"Clever, Saved the neighborhood from screaming parents."
"We brought more axes … and snowshoes!" The two saw four young adults to the other side of the lawn.
"Anna, This is Alexander, Chris, Robert, and Torry. They're from the first house on the left of the drive into the Circle."
"With respect … I thought Robert was a male name?" Anna walked over to shake each of their hands.
"If you go back about 400 years it was popular for girls too."
"They're the neighborhood musicians." Stio added warmly. He walked behind Anna and whispered, "They'ld be better if they did less 'filk'", and keeps walking.
"Stio could you take the mill, and Anna I'll show you the … " before Peter could finish there was the joyous screams of children running towards Anna to welcome her home.
Both Papa Bullion and Mr. Kelley lost control of the scene.