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Monday, May 14, 2012

For whom the bells toll?

The bells toll for the potatoes this past week.

Good weather makes for bad blogs, unpredictable weather makes for no blogs!

Fritillaria biflora x purdyi

I am going to do a whole write up on the series of hybrids pictured above. But for now I'm just going to bitch about the weather. It went from 80 Degrees F. to 30 Degrees F. in one day. A 50 degree weather swing is hard for most humans, but then again you can jump on a plane in Anchorage, Alaska and arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii in a few hours, and you can shed a coat or put on shorts.

Plants don't have that luxury. It was May 10th, and I had a really hard frost, so hard it even nipped the new growth on a big leaf Maple that is out on the back 40, now that's a tree that ranges well into Canada so you know that's a late frost when you see that. And, yes the bells tolled for my potato crop that was making nice one foot mounds of foliage, blackened instantly and mush now. My prized Davidia involucrata "Sonoma" that Dale Sullivan gave me for the birth of my Daughter finally bloomed this year....first time in the 9 years I've had it and then all the tips turned black from the cold.
 Fritillaria biflora grayana
Just another teaser to keep you interested.

So I was really lucky in that I happened to just catch the weather man saying, frost was likely in the outlying areas, but they were only forecasting 38 for Portland. Well apparently 38 in Portland means 28 at Illahe Nursery and gardens.So I got frost blankets on much of the garden, but there is only so much one can do. Then to add insult to injury, two days later it's 90 degrees and the plants are wilting like they have never seen the sunshine before!

Crazy indeed, well like the immortal lyrics of the grateful deads "Touch of Grey", "I will get by, I will survive"

Fritillaria purdyi x biflora
I think this one shows stronger characteristics of Grayana which might be in the mix.

So speaking of surviving.....I got seed potatoes of "Makah Ozette" this year and they, unlike the Russian banana fingerling's, have grown back substantially after the hard frost. I think this potato has a very cool story as far as plants go. The Makah Indians make there home on the north western tip of Washington's Olympic peninsula. Sometime in the 1700's the Spanish established a fort there. They brought with them some potatoes straight from Peru. They planted them in the forts garden, supposedly the only potatoes to come straight to North America without having first visited Europe. Well the Spanish didn't hang around and soon abandoned the fort, the Makah Indians came down and dug up the potatoes and starting cultivating them, adding much needed starch and carbohydrates to a diet built mostly on fish, fowl and gathered seafood. Several hundred years later those potatoes have proven to be a hardy addition to my garden......I'll let you know how they taste come late July.
Tulipa dideri

So with late frosts, then oppressive heat, I have been busy in the vegetable garden, got the irrigation system all fixed and ready for a scorcher of a summer since it's hit the 90's and it's not even the middle of May. The last few years have seen dreary, cold springs, this one is shaping up like a whole different monster

Cheers,

Mark

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