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Even though the water is 80 degrees, it’s one of the only places our gardeners can keep cool while working outside during the hot summer months: The Longwood Gardens Waterlily Display.
More often than not, if you walk through the aromatic courtyard (fragranced by the waterlilies) on a mid-afternoon on a Friday, you’ll find Senior Gardener Tim Jennings waist-high in the Waterlily Display, talking to guests about the process of nurturing and sustaining the aquatic plants.
“That’s the beauty about water gardening,” says Jennings, “It’s an awesome way to garden in the summer—I stay refreshed, stand upright as I work, and really get a sense of tranquility amid all of the waterlilies.”
However, like other areas of the Gardens that aren’t immersed in water, our Waterlily Display requires the same care, attention, and maintenance as traditional gardens.
Jennings says one of the most frequent questions he’s asked is why he cuts off the waterlily flower buds.
“It is often perceived that we are cutting off flowers that have not opened, when in fact the flowers actually open and close for four consecutive days before going under water, sometimes they close up so tightly that you can only tell by squeezing them, if water comes out of the flower you know that it is done,” says Jennings.
Jennings says you can tell if the flowers have already opened by squeezing the closed flower. If water squirts out, you know it’s been open once before—new flowers will not have any water trapped inside.
“I tell guests that this process is the equivalent of deadheading, and we do this procedure of cutting the flowers once a week throughout the summer,” says Jennings.
Also, once a week Jennings and gardening assistants remove about 10% of the leaves from the Waterlily Display. “Using a knife, we always cut the leaves that are furthest grown away from the pot that is submerged in water—the display would simply get too crowded if we didn’t keep up with this weekly maintenance,” says Jennings.
Jennings says that this grooming of the plants is done for two reasons: to remove old yellowing foliage and to thin the plants to maintain the proper ratio of open water surface.
By mid-August our Water-platters are their largest size, and Jennings and his team work extra hard to ensure that there are still spaces for reflections and that there is a balance between platters, flowers, aquatic cannas, and water.
“Many people don’t also realize that the waterlilies and water-platters are anchored/planted in the pools in pots that are submerged by a submerged pot—if you’re visiting the courtyard when a water gardener is in the display, you’ll see us rearrange how the display looks by simply moving the pots with our feet and hands,” says Jennings.
Additionally, these water plants need proper nutrition and are fertilized with tablets every two weeks.
In the fall, Jennings hosts an event at Longwood Gardens, called “An Evening in the Water Garden.” Unfortunately, for the 2011 season, this popular lecture is sold out. But be sure to look out for your Continuing Education catalog (out in November 2011) to see when you can register for next year.
Even though your summer vegetable garden hasn’t reached its peak harvest—Now is the time to plant cool season vegetables to best extend your vegetable garden into the fall.
Senior Gardener Adam Cressman outlines the best autumn vegetables you can plant now to enjoy by Halloween.
“There are many crops which are great for a fall harvest that can add lots of color and seasonal flavors to your nightly menu,” says Adam Cressman.
Cressman says fall’s best crops include: Broccoli, lettuce and other greens, peas, radish, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, turnips, and more.
Cressman’s personal favorite fall vegetable to grow is carrots. “Carrots are relatively easy to grow and yield a lot for the space they require. The sugar content and sweetness of carrots is enhanced by the cool weather and homegrown carrots are like candy to me in October. I’ll plant a block of them in my garden at home and begin harvesting some baby carrots for use in the kitchen in as little as 6 weeks,” says Cressman.
Overall, Cressman says there isn’t a great difference between growing cool season fall crops and your warm season summer crops.
“During the fall season, the garden still requires the same care you would give it in the summer—attention to weeding, watering, watching for pests, and tending to the plants. Personally, I do find it more enjoyable to be in the garden come September and October. By this time it’s cooled down which makes gardening more comfortable, and more importantly, rainfall increases in the fall which means I’m not spending so much time watering in the garden,” says Cressman.
Cressman says the vegetables suggested in this guide can be planted now and will mature and be ready for harvest in September and October.
“You want to plant this as a transplant,” says Cressman. “It will be hard to find cabbage plants at the big box stores, but reputable garden centers should carry them and the many Amish greenhouses in Lancaster County will definitely carry cabbage transplants.”
For best results, space these transplants about 18” apart, a little more or less depending on variety, and keep them watered as needed throughout the hot and dry months of summer. “Cabbages planted now will be ready for harvest in October,” says Cressman.
Cressman says carrots can be directly sown into the garden anytime now up until August 1.
“Fork or loosen the soil to a depth of eight inches, rake flat, and make shallow furrows no deeper than a half inch,” says Cressman. These rows should be 16” apart and seed should be spaced about a half inch apart.
Cover lightly and water as needed during dry periods, paying extra close attention until the seedlings emerge. Carrots will be at their mature size about 60 days after planting.
Beets can be planted any time up until mid August. Plant and thin exactly as you would carrots and enjoy these in about 6-8 weeks after planting.
Cressman recommends planting leaf lettuce any time between August 1 and September 1. “To get this crop started loosen the soil and rake it flat,” says Cressman.
Cressman says it’s important to make your rows no deeper than half an inch, with rows being about 12-18” apart.
Next, lightly sprinkle a few seeds per inch and cover with a fine layer of soil. Keep seedlings well watered during the first few weeks. You can begin cutting leaf lettuce in as little as four weeks. “Don’t cut the leaves too close to the ground and be sure to keep plants well watered and they’ll re-sprout, offering a harvest right up until frost,” says Cressman.
General planting tips
Cressman says the biggest piece of advice he can offer is to make sure seedlings and transplants don’t dry out.
“With July and August typically being hot and dry, be sure to water these young, tender plants often,” says Cressman.
Also, it’s important to make sure that crops are spaced properly. It’s tempting to try to overplant to maximize the garden space, but if crops aren’t spaced properly, which includes row spacing and also thinning seedlings out within the row, they are not likely to develop properly.
Remember gardening should be fun!
“Relax, enjoy, and have fun with your garden. I recommend growing what you really like to eat most, starting small, and building on your successes,” says Cressman.
Additionally, Cressman suggests making it a habit to enjoy spending a half hour in the garden four or five days a week than to spend an entire Saturday morning in the garden.
“Stay on top of weeding, watering, harvesting, and garden chores regularly and you’ll be happy and your plants will be happy too,” says Cressman.
Lastly, Cressman says all vegetable home gardeners should keep in mind that things may not always be perfect. “We can water during a dry period but are helpless if an early frost comes along, we can put up a small fence to keep rabbits out of the garden but deer can jump right over this. Not everything will go exactly as planned- learn from these instances and adjust for next year,” says Cressman.
What’s growing in Longwood’s Vegetable Garden this fall?
Longwood’s vegetable garden will have some unique crops this fall. “Guests might find an heirloom beet from Italy which, when cut open, has alternating red and white concentric rings. If you find me in the garden I’ll likely cut one open to show you its beauty,” says Cressman.
Also, this fall guests will find a purple Cauliflower variety called ‘Violet Queen’, a mix of Swiss Chard called ‘Bright Lights’ which features colorful stalks and leaves which are as tasty as they are nice to look at, and a stunning Italian Kale variety named ‘Toscano’ which has both culinary use and ornamental qualities.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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