A Pot Pourri of News

A pot pourri of news about an exciting new lily, and various hints and facts about vegetable and fruit tree gardening!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

June 24, 2012

Above, three blooms of ‘Olympic Heart Asiatic lily; and a smaller shot of a large collection of the blooms cut; one ‘Maypole’ crabapple tree growing in my last Toronto garden (right in front of the door) in 1997; the exhibit of the Colonnade crabapples at the 1990 Chelsea Flower Show. Below, thinning Granny Smith apples on the farm of a major grower in Elgin, South Africa (note the abundance of tiny apples on the ground); and a general view of the farm. Author photos.

Named ‘Olympic Heart’ and dedicated to the 2012 London Olympic Games, the striking lily flower made its world debut during The Alnwick Garden's [just north of Newcastle Upon Tyne, England] exclusive Lily Festival which took place from Friday 8th until Thursday 14th June.

Blooming uniquely with striking dark red petals and a black heart, and standing 75cm tall, this magnificent lily is sure to make an impact and wow garden enthusiasts as they peruse the abundance of lily breeds on offer. An Asiatic type lily, its large, bell-shaped flowers and long lasting blossoms make these an essential addition to any garden, and their rich colouring more than make up for their unscented nature.

Trevor Jones, head gardener at The Alnwick Garden, commented: “The lily festival brought colour and perfume to the Atrium of The Garden. What better flower to herald the summer with such exotic blooms. Lilies are easy to grow in well-drained soil by planting good quality bulbs in the autumn. Add a bit of sharp sand to the bottom of the planting hole to help drainage. We will be planting lilies in the ornamental garden this autumn.”

Samples of the rare Olympic Heart Lily were available to view and pre-order exclusively at the lily festival at The Alnwick Garden, and will be delivered from February 2013, once the exclusive bulbs have been bred in their numbers. Following the festival the Olympic Heart will be available to pre-order from the Peter Nyssen website by December 2012 (unfortunately, they only sell to the European countries).

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News about a vegetable garden in a far-off corner of the U.S. Whitehouse grounds came as a bit of a surprise two years ago. But it was not the first time it had been suggested! While I don’t think the idea is that great, one other idea whose time has come is Schoolyard gardens. And so the book Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea by Alice Waters seems to have appeared at just the right time. The author tells the story of the Edible School-yard, from which more than 3,000 students have graduated since 1996, and shares the transformative effect the project has had on her life.

She also suggests the Edible Schoolyard as a possible template or a hands-on way to reshape what and how we are feeding our children, and how they are learning about food. With the help of a school principal and a small group of committed teachers and volunteers, Mrs. Waters transformed an acre of cracked asphalt into the Edible Schoolyard. Combining a lush garden with an expansive teaching kitchen, the Edible Schoolyard is today a vital part of the fabric of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley California where students learn how important--and how joyous--a sustainable and thoughtful approach to growing and eating food can be.

From big-picture ideas to meaningful moments, with plenty of photographs that showcase what a visual feast the garden has become, Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea captures the essence of Mrs. Waters’ guiding principles. The 80-page book is distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books; the cost is $34.95, clothbound.

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It seems to me I have not written about the smallest dwarf apple trees recently. The trees, originally found in British Columbia, are extremely small in growth habit. There are four different cultivars, called the Colonnade Collection, and are the smallest in both height and diameter that anyone in the dwarf apple industry has seen. How small? Their growth habit is a perfect cylinder or column shape, of only 50 cm (20") or less. The height may eventually reach two metres, but will be easily maintained at 1.5 to 1.75 m, or 5 to 6 feet. There are three apple cultivars, and one crabapple.

It is the latter that I first saw at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, England in May 1990. In fact, the trees were introduced at that show just a year earlier. The crabapple, ‘Maypole’ was very dramatic in full bloom with spectacular carmine red flowers. It also has large (5 cm /2") purple-red fruit in autumn which can be used for jelly-making. The three eating apple cultivars available are: ‘EmeraldSpire’, an early variety with pinkish white flowers followed by mid-September-ripening green apples with a golden blush; ‘UltraSpire’, has similar flowers but these are followed by red fruit that have a yellow/green blush, and are produced in late September; and ‘ScarletSpire’ also with similar flowers, followed by large red fruit somewhat like Red Delicious, in early October.

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You have likely planted your bean seeds by now, but it is not too late to plant more! Beans, like most veggies, must have full sun. I like to plant them in groups of three seeds about 10 cm (four inches) apart in rows of what-ever length. Place a good strong stake at each end of the row--you’ll likely want to use that to tie the strong cord that I recommend placing about 20 cm (eight inches) above the ground once your plants have reached that height. That cord will keep the plants upright and that means most of your beans will be cleaner when you pick them, than if they are not tied and heavy rain or watering beats the plants down to the soil.

Another way to prevent your beans getting covered in soil during heavy rains is to place biodegradable rolled ground cover plastic between the rows.

Be sure to plant both green and yellow (or wax) varieties which should give you beans in about seven weeks. If you have a blank side on your house or garage that faces south or west you should definitely try pole beans which allow you to grow a large quantity of beans harvestable over three weeks from very little space. What I did was place a taught wire at the bottom and top of the wall, and tied strings between the two wires. The beans almost automatically climb the strings. There are also specialty beans easily grown, such as broad/fava or Kidney bush beans and pole or bush lima beans.

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Everyone seems to have an opinion on how to get the best tasting tomato. Just about now, many gardeners are discussing various pruning theories: one leader or two or just forget pruning all together. I usually go with one leader. Recently, various methods of trellising have drawn attention. There are tomato cages, staking, the Florida weave, the Dutch spiral, the Caribbean quadrapod, the English long row, and on and on. It is enough to send a gardener packing his or her spade and hoe and heading to the produce aisle or better yet the farmers' market. It was in this context that last year I read of yet another study on growing the best tasting tomatoes.

The British Royal Horticultural Society was conducting a study at the RHS Gardens, Wisley to see if tomatoes respond to voices. Auditions were held and a cadre of people with different voices was selected to read verses by Shakespeare and others. Recordings of the readings were played to the roots of the plants while a control group of tomatoes grew in silence. The study followed claims by HRH the Prince of Wales that he talks to his tomatoes and thinks it helps them grow. While the study was fun, an RHS spokesman says it was definitely a serious study.

What were the results?

Women gardeners' voices speed up growth of tomato plants much more than men's, it found. In the experiment run over a month, they found that tomato plants grew up to 5 cm (2”) taller if they were serenaded by the dulcet tones of a female rather than a male.

The findings vindicate comments made by Prince Charles that he talks to his plants although they suggest that for maximum results he would be better off recruiting the Duchess of Cornwall!

Appropriately the most effective talk came from Sarah Darwin, whose great-great grandfather was legendary botanist Charles Darwin, one of the founding fathers of the RHS' Scientific Committee. She read a passage from the On the Origin of Species and beat nine other 'voices'. Her plant grew nearly two inches taller than the best performing male and half an inch higher than her nearest competitor.

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By now you should be able to see your apple, pear or peach fruit growing well, and about two to three centimetres in diameter. Now is the time to do some thinning of the fruit if the tree has produced too many fruit. First, a definition of “too many fruit.” It happens frequently, and gardeners often wonder why so much fruit falls off the tree before they are mature. The reason is that if too much fruit is produced, when the fruits increase in size, and there is not enough room for each to develop to its ideal size, then some will be forced off, and frequently more are forced off than if the grower had thinned the fruit properly early in the season.

If you look at the fruit on your apple, pear or peach tree and imagine each of the tiny fruit you see growing to its mature size it is usually quite easy to imagine that there is simply not enough space for all that growth. That then is a sure sign that you should do some thinning. The best way to do this is to use a sharp pair of scissors and remove up to one-half of the fruit by cutting away at least one fruit in between two others, thus allowing more space for the remaining fruit to develop properly. Commercial orchardists do this on a regular basis, and I have toured apple farms where the ground was quite literally covered with thumb-size apples. This little technique generally assures you a better crop at harvest time, and little or no falling of the apples due to over-crowding. But remember, NOW is the time to do your thinning, don’t leave it too late.


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