VegTrug is a Multi-purpose Tool

You could say the VegTrug is for growing vegetables. But you can also say it's a wonderful tool for starting seeds, transplanting seedlings, or even growing bare-root perennials to a larger size before putting them in the garden. When the huge raised bed arrived and we filled it with soil, I wasn't sure just what I'd be using it for. That lack of ideas lasted for about a minute before I decided it would be great for planting beet, lettuce, Alyssum, Stock and Mignonette seed. Okay, so you could say I went a little crazy. But everything grew so well in there. It was early and we were still having a few cold days so I bought the plastic greenhouse cover.

Flat of Egypt beet
Now I have a few bean plants, two extremely healthy flat-leaf parsley plants and seedlings of lettuce and golden beets. I had a crop of 'Flat of Egypt' beets in early summer that were delicious! The seed came from Baker Creek Seeds, a great source for unusual varieties. It was the very first time I'd been successful with beets. I can't plant them in the ground because the bunnies and groundhogs like them too much.
Next year I'll have a plan--I have all winter to think about it--that will definitely include beets and lettuce in earliest spring.
I'll be putting the plastic cover into play so the sun can warm the environment inside the VegTrug. I'll be testing it on a day when I'm home to monitor the temperature, as I prefer to cook my veggies after I harvest them.


Annuals Add Pizazz to Perennials

You can have the most beautiful, intriguing, intricate flower in the world in your garden, but if you don't consider its placement, it might as well be plastic. Even peonies, my hands-down favorite, need to play well with others. One partnership I've found that bears repeating is that of perennials and annuals. And one of the easiest annuals to toss into the artistic mix is Coleus. 
Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' with Coleus.
I like Coleus with Anemone 'Honorine Jobert', whe white-flowered fall bloomer that lightens up a semi-shady section of the garden. It looks great alone, but even better with some coleus in the background.

Bright red Zinnias punch up Phlox 'David's Lavender'.
Nothing adds punch to a bunch of Phlox better than a group of Zinnias. Phlox 'David's Lavender' is a great mildew-resistant variety that tends to look bluer next to true red. This was evidenced by the addition of a few red Zinnias in its viewing zone. Creating combinations doesn't always have to involve adjacent plantings. It's enough to have the partnership in the same sightline, as shown in the photo of the Zinnias in the foreground with the Phlox in the background.

Cleome 'Seniorita Blanca' brings out the color of Echinacea
and Geranium 'Rozanne'.
One of the longest blooming annuals I've enjoyed this summer has been Cleome 'Seniorita Blanca.' As I tend to do, I planted it where I had space. And since space is tight, it rubbed elbows with several neighbors, two of which were Echinacea and Geranium 'Rozanne'.

And finally, if you've subscribed to the belief that the best gardeners don't buy annuals, please consider changing your beliefs. You'll get lots more color throughout the season, continuing opportunity for change, and the kind of diversity you wouldn't get if you stuck with just perennials. 
Oh - and one more thing - I've never seen a bee sleep as peacefully as I did this summer on my patch of Coleus 'Wasabi'.
Maybe he was dreaming of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Don't Overlook the Underbrush

Viola walteri 'Silver Gem'
Look around the ground and you'll be rewarded with some fresh material, especially if you've been planting hardy groundcovers. Never breaking a sweat, or taking a break for that matter, Viola walteri 'Silver Gem' is a very cool customer. It's slowly stretching out to cover more real estate, but not in an agressive manner. This native cultivar was introduced by North Creek Nurseries.
Cyclamen purpurascens

The Viola is similar in height to Cyclamen purpurascens, a cute little European number with shiny leaves and a hardy constitution. The Cyclamen Society offers a good amount of information about this seldom-used plant. I can't remember what I read to make me search for Cyclamen purpurascens, but I found them offered through Edelweiss Perennials. I planted two beneath my huge boxwoods in very early spring and protected them with a chicken wire dome. The one with the fully-covered tuber formed the most leaves, while the other is just now forming tiny leaves. The Cyclamen Society recommends covering the tuber with about 1/2" of grit, as they require excellent drainage. I mounded the gritty soil around the tuber and will put a bit more at its top in a week or so, gradually bringing the soil level to the recommended depth.

Kirengesoma palmata
Kirengeshoma palmata is no longer rare, but it is somewhat finicky about its placement. It thrives in the deepest shade, which makes it easy to plunk someplace and forget it. But you don't want to do that because you'll be missing out on a soft yellow waxy flower that has a way of brightening up a forgotten spot. I divided what had become a thriving stand beneath our weeping katsura tree where it wasn't seen unless you were looking for it. It will take a couple of years before it grows into the beauty it became under the tree, but it will be worth the wait.

In Spite of the Groundhog - YOU CAN GROW THAT!

Phlox 'David's Lavender' with Clematis 'Rooguchi'
Did I mention our groundhog has returned? She might have been summering at the neighbor's. I'm not sure because I hadn't seen her until about a month ago. She arrived in time to nibble--okay, let's face it, CHOMP--the Phlox down to half its height. Now that I think about it, she does that every year, and every year in late August I'm rewarded with bushy, heavily-blooming plants.

Aside from a few tropicals, there isn't much else going on in my garden right now, so a smattering here and there of phlox is a good thing.

I've been really impressed with Clematis 'Rooguchi' this year, and if I were to give an award for the longest-blooming plant in my garden, it would definitely be in the running. (I'm pretty sure our groundhog can't reach or doesn't like the taste of this plant.)

I absolutely love the color of Phlox 'Blushing Shortwood'. Mostly white with a pretty blush of pinkish-lavender, it plays well with anything it's planted with, in this case an annual Salvia called 'Mystic Spires Blue'.

Phlox 'Blushing Shortwood'
Meanwhile, the Asian beetles have pretty much taken a powder and the devastation that used to be my Impatiens and roses are recovering. I've been cutting spikey and rounded flowers for bouquets, the latest of which contains stems of Lilac 'Bloomerang', Heuchera 'Autumn Bride' and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'.

Meanwhile, check out C. L. Fornari's blog post about her campaign whose catch phrase was commandeered by the company that makes Scotts Miracle Gro.

Grafted Tomatoes Grow Bumper Crops

'Legend' tomato grows with Clematis 'Polish Spirit'.
I'm glad I only planted two tomato plants. It's going to be a pretty good year, even in a shady garden like mine. Both were purchased from Territorial Seed as grafted plants. According to the description, the graft contributes to vigor and disease resistance. Although I don't have a lot of experience with growing tomatoes, I can definitely say I've never had so many tomatoes.

'Legend' bears lots of fruit on each branch.
I planted 'Legend' near our fence next to Clematis 'Polish Spirit'. It required a few pieces of reinforced steel bar, but once I got it all trussed up, its growth has gone more horizontal than vertical.
'Legend' is described as disease-resistant and early, though it has not ripened as quickly as the other tomato plant--Japanese Black Trifele, which actually comes from Russia.

Trussed-up Trifele

The remaining rebar and all the other 10' stakes I could get my hands on went toward staking the Japanese Black Trifele, which is now close to eight feet tall. I've actually had to cut this baby back and remove stems to keep it from completely shading out everything adjacent to it. It's been ripening pretty quickly though, and this is one tasty tomato. It's described as rich, smokey and complex in flavor.

A ripe Japanese Black Trifele
This tomato is great in my baked version of Bruschetta. Cut it up and mix with a little olive oil, basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar and let it sit while you slice the bread.    Drizzle melted butter on the bread slices and spread the tomato mixture on it, topping it off with grated Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned. The tomato becomes somewhat caramelized and sweet, adding lots of complexity to a simple recipe.