Friday, August 8, 2008

Five Weeks to Go

Five weeks from tomorrow is Coleus Day at Atlock Farm (see my post "Back in the Saddle Again" made a week ago)! Here are some "before" pictures to give you an idea of where things stand. I hope they whet your appetite to attend - or if you can't make it, to keep watching this blog site for more pictures and stories. I'll do my best to take and post a bunch of pictures from the Day, so you might see a friend (coleus, human, and otherwise) or two among them. Sadly, there will probably be a picture of me included.

Squint hard to see the trailing coleus, which had just been planted when this picture was taken a couple of weeks ago. I'm glad to report that they are filling in well, except for 'Burgundy Wedding Train'. That's odd, because the 'BWT' plugs planted a few feet away in the Red Border at about the same time are doing beautifully. Maybe they need a little more time to kick in because this spot is considerably shadier? Included in this planting are 'Inky FIngers', 'Swiss Sunshine', a sport of 'Swiss Sunshine', 'Strawberry Drop', 'Trailing Salamander', and 'Compact Red'.

Here's what I've been calling the coleus "encyclopedia," I guess because it contains a lot of them (about three dozen; I haven't counted them . . . yet). They needed a good pinching last week to get them to fill in for the 13th, so I carefully Godzilla'd my way through the bed and cut out or pinched almost every growing point on every plant. You can see the carnage scattered about the lawn and in the bucket. In five weeks they should be thick and lush. Mostly. A few of them are poky (are you listening, 'Grape Expectations' and 'Green Earrings'?).

This past March I received a couple of dozen cuttings from my coleus pal Bob Pioselli, who maintains a big and beautiful coleus garden at his home in the lower Hudson Valley. Most of them rooted easily (well, they are coleus, after all) and have been cut back at least twice and propagated. This block is being grown into specimens for the Day. Given the Ray treatment (lots of water-soluble fertilizer and fussing, mostly), they should expand into show-stoppers. I'm most excited about 'Beckwith's Gem' in the upper left (which hasn't begun to show its brilliant plumage, so to speak) and 'South of the Border' (the white and green one toward the bottom).

We have 104 different coleus selections slated for propagation and sale in 2009, and here are most of them in one greenhouse, all potted during one action-packed day a few weeks ago. As insurance, there's another complete collection of them growing in another house. These are hanging-basket pots, so before cold weather sets in the hangers will be attached, and then one of each will be hung - alphabetically, in a perfect world - from the metal beams high up in each of two greenhouses. They'll bask in the relative warmth and sun up there until February/March, when we'll take them down and begin to chop them up for cuttings. By then many of them will be amazingly big and surprisingly beautiful - many coleus look their best in winter, believe it or not. The most beautiful 'Glennis' I've ever seen, in icy yellow, lively green, and bright red, dazzled me a few years ago in late Ferbruary.

Where are the coleus? The Red Border isn't overwhelmingly red - it once was, but attitudes and design desires do change - but it is a summer showcase for tropicals, and there are some coleus here. Part of the fun on Coleus Day will be to discover coleus where you might not expect them. The quite uncoleus-like 'Definitely Different' is here, and it will no doubt elicit another round of expressions of disbelief. "That's a coleus?" "It can't be a coleus; it's not colorful." "Isn't that some kind of giant parsley?" That's my favorite comment, for sure.

Finally, here's the Long Border, which like the Red Border doesn't overflow with coleus this year, but they do play important roles here. They're still getting their acts together in the sandy soil, so I'll hold off on posting any closer shots until they do. That goes double for the Shop Garden (weeds!), but it promises to be the most spectacular garden of them all. Guess what I'll be doing at Atlock tomorrow?