Uncle Mike’s Favorite Cucumbers

We talk a lot about our variety and selection in tomatoes, but did you know Uncle Mike grows a whole collection of cukes too? Here’s what’s growing in our Woburn Growing Greenhouse and shipping weekly to our retail stores! Please note, supplies and selection may vary and this list is not an indication of in-store availability.

SWEET SUCCESS

An All American Selection Winner, Sweet Success is a fantastic slicing cuke with a sweet, bitter-free taste. Yields a bumper crop of seedless, dark green 12-14″ fruits. Very disease resistant! Days to maturity: 54.

 

PONIENTE

New to the Uncle Mike’s line this year! Long European cucumber with improved disease resistance and heat-tolerance. Vigorous and productive, yields sweet 12″ fruit. Days to maturity: 56.

STRAIGHT 8

An heirloom variety, and All America Selections winner, Straight 8 is a cucumber superstar. Cool, firm flesh and a sparky taste. Pick at 8″ long for best taste! Days to Maturity: 58.

SPACEMASTER

A compact cuke that is great for containers. Short, hardy vines produce slender fruits 7.5″ long. Days to Maturity: 56.

 

SNACKER

A high-yielding salad or slicing type cucumber on shorter vines – great for a larger container. Crunchy fruit and non-bitter peel. Days to Maturity: 50-55.

MARKETMORE

One of our favorites for northern climates, and perhaps the most recognizable heirloom cuke. Dark green skin with impressive fresh taste grows 8-9″ long. Days to Maturity: 70.

HOMEMADE PICKLES

Bred specifically for home pickling, these tasty cucumbers boast solid, crisp flesh and excellent taste. A vigorous bush type plant that is very disease resistant . Pick anywhere from 1.5″ – 6″ long. Days to Maturity: 55 days.

BURPLESS

Known for their tasty, non-astringent flesh this English style cuke reaches 8-12″ long. With very little seeds, Burpless cucumbers are crisp and mild with an easy-to-peel skin. Days to Maturity: 52.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now In Bud & Bloom: Peonies

It’s a great time to load up on perennial peonies! The Spring favorite is in bud and bloom in our perennial yards now. This season, we’re carrying an incredible selection of varieties to adorn your garden. We have tried and true favorites as well has hard to find varieties, you’ll want to collect them all!

Peonies are garden classics and have been growing in Eastern gardens for 4,000 years. It was used as the Imperial symbol in China and slowly migrated to Japan around the 8th century. Ancient Greek mythology highly regarded the peony for its medicinal purposes, as did the Christians in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Peony derives its name from a Greek myth. Paeon, a student of Aesculapis (God of Medicine), was well aware of the medicinal qualities of peony plants. He used them to heal a wound suffered by the god Pluto which so infuriated Aesculapis he threatened to kill Paeon. Pluto saved Paeons life by turning him into a peony. Another myth replaces Pluto with Zeus.

There are a few myths about peonies and my favorite is about the “nymph” named Paeonia. She was so beautiful that she attracted the attention of Apollo. This did not sit well with Aphrodite, she was so jealous she turned Paeonia into a flower.

There are 3 classifications for peonies, herbaceous, tree and intersectional. All are hardy to zone 3, drought tolerant, deer resistant and low maintenance. There are many varieties to choose from and can be used in the landscape as a specimen, mass planted as a hedge, or in a container on the patio. They do not like to be planted to deep and will last for years with minimal care.

HERBACEOUS – These are the ones that die back to the ground every year. They will grow 3 to 4 feet high and wide and have lush, glossy, green foliage. The flowers come in a range of colors from shades of red, pink, purple and white. Blooms range in size and fullness, from single petal to fully double blooms. Japanese varieties have 1 to 2 layers of petals that surround a cluster of partially formed petals in the center (petaloid stamens). There are many that are fragrant, from a mild scent to a heavy fragrance.

TREE – This variety has a woody stem that stays throughout the winter. Tree peonies can grow 5 feet tall or more but are slow growers. So, it is quite possible your plant will remain small for several years. The flowers are larger than herbaceous peonies and the color range is red, pink, coral, yellow, and purple to bi-colors. Some are fragrant but not as much as herbaceous. They will thrive in dappled shade with only 4 to 5 hours of sun and bloom 2 weeks earlier than herbaceous ones. Although they lose their leaves in winter the woody stems maintain a graceful structure for the season.

INTERSECTIONAL – Also know as ITOH peonies originated by crossing a tree with a herbaceous peony. This was done by Japanese botanist Dr. Tochi Itoh in 1948. Sadly Dr. Itoh died before the seedlings were able to flower. It was up to his family to continue and nurture them until they finally bloomed in 1964. An American botanist, Louis Smirnow, was finally able to get permission to bring some plants to the USA where he patented 4 hybrids and named them ITOH hybrids.

ITOH’S grow up to 3 feet tall and wide. The lush finely divided leaves grow close to the ground giving it an elegant mounded look throughout the season. The have enormous flowers with fluffy petals that surround a cluster of yellow stamens. ITOH’S come in a range of colors including red, apricot, coral, pink and yellow. Just as herbaceous peonies start to fade the ITOH’S burst on to the stage, extending the peony season another 2 to 3 weeks. It is similar to herbaceous as it dies back for the winter and the flowers are large like the tree peonies.

There is a peony for every garden, whether it is used as a specimen, hedge, container or just added to the perennial border. Place fragrant varieties close to home where their scent can be enjoyed. Float a flower in a bowl, cut a bouquet and enjoy these beauties for years to come.

Spotlight: Downy Mildew Resistant Impatiens

Fill your gardens with bright, long-lasting color. NEW Beacon Impatiens offers high resistance to downy mildew for healthy gardens all season. You can rely on Beacon to thrive. Available in 6 colors, you can fill baskets, window boxes, and shade landscapes with confidence.

New: Mahoney’s Ocean Enriched Compost

Looking for a nutrient-rich bulk soil to fill your veggie garden beds? Introducing our newest product in our bulk lineup: Mahoney’s Ocean Enriched Compost! Watch Patrick explain the benefits of our favorite new item, and you can now shop online for local delivery here: SHOP NOW

 

Lilacs: In bud and Bloom

We’ve just received beautiful lilacs in bud and bloom. The quintessential early-Spring blooming shrub, Lilacs are known for their stunning color and fragrance. Find varieties like ‘Sensation’, ‘Moscow Beauty’, ‘Monge’, ‘Mount Baker’, ‘Common Purple’, ‘Pocahontas’ and more! Please note, supplies and selection will vary at each Mahoney’s location.

Video Look: Sprucing Up for Spring

Looking for some inspiration to dress up the house this weekend? See how Julia spruced up the front of our Winchester store with our locally-grown, cold-tolerant spring bulbs and pansies.

NOW BLOOMING IN THE NURSERY: ANDROMEDA

Pieris (Andromeda) 

One of the earliest shrubs to bloom in the spring, Pieris offers an elegant flower form that merits close inspection. Individual flowers may remind you of lily of the valley, but rather than one individual flower, they are grouped in large clusters that hang down from the tiered branches, each cluster up to 6” long. Often fragrant, they shimmer in the early spring landscape. Flowers may be white, pink or deep rose, depending on the variety. 

Native to the mountain regions of the Far East, Pieris japonica is wonderfully hardy in our area. It is a shrub with four seasons of interest. Glossy dark green leaves remain evergreen all year and for that reason alone, it merits inclusion in our gardens. But there is an added foliar element – new leaves emerge as the flowering cycle is coming to an end and are bronze to red in color. The contrast is eye-catching.  As the colorful new leaves turn dark green, buds for next year’s flowers are forming. The buds are bead-like and showy, rather like having jewelry on your shrub! The buds’ summer show continues throughout the winter, adding interest and contrast to the evergreen foliage.  

Pieris are excellent companions for Rhododendrons and Azaleas as they grow in similar conditions. They are ideal for use in foundation plantings, woodland edges and mixed borders. We are perhaps most familiar with the 3’-5’ tall, mid-sized varieties but there are excellent low growing varieties for the front of the border, and even dwarf varieties under 2’ tall which can be grown in containers. Versatile, they will grow in light conditions ranging from sun to partial shade to full shade. If grown in full sun, they will be happiest with some afternoon shade. And no matter the light conditions, they do appreciate protection from the drying effects of winter winds and sun. They like the acidic nature of our New England soils, and to look their best, they prefer that soil to be rich in organic matter.  

Deer resistant, they are also a favorite and important food source for our native pollinator, the mason bee. Here are varieties to consider for your landscape. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Compacta’ 

As the name suggests, this variety is somewhat smaller than traditional varieties of Andromeda. It grows to a height of 4’. As well, the leaves are slightly smaller than traditional varieties. It flowers heavily with trusses of white, bell-like flowers that are lightly fragrant. After the flowers fade, new foliage emerges and is flushed with red-bronze tones. As this new foliage matures it becomes a lovely shiny, deep green.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ 

‘Dorothy Wycoff’ is a beautiful variety, admired for its year round interest. It features dark red winter flower buds which open to reveal white flowers with a soft pink tone. The foliage is glossy and dark green in summer, turning mahogany-red in winter. This shrub will reach a height of 5’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Karenoma 

‘Karenoma’ has all the virtues associated with Andromedas – showy flower buds that open to elegant, upright trusses of fragrant, white flowers, new foliage which has bronze-red tones, and glossy leaves that remain through the winter. But this variety has an added virtue –it is a particularly hardy variety.  Growing to a height of 4’-5’ and a similar width, ‘Karenoma’  is perfect for the home landscape.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’ 

‘Katsura’ is a lovely plant with arching trusses of rich rose- pink, bell-shaped flowers that appear in early spring. A distinguishing feature of this variety is that new foliage emerges not just in spring, but into summer, offering a particularly long season to enjoy the dramatic, glossy, wine-red color of new growth. In 10 years, ‘Katsura’ will reach a height of 5’ and a similar width.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’ 

‘Little Heath’, as the name suggests, is smaller than many Andromedas, growing 2’-3’ high and wide at maturity. Pendulous white bell-shaped flowers appear in early spring. Unusual for Andromeda, ‘Little Heath’ has variegated foliage – each leaf is outlined in cream. New foliage emerges with bronze- red colored tones. It performs well in the ground and is also suitable for container planting. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ 

‘Mountain Fire’ is a showy and dramatic Andromeda, noted for its spectacular brilliant red new growth which remains on display for several weeks. No muted bronze tones for this variety. ‘Mountain Fire’ has lovely clusters of fragrant white flowers. It will grow slowly to a height of 6’ and a similar width.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Red Mill’ 

‘Red Mill’ is noted for the fiery red color of its newly emerging foliage. Leaves mature to a rich dark green. Large clusters of white flowers appear in early spring and are particularly long lasting on this variety. ‘Red Mill’ grows to a height of 4’-6’. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ 

Another Andromeda with lovely bronze-red new growth, ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ is notable for its relatively early and profuse bloom. Clusters of pink buds open to fragrant white flowers. Leaves mature to glossy dark green on lovely red stems. More narrow than many Andromeda, ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ will grow to a height of 6’-8’ and a width of 4’-6’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ 

‘Valley Valentine’ has much to commend it. It has beautiful, deep red flower buds that open to deep pink blooms. The newly emergent foliage has an attractive, bronzy tint before maturing to glossy green in the summer. Winter brings bronze-red tones to the foliage. It grows slowly, reaching a height of 5’-6’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica var. yakushimanum ‘Cavatine 

This hardy, slow growing Andromeda is increasingly popular. It has small leaves and grows as a dense, compact mound only 2’ tall and a bit wider in 10 years. Trusses of white flowers open slightly later in spring than other varieties and are particularly fragrant and long lasting. This variety is well suited to the smaller garden. It can be used in a foundation planting or mixed border, and is particularly attractive when used to line a walkway. 

 

Pieris japonica var. yakushimanum ‘Prelude’  

‘Prelude’ is similar to ‘Cavatine’ with the same low, mounding shape. Flower buds are pink, opening to long lasting, delicate white blooms. Emerging foliage has a pinkish tint before maturing to rich dark green.  

 

Pieris x ‘Brouwers Beauty’ 

Developed in Connecticut, ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’ is a cross between Pieris japonica and our native Pieris floribunda. The result is a beautiful shrub with purple-red winter buds which open to an abundant display of slightly fragrant white, bell-shaped flowers that are upright and slightly arching. New spring foliage is yellow-green, maturing to shiny dark green in summer and bronze in winter. The rich winter foliage complements the deep red flower buds, creating winter interest in the garden. Very hardy, it is slow growing, forming a dense shrub 5’-6’ tall and 3’-4’ wide in 10 years. This variety was a Cary Award winter in 2000, signifying its outstanding garden performance in our region.  

 

Dwarf Pieris 

While we tend to think of Andromeda as a medium sized shrub, there are several dwarf varieties which feature a compact, mounded form no more than 2’ tall and wide in 10 years. The leaves and flowers are proportionally reduced in size and appropriately scaled to the plant.  Dwarf Pieris varieties are a great option for the smaller landscape or rock gardens.  

 

 Pieris japonica ‘Bisbee Dwarf’ 

‘Bisbee Dwarf’ is a slow growing variety with small white flowers panicles that are plentiful and fragrant. Newly emergent leaves are reddish in color before maturing to a glossy dark green. This variety has a Massachusetts connection as it was introduced by Horatio Bisbee of Ware. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Bonsai’ 

‘Bonsai’ has tiny, one inch, round, dark green leaves and a dense, upright growth habit. Panicles of white bell flowers are in perfect scale. And yes, it is perfect for bonsai! 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Pygmaea 

‘Pygmaea’ is a very unusual Andromeda. It has delicate 1” long, narrow leaves that give a feathery texture to the garden. Its growth habit is fairly upright. Extremely slow growing, it is suitable for containers, rock gardens or a small landscape. White flowers appear in spring.   

HOW TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Few gardening pursuits are as rewarding as growing your flowers and vegetables from seed. For centuries, New England gardeners and farmers alike have embarked on their labor of love early on the season. The goal: to sow their seeds indoors while patiently awaiting the arrival of warm weather.

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seeds have helped us provide some indoor seed starting basics. We love the Botanical Interests seed collection. You’ll find hundreds of Non-GMO and USDA certified organic varieties.

 

Carefully tending to your plants from the beginning invokes a sense of wonder in gardeners of all ages. This is especially true in New England, as our growing season is short. Other than cool-season crops, you’ll want to wait until after the “Average Last Frost Date” to sow outside. The Farmer’s Almanac lists that as May 4th in Boston, but this is just an average, and it varies by town. Starting from seed allows you to get a jump-start on varieties that you may otherwise have to wait until May to find in the garden center. Different seed varieties require different numbers of days to sprout and grow. All Botanical Interests seed packets are labeled with their germination time. Use this information to help you find the perfect time to sow, relative to the last frost.

The other advantage of starting from seed is finding a selection that you may not otherwise find in started plants. Depending on which Mahoney’s you visit, you’ll find up to 500 seed varieties to choose from – this is especially exciting if you are looking for heirloom and hard-to-find vegetable varieties!

Perhaps the most compelling reason is that seed starting provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment – especially for kids. It connects you to nature, and makes you appreciate, and control where your food really comes from. We say it’s hard to explain – you just have to experience it!

GETTING STARTED

We should mention that many plants should be started from seed outdoors. Radishes, spinaches and carrots, for example, grow so fast that it is much easier to sow directly outdoors. There are other veggies such as salad greens that are fussy about being transplanted so planting directly into the garden produces better results. That said, let’s dig into seed starting indoors.

 

INDOOR SOWING GUIDE

 

CHOOSE YOUR CONTAINER

Most people buy our seed-starting flats because they maximize plants per square inch, but no one says you have to go that route; you can use anything from cut-down milk cartons to elegant glazed pottery. As long as the container is not too shallow, and you have proper drainage, the plants don’t really care. Go with what you like to look at. We carry many biodegradable fiber pots and seed trays, perfect for growing! Note: If you do reuse a container, make sure to clean and sanitize first.

LIGHTEN UP

Seeds need light – lots of it! When starting your seeds indoors, place in a south-facing sunny window. If you don’t think you’ll have enough sun, stop in and talk to us for tips on artificial lighting! There are ways to use your own lighting at home to help your seedlings along!

PLANTING MIXES

If you search online you’ll find a lot of conflicting information about what’s the “best” planting soil to use. We sell several – from our organic professional potting mix to an organic seed starting media by Espoma. They’ll all work great – just remember that regular outdoor garden soil is definitely not OK. Seeds need the right amount of moisture, warmth and air to germinate. Regular garden soil is too dense and will drown the seeds and eliminate much-needed oxygen and create an environment ripe for pests and disease.

name your plants

When they’re very young a lot of seedlings look pretty much the same, so do yourself a favor and label the plants as soon as you get started. While you are at it, mark down when you first planted the seeds. Trust us, you’ll find this really helpful.

keep it cozy

Seeds need warmth – most will germinate at temperatures around 75ºF, but eggplants, peppers, and other warm-season plants like it even warmer. Again it’s good to read package instructions carefully. Once the seeds germinate, room temperatures of 70º–75º will keep most seedlings happy.

a word about water

Water the containers as needed to keep them evenly moist but not sopping wet. Misting using a spray bottle, or bottom watering (adding water to the drainage tray) are great ways to keep planting mix moist without disturbing seeds and young seedlings. Covering your containers with a clear lid or clear plastic wrap also helps increase humidity during germination. After your seedlings emerge, remove the cover.

count down

Once your seedlings have grown enough to transplant to their ultimate spot (either in the ground or in a container) it’s time to prepare your babies to withstand outdoor conditions. It called “Hardening off.” Start by placing your seedlings outdoors in a protected, shady area. Over the next 7 to 10 days, move them more and more into direct sun (for sun-loving varieties). But remember your seedling are still very “tender” – be sure to bring them in at night if temperatures drop below 45°F. Then congratulations – you’re ready to plant.

Pollinators

Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies pollinate a third or more of the food we eat. You can help simply by choosing seeds that create habitats that protect and feed pollinators. And while you’re thinking of this, plant a diversity of colors, bloom times, and heights – it will provide a better environment, and it will be prettier for you, too.

a final thought

Before you start, take a minute to appreciate the seed. They come in all sizes – some as fine as powder – but each is a remarkable living thing with a protective outer coat, an embryo, stored nutrients, and a genetic blueprint for its development. When you stop to think, it’s really quite miraculous that a tiny seed will grow into a big, beautiful plant, in just one season!