Archive for the ‘spring’ Category

Grapes Gone Wild

June 5, 2012

The third year Petit Manseng vines have grown into a real vineyard in the past month! Of course this is completely normal, but we still weren’t expecting such a big difference between the 2nd and 3rd year (or “leaf”). They’re now cordon trained along wires and bearing so much fruit that we have to go through and cluster thin. Since Petit Manseng is a super vigorous grower, we’re leaf pulling the canopy a little bit to allow more air movement.

Here’s a look at the evolution of the past few months:

March 28th: Budbreak

May 9th: Flowers

May 23rd: Fruit Set

June 2nd: Leaf Pulling & Cluster Thinning

A Mockingbird has decided to nest in the canopy and is not too happy about her hiding spot being revealed..

Peony Madness in the Garden

May 15, 2012

Cora Stubbs, a raspberry pink Japanese form peony

You say Pee OH Nee, I say PEE Uh Nee – however you say it, Peonies are an early delight for the cutting garden. says both pronunciations are correct and depend on which region you come from. “If you said pee un nee in the Southern United States you would get strange looks from the locals.” Oh – That’s why!

Scott’s favorite is Cora Stubbs. He planted six plants some years ago and we were quite smitten with them, the way they hold their color and the contrast of textures and colors. Of course, there isn’t a peony we don’t like. Bartzella is a rare yellow peony that Scott is also fond of.

The Bartzella, with lemony yellow blooms and small red flares

Peony Meadows northeast of Charlottesville in Keswick, VA has a huge peony garden, which owners Jim and Sandy graciously let you wander through. I dare you to walk through and not make plans to order some peonies in the fall! You must look at them soon though, as they are blooming right now. Last year Rachel, Scott, and I wrote down the names of the peonies we liked best (we like them all really) and in the fall Jim dug out the eyes and we picked them up. Jim doesn’t have Cora Stubbs though. Paradise Garden usually has them, but they are available in limited supply and have to be ordered early. Paradise Garden also has “Karen Gray”, which got rave reviews from guests in our tasting room this weekend.

Karen Gray, an unusual wine red Japanese flower with a creamy center

After peonies finish blooming the foliage is pretty. I cut off all blooms – either as cut flowers, when they finish blooming, or if it rains and they fall to the ground. That way, the bush keeps it shape and looks perky.


Back in the Vineyard

March 21, 2012

Vineyard Pomeranian Dallas helps rough prune

Late winter and early spring is a busy time in the vineyard. As the weather warms up, buds on the vines begin to swell and the race is on! It can be a challenge to have everything pruned and ready to go by bud break, especially in a warm year like this one. Our vines are still very young and aren’t much trouble.  The 2011 plantings were pruned down to two or three buds for the sake of uniformity.  These will be interspersed with new plantings in April, so we’ve still got a few years until our grapes really come into their own.

Front row of pruned vines with unpruned vines in the background

Our little test block of Petit Manseng, however, was planted in 2010 and lovingly hand watered all summer. This year its ready to be trained along the cordon wire. The new shoots will grow straight up towards the top (catch) wires, in the Vertical Shoot Position (VSP) trellis system.  

Diagram of Vertical Shoot Positioning via


Cover Crops I Can Eat or Put in a Vase

March 22, 2011

Our marigold cover crop strip from last summer

I’ve found a cover crop I can live with – catnip!  It’s cute for at least the first year, before it gets woody and hard to pull out.  It has nice foliage, pretty flower spikes, and attracts a diversity of beneficial insects and bees.  It also makes a nice tea for insomniacs, although there’s a limit to how much catnip tea a family can use.  The seeds sprout like crazy, but the plant doesn’t spread invasively from underground roots as some of it’s other family members do, like spearmint.  Where I didn’t want it, it was easy to hoe out.

Before we moved to White Hall, we had no experience with cover crops.  Gardening in Bethesda, Maryland I was very familiar with weeds.  In suburban Bethesda, I felt I was pulling up every weed known to mankind, including the alien vetch (pea family) that was particularly hard to eradicate.  So when I read that vetches and various peas are desirable cover crops, I really didn’t want to seed those things in White Hall without knowing more about them.

Last years rapeseed on the future vineyard site

Our first cover crop was rapeseed, from the cruciferae family of mustards, cabbages, radishes, arugula cauliflower, brussell sprouts, etc, all delicious!  Lucie Morton, our vineyard consultant, recommended the rapeseed because of it’s nematocidal qualities.  It’s in my favorite family of plants anyway because I love all those crucifers (also called the brassicareae family).  None of them – not any part – are toxic to us.  This makes it easy to forage for wild varieties.  We had fields of rapeseed with huge flower buds that looked a lot like broccoli.  The young leaves looked a lot like kale.  They were delicious when steamed like broccoli with a little butter on top.  There many are other mustard family cover crops to experiment with.  Oil radish has a big long white radish root that would be good for cooking with.


Spring Planting

May 17, 2010

It’s official!  Our first new vines are in the ground.

Last week we planted 64 dormant Petit Manseng vines grafted onto 101.14 rootstock.  The rest of the vineyard won’t go in until next Spring, but we wanted to get a small section going this year.  Fingers crossed that we see signs of life soon! (more…)