|A store-bought hyacinth repotted into one of my home-made clay pots, helps boost my spirits. My bulbs won't be ready to force for a few weeks so a cheat bulb here and there is OK, don't you think? It's scent is transformative on a January day.|
Now that the Holidays are over, and a long Christmas break has given me a bit of time to catch up on painting rooms in the house, as well as letting me put some good long work hours into the new kitchen (it's really beginning to look less like a construction zone!). Can you believe that I only made it out into the greenhouse once during the past two weeks of December?
I've been spending time revisiting old gardening books once again (preparing for a secret book project), and while rereading these 19th century gardening books I'm struck by how little things have changed if one owns a greenhouse, at least in New England. The same plants listed in mid-nineteenth century books as blooming in January or obtainable from a Boston plant source, are the same plants that do well in my greenhouse. In fact, in the 1860's, it was easier to acquires what we would define today as rare or unusual South African bulbs. Catalogs listed dozens of varieties and species of Lachenalia, Romulea, and even dozens of colors of Freesia.
|After a 6 inch early January snowfall, as soon as the sun strikes the glass things begin to warm up the first South African bulbs, and mid-season camellias share their show with a colder one, outdoors.|
We must remind ourselves that bulbs, seeds and dormant roots of recently discovered plants from South Africa, South America , Australia, Asia and elsewhere arrived via sailing ships in the great seaports of the East, and there were such things as mail order and catalogs. What didn't exist were wholesale growers, Dutch mega-resellers and large nurseries, so in many ways, a good book with advertisements or a gardening magazine was often the only way for a plant enthusiast to acquire stock. It still surprised me though, that such plants as the tuberous tropaeolum species, where all available from multiple sources while today, only one or two sources worldwide exist. I have three books on my desk now which list T. azureum, the rare blue flowered tropaeolum, while today, with a global market, I would be hard pressed to find one tuber for sale anywhere.
These shortest days of winter can be brutal on the heating bill, especially if it is bitter cold and overcast, but we've been blessed here in New England with some mild weather, and if it dipped into the single digits, as it did last night, a good sunny day warms things up quickly. In one way, the lack of bubble wrap helps the radiant heat effect, by allowing even the weaker early January sun to feel just a tiny bit stronger than it would be if its rays had to pass through the poly-layers of it's protective bubbles.
|Outside, the apple espalier trees are snug as a bug, sleeping under a new layer of powdery snow. These trees will be pruned in February, so for now, they look a bit shaggy with their long stems.|
|This is a new plant for me - a rare selection of the South African bulb Velteimia bracteata. This is a form named with the unfortunately boring name 'Cream Form'. It is available from Telos Rare Bulbs but as most good plants are, it isn't cheap. I think I now have 4 selections in my collections, V. 'rose-alba' (which looks like this bloom, but much smaller), V. 'Yellow Flame' (once rare, but becoming more available), The classic pink form and this 'Cream Form'. I still need V. capensis, but not sure that that it would enjoy the cool environment here.|
|Veltheimia ' Cream Form', showing the overall size of the plant. It is much larger than all of my other selections, and the foliage isn't rippled or wavy.|
|I always have enjoyed the winter blooming Kalanchoe species, particularly K. uniflora. This specimen should be in bloom within a few weeks and I can't wait for its warm, coral colored blooms which will last all winter.|
|This variegated lemon is extraordinary - it has pinkish fruit as well! Nearly ripe, I anticipate a very interesting marmalade this year.|
|The white marble was installed in the kitchen this week. I guess this project is about half complete. The painted cabinets in the back still need to be replaced and basically, everything that you can see here, is still the old kitchen. Maybe by June?|
|On the new side of the kitchen, I was able to spend some time with vintage books on the new concrete table top. Having a new place to work and research is so delightful. It was a perfect way to spend a snowy January day.|