September 28, 2014

EQUINOX COLOR AND A NEW SEASON BEGINS

ZINNIA'S ARE IN SUCH ABUNDANCE, THAT THEY CAN JUST BE CUT TO DO THINGS LIKE THIS!
'ZINNIA OKLAHOMA MIX' FROM JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS, DIRECT SOWN IN JULY

IN THE GARDEN

 Ahhh - September. Cold mornings, dewey grass, hot and dry days, and then cool evenings. Aside from the yellow jackets, there is little not to love about September in New England, or anywhere in the northern hemisphere for that matter. In the garden, much is ending, the tomatoes are just about done (but surprisingly, there are still enough on the vines so that I need to pick them every day - have you found that out too?). Peppers and eggplants are in their season - really, how many peppers are enough? With out dry weather ( 5th driest September in recorded history in New England) many of our hot peppers are showing some cracks, just woody cracks that are more visually stressful than anything else, but most are not picture perfect - at least for a fancier blog or magazine shot (OK for us though!).


THE TREE PEPPERS IN THE MIDDLE HERE ARE 'LUNCHBOX' MIXED, FROM JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS


I only grew three types of peppers this year, Jalapeño ( for salsa which make about every three days - a little crazy for Mexican food lately!), and worth mentioning - a great blend of peppers from Johnny's Selected Seed called Lunchbox mix (this is not a product placement nor a sponsored post BTW - I only mentioned Johnny's because I trust them and honestly order from them), Lunchbox mix, an organic mix of sweet snack peppers produces the sweetest peppers that actually have flavor without the bit. Your kids would love them, as they are nearly as sweet a candy. Surprisingly, the plants are ornamental too ( I grew mine in containers and in the garden, but the container plants grew the best, but they may be a little tall for most small plantings - the plants reached 3 feet tall. I will grow them again. Oh, the Jalapeno's are also from Johnny's -  'El Jefe' on the left and 'Concho' on the right. I really didn't fuss over them, they had to fend for themselves in some raised beds out behind the greenhouse.



Zinnias seem to make it into my garden every year  my mom used to grow many, for the house and for church (when we went to church! Eeek). Today, I grow them for both the nostalgia and of course, their awesomeness. I particular like like the small flowered types with tall, tall stems, like 'Oklahoma'. Forget about sowing them indoors in the spring, because you will never get those tall stems, at least not as tall as those from plants that come from seeds sown directly into the garden in late June or early July. I sowed my zinnias around the 4th of July, and in four weeks I have flowers to pick, and now - near October, I have enough  to make a carpet with, if I so wished. There is something about these tall, small-flowered zinnias  - their blend of colors, that reminds me of state fairs, or those bags of pom pons at the craft store, or better yet - jars of gum balls.



A WHITE HARDY CYCLAMEN HEDERIFOLIUM IN FULL BLOOM IN MY GREENHOUSE


IN THE GREENHOUSE

There is no stopping the arrival of autumn under glass. Nothing reminds us more that plants are alive, than their incredible ability to sense the shift of the seasons - no matter where they are from. In the greenhouse bulbous plants from Turkey, South Africa or other distinctly winter and summer rainfall areas that respectively, shift from a dry summer or winter, to a wet summer or winter, are all started to burst forth with growth. One would think that one could hold back this growth by withholding water or rainfall, but the triggers to seasonal growth is much more than just moisture - these plants can sense the day length shortening, the cooler night temperatures, the increased dew in the cold morning and other factors that I probably don't even know about yet.


THIS CYCLAMEN AFRICANUM IS MORE TENDER THAN C. HEDERIFOLIUM, ALTHOUGH IT LOOKS VERY SIMILAR.


I've noticed that my cyclamen collection ( all are species) presents a wide range variability especially with the quality of flowers each year. I know that winter fertilization can affect flower formation, but also such factors as summer moisture ( less for C. africanium, and more for C. graecum) can also affect floral display. I have been trying to repot the corms less often, to reduce root damage, and holding off on water until flower buds form in September or October. This year, everything is early - both under glass and outside. My first flowers began to appear on the cyclamen collection in early August, even without watering - in other years, the collection has bloomed as late as mid-October.



NERINE SARNIENSIS BULBS, A RELATIVE OF THE AMARYLLIS, ARE STARTING TO SEND UP BUDS

The Nerine sarniensis collection is also a bit irregular, with about 1/3 of the bulbs forming flower buds, and the others just bursting forth into foliage, which leads me to believe that those bulbs will have no flowers this year. Nerine confound many growers with their inability to bloom, so I am not surprised by this behavior, as I have been neglecting the bulbs over the past few years, and this is a species which forms flower buds two to three years in advance deep inside. My bulbs need to be divided, they need more care as to nutrition and winter light, and I think I just might be growing tired of their annual bloom (it happens - just becoming more about maintenance than enjoyment). I predict that I will be donating or selling the collection soon, to make way for something new and more interesting. My problem is that these bulbs rather rare, or at least - difficult if not nearly impossible to find anywhere, let alone in the US - so a suitable home for the collection needs to be found. A burden? Maybe, but also a gift to have for another year at least.


CYRTANTHUS ELATUS OR 'FIRE LILY'

I was given a gift bulb of a Cyrtanthus elates -t he classic old variety with upright and open flowers a couple of years ago, and I have been propagating it. I now have about 20 bulbs, which sit high on a bench near the glass in the greenhouse. In summer, they get a spash of water every now and then, but other than that, they are abused. Maybe I will offer a few for sale of this site, as these classic old conservatory bulbs are not easy to find. The flowers are bright, if not brilliant as many Cyrtanthus are - a genus native to South Africa. This one selection seems to bloom twice for me, around Easter in the spring, and again in the autumn - always surprising me as I never seem to catch it as it begins to send up a bud. The entire plant looks very much like a miniature amaryllis, but it is evergreen, or nearly so - not really going dormant. Also known as Kaffir Lily, Scarborough Lily or even more commonly at one time 'Valotta', which is the name one often finds it listed under in old gardening books from the 20th century.


THE RARE ONION, ALLIUM CALLIMISCHON HAEMOSTICTUM
 Maybe it's surprising that Allium is also in the Amaryllis family, but it is. A mouthful, Allium callimischon subsp. haemostictum is a most curious onion indeed. Rarely seed anywhere, even in botanic gardens, this particular species forms it's flower stems and buds in the autumn ( our springtime). The floral stems remain erect and dry all winter long ( our summer) until the fall rains arrive and they burst into bloom just as the new foliage begins to emerge from the soil. Fascinating, that Mother Nature. I've been saving seed from mine ( which might be sterile, as I cant' really tell if it is the seeds which are sprouting, or if the bulb is simply dividing) but I want a full pot someday, as a single floral stem is a bit unexciting. I've seen pots in full flower in British alpine houses, and they can be spectacular, but no one can afford a pot full of purchased bulbs unless one in Bill Gates. Seed is the only way.


CHECK OUT THE FLOWER STEMS ON THIS OXALIS LIVIA - CLEARLY DESIGNED TO BE BLOOMING THROUGH BRUSHY GROWTH LIKE MANY GLADIOLUS SPECIES IN THE FYNBOS OF SOUTH AFRICA


I still grow a few bulbous Oxalis from South Africa, and this year, a new one bloomed for me. I acquired the bulbs last year, but they behaved differently than they did this year. Check out this crazy growth habit. Oxalis livida is rare, and apparently 'shy' to bloom according to my plant's source Telos Rare Bulbs, but I would argue that this one is not that shy this year. What's amazing about this odd species is not it's cute, trifoliate leaves in the winter ( um..clover like), but it's the long floral stems - over 1 foot long. Maybe a hanging basket is in order? The foliage this year is surprising me too, as it seems to be emerging very thickly.

OXALIS LIVIDA


I am not certain of the provenance of these bulbs from Telos Rare Bulbs, but according to the Pacific Bulb Society Website, they might come from a collection made on the rocky slopes, growing in the shade, collected by Johannes-Ulrich Urban at 500 meters on the Nieuwoudtville Pass in Fynbos habitat, which doesn't surprise me as fynbos is a scrubby, low growth area, and this plant is exquisitely designed for such a habitat - its long stems winding through the brushy growth to reach the light.



A WILD TERRIER IN MY 'FYNBOS', ER…VEGETABLE GARDEN.  MR. RED SQUIRREL? I'D THINK TWICE ABOUT SNACKING ON THE 8 ROW DENT CORN.



September 24, 2014

MUMS, LIMA BEANS AND KALE TO POST, LIKE AND SHARE



Just a post to let you know that I just posted THIS to eHow.
( I kind-of want to help them default to another post about how 'hardy mums' can 'extend the season'). So why not introduce people to exhibition mums!

(I know, I know….as if average gardeners will go out and order spider mum cuttings and train them all summer long……but I can dream, right? I am fatally Polyanna-ish. Besides, I take it as my personal mission to inspire people to raise their bar on what they choose to grow - dang it, someone needs to! No matter how impractical it might be!). Down with boring.

So, please feel free to visit my eHow posts whenever you feel like it, and to perhaps do your social media magic with the post - particularly using the eHow 'Was this article helpful' button ( but yeah, only if you believe that it was helpful!).

Thanks bunches!

Yes,  I've been writing for eHow as-side from this blog - their gardening blog needed more content, and honestly, the new eHow is pretty nice, to both content creators and in content - as they have been editing and adjusting what they have, positioning authors as experts, and really raising the bar on their entire content load and database.

It really helps me and even this blog if you use the 'like' share or "tweet' buttons, or if you re pin my images to Pinterest,. I know that it's a pain, and usually I don't go for all of this social media crap, but sometimes, one just has to play the game.   If folks re post to Google+, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest - it increases my ratings and stats - and since analytics is a numbers game, it means all sorts of good things for the future of this blog. It might even help me keep heating my greenhouse for another year!

My eHow posts are HERE.

This blog does fine on its own ( ranking number 5 on Blogrank for gardening blogs) so I really connote complain - and I thank you readers who do visit every week. That helps too!

September 14, 2014

MAKING A COLOR-SAVVY LATE SUMMER DAHLIA ARRANGEMENT


Anyone who grows dahlias knows that September marks the height of the dahlia season. Armloads of dahlias means that everyone you know ends up with a bouquet, with few complaints. This year my cutting garden is looking better than it has, but since I've been traveling a lot, few flowers have yet to be picked.

When one visualizes the summer garden, especially from the perspective of a snowy, January evening, one imagines such lushness, yet forgets that such abundance can dull the experience a bit. If only one could preserve a few buckets of our coral and peach pom pom dahlias for mid-winter in some magical refrigerator, but such luxuries do not exist. We are stuck far too many dahlias and other cut flowers to enjoy on these last days of summer, so why not celebrate the bounty with a late summer arrangement.
Here is the story of the one I made today:
Click below for more.

September 13, 2014

Preserving Summer - Home Canning, Whole Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce



Tomatoes seem to know when they should ripen - and it's never at a convenient time. I've been traveling for the past three weeks ( a couple trips to both New Mexico and California for work and pleasure) but I've been home every weekend for a day or two to do laundry, re-pack and to 'put-up tomatoes, which this year, have decided to not only ripen when I am at my most busy, they have also decided to become a bit of a bumper crop (which I have no idea why, as we have had a very cold and wet summer). Really though, I am not complaining - as come this winter, we will have lots of heirloom tomatoes canned whole, crushed, sauce, salsa and stewed. Since again this weekend I am just catching up on posts, emails and yes…..tomato canning, here are some pictures from last weekend's bounty.
Click for more:

September 2, 2014

SANTE FE - BOTANIZING THE SUB ALPINE ZONES WITH NARGS MEMBERS


A just past prime Spotted Coralroot or Corallorhiza maculate blooms near the Santa Fe Basin Ski area.

One of the best things about attending a North American Rock Garden Society meeting? Well, it's hard to tell.  It might be the in-depth presentations by world class rock gardeners and botanists, or it may just be all of the amazing inspiring members who attend these annual events. The local garden tours are inspiring and impressive, as is the incredible plant sale - where some of the rarest and hard to find plants can be purchased from local nurseries, some long before most ever become available elsewhere - but I have to admit that my favorite part is the botanizing with friends -  fellow plant geeks and plant lovers. There is always the hiking on trails and subalpine meadows in and around spectacular Santa Fe, New Mexico. Honestly, I loved it all.

This year, I am so honored to announce to my readers that I have been nominated and voted in as the new president of the North American Rock Garden Society - a tremendous honor and responsibility in the plant world, and one which I intend to leverage, as I have a great affinity for all plant societies, and in this one in particular. Rock gardening is very inclusive - it covers the culture and study of high elevation alpine plants, naturally, but also includes woodland treasures, ephemerals, wild flowers and native plants, ferns, bulbs, trees and much more. Essentially, rock gardening today encompasses much more than merely rock gardens and alpine plants. The society attracts those who care about preservations, botanical diversity, wild species and native genera seed collecting and the study of many types of interesting plants. Some may consider NARGS to be an elite society, but I like to think of it as a plant society for those who really love plants, and for those who want to learn more. I encourage you all to consider a membership, to check out our beautiful color quarterly journal, and to participate in the annual NARGS seed sale. Feel free to learn more about NARGS here at our website.
Click below for more:

August 30, 2014

THE NORTH AMERICAN ROCK GARDEN SOCIETY ANNUAL MEETING IN SANTA FE



This weekend I am attending the Annual Meeting of the North American Rock Garden Society being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Having never been to either Santa Fe or even New Mexico for that matter, I discovering why so many artists and creative people love this city. It's unique Pueblo style architecture with adobe brick and stucco is amazing, not to mention the food, the people, the weather and the chili's.

As some of you already know, I am so proud to have been elected as the new president of NARGS this weekend, and I am so excited to have been both nominated and elected into this two year term with such a respected plant group as the North American Rock Garden Society. In many ways, I feel so un qualified as there are many expert gardeners more qualified than I, as the membership includes some of of the finest botanists and plant enthusiasts of any plant group, but I understand the mission at hand - revitalizing, re-energizing and perhaps reinventing a group of smart, passionate and dedicated plant people and leading the way for a brighter future. Something many plant societies will need to address in the coming years. I cannot make many big promises, but I can and will tell the membership that I will do my very best to inspire and bring a positive energy to the group.



The adobe architecture in and around Santa Fe keeps authentic, much like parts of New England.


I am very busy here, as meetings and hikes continue every day, but I thought that I might share some images - with very little text. Enjoy!

Centranthus ruber  growing in a border in front of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Street markets around Santa Fe feature exactly what one would expect in such an alley.

NARGS members gather at a trail head for one of the many hikes, botanizing the mountains of Sangre de Christo in New Mexico.

The view from - of all things, the hot tub at one of the private homes we visited.

Many Salvia thrive in the arid, desert-like climate which still gets snow in the winter, but hot, dry drought in the summer. These plants were in the gardens at the home of a NARGS member.

This Erodium, related to the geranium, blooms in the bright shade. Not many alpine plants bloom in August, but the Erodiums do.

This Saliva azurea was stunning! I wonder if I could grow this blue beauty in my greenhouse?
A Cyclamen hederifolium in New Mexico? If sited right, many zone 5 plants can grow here if a bit of water is offered. Besides, this climate in not unlike that of Turkey or the Steppes of Asia.






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