February 1, 2016

February Flora

As we are experiencing a rather mild winter, spring seems to be arriving earlier under glass. Many of these pots are old friends - going dormant during their hot and dry summer rest, and blooming sometime during the winter months. Crocus sieberi (left) bulbous oxalis (upper orange color), a Babiana fragrans (upper right pale yellow), Viola adroit (lower right) and Cyclamen coup (center pink), help represent some of our planets rarest treasures.

A true winter garden, is generally an un-heated conservatory or glassed structure which is often unheated, but protected from deep freezes. My greenhouse is technically still a greenhouse, albeit a 'cool house', as the temperatures remain above 40 degrees F., it can reach 70 degrees during sunny days in January. Now that it is February, I feel that we are 'over the hump' at least when it comes to the coldest temperatures, which generally arrive in early and mid-January. I should be careful though, as last winter, it remained far below freezing, near 0 deg F. until nearly March ( and that 119 inch snow fall), I do believe that our el Niño treat will continue here - the thermometer reached 65 deg. F today - outdoors! Talk about winter garden! At least, the bulbs inside are earlier this year - here are a few that are blooming now. Many of these will be familiar to you, if you are a blog follower. I am always so surprised at how these little treasures return year after year, sometimes with more bloom, and in other years, not so much.

Ornithogalum fimbriatum - a small, tine alpine form of these lovely yet under appreciated genus, native to the Balkans, Republic of Georgia and Turkey. This is a rare bulb which few ever see outside of collectors greenhouses.

This unusual species of Ipheon,  Ipheon (Northoscordum) dailystemon is one small bulb that you won't find in most, if any, bulb catalogs. This tiny beauty has been blooming on and off, since November. I am trying to save seed from my 5 bulbs so that I can fill a pot with the tiny bulbs. I dream of having full pots of these flowers, as one sees in the great British Alpine Society shows.

Oxalis obtusa selections ( all from Telos Rare Bulbs).

Oxalis obtusa 'Elizabeth'. In a genus which can be notoriously weedy, most of the bulbous forms make neat and well-behaved winter-blooming greenhouse plants. I have grown most every species, and not only are the flowers cheerful and bright on sunny days, the foliage is sometimes even more interesting.

A pot of Lachenalia ( Cape Hyacinth) is well-budded, and nearly ready to open.

Let's not forget about winter fragrance - words cannot capture what this tiny bouquet smells like right now (at 11:00 at night), where it sits next to my chair  There may be snow on the ground, but it the air in this room smells like Hawaii. Lead by Tulbaghia fragrans ( a less common, night scented Tulbaghia) and topped off with heady notes of the Sarcococca hookeriana, and intensely fragrant tender shrub from the Himalaya, and of course some almond-scented Osmanthus fragrans. 

Some random images of young cyclamen species. Here, Cyclamen graecum ssp candicum. These are the high-brow relatives of your florist cyclamen, but oh so much nicer. They are still seedlings, but should bloom next year.

A more common hardy selection of Cyclamen hederifolium, this one with nicer foliage, which is how one selected such selections, shares a pot with some offspring! Babies are a nice thing, when it comes to species cyclamen. Thank you ants, for helping me sow them!

Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum, with one of the weedier oxalis!

Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum, this one with gray/silvery foliage. I love this selection, and this species, as it is so variable, and so nice a tight growing. A collection  of cyclamen looks so much better when one combines many selections and species.
I hope that I am not boring you with this Cyclamen love? A couple more. Here, is Cyclamen graecum ssp anatolicum
One needs to look carefully with some of these to identify the differences, but when displayed side-by-side, the differences are clear.

Lastly, a very nice silver leaved Cyclamen hederifolium. It may be hardy outdoors here, but this one is one which I just can't get myself to set outside. Not until I grab more seed from it.

A little messy, but I've been busy. Pots of ranunculus are emerging, Ixia, Freesia bulbs and some carnations.

Young camellia trees have been relocated to the upper sand beds, with hopes that they will all bloom in time for the Massachusetts Camellia Society show, at the end of this month. I now have around 30 varieties, but most are still too young to show off in pots, but that won't stop me from exhibiting single flowers. Here in the north, camellias are now rarely seen, as they must all be raised in greenhouses.

My good friend Abbie Zabar once showed me how she started her olive cuttings, but cutting them in the winter and saving the clipping in a jar of water, she insisted that they rooted and grew into the lovely topiary olive trees that I once saw on her penthouse terrace. That winter, about 4 years ago, I came home and tried it myself, substituting damp sand for the water. My cuttings all roots, and now the few plants I kept are 6 feet tall, and yes, trained as topiary standards. Time to do it again!

January 26, 2016

I'm Starting a New Plant Society - Dahlias Anyone?

Proudly announcing the NEW ENGLAND DAHLIA SOCIETY. Please join if you are close to Worcester, MA!

I'm so excited to be able to share this with you - I've decided to kick-off a new chapter of the American Dahlia Society which will be located, or based, right here in central New England so that we could have our exhibitions at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. I'm proud to announce the New England Dahlia Society (circa 2016). Check out our new Facebook page here.

This all came about rather recently, although I had been throwing around the idea for a couple of years now. Many of you know that I have a long history with plant society( even entering my first Dahlia show back in the 1970's at the Worcester County Horticultural Society (which is now located at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden). 

Now for the surprising confession - to be honest, I am not a super passionate dahlia grower. I mean, I grow a few, but not as many as other members in the Dahlias society do - but I sense this is changing. Three years ago about 10 varieties. Last year 30 varieties, and this year? Well, you can see where this is going.

I'm starting this new chapter because I have realized that I am not alone amongst my peers. I realized this at, of all things, a cocktail reception celebrating a talk by Peter Korn from Gothenburg Botanic Garden,  at the home of noted botanist and nursery woman, Ellen Hornig. We were just chatting about her new garden, and yaking it up about such rarities such as Himalayan poppies, Podophyllum concerns, the challenges of growing Eritrichium species in  New England and stuff like that, when this happened: 

"So, Matt...what've you been growing in your greenhouse lately?" How did that Martha Stewart photoshoot go last month?"

I replied - "well,  the shoot was crazy - I mean, the planning, the photographer flying out from London at last minute, Doodles the dog getting laid right in the middle of it, then, they wanted fog, so Joe lit up the bee smoker - and when the firetrucks arrived.......oh, plus this year, for some reason, my Nerine sarniensis are blooming better than ever. Don't know why, as I've been totally abusing them.".

"..and.." I ended it with, " I'm thinking of starting a Dahlia Society chapter."

Shockingly, I didn't hear crickets. Instead, people became animated.

"I grow lots of Dahlias" said Roy Herald. He's a noted Hosta breeder, the sort of plant geek who is also a real plant explore. I mean, he traveled to China with Dan Hinkley and he's a noted authority on South African neophytes,  cacti and succulents and junk without any leaves. 

Really? Roy and Helen  Herold would join?  Wow.

"Really. I'll join if you started it? Roy said with a smile.
"...and be sure to ask Jan and Marty, they'll probably join as well, I know that they grow a mess of dahlias for cut flowers. " Roy said.

Whah? Jan Saks and Marty Shaefer? The expert Siberian Iris breeders? I know that they grow lots of cut flowers for the Boston market like sweet peas and delphinium, but dahlias? Hmmmm. Maybe this will work.

"So  Matt, did I over hear that you said that you want to start a Dahlia chapter? I'll join." Chimed in Ellen Hornig". "I keep a row in the back of the vegetable garden, and a few new ones here and there around the garden.".

Rrrrrreally... Ellen Hornig -the former-proprietor-of-Senneca-Hill-nursery-Ellen-Hornig. SHE wants to grow dahlias?

The same response came from a number of plant society superstars. Glen Lord, even said that he wanted to join, and he's already started ordering tubers.

 I expected my basic fanbase to love this idea. I mean, the flower farm audience, as well as those of you who gush over every luscious image on the Floret Farm site,and at, well, most any wedding blog. 

To clincher was, my most geeky plant friend Glen Lord, from Lordiculturals, the potter, bonsai expert and former president of the Massachusetts Cactus and Succulent Society. He  came by to go shopping at Logee's with me, and I mentioned the new group to him - and even HE became excited about joining.  

Dahlia's are catnip, at least for plant geeks.

In the end, it's not surprising, really, given the new found popularity with the old fashioned dahlia. One could argue that this flower from Mexico that grows from a potato-like tuber has a bright future. They are easy, well, at least easier than most any other flower-show plant aside from the daylily, and they reproduce! More tubers next year!

So why don't you join? Hell, everyone else is!

Our first meeting is here at our house, on Saturday, Feb. 27 at noon, so that you'll have time to walk through the greenhouse and eat lunch. If you live near central Massachusetts - and that includes a 1.5 hour radius including southern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, western NY state, northern CT or RI, I welcome you to attend this first meeting of the new New England Dahlia Society.

I'll make a clever, themed lunch (which if you've ever attended a meeting here, you kind-of know what to expect. Remember our place is not fancy, and we have puppies now, so it will be even more crazy!

Come even if you are just curious, too. Just see what this new group is all about, I know that some already who are coming have never even grown more than 2 dahlias, so we are at all levels.   Please RSVP in comments here, on our new Facebook Page where I'll be updating information regarding both the chapter, or the meeting.


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