October 20, 2014

THE MANY PRICELESS GIFTS WITH GARDENING, AND A FIRST FROST

WITH OUR FIRST HARD FROST EXPECTED TO HIT , SUCCULENTS ARE REMOVED FROM ALL OUTDOOR CONTAINERS AND BROUGHT INTO THE GREENHOUSE. NO WORRIES ABOUT POTTING THEM RIGHT NOW, THAT WILL NEED TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT WEEKEND.


Last night we 'almost' had our first killing frost. We gardeners know the routine - rushing home barely enough time to haul in everything that is frost tender, throwing sheets over dahlias (for some vain reason - as if we need any more!), or packing in begonias, citrus and succulents on the porches so dense that one can't even get to the dog food or to the recycling bins. For us, it means sore backs and muscles from dragging heavy tubs of tender trees and shrubs back to the protection of the greenhouse. Each year we say "We need to start this earlier" but for whatever reason, we seem to rationalize leaving plants out for various reasons "Oh, they really should get a few more days of sunshine." or, "Hey, remember that year when we didn't get a killing hard frost until nearly Thanksgiving?" or, "This year, let's just leave everything outside and save some money by not heating the greenhouse.".


THIS GIFT FROM THE STAFF AT BLYTHWOLD MANSION IN RHODE ISLAND IS A BARELY HARDY EUPHORBIA, OFTEN GROWN IN ZONE 7 GARDENS, IT REALLY THRIVES IN A CONTAINER IN THE COOL GREENHOUSE, WHERE IT WAS RETURNED LAST NIGHT BEFORE THE FROST HIT.


There are practical reasons too - greenhouse glass needs to be repaired ( our excuse this year), or greenhouse insulation needs to be installed ( another excuse from this year), but when cold weather threatens, it still always seems to come as a surprise. I love it though - always reminding me of when I was a kid, and mom picking marigolds and cosmos so that they would not get killed, buckets of cut dahlias and annuals, the last of the green tomatoes, the rush to pick all of the last squash, and then that anticipation of a frosty morning - peaking out at dawns first light to see if every leaf is wilted and covered in hoar frost, or, as it did this morning, just a coating of chilly dew.

RIGHT NOW, THE GREENHOUSE SMELLS LIKE ALMONDS - NOT FROM THIS HIGO CAMELLIA WHICH IS PLANTED INTO THE GROUND, BUT FROM IT'S NEIGHBOR - A TALL OSMANTHUS FRAGRANS. IT'S SCENT REMINDS ME OF AUTUMNAL GREENHOUSES.


Seasonal Rituals and Martha


Look, I know I work as a designer, but because of that reality, I feel that I can both celebrate and snub my nose at commercial design - for all it's beauty and ugliness. Each of us can make our own choices - especially during these celebratory seasonal displays, a period which we are just beginning to phase into. I thank the folks as Martha Stewart ( Eric Pike and Martha herself, in particular) for helping save what could have been a disastrous trend of plastic orange pumpkins and lawn bags filled with leaves. Think what you will about this empire of MSLO ( which many of us celebrated this week as Meredeth corporation's acquired the rights to the website and magazines). The Martha brand certainly helped change how we celebrate seasons, raising the bar, setting a new standard and inspiring the competition to jump on the hay wagon. That said, I am excited and feel hopeful about the magazine now that Meredeth has taken over, I was beginning to wondering about what was going to happen as it seemed to be in a holding pattern for a year or so.

Martha Stewart - we owe so much to you for bringing what many of us experienced only with out ethic families or farm-raised brothers and sisters to the masses. I suppose that I will never understand why so many people interpreted what you brought us into some sort of sick 'perfection', I suppose it's those people who's moms did not iron their own linens or whose fathers never picked mushrooms, or whose families never kneaded Easter bread together. But, to those of us were fortunate enough to be raised on making our own wreaths from woodland and garden clippings, who raised heirloom squashes before they were known as 'heirlooms', and who always believed that a home made pie meant that you not only made the pastry from scratch, but that you also raised the blue hubbard squash your self, cut it up and trimmed it with dad on the back porch, ground it into a puree with mom and then ran to the chicken coop for eggs - all in an annual effort to make a pie? Well, we few understand.

OK, SURE, THE COLOR OF OUR PORCH MIGHT BE MARTHA STEWART WORTHY, BUT THE MESS ISN'T! BUT I'M CERTAIN THAT SHE WOULD UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE AND URGENCY OF HAULING IN EVERY BEGONIA AND ORCHID BEFORE A HARD FROST. JUST FINDING FREE SPACE WAS HARD!

 OK, sure - you made my childhood experiences  a little less 'special' now with that TV show and all of your books, and your magazines have shared with everyone and ignited a trend of good taste, but no matter what...' it's all 'a good thing'.  I suppose. I'm all about sharing, and seeing more houses at the fourth of July with tasteful patriotic bunting, to hand carved pumpkins that don't look like plastic jack-o-lanterns? We are thankful. Still, it was sort-of nice to have the only giant carved home grown pumpkin and carved beets on our street growing up. Now, people just tell me that I am trying to 'look like Martha'. Ugh.
(Bitch).
(Smiley face).

(hire me?).

I REMEMBER THIS DRUMSTICK PRIMROSE FEATURED IN OLD WHITE FLOWER FARM CATALOGS BACK IN THE 1980's. NOW I AM CAPABLE ENOUGH OF A GARDENER TO RAISE MY OWN FROM SEED. MUST REMIND MYSELF TO ORDER SOME SOON FOR NOVEMBER SOWING UNDER GLASS.

Nostalgia, and our experience culture


There is an intimate connection between these seasonal shifts and nostalgia. Some of us do connect with the gorgeous colors of New England, the odd yet amazing color combinations of grey autumnal squashes with salmon and orange curcurbits. Some of us cant' imaging fall without vintage vases of Chinese Lanterns on our porches, reminding us of our grandmothers, while others may think that fall is more about commercialism - "Nightmare before Christmas, a visit to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, plastic face masks from the 1960's with licensed characters  like Caspar the ghost, or orange wax whistles, edible wax fingernails and candy apples. Others may think of annual trips to the apple orchard, fresh cider, hot donuts, or even just the scent of cinnamon drenched pine cones as you enter the supermarket (when the hell did that one begin?).

Most of my seasonal rituals are probably similar to yours - fall cleaning, washing windows, raking leaves, and everything has a scent. the scent of damp leaves and woodsy mosses combined with hay. I fear that our new generation misses out on so much - that most will associate the scent of 'pumpkin' coffee from their Duncan Donuts' cup more than the sweet almond fragrance from an Osmanthus fragrans which consumes the entire atmosphere in the greenhouse each autumn. Such are the priceless gifts the knowledgeable gardener appreciates.

My point it that there are many new experiences, and they keep coming, which only tells me that each of us has the power to introduce our own new experiences which eventually can, and will become the 'nostalgia' of tomorrow, either for us, or our children. As a designer for a large corporate ( for 25 years now) I am reminded of this power - seeing product that I helped create become collectible and 'nostalgic' to many ( oh, how I wished I saved all of my Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas props and licensing kits from back then!).

Of course, this crass commercialization is only part of our human experience, at least for me - as I have a deep, if not deeper appreciation for more meaningful memories - the heritage of ancient chrysanthemum culture from Asia, the autumnal displays of wheat and nature in Japan, the British fascinations with the genus Galanthus ( snowdrops) or with the culture and history of Mistletoe -
There is so much more left to discover and appreciate: The seasonal display of autumnal Narcissus serotinus in Crete, celebrating the Parma violet culture in Toulouse, France, discovering the story behind those Spruce cone tassels on alpine chalet's in the Alps. I want to be on this ride of life for some time, if only to discover and share new experiences to inspire others with.

YESTERDAY I TAUGHT A CLASS AT THE TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN in BOYLSTON, MA. IT REMINDED ME THAT I NEEDED TO ORDER MORE LACHENALIA - THE CLASS WAS SO EXCITED WHEN I HELD OUT ON ANNOUNCING THAT I HAD SOME BULBS OF THIS EASY TO GROW COOL WINDOWSILL BULB FOR THEM.

Creating New-stalgia


So, back to those teens waiting for the bus this morning -- shivering in their thin hoodies in the 28º weather. I would bet anything that they were clueless to the pending threat of frost last night. Probably more concerned about Anna's issue with the curvy knife on Everafter last night than the picking of the winter squash -- More engaged with zombie attacks and train cars full of victims than whether they should pick the rest of their Cappuccino Dahlias. I wonder if they just don't care about such things (um…yeah, probably)  such as seasonal changes, or just that they have never had the opportunity to experience something like all of this yet?

 I vote for the later. And although anyone who has had kids knows that  regardless of how hard you may try to inspire them, some will all go with zombies before zauchneria, a few may really care once they discover the virtues behind making a batch of cold-pressed cider or turning the TV off to help someone extract honey for two hours. The problem is that they have never experienced anything more than pre-packaged, fast-food entertainment - (take it from someone who knows - someone who's living it is, to pre-package fast food entertainment!).

THIS CHINESE CHESTNUT TREE SAT OUTSIDE OF MY CABIN LAST WEEK AT A CORPORATE OFF-SITE I ATTENDED AT SNOWFARM in STOCKBRIDGE, MA. THE GROUND WAS LITTERED WITH HUNDREDS OF CHESTNUTS, THE SQUIRRELS MUST HAVE HAD A BALL ALL WEEKEND.

It's been my personal experience with my own family that if shared in the right way, (I know that you don't eat weird veggies, but can you help me trim and clean these baby artichoke hearts?) that even the most ignorant can appreciate at the very least, involvement and perhaps the hope of discovering something new. Maybe even, eventually, the memory of an experience will be ignited.  So even though these teens were not hauling in tubs of Osmanthus last night and have no chance ever, to form those mental associations between Osmanthus fragrans, cups of warm Chai and the frosty weather -- I just want to believe that if they were invited to participate, their lives would be a little bit richer.

I am reminded of this every time a snowstorm begins - Joe grumbles about shoveling, driving in it or
even watching it - but his family essentially shut the house up when it snowed when he was a child, where as my memory of snow usually started with my parents excited about the  event. Lights were installed over the windows to that the entire garden would be illuminated, and I remember looking up at the spot lights waiting to the first flakes to announce its arrival. Soon, tumbling snow, not unlike an old black and white Christmas movie would transform each window and scene into what could be a set from the Nutcracker, as cakes of snow would form on the evergreen boughs.

Birds would need to be fed, water would need to be brought out to the poultry, and thus, shoveling would commence, but so would hot chocolate. Mom would be baking, and the entire house would feel like a Holiday. Even experience can be recrafted so that it can be more enjoyable. Experience making. Work on it!

SALPIGLOSSIS IS AN OLD FASHIONED ANNUAL WHICH IS PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GROW OUTDOORS IN NEW ENGLAND BECAUSE OF THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY, BUT IN A WINTER CONSERVATORY OR GREENHOUSE? IT THRIVES. I LOVE SELF SEEDED PLANTS WHICH APPEAR IN MY CITRUS TREES.

So what are your priceless gifts? 


Share them with me in the comments section below. for surely, they are different, as they should be - as personal and as individual as each of us - But don't be afraid to add new ones to ones to your repertoire especially if you have children.

This year, I am adding a few - forcing a few pots of snowdrops after seeing a pot forced last January at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden - Should be easy enough to reproduce, as snowdrop bulbs are still on sale at most nurseries. Pot a few up, and set the pots in a protected spot in the garden, dig a hole and bury then in some leaves that you have raked and ready and boom. Brought indoors on New Years day, and gently coaxed it into bloom?  My winter is looking priceless already. I can't wait until it snows!

October 17, 2014

THE NEW TROY BILT JET™ LEAF BLOWER -- AND IT'S A GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate my 2 millionth page hit, Troy Bilt is giving away this brand new Jet™ Leaf Blower - you have until this Sunday, October 19th at 10 PM EST to leave (leaf) a comment and a nice social media share, or join as a follower to be blown away with this game-changing new design.

 ++++++++AND THE WINNER IS….ANONYMOUSE!

Please contact me via email at mmattus@charter.net and I can connect you with the folks at Troy Bilt for delivery. Thanks to everyone who entered!+++++++


The leaves are falling, the pine needles are pouring down, and yes...it is fall across most of the country. Thanks to the great folks at Troy Bilt, we tested a new product called the Jet™, a super-strong leaf blower that really gives those professional back-pack leaf blowers a run for their money.  I know, because we bought one of those back pack models from another manufacturer for over $350 - we loved it, but it's heavy, cumbersome and honestly just a little too professional for us guys who honestly, rarely use a leaf blower except when the leaves are falling. Which means that we rarely use it when we cut the grass, or even weekly like our noisy neighbors. We come from the camp that believes that leaf blowers are not everyday tools. Lawns and gardens should be raked by hand, it's better for the plants, and better for the people.

But there are times when a leaf blower is very useful - like when the leaves are falling - and with two acres of leaves and pine needles, and only a couple of hours a week available for raking in the fall and early spring, a leaf blower is necessary for a few weeks out of the year.

Click below for more!

October 11, 2014

THE BLUES, AND THE BEES, (OH, AND THE BULBS)

FALL BLOOMING GENTIANS TAKE OVER THE ALPINE GARDEN AND TROUGHS WITH A 'LAST HURRAH' BEFORE OUR FIRST FROST.


Some of the gardening year's most striking plants bloom just before frost, and so it is with many of the plants within the genus Gentianacea - the gentian family. Gentians a generally high elevation mountain plants - alpines, which are familiar to hikers in the Alps and in the Rockies, but there are some very choice species from China just coming to a few specialist nurseries. Gentians are not something that most gardeners turn to, as they are rarely in bloom at garden centers, and they have a reputation for being fussy, requiring very specific soil nutrients, temperatures and aspect - but you might be surprised at just how easy some species and new selections can be - I mean, check out these beauties that I found at all places, my local Lowes hardware store.
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October 8, 2014

MY NEW WINTER PROJECTS LIST, AND GO WEASLEY!

Black centered white anemones are practically impossible to find for the home garden, but I did find one source - an although Anemone coronaria can only be grown outdoors in warmer zones ( Zones 8 or higher), they are perfect for cold greenhouse. Soon  I will share my story about my search for the black centered white anemone but for now, I will have to settle for this black centered 'DeCaen' selection.


I've decided to add a short winter projects list to my already long annual list of projects (which are mostly summer projects - more updates on those in a few weeks). I love gardening in the winter, in the greenhouse more than I do gardening in the summer, so it should come as no surprise that I would ass a projects list for the winter season, too. My winter projects like mostly includes projects in the greenhouse, which I know may or may not be interesting to you, but I think that you will learns something from a few of these.

Read more - click below

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