January 31, 2007

Winter arrives

Look closely and see the dollar bills flying out of the furnace.
The NARGS WINTER STUDY WEEKEND is over, and I am recouping from a nasty intestinal virus, so I barely could make it into the kitchen, let alone to the computer! I am back, and so is winter. Early January was certainly the warmest on record here in New England, and the news this evening also said that we now hold the distinction of having the least snow ever recorded for the month too. They now assure us that record cold temps are back for a while. Perfectly awful for the plants, especially everything that started growing outside. This will be an interesting spring.

In the greenhouse, now that the temps outside hover near zero d. F, frost forms on the glass, within minutes after the sun passes behind the house, and the shadow starts the cooling process. One can hear the glass creak and snap with ice (not breaking the glass, but the ice crystals forming jack frost which grow right before ones eyes). It is besutiful, but it does make me wish that I wrapped the greenhouse in bubblewrap this year (I was traveling most of Oct and Nov. so never got to it.

Asphodelus acaulis
This lovely rare bulb is just starting to bloom, a high elevation form of Asphodellus, the only one which is low growing, and forms a basal rosette of leaves, as well as pink blossoms. This plant should provide some nice winter color in the next few weeks as the buds begin to open in the winter sun. Native to Morocco, and the Atlas mountains, this alpine house bulb requires witner coolnes and moisture to bloom, as well as a bone-dry summer baking. I keep the pot under glass year round, and give it my standard South Africa routine of winter wet, summer dry.

Tropaeolum azureum

Nasturtiums are both easy annuals, and challenging bulbs. This, is a challenging one. I lost it last year, along with T. tricolorum, which did bloom in time for inclusion in the New England Flower Show in Boston, but perished shortly after. Growing from a tiny tuber, like a small potato, both are lesser known winter growing, tuberous forms of the easy annual, nasturtium. Remaining dormant all summer, bone dry, in a hot corner of the greenhouse, where the hose doesn't reach, I can honestly say that I forgot about these bulbs, until Sunday, while squeezinig past the thorns of an overgrown bougainvillia, I saw the pot and realized that I needed it for a Fritillaria that I was repotting. I then saw the this shoot, but first thought that it was a wire from the pile of folded sweat=pea netting on the bench next to the pot, but I was wrong. I pulled the pot, which was heavy, since the soil mixure is mostly granite chips, and the wiry stem came along with it. Thankfully it didn;t break.

Look carefully, and you can see the thread of growth which is now woven around some branches. Within a week, the tendrils will take hold.
Apparantly this is common, in Trop's anyway, to start to send out thier wiry stem before one realizes that they didn;t kill it. Anyway, I zipped outside, snapped some branches from a nearby alder, (no fancy curly willow or manzanitia this time) and gently wrapped the black wire of growth, which was nearly a yardstick long, amongsth the twigs. We shall see if I get blossoms this year.

January 18, 2007

Off the the NARGS Winter Study Weekend

Today Joe and I are off to attend the North American Rock Garden Society's Eastern Winter Study Weekend, held this year in Rochester, NY. I will try to post from the site, if not, I will update on Sunday night. The NARGS event is one of two hosted by local NARGS chapters annually, one on the east coast, and one on the west. They feature three days of speakers, slide shows and fun, all focusing around alpine and woodland plants. See you later!

January 13, 2007

Winter (ish) arrives

Romulea bulbocodium
The first Romulea to bloom this winter, is R. bulbocodium. Grown from seed, they we're surprsingly easy. The Narth American Rock Garden Society seed exchange often offers many species, and I was inspired by fellow gardener Roy Herald to try some, besides, he shared a decent collection which he started from NARGS seed. Now, I can't seem to get enough of these South African corms. The Brit's grow them for exhibition in bulb pans, and they make an extraordianry disply when grown tightly, but some of the images that I found on line, especially some magnificent specimens grown by Jim Almond in the UK, show that one likely must pot a few hundren corms in a pot to get a decent show. I have four. But at least, all four bloomed this year, and are slowly dividing, since I started with two last year!

Romulea bulbocodium from seed

The color is a nice grape-soda purple, but seems to be impossible to photograph well, either because of my camera setting, or the winter light, or maybe both.

At least the heating bills for the greenhouse have been infrequent. With all of the talk in the news, about the snows in the western US, and our record warmth in the east, we've probable had enough of the prognastication. Today, it became cold. So cold, that the glass on the greenhouse frosted over. In typical years, I bubblewrap the glass, but this year, since I was traveling the entire month of October, I missed my deadline for wrapping it. Now, I will take my chances that it will continue to be moderately cold.

Narcissus romieuxii Ex 'Julia Jane' in home made pot
This week, I can focus on this blog again, at least for a few days, since the first manuscript for my book was sent to my editor, which gives mee a weekend to breath, but only a bit, because my job is heating up with other deadlines due next week. Oh how I wish I had time to work on pottery, a gardening book maybe, and other projects, but then again, I lvoe my day job, but it is does suck up time and energy. When I look at accomplishments this past year, creative directing four DVD's for Paramount Home Entertainment, a musical touring stage show for My Little Pony LIVE, writing a book on design, concepting a few feature film concepts, editor for the PRimrose Journal (which I have had to cut back on), and this blog, I guess there is no wonder why I have little time. Why is it that as we get older, time and becomes so precious? Oh yeah, my book is a design/innovation book, for graphic designers and marketers, on design trends and influence, not a gardening book - the later will come someday, perhaps.

A Draba Lasiocarpa, from seed, tests a few blossoms in the alpine house. This high elevation alpine is in the cabbage/mustard family, and when you look at it's cruiciform blossom, you can clearly see the connection. This is one family where the flowers generally look the same, it's the plant itself whose characteristics define it.

January 7, 2007

Vernalization Cut Backs?

In an effort to reduce the dependancy on foreign oil, Mother Nature today announced cutbacks on her vernalization programs. All vernalized shrubs and trees must cut back by at least 35% of thier vernalization plan, and all ephemerals by 40%. Experts agree that risks may be had with an unstable Canadian Air Mass, but regardless, we can expect an early delivery of goods with a resulting downswing of production in the coming months of spring. Ugh. And I love winter. Colorado, here I come.

A honey bee visits the winter blooming Narcissus romieuxii

Today the honey bees are busy, flying from flower to flower enjoying the bright sunshine and the warm 70 degree F temps, as fly from blossom to bush gathering pollen before the sun sets. The only problem is that it is the first week of Janualry, and this is New England. Typically, today should be so fridgid, that the pipe would freeze two feeet under ground, and the snow would be three feet deep. The expert climatologists say that this isn't global warming, and maybe it is just an effect of El Nino, but I am starting to consider otherwise.

The process that biologists call Vernalization, relates to plants that need exposure to the long cold of winter, to initiate teh floering process. Plants that are naturally 'wired' to be early emergers, like crocus, and snowdrops and witch hazels (Hamamellis) are reposponding to this incredible unseasonally warm winter, that we are experiencing here in the north east of America. El Nino or not, we are still breaking records, and with the spring peepers out at the New England Wild Flower Society's Garden In The Woods, and tad poles seen swimming in the woods behond my house, one in touch with the natural world as many of us are, can easily become iritate with the oblivious nieghbors who are hootin and hollering with summer pride with thier shirts off an ourdoor grill of watching the game. Sure, it feels nice, but helecopter up man, and see the big picture here! Somethin just aint right.

With all of the buzz on the chatter on the internet platn groups about what's in bloom now, I might as well chime in, since here in New England, we are having record warmth. today we broke a record for the highest temperature ever recorded on this date. It reached 71 deegrees F. Checking last years temperature on this date, I noted a high or 7 degrees. Typically, these first few weeks of January are when we experience our most severe winter weather, with below zero F. often a high, and frost that reaches nearly two feet into the ground.

This year, I have helebores in bloom, and the ground is still thawed. It is more like a winter in Seattle, than Boston. Quite frightening, actually. Although I did wear shorts yesterday, and had an extra bounce in my step, I could't help but notice the motorcycles out for a ride, and the open windows in the houses on my road.

A Hellebore emerges from the unfrozen January soil outside, ready to bloom at least two or three months ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, we gardeners know that this warm and wet winter, will ultimately result in many fatalities in the garden, since the odds are also in our favor that the arctic cold will eventually arrive, catching these early-emergers unprepared. Doom is likely for all who risked jumping the gun.

The fragrant shrub Daphne mezerium alba sacrafices a few blossoms typically early, sometimes even in the autumn, so it can respond quickly to these warm spells. Around the garden the Hamamellis are just starting to unfurl thier buds, the golden ribbons are extending, and even though these are indeed early bloomers, they are still one month early, since our witchhazels typically bloom the second week of January, when treated to a mild winter.