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.


  1. Great pictures! I love the frost pattern on your greenhouse glass... looks so much like a palm-like plant with its leaves waving in the wind.

  2. Anonymous9:39 AM

    I tried to leave a comment before, but to no avail. I am a horticulturist at Stonecrop Garden in Cold Spring, NY and I recently stumbled upon your blog when looking up info on Lachenalia for an article in our newsletter. Love your blog and wondered if you had ever visited us. Feel free to contact me at pelletierae@yahoo.com.
    You would love Stonecrop. I promise!

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