May 29, 2007

Sakurasoh - The Other Japanese Primose, Primula sieboldii

A selection of some of my Japanese forms of Primula sieboldii

The Japanese are passionate about thier native woodland primrose, rarely grown in America, Primula sieboldii. Like many native Japanese plants, their culture in Japan continues to survive in the numerous clubs and enthusiast groups formed for those who collect, breed and exhibit these dainty and sturdy wildflowers. In America, they still are awaiting discovery, but for those who are informed, and who are trying these precious rarities, the rewards are easy and effortless, again, as with many rarer plants, the hardest part may be in fact, finding them to buy. Look for Primula sieboldii, but note, if you Google them, entering thier Japanese name of Sakurasoh, may get you more information. Sakura (cherry blossom), soh.....get it?

A lovely pink snowflake form of Sakurasoh, the Cherry blossom Primrose.

Colors range from White, to pink, to raspberry purple, as in this old Japanese form.

A view of our collection of named Japanese Sakurasoh forms, in the old vegetable garden out back. Almost lost, from a now defunct collection in Connecticut, these named forms are beginning to flourish in the deep, loamy soil of our old vegetable garden, now becoming shaded with tall trees. Thankfully, Primula sieboldii are perhaps the easiest primroses to grow, both emerging late in the spring, and blooming near June 1, this species also spreads gently by rhyzomes, and is never invasive, since it's habit is to form a neat clump as a colony forms. This is a plant that extends the season of many spring-blooming phloxes, its color range being very similar.

The Japanese form known as Godaisis much like those of a Geisha, shy, blushing, demure.

May 14, 2007

Textbook Spring

It all seems to happen overnight, and sometimes it does, but thankfully, this year, we in New England are experiencing a classically slow spring. Even though weather men and office pundits complain about the cold days, or the wet weekends, or the lack of 80 degree weather, we gardeners know that cold nights without frost, and cool sunny days with the right amount of moisture, brings with it a long, pleasant spring. This is the classic, New England spring. Not hot, nor dry - not a hint of what we typically have been experiencing for the past decade, it seems, of chilly April weather, which overnight turns into summer heat. A May season with 80 or 90 degree days, and then a killing frost. Last year, it rained through the entire month of May (see blog) and I believe that the sun was seen only once during the month. This year, we are experienving a textbook definition of a New England spring, and along with it,, comes postcard images of my garden.

Noy certain what variety this SDB (Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris, is, but if one chooses to grow the taller Standard German Bearded types, (SBI), I would opt for the Standard Dwarf Bearded in stead. Thier size is more managable, and forgiving. The flower stems rarely fall over, and the colors are much more interesting, especially if you are fond of the muddier hues or interesting color combinations. Just check out the blue beards on this black beauty. And, as Joe pointed out, it's fragrance isn't that typical concord-grape scent which I love so much, but instead, it smells not unlike licorice.

Daphne's are most certainly one of the more trendy plants around right now. Not with the public, but with the plant-a-holics. The rare plant collectors. Whereas once interested in blue corydalis like Blue Panda, or Hellebores, these passions have moved on to the garden-club lady circuit who follow such things via Martha and the 'right books'. But if you are interested in what the real horticulturists are looking at that makes thier heart race, it certainly any of these folk lists would include most of the small alpine shrubs in the genus known as Daphne. ( an yeah, along with Paris species, Cypripediums, trilliums, and and a few others, these are the plants that dissapear first at rare plant auctions). One never has enough Daphne's in the garden! Now, These white flowers which I cut from of the more common Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie' is not rare at all, but I still love it, and you can too since this is one which is available now at most leading garden centers. It is available, and so so fragrant, that one would think that a Cinabon bakery opened in your neighborhood. The blue brush glaze pottery piece is from our trip to Kyoto. A back alley 'find'.

Daphne x'Suzannae'
A tiny alpine form, growing in the gravelly. well drained raised rock wall Alpine garden.

Viola pedata and an alpine phlox

Sure, the Alpine garden in the raised rock bed along the western side of the greenhouse, peaks May, I can't seem to help planting what makes it peak so nicely - phlox. Specifically, the forms and species which many of us call Mountain Phlox, or creeping Phlox. I keep at least a dozen forms and species, many with lost tags, or labels that have bee 'consumed' but the very plant itself. All, OK, in my book, since it's hard to go bad, with a creeping phlox. Unless, of course, it starts to encroach upon an equally charming plant, yet much less agressive, the stunning Birds Foot Violet, or Viola pedata. I never understood the stigma this plant has against it. Overcoming the stereotype for the genus Viola may be tough, but this jem is hardly a burdon. Plant snobs dismiss my seedling of the jewel when I bring seedling to a rock garden plant auction, so I always end up with more that I can keep. But if I ever showed one in bloom, surely they would all be snatched up. This is another beauty which is rarely seen at fancy garden centers, and never at your local Home Dept or Lowes. Look for them in the tiny alpine plant nursery's like Harvey Wrightman online, or Siskyou Rare Plant Nursery. They are innexpensive, long lived, and a striking American native that always puts on a stunning show. Look for the bicolor form, and let me know if you find it. It is even better!

The Shrimpy color of Acer pseudoplatanus 'Puget Pink'
Last, but not least, this is not a photo from autumn, nor is it a shot of poison ivy. This is Acer pseudoplatanus 'Puget Pink', a selection of the maple Acer pseudoplatanus 'Prinz Handjery', this was, as Dan says, "one of the most asked about plants in our garden'. This maple may not be available now, since it is a last vestige of the not defunct rare plant nursery Heronswood, Nursery Man and horticulturist Dan Hinkely's famous Seattle area mecca, now purchased by Burpee company, and virtually destroyed. Or atleast, digested and regurgitated into a mess of a business based out of Burpees world headquarters in Pennsylvania. HEy, I wanted to give them a try, but if you are expecting a box with plants similar to the size and quality that you once recieved from the old Heronswood, save your money. I recieved three orders from Plant Delights Nursery in NOrth Carolina, and I wish I photographed the material. everything was so healthy, and large, well packed and perfectly fresh. SImilar selections we're ordered from the Burpeewood business, and the box arrived with the plants knocked out of the pots, 1/10 the size, some rotted, wrapped in newspaper, and allowed to bounce around the box with little to no extra packing. The crocosmia where brocken and each pot only held one corm. Sad, I know these things happen, but you had to see the boxes, since we had a dozen arrive in one week, from Plant Delights, Gosseler Farms in Oregon, White Flower Farm and Heronswood. I used to save the Heronswood boxes for last, since it was such an exciting experience, now, I am convinced that the good ol days are over.

May 7, 2007

Blue and White and May

At a local garden center last weekend, I drove Joe crazy, when I saw the most perfect Pansy, deep in the center of a greenhouse bench, full of thousands. We bought about 24 of each shade of purple, blue and violet, but this single white with blue edge, reminded me of feather-edged pottery, so it earned a temporary home in a special hand-made pot in the greenhouse, and not banashed to the ephemeral garden with the rest of it's friends.

Tulipa violacea var. pallida,
OK, OK.... taxonomists, or Tulipaphiles, ...sure, this may also be known as Tulipa humilis 'Albo Coerulea Oculata' or Tulipa coerulea, by what ever name, this rock-garden tulip is available from from many spring bulb houses that carry the species forms of tulips, meaning, tulips, as they appear in the wild. A little pricy, thee species or wild forms are more gentle, well, come on, they are wild flowers now, after all, and not those floppy tall, over-fed giants one sees at the florist. This beauty is worth the investment, and once you discover dwarf, species tulips, others will seem merely ordinary, and who wants ordinary. Leave teh white bread tulips for the Home Depot crowd.

This alpine house Veronica, bombycina
A hard-to-grow silvery white hairy foliaged relative of the typical garden Veronica, that needs to be grown under cold glass in an alpine house. Not sure if it is worth the trouble, but for something that has a reputation for fussyness, I must say that it has thrived for me, by spending the summers out of doors, and the fall and winter in the Alpine house where rain and moist air can stay off of the foliage.

Tritonia pallida
I question if this Tritonia is in fact, pallida, but then, it could only be one other species, that being Tritonia flabellifolia, but niether seems to fit it. T. palida has three green groms on the bottom tepals, and perhaps, since this pot is grown under glass in New England, the sun is not bright enought to bring this out. I will need to look again under stronger light. These too we're grown from seed from South Africa, since where else does one find this plant, another of the highly addictice South African bulbs which are slowly becoming a major addiction here! Although the foliage is less than desireable when these cormels bloom, the flowers are incredible long lasting, so this is one which I will keep. It's been fun to see these pots of seeds, which I sowed 5 years ago, all start blooming now.

This Pulsatilla seeded itself in the rock wall of the alpine bed along the greenhouse, I could not have sfound a better spot for it. Since all of my other plants died, this self seeded plant has lived three years now. Nature knows best!