May 29, 2008

Primula seboldii season

Primula sieboldii from Japan, blooming in the back vegetable garden. We received the collection three years ago and each of nearly forty named varieties have traditional Japanese names. Some have noding flowers which the Japanese find appealing because they are demure,like Geisha and many are named after Gesha. Others, have fringed petals and some even look like snowflakes. These primula are quite easy to grow, and they spread nicely forming mats slowly over years. These three year old rhyzomes have each spread to about a 24 inch circle. Primula sieboldii also bloom later in the Primula season, between the early species and Polyanthus types, but jest before the other asiatic forms like P. japonica. The best reason to grow these lovely, phlox-like plants is that they are long-lived and in fact, get better each and every year.

Difficult to find, they can be started from seed, as I have mentioned before.

May 22, 2008

Corydalis Seed

New Troughs ready to plant with Alpines

Corydalis solida before setting seed three weeks ago

Corydalis solida seed capsules ripe and ready to harvest.

Starting Corydalis solida from seed is not only economical, it is easy if you are able to catch the seed and sow while it is ripe. the biggest challenge is timing this, since the seed matures very quickly, just two or three weeks after blooming, and just before the entire bulb begins to go dormant - best signalled by the above foliage turning yellow as the bulb releases the stem.

The seed has a tasty white morsel which attracts ants, who carry the seed down to thier nests to savor the sweetness and at the same time, aid one in self-sowing. The same happens to many ephemeral seeds, and even Cyclamen seed. But again, it's all about timing. The process of mature seed being ripe and the capsule opening and losing all of your seed can happen in about a day or two, I usually miss this event, and loose all of me seed. This year, I was lucky.

Seed is sown about two inches deep, which I do the same day that I harvest. This makes sense, since the seed is also sown into the ground, at the same time. I water, and wait....

After taking a week and a half off to attend a design conference, and to attend to a death of a family friend, a return home reveals tremendous growth, not surprising - since it is May here in New England, and everything seems to double in size each week. ( I forgot my computer cable so I could not post!).

The alpine garden is still in peak bloom, as it is the third week in May - most alpine bloom right after the snow melt, and the most impressive bloom in the months of May and June, a strategy which many high elevation alpines have developed so that they can be pollenated and have enough time to mature and set seed in the short, alpine summers. Last week I planted three new troughs, and a few single trough pots of special alpine forms of Daphne which are more tender. They also are heavy, since they are potted in a soil mixture which is almost all Tufa rock, a porous limestone rock many rock gardeners use to grow their alpines in.

Outside, we are still experiencing cool temperatures this spring - great for the plants, bad for the tan. It reached 44 degrees F. last night again, and June 1st is one week away. It may reach 85 degrees Monday, a forty degree difference which demonstrates how diverse this transitional season of spring, is, in New England.

The most spectacular display in the garden right now are the Primula sieboldii, a Japanese primrose which you may not be that familiar with since one rarely sees it sold at garden centers. Yes, it looks like some phlox species, and it spreads relatively quickly ( certainly not invasively) but I encourage you to join the American Primrose Society and get some seed for it from their annual seed sale, for $2.00 or so, a packet can get you this...... and it is very easy to germinate and grow. Don;t be afraid, getting seed it the toughest part. The rest is as simple as: 1. Go to you super market and get a styrofoam grape or fish box, wash it out, and fill it with potting soil. 2. sprinkly fresh seed on the surface in August or September.....3. Set the trough on the ground or deck ont he north side of your house, may cover it with some gravel or chicken wire to keep squirrels or mice out...and wait until spring, where you will get tiny seedlings. Let these grow for a year, and you can even keep the box outside , forgetting about it for another year as we did, and ten you will get this!

Primula sieboldii is treasured in Japan where it is native, and where there are exhibitions in June where they are displayed grown in specialized pots. We let ours grow out back in the old vegetable garden, where we still grow squash and other vine curcurbits like gourds, These start to take off just as the Primula are going dormant in July. Many woodland primroses are ephemeral, and disappear around the time that the forest foliage leafs out. I suppose that the squash foliage acts as the same way that a high forest canopy does.

May 5, 2008

A busy weekend. The Seven States Daffodil Show and the New England Primula Society Show.

The judges we're gushing over this auricula grown by Judith Sellers from New York state.

A Walk at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, Massachusetts

Spring weekends in May are busy enough, with all of the transplanting, dividing, seed sowing, rototilling, garden clean-up, pruning, raking, and garden center cruising, when you throw in two major flower shows - it can really get crazy. But we would not do it if we didn't love it, right? This past weekend hosted the New England Primrose Society show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, a show we annually host at this weekend, a date which we share with the Seven States Daffodil Show.

If you have never been to a flower show, it's a routine that enthusiasts eagerly and grudgingly await for, the highlight of the year for many who love, collect and grow a particular genus. Moreover, it is a social event, a time where one can do more than meet, and compete, since these weekends are more about early breakfasts in the cold, lunchmeat luncheons with coffee and pastry, but since people drive and fly in with thier precious cargo, it is also a time of party's and cocktail events in the evening at local members' homes ( like ours), which is fun. All in all, it's a quite like a holiday, for 'family' members who connect over a passion ( plants) who exchange with thier long lost friends, gifts of highly desired plants, a cutting or a seedling, a glass of wine, and a time to catch up with gardening stories. Here, a group of like-minded people can leave spouses at home, and sit in a room of total strangers, and all have a conversation and glass or two of wine with new friends, all who have an immediate connection with a plant that they love - instant friends.

The gardens at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, a public horticultural center in the middle of Massachusetts formed twenty years ago when the Worcester Horticultural Society sold it's exhibition hall ( Horticultural Hall) in downtown Worcester, and purchased a farm high on a hill in nearby Boylston, MA) with the ultimate goal of creating a major botanic garden. Currently in Phase 2 of a long-term strategic plan, the gardens are beginning to grow into a magnificent space.

A view of the Daffodil hall where tidy rows of Narcissus species and hybrids are displayed and judged against each other, at the Daffodil Society's Seven State Daffodil Show.

Aurucula expert, Susan Schnare exhibited many of her auricla primroses, and many won blue ribbons.

A stunning auricula grown by Susan Schnare, took top honors at the New England Primula Show.

An impressive pan of Primula marginata grown by Kris Fenderson of New Hampshire.

A Late Frost

Our lovely yellow magnolia 'Gold Finch' in now more like a Gold Finch in drab winter plumage.

That Pelargonium bowkerii seedling I grew for a few years, is now frozen solid. I forgot to bring it in from the deck.

The Japanese Petasites seemed quite frozen and limp, but by noon, it's parasol-like leaves were as perky as ever.

Last Thurday night our temperatures dipped near 27 degrees F. Not unusual for this time of year, but one always wished that one could escape a damaging frost when such things as the Magnolias are in bloom. Even though this year has provided the most perfect of springs, with a deep snow, late melt, a steady and slow thaw throughout March, which lead us into April with no scary deep freezes ( we can get 90 deg. F days followed by 18 degree nights, here in New England), all in all, this has been a nice, slow spring, perhaps a little dry, but then we received 2 inches of rain this week.

But the frost, it arrived later in the week and even though most plants could handle it, the yellow magnolias of Elizabeth and Gold Finch, did not. These plants will all survive....driving to work, I can see all of the native trees in the woodland, just emerging, all looking fine. It's these dang Chinese and Japanese imports!