March 30, 2009

My Nerdy Plant Display Window

Yes, those are dirty dishes. And frankly, not much design fuss went into this. I just snapped these photos tonight, since I jsut noticed that these are all yellow flowers ( I know, the Halogen lights are blowing out the yellows, but with a flash, this would have looked far worse). I just thought that I would capture this honest moment, as I found it when arriving home from work tonight. You should smell these Gladiolus tristis....wow....almost too much.

OK.....This is about as bad as it gets...I will now admit, full disclosure, that I have a display window over my sink. Yeah....I installed a 90 degree bay window, and had lighting added, and a copper tray with gravel, just so I can display pots from the greenhouse that are currently in bloom.

I was inspired by three things here, first, Thalasa Crusoes early writings, where she remembers her first home in Boston, and the plant window she asked her husband to build, with a copper tray and "proper pebbles" placed in it so that she could display paperwhites. Second, the estate I worked at while in high school, that of Mr. Robert Stoddard and her famous Fletcher Steele garden, Mrs. Stoddard had a plant window in her dining room, and I had to stock it with peach colored tulips, periwinkle Hyacinths and Primula Obconica for much of the winter. I loved that window. And third.....the New England Spring Flower Show, where an annual contest was held each spring on displaying plants in a faux bay window. All of these I first experienced when I was a teen ( obviously, a nerdy one) and, now, as an adult, I can bring many of these to reality - albeit above my sink full of dishes!
Now it gets worse.

I actually theme the displays ( like this one, which really occured by accident, being themed as "Yellow-South-African-Flowering- Bulbs-that-bloom-in-March." Of course, I could go on, and say that it is 'A window of geophytic Cape Bulbs that are pollenated by sun birds" but I did that last year. ( see?).

The other plants are a rare yellow flowered Velthiemia bracteata ( the one that looks like a red-hot poker that got scared), and a beautuful new seedling that I brought back from Mr. Nakamura's farm in Japan of a yellow clivia, one of his Vico Gold offspring,(which too is fragrant), and a nice little pot of the precious little South African bulb, Lachenalia alata ssp. aurea from leaf cuttings last year started in the greenhouse.(no fragrance).

Growing with Plants, Grows!

A double green-flowered Primula auricula, rarely seen in the US.

First, my URL has changed ( finally!) to www.growingwithplants.com.
Welcome new readers, to my blog for people who are crazy about collecting rare and unusual plants, or for people who just love plants for any old reason.

Hi everyone and new readers, my name is Matt Mattus, and I live and garden in my garden in Worcester, Massachusetts, one hour west of Boston, in USDA zone 5B. I try to post every week on Sundays, and sometimes more. I have a fulltime job, and commute two hours a day, so during the week I guess I am like most of you, busy, busy busy, but on the weekends, I garden. This blog is about my passion, my garden, greenhouses, and plant collections. I hope you find it interesting, since it is not just about everyday gardening, since I have been a plant enthusiast since I was 5 years old, so things have progressed! Every year, it's something different, and every year, my obsession gets worse. I passed through my daylilly and hosta phase when I was in highschool 30 years ago, so I am about due to pass through these phases again! Now, I am in my alpine garden/trough, rockgarden/rare japanese collectable plant phase. With a good dash of South African Bulbs ( winter blooming ones). Yeah..clearly this blog is for those who are bored with what is common, and to those who are looking for something new to grow.
I am all about impressive plantings, amazing color combinations, and garden design too, so perhaps you will get some inspiration. But mostly, I am an opinionated gardener, even a plant snob, so prepare yourself-especially if you love bushel basket mums. Actually, there isn't a plant I don't like, and in fact, I have a soft spot for forgotten plants, violets, primroses, old fashioned vintage plants......antique iris, sweet peas, dahlias, glads, annuals, so anything goes. I invite you to look back at the various postings over the years, and see if it all interests you.

Some vintage alpine auricula primroses, on the back porch waiting to be planted.

The beautiful high alpine primrose, Primula allionii native to the alps.

Over the next week, you will see some changes with my blog, Growing with Plants. After three years, I am moving the blog to the URL that makes more sense, www.growingwithplants.com SO If you have bookmarked the old Blogger Exploraculture.blogspot URL, you will need to change it.

Also, I have joined the garden blog site, Blotanical.com ( see right). This will allow me to get many more readers, and will also connect me (and you) with a slew of other garden bloggers ( thousands more), so please go check it out. I am still relatively new to this garden blogging scene, but slowly, I am getting the hang of it. Although, I still need to figure out how to respond to people, and to spell!

My alpine wall in April, with phlox, species tulips and Androsace.
To new readers of my blog, welcome, Growing with Plants is different than most garden blogs, since it is targeted towards the plantsman ( plantswomen too), and to those who are more obsessed with plants. As a member of many plant societies, this site will appeal to you especially if you like unusual or rare plants, South African Bulbs, keep a greenhouse or alpine house, grow alpine plants, bulbs in pots, unusual perennials or rare houseplants, beautiful rare flowers, amazing common flowers that have fallen out of favor, creative summer containers or gardens, and more.

I live and garden in Worcester, Massachusetts on 3 acres of land that has been in my family for over a 100 years. I keep two greenhouses, a large glass house where I grow all sorts of bulbs, south african plants, Lachenalia, Clivia, as well as many other types of plants that all share the same space, and a smaller alpine house where I grow Saxifrages, Primula and various alpine treasures that need the protection from rain. In the garden, there are various perennial borders, a blue and gold garden, an few alpine raised beds, an ephemeral garden for Corydalis and Hellebores, anemones and various woodland plants, water gardens, crevice and rock gardens, and many more.

We also keep show pigeons, breed rare ducks, Irish Terriers, keep some tortoises, doves, Parrots and other various animals. Check in frequently to see what might be new, either blooming in the greenhouse, or in the garden. As a professional designer, I travel frequently to Japan and Europe, and will sometimes post side trips from these locations which might be of interest, Mostly, I am a plant geek, an obsessive plant collector who moves interests from plant to plant, depending on my mood. Last year I focused on Dahlias, the gold and blue garden, tuberous begonias, fragrant parma violets, and Japanese orchids. This year, it seems that I am moving towards new siberian Iris, japanese maples, flowering cacti and Haworthias, Calochortus bulbs and Pleione orchid bulbs, to name a few.

March 29, 2009

Unusual Winter Blooming Gladiolus Species

Ahhhh...The Scent of Gladiolus tristus. For those of you lucky enough to have a cold greenhouse, the species Gladiolus offer some incredible scents and colors that rarely are seen in the garden. These South African natives often require the same conditions that many SA bulbs need, mainly a dry dormancy, and a wet growing season. G. tristus has a strong following, albeit secretly, amongst plant enthusiasts. Old gardening books often romance it's fragrance in ways like this " A pot of Gladiolus tristus when brought indoors from the conservatory, will emit it's haunting fragrance when evening arrives" or " Stepping into a glass house at night, during a blizzard, the scent of the Gladiolus tristis attacks ones senses with the subtlety of a Department Store fragrance clerk armed with atomizer and samples". OR better yet, 'Gladiolus tristus, when brought into the home on a Friday evening after work, and placed in the plant window above ones kitchen sink, instantly transforms the scent of the space, from 'Friday at the fish-fry', into "Friday at the Abercrombie and Fitch mall store."
Gladiolus tristis is a bit strong, but oh, so nice. I had trouble finding bulbs for the past two years, looking for them in various catalogs during the summer, for fall planting, but last year, I found some at Telos Rare Bulbs, and purchased 6. One bloomed in October, and was salmon colored, and clearly another ( perhaps rarer) species. Now, the balance of the bulbs are blooming in the same pot, and they are indeed, tristis. So I shall need to remove said bulbs, and repot this spring. The best discover is that many of the species glads are available for spring planting, for late summer or autumn blooms. So if you want to enjoy this scent, which is rather lovely and not cloyingly acidic as the fragrance of an A&F store, do plant many, 24 or more, in a nice deeply planted clump in your garden. Just be certain to dig them up when frost arrives, and store in a cool, dry place until spring ( unless you live in zone 8 or higher, of course!). I plan on ordering 96, for one, massively fragrant clump. Now, I wish I lived in San Fran.

A pot of Gladiolus tristis brought outside with some early blooming greenhouse bulbs.

The Velthiemia bracteata are beginning to bloom ( see the yellow flame var. in the upper right hand corner). Their size is different each year, I guess is is a combination of light quality, temperature and water. This year, the greenhouse was very cold, it even froze a couple of times, and the sun was brighter in the front of the house, so these plants received more bright light than usual. I like the shorter habit.

Don't believe what they all tell you! Most South African bulbs look pretty crappy by the time they bloom. This Babiana looks like all of my Babiana, starting to yellow and brown, and then sending up buds. Dang ungroomed baboons, ( Babiana are named after Baboons, who dig and eat thier bulbs in Africa).
This was glass cleaning weekend, at least Saturday was. I was only able to wash the inside and outside of 7 rows. These panes were green with algae, but now the sun is strong enough to burn the foliage ( see the cyclamen) so the shade cloth is going up this week.

March 22, 2009

Starting Seeds, Indoors and Out

Nothing says spring, better than getting into the soil and working it. In New England, the old 'yankee's' followed the rule that peas should be planted on St. Patricks day. Well, at least I planted them in the same week. Most years, it is always a surprise how fast things can change in a week or two. Two weeks ago, we had 14 inches of snow, and 5 days ago, it was 12 deg. F. Now, these raised beds are thawed, drained and the soil is friable. ( not so much, the ground not in raised beds, however!). We still have snow, where there is shade, and the frost is still deep in many places. But where there is sunshine, the ephemeral wild flowers are beginning to emerge, as are perennials like Hellebores and Primula, which only a few days ago, we're invisible.

It seems like everyone is growing a 'victory garden' this year'. A search on Amazon.com shows that vegetable gardening books are leading the pack in best sellers. At our place, the greenhouse construction ruined much of our large family vegetable garden, which my grandfather started in the early 1900's. But the soil, which was trampled and lost composition from the tractors and rock, begins to repair itself over the past ten years, I decided last year to start a small attempt at vegetable gardening with the addition of a few raised beds, which would be more manageable than the massive attempts at vegetable gardening that I had made ten years ago. Keeping a large garden and a full time job proved to be too much, but I really missed the fresh veggies, and the cost at the farm stand for tomatoes alone, even in August, has forced me to reconsider,, but at a different scale.

This past weekend I was able to turn over two beds, which I had covered with hay and manure from the duck house in the fall. The soil looks so much better with the addition of the new organic material, and what hay has not broken down over the winter under the snow, will do so quickly at the soil temperatures rise.

I was able to plant snap peas, three rows only 9 feet long, hardly the 60 foot long rows I used to plant!, as well as a few short rows of fast crops in between the rows of peas, to maximize square footage. Often referred to as French Intensive gardening, or Square Foot Gardening, the relatively small space occupied by my new raised beds will still offer enough space to grow enough fresh vegetables for our kitchen, but perhaps not enough to 'put-up' or preserve, as I would like. Still, it's a more realistic attempt.

Last year I grew tomatoes, a few Zuchini and some cucumbers and Basil. Not even close to the garden I had in 1996 with 0ver 30 varieties of Tomatoes and nearly 100 varieties of veggies ( four types of Fennel, and even one for fennel pollen!). I was a little obsessed then! BUt since I love to cook, I have moved toward growing more this year from last, with plans for growing either those veggies that I cannot buy at out local stores ( unusual chili peppers, heirloom tomatoes, unusual herbs) or those veggies that are so awesome when picked fresh, that even farm-stand varieties can't come close ( tomatoes, peas, lettuce, early cabbage). There are so many vegetables that are rarely grown by small farms, since they are too tender, don't ship well, wilt quickly or are too unfamiliar to the consumer, that they must be grown by home gardeners. Like early cabbage varieties, some of the pointed head varieties like Arrowhead, a favorite fast growing, sweet and crispy early cone headed variety of cabbage that will convert any cabbage hater.

Some unusual perennial seeds like these Primula waltonii seedlings are beginning to emerge, after being stratified all winter ( left outside, under the snow, to stimulate the seeds to grow).

Onions are best when grown from seed, and once you try them this way, you will never ever try onion sets again. This hard storage variety is called Copra, and the seed was started in the greenhouse in January, which is when you need to start onions from seed in New England. Seedlings can be ordered from suppliers like Johnny's but starting your own, allows you to try different varieties, a fact that also frustrates me with supermarkets and farm stands. WHy do they only grow one or three types of onions, when there are dozens and dozens of varieties available? And don't even get me started with sweet corn! What the hell is "Sugar and Butter" anyway? do you know how many varieties of BiColor corn there are registered? When I buy corn at farm stands, I always ask them what variety are they growing? ( There is not actual variety called Sugar and Butter BTW). Each tastes differently, buy I am always impressed with the one or two people who can answer that question. I love yellow corn, especially the vintage varieties as well as white corn, if only I had more space. I have this dream, a vision, about opening a farmstand that grew it's own veggies, and offered multiple choices on such things as corn. Image, choosing between 15 corn varieties, or 30 pepper varieties.......

The seedling of perennials and annuals are coming up fast.

Delphiniums, expecially the choicer varieties are only available if grown from seed. These are some Blackmore and Langdon white and grey forms, which won't bloom for another year or so, but will be nearly 8 feet tall. You would never find these at a garden center.

Cabbage seedlings will grow fast in the warm greenhouse, and this early variety even faster. So the trays are brought outside on days that are above freezing, to strengthen them, and the strong seedlings will be planted out in about three weeks.

Mystery Plant spring bloom

A spring rainbow....even though there are heavy snow squalls outside of the glass, today. From the left, Primula malacoides,Vireya 'Valentine;, an interspecific Clivia, a yellow Primula x Kewensis and Tropaeolum azureum.

I am still celebrating that my Tropaeolum azureum is blooming, if you read in my last posting, I had believed that it was a T. tricolor ( still nice, but not a precious as this is). These are all tuberous Nasturtiums, good for cool greenhouses, or in protected areas outside in California. Worth seeking out to try for something different.

My 'Mystery Freesia' or is it something else?

Is is a Lapierousia alata or a species of Freesia or Amenotheca? Help.... This was a packet of seeds from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa, labeled Freesia viridis, but clearly it isn't. Any clues out there???

The crazy Bowea tutor that I planted two weeks ago, is starting to become more interesting. I love the way the new sprouts all grow in the same direction, it looks as if it is seaweed, so coral at this point.

Primula x kewensis now blooming in the greenhouse, a tender primula.

March 21, 2009

March Madness

Every March, the greenhouse almost has too many flowers in it.

Some new tender shrubs that I bought for the greenhouse include this Correa 'Western Pink Star', from Gosseler Farms' table at the NARGS meeting.

I once saw a photo of a lawn, on the Scottish Rock Garden Society site, completely covered in crocus, so in our old golf green, I planted a few hundred bulbs of a singular species, (for a more natural look, like we saw in the Alps). These 'tommies' are already open, even though the ground here is still frozen.

Now back from the west coast, the NARGS ( National Rock Garden Society Meeting and Western Winter Study Weekend) and a week of intense catching-up at work, a 50 year old reward of a colonoscopy, two days of not eating, lost two pairs of glasses, cracked the windshield on my rental car with a rock on the Oregon roads, two fire alarms at 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM at the hotel before I had to leave at 4:00 to arrive at the airport, the lost pair of readers that I had to buy to read magazines on the plane, and a bit too much stress from the NARGS Annual Meeting and politics...frankly, I am glad that I am home, in a very brown New England, even though it is cold outside, it is sunny, and it is home.

At least while in Oregon, I had one evening to meet my oldest brother for dinner, and one evening to meet other family members like my niece, and her children and mom. I need to go to Oregon for a longer visit, for I never had the chance to go hiking with a friend, nor time enough to explore. Maybe July, when I can climb Mt. Rainier or Mt. Baker.

The NARGS WWSW itself, speakers and all, was overwhelmingly inspirational. It was nice to see Ian Young from Scotland again, and John Lonsdale, we even had time to jog over to a new Chipotle for tacos at a lunch break (johns site for his home, Edgewood Gardens makes me so jealous - but it is inspiring!. I tried to scoot over to the plant sales area at every opportunity, and although I only had two suitcases, I couldn't help myself. At out taco lunch, John asked me if I saw the yellow and peach Hellebore at Gosseler Farms ( I did, there we're two), and he admitted that he 'had to buy one and find room for it) ( leaving one), (which now I had to buy). ( In a one gallon container). (That weighed about 5 lbs).

Rhodohypoxis 'Goya', a new double form.

Other things that I found room for, was this pretty little Rhodohypoxis, a double one apparently from a rare plant nursery in England, this Rhodohyposis baurii hybrid called "Goya" was cute enough that I had to buy it, along with another single variety not yet in blossom. As if I don't have enough of this genus! Rhodohypoxis does very well in my cold greenhouse, and would do well in your garden if you live in Zone 8 or higher, (possible lower if kept bone dry in the winter). In the greenhouse, I just let the pots dry out in the fall, and shove them under the benches where they can remain cold and dry, without freezing. Every spring, I divide them ending up with so many now, that I just plant all of them in window boxes alone the deck railing. After their first flush of bloom in April and May, which lasts about a month and a half, and virtually covers the plants, the grassy foliage looks neat and very 'fancy-lobby-in-a-boutique-hotel', all summer long. Perfect for those contemporary containers from Target.

Even our local supermarket had something that I had to buy for the greenhouse, like this lovely little Azalea, unknown variety, but I am low on Azaleas at the moment, so for now, I transplanted it into a nicer and larger clay pot.

Eritrichium howardii emerging from it's visual death

OK, Harvey Wrightman, you once again are correct. Maybe this should be renamed Eritrichium harvardii ssp. wrightii?
After staying at our home last year during the National Primrose Society meeting, Wrightman Alpines owner and friend, Harvey Wrightman presented us with a little host gift, this precious little Eritrichium howardii growing in a chunk of Tufa rock. Harv told us that it will grow well in a trough (where I planted it, on it's side) and that unlike it's more challenging Euro-relative Eritrichium nanum, this dude will actually grow. He also warned us that the little guy will shrivel and dry up in the winter, but not to worry, as soon as spring arrives, it will begin to grow- and look! Joy. Harvey has pots of this variety on his terrific website for alpine plants, at Wrightman Alpines.com. Check it out and maybe instead of a pot of Supertunias® this year, you might plant a trough or stoneware pot of high elevation alpines, THAT sends a message that you are 'green' more than any totebag from Whole Foods could ever hope for!

March 13, 2009


A first for me, A pot of Notholirion thomsonianum, of course!
Oh, to live and garden in the North West.......someone please find me a job here!
A basket of select miniature Narcissus by Cherry Creek Daffodils, at the first day of the plant sale at the NATIONAL ROCK GARDEN SOCIETY'S WESTERN WINTER STUDY WEEKEND.

It's Friday, and people are arriving at the Double Tree Hotel here in Portland Oregon, and rushing out to the parking lot where there are in impressive about of plant vendors with tables of the most incredible plant material that any hortiphyle can imagine. Gosseler Farms, with rare shrubs, magnolias and perennials, Cherry Creek Daffodils with amazing miniature daff's all in bloom, Bovees Nursery with Vyreya and Rhody's, Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, Mt. Tahoma Nursery, Hedgerows Nursery, basically every catalog I have sitting on my coffee table at home, has a table out there.....what was I ever thinking bringing myself to a west coast plant conference, and believing that I would leave empty handed! Actually, I did bring an empty suitcase, just in case. It's full, now!

A potted Fritillaria bithynica in the plant show.

Fritillaria eastwoodiae

I am so impressed with the growers here in the N.W. Of course, thisis Frit country, but the members of the host chapter of NARGS, the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society really have their, um...Frits together on this weekend. The speakers, the plant vendors, the location, even though I keep being told that the best NARGS chapter in the world in apparently the Rocky Mountain Chapter ( someone still needs to prove this to me!), this host chapter has really raised the bar on how to kick off a weekend for us crazy plant people. I can't wait to see what's next. The plant show looks like an AGS show, in England. Very impressive.

March 11, 2009

Off to Oregon for a long weekend

I'l leaving for Portland Oregon for a number of reasons, for a long weekend. I love this city, and can't beleive that it been nearly ten year since visiting it last. Maybe 13 actually!! Not only does my oldest brother live here, and his family, but I have friends and their family here too, so even though I will be very busy until next Monday, I hope to squeeze in visits, dinners and playtime. Leaving home today, it was still clearly winter. Packing the bags on the bed, Fergus knows and does Margaret, that someone is leaving. Of course, they assume both of us are, and since they usually travel with us, even to Switzerland, they know that their beds are not being packed up, and this might be serious. Dogs are so funny. But fret not little doggies, Joe's broken Fibia will be keeping him home for some time! Even from Switzerland!

While in Portland, I will be attending the North American Rock Garden Society's (NARGS) Winter Study Weekend. And even which when heard by my cohorts at work, brings snickers, but to those of us who love plants, mark on our schedules as MUST-DO events, not to miss. These weekends are sponsored twice a winter, one in the east, and one in the west cost of the US. The NARGS is a fine group of people of varying horticulutral passion and intellect, friendly and open, and always willing to let new people in to learn about mainly what are known as 'Rock Garden Plants" in the very nineteenth century way that alpine plants, when cultivated in pots and specialized rocky gardens, where known as 'rock gardens' or 'rock gardening'. Today, the society name is a bit misleading perhaps, for it encompasses not just alpine plants, but woodland plants, shade and wildflower plants, and honestly, and unusual plant that is not tropical. The definition is a bit blurry, but the group is where most plant-people end up, if they don't graduate to the ORchid Society, it is NARGS where the plant mastery is exercised. THat said, all sorts of people interested in plants are here.

A Fragrant ( Oh...SOOOO fragrant Nemesia 'Opal Innocense" in bloom in the greenhouse, with snow outside. I want to bottle this!

NARGS aside, I might hike with some friends ( more on that later) if the weather holds out - I will make time for this, and even skip a session or two, and I have another secret meeting about another botanical venture that I have been working on for 9 years, to see if that will take seed. So this is still a 'work' weekend, anyway you describe it.

JOe asked is the snowdrops were out yet, and I told him fo-get-aboutit, since it was 8 degrees F, and still a new foot of snow on the ground last week. But look at what I found in one of the raised rock walls alone the foundation of the greenhouse where the snow piles up when it slides off of the greenhouse. This deep snow reminds me every spring, ( sometimes I am so stupid) when I see all do the nicest Daphne's that I've collected over the years, crushed and broken by the wet snow that slides off of the greenhouse roof. Next year I HAVE TO MAKE PROTECTIVE ROOFS. Which I somehow equate with those 1960's ranch homes in New Jersey near my aunts house, where they clip their foundation plantings into cones and balls, then cover them with painted white or green T-Pees. I need some of those. Besides, I'm starting to wear socks with sandals, and like the look, and I'm 'at that age'. Next...Big Boy Tomatoes behind the garage!

Last week I may have mentioned that in a fit of greenhouse chores inspired bu the increasingly warm, radiant spring ( late winter) sun, I decided to reward one of my tuberous Nasturtiums with a nicer pot and trellis for performing so well. One thing I've learned over my years, is that reward and praise will always get you results, whereas discouragement and insults will only get you shut ears. This this weekend too, is about motivation and positive encouragement.....um.....so too, will my best perfoming plants get an upgrade. Not trudy rare, at least to many of us plant enthusiasts, this Tropaeolum tricolorum ( sorry, I'm traveling and too lazy to Google the latin!), is not only doing well, it's doing spectacularly well, and even after sliding one stony pot into another, and letting it have a trellis instead of a nice twisty piece of manzanita wood that my other peers might use, I rewarded this plant with a recycled $10.00 trellis from Target. Nothing but the best, man! Still, it's cousin, the rarer Tropaeolum azureum, which remained dormant for me, for three or four years now, is indeed growing, and even has some fowerbuds, I am doubtful that it will ever look like this, since it's spindly single vine is only about a foot long, and the aphids seem to really like it. Poor thing. If he ( or she) Decides to try again next year, I may try to wince, shut my eyes, and pinch that single wiry thread-like stem which emerges first like Scottish Rock Gardening Society Plantsman and fellow blogger, Ian Young ( who I will be able to meet this weekend as he is one of the speakers at this weekends' Western Winter Study Weekend), this pinching makes sense, and although I think this is something that is too late to do, I will try next time.

Also, in this photo, in the foreground, is a "sea onion' to those who are familiar with the houseplant. Bowiea volubilis, which is one of those crazy house plants that everyone is atracted to for it's beautiful yet certainly unique growth pattern of twisting stems that have no leaves. It does look like something one would find under the sea. This plant is easy to grow, and does prefer a domant period, which naturally is in the winter, but if you grow it indoors, it will simply tell you when it needs to lose it's top growth and sleep for a while, buy turning yellow and drying up. As long as the "onion part' is still wintermelon green and fleshy, you are fine, and new sprouts will emerge not long after, just keep it dry while resting. This is a member of the Hyacinth family, which is interesting enough, but one can see the similarity when it flowers in it's single blossoms, that are fragrant at night. Bowiea may seem like something that you cannot remember, but since the plant was named for James Bowie, a British plant explorer, just think David Bowie, and you may remember the name better. As you can see, I am growing it on a tuteur, in an experiment on finding a nice way to grow this plant so that I can display it. Left alone, it will just find it's own way, wrapping itself on poles, or on other plants, or around itself. This is one plant than left on its own, can look rather messy. The finest specimens that I have ever seen are those grown on a nice branch of Manzaneta (sp?) wood, which one can find at reptile or pet shops, or in the wild if you live in southern CA. or Arizona. The twistier the better, for Bowieia will not make tendrils, it twists its single terminal stem along what it finds. Be sure to provide something for it to embrace before the more flourishy stems emerge, since they will all instinctually point upwards, and once the rest of the stem-like foliage emerges, the stop growing. One wants to achieve a natural sweep of growth, and trying to wrap a mature stem around an introduced structure will only result in a messy, bent plant that has stopped growing for the season. So if your plant is already in full growth, it;s prob. too late, and start thinking about providing something cool for next seasons growth to climb on.

AS I leave for Portland, the snow is falling again, but spring is not far....right? Just look at the Witch Hazel Hamamelis 'Arnolds Promise' whos scent now drift through the falling snow when I bring water out to the ducks. Yay...a week off from feeding the ducks!

Late Lachenalia are starting to bloom, such as these seed-grown Lachenalia longebracteata, another of the 'green' or teal flowered South African bulbs that are so amazing.

I am trying, finally, to grow some Corydalis from seed. Henrick Zetterlund gave me details on how to grow them myself, especially the seed of C. solida, which should be everyones favorite spring bulb outperfoming crocus and tulips. A little pricey from the bulb catalogs, ( but coming down in price) are the many cultivated forms of the Eastern European native Corydalis solida. These pots of seed we're potted up in June, of last year, when Joe luckily spotted the seed cases being split open by sugar ants, as they we're attempting to steal the seed for their sweet lipids. Globally, ants disperse many seeds of ephemerals, and this relationship is important for Cyclamen and Corydalis in renewing populations, so killing the ants on your plants is as danderous as saying "no more forest fires in the red wood forests, for these are all natures way of seed dispersal and regeneration. Anyway, these seeds needed to be sown fresh, and then I kept them dry under a large Daphne, just seeing the pots again now, as the snow melts. Not the ideal method, since the pots may have been too frozen, and a cold frame plunge may have been more effective, but we shall see. I brought the pots into the greenhouse, and I am letting them thaw slowly. Fingers Crossed.

The last of the Camellias are blooming, and this white species ( which I need to look in my note book for the species name( which I planted in the ground in the greenhouse, quite nice with it's boss of stamens.

Another Nuccio hubrid, I think it is PInk Perfection, but surely a Rose Form.... but I too need to check, but not from an airport terminal! Time to go....

March 1, 2009

Getting ready for another snowstorm

Gethyllis ciliaris

I've had this rare bulb for two years, but they have remained dormant, until this winter. According to Paul Christian, these should have masses of leaves, spiralled around their length and then spirally arranged. These then, are covered in long white silky hairs on both sides. The flowers are large, pure glistening white and very strongly fragrant.

As with all members of this genus very sharp drainage in an infertile, mineral soil is best.

We received some new pigeons in the mail, after someone read about the 'Sharp-Shinned' Incident last week. Margaret has to inspect every bird that goes into her loft. This one passed.

The species or wild form of the florist cylamen, C. persicum, blooms like crazy in these days which are getting longer every day. The radiant heat of a longer day length, keeps the greenhouse floor warmer, longer, so even when the sun begins to set, the heat causes the glass to fog over, before the furnace turns on. Of course, spring also bring with it Nor'Easter's, we are getting one tonight with 16 inches of new snow expected by tomorrow at noon. Ugh,but with temps dipping near 0 deg, F tomorrow night, we need the snow cover again, to protect any plants that are starting to emerge, such as the snowdrops, Hellebores and the early crocus.

The bees are active again, yesterday the daytime temperatures reached 50 degrees, enough for the bees to go on cleansing flights, the small cup near the door of the hive is full of sugar water, which they can feed off of while the weather continues to shift.

Our Indian Runner Ducks took a run out of their pen today, while I took advantage of the warm weather. As I was spreading manure on the vegetable garden, they ran around, but cautiously remaining in a tight flock, in case Margaret spotted them.

In the rock garden, a mouse, or vole, or something, had made a very nice hole in the wooly thyme. It's so nice to have to ratters like Margaret and Fergus, who rather lay on the bed on the down comforter than chase rodents!

A spiny Acantholimon or 'Prickly Thrift', an alpine plant from Crete, this species which I lost the tag,except the 'Crete' part, is a trough but prickly plant, it is handling the rough weather very nicely.

I repotted one of the Tropaeolum tricolorum into a larger pot ( double potting it actually, as to no disturb the roots and tuber). It seems to really want to climb like crazy, so the trellis will help. native to Chili and Bolivia, this species love to climb, and requires a nice branchy support or a trellis. It grows from a potato-like tuber.