November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Flowers

Fergus sleeps off a turkey hangover, behind the shaving brush blossoms of a large pot of Haemanthus albiflos.

The South African evergreen geophyte, Haemanthus albiflos blooms for me in December. This year it has bloomed a few weeks early, so I brought one large one in to the house for Thanksgiving.The name Haemanthus is derived from the Greek "haima" meaning blood and "anthos" meaning flower - a reference to the red flowers of most species. Albiflos refers to the white flowers of this particular species.

An Alpine tough, full of high elevation alpine plants, is as ready as is can be for the winter months ahead, requiring no protection, these sturdy plants will relish the deep snow cover soon to arrive in our garden, just west of Boston.
As the seasons shift, here in New England, the greenhouse becomes a daily treat, with many plants blooming with the short day lengths, and long nights. Many of these plants in my collection are from the Southern Hemisphere, so naturally, they believe that this is their summer, or winter, depending on how I water them. For those plants which are more sensitive to day length, and temperature, from the Northern Hemisphere, this season marks the end of autumn, and the start of winter. So woodland plants and high elevation plants from the Mediterranean, or North Africa, or Greece, where perhaps it doesn't freeze, but becomes cool, wet and rainy, this is now the peak season. Cyclamen species from Crete, or Cyprus are blooming, Hellebore's from moderate temperate areas of Italy are starting to open, and officially, the greenhouse now has more activity each day, than out side.

This unknown ( to us) Pelargonium, was purchased by Joe a few years back on eBay. In the summer it has massive leaves, and makes a large, if not too large, potted plant. But it never has bloomed. SO this year, I demanded that it be terminated, and we cut the caudex stems off, tossed the plant away ( it was in a 14 inch pot) and these broken stems, that fell of in the drama, are suddenly blooming ( of course). Right on the bench. Maybe I will root them, and see what happens. Gotta love plants, some time!

The fruit on the Meyer Lemon, which is kept in a large terra cotta tub in the greenhouse, is starting to become ripe. This treat is carefully harvested for each fruit is precious, and so delicious. Tasting a bit like a tangerine crossed with a Lemon, it is fresh and amazing in tea during the winter months, or as long as we can extend the harvest. Each year the tree is getting larger, so although this year we have about 18 lemons, next year, we should have more. The zest makes awesome lemon curd, and pies.
Not good for anything but for impressing visitors, the giant ornamental lemon called Ponderosa, still impresses us with it fruit, seen here, as green melon like orbs basking in the late November sun high on a warm bench in the greenhouse.

Thanks to new efforts in micro culture, some Hellebore varieties may appear this Christmas at your local store. This one, which I ordered from White Flower Farm, arrived the day before Thanksgiving, and is rather impressive, with a dozen flowers, lots of buds, and a nice cache pot. I wanted it because the most traditional of Christmas flowers may be the Poinsettia today, but before 1920, it was the Hellebore, or, Helleborus niger, or the 'Christmas Rose', which grows in European woodlands. Today, these are being tissue-cultured and introduced world-wide under a variety of cultivar names. I will try p lanting it outdoors in the spring, since true Helleborus niger is hardy to Zone 4, but I am not sure how these tissue cultured forms will survive. Long forgotten in America along with the equally popular violet, Lily of the Valley, the white Anemone coronaria and Camellia, the Hellebore at Christmas may be due for a comeback. More on this on a post closer to the Holidays. But I know many of you feel that White Flower Farm is over priced and too commercial, I do prefer and recommend them for Amaryllis and, for two plants that you would be hard pressed to find, forcing pips of Lily of the Valley, and now, the Christmas Rose. Looks just like the photo in the catalog, which rarely happens! I am very pleased, even for a horticulturist!

The greenhouse benches are becoming more interesting each week. Many succulents look completely different to me when viewed up close, in the winter months. I get a completely different perspective from the same plant, than when I look at them outside in the summer.

A Cyclamen cyprium, or so I think, since the label is lost, blooming in a home made pot that I made in the studio. These tiny species cyclamen and more delicate than the supermarket forms that will be available soon. It may look like a miniature, but this is the full size of this wild species which is tender, and requires a cool greenhouse here in New England.

November 20, 2009

Plant Society Magazine - Fall/Winter published.

OK, finally, I got this one out! My little weekend project that I call Plant Society Magazine, is now available only here at HP's magazine publishing site, Magcloud.com. Please understand that posted the file and it is being published, but I am sure that there are some small errors, which I will fix, accordingly. I didn't have anyone able to proof it this time, and I hate putting people out, especially during a busy time of year. I hope you all will understand. If you love plants, you probably won't care!

I think there are some interesting articles for those who desire more content from a gardening magazine, for example, how to grow the many tiny precious species forms of Narcissus that bloom in the autumn and winter, and a step by step guide on how to grow them from seed, and an article about collecting species narcissus.

As I said before, this magazine is just an extension of this blog, but with greater detail. I spell-checked it, but surely there are still some errors, and for the real perfectionists out there, I admit that not all of the botanical latin in italicized, I frankly ran out of time, since there are some big life changes going on in my life right now ( good ones, I think, but still, big). More news on that later. Until then, I do hope you support this little magazine venture. Again, the mag. costs about $12.00 plus shipping at Magcloud.com, my profit is just 1$per mag, so that I can keep the price point down as close to $12.00 as possible. Remember that right now, there are no ad's, so at least those 60 pages are all content.

All of the artwork, writing, and photos are mine, taken in my yard, my greenhouse, alpine house and inside my house. I never write about a plant that I have never grown, and all of the photos are real plants living in my life, right now, so it is a little unique.
I hope you enjoy it!

November 15, 2009

A new furnace, arrives, and just in time.

When one keeps a temperate glass house full of tender plants in New England, the greatest worry is heat. Within a month, the temperatures here in central Massachusetts will fall well below zero F. Even though we have had generally unseasonably warm weather this November, (with temperatures reaching 70 degree's .F yesterday, our October brought snow flurries most every weekend. Regardless of what lies ahead weather-wise, we know that the furnace will be one full time starting around the last week in November. This variable weather worldwide may be unpredictable, our stock market temperatures can fall at any time soon, so we must be prepared.

Our old furnace was nothing but trouble, so I hope this new one works better. After last years gas explosions and gas combustion problems in the glass greenhouse, we are trying a new gas furnace since I still believe that our problem is the unique temperature situation in out greenhouse. We keep it cold, near 40 degrees F. and the glass house is pretty packed with plants, making it a damp, and humid space. Gas ignites irregularly in such atmosphere, and even though the gsas company and manufacturer disagree, I belive that the problem is one of poor quality air for proper combustion. Our old furnace would start , and then wait some time before the gas finally ignited. When it finally did, it would go BOOOOM, often blowing out the bottom plate on the furnace. This would happen on cold snowy nights, where I could hear it explode every 12 minutes, ensuring little sleep, and it would really go boom in the evening, after a clear, sunny winter day, when the greenhouse would heat up considerably, but would form condensation in the evening. The first furnace ignite of the evening would always explode. I hate gas, but I have little alternative.

Now, the new external combustion furnace sits after being delivered just in time, via truck from Modine, the manufacturer. Now, we are waiting for the installers from the LP gas company to come and install it.

Our new furnace waiting on the cart, to be installed. It is Sooooo big!

Autumn Narcissus begin to bloom

The tiny flower of Narcissus serotinus, no wider than a half an inch, has a scent that rivals it's relative, the Paperwhite Narcissus. Still, the single flower surprised me in the greenhouse, since I forgot that I had it, and I could smell it, then found it.

The green flowered Narcissus, N. viridiflora is starting to send up flower buds. Each year, I've been repotting the one bulb that I have of this rare Narcissus, and now, I have eight bulbs in the same pot. The buds are so slender, that they are difficult to distinguish from the foliage. Look carefully, and you will see two flower stems.

This rare South African Oxalis, Oxalis kaajagdensis, has a very Oxalis-like flower, but very unconventional foliage for this typically 'clover-leafed' plant.

The Cyclamen continue to flower in the greenhouse, here, Cyclamen cyprium ( from Cyprus) shows it's tiny flowers.

Cyclamen rholfsianum has distinctive leaves that set it apart from the other autumn blooming species. For whatever reason, the flowers are shorter than the foliage this year. Last year, the flowers emerged in August, before the foliage.

November 6, 2009


Some recent images from last week, in the greenhouse. 'Tis orchid season. Autumn may mean fall leaves, but this time of transition, not unlike spring, which is what it is in the other half of the world, autumn means orchids.

November 1, 2009

Autumn in New England - Foliage around the yard

After arriving home from LA this weekend, I could not help but notice how striking the fall colors are this autumn. Here are just a few shots of the many Japanese Maples, Magnolias and Enkianthus species, which are all aflame in brilliance.

Nerine sarniensis 'Isandwlana'

This year, the Nerine sarniensis are blooming incredibly well, with most in full flower as I type this. I have added a few new Exbury hybrids and this one is particularly unusual, especially it's name, which I first thought was an error, until I Googled it, and discovered that Isandwlana is a place in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa. sandlwana, in Zulu, means "something like a little house. " according to a tourist site description. Regardless, at lease I know that this is not an error in my typing! Which, of course, never happens!

This variety has unusually stripped petals, and, has a stunning pigment of bluish- violet not found in other forms of Nerine sarniensis cultivars. It's color has been difficult to capture in these photographs, so I have tried multiple exposures and in different light levels such as cloudy, sunny, overcast, etc. Still, you can get a good idea of what it looks like.

Sorry for the delay in posting, I've been traveling, west coast, Los Angeles for work, and now, home again.