April 29, 2010

Meyer Lemon season ends, and begins

In this time of great transition in New England, when every tree and garden plant is either blooming or starting into new growth, I thought that I might take a break and focus on some tropical activity. At least, with what is happening in the greenhouse.  I've grown lemons since I was a young child, when I ordered my first citrus to grow as a house plant, from a Park's Seed catalog. In those days, in the early 1970's, the idea that one could grow citrus fruit indoors seemed very exotic, yet today, it is less fanciful. Still, if one was interested in growing citrus in a house, or greenhouse, there is perhaps no better plant than the Meyer Lemon. A fact which I just recently discovered.

My one, small Meyer Lemon has produced well over two dozen fruits this winter, and it has provided us with fresh tasty and juicy Meyer Lemons ( a taste which is sweeter than typical lemons, said to taste more like an orange) for use in tea and cooking. I have to admit that I am addicted to their sweet flavor, which I would describe as tasting more like an orange blossom, they are incredible to pick and smell during the winter, when I run out to the greenhouse after a snow storm, to pick some for tea. This tiny crop has lasted us all winter, and there are still a few left on the tree, even though it has started to bloom already. This past weekend I moved the plant outdoors so that the bees could do their thing, ensuring a new crop for next winter. Now, I can use the rest of the lemons with our newly harvested honey, and make believe that we are the luckiest folk on earth!

Busy week this week, few posts due to us hosting the American Primrose Society National Show social events, which start tomorrow with a cocktail party and dinner at the house, and then the national show at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden on Saturday and Sunday. If you live in the Boston area, drop by at see the show, it lasts from Saturday at 12:00 noon until Sunday evening.

April 26, 2010

Gold Lace Primula

This Primrose is not rare, but it is more unusual in American gardens.Highly esteemed by British Primulaphiles, this ornamental primrose has a strong base of enthusiasts who strive for perfection with such things and a perfect gold edge that splits each petal, so that the blossom looks as if it has 10 petals and not five ( which this does), a good distribution of color that is nearly black (which this one has) and a thrum pistol, and not a pin ( oops..) (crazy American!). Pins and thrums are a constant worry of real primula enthusiasts, for in England, if you enter a pin flowering primrose in a primrose show, it is automatically disqualified ( a pin plant is one where the pistol extends out of the tube, see my flowers above). In England, these plants would be burned, or at least, banished to the far corners of the garden as punishment for not being perfect. 

Here in America, we worry less about such natural things, and who knows, I may even enter this in our National Primrose Show this Friday. Oh, wait......John Richards the Primrose expert is coming here for a cocktail party on Friday, I had better hide it!

April 25, 2010

Taking time to enjoy spring, and to work like bees

Most any weekend in spring is busy. I love it when I get notes from some of the plant societies which I belong to, since they all seem to understand how precious weekend time is. They usually start with " Matt, I hate to ask you for a favor during gardening season, but..." This weekend we have been getting ready for a big party next weekend, when we host the National show for the American Primula Society. We host an opening night cocktail party and dinner for all out-of-town guests, and if you ever saw what out house and garden really looks like, you would understand how crazy we can get cleaning up!

This weekend's to-do list was long enough, but there are alway detours to be expected, baby ducks need tending, a big box of bulbs arrived Saturday from Brent & Becky's Bulbs with 150 Galtonia bulbs, 200 Anemone coronaria and 100 Ornithogalum  bulbs, all which needed immediate planting since they were starting to sprout. 
Ornithogalum saundersiae bulbs waiting to be planted.

And then, there were the bees...

April 23, 2010

Black & White flowers

In the world of horticulture, black, or true black, is about as rare as true blue. But this evening, as the spring sunshine was fading fast, I decided to find some black ( blackish) flowers in the garden, and some white ones too, since, I felt I had to take the cliche route. Above, one of my favorite dwarf German Bearded Iris, of which I have lost the label of. It is very close to black, if one could describe dark smokey violet as black. Sitll, it is quite special, isn't it?

April 22, 2010

Magnolia x 'Goldfinch'

The Yellow flowered Magnolia, Magnolia x 'Goldfinch', and much nicer yellow, I think, than Elizabeth. The pale primrose yellow blossoms are large, and goblet shaped.

April 21, 2010

Spring Sprouts in Living Color

Asian Pear Blossoms. Maybe this year, the bees will be able to pollenate, we have four varieties of Asian Pears, which are almost as pretty as the over-planted Bradford Pears, but these will give us fruit that we can eat - crispy Asian pears.

Spiderwort ( in yellow) and an emerging Peony, show just how colorful spring sprouts can be.

April 20, 2010

Remember those expensive seeds I planted?

Two weeks ago, I planted some Celosia and Amaranthus seed. I had selected six varieties to grow this year, and one was an expensive green variety which is now sold out. If you remember the seeds came pelleted, in vial, and there were only 8 seeds which means that they cost about a dollar each. I was excited that I was able to get the seed a day before it sold out  from Johnny's Selected seed.
The seeds all sprouted, with bottom heat and perfect sunshine and I rejoiced. Apparently, so did the mice. Now, all of the seedling have been pulled out of the soil, and chewed off. I suspected mice, set some traps with peanut butter from Whole Foods, since I wanted the mice to have a healthy last meal.....and I caught three on the first night. Now, they just lick the peanut butter off of the traps and they don't set off, all part of their evil plan.

April 19, 2010

Barnhaven Primroses - A Blooming Legacy

I picked a selection of my Barnhaven Polyanthus Primroses and arranged them in a homage to a 1950's American Primrose Society Quarterly cover that I saw in our bookcase.
In the world of Primrose culture, the name Barnhaven carries as much cache as the name Gucci or Versace does in Fashion. Or, more accurately, when one grows primroses from Barnhaven seed, or obtains Barnhaven plants, it' the same thing as buying an outfit at a couture Milan Fashion house. So today, I am remembering the heyday of Primrose mania, in the United States during the 1930's and 40's, inspired by my Barnhaven seedlings.
A 1946 ad for the original Barnhaven primroses.

Simply said, Barnhaven equals provenance, for the breeding lines can be traced back to 1935 when the tiny nursery founded by Florence Bellis in rural Oregon  during the depression.  Last Year, when the current owners of Barnhaven visited our gardens during the American Primrose Society National Show, they shared some seed with us from their specialized collections of Polyanthus primroses. Today, anyone can order these most exclusive of primroses, but only from the source, Barnhaven Primroses. My seedlings are starting to bloom, and are very choice and beautiful, but the back story of this famous line is even better.

April 17, 2010

Anemone ranunculoides

Of the many choice, tiny woodland ephemeral anemone's blooming, the understated Anemone ranunculoides stands out, not only because it is yellow, and very 'Ranunculus' like, it seems to spread more quickly than some of the other woodland anemones. 

April 16, 2010

La Prima Rosa - The Common Primrose

Primula vulgaris    The Common Primrose
The common yellow Primrose, or Prima Rosa ( early rose) , the early medievil latin name from which the Primose get's it's name, is one of the first wild flowers in much of Europe. These Primula vulgaris plants in my garden are seed grown plants that I had sown last winter ( winter 2008-09) and which I grew all summer last year, transplanting them in the autumn where they settled in for their first winter out-of-doors. This spring, an unusually early and wet one, has coaxed them into bloom about 3 weeks earlier than their more typical May 1st period of bloom.

April 15, 2010

Double Double Blood Root

Sanguinaria canadensis forma 'multiplex'

Here in Central Massachusetts, we sometimes can find wild populations of Bloodroot in our woodlands, but it is more commonly found in the western and northern parts of our state. The single wild form of Sanguinaria canadensis is fine enough, briefly blooming in our gardens (sometimes blooms last only a day or two), but the rarer but not terribly difficult to find double form lasts a bit longer, and that's a good enough reason to search it down.

April 14, 2010

Adonis vernalis -The Spring Pheasant's Eye

This slow to establish beautiful and rarely seen member of the Buttercup Family is perhaps only occasionally seen in plant collector's gardens, but that's a shame, since once established ( it is only difficult to transplant), it can live a long time. As one collector stated, "Adonis are easy to grow, but difficult to find", this is because they plants resist domestication. If one is able to obtain a plant that was carefully divided while dormant, and gets it planted immediately, then one must leave it alone and let it grow undisturbed. If new plants are desired, even seedling resist any disturbance, so although not difficult to raise from ones own fresh seed, success if better if the plant is allowed to drop its own seed into the soil, and young plants moved extremely carefully in the following years.

Ducklings Arrive!

This morning we were awoken by a phone call at 7:15 am. It was from our main post office.
"Um, we got a box of baby ducks or somthin', here..."
"... want us to deliver them now?"

By 9:30 am, the box arrived, after flying into Logan Airport in Boston and being trucked west to Worcester, Massachusetts, our tiny ducklings have arrived at their new home. These too are Indian Runners ( egg laying ducks), which lay beautiful eggs for baking and custards. Duck eggs are large, and preferred for baking. Our exisiting flock is composed of two different types: all white, and white and fawn. This shipment of ducklings that arrived are different colors than our existing ones. They are still Indian Runners, but labeled 'Black Runners' and 'Blue Runners'. When Mature, the black ones will be, well...dark black. When the 'blue' ones mature, they will look like long, skinny Mallard ducks.

Introduced into Europe in the 1830's, they Indian Runner was first known as the 'Penguin Duck' , and was reported to be imported from Bombay, hence, the name.

Margaret ( our Irish Terrier) has already claimed them as hers, just like last year. The ducks too, have already implanted imprinted with her. She won't let Fergus near them without snapping at his nose, and she sat guard over them all afternoon. The ducklings are on the front porch kept under a heat lamp on the floor in a giant, cardboard walled pen. We cut a hole in it so Margaret can peek in ( which she does frequently) to keep order in the flock.

April 13, 2010

The Butterfly Pelargonium

Pelargonium papilionaceum

This rare Pelargonium ( Greenhouse Geranium ) also known as the 'Butterfly Pelargonium is a hard t o find, yet easy to grow Plant in a highly collectable and growable genus, Pelargonium. These South African plants can be divided generally into three types, those which are summer dormant, those which are winter dormant, and those which grow year round. Pelargoniums are perhaps the most familiar of house and window box plants ( think - the common red geranium and swiss balcony geraniums), and one can see the similarities when you zoom in close to the blossoms on many species, but this one is particularly nice.

It is a new addition to my collection, and the first time it has bloomed for me. Available from Geraniaceae.com, this plant hasn't turned out to look anything like it's original description, since the flowers are smaller than I imagined ( it was described as having large butterfly-like blossoms with two large petals. Up close, I get it, from a foot away? They are the size of a fingernail, or a small, pantry moth. Still, the entire inflorescence is lovely, and it stands out in the greenhouse.). In the wild, in it's native environment, this is a Pelargonium which does not like full sun, but prefers shady, stream banks called Kloofs.

I expect this Pelargonium to perform well all summer in a container out doors, perhaps planted with other species forms. At first glance, it looks like one of the peppermint scented Pelargoniums ( geranium), with large 4 inch fuszzy leaves, and a branching habit. Described as having a fragrance, or as being scented, the one aspect they left out of the description is that the scent is exactly that of a musty sponge left in the kitchen sink. I hereby rename this, the Moldy Scrunge® Scented Geranium ( or the Panty Moth Pelargonium). Still, very pretty, isn't it?

April 12, 2010

Trellis Round Up

The new Ikea trellis installed in a garden, modern plus attractive, who could ask for more? Even gardens need some youthful exuberance.

Ikea has a super trellis.

Classic architectural forms in zinc, available at Restoration Hardware.

Walpole woodworkers provides classic choices like this one. Cedar, and paintable. Undeniably classic. For the Blue Hydrandia crowd.

CB2 has a very unique wall sculpture which is more trellis than wall hanging, I think, and it may be the one that I decide to do some interesting deck installations with.

This trellis by Flora, takes modern to a whole new level. Simple but repetitive, this bee inspired wall trellis will enhance any vine.

Primula denticulata -The Drumstick Primrose

In bloom today across the North East is the Himalayan Primrose, or the Drumstick Primrose, Primula denticulata. Another primrose which is easy as pie to grow, but difficult to find in most nurseries. If you think primroses sound intimidating as seed-grown plants, thus hardy species might be worth trying. The seeds require some cold treatment, which does require some knowledge, although it simply means that the seed needs to spend some time in a refrigerator, the best way I think to grow these from seed is by ordering pre-chilled seed ( such as the Gold Nugget seed from Jelitto Seed.).
Yes, the site is in German, but select the English version and try some of their pre-chilled seed. It's not too late to plant some in a pot, and transplant out late this summer for bloom next spring. Most primula are very cold hardy ( to zone 3) so it's not the cold, in fact, they need the cold. These plants you see in bloom were started from Jelitto seed last March, and just look at them! Don't be limited to what you find at the home center. Be adventurous!

Primula denticulata is easy to grow, prefers some damp soil or moisture, and since it is native to western China, Nepal and Tibet, is very cold hardy. Some of the best plants I have ever seed were in Alaskan gardens. It emerges early, and is frost resistant. The color palette ranges through violets, reddish purple, and white. These are so easy from seed, that I often throw away all of my extras every year. Not terribly long lived, since my garden is not as damp as they prefer in snow-melt areas, they still perform well for a few years, then pass away. I start new packets every year in late winter, so by September, I have many mature seedlings to replant. The trick is to never let the seedlings dry out, and to grow through the summer in lightly shaded conditions in 4 inch pots.