July 29, 2010

Exploring Tokyo DIY Gardening.org

A fellow contact on a social media site, shared this site with me, and it looks interesting enough to share.
Tokyo DIY Gardening.org, is a site where anyone can post images from the city of Tokyo, organized by category and theme, to share with an online community. It's an interesting model, to try in any city, and hopefully, someone will try it for mine!

July 28, 2010

In Bloom Today - Rebutia 'watermelon'

As cacti go, the South American species reign as the most colorful and floriferous, especially the Rebutia species. I keep many in the cold greenhouse, where they spend the winter dry as a bone, under the protection of glass. They freeze a little, since they are kept near the glass in the coldest of corners, but in full sun. With this treatment, once watering starts in the spring, flower buds form quickly. This named cultivar blooms later, in late July, but most bloom for us in June in colors which are hot and bright, in most every shade of gold, pink, orange and red.

In Bloom Today - Scadoxus multiflorus, the Blood Lily

I thought I had lost it, my large pot of Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. kathernae which I've kept in an increasingly larger pot, every year hopping to get a large specimen. When our greenhouse froze last December, I thought I had lost it. Well, actually, I did lose it. Shoved under a bench most likely around November, when I brought the plant indoors for the winter, it remained dry, on its side, and dormant until last week when I found it while cleaning the greenhouse. It's looked better in past years, but it still had a flower bud, which bloomed this week and the plant resumes it's growth for what's left for the summer.
An easily grown plant, it can be fussy when trying to coax a bloom from a house plant specimen. Best advive is: Allow your Scadoxus multiflorus to dry off in the winter months, giving it just enough water to keep the bulbous shoots green and firm. When spring arrives, increase watering, and if you can, bring the plant outdoors where it should bloom. Another one of those borderline 'bulb' plants which sometimes never really go dormant, I too never had flowers until I had the greenhouse to winter them over in. So the situation is similar to my Clivia issue, before greenhouse, few flowers, after greenhouse, all the clivia bloom exactly at the same time. So I continue to believe that the triggers are a special combinations of daylength, temperature and perhaps moisture, but to be honest, my Clivia and Scadoxus get some water year round, since they do spend dormant time under the mesh greenhouse benches, where plants get watered with the hose above them, year round.

July 27, 2010

Nicotiana sylvestris- evening scented Tobacco

Mmmmm. Tobacco. Well. this smells not like an ash tray, but more like a bouquet of Jasmine. This tall, fragrant candelabra-flowered tobacco mysteriously self seeded in the garden. I mean, I have had the green flowered Nicotiana langdorfii self seeding in this bed for nearly 2 years, but this seedling emerged, and thankfully I didn't weed it out, for I do enjoy its scent and stature. Nicotiana, generally perform best when either self-seeded, or when seeds are sown, in situ, where they are to grow ( I just wanted to be able to say 'In situ'.).

In Bloom Today - Echinops

Echinops ritro, one of more than 120 species of Echinops, but only a few of these thistles are growable in the perennial garden. I think they look best when picked just before the bloom. I just love their prickly, thistle-like quality, especially when they are pointy, before each flower opens, it is then, when they have perfect symmetry. They need no foliage, nor other flowers, nor height. Simply pick the flower heads, and then assemble them closely, so the no stems can be seen.

July 26, 2010

Planning Ahead - Sowing Seeds of Summer Perennials and Biennials

An arrangement of Phlox, Green Zinnia and Stokesia

This may seem like a slow time in the garden, but mid-summer can be a time for seed starting. There was a time, not long ago, when hardy gardeners followed a strict regimen of succession planting in the vegetable garden, and exercised good horticultural practices both in the greenhouse and in the perennial border, for July was the prime time for sowing many seeds of choice biennials and perennials. Summer sown crops would be nurtured in rows  in a nursery bed, often near the vegetable garden where seedlings could be tended to throughout the rest of the summer in neat rows ( the way my parents would grow their seedlings of delphiniums, foxgloves and lupines), and then planted out in location, before the first frost.

Mid Summer flowers, resting a a vase before arranging. In this heat, a few hours in the shade, will help these more unusual selections, harden off before arranging for a dinner arrangement.

Not only is this a cost effective way to obtain the dozens of plants necessary for magnificent perennial displays ( for one can easily afford to plant 36 or so Foxgloves in a single area) but it also had the benefit of choice- for you can choose exactly the variety, or color of a certain genus which is not available elsewhere. Try ordering some seed this week, and see how easy it is to get many plants of some very choice varieties.

I will be planting Dianthis barbatus ( sweetwilliam) and  Digitalis ( Foxglove) this week, as well as succession sowing in the vegetable garden. Lettuce ( red and green Lolo), Turnips, Mustard greens, green beans, and Kohlrabi all are being sown this week. Many cole ( cabbage family crops) prefer a mid to late summer sowing, since the warmer soil temperatures aid in germination, the inevitable cooler nights in August and the shorter day length allow for a nice, slow growing period which all cabbage family plants prefer.  We plan to be able to harvest summer sown Kale, mustard, collards, chinese cabbage and many Asian types of Cabbage family plants like Bok Choy  right up until Thanksgiving. Not that we are growing all of these this year, but a half dozen varieties of cabbage family plants will be sown.

Happy puppy ducky birdie day

Lydia, our new irish Terrier puppy, explores the garden discovering the paths, tastes, and thorns. Still, the pointiest Agaves have been relocated to save soft puppy noses.
 Every path and garden holds new scents and tastes. Lydia is quickly learning the routes.

Everywhere you look, there are things to yank, and chew on. I suppose these tassels are better than the ones inside, if anything, they are longer. Beware all plants.

 Fergus and Margaret are not too thrilled, but Margaret has already set her place Fergus, not so much. (her mother is Margaret's sister). We are all adjusting, but Fegus' nose is bent out of shape. Speaking of animals, here is what else is happening around the garden....

July 25, 2010

Agapanthus save the summer garden

Agapanthus 'Storm Cloud', photographed, after a severe thunderstorm yesterday.

As the heat and humidity ravage the US, forcing lilies to burst and rot, and wilting even the most sturdy of garden perennials, I know that I can rely on the stronger African species to carry through the summer color, for they love this intense weather, and none perhaps more than the The Blue Lily of the Nile, or Agapanthus. Grown in pots and large tubs, our collectios is growing, which means more summer color to enjoy, and the hummingbirds aren't complaining at all ( although, they are fighting over the best, most nectar rich blossoms).
Three Agapanthus cultivars are blooming in large pots in the garden right now. This large, un-named white form which we've had for ten years, and which I've divided into large four tub, and two blue, or violet varieties - A dark, tall cultivar 'Storm Cloud', (at the top of this post), is our darkest form in bloom right now.
 Agapanthus 'Blue Globe'
This African native genus with its strap shaped leaves, and tall, magic wand like floral stems, might be a common landscape plant in warmer climates, such as in Los Angeles and Florida, here in New England, it must be kept as a pot plant, grown in large tubs and containers, which must be brought into the cellar, or, as we do, dragged each autumn into the protection of the cold glass house for the winter. 

July 24, 2010

Ornithogalum saundersiae

These four foot beauties are often overlooked by those who grow summer bulbs, but now I believe that of all of the Ornithogalums, O. saundersiae is the finest. This spring, I planted 50 large bulbs in my front alpine garden after looking through my many bulb catalogs for something different to grow. Not rare, nor new, O. saundersiae was promised to give a striking display, according to my Brent and Becky's bulb catalog.

My experience with Ornithogalums was limited to the winter-blooming florist varieties, and some miniature weedy forms, but these are fine specimens, and I look forward to growing more since this is the time of year, just as the lilies are fading, when you need something that is just beginning to bloom.

July 21, 2010

My Magazine, now free on iTunes for the iPad

It's true, and, it's free. If you have an iPad, you can download the Magcloud app for free either at iTunes, or at the site, here. , and then, you can download my magazine Plant Society for free. If you want to see one on paper, you can still order the printed version, which is on sale to the end of the month for $9.00 at Magcloud.com. For those of you asking, I am working on my next issue now. And thanks to all of you who have supported this little venture! I really appreciate it.

July 20, 2010


Conca'd Or Lilies fill the air with their intense spicy fragrance.
I can't even imagine the mid-summer garden without fragrant, tall, true lilies ( not daylilies) but lilies. Long lasting lilies (the type grown from bulbs which you must order now, and then plant in the autumn), are rewarding for many reasons, not the least of which is their intense fragrance, unmatched by any flower in the perennial garden. It is deep, rich and creamy wafting through the garden with it's unique almost undefinable blend of scents, be they citrus and cloves, toothpaste or vanilla spice ice cream. Of the three types of garden lilies grown, ( Asiatics, Orientals and Trumpets), the later two, the Oriental lilies and the Trumpet lilies are the later, July and August bloomers, and they are the ones with the intense fragrance.

July 18, 2010

'Love (finally), Lies Bleeding'

Or is it, Love Lies Green? Whatever, these 'Love Lies Bleeding ( the green form) have reached 7 feet tall in our intense tropical summer weather, and they finally are starting to drop their flower stems which make them so cool. These stylish green tassels belong to a family of plants related to Celosia called Amaranthus, specifically, Amaranthus caudatus. Growing 'Emerald Tassels' isn't easy, for simply buying a six pack at a garden center will rarely reward you with plants like these 7 foot tall giants. But they are easy enough, as long as you follow two rules. One, Plant the seeds yourself, either in your own plastic pots, or better yet, in the ground where they are to be grown. If started in pots indoors ( as these were), carefully remove them when large to their final growing location, for Amaranthus ( and Celosia) detest transplanting, and if they ever experience stress while in a pot ( be it becoming even ever so slightly root bound, or allowed to dry out even once) they will virtually stop growing.
 I really don't know what I did right this time, but I think it might have more to do with the second rule to growing beautiful Amaranthus, and that is to provide a hot, humid summer ( thanks, no problem), and, a constant supply of moisture and rich soil ( which this bed in front of the greenhouse can't help but provide for some reason).

July 15, 2010

MId Summer Harvest

Early pickling cukes are coming in, and I've been able to put up some quarts of pickles. Using my mom's  old recipe for dill pickles. Thankfully, I've been able to grow some large pickling dill plants, with large heads of seeds, which is critical for flavoring pickle, and more important that the leaves are. Our summers have been unseasonably cool recently, so this years' heat and humidity promises greater harvest from these heat loving plants.
 I've been thinking about writing a salad book, since I get asked about my salad dressing recipes more than anything else. This one, is a fresh beet borscht salad, which I invented today. It used roasted beets, sour cream, buttermilk, crispy pickling cukes and fresh dill and vinegar. Served with warm boiled potatoes, it is a homage to my moms summer borscht that she would make on the hottest days of the summer. I tested it on my sister today, and she liked it. I am still experimenting with the recipe, I might try cutting the beets differently than the jullienne on the mandoline, but everyone did like it this way. I am imagining this with micro diced beets, too.
The tiger swallowtails seem to be attracted to all of the purple and magenta flowers, particularly the phlox, and the monarda. I watched them float and flutter to both, avoiding everything else in the garden.

I Join Fast Company's Influence Project

As a fun experiment, I've been playing with a test with Fast Company Magazine called The Influence Project. If you would, please  click on this URL vote here  which will connect you with the site anonymously. The project works like this : if you're like me and are interested by how influence works on the Internet and are curious to see what happens when a person's social network is asked to act, this project tracks that. Since I am active with mulitple creative groups beyond this blog, both professionally and with my outside passions, I could not help but be curious about this.
I promise this will not download a virus or get you an inbox full of junkmail, but it will track how many people follow me, or how influencial I am in the world of whatever ( for instance, I know that this blog is number 8 on google for plant blogs), which makes blogging a little fun, and perhaps, influencial, in a way.

July 13, 2010

A hardy gloxinia -Sinningia tubiflora

I think I have finally mastered growing Sinningia tubiflora, one of the many new 'hardier' gesneriads, those plants in the African Violet family, which are getting more and more collectable by those in-the-know. This week, my gravel container garden has been overcome by a magnificent specimen, which, I have to admit, was an accident. This Sinningia tubiflora  is growing in a deep terra cotta pot, and its become essentially, a giant lemon scented air freshener, yes, its evening fragrance lingers across the garden in our hot, humid summer weather.

Thanks to fellow blogger, reader and friend, Brian Morely, who shared this plant with me last year. He had send me a few tubers in the mail, wrapped in newspaper. Thanks Brian!  I've tried Sinningia tubiflora twice before, with little luck. Apparantly, I am not alone in finding this species difficult to bloom. Lots of foliage, ( which often spotted and became sloppy) and when flower stems finally did appear, they flopped over before blooming, leaving them twisted and deformed. Last year, I only had three stems with a few flowers.
This year, it's a whole other story. I can only guess that a few changes in how I treat my plants may have helped, I can say, that I have not fussed with the plant, if anything, I have ignored it. First, I didn't divide the tuberous mass of potato-like tubers, instead, I dragged the overgrown pot into the greenhouse on a cold, frost-threatening day in October last year. Yes, it says 'hardy' but it is not deep-freeze hardy here in New England. I grow Sinningia tubiflora in containers. Once in the greenhouse for the winter, the plant stumbled along at near freezing temps. Once in mid-winter, I had decided to toss the plant, but I decided not to since Joe would see the rootball on the snow ( he hates that, and I am too lazy to drag my butt out to the compost pile. Once I unpotted the mass of tubers, I was impressed, and a little overwhelmed, so I like any guy who is lazy, I shoved the mass under a bench and forgot about it. There it spent the entire winter, never looking worse for the wear.

July 12, 2010

so what’s this about ‘woo-woo’? a video explains

Margaret Roach, gardener, author, good digital friend and former Martha Stewart Editor shares what makes gardening so Woo Woo for her. Check this out. so what’s this about ‘woo-woo’? a video explains

Black Calla Lilies and Green Zinnia's

This weekend I picked some of the black and green flowers in the garden, in an effort to make an arrangement for a dinner that felt more stylish, yet botanically interesting. Playing with color, and being more aware about color, this year I have been trying more dark, black and green flowers, but things never really work out the way we plan, for my 'black and purple' vegetable garden bed has yet to materialize. These calla bulbs were intended for the black garden, but I ran out of room this spring, so I planted them along the greenhouse bed, where they are now lost under a jungle of growth from the Amaranth which now towers 6 feet over them.

July 8, 2010

Garden Folly

I have so many plant show ribbons, that fill my closets and potting shed, which I just adore because of their wierd, innocent, naive color combinations, but which I can't decide what to do with. Thanks t Danny at Dailydanny, I have found the solution : wreaths. Anyone who exhibits in plant society exhibitions has boxes and drawers of rosettes, gathering dust and lint- why not display them? Best of all, this seems less like an ego blast, since let's face it, hang a blue ribbon anywhere, and the it's hard to avoid the obvious statement.  
With a rosette wreath, like this assembleage, the statement is, well, understated, or better yet - over-stated, or overwhelmed by the art statement alone. Brilliant. If you don't have any ribbons, just order your own from a horse ribbon company. You can order any color combo you want, and have them say anything you want. Try this one. Norogala Show Ribbons, it's where we order our plant society ribbons. The cost is inexpensive, around $4.50 per rosette. Cheaper than roses.

A concrete Chesterfield Sofa? Oh yes, not leather, but a real chesterfield cast in concrete, created by Steve Jones for a British concrete company, Gray Concrete. I am reminded of Rachel Whiteread, the UK contemporary artist who casts the negative space of objects, but this if far more useful ( and probably more affordable). It even has a coin cast behind a pillow for authenticity. This is a piece of garden furniture any man would appreciate. Next? A cast big screen tv anyone?

July 7, 2010

Christmas in July? - go Pohutukawa!

Metrosideros excelsa - The New Zealand Christmas Tree

It's funny how off I am sometimes. I go and buy these plants, with the idea that they will be in bloom in the winter greenhouse since they are southern Hemisphere plants. But here we go again. This shrub, which I bought while on a trip to southern California, looked like it might be a great container plant ( which it is), and one which would be in bloom in the winter greenhouse ( which it isn't).

The Maori name for the tree is Pohutukawa, and it was considered a chiefly tree, cherished by the tribal leaders.  One would think, that with the common name of New Zealand Christmas Tree, that I would have no problem seeing this in bloom in our cold greenhouse, since in its native New Zealand, it blooms in November and December, but in our garden, this plant has chosen mid summer as it's peak blooming time. I do wonder if it will convert to a winter blooming shrub, as many Southern Hemisphere bulbs do, after a few growing seasons, but that will piss off our hummingbirds, which currently believe that Christmas in July really can happen ( even though it is over 100 deg. F ).

My tree, which came from San Marcos Growers, is listed not as a winter bloomer, but as a spring and summer bloomer, and is reported to be hardy down to 25 degrees, which makes it perfect for my greenhouse, which seems to get a light freeze every winter. I know this grows in Santa Barbara as a street tree, but I have to tell you, that in my Worcester, Massachusetts garden, it's scarlet bottlebrush flowers are getting lots of attention. I have the plant potted in a large, cobalt blue glazed pot, and it's variegated foliage is very decorative for twelve months out of the year.

With twelve species of Metrosideros, I endemic to NZ, I might try another species and see if it grows as well. The Hawaiian species of M. polymorpha might be better, but I have to admit, that I can't help but giggle when I type my image title of MetrosiderosexcelsaGala.jpg, which sounds more like a hip gay pride party, than a tree.

Japanese flower prints circa 1900

I love how the artist focused on these Lupine seed pods.

I just found this wonderful reproduction Japanese wood block prints on Winter Works on  Paper, worth checking out their site if you are interested in some botanic prints for plant lovers, that offer subjects that reach far beyond Redoute and the more traditional Curtis prints. These Japanese prints focus on plants that are more unusual, and if anything, less commercial and typical than what one sees in French publications, or in botanic prints.  Clearly, the artist understood plants, and had a deep appreciation for real natural subjects. I just love the combinations which feel a bit random, but completely authentic.

The Euphorbia on the right, a wild form of the Christmas Poinsettia, is a plant I am currently growing on our deck as a container plant.  We had one growing in our garden in Hawaii, when I was in college.

July 6, 2010

Eucryphia glutinosa

In bloom today is rather rare, if not unusual small tree, Eucryphia glutinosa,  a Chilean tree with white, camellia-like blossoms, many of which have a fragrance (this one does not). I've started trying many of the more unusual Chilean trees and shrubs as container plants in my cold greenhouse, hoping that these Southern Hemisphere plants will bloom during the winter. But as you can see, this Eucryphia glutinosa is blooming during a heat wave, on the deck. With more plant collectors, collecting in South America, I think that we can expect many new plants introduced to horticulture, many hardy in zones 9 and up, but also, many fine container plants such as this tree, which I read about in Daniel Hinkley's,  The Explorer's Garden, and decided that I had to have it.( just as much as you should get his book! - I have a list, four pages long of new shrubs and plants to get for the cold greenhouse).

July 5, 2010

Lily, Lily, Rose, on the Fourth of July

Downfacing Asiatics are something that I cannot resist, although they are not that easy to find, at least at retail garden centers. One must order them through the mail from lily growers ( like B&D Lilies, or the Lily Nook). July is their peak season, but also, the time when the lily catalogs arrive in the mail. I noticed that this year, there are more cultivars available that are down facing, so maybe there is a turn around here.

Asiatics are divided by how thier flowers sit on the stem. There are  up facing, out facing, and down facing, or pendant ones. Down facing are look very much like wild Lilium canadense, which grows around our woodlands, so maybe that's why I am attracted to them, but even to non gardeners, the tall stems with dangling blossoms look very much like chandelier's in the garden, and are very pretty when planted in large drifts, which is what all the gardening books say, but what we even experienced gardeners rarely do. Still, a half dozen bulbs is a worthy investment.

We even picked some and arranged them with illuminated white Japanese paper lanterns for our spread at a Fourth of July Concert at Seiji Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood, in the Berkshires. Complete with blue canning jars with candles, whiteish cheese and reddish wine. The best we could do last minute for some good friends from Los Angeles who visited with us.

Good friend, Wendi Engle, on the right visiting from Los Angeles, and I indulging in a little culture after two weeks of hiking in the mountains.
OK.....maybe I was over-influenced by Sargent's painitng' Lily, Lily Rose'.