October 31, 2010

Rare Bulbous Oxalis Species

{LEFT} - OXALIS KAAJAGDENSIS
{RIGHT} OXALIS LUTEOLA
Every autumn, I find that I look forward to the many species of bulbous Oxalis which I grow in small pots in the greenhouse. Dormant all summer long, these tiny bulb plants emerge quickly, within a few weeks after their first autumnal watering, and are often in bloom for an entire month. Here are a few that are in bloom this weekend. Each have interesting foliage and growth habit, and some are so loaded with flowers that they look more like showy annuals than they do rare South African bulbs. We me loath many of the Oxalis species since they are weeds in our gardens and greenhouses, but these rare gems are completely different, and worth collecting if you have a cool greenhouse with lots of sunshine.

October 30, 2010

Fall Textures and Color

The fine thin foliage and blueish flowers of Amsonia hubrichtii is OK during the spring and summer, but it is autumn when the species really sings. This planting is still young, but in a few years, every autumn it will transform into a cloud of golden yellow.

Living in New England, I sometimes forget that not everyone has the intense autumn color that we have, given the number of native species here like Maples and Ash trees that make Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire such tourist destinations during the month of October. Here are some shots of various plants around the property, some native to the US, and others from China, Japan, Korea and Russia.
The violet berries of Callicarpa are truly florescent. This Asian native is still rather new in most American gardens.

I planted a hedge in front of our home of Fothergilla gardenii, and although the white, fuzzy blossoms are great in the spring, again, it is autumn when the hedge becomes a traffic stopping event. I can see the hedge, even at night when I turn the corner and my headlights hit it. It virtually glows red in the distance.
Native? Yes, but the deciduous holly Ilex verticillata offers both fall foliage that is chartreuse, as well as berries.

From Japan, Enkianthus has bell-shaped flowers in the summer, but the foliage is one of the most brilliant of all of our deciduous shrubs, so bright when the sun hits it, that it almost hurts.

Amsonia hubrichtii with erica and calluna species in the background.

This natural planting which I started in our front yard, was inspired by the well-known landscape designer Piet Oudolf, where herbaceous plants and grasses are planted thickly in large sweeps showing off their various textures. Plants here are layered, with lots of seasonal interest, starting with bulbs, and ending with evergreen shrubs and fluffy grasses. I love how this is turning out, but I know that it will get better each year as the planting matures.

There are flowering perennials that bloom in the autumn, like this colony of Tricyrtis hirta, or Toad Lily, native to Japan. It begins blooming in August and is stopped, only by the heaviest of frosts in November.

Magnolia stellata foliage, even if dull mustard, looks nice with the grey tints of the fuzzy flower buds that have already formed.

October 21, 2010

Plant Society Sneak Peak


IN MANY WAYS, THIS WINTER ISSUE IS A BULB ISSUE

For those of you who personally know me, I know that you understand, but for the rest of you, I did want to share with you some pages from the next issue of my magazine, PLANT SOCIETY, which I plan to complete in the next few weeks. Between my roles in my day job, which have been rather demanding over the past two months between supporting China Trips, my involvement with the new TV network, the HUB, and many other intellectual properties at Hasrbo which I cannot discuss, I have had little time to finish this next issue. But over the weekends, and in spare time, I have been able to put together nearly 100 pages of new content, and, something very exciting for the next issue for those who own iPads. (more on that later).

                
A DETAILED FEATURE ARTICLE ON LACHENALIA, SHOULD EXCITE THE MORE ADVANCED GARDENER, AS WELL AS THOSE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING REALLY DIFFERENT TO GROW INDOORS. 




A NEW FEATURE SECTION WILL FOCUS ON INDOOR, OUTDOOR, GREENHOUSE AND OTHER PLACES WE ALL GARDEN. HERE, A SPECIAL LOOK AT INTERESTING PLANTS ONE CAN FIND IN A SUPER MARKET OR GARDEN CENTER AROUND THE NEW YEAR.


For now, I share some screen captures to tease you all with. A labor of love, PLANT SOCIETY continues, on a roughly organized quarterly schedule ( this next issue will focus on winter), and I plant to publish it around November 1. Until then, here are some sneak peaks of  certain spreads.

SINCE THIS ISSUE IS WINTER, THINK - CAMELLIA, JASMINE, TENDER RHODODENDRONS UNDER GLASS, ALSO, 10 NEW WAYS TO GROW PAPERWHITES. WREATHES, HOLIDAY AND MORE.
I can't decide what image to use on the cover, so far, I am thinking about this grid of Camellia's, but who knows, I may change my mind last minute!





October 17, 2010

Oh Nerine, you move my soul.

THE PALE PINK NERINE SARNIENSIS ' HANLEY CASTLE' ON THE RIGHT.

Nerine sarniensis are in peak bloom this weekend in my greenhouse, so I thought that I would share some of the different varieties that I picked today. I had wanted to document each variety I have in a photograph, as well as number some of my crosses so that at least, I will have some sort of record incase I ever decide to do something with mu collection which is becoming pretty large. This year, the quantity of bloom has been incredible, almost 100%, since many that did no show buds a week ago, are starting to send up buds. I also had many pots with double and triple stems, which has never happened.
After photographing each variety, I had some fun and arranged them by color. Only then did I realize how challenging it can be when photographing Nerine sarniensis, since they colors are complex, and the faceting within the cellular structure in the petals sometimes plays tricks with the lenses.
( from left) Rushmere Star,  the deep clear red of 'Leila Hughes' on the far right. 
There are so many pinks and salmons varieties in Nerine sarniensis, that many of my crosses are simply named "pink #12, pink # 2, and Salmon # 5.
Lined up in front of the greenhouse, these Nerine sarniensis selections really impress once cut and arranged.
The dark striped bicolor at the top left, is a variety called 'Amschel'

Planting a Rare Gladiolus Species Collection


LABELS ARE PRINTED ON MY BROTHER P-TOUCH ON WATER-PROOF PLASTIC. I LIKE THE BLACK BACKGROUND WITH WHITE TYPE, WHICH I MUST ORDER ONLINE. THE LABELS THEMSELVES ARE FROM THE UK, at ALITAGS.COM THEY ARE THE SORT WHERE YOU SCRATCH THE NAME OF THE PLANT IN WITH A STYLUS, BUT THEY PROVIDE A BETTER SURFACE FOR THE TAPE.

I LIKE TO PREPARE THE POTTING BENCH WITH EVERYTHING THAT I WOULD NEED IN ADVANCE. I PRINT THE LABELS AT NIGHT, MIX THE VARIOUS SOIL MIXES, GATHER THE PROPER POTS, AND PREPARE THE SAND PLUNGE BED.

Since I am getting bored with some of the plant collections that I already have in the greenhouse, I have decided to add a few more, since there is nothing as fun as discovering a new genus, for the curious mind rarely rests. I decided to add a small collection of gladiolus species, wild forms of the fancy big hybrids you are all familiar with.  Gladiolus species are hard to find,  and only a few retail mail-order nurseries sell them, ( mine came from Telos Rare Bulbs in California). These are simply not the sort of bulb (corms) one will find in an ordinary bulb catalog, they are true collector plants.

The genus Gladiolus is large, so if you imaging in your head the more fancy ( or more common) frilly, tall lush Glad's one sees in funeral sprays and church arrangements, think again. Like much of nature, there are many species all within the same genus, and the genus Gladiolus is no exception, with over 255 species which all grow in the wild in Africa, Madagascar, Europe and the Middle East. The ones I am planting are winter-growing South African species, which are more delicate, almost orchid-like blossoms on smaller plants, growing from 10 inches to 20 inches tall, in most cases. Perfect for small pots. If you are interested in learning more, check out the Pacific Bulb Society site for more images and cultural info.

I use a few books as reference, mainly  Spring and Winter Flowering Bulbs of the Cape by Barbara Jeppe, and The Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs by Manning , Goldblatt and Snijman.
And this book, which I brought from a mail order source in South Africa, which has been very helpful.

Species gladiolus are perfect bulb plants for cool to cold greenhouses which do not experience freezing temperatures. If you live in California, or southern France or Italy, you can grow these outdoors, but here in New England where winters are fierce, we must cultivate them under glass. If you have a plant window which is cold and very bright, you might want to try them indoors, but they are best grown with lots of light, sunshine and cool air temperatures. These are real greenhouse bulbs since they are primarily winter-growing species from South Africa.  They are relatively small in stature, they can make great temporary displays when brought indoors in January through March, when they are in bloom. Many of the species have amazingly complex patterning and unusual color combinations, perfect for the restless grower who is looking for something more interesting to grow in the winter.

I THEN RESEARCH CULTURAL REQUIREMENTS FOR EACH OF THE NINE GLADIOLUS SPECIES I HAVE. 
( THESE ALL CAME FROM TELO'S RARE BULBs).

I could easily have planted all of these species ( or 'wild' Gladiolus) in the same potting soil, since many South African species when cultivated under glass in small pots can be successfully grown in a fast-draining, lean soil mix which usually contains 1/3 sand, 1/3 pumice, and 1/3 commercial potting mix, but is is always prudent to research first. Many South African bulb plants prefer more clay, faster draining soil, and some might like wet 'feet' if they grow in seeps and seasonal streams. Many, like a few Gladiolus, prefer  to planted in the simplest of mixes, even pure sand, with only the slightest amount of organic material, or clay soils with no organic material ( I use a few handfuls of our local garden soil, un-sterilized, and granite chips in these cases).

October 16, 2010

A Day at the Fancy Dog Show

Last weekend we attended the Montgomery County Kennel Club show ( often known as the National Terrier show, since many of the terrier breed clubs use this as their national show where they choose their national winner). It is held every year in rural Pennsylvania, along with a group of dog shows for 5 days in and around the area just outside Philly ( yeah, OK....very Best-In Show, I know it!). It's not plants, but I thought that some of you might like a break from all of the plant postings. We brought our newest puppy, Lydia and entered her in the puppy class, where she placed second ( out of two bitches), but hey, we told her that it was a very important win. We knew that she would not do well, since it was her first shows ( actually, her first), and she has only spend one week at her handler's farm. Next year, watch out Irish Terriers! She is going to kick little red Irish Terrier butt.
Since this is the national show for the Irish Terrier Club of America, it is rather fussy and formal, as well as exciting. People arrive early in the morning, around 5:30 am and it is very cold. We brought Margaret ( who won here 5 years ago) and Fergus, since we didn't want to leave them at home  with my 97 year old dad again who will let them go hunt squirrels for days. Here, all of the same breeds stay in the same hotels, so we stay every year at a hotel that is restricted to only Irish Terriers and Airedales ( the two largest terriers). It's crazy, because all of these dogs really don't get along with each other ( it's a breed thing), so just taking the dogs out to go pee requires stealth hall runs and elevator descents.  Still, the dogs love it and become very excited every year, in a way, this is the closest we will ever get to being soccer dads.

October 13, 2010

A visit to Terrain

AMAZING DUTCH BULB RETAIL DISPLAY AT TERRAIN

I've been wanting to visit the Terrain retail store, located in Glen Mills, PA, just outside of Philadelphia for two years now, ever since I first saw photos of the nursery and retail space on Flickr. The retail concept, created and designed by a very creative team at stylish retailer Urban Outfitters ( parent company of Anthropologie and other brands). As a supporter of design excellence and good horticulture, I had high expectations for Terrain, and I am please to admit that they we're met. Actually, I was quite blown away, and very impressed as well as inspired by they entire visual experience. In a nutshell, Terrain was amazing, and worth visiting if you love original design, since this is so difficult to find today.
A SHOPPER EXAMINES FRENCH CANNING JARS IN ONE OF TERRAIN'S MANY INTERIOR ROOMS.

If there is one thing that Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie buyers and designers get perfectly right, is style and aesthetics. Terrain ( which was once a classic, old garden center named Styers), is experience cranked on high. The talented designers and buyers who created this place, left nothing un-crafted. Every detail has been considered, and every little nail or stone has been thoughtfully curated. And 'curated' is the operative word here, for every object from books, to plant material, to antiques has been curated - and curated perfectly. Terrain is not derivative, rather, it is original and fresh, both rare experiences today. There is just enough commonality to be familiar to the newbie ( sure, there are Paperwhite narcissus, but they were huge), but this is balanced out authentic hand-made pottery and rare plant material to keep even the geekiest of hortiphiles interested. After-all, we are all suckers for design excellence AND horticultural perfection.

A series of galvanized funnels are installed creatively on the exterior wall of the Cafe at Terrain

A SELECTION OF GLASS BELL JARS AND DOMES FOR THE MASTER TERRARIUMIST

October 7, 2010

A Morning Glory, Morning.

 Face it...there is nothing quite like sublime blue hue of morning glories. OK, maybe the color of meconopsis, but true blue is rare in the plant world, as it is in nature, but for less than the price of a cup of coffee at McDonald's, ( if I drank coffee from McDonald's), anyone can have true blue flowers, grown from seed, in just a couple of months. These seeds were planted in late May, and they literally do little of anything until the end of August, when they take off in the late summer heat. Flower buds form late as the day length shortens, and even two weeks ago, the bud count on my vines growing in the greenhouse were few and far between. But today? There are massive clusters of buds, they always seem to form just before our first frost, which can happen any day now.
There are so many ways to grow morning glories. I used a transparent netting on the greenhouse, which was designed for cucumbers, but vines also can be grown in a pot, or allowed to crawl over shrubs and bushes, which is how they grow in the wild. The foliage will adjust itself to be rather horizontal in nature, so the effect is always pleasing. Formal plantings work well too, some very stylish gardens can be made with a grid system of bamboo or wire, where the fast growing vines can create faux walls or garden rooms with foliage walls. Just remember, they grow slow at first, and then explode near the end of the season. I would like to cover a barn wall with mesh netting, and then plant 50 seeds to create a green wall.

October 5, 2010

Dahlia Farm Tour, part 2

MIXED DAHLIAS AT PLEASANT VALLEY GLADS AND DAHLIA FARM

I almost forgot to publish the other half of my post from two weeks ago, when we visited Pleasant Valley Glads & Dahlias, the  amazing farm and mail order company near us, just over the border in Connecticut. With acres and acres of colorful gladiolus and dahlias, it was overwhelming to photograph. So much color, so many varieties, that one quickly becomes numb. 



October 3, 2010

Autumn Blooms -Asters and Anemones

 Tall stems of Anemone hupehensis 'Whirlwind'(formerly A. japonica), wave in the early autumn breeze. This variety is a double white form.
 There are many named varieties of autumn blooming Anemone hupehensis, and all make excellent border plants for mass plantings. Try looking for them at garden centers now, since few carry them in the spring. They are long-lasting perennials that deliver color at a time of year when we expect to see pumpkins and squash. These are plants that will become better with age, but plant more than one plant, for  clump of 3 ,6 or 9 make the best displays.
 New England Asters are also rarely used anymore in borders. I prefer the tall, named varieties, not the dwarf, clipped and growth retarded forms one sees at supermarkets and farm stands. Look for good, study plants at your local garden centers in 1 or 2 gallon containers, and plant them now. Next spring, when the plants reach about a foot in height, trim them back with hedge shears to make the plants bushy ( I like to not cut mine however, since I adore 6 foot tall asters in my garden. My autumn asters this weekend were covered with bees and butterflies. Just count how many honey bees you can see in the above photo!

Native to New England, the autumn asters that have been selected are many, and although rarely used in its native country, these asters are very popular in European gardens. We Americans should rediscover some of our native species.

October 1, 2010

Canning Jar Round-Up

Look for French canning jars, such as this vintage fine on Etsy. Not secure enough a seal for true canning, but for quick pickles, this would be awesome.
In my mind, it's all about Ball. The Ball Company, as my mother would have said, "makes the best canning jars", and she may have been right from a functional perspective, but aesthetically, there are many options. The only issue may be that beyond the classic Mason or Ball jar, most other brands are not as secure for preserving food, and are best for refrigerator pickles. Use care and judgement if you are preserving any type of food, but for simple refrigerator pickles, here are some stylish options as our gardens over-load us with produce.
I don't know about your cellar, but in mine this is what I find lots of....classic blue glass Ball caning jars. They still show up at yard sales and on Etsy.


Weck Canning jars are available online, but most home canners agree that their seals are not secure for long-term storage. That said, the Weck collection is still the finest for form.
Images from hte great Katy Elliot blog. 

Leifheit Canning Jars are very stylish. look for them here.

Finally, someone is designing beautiful jars for home preserves. Still, best for refrigerator jams, and not for long-term storage, these jars from Burgan & Ball outshine any other jars available today. Come on Ball company.......let's keep up!
My favorite jars for Jelly, Jams or refrigerator pickles are these Burgon & Ball jars from the UK. Difficult to find in the US, Terrain now offers a 'pickle' version.( below).



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