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December 26, 2011

What's in Bloom Today - Under Glass

I PICKED A VERY NINETEENTH CENTURY COMPOSITION IN THE GREENHOUSE TODAY. THESE ARE  FLOWERS ONE WOULD HAVE FOUND SOLD ON A DECEMBER STREET CORNER IN LONDON OR IN NEW YORK DURING THE LATE 1800's  - FRENCH SCENTED VIOLETS, CAMELLIAS, HOOP NARCISSUS, TROPICAL RED RHODODENDRONS ( VIYREYA)  FREESIAS, ALMOND-SCENTED OSMANTHUS AND WESTRINGIA ROSEMARIFOLIA ( THE PALE LAVENDER FLOWERS).

Greenhouses are magical in the winter. A thin sheet of glass divides two climates, outside, the bitter cold, dry winter and New England blizzards, inside -  it's warm and moist,  and the air is thick with the scent of winter-blooming trees and potted plants like jasmine, narcissus, freesia, scented camellias, fragrant Parma and French violets. At one time these were the only flowers available during the winter for many people who live where it snows, and before air travel made shipping flowers around the planet an every day event, a greenhouse was the only way to get fresh flowers, citrus and vegetables.



OSMANTHUS FRAGRANS - THE ALMOND SCENTED OSMANTHUS STARTS BLOOMING IN OCTOBER IN THE GREENHOUSE, AND CONTINUES UNTIL JANUARY. AT ONE TIME, EVERY PROPER WINTER WEDDING WOULD HAVE HAD THIS FLOWER IN THEIR BRIDAL BOUQUETS.

THE ALMOND SCENTED OSMANTHUS FRAGANS - SURE, THE CHINESE HAVE GROWN THIS PLANT FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS FOR TEA AND IN GARDENS, BUT THIS IS THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF WINTER FRAGRANCE IN OUR GREENHOUSE, SMELLING A BIT LIKE WILD CHERRY COUGH DROPS.

In my 1802 gardening book, it is suggested that an estate must keep greenhouses for such luxuries as Pine Apples, Muscat grapes, Persimmons and lemons. Cut flowers like carnations, violets, camellias, and buddleia can be had throughout the winter for arrangements, and tubbed trees can be brought into the conservatory for winter displays of Acacia trees, Camellia trees, Roses, Orchids and forced plums.




Narcissus romieuxii ssp. cantabricus, self seeded seedlings, blooming in pots around the greenhouse every December and January. They smell like gummy bears. Native to the Atlas mountains of Morocco, this rarity is an uncommon site outside of specialist collections.

Oxalis versicolor - The Candycane Oxalis, a bulbous species from South Africa

 Lost are those days when every madame required a corsage constructed from a pure, white camellia for a visit to the opera, or a nosegay of violets for Saint Valentines day. These are the very reasons why I bother to keep a greenhouse, for they are not economical. But the joy they bring on days like this when it is cold out, that even on the shortest day of winter,there are flowers in bloom and citrus to pick, even here in the north, just outside of Boston. It's a lost luxury few can experience, so we are grateful. This is a bit about maintaining a truly vintage experience, and the fact that there are only a few private greenhouses left in America that continue to grow rare collections of classic winter conservatory plants as well as rare plants found only in botanic gardens. In a way, it's a living museum, and one that both teaches you and one which provides a sort of holistic treatment for the soul. Find your way into a greenhouse this winter, and find a not only a nice one, but an interesting one.... for if you have never walked into a winter glass house in full bloom in December and January when there is snow outside, you are missing a wonderful experience.
A WILD FREESIA, FREESIA ALBA, WHICH I STARTED FROM SEEDS COLLECTED IN SOUTH AFRICA, BLOOMS CLOSE TO THE GLASS. MOST SOUTH AFRICAN BULBS GROW WEAK LIKE THIS IN THE WINTER, BUT THE FLOWERS ARE FRAGRANT AND WORTH PICKING TO BRING INTO THE HOME ON SNOWY DAYS. 

9 comments :

  1. I really want a greenhouse when I move but I am a bit intimidated by them. Strangely enough greenhouse care and upkeep wasn't really something they taught us in school. I love all your greenhouse posts.

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  2. You greenhouse is so great! I have a greenhouse. I dont usually get it up and running untill the bggingin of Feburary. And start my seeds in it for the year. I usually dont run it in the winter because the heating bill. But this winter, after inspiration from your blog, and the mild winter. I am almost kicking myself for not getting it going in that fall. But I am almost afraid to start it up now cause knowing my luck lately, temperatures will probably drop once I get it going. Ha! ;)
    I guess it is okay either way.. I have a sunroom where I over winter my plants. So I still get to enjoy a daily dose of flowers and plants...
    Okay..I am getting besides the point! I can't believe the, Narcissus romieuxii ssp. cantabricus, flower smells like gummy bears! Oh man is that so awesome!! :) I was kind looking around and this might be a silly question. Does every flower in the Narcissus romieuxii species have the gummy bear scent? Or it only Narcissus romieuxii ssp. cantabricus. Thank you for your time. And have a Happy New Year! -Camille

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  3. Oh no! I hope that my comment is semi readable and you understand it. I some how sent it before I could double check it! D'oh!..sorry I am semi-functional this early in the day! LOL Have a great day! -Camille

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  4. Don't worry Rcstampyd! I'm often the same way, laptop on lap, typing away when I realize what I typed was 39flsnt9e8weyosing..! NBD.
    Most of the tiny hoop narcissus in the N. romieuxii clan have a sweet scent, never the cat pee scent that some paperwhites have. Although, some of these species grow together in the wild. The yellow forms that bloom later - the bulbocodium types, have less, if no scent however. N. cantabricus, romieuxii and their many crosses generally all have a very sweet scent, blooming from November until late January in the greenhouse.

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  5. What a a beautiful arrangement! What I would do for a greenhouse, but like Kaveh I would be afraid of making evey mistake in the book with one. Scented flowers are always welcome but at this time of year even more so. Happy New Year Matt and everyone.

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  6. I have often seen gardens planted historically, to match the house, or the original design/plan. But I've never seen a historical posy. Have you come across the ThinkinGardens site? Might appeal to you.

    Do you heat your greenhouse? Or is that a foolish question?

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  7. Your rare bulbs are a great hobby. I started a small collection, inspired by your posts. Thank you.

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  8. Your rare bulb collections made me enthusiastic about getting a few bulbs too.I have veltheimias ready to bloom in a sunny window. So great.
    Your passion is inspiring.

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  9. Hell ya! Thanks for the reply! I am definitely off on the hunt, to see what N. cantabricus, romieuxii I can get my hands on! One of the many reasons, I think your blog is great, is because you shed light on plants I would of overlooked or missed before! - 49r0tmJH50*r: That is my screwy mind + screwy computer skills trying to saying THANKS! Haahahah -Camille

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