August 31, 2011

Farewell, Sweet Margaret

MARGARET  -  (JULY 4, 2001 - AUGUST 30, 2011)
 Last night, as the sun was setting in a meadow under a clear, evening sky, Margaret went to sleep. We will miss you more than you every will know, my bunny. Your ten years living with us in our garden, was far too short.
Muggy Bunny

Muggles

Healer of illness, loss and pains....

Mummy

Mom to Blue, Peachy, Teal, Fluffy and Runt and Beloved Wife to Fergus
Bitch to Fergus (oh  no you di-'int)
 Mommy to three 'litters' of ducks and one 'litter' of geese.
Chief of Homeland Security
Skunk Huntress and Garden Police

who had the best smelling ears ( requiring hourly kissing)
Hater of snow.... wet and cold

Chief Gardening Officer



Decorating Assistant

Guest of Fancy Boutique Hotels

And not so fancy, seat warmer.

Always up for a trip to the big apple...

Shopping at Barneys




And getting muddy paws.

In her heart, A winner with us all.
a farm dog from Mississippi, who lived her life in a pretty little garden in Massachusetts where she raised a family (or three), bossed around rodents and skunks, bitched at Fergus, snuck a sip from a Manhatten or two, loved her roast chicken and broth, raising her ducklings and most of all, her two daddies who adored her.

Oh, yeah....also a winner ( officially).

CH KELSON's MISS FIRECRACKER -Best of Winners, Breed at Montgomery National Terrier Show 2005

Dear, sweet Margaret, I miss you.

August 29, 2011

Bored with everyday Nasturtium? Hello Rare Tropaeolum species.


NOW THAT THE HURRICANE IS OVER, HOW APPROPRIATE THAT THIS TROPAEOLIUM NOW BLOOMS - A FLAMING PHOENIX RISING, WITH ITS BRILLIANT YET SMALL SOUTH AMERICAN NATIVE, TROPAEOLUM SMITHII, IS A RARELY GROWN SPECIES WITH A BRIGHT FLOWER.  IT IS 'GROWABLE' AS AN ANNUAL FOR THE SUMMER GARDEN OR IN CONTAINERS, IF YOU CAN FIND THE SEED. ( TRY CHILTERN SEEDS IN THE UK).

 Last February I wrote a post about plants that are on my 'wish list', various rare or rarely seen genus or species, a list that included some rare nasturtiums (Tropaeolum species), particularly Tropaeolum moritzianum. I never found a source for that particular species, but I did receive a gift from the botanical site specializing on the genus Tropaeolum that I referenced in that post,  site  so thanks to John McFarlane I have these species blooming today, after the Hurricane. Meet Tropaeolum smithii and T. argentinum, both rarely found in collections. He shared some cultural information that challenged me, since he stated that both of these species are difficult to germinate, which of course, only made me more up to the challenge.
TROPAEOLUM ARGENTINUM, A BIT MORE REFINED AND DARE I SAY, A LITTLE ORCHID-ISH? THIS AIN'T YOU"RE AVERAGE CANARY VINE
 We are all familiar with the more common Nasturtium majus, yes, those bright orange and yellow flowers found in edible flower packets and the annual with large seeds and tiny water-lily shaped leaves that are also edible and peppery flavored, often grown by children and new gardeners due to their high performance level. Easy, attractive and a long blooming season makes these annuals some of the best for filling annual borders, but these species forms are a bit more precious - they will do best if grown in containers and allowed to scramble over low shrubs, as they grow in the wild.
EARLIER THIS SUMMER, YOU CAN SEE HOW SIMILAR THE FOLIAGE ON THIS T. SMITHII LOOKS TO THE GEOPHYTIC SPECIES, THE ONES THAT GROW FROM TUBERS THAT YOU CAN SEE IN MANY OF MY WINTER POSTS. THESE APPEAR TO BE A BIT MORE STURDIER, BUT JUST AS CHALLENGING TO GERMINATE, THE TRICK, IF ANY, APPEARS TO BE HOW TO KEEP JUST ENOUGH MOISTURE AROUND THE SEED WITHOUT CAUSING ROT. 

T. SMITHII GREW ON A SMALL TRELLIS IN A CONTAINER THAT I SET NEAR THE GREENHOUSE DOOR, IN A LARGE BAY LAUREL TUB.  IT  OUT-GREW THIS POT, CHOOSING TO REACH OVER TO A NEARBY SHRUB WHERE IT COULD TUMBLE AND GROW OVER.

T.SMITHII SEEMS MORE NATURAL AND IN CHARACTER ONCE IT ESCAPES ITS POT. THE TINY 3/4 INCH BLOSSOMS ARE ATTRACTIVE AND BRIGHT, LIKE ELF CAPS, BUT COLORED AS IF THEY ARE ON FIRE, A TONE DIFFICULT TO CAPTURE ON A DIGITAL CAMERA.

THE TROPAEOLUM ARGENTINUM  SEEDLING WAS PLANTED, AS AN EXPERIMENT SINCE I FOUND VERY LITTLE CULTURAL INFORMATION FOR IT) IN AN ALPINE TROUGH, SINCE IT WAS FAST DRAINING. IN JUNE, THE SEEDLING HAD ONLY A THIN, WIREY STEM WITH A COUPLE OF SAD LEAVES. THE BLOSSOMS ALMOST BECOME LOST IN THE SLIGHTLY YELLOWING FOLIAGE. UP CLOSE? VERY PRETTY.

I DON"T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING PLANTING THIS IN A TROUGH, BUT IN LATE JULY, THIS SPECIES TOO, TOOK OFF, ALMOST CONSUMING THE ROUND TROUGH. IF I GET SEED, I WILL FIND A BETTER PLACE TO GROW THIS. FOR NOW, I ALLOWED IT TO TUMBLE OVER SOME TWIGS FROM A NEARBY CRAMBE CORDIFOLIA SEED STALK, WHICH I PROVIDED AS A TEMPORARY TRELLIS.

For information on other Tropaeolum species that I have grown over the past year, check out these posts from the winter, since this is the month when you can order and plant the tubers of these other South American species. I suggest Tropaeolum tricolor

Tropaeolum tricolor, a tuberous species that can be grown as a winter-flowering plant for a cold windowsill or cold greenhouse. It grows from a small, potato-like tuber - order them now from finer bulb sources.


Tropaeolum azureum is more challenging to grow, but I did have spectacular luck with the tuber three years ago - patience is required, as the tuber can be fussy, often sitting dormant for many years before deciding to grow. It's been sitting dormant again in the dry, hot protection of the greenhouse for two years now....maybe this winter?
TROPAEOLUM X TENUIROSTRE  is even more rare, a cross which is naturally occuring in Chile. Another tuberous Tropaeolum worth growing if you are thinking about collecting this enticing genus, which few seem to collect. Here is a story about this species blooming in my greenhouse this past spring. Another wirey vine, the branch is a piece of a Japanese Maple that I cut and used as a support branch.

August 28, 2011

Hurricane under delivers.... Boletus Mania Ensues.


A collection of 'gold from the woodland', our gift from Hurricane Irene's rains. Wild late summer mushrooms, often called the king of the forest. Here,  Boletus bicolor, Boletus edulus, some early Boletus variipes. yellow-fleshed Xanthoconium separans ( Boletus separans) and more are filling our foraging baskets.

Around the world this weekend, a select group of people are out in the woodlands and meadows where oaks, Beech, Chestnut and Ash trees grow, and they are all doing the same thing - Picking mushrooms.
High in the alpine areas of Switzerland and Austria, in the meadows of northern Italy, In Croatia, Serbia, Poland, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Russia, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and in New England - especially New England, mushroom pickers are foraging the woodland after nearly ten inches of warm rain has fallen over the past 24 hours. The collective microrhyza are calling all mushrooms to emerge, and that, they are.

One of the greatest gifts that my parents left us were their skills in mushroom picking. There is hardly a holiday together where my brothers and sisters don't reminisce about the romance of picking mushrooms, but I remember it differently, maybe because I was the youngest. Mushroom picking in the summer meant stopping on the way home from a day at the beach in Rhode Island, at a state park or rest area, and meant the my mom and dad would be gone for an hour or two, know, knives in hand, gathering mushrooms. I can still hear my moms voice saying " Ahh, this is mushroom picking weather", especially after a thunderstorm  in late summer.

I still pick and eat wild mushrooms, along with my sister ( my brothers are too chicken, or they never paid attention!), but I only knew the varieties by how they looked, and by their Lithuanian names. Today, as  plant geek/Botanist, I know that they are mostly Boletus edulis complex, but in my head, I keep hearing the name my family called them 'baravykas', or "Butter-Veekies" as we kids would call them ( and still do). My sister could never roll her 'r's.

Since both my parents are 100% Lithuanian ( all four of my grandparents came to the US from Vilnius in 1889), I feel a strong affinity for mushrooms, the picking of mushrooms and of course, cooking and eating them. These Boletus species are some of the most flavorful mushrooms, and are my favorite, especially when cooked with salt pork, onion and a little fresh dill. These are the scents of mu childhood, and ones that I cherish and try to repeat whenever I can.


NOTE" Mushroom picking is serious business, DO NOT PICK WILD MUSHROOMS unless you know exactly what you are picking. Many are deadly, or at the very least, make you very ill or cause liver failure.

 Many Boletus turn blue when their flesh is cut, and this happens almost instantly.
 Freshly picked mushrooms must be cleaned and cooked almost immediately, and you will want to, for a late night treat. These are bug-free, and ready to be boiled for a 5 minutes before fully cooking in the pork fat and onion. Be certain to fully cook Boletus, even if you are certain of the genus, for there are many subspecies within the Boletus edulis group, and some are toxic unless par-boiled and fully cooked. ( toxic in a way that can give you an upset stomach).

Yummy, Crunchy, Salty Goodness. 
If you are interested in learning more about mushrooms and mushroom picking, look for a mushroom collecting group in your area ( Boletus edulis are found worldwide).

August 27, 2011

The Calm Before the Storm


Lydia patiently watches the rainy garden as the outer bands of Hurricane Irene' begin to reach us. Her full force is expected to hit us fiercely later tonight and through the day tomorrow. "Batten down thy hatches!".

As everyone on this side of the planet knows, we here on the east coast of the U.S. are preparing for  hurricane Irene, and as you can see in  the above image of the threat level from the National Weather Service, we are in the middle of the 'extreme' damage area.  Time will tell if the storm deteriorates or continues with force, but we are spending today taking precautions, especially with a glass greenhouse, it's a little concerning. Let alone the many mature trees on the property which may experience some damage from the wind. The storm will weaken somewhat, as if starts to pass over land, so we are crossing our fingers that the worst conditions may be a few gusts of wind near hurricane force.

Many of our plants in the garden have survived hail and tornados this summer, and they are pretty banged up ( notice the hail damage on the large water-lily shaped leaves of Japanese Butterbur, Petasites japonicus ssp. giganteus), but this storm may be more damaging.

That said, this wind direction is the opposite of our more typical westerly winds, so the tree roots and branches will be more vulnerable. In 1987, Hurricane Gloria passed over us with a similar path and strength, and we lost a few of the 70-foot spruce trees, which were uprooted due to the wind and wet soil, so we are not out of the clear, by any means. 

The storm starts tonight with the outer bands already bringing us heavy rain today, we are expecting to stay awake all night!  Some wine, some candles, some ice in a cooler, and....some wine.  The dogs, ducks, geese and pheasants are all locked up, and now.....we wait.


 Ahhhhhh! Hurricane!!! Actually, the ducks and geese are excited about the potential of temporary 'ponds' and flooding since they rarely get an opportunity to swim. Tomorrow, our challenge will be keeping them out of the street and woods. I do see floating spaghetti squash in our future, though.
IN FRONT OF THE GREENHOUSE, I USUALLY PLANT TOPICAL PLANTS, SINCE IT HAS A SOUTHERN EXPOSURE, BUT WITH THE WIND DIRECTION EXPECTED TO HIT THIS SIDE HEAD ON, I HOLD LITTLE HOPE FOR THESE NICOTIANA GLAUCA SEEDLINGS ( WITH THE BIG LEAVES ON THE LEFT), BUT THE BANANA PLANTS SHOULD SURVIVE FINE, BUT WITH SOME SHREDDING OF THE LEAVES.
 Bamboo species love this weather - humid, wet, rainy, they are designed to survive the wrath of typhoons, not unlike flexible palm trees and banana plants.
Tall containers must be relocated to more protected areas, so that they will not tip over, or, they are tipped over by us. Our large Bay Laurels in front of the greenhouse, for example, have been pre-tipped over.

August 22, 2011

Red and Green Theme



Gladiolus 'Atomic', G. primulinus 'Mirella', a miniature all red species-type of Glad, in a vintage vase that was my mothers, on our front porch.

 Many try to avoid the brighter colors of August, especially the bright red, carmine and scarlet flowers that can seem so harsh when viewed in a catalog on a snowy January evening, but in-the-season, these brilliant colors somehow 'work'. Maybe it's because of their tropical heritage, or their hot tones seem less horrible when it is 90 degrees outside, or maybe it is a simple as the fact that there is a lot of green around to balance out all of the red. I can't explain how I discovered all of this red in the garden today, but I did - maybe I am finding my inner Christopher Lloyd, or maybe all of my P90X workouts is making me more agro, and I am just seeing red, maybe even, I am starting to become bored with my typical, more thoughtful 'designer' color palettes.... most likely, I am beginning to actually like red in the garden ( even though it isn't even Christmas).
Abutilon ' Firefly', is a nicer selection of the Flowering Maple. This cultivar remains small, almost dwarf. Our stay under 24 inches tall, yet are covered with red bell-shaped flowers all summer long ( and in the greenhouse, for much of winter, too!).

Red Geraniums ( Pelargoniums) are fine, but the variegated leaf forms are by far the best. They remind me of my childhood, so I always try to keep a few in the greenhouse and on sunny windowsills in the house. Nostalgic and attractive even when they are not in bloom.

Begonia boliviensis, a rather new hanging species begonia for baskets and tall containers for summer fire.

Variegated 'Crown of Thorns' 'White Lightning' ( Euphorbia millii) looks great in the winter, when it only has foliage, but in the summer, the summer thunderstorms coax out the bright red flowers making it worth while as a deck plant.

Yeah, these are those Chinese geese that you saw in many June posts. Almost full grown.

Red Single Dahlia's enjoy their season - August. Mixed strains of 'The Bishop' and seedlings, adds needed color to the perennial border.



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