February 12, 2012

A Weekend in the Winter Garden

HARDENBERGIA VIOLACEA, AND AUSTRALIAN VINE ONCE COMMON IN OLD GREENHOUSES IN NEW ENGLAND, IT WAS BROUGHT BACK ON WHALING SHIPS IN THE LATE 18TH C., AND OFTEN WAS FOUND IN TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY GLASS HOUSES. ITS COLOR IS INTENSE, AND DIFFICULT TO CAPTURE WITH A CAMERA.

This has been an incredibly mild winter here in New England, and out lack of snow may end with the promise of a few inches today, but it is bitter cold - 8 deg. F. today, so clearly, it is still winter. But as St. Valentines day closes in - the date when I sense the shift in sun intensity, both outdoors and in the greenhouse, it is in the later space where suddenly, it begins to feel very April-ish. Thanks to the many tender shrubs, vines and bulbs from warmer parts of the world, that we now keep in terra cotta pots and large tubs. It may be snowing, but thanks to Australia, New Zealand, China and South America, there are plants that love these shorter daylight days, and these provide bloom and greenery throughout winter in the greenhouse. 

When I built my greenhouse ten years ago, I asked to keep the floor open to the natural soil, mainly so I can plant woody shrub and trees right into the ground, making a sort of winter garden. The result is a winter garden, complete with the downside of muddy boots and sneakers, the soil floor makes the greenhouse very special, adding to the experience with the scents that gardeners crave, that of dirt and freshly pulled weeds. The soil floor also allows for lush clambering vines that twine and twist up the support system to bloom near the glass, and fragrant sub-tropical shrubs for the four corners of the world bloom as the snow flakes twirl beyond the thin glass. So, as I prepare to leave to New York City to speak and give a slide presentation at the HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY OF NEW YORK Monday evening as a guest of the Manhattan Chapter of NARGS ( come attend if you wish, check it out, here) I thought that I might share a few plants that are in bloom today.

CYCLAMEN COUM BLOOMS IN A POT. HARDY IN PROTECTED SPOTS OUTDOORS EVEN IN OUR ZONE 5 GARDEN, THIS WINTER BLOOMER PREFERS TO STAY UNDER GLASS.

NEW VARIETIES OF CAMELLIAS OFFER EVEN MORE COLOR THAN VICTORIAN FORMS. ON OVERCAST DAYS IN FEBRUARY, NOTHING IS BETTER THAN BRINGING A BOWL OF CAMELLIAS INTO THE HOUSE TO BRIGHTEN THE DAY. WE PICKED A PLATE FULL, AND WENT ACROSS THE STREET TO VISIT ELENOR, OUR 86 YEAR OLD NEIGHBOR, IT WAS HER BIRTHDAY.

A ROSE FORM CAMELLIA JAPONICA OPENS JUST AS THE SNOW BEGINS TO FALL OUTSIDE. ONLY A COUPLE OF INCHES EXPECTED, AS THE NOR'EASTER MOVES FAR OFF OF THE COAST OF NANTUCKET, WE ARE SPARED A DEEPER SNOWFALL.

CAMELLIAS TRANSFORM THE FEBRUARY GREENHOUSE INTO A COLOR-RICH GARDEN, NO WONDER THEY WERE SO POPULAR AS GLASS HOUSE SUBJECTS 200 YEARS AGO.


A POTTED  SARCOCCOCA HOOKERIANA VAR.  DIGYNA 'PURPLE STEM', A FRAGRANT SHRUB OFTEN GROWN OUTDOORS IN WARMER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY, MUST BE POTTED AND KEPT PROTECTED. THIS WAS A CLASSIC 18TH CENTURY CONSERVATORY SHRUB.

DETAIL OF A SARCOCOCCA HOOKERIANA - THIS SHRUB FROM CHINA ( FOUNDED BY HOOKER) HAS THE SWEETEST SCENT, ALMOST JASMINE-LIKE. JOE KEPT ASKING ME 'WHERE IS THE SCENT COMING FROM?". IT IS STILL A SMALL SPECIMEN, BUT IN A FEW YEARS, IT WILL SPREAD TO 24 INCHES IN A LARGER POT.
YES, EVEN A FEW RARE CAMELLIAS HAVE FRAGRANCE -  CAMELLIA, 'HIGH FRAGRANCE' CAN FILL A ROOM WITH ITS SWEET, BABY POWDER SCENT.




3 comments :

  1. Oh what I wouldn't do for a greenhouse (and the time to care for it and its inhabitants)!

    ReplyDelete
  2. hopflower10:40 AM

    Such a winter garden. How large is your greenhouse, Matt? It looks wonderful in there!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting post about the Sarcococca. It grows outside in Pittsburgh, but not willingly, my 15 year old plant is hardly bigger than when I got it. I'll have to try a cutting indoors in a cool spot so that I can better appreciate its late winter fragrance.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Most Popular Posts