January 21, 2013

January Greenhouse Tour

Sunday I spent much of my afternoon making labels for my cyclamen collection. The second from the right is really
Cyclamen africanum, and not C. hederifolium. The two are always difficult to identify.

I spent the weekend working in the greenhouse, which just meant that I watered, sowed seeds, fertilized the Nerine and Cyclamen - which is when I noticed that many of the cyclamen did not have labels. Labeling Cyclamen is one of those tasks that I usually remember to do in mid July when I am repotting the collection, which doesn't really help. I can identify many just by looking at their tuber (bulb), but I still cannot properly ID them by leaf pattern. So as I had the label maker out in the greenhouse already, I thought that I would take an extra hour and label all of the cyclamen pots. This way I can tell which ones to keep ( the silver and arrowhead shaped forms) and which ones to relocate outdoors. Of course, you all know me... this lead to me puttering with other things...

The front bulb plunge bed suddenly has burst into bloom, as it seems to to each January. This tiny Cyclamen coum was forgotten behind some large camellias, and the blue Scilla arstidis from Greece is dividing into a nice clump. Both
classic alpine house bulbs, they add needed winter interest on this freezing winter days.

January means small bulbs will come into bloom in the greenhouse. In some years they bloom in early January, in other years, they bloom as late as late February, but whenever they bloom, the same species bloom at the same time, in the proper order, which I find interesting. Just as our native wild flowers may bloom in a different week each year, they never break the order in which they bloom. Nature is far smarter than we are - even under glass.

The Cyclamen bed shows the full diversity of foliage. With nearly 10 species, I now have most of the Cyclamen species often collected.  I'm not sure if I am bored with them yet or not. Now that I have mastered
growing them from seed, I am having fun making my own selections based on leaf pattern.
 Cyclamen species are ridiculously easy to grow in a cool greenhouse. I remember years ago, before I had the greenhouse, how difficult it was to try and grow these species, as I could not grow them under lights or start them from seed. I  think I started one seed from a packet of seeds that I bought from Thompson & Morgan back then. Once I had the greenhouse, I acquired some plants from others who kept collections, and I quickly learned how easy these plants were. Seeds must be sown fresh, just as the seed pods become soft in June, before the plants go dormant. The seeds remain in the dry soil (sand and grit) until September, when they are watered. Within a few weeks, the seeds germinate. In the wild, seeds are sown by ants who are attracted to a sticky, sweet substance on each seed ( Cyclamen are SO smart). The ants can steal my seeds in one evening, so I need to act quickly. As for the ones that I miss? They are now coming up all over the greenhouse - who doesn't love that!

Ornithogalum  fimbriatum, a nice, teensy tiny version of the Star of Bethlehem, but this one is only
an inch or two tall. Perfect for a small container, and always an annual first-bloomer
in the greenhouse during the winter.
 Many of my tiny alpine bulbs bloom together, and this weekends sand bed combines species from South America, South Africa and Turkey all in one bed. I always think twice about writing one of these more geeky posts, as they seem repetitive, as each year it seems that the same plants come into bloom. This year I added about 8 more Lachenalia species, so there are a few newbies to share here. Also, some of the South African seed that I sowed 5 years ago, are beginning to bloom, which is always rewarding (but what about those seed raised bulbs that I sowed 10 years ago! What's up with that?).

Lachenalia rubida, the first Lachenalia bulb to bloom in the greenhouse. These bulbs came from the deRothschild collection in the UK, which I just found out has a link to Downton Abbey - as a deRothschild saved Highclere Castle, as the fifth Earl's wife was a deRothschild - hey- seven degree's of separation, right?

The first of my seed-raised Romulea are blooming, these sweet, tiny Romulea komsbergensis, are second generations from my wild collected seed from South Africa. I just love their brief visit each January. They only open when the
sun shines, which makes them very special. These were sown in 2008.

Panayoti Kelaidis loaded me up with a suitcase of Colorado natives, plants that will hate our wet freeze and thaw winters and spring, so I have planted them in troughs, which I keep under the protection of glass. These old French doors came from a nearby estate ( thanks to a friend who is an antiques dealer). They are too nice for this job,
 but they were the only windows I could find. The glass is thick, so it will keep the sand-filled troughs dry.
The best site of all - a robin. Well, a flock of about 50 robins, enjoying a late dinner on this red cedar tree in the garden.
Still, their calls made this warmest of days before the cold blast, feel like more like March, then January. In Massachusetts, there are areas where hundreds if not thousands of wintering robins stay, often, in large flocks.
So not exactly a sign of spring, by any measure.


  1. Those were really vivid shots. Love them.

  2. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Thanks for the tips on forcing Lily of the Valley pips.Since mine are frozen solid after -28C on the north side of the house and will not defrost until spring,it is too late this year...but next year!

  3. I absolutely love the attention you cater to your plants in all your posts! They are genuinely a joy to read.


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