January 25, 2013

Winter Rarities - Bulbs to Birds

Scilla aristidis up close. This tiny, slightly tender Scilla species from Greece does fine in a bulb pan in the
greenhouse. Plus, the fact that it blooms in the middle of January when it is below zero outside beyond the
glass, makes it even better.
 We survived bitter cold weather this week, with most of the week bringing us temperatures near or below 0º F, especially at night. With more snow expected this evening, at least I know that temperatures will start to edge more toward a seasonal range, of 24º to 30º. January is typically a slow month for most gardeners, and for most garden bloggers, but with a fully stocked greenhouse I try not to over whelm you with pretty photos of close up bulbs, rare plants and seed- sowing facts. I know that is all can get very repetitive. Bear with me as I share some repeat, well, more like updates of plants which are currently blooming on this chilly, sunny, Friday in January. I share - rare bulb, and a rare bird species too, which visited our feeder today.

Tropaeolum x tenuirostre  a rare natural occurring cross of two species from Bolivia

Under glass, winter can still bring many flowers, mostly from the species that would typically be growing in the Southern Hemisphere. South African bulbs and South American tubers bring most of the color during January. The tiny, vining tuberous Tropaeolum species ( Nasturtium, really), are starting to bloom again - this year, much earlier than any year in the past.

Tropaeolum x tenuirostre climbing on a Japanese maple branch. I do need to find a nicer way to display these small, vining tuberous nasturtiums. Nice wire, or a small, bamboo grid may do it. Time to get my crafty skills
going -maybe this weekend.

They are SO nice, that I have to share another view - Lachenalia bulbifera, always the first of the South African Cape Hyacinths to bloom in my collection.

After a summer outside, and a winter outside, once brought into the greenhouse, many of the iris species collected by Chris Chadwell on his latest expedition to Tibet are beginning to germinate.  What a treasure and gift to have these wild collected see. This Iris lactea is a beardless iris with tiny thin blossoms which are typically blueish violet.
Seed sowing continues, with many new perennial seeds arriving this week, including Rodgersia collections, primula species ( many, many primula species) and Ranunculus species.  Some have been prechilled in damp sand in a special fridge where temperatures never drop below 25º (as a common mistake it exposing primula and perennial seed to sub-zero temperatures, which breaks the cell wall in many seeds - seeds can handle sub zero temps, but they must gradually be exposed, as in nature. Not placed into a freezer instantly being exposed to 0º in a few minutes - this never happens in nature, and most seeds will die with such treatment).

All that is often needed for many primula seed are first mixing the tiny seeds into slightly moistened sand,  placed in a plastic zip lock bag, and then exposing the seed mixture first to warm temps 64º - 72º F for 2-4 weeks, then move the baggies to the fridge where temps are kept 25º - 39º for 4-6 weeks. After this treatment, you can sow the sand with the seed on the surface of a sterile mix, and place the pots either in a cold frame, cold greenhouse or best yet - outside, as they now perform best if exposed to temperatures which are 41º - 54º F.

I know, at this point you are probably thinking that this is just too difficult, but allow me to simplify things. You can just sow your refrigerated seed in pots, and set them outdoors in late February to receive snow, and freezing temps, as long as it stays above 20º. The melting snow will help the seeds germinate ( hormones and temperatures have close relationships, as do temperature shifts from day and night, and naturally occurring hormones).

A Clivia Cyrtanthiflora group, a cross of ours, blooms with its long, tubular blossom.

Common Redpolls visited our thistle feeder today.
 We had a visit today from some winter finches not often seen here in central Massachusetts - at least not every year. Redpolls arrived today, and may even be a Hoary Redpoll, but it seems that my local birder friends like my neighbor and fellow blogger Kim ( check out her lemon marmalade) believe that what we have is actually a light colored Common Redpoll. But she shared that there are some White Winged Crossbills about 8 blocks from me - so my fingers ( and bills) are crossed

Lastly, the undulating petals of a Nerine undulata  dancing in the January sunshine before the evening shade causes the glass to frost over for the night, in the greenhouse.

 Late January may still be mid-winter, but by the days are getting longer each day, and even though the temperatures may dip to -5º, the solar effect of the sunshine heats the greenhouse to near 80º, that is, until it become overcast, as it did this late afternoon. With light snow in the forecast tonight, the realization that winter is only half over became a reality.

The pups discover the remains of the Chinese cabbage, frozen solid, but it's both something to gnaw on, and something to eat. So much for those winter pansy's in the same bed.

I yelled at them from the deck, and even at their young age, they know how to act guilty.


  1. I'll bet those pups will be a handful when the garden comes to life this spring.

  2. Cute those 2 rascals!


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