March 3, 2013

It's Meteorological Spring!

Lily of the Valley pips emerging in the greenhouse - in a week, the entire flat will be a fragrant garden 
The meteorologists know that at least by their three month calender, that it's spring, many plants in the greenhouse and out in the garden know that days are getting longer, and that the sunshine is becoming brighter each day, but we humans still find it difficult to believe that spring is on the horizon, with snow falling, and chilly nights, it seems that winter will never release its grasp. But here in New England, even with snow falling, it is officially here - mud season. With now four dogs ( yes, it seems we are keeping the puppies), I spend a good part of the day washing floors, the deck and the porches, only to find four sets of muddy paw prints almost immediately after I finished. Sometimes I do wish that I lived in a new, modern house, with one dog, and no mud, but there is little I can do.

Muddy paw prints on the porch floor which needs a good striping and paint job come this summer.

Our floors are over 100 years old, which by New England terms, means little as many homes here are 300 years old, but before I can refinish the porch floors, I have far too many tasks to handle. New garden gates and fences so that the dogs can't get out, I need new entrance doors to the house, new windows ( we put on a new roof last year), but it seems we can only do a couple of big projects a year.

An early morning spring snow, sticks to every detail in the garden when the temperature hovers near freezing.

For the past three weekends we've had snow storms, nothing bad, just nice, pretty, gentle snow, a couple of inches at a time. Last weekend the snow was wet, so it stuck to every tiny branch. This weekend, it was mild, with temps near 32º F and it continued to snow lightly. The sun is high enough now for the greenhouse to warm up, even on overcast days such as this weekend brought. This allowed me to do some well needed tending to in the greenhouse, particularly with seedling that needed to be transplanted, and then, others which needed to be sown. I was able to sow the rest of my primula species seed which was refrigerated three weeks ago, and some pulmonaria seed. If you remember, I added the seed to some moist sand, and then placed sand and seed into a zip lock bag which I refrigerated. A short cold period was all that was needed for these particular species, to stimulate them to grow, believing that it is indeed late spring.

Another shot of the new Winter Garden at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden where I spent most of yesterday. Just planted last year, this garden will need some time to mature, but I could not resist shooting these cornus shrubs, so strategically placed so that one can enjoy both the golden stems and the red stems.

My Hamamellis x intermedia is just beginning to bloom, waiting for a couple days of warm weather to really make it pop. As the snow falls, the bright yellow blossoms stand out. I've noticed many birds plucking the petals for a sweet treat  as pickings are slim in the woodland this time of year.

Diascia Diamonte Coral Rose F1 hybrids, repotted into individual pots, await to be watered, fertilized and pinched to promote more branching.  These cool-loving annuals enjoy the colder conditions in the greenhouse, whereas other annuals such as impatiens still need to remain indoors under lights.

In the greenhouse, I tended to some transplanting which needed to be done.  The Artichokes are ready to be moved from their root trainers, to 5 inch pots, and a few pots of Diascia had to be transplanted if I ever want to enjoy their salmon/coral blossoms by the time real spring arrives.

Artichoke seedlings are well rooted, with deep root systems. They now need to be up graded to 5 inch pots. Sown in January, artichokes and Cardoons need an early start, then a short chilly period for at least two weeks with temperatures near 40º to stimulate them to vernalize, and then exposed to warm temperatures again - this promotes blooming.

A flat of Impatiens which I had sown in January, are ready to be transplanted.

I am growing many of my own annuals this year for a couple of reasons. Varieties are important to me, and I have been not impressed with most commercially grown plants. They are too short, too bloomy when they are in-store, and they remain too dwarf. I mean, I get it - retailers need young 6 packs in bloom so that people will buy the colors they want, and they want short plants, so that they will fit on shelves at the garden center. I don't care if my plants are in bloom when I plant them, and I prefer taller varieties, so I start mine from seed sown in January.  This variety grows 14 -18 inches tall ( from Harris Seeds).

These impatiens seedling are strong, I should remind you that these are growing indoors under grow lights, as they need warmth. Seed will not germinate unless the soil is above 75º F, and plants must be grown on at 65º - 70º. In a month or so, I will be able to relocate the pots back into the greenhouse, but for now, they are transplanted  on the potting bench in the greenhouse, but brought back indoors where they can grow under the warmth of the lights.

I planted these Impatiens seedlings into 4" pots, which should ensure strong, and large transplants by the time late May rolls around. No growth hormones, no root stimulants, no chemicals to stimulate early blooms, and no chemicals to encourage short stems  and extra green leaves. I can't wait to see how these will perform in the garden next to store bought transplants.

Lastly, I had to share this pot of Cyclamen coum, a winter blooming cyclamen species that loves the cold, often surviving in many zone 6 gardens. I still prefer to grow in near the glass in my cold greenhouse.


  1. Some nice pictures! I like the use of the cornus that you showed. A nice plant that is so often misused or poorly pruned....

  2. hopflower8:58 PM

    How lovely! Lily-of-the-Valley--- I wish I could grow it and have tried many times. They love the cold, and I am afraid I just cannot give them enough of it where I live.

  3. Anonymous12:11 PM

    Your plugs look wonderful. I have to wonder how impatiens will fare this summer with the arrival of downy mildew in New England.


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