April 28, 2013

In Search of the Heirloom Pansy

Heirloom Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are selections that predate 1900. These old fasioned
Chalon varieties have ruffles petals, so favored by the victorians. These are young, and will
form more ruffles with age, as long as the weather remains so delightfully cool this spring.

We live in a world of super fancy pansies. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for 'super fancy', especially when it comes to plants, but generally always appreciate 'old-fashioned fancy' - heirloom, antique varieties that were once the 'super fancy' of their time. For Pansies, their time was 1870- 1900 - a time when viola and pansy societies attracted many active members in the UK. Of course, not everyone joined these exclusive 'leisure societies', as then, generally speaking, ones status and class divided the working class from the rich and privelidged who could not only afford choice plants, but whom also had free time.

In North America, it was a different story, as viola's ( pansies are a cross within the viola genus - Viola-wittrockiana), as well as their other kin within the broad genus of viola, the 'Johnny Jump Up's, the violets- both scented, and non, and other selections of violas became popular cottage flowers and even cut flowers in most American gardens. Their ease of culture during those years of coal and wood-fired glass houses, meant that they could be grown to perfection in nothing more than a hot bed ( a cold frame heated with farm manure), ensureing that every class could afford the happy, cheerful face of the pansy in early springtime.

Today, pansies are swept aside as a disposable annual, promoted along side annuals which are far showier, but on sale far too early ( Impatiens and marigolds are already rushing off the shelves at my local Home Depot - a full month before they should be planted outdoors). Like many things, the pansy is suffering from an un-informed cunsumer who thinks they are buying something which may bloom all summer, not knowing that pansies perform best when sown in the autumn garden, or that pansies 'call it a day' once temperatures rise well above 75º F. This means little to opportunistic garden centers and home stores as they push and promote pansies along side 'far-too-early' tomatoes and other tender annuals, even selling them in hanging baskets, plastic bag-tubes and other novelty plantings. I think we have lost what is so special about the pansy - which is an appreciation for simplicity.

 You may see 'old-fashioned' or even 'herloom' pansy seed offered by some seed catalogs, but true 'heirloom' varieties are lost. Many have been trying to back-breed, or re-breed similar selections, which are quite nice, but those once grown and introduced by the Vilmorin Company in paris are gone forever. Rumors inform me that the Dutch are experimenting in exploring older-looking varieties ( those with larger, ruffled flowers, or those with interesting rich color combinations with stripes, speckles and happier faces, but no one has yet been able to match the forms once so popular in the 1800's. Grower Kees Sahin keeps more than 10,000 varieties growing in the Netherlands. Try Renee's Garden for some heirloom mixes. I scour my local nurseries every spring, looking for mixes the look old fasioned. I tend to like muddier colors, browns, gold, black and putty colors. I'm not one to go for bright, solid colors with no faces on them, it's just not my style.

Mssrs. Veitch & Sons in London, once carried hundreds of selections of pansies around 1840.

I love to line the edges of my raised vegetable beds with two or three rows of pansies, which brightens up the grid of plots, and helps lift my spirits - at least until late June when the pansy season around here, is over, as hot and humid summer weather is the pansies enemy. They prefer cool, damp and misty spring conditions, but there are a few things you can do to let your pansies blooming as long as they possible can. First, keep the dead blossoms ( and most importantly, their seed pods) picked off. Second, fertilize them with a good liquid feed low in nitrogen. This will keep the roots study and deep, and the buds forming. I use 5.36.17. Third, grow your plants from seed if you can, for pansies do best if sown in the autumn, and allowed to grow slowing into winter weather. Don't worry, they can freeze, and we spring comes around, they may be later than the one that show up at the home center - but once they start blooming, they may continue all summer.

Pansies that I planted as seedling that I started last August, are still in their raised beds, and they are slowing starting to bud up. All the pansies in this post were purchased, but these such as the one in this picture, were wintered-over. In a few weeks, these garden plants will be lush, mounds of color.

Since we are hosting a garden/greenhouse party next Friday night for the opening of the American Primrose Society National Exhibition being held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, I need some color in the greenhouse. Since I am primula deficient right now, pansies will have to do. I was inspired by the old Auricula Theaters one sees in England, where individual pots are set in row, and then tiered on steps so that one can appreciate each primrose up close. This sort of display works well with pansies, too. So this is how I am decorating the potting bench in the rear of my greenhouse. When guest walk through the greenhouse next Friday night with a glass of wine in hand, they will be surprised by these tiered rows of antique pansy varieties.

This weekend I found some ruffled exhibition varieties at a local garden center, which thrilled me, because all I could find at Home Depot were huge, floppy over-fertilized monsters. These, are what pansies are supposed to look like.
I potted some in home made pots to show off the young plants, but soon they will be upgraded to larger containers.
 I have this problem when I visit garden centers and nurseries in the early spring, when trays and trays of pansies are lines out in neat rows.. My problem is that I cannot choose my favorite one, and usually leave with either too many, or none. You see, I am very particular about my color palette when it comes to pansies, those selections from the genus Viola, that we can have a love/hate relationship with.  I have a long history with pansies, as it was one of the first plants that I ever grew, or at least, potted up, as my kindergarten teacher helped us plant pansies in egg shells one Mothers Day, as my elementary school happened to be across the street from a large glass greenhouse, one which grew pansies every spring.
Each year, I must buy a selection, but I vary the color palette each year, trying to not choose new hybrids, but instead, seeking older varieties, and maybe even exhibition varieties that were once so popular in England. At my first job as a gardener while in high school, I remember that the owner of the estate that I worked at insisted on light-blue pansies, which had to be planted out by the thousands in sweeping arcs ( all bordered with blue festuca grass - as the garden was designed by Fletcher Steele). Today, I still like these light blue pansies, but I find them more difficult to find amidst all of the new hybrids.

Don't turn away from some of the more difficult colors with pansies - check out how this combo worked last year for me.
Red, black and blackberry colored Primroses, Pansies and Anemones.
Tiger Eye Pansies are another favorite. The mustard gold color might seem difficult to integrate into the garden, but
pansies are supposed to be brown, muddy and messy with their coloring. Why not celebrate these odd tones and hues?

These ruffled giant pansies will look much better in a few weeks, but for now, they are enjoying an Impruneta
trerra cotta pot from Italy.

Thanks everyone!

April 27, 2013

Behind the scenes - the awful truth

Most of our 2.5 acres is an old garden, planted by my parents in the 1920's -1960's. Today, 70 years later, the garden has
become more of a restoration project, and a maintenance project than a design project. Little by little, I am introducing better trees and shrubs, and not quite sure about design yet. Add in four dogs, and a whole lot of free range poultry, and quickly, I am discovering that the garden is getting destroyed. No vegetable garden, as the dogs will eat it, and if I move it to the other side of the fence, the turkeys and chickens will destroy it. I'm not really sure what I am going to do. Still, I try to garden, and you all know, I cannot stop!

OK. It's time I fessed up. My garden is not perfect. My friends know this, people who visit here know this, and now, you will know this. The truth is, most of the images on this blog happen in a small part of our garden - in fact, in about 20% of it, near the greenhouse, in a fenced in area on one side of the house - it's about the only part of the garden I can focus on given my job, and time. The rest of our 2.5 acres is, well....unkempt. Messy. Even worthy of, well being shut down by the city for pure nastyness. There are times in the summer when we can only get to cut the lawn, if you can call it that, about once a month. Weeds thrive. Garden design is out of control, since many of the trees are over 100 years old ( all planted by either my parents or my grandparents), and sadly, many now need to be removed - a task that is just too massive and costly so we try to remove one every other year.

Here are some of the photos of areas that we have been able to begin restoring, bit-by-bit, and then, some of the problem areas which I still need to confront. Then, some of the new problems that have arrived - puppy problems. We are discovering that four Irish Terriers can destroy a garden overnight. Yesterday, they ate 3 large Crambe cordifolia plants right to the ground, today, they ran races around the greenhouse, and tore out more than 25 large Gladiator alliums, and destroyed the alpine garden. This week, they have eaten saxifrages in the troughs, bitten off most of the Pulsatilla blossoms, and broken most of the tulips. Lawn? there is no longer any lawn.

This was a problem area that I was able to overcome five years ago. In an effort to reduce lawn, I converted our front entrance into a woodland alpine garden, complete with a river rock dry creek bed ( just an illusion of a brook), and many small shrubs, alpines and woodland plants. This, was a good idea, and it is easy to take care of. I like the mountain look.

When I was a kid, this, our second driveway, was lined with huge weeping willows that towered over 100 feet tall.
After many Thunderstorms, a tornado and old age, they are gone, leaving me with 5 foot diameter trunks, and a long,
dirt driveway that is just crazy to keep weed free, even after 10 tons of gravel. The Dumpster is a necessity, but there is no hiding it. The house that you can barely see behind it is the one I am selling, along with that corner of my property.
This should help provide more money ( one less mortgage for me!), so that maybe I can build a garage.

Looking from the same position, back toward the back yard, and the house, you can see how much dry shade we have.

Another problem area, this needs to be opened up, which means these large white pines need to be removed, as well as about 4 tall Norway Spruces. Right now, it's just crappy vinca, pine needles and weeds. Bare dirt is everywhere, and very little lawn. 

Our Martin House has been over-run with English Sparrows, an invasive species which are noisy, and difficult to eradicate. We finally needed to paint the house, and clean out the nests ( two giant black garbage bags full!), plus a whole lot of eggs. We are going to install black screen inside to keep the birds out, as the only species that will nest in this community house would be these English House Sparrows, as Purple Martins don't migrate this far north into New England ( I just fell in love with the design of this Martin house, as it looked like an old English Dove Cote). It's an important design statement in the garden, so it remains, and without the English Sparrows, the house wrens and other song birds can nest peacefully in our many smaller bird houses.

The English Sparrow eggs are pretty, but I dont' feel sad removing this invasive species, or at least, slowing it down.

Some dog crazyness - and I mean crazyness. we've had to add turkey wire fences, and now, we need to install a chain link fence - 200 feet of it! I am freaking out, but  I am afraid there is no turning back. I fear I have lost this nicer side of the garden, where I keep the Hellebores and most of my ephemerals. I will just have to relocate them, and I think the dogs will keep most plants broken or dug up.

The dogs, raising Hell. All I need now is a house trailer. Ugh. Good thing that  pot is plastic, as they broke a large terra rosa  pot this week that had a beautiful rosemary in it.

They chase each other around, jumping over hedges looking like liquid -1,2,3,4 as if they were running in a steeple chase, and they were the horses.

Weasley leaping onto the alpine wall, where there are many rare and unusual bulbs planted.

I usually don't like wood bark mulch, but this year we were able to get some two year old mulch. It is more composted, and looks more natural. It's about the only thing I can do to try and make the garden look more presentable for next weekend. It's still a mess, but with the poultry walking around, and all of the dogs, there isn't much more I can do.

If you remember a post last October, I planted a few hundred blue small bulbs under these Hornbeams. They are blooming, but they won't look awesome until next year, when they begin to spread more.

OK, back to the nicer side of things. I promise I won't complain more about the ugly parts, but I will admit one thing - when visiting many gardeners homes, I feel better when I see that they are 'normal' too! I think if I only had this side of the garden to take care of, I could focus more, and perhaps keep up with it, and I dream someday of living
in a home where only a natural planting in a woodland exists. No lawn, no mulch, no weeds.

April 24, 2013

Dividing Perennials Through Simple Division

This clump of Helenium is at the perfect stage of growth for proper division, a task which must be carefully timed if you intend to avoid any disturbance in growth.

There was a time when the bi-annual division of perennials consumed most of a gardeners time in early spring, but that was at a time when one either started perennials from seed ( I still do with some), or obtained choice varieties from a limited number of nurseries. This was a time before the internet, before mega-nurseries, before eBay. But some perennials are still difficult to track down, and so it is with many of the more beautiful helenium selections. Helenium is all-American, with most species native to the eastern half of North America. A choice perennial hoarded by those 'who know' and shunned by others who hate it, until they see one in bloom. It's one of those plants which I continually am asked to share, once visitors see it in bloom. Three or four feet tall ( unless you choose to cut it back early in the summer so that it will branch), helenium over-performs, and that's something which I never complain about as a gardener.

April 23, 2013

Upcoming Rare Plant Sales

If you live in New England or New York, these four plant sales offer plants found no-where else! Plan to visit a few
over these next four weekends.

By this point, your local nurseries and garden centers are stocked to the brim with their first shipment from branded and wholesale growers. It's also a time of year when garden centers push for big sales knowing that Mother's Day often drives as many sales as any other Holiday. As you become more of an informed gardener, you will learn that what looks pretty in-market, often won't do well once planted into the garden. So pass on the greenhouse forced Gerbera, Martha Washington Geraniums, blue florist Hydrangeas in foil, and azaleas, and consider buying something more interesting.

Corydalis solida can often be found in pots at some spring plant sales. Since the bulbs go dormant by June, these
gems rarely show up in nurseries.

My best advice for you? Consider some of these upcoming plant sales held by plant societies and botanic gardens - for these often offer items rarely found at the commercial garden centers - over the next three weekends there are at least four must-visit sales here in the north east. Make plans to visit early, as these plant sales have loyal patrons who will arrive early, and bring lots of cash, for you never know what you are going to find. Many offer hard-to-find plants, or those plants not offered anywhere else. Most invite small, micro nurseries who will bring things that are in such short supply, that they never make it into the catalog.

Some of my best spring flowers have come from plant society plant sales.

Saturday, April 27 

The 7th Annual North American Rock Garden Society Plant Sale at Stonecrop Gardens  the following nurseries and vendors will participate in the sale: 

- Wrightman Alpines, Ontario - Grower and supplier of choice alpine plants and rock garden plants.
- Evermay Nursery, Bangor, ME - Specializing in alpine plants and Primula species.
- Garden Vision Epimediums, Templeton, MA - Grower and supplier of Epimediums and other choice shade perennials.
- Debra Pope, Auburn, MA - Creates unique, custom hypertufa troughs.
- Don Dembowski, Pelham, NY - Spring Ephemerals and Woodland Wildflowers.
- Bill Perron, Cortlandt Manor, NY - Offers a variety of Cyclamen species, Arisaema, and Hellebores. 

Fee: $5/Free to members
garden@stonecrop.org | 845.265.2000 


Sunday, April 28

The Manhattan Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society annual plant sale

"Sassy Succulents for Sunny Sites, and other uncommon plants for city folk"
El Sol Brillante community garden, NYC
10 AM until 1:00 PM

This is plant sale is my # 1 choice for interesting plants, and it is one not to miss, since these gardeners are both serious and friendly, and they curate an amazing collection of plants. After all, these are people who garden high on the balcony's and penthouses of America's greatest city and they really know their plants, as each one must be important (Be sure to tell them that I sent you!). They will be offering plants grown by their knowledgeable growers and many from selected premium nurseries in the New York area. 

El Sol Brillante community garden
522-528 East 12th Street
(between Avenues A and B)
Subway - L Train to 1st Avenue and 14th Street


Brooklyn Botanic Garden Plant Sale

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Plant Sale, May 1 and 2 - there will be a members-only preview sale on April 30; for more information, check out  bbg.org


Saturday and Sunday May 4th and 5th
The American Primrose Society National Show

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston, MA

Two days of amazing primroses, and plant sales. See those rare auricula primroses, and hundreds of other types including companion plants. Also, it's a beautiful time to visit Tower Hill! Look for me, and I am one of planners for this show, and Joe and I will be running around like crazy!

So if you've been curious about stocking that hypertufa trough with rare, high-elevation alpines like saxifraga or if you've been wanting to start a collection of unusual hard-to-find epimediums grown from seed collected in China by Darrell Probst, or if you want to plant you very own primrose path, any of these three plant sales come highly recommended by me - but get there early!

April 22, 2013

Garden Delights from the Planet Earth

Native trees and shrubs are emerging now that spring is here, but this is not a native, but a bud on a plant from
the southern northern hemisphere (thanks Panayoti for setting me straight!) - a Kiwi vine, Actinidia kolomikta from east Asia, and not New Zealand as many people believe.

Dare I say that I am old enough to remember the first Earth Day, I was in 8th grade, and I remember that my school offered a special Earth Science class that year. I became so interested in all things environmental that my parents bought me subscriptions to National Wildlife and The Conservationist ( a New York State magazine at the time). I think all of this interest remained, as later I went onto college in Maine, majoring in Environmental Science. As things often go, I never took a career path that involved anything remotely environmental, a fact which still bothers me today, but my interest remains, so today, on this Earth Day, I am going to share some random images that I took this weekend around the garden, which, in a way, offer some proof that indeed, some of this early environmental awareness affected me.

Epigaea repens
Native New England plants are precious, and these, which I shared in an earlier post, continue to bloom in this nice, cool, spring. Mayflowers are fragrant, and love acid soil.
As anyone who has visited our garden, and you will find out - it's not that nice. I mean, it's nice if you like plants, but design-wise, it's pretty dumpy. It's all just too much to take care of for me, and I really have no idea how my parents we're able to do it with full time jobs. Oh yeah, they had kids to do the work - duh! Anyway, one of my plans is to convert the land back to woodland, a task that is virtually impossible in an urban environment, as anyone who has tried to do it, knows. So instead, I am gradually introducing select species of trees and woodland plants from all over the world, trying to create tiny ecosystems that can be more independant. Birch groves that can be allowed to drop their leaves, which in turn, will become mulch, and layer after layer will build up into a biomass where hellebores from Germany, Chinese and Japanese woodland plants, and of course, natives. Throw in a few small bulbs, ferns and low-level shrubs, and maybe, I will have something close to a care free garden.

The 'hot' trillium of the moment, Trillium pusillum "Roadrunner' is a selection of this running species
that currently is enjoying lots of chatter on various rock garden groups on Facebook and Twitter.
A dwarf species, this one (hopefully) will start running soon, for one cannot had too many trillium!
Dutchman's Breeches, Squirrel Corn
Dicentra cucullaria, commonly known as Squirrel Corn, or Dutchman's breeches (or what I used to call
it as a kid, 'Squirrel Breeches'). This one we collected when Joe and I had our first house in upstate New York, when I had my first job in the city, it was growing in the woodland all around our back yard. Yes, BAD to collect in the wild,
but I was 24, and probably drunk.
Another 'stollen plant' from our 20's, this Podophyllum peltatum, or Mayapple, was growing on his parents property in Northborough, MA. Today, we have hundreds and hundreds, as it runs, but in the nice way. I just love how
these Mayapples look when popping out of the ground in the spring. Like umbrellas, they love the moist
woodland soil on the edge of out property.

Last year I decided again to try some of those new Cypripedium hybrid  ( lady slipper orchids), as I have had little luck
getting them established. This cultivar called 'Gisela' seems to have 'taken', with two spikes this spring. It's growing
where I have had luck with some species, so I am hopeful.

One of Darrell Probst's Epimedium species from his early collecting days when he first started exploring
China with Dan Hinkley. The tag is lost forever, but this one spreads nicely.

From Iran, Fritillaria imperialis add's it's skunky, musky odor to our woodland. I love it. One would think that
these gaudy giants would feel out of place in the garden, but surprisingly, they don't, and in Iran, they look
natural when they dot the highland meadows in spring.

Primula kisoana, a rather uncommon Asian species from  south west China, Nepal and Tibet are a running primrose, which also will not become a pest, but one which you must allow to run, so that colonies can form. Woodland conditions, which remain slightly damp and rich with natural leaf mulch, will suit it best. No wood or bark mulch, and most woodland plants dislike anything other than leaf mulch.
From the high mountaintops of the Alps comes one of the world's most beautiful wildflowers, Pulsatilla, or Pasque Flower. There are both American species and European ones, even one in Japan. This plant, one that I started
from seed obtained in a seed exchange has bloomed in our stone wall for over ten years now.

Saxifrages define the authentic rock garden, or trough, and that's where this one lives - growing in a tiny crevice in a piece of tufa rock in one of our many alpine troughs. The encrusted saxifrages are delighful, from the highest of the world's mountain peaks - even higher than ski resorts in the Alps, where they cling into deep, protected crevices.

Joe found this House Wren egg, while cleaning out the wren houses this weekend. I am surprised that it survived the winter. It is so tiny, that at first, I thought that it was a hummingbird egg.

April 21, 2013

Planting a Strawberry Pot

Vietnamese potters are casting large strawberry pots which are finding their way to nurseries and garden centers. This one, which is four feet high, is very heavy, but the large size helps it make a presence in the garden.
I am using it as a centerpiece in one of my raised beds.

Strawberry pots, once a folly of the Victorian gardener, are making a comeback, but rarely do they see strawberry plants, more often than not, they are planted with succulents, or herbs. Today, the once novel strawberry pot can be a useful garden ornament. Truth be told, the strawberry is still more ornamental than functional, but why not celebrate it's brief history by potting one up with real strawberries, as the Victorian loved to do with the pocketed clay containers.
My choice this summer will be a pink flowered wild strawberry, as well as a white flowered French hybrid of the wild strawberry. I sort-of like the idea of not planting beautiful colors or even sempervivums and succulents, as I normally do, opting for simplicity - just strawberry plants.

My strawberry plants, hardened off after spending a few weeks in the cold greenhouse, are ready
to be planted into the strawberry pot.

Since the puppies will be tearing up the garden for a good part of their first year, ( note the wire!), I am trying to be creative with what I can grow. Artichokes, and container plants may rule the summer garden.

April 17, 2013

How to grow tomatoes from seed.

It's the perfect time to sow tomato seedlings. It's ok if you accidentally sowed them too thickly like
this, tomatoes transplant well at most any stage.
If you're anything like me, you have taken great effort to try and grow your own tomato seedlings, only to pass a table at your local Home Depot and see these incredible beautiful, thick, lush green and ‘healthy’ tomato transplants that make your own look like the leftovers, the runts of the litter, but let me assure you right now - you will never be able to get your plants to look as lush  or with stems as thick as the commercially grown plants, and that's OK. In fact, it's better than OK, and here's why...

April 15, 2013


Saddened by the horrific events in Boston today, our thoughts go out to out the victims 
of this tragedy, their families and friends.

April 14, 2013

Primordia Rules - except at the garden center.

Our state flower of Massachusetts - the Mayflower, Epigaea repens , is in bloom late this year, as it usually blooms
in our woodland in March, and not mid-April, but our snow cover just melted last week. Also known as the Trailing Arbutus, this is one of the only native plants currently in bloom aside from the maple trees and skunk cabbage.
Here in Eastern North America, the leaves on the trees wont' emerge for another month, after-all, the snow just melted this past week. Yet at our local garden centers, flats of annuals and even vegetables are arriving, on TV ads from Lowes and the Home Depot entice us to start buying out annuals now, and even at my local Home Depot this weekend, I watch ill informed customers buying flats of basil and marigolds, and I over heard them asking where the impatiens were - all this, when the native pussy willows are just beginning to blossom with force.

I like to remind new gardens who see forsythia blooming in front yards, and white magnolia stellata bursting forth that even though the grass is greening up and that landscape shrubs are blooming, that the only true sign of any importance is what ones native plants are doing. Look at your woodlands tomorrow when you drive into work, and tell me what you see? In our northern forests, things are timed rather perfectly, and no marketing effort can ever tell a maple tree when it should bloom, and if one perchance blooms early,  the risk is far worse than any benefit.
The Goldfinches are begining to convert to transform into their summer golden color, but as you can see, the woods
behind them are still grey and dormant. With temps today staying in the 40's, our gradual thaw continues.

The birds know spring is here, radar sites that birdwatchers follow show mass migrations of early warblers ( our first Palm warbler and Fox Sparrows arrived!) passing just west of us. Woodcock are mating, and even though our wood frogs and spring peepers have yet to begin their chorus, the maple trees are finally beginning to bloom, or at least, they are in Rhode Island where I commute to work. Spring will come, eventually, but as far as the big box stores go, they seem to think that it is mid May. This weekend I saw truck loads of Erica in full bloom ( don't buy it, as these are southern grown and hoop-house tender) and pansies are everywhere ( do by those, as this is the season to plant cool growing annuals).

I understand the business perspective,  that big retailers need to get a jump on each other, but sadly, the customers often don't really know the specific dates on when it is safe to plant things into the garden and most are lead down the wrong path by retailers who only what to sell their product, rather than nurture informed customers. Once you get home, who cares what happens to that pot of basil.  I can't imagine how many disappointed people there will be in a few weeks when we get a frosty night, or even worse, a mid-spring snow storm. Learning the proper time to plant your seedlings should be the first thing new gardeners master.

Our spring clean-up continues, as I tried to focus on the greenhouse today, as it was a bit too blustery outside
to get anything done.

My best advice? Wherever you live, look not at the trees and shrubs in your neighborhood, for most landscape plants are from China or Japan, and tend to leaf-out far too early, look instead at your woodland plants, for they will know when to leaf out, and if you native plants are experiencing a late, cold spring as we are, you may notice that they are all quite late in emerging. Native plants rarely get tricked by Mother Nature, but even now and then, a late frost or freeze can damage native species ( I remember Christopher Lloyd visiting the US in 1999 when on May 15 we have a killing freeze that killed many of our local oaks which had leafed out early.

Just so you know that everything is not perfect here, this is our main entrance after Joe used the leaf blower to clean out the alpine garden.

I had planned to start my tomato seeds this weekend, but I am holding off for one for weekend. I say this as I saw people buying tomato plants at the nursery this weekend. Here in Massachusetts, it's advisable to plant tomatoes out into the garden on or near June first, when the soil temperatures reach 55º F. Still, there are many seeds or plants that can be set out into the vegetable garden right now - peas can still be planted, as should potatoes. Onion seedlings can be set out, but I am waiting for another week so that mine can harden off - become accustomed to our cooler outside temperatures this year. The same goes for leeks, pansies, shallots and seeds such as lettuce, beets, carrots and turnips.

Inside the greenhouse, I finally was able to tidy up one side, stacking clay pots, and filling nearly four
wheelbarrows with trash. I am always surprised by how much junk I can collect in just one winter!

The alpine garden near the greenhouse has many small bulbs planted in it, and each spring, I enjoy seeing how
many have self seeded in the loose gravel. This miniature narcissus ( a name which I have lost) looks like a standard daffodil when seen in a photo, but when I place it in scale, you can see how tiny it is.

More Lachenalia, this L. aloides v. luteola  has beautiful olive colored petals.

Lachenalia aloides v luteola

I transplanted many Primula this weekend that I started from seed. They are still quite tiny, but soon each
will fill these 3 inch pots. Here, are some trays of Primula sikkimensis.

When I Google the name of a plant and mostly my images come up in the image search,
I know that I've crossed over into plant collecting geekyness. Such is the case with this
Melaespharula ramosa, a prolific blooming bulb related to Gladiolus. It may be a weed in warmer climates,
but for those who have cold alpine houses, it is a treasured small bulb.