April 8, 2013

Spring in and out of the Pit House

In the hundred year old pit house at Logee's Greenhouses in CT, a pink rabbit-eared lavender, or Lavendera stoechas from Spain blooms in the cold, fresh air that makes a pit house so hospitable for such plants.
Last weekend Joe and I drove down to Logee's Greenhouses, and I was thrilled to see that their pit house was open to the public again. I have such memories of this old fashioned style of greenhouse once common in the 18th century here in New England. My mother used to take me here in the 1960's and 70's, and I can still flash back to those moments every time I set foot into this almost completely underground pit house. Fortunately, this old pit house has not lost its charm, and even better, it held some new surprises...

The Logee's pit house in April, with roses, fragrant lavender and mints.

Mrs. Martin Logee used to chat with my mom ( they were about the same age then) about how her father in law used to grow wedding flowers ( mostly Buddeia asiatica, the winter blooming version of the more common Butterfly Bush) and jasmine in the cold house. The pit house always held herbs and   Mediterranean plants that appreciate the near freezing temperatures. Pit houses are some of the earliest style of greenhouses in America, with some dating back to the 1700's near Boston. I love that this one is still functioning, and, a visit on any day will transport you to the past with it's scents of violet, lavender and rosemary.

The rare blue-flowered coleus, Coleus thrysoides from South Africa but a plant that once was found only in
pit houses and cold greenhouses. Today, it is rarely seen in any collection.

Speaking of vintage greenhouse and pit house plants, I thought that I would share this rare coleus, a blue flowered form which was also treasured in turn of the century greenhouses. Coleus thyrsoides 'The Blue Coleus" which has striking sky blue flowers in late winter. This is a plant that can be a little fussy, as it is a tender South African shrub, I find that it like lots of fertilizer and warmer temperatures once it starts growing. This is another old Logee's plant, one that roots easily, which is helpful because it is also terrible brittle. Just moving a pot will cause branches to snap off. To make matters worse, it has the most horrible scent. Something like herring and cod-liver oil which remains on ones fingers as the foliage itself is sticky. Still - I will repeat - blue flowers. True, blue flowers. Nice.

I scene which I rarely share - our front yard, looking down our road. These crocus came from Home Depot
in December when their mesh bags were marked down to $2.00!

As the snow just melted, the true alpine are coming up just as they are in the alps. This Pasque flower, or Pulsatilla vulgaris likes to show off it's bunny-fur like protective covering as it emerges from one of the alpine troughs.

From Japan, the Japanese butterbur is beginning to bloom. I have 5 species or selections, but this variegated form
has what I feel are the nicest cobs, or flower buds - which emerge early in the garden, sometimes as early as January, but
as you can see, this year, we have them in April. Typically, these are our first official cut flowers in mid-winter, but
not this year. Maybe I will cook some this weekend, as these petasites buds are a delicacy in Japan.


  1. Thanks for sharing your visit to Logee's. What wonderful colour and it must have smelt heavenly - green and earthy and floral. One day, spring will arrive....so I keep telling myself.

    BTW I'm going to miss your ORG&HPS talk in September as I'll be in South Africa. Very disappointed, I was looking forward to it. Maybe you can find a reason to switch to October :-)

  2. What a nice bit of garden history... and I had no idea the Petasites buds were edible!

  3. Thanks Laura, How terrific that you are going to be in South Africa though! I must admit that I am a bit jealous! How exciting, why would you ever need to see my slides of South African plants when you can visit!


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