October 27, 2013

Greenhouse Treasures and Collection Management

Eucomis vandermerwei, a small, low growing,  alpine species of Pineapple Lily looks spooky just in time for Halloween, but it needs the protection of a greenhouse this time of year, as frost forms on the pumpkins.   I didn't grow this one, it was a gift from a rare plant auction, which followed a talk I gave  at the
Adirondack chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society last month. I just upgraded it from a plastic pot, to a Guy Wolff pot.  Added some gravel, and nature provided the dramatic lighting.

 Now that I have sold my other house on the property ( closing next week!!!), I am almost done painting the interior, and hauling junk to the dumpster. I can't WAIT until this nightmare is all over. Even though I will be losing a quarter of my property, I will finally have what I cherish most - more time. And with no more speaking engagements, nor travel plans ( last week I was in Los Angeles) - I can now begin to center myself, and focus. >breathe<.... Ahhhh. Back to my more typical, abnormal/normal pace.

We had our first frost this week, our first killing frost, which marks a significant gardening moment for me - a time when gardening moves under glass, into the greenhouse, and I couldn't be happier. You see, I really prefer gardening in the 'off season', that is, gardening 'under glass'. A greenhouse allows one like me to focus, which means that I enjoy the process more.  It's like down-grading to a 30 foot by 30 foot garden. Ahhhh. Little pots of treasures, a 15 foot hose, two watering cans and some mice. Oh, those mice. Hey, all I can say is that right now, the greenhouse smells more like peanut butter and aged chedder cheese than it does like Osmanthus fragrant - just sayin'. Dinner is served.

This is the week when I can evaluate each plant. Decide if it is worth dragging back into the greenhouse, or if it should be brought to the dumpster. Anyone with a greenhouse knows how valuable space is, and last year, this fact struck me - most of my collection has been with me for nearly a decade now, and although some plants are indeed true treasures, others are simply just baggage. The last think I want is a maintenance collection - watering, fertilizing and repotting the same old Acacia trees and Gardenias year after year - yawn.

So pink slips have been handed out, and out go more Clivia and agapanthus, and in will come more interesting plants, that is, if I can find something that I have not collected or grown yet!

I haven't shared many photos of my Nerine sarniensis this year, but don't feel bad, I missed most
of them blooming too, as I have been traveling. At least I was able to still see this choice selection, which
I added to the collection two years ago. Nerine sarniensis  'Exbury Renoir'.

This sand plunge bed ( one of five I keep in the greenhouse), is currently featuring Gasteria and a few Haworthia. Ordinary, I know, but for some reason, I like these easy plants as a collection. As you can see, I've added a few other South African treasures. I like grouping 'like' plants together ( which means few South American plants hanging out with the African plants - OK, eagle eye Mangave - maybe I allowed two interlopers, and you call me a plant geek.).  
 My sand beds are raised, aluminum beds with sharp sand which I keep damp. Clay pots can then pull water, through osmosis which provides a more natural source of water for many winter rainfall plants, such as those found growing in the western Cape of South Africa, or Chile. Each year I try to mix things up, changing the displays in these beds to please my crazy mind ( come on, now one else sees them!). So I can curate them any way I want. I've been thinking about dedicating one to winter vegetables, perhaps salad greens or micro greens - a kitchen garden maybe. Another bed I may plant Carnations in, as that is a crop which I have not grown yet.

One thing both Joe and I have agreed on, is that we are bored with much of what is in the greenhouse right now. Clivias and Agapanthus may be sacraficed in order to make room for new collections. I've been thinking about adding to the camellia collection, and to the orchid collection ( cymbidiums and other cool growing orchids), and maybe more of those cool, high elevation rhododendrons from Borneo - the Viryeas. Every plant collector frequently shakes things up a bit, and I think this is the year I try some new things. Otherwise, I risk just becoming a caretaker, and not a discovery agent.

I was delighted and surprised to have found my pot of Strumaria unguiculata. A bit of mouthful, I know, but quite rare
and unusual, if you are a SouthAfrican bulb collector. You would need a greenhouse for this one. I've had the bulb for four years, and it has slowly progressed, producing a lone, single leaf each winter, before going dormant in spring. This year, it finally sent up a flower spike. I grow it in pure, sharp sand, and allow it to go dry for the entire summer. I love fussy bulbs like this - well, 'fussy' is a loose term - I almost missed this blooming, as it was still in my dry corner. How fussy is that? I ignored it for 7 months, and then found it blooming. Brilliant.

PUPPY CAM    - Freshness Guaranteed
The puppies eyes are just opening, so they are still a bit cloudy or blueish. My plan was to fit all 5 in a Devil Dog box, as they all have a tiny white spot ( where they filled them with creme?), but alas, they have grown too quickly, and only one can fit into the box at a time. They are still in their 'ugly' phase ( come on!), but it's true - I will prove it in a couple of weeks when I post photos then. These will look like gorilla puppies in comparison. OK, they are still a tiny bit cute.

October 26, 2013

..and the winner is....


Jennifer, please contact me directly at mmattus@charter.net for delivery details.


- Jennifer was number 28 out of 45 -
using the paid service of number randomizer.

October 21, 2013

Biggest Giveaway Ever! - Win a Powerful Troy-Bilt Shredder



Jennifer, please contact me directly at mmattus@charter.net for deliver details


- Jennifer was number 28 out of 45 -
using the paid service of number randomizer.

Last spring, when I was asked to be a member of the Troy Bilt Saturday 6 program, I was shocked to learn that not only would I be getting a choice of two Troy Bilt products, but that one of them I would be able to share a duplicate with as a giveaway. Most of my peers seemed to migrate towards the ride on mowers or week wackers, but I wanted something different, something that you could really use, and something that would truly improve the way you garden. So, here it is - your ultimate opportunity to get a shredder that really works ( really - just go read what professional landscapers and homeowner say on any rating site). This is a serious shredder and chipper, so serious that it feels a little silly to call it a leaf shredder ( although, that's what I want to use it for).

Welcome to the top of the line, Troy Bilt premium shredder. It's hard to find as few retailers carry it, partly due to its size and cost, and probably most people wh buy these things are landscapers or those with large gardens. Still, I just know some of you would appreciate and use this very useful tool. So here is it - the Troy Bilt CS 4325 Chipper Shredder. According to the Troy Bilt site, 'The bigger ten wood chipping and shredding jobm the more power you'll need - like thie heavy duty CS 4325 chipper shredder with its bigger 3" chipping capacity and a 10:1 debris redaction ration. This heavy dusty wood chipper has all the power you will need to get the job done."

  • 2-Way Feed
  • Steel Impeller

Additional Features

  • 2-in-1 steel upright chipper shredder
  • 3" chipping capacity
  • 10:1 debris reduction ratio
  • Features 2 chromium steel chipper knives and 12 replaceable cast steel flails
  • 5-bushel collection bag capacity
  • 10" x 4" pneumatic tires
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • 250cc* Briggs & Stratton OHV engine

I welcome all of my readers to enter  this giveaway. Since this is a valuable item Here are the rules, which I ask you kindly to follow. 

October 19, 2013

The Inconvenience with Late Color

One of the latest of the Monkshood's, Aconitum cammarum 'Bicolor' AGM is more showy in the border due to
its white and violet blossoms, a nice option from the typical purple Monkshood often seen in earlier autumn.


Old-time gardeners know about the virtues of Monkshood. Tall, delphinium blue if not delphinium-like plants tower in the late autumn perennial border. Most bloom in shades on blueish violet, with a few all white clones, but one select form offers both Aconitum cammarum 'Bicolor' , make my top ten list, then again, it is a selection which has been honored with the The Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) Award of Merit - which is another of my secret hints. These award winners are always garden worthy.

October 11, 2013

Tiny Terrariums -the Art of Jess Rosenkranz

The amazing micro collages composed of botanical leaves by artist/designer Jess Rosenkranz feature
plant materials from local gardens, even mine!

I finally got to see what my good friend, artist and designer Jess Rosenkranz was doing with all of the leaves that she kept taking from my garden and greenhouse this past year. She was carefully pressing them, microwaving them in an imported drying device, mounting them to paper, and then laser cutting them into clever and ironic shapes, finally assembling the bits and tiny shapes into narrative terreriums, each one unique, each one original and each one for sale tomorrow at the RISD Alumni Art Sale, in Providence Rhode Island. If you are looking for a work of art or a hand crafted gem for a holiday gift, check out the sale, which runs from 10:00am to 4:00pm in Providence. Check out the site for details.

October 6, 2013

Drying Corn, for Corn Meal

Originally from the Yucatan, Oaxacan Green Dent corn is a primitive heirloom selection, which produces these distinctively dark green and olive colored cobs. Primarily a corn meal variety, it is also ornamental.

This year I wanted to grow something really different - something that I never grew before, and I settled on trying some dry field corn, more specifically, an heirloom green Aztec variety called Oaxacan Green, a dent type of dry corn, which  foodies-in-the-know have become obsessed lately, as it produces the finest corn meal, with a deep, earthy and sweet flavor. In November, I plan on making the most delicious corn bread from my very own corn meal. Until then, I must properly dry the cobs first. Today, I picked the crop, which I am drying on our porch, as rain is expected for the next few days. Hung out like this, the cobs will dry in three weeks, and then I will finish it off in the over to ensure that no moisture remains in the corn kernels.