January 20, 2014

Forcing Branches in January

Forcing branches of early-blooming trees and shrubs is an annual tradition many gardeners practice, in fact, it is often one of the first gardening skills we learn as a child ( I admit, it was my entry drug!), but forcing in January can be more challenging in Zone 5, since spring is still three or four months away. The closer one gets to warm weather, (i.e. the longer the days become), the faster branches will force. In fact, many branches will not force if the plant has not received a required period of cold, and short-day photoperiod, which is why some trees and shrubs such as lilac and magnolia are more challenging to force, that is, unless you are about 3 weeks away from their natural blooming time.

 I like to construct a tall arrangement in the studio to distract and impress guests. When illuminated properly from above or below, such a large arrangement exploits two design tricks - scale and experience enhancement.
 Just think: Boutique hotel lobby meets posh night club.  But really, It helps me provide a focal point in a room where I don't want people to notice a treadmill and a Soloflex machine when they first walk in.

As we are planning this far-too-large birthday party, (Dad's 100th birthday), I wanted to force lots of branches to decorate the house with, and to save money. I often construct a giant arrangement in the studio for events here,  so I  have the timing pretty much planned out. I know I can force the witch hazels and yellow flowered Cornus mas in enough time, as they are almost ready to bloom now, but other branches need a little more care and even pre-treatment. I remember many forcing tricks, from my horticulture classes from my college days when we would force trees for the New England Spring Flower Show in Boston, and for another one which was held a month earlier,  sponsored by the Worcester County Horticultural Society in my home town of Worcester.

Those years taught me that with early planning, many trees can indeed be forced, tall ones like American Elm and Maples, even forced into full leaf, and shrubs like rhododendron and lilac, but I am not about to bother with wrapping trees with plastic, applying mist and damp cotton which we would wrap around magnolia and lilac buds), this time I am just forcing easy trees. Easy forcing woody plants you probably already know of, Forsythia comes to mind, and yes, I picked a few from a shrub that Joe told me was growing behind the chicken coop ( I really don't like forsythia, but I do like some for forcing, which reminds me that I really want to plant a forcing garden out back, but that's another post).

Branches from the garden are plunged into a bucket of warm water in the greenhouse to be forced for a party we are having in two weeks.

If you want some January and early February color, try forcing some witch hazel ( Hamamellis), early dogwoods like Cornus mas, or Cornelian Cherry, with small yellow fragrant flowers that are not dogwoody at all, and some early blooming Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata. These woody plants require a little more care when attempting to force this early, I like to cut them two weeks in advance of the date needed, plunging them into buckets of warm water in the sunny greenhouse, so that they can experience a week and a half of temperature shifts above 32º F, which is important, especially for more challenging plants like the magnolia.

Cornus mas ( with the round marble-like bud ready to pop) and Magnolia stellata branches wait to be brought into the greenhouse for their first 15 days of forcing, so that they can still be vernally treated to cool nights and sunny days, but not freezing temperatures. Brought directly into the house at this time of year, the buds would simply dry off in the desert like air. Lydia and Daphne examine the lot.

Lastly, I picked some Willow (Salix) species,  I must admit that I don't know exactly what species it is, but I do remember that I purchased a potted, named selection of a pussy willow and it was obviously selected for its large catkins.  I think I purchased it at Weston Nurseries in Hopkington, MA a few years ago.  If one demands impressive pussy willows, one must tolerate the messy, aggressive if not ugly shrub for I don't care what anyone says, 99.9% of willows are not landscape worthy. We cut ours down almost completely to the ground (coppacing it) every two years, leaving about 10 inches of 1 inch diameter trunks, properly called 'stools'. In no time, the stools will produce water shoots which can reach tremendous heights in just one season. These whips will produce the largest buds, which is exactly what one wants, and this is exactly the way commercial growers of willows produce their canes. Our shrubs rewards us with 10 foot long canes and whips which we can force in mid winter. Just be sure to plant your choice Pussy Willow in a location where no one will ever need to see it.

Pussy Willows are not brought into the greenhouse, but are brought directly into a cool room in the house, where they can open slowly. They need less care, and if they open too quickly before February 1, I can remove them from the water.

January 19, 2014


The scent of this potted Daphne odora, a shrub which is not hardy outdoors here in Massachusetts, is so intense, that I swear that I can smell it right now. It's so strange!

In an effort to start participating in some of the blogging community events, I am sharing these photos today that I took in the greenhouse. The light was so bright, once the sun came out after a snow squall this morning, the last gasp from our latest Nor'easter that dropped 8 inches of snow yesterday here in the Boston area. The perfect sort of snow, really - I really should have gone out for a hike today, but there were chores to be done in the greenhouse. Seeds to be ordered, and planted, more bulbs to be brought in for forcing, a little repotting and of course, some watering. Exactly the type of work a gardener wants to do on a cold, snowy January day. At least, under the protection of glass!

The blossoms on a small Daphne odora 'variegata' can remain on the plant for over a month.

The upper benches of the greenhouse hold plant that enjoy slightly warmer temperatures. At this level, the temperatures rarely drop below 50º at night, and on sunny, winter days like today, an reach nearly 65º. Kumquats, Primula obconica and some new additions add color to a normally white landscape outside the glass.

This Persicaria capitata 'Magic Carpet', or Pink Knotweed was a gift from Gail who works as a horticulturist at the Blythewold Mansions Gardens in Rhode Island, an estate from the 1800's that has a fine collection of trees and conservatory plants. Gail informs me that this Persicaria, which is available in the trade, tends to slow down when planted outdoors here in the summer, but it really over-performs in the greenhouse, as it seems to like the cool winter temperatures, which it needs to bloom. Just the sort of color I want all winter long.

An annual that has been passed along among many plant people lately is Gomphrenia sp/ 'Grapes', or "Little Grapes'. This less showy cousin of the hot pink Gomphrenia we all see in summer container planting schemes, is a little harder to find, but it is a delightful little treasure, with a flowering habit that looks like a fireworks display. The individual flowers are tiny, but are produced in such a profusion, that the display can appear explosive. This was another gift from Blythewold Mansions, and Gail informs me that this is another one of those summer annuals which she finds is even a better potted specimen in the winter greenhouse.

Hardenbergia violacea, the Australian Pea vine, which is taking over the greenhouse a bit, this winter ( don't worry, I am allowing it to do so), continues to bloom.

The camellia's from last weekend,  that seemed to bloom in such profusion, are still in bloom. Amazing how long they last! Sure, there are plenty of blossoms on the gravel floor, but this one pot has over 15 flowers. I know, I have photographed this view twice now, but with the sunshine today, Camellia 'San Dimas' really glows red.

Some camellia's are so famous, that everyone want it, and so it is with the one on the left,  'Margaret Davis'.

Clivia crosses are just beginning to open. Most of these are from the seed that we brought back from Mr. Nakamura in Japan a decade ago, and they are just blooming for the first time. The slender, long flower shape indicates that these crosses are interspecific crosses between two distinct species, most likely Clivia miniata and C. gardenii, a fall bloming species, so these bloom in mid-winter rather than in March, when most of the C. miniata crosses bloom.

Green tips on the petals are also provide a hint that these early blooming clivia are crosses between the more pendant clivia species. This in one I may save for myself, but we sent most guests home yesterday with as many clivia as they wanted to take, since we have so many, and I need some room in the greenhouse. Maybe I will offer some here if people are interested. I will need to think of a good way to fairly offer them, as these are quite rare and unavailable elsewhere.

Snowy Hamamellis, this Witch Hazel is almost ready to pop open. I will be picking some long branches to force for my fathers 100th birthday party in two weeks. A tradition that we have been performing for about 20 years now, for his early February birthday. This branches will flower after spending only a couple of days indoors.

My new blogging desk, near the livingroom window which overlooks the backyard. When I was a kid, I would sit at this window and watch the snowflakes fall with my mom, since my parents loved snow so much that they installed outdoor lighting to illuminate the garden when it snowed. I really think that this is why I love snow so much - we always celebrated it when it snowed. The lights went on, and suddenly the yard looked like a set from the Nutcracker. Well, a little, at least! But you get the idea. It's all how you look at it. Celebrate the snow.

January 18, 2014

A Snow Day and Garden Party...Really!

Who says that you can't have a garden party in January during a snowstorm? Believe me, if there was no snow, these dead abutilon topiary trees still out on the deck would look pretty dull, if not trash-worthy. Well, they are still trashy, but with a coating of puffy snow, they actually received complements. Yes, it's amazing how brilliant we are.
Today we hosted our annual American Primrose Society luncheon, and planning meeting for the New England chapter's annual primrose exhibition, which is held in early May at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, near our home. Truth be told, this meeting is more of a party, than a meeting, for once the formalities are addressed ( ribbons, who's ordering awards or doing PR), attendees drift out to the greenhouse, eat clever food ( this year, a taco and burrito bar) and then coffee, tea and cupcakes as they discuss their favorite nurseries or file through boxes of seed in a spontaneous seed exchange.

Plants women Ellen Hornig (center), and horticulturist/botanist Kris Fenderson ( on window) joked with us that our dining room table looked like a board room table (um,yeah... it does). But we had to relocate it to my studio while the dining room substitutes as a bedroom for my father, blah, blah, blah. Believe me, everyone understood in this tight-knot group of plant lovers. This annual event has brought many like minds together for lively plant discussions, seed exchanges and good food.

Our mixed group this year welcomed long time member Ellen Hornig, one time proprietor of (the now closed)  Seneca Hill Nursery in Oswego, NY, a plantswomen who is well known in the botanical circles in which we sometimes dabble. We welcome her not only as our new neighbor, but a fellow plant geek if not expert of the most accomplished kind. 

I was lucky to have a few camellias still in full bloom, not sure why they never dropped their blossoms from last week, but the remained full of color, so the greenhouse looked pretty good on this dark, snowy January day. Oh, and yes....the snow, with flakes so fluffy and big that they floated down in slow motion. It was a day when the weathermen all forested a 'light dusting of snow', which ended with 4 inches of wet, sticky snow - the sort that sticks to every twig and bud, but that melted when it hit the pavement. Perfect, in a Hollywood set sort of way.

And so, the modern plant society evolves - from what was once a strict and formal genus-specific organization, into one where plant lovers of most any breed ( cacti, succulents, wild flowers and native plants, woodies and alpines - whatever) all join on a snowy Saturday for nachos and plant chat, and this year, it couldn't have been better.

In the back yard, the snow stick to everything. It was relatively warm, just near freezing, and when this happens, the snow is heavier and stickier. It's OK, it was pretty. Even thought many of the hardy bamboo didn't like it.

We also welcomed Gail from Blythewold Mansion, another horticultury friend who has been here before for our Primrose events, an like always, she did not come not empty handed ( which, really, we don't mind at all!). Blythewold has a terrific greenhouse, with loads of winter blooming plants, where they winter over many of their collections ( they also have a very nice blog that you MUST visit).  Gail brought me an entire box of plants from the Blythewold greenhouse - plants that she propagated and treasured, often with a very personal story with each one - all are proven to thrive in cold greenhouses, and they range from common, to uncommon, to rare. Gail knows what I like, but even if she didn't, she knows what I would appreciate. I will write about these plants later, I am sure. She has convinced me to visit Blithewold again ( I haven't been there since 1995 when I designed a friends wedding there). Perhaps, it's time.

The Blythewold blog reminded me of something that I, as a blogger, but a rather incompetent one, needs to do more of. Sharing with other blogs. I noticed that they participated in a very lively event called the Bloggers Bloom Day ( see the May Dreams Gardens blog for more info). I am so caught up with my job, commuting, and life in general, that I rarely get the change to work on social media skills let along Twitter or Instagram, but this Bloomday is something I actually could do, for it is true - around here, I do have something in bloom most every day of the year, and especially on the 15th of every month!. So this might be something I could try. Besides, it looks like I know about a third of the bloggers who are already participating. 

Not that I need to get more social or commercial with this blog, but the truth is, the more readers I get, the better the experience for you can be. It's just the business of blogging, I guess. I know so many of you were kind enough to share your thoughts with me about the future of content on this blog, ( or site, as I dislike the term blog), and I agree, but in order to continue to maintain my high rankings without advertising, I sometimes need to participate in these events that link back or connect digitally with other on-line posters. It's just the way things work.

The only primula species I had in bloom were these Primula obconica, but that's OK, everyone was transported to a zone 60 degrees warmer with the scent of citrus and the Daphne odora in the greenhouse.

Doodles scoots down the greenhouse path past the potting bench, as she tried to see if someone dropped some chicken taco bits, or a cupcake. No luck, I am told.
 We also were thrilled, as always, to see that Kris Fenderson, another well known New England landscape designer, author and horticulturist could drive down from his farm ( and incredible garden)  to visit with us. A long time member and officer of the American Primrose Society, Kris pops up here so often that we often joke that the dogs know his truck and trademark cowboy hat better than they know us! This January party has become an annual event that we too enjoy, even though we go a little bit crazy cleaning up the house, and cooking, in the end, we never regret the stress involved in getting ready.

Some new additions to the aviary room - Spanish Trombetto canaries. Incredible songsters that will brighten up the second floor of our house with their lark- like twittering. Of course, the girls have other things on their minds.

January 12, 2014


All one needs is a little reminder - like a blizzard with -8º F weather in January, to remember why keeping a greenhouse full of flowering plants and fragrant pots of lemons is a good this. This week, is one where a greenhouse provided the perfect prescription for depression. Muddy boots are suddenly OK.
This past week, my garden has experienced a 70º shift in weather. with -8º last weekend, which arrived along with a blizzard, to torrential downpours yesterday, which came with thunder, lightning and temperatures the nudged the 60º mark. Not the best weather for plants for such shifts in temperatures ca be most damaging to woody plants, alpine and bonsai wintering over in frozen containers, and with perennials who just want to sleep under a deep blanket of snow over the winter. But a January thaw can be welcome, especially to those of us who must heat a greenhouse.

With all of the puppies now placed into new homes, Lydia and Fergus could finally rest a bit, enjoying some well-earned naps as the snow and wind howled beyond the windows.

Goldfinches in their drab, winter plumage, dine on black oil sunflower seeds.

Feeding the birds remains an essential task throughout the autumn and winter, rain, snow or shine, for this temperature shift are unpredictable. Birds are not migrating in midwinter, rather, they move their populations around based on available food sources, and during this record breaking cold wave,  I was reminded of the risks involved when food sources are lean - a flock of American Robins arrived - a large flock with nearly 50 individuals flew into a neighbors cedar grove, their first choice for berries during these winter months.
When snow storms threaten, the feeders are packed. These Goldfinches arrived in flocks, and I counted over 30 on three of our thistle feeders.

A Song Sparrow, a Slate Colored Junco and a male Cardinal wait for their turn on the feeder - daring not to journey too far in this bitter weather. Small winter birds like these expect a consistent supply of food and water, and any breaks in offering it can result in death, especially when the temperatures drop well below zero.

When the temperatures drop this low, ice forms on the glass of the greenhouse, refusing to melt, even when the sun shines on the glass directly. These first few weeks of January often are the most dangerous times for greenhouse growers.

A little ice melt reveals some color within the greenhouse, but as nightfall comes earlier, this too is brief, and this window will refreeze within a half hour.
Inside, spring is starting. The first pots of bulbs have been removed from the cold frames and place on benches near the glass, and as you can see, crocus, narcissus and tulips are starting to poke their noses out of the pots.

A flock of robins, which decided to not migrate south for the winter, flew into our garden this week, to dine on most every berried shrub, vine and tree that we could offer them. Here, they are stripping the last of the Callicarpa fruit off of the branches. Not a first choice food source for them, I thought that some frozen wild blueberries from our freezer might help, but they just seemed confused with them, as I spread them on the snow below the bush.

Not all robins migrate south, recently, thousands remain here in the  New England area, often congregating in huge numbers in swamps and rural areas where they can find their favorites food sources - berries and insects. As snow flies in and piles up deep, these flocks are becoming desperate, seeking out most any source for fruit or berries. The flock that arrived here mid week, is now gone, after three days of dining on Cedar berries, then moving on to American Bittersweet vines, which has fruited high in our Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) border, then devouring the purple berries on some of our Callicarpa shrubs, which apparently provided more confidence, for they then flew up to our kitchen windows as we ate breakfast to pluck Ilex verticilata, our native Winter Berry, from the branches I had placed into the window boxes as Christmas decorations. just inches from where we were having our coffee.

An American Robin takes advantage of our Holiday display arranged in the window boxes. I think we could spare a few Ilex verticilata berries for the good of spring.

Sunflower heads have been hung up for the birds. I like to wait until the weather is really wicked, so that they can enjoy them when they need the food the most.
This seemed like the perfect time to start bringing out the large heads of dried sunflowers, jam packed with plump seeds, which I grew last summer, and then picked and dried on the back porch. I think a few natural American grown sunflower seeds might be a nice treat on these coldest of days.

Camellia 'San Dimas' in full bloom, in the greenhouse. I was disappointed as we had  a greenhouse tour planned for this weekend, but now it is postponed until next weekend, when all of these camellias will have already dropped. 

As this week progressed, the temperature mellowed, and by Friday, even though we had more snow, the weekend proved to be much warmer, if not unseasonably so, which excited me, as we were hosting our annual American Primrose Society meeting and luncheon along with a greenhouse tour. As things sometimes go, we had to postpone our meeting until next weekend, as the roads were still icy in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York, making driving here for those who needed an early departure, unsafe.

Naturally, the greenhouse had never looked better - with most of my camellia's peaking in bloom = flowers that will be only a memory by next week. Isn't that how it goes? So here are some photos of what guests missed - three camellias each with over 15 flowers open at the same time - that NEVER happens around here! It also reminded me that I am really going to have to scratch around for camellias to enter in the New England Camellia Society show in March, as most of mine will be long gone.

'Lipstick' will still have many flowers, as these are the first two buds to open. This anemone flowered form is a favorite of mine, for obvious reasons - it's gorgeous, and the plants short growing habit makes it a nice potted specimen as well.
Primula obconica  'Libre', a winter blooming primrose not often seen at florists or greenhouses, but if one is lucky, it does sometimes show up in the most unusual of places - this one is from my local Wegman's supermarket. 

On a good note, I did find some Primula obconica at our local market this weekend - always a treat, for this winter blooming primrose species is not commonly carried by many florists or greenhouses. I always feel as if I am rescuing these plants, as it seems no one knows what they are anymore, or can appreciate their more sbtle colors and fragrance when sold against their dwarf, bright and colorful kin (those small primrose acaulis types in 4 inch pots, which are impossibly difficult to keep alive indoors and come in the worst colors imaginable - like sulpher yellow, grape purple and blood red).

Primula obconica is different. Sure, there was a time when they fell out of favor and some people are allergic to the primulin in the hairs on fuzzy leaved varieties, but newer selections have bred much of this out. This is an old classic from the past, and I urge you to try and grow one for a season ( then dispose of it). I have such a fondness for this plant, and tend to buy all of them whenever I see them for sale in January. If only our wholesalers would grow some of the amazing selections I saw in Japan carried by Sakata seed, but I can't complain about the pots I found this weekend, after all, it's been about 3 years since I have been able to find any in the market.

This cool -loving pot plant makes a fine specimen - I report mine into clay pots as soon as I bring them home, being sure not to disturb its root ball. I then place it in the cool greenhouse, as these plants need winter sunshine, and the bright light will enhance the flower colors. I then bring them indoors for a week at a time, to live on a cool, bright window sill. Yeah, it's a white fly trap indoors, but in the greenhouse, it provides lots of spring-like color, just when I need it. Indoors, just hose the foliage off in the sink once or twice a week with warm water, and never allow it to dry out, and you can enjoy its blooms well into March or even April.

It's camellia crazyness in the greenhouse, even the plants that are planted in the ground seemed to be in peak bloom this chilly weekend. I counted nearly 20 flowers open on this specimen. 

Ouside, the snow is melting fast this weekend, which gave me an opportunity to check the glass covers that I placed over some of the alpine troughs. A couple troughs were full of ice, which is not a good thing, but hopefully, with todays warm temperatures, the containers might drain a bit. With the glass adjusted, I might be able to save some of my alpine plants from the freezing wet that can kill them. The saxifrages and primula planted in these, require cold, dry winter conditions until snowmelt arrives, and then all the moisture that nature can provide.

"Thistle seed? Blah. How about want roast beef with potatoes?
Just holler when its ready."

January 9, 2014


The rare Chinese primrose, Primula sinensis ( P. praenitens) is one of the seed items on my wish list of plants to find.

Plants on my Lust List

Don't worry, I'n not going to bore you with what heirloom tomatoes I am going to order, or what purple podded pea I am going to try this year, there are enough of those posts out there - rather, these are some of the plants I am either looking for (help!) or ones which I am planning to grow. I/ sharing them with you because I think you might find some of these choices interesting, maybe even inspiring as you create your own lists.

Later I will share my list of special projects that I plan to work on in 2014 ( like growing hops, or raising a garden of 19th Century cottage annuals), but for now, here are some items making the top of my list:

Primula sinensis (p.praenitens), a rarely grown greenhouse or conservatory primrose

Primula sinensis (syn. P. praenitens) seed

I have been searching for this tender primrose for ever! Please, if anyone has seeds to sell or knows of a source, let me know. This uncommon primrose requires greenhouse conditions, preferable cool, moist buoyant air and a long growing season. It's sad at how many blogs and sites list this with the incorrect photo and incorrect information, as I have seen even on well known sites, along side a photo of Primula obconic a - clearly someone just performing a lazy Google search using the key words Chinese Primrose. Primula sinensis is from China, but it is not the same plant as P. obconic a - again, be wary of common names, and sloppy research. I NEED this plant! (smile).

Even Gregor Mendel used Primula sinensis in a his color variation  studies. Amazingm right? What has happened to all of these strains? Are they lost forever?  I wonder where these selections are today.

Primula mallophylla seed

This recently rediscovered primrose from Chongquing China was first described in 1916 but has not been seen since, until rediscovered in a recent botanical expedition. Documents in 2011, I don't even know if seeds are available yet, but apparently it makes a great alpine garden subject. Again, if anyone has any idea where seed might be available, or knows of a source, please share.

Cobaea campanulata, a rare green cup and saucer vine that I must find!

Cobaea campanuliflora ( C. campanulata)

I'm not even sure how I found this more unusual related species of the more common Cup and Saucer vine, Cobaea scandens, but like many planst, the lesser species are often forgotten by many gardeners. I was so surprised that there are a handful of cobaea species that are quite interesting, but this one is irresistible. I found a source for seeds, but they are sold out, so once again, I am asking you for help. I can certainly see some interesting cobaea growing in my garden this summer.

The Remarkable World of Named Double Nasturtiums

OK - Most seed catalogs list common, annual Nasturtiums, and I agree, they all seem rather un-special, nice - but not special. You also probably know already that I grow many of the very rare wild species, both tuberous forms and seed raised form, but there are a handful of sterile, double strains which are ancient, or recently rediscovered, which are much far more special - so special that they can only be propagated vegetatively, from cuttings or via micro propagation,  and thusly, difficult to find, especially in the US, as most micro propagation for these plants occurs overseas.

In the mid to late 19th Century, the Victorian growers had a long love affair with the common seed-raised Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), with dozens of named varieties available, and with their images appearing on everything from tea cups and spittoons to Valentines Day cards, but in the great estate conservatories and private greenhouses throughout this period, they real jewels were the ever-blooming sterile double forms, which were grown by cuttings, named, and shared in secrecy. Today, a few of these are being rediscovered, and a few, are literally re-imerging as sports, and now being propagated for sale. My greatest concern is us, the consumer - will we know what these plants can really offer, when we see them at our local garden center?

Why grow these forms? Aside from the  provenance, one grows these double forms for their amazing capacity to produce copious blooms. Being sterile, the plant has no genetic shut-off switch, so a vine can fill a pot in months, and then cover the plant with flowers - and what flowers these are.

Today, a few of these named varieties are emerging, yet they are terribly difficult to find.
Here are a few of them below. Yes, they were on my wish list last year too, go on - say it. I welcome any contact information or sources where I can find them or other forms. Sorry for the crappy images - hey, find me some and imagine what I can post here next year!

Double nasturtiums are the queen of the genus tropaeolum, and, they are some of the oldest varieties available today.
Left to right:
'Darjeerling Gold' or 'Darjeerling Double' was discovered as a sport in India by Bleddyn Wynn Jones of Crug Farm Plants, it is similar to sport which emerged in the late 1800's, but it now becoming available after being propagated by the Dutch and Danish, 'Hermine Grashoff', a reddish salmon double is perhaps the oldest form not lost, with references dating back to the early 1880's. It is now an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. Lastly,' Margaret Long' is a peach colored truly double sterile form. Not pictured is 'Apricot Twist', and another recently re-emerging sport from Ireland, that I am also looking for as a potted greenhouse specimen.
This image from an old Ebay auction for an 1881 print of 'Hermine Grashoff' 

Most of these double varieties are being propagated by the Dutch, and it seems a couple are being distributed to  some US nurseries, but european gardeners have a much better chance of finding these plants, for now.  Burpee's and Annies Annuals carry one or another, variety as plants, but demand must become greater for any nursery or importer to justify the cost of importing liners from overseas. Better images and deeper stories about these old double varieties can be found here at the great nasturtium site of collector J.S. McFarlane.

Image from Thompson & Morgan sell sheet for 'Flame Thrower' nasturtium plants, only available in the European market aside from one selection available from Burpee's.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'

Then there is the story of a Nasturtium variety called 'Flame Thrower', a selection now marketed and developed by UK owned Thompson & Morgan, Co., but was bred by an amateur plant breeder in their home garden. Here in the US it is hard to find, but Burpee's does carry a red selection ( I had thought that there was only one color available until I found the European selections).I will be ordering the red form from Burpee, but again, as plants need to be micro-propagated from tissue culture, I can't find the other colors here in the States. Apparantly, seed is not available which limits availability. If anyone knows of how I could get the other color variations ( and don't you agree that they are awesome!), please let me know!
I have discovered that 'Nasturtium majus 'Flame Thrower' and the double  'Darjeerlilng Gold' are being vegetatviely propagated in the Netherlands by a company called Jaldety, yet it seems that few if any US company has picked up these selections for their product lines, at least from what I can tell. Again, if anyone knows more - please share.

Finally, there are many tuberous and seed raised nasturtium ( tropaeolum) species that I am looking for, or planning on adding to my collection, but for now, this list will focus on the N. magus selections.
Are there any forms which any of you grow? Have you tried some cross-breeding of your own?

January 4, 2014


Well, here we go. My first video. Not bad, I suppose for a hand-held 'selfie', shot with my iPhone and edited in iMovie. Eventually, I know it will all get better with a real video camera, some nicer editing software and, um...some on-screen talent! I know that these things just take time to master. Let me know what you think. No real subject matter here, as I was just getting a feel for how to do this well. Moving forward, I can see how-to videos, step-by step videos, puppy cam, etc. Now, off to shovel more snow!

January 1, 2014


More travel is tops on my list of things that I would like to do more of in 2014. I was planning on visiting Chile this Holiday break, but my fathers deteriorating health has put that on the back burner for a while. But there are other things I can do to make this blog more interesting - share your ideas now. What are you not seeing on other blogs?

As things start to settle down after the Holiday season, it's time to start the new year with a fresh slate.
Even with three full weeks off from work, I never seemed to work on redesigning this blog. As a digital designer, one might think that this sort of task would be a dream job, but the reality is when one is designing for ones self, (the worst possible client), nothing seems to seem right. So I ask you - my loyal readers -- What would you like to see more of on this blog?

I know most bloggers like to keep this thought process secret, but I have no problem with opening up the question to my readers.

Right now I am working on my new sidebar categories, something that I have been wanting organize better, but I need to know what you guys like or want. Look at the list below, and let me know what means little to you, or what you might like more of? The same goes for posts, of course - what your you like to see more of here in the coming year?

Here is one idea on possible categories (let me know what categories you like better than others, or which ones might be missing).

Home Grown - (about Veggies, or should this be organic vegetables? How about raised beds?)
Bloom – Floral Inspiration ( I think I need a category on cut flowers, or flower design?)
Collector Plants ( for the collator - various plant collections)
Rare Bulbs ( a place to share my greenhouse bulbs - might need a better title)
Containers ( all sorts of container planting ideas, colors, textures, ideas)
Alpine & Rock Gardens ( troughs, alpine gardens)
Plant Craft ( topiary, forcing, bonsai)
Matt’s Projects – (those step-be-step projects I do, like growing poppies or mastering sweet peas)
Cooking (with Plants) Canning, home preserving, recipes

Wanderlust (travels, hikes, expeditions)
In the garden, now ( a "what's in bloom now" section, so imagine JANUARY) ?

There must be categories of topics that you would just love knowing more about, please share.


Here's an idea: What if I simply organized sidebars by plant type? Orchids, Bulbs, Perennials, Greenhouse plants, house plants, vegetables?

While I have your attention, any thoughts about the following would be very helpful, too:


How about a section where you can send in your trouble spots, garden design issues, a photo of your front entrance, your back yard, a special bed…. and I redesign it…draw up a plan, supply a plant list, would that interest you?

I could answer questions about most anything

How about design trends in gardening, landscape design, floral design, color trends - that sort of thing?

I've been toying about with adding video, which totally freaks me out, but I did design the greenhouse so that this could be possible. Would bi-weekly video segments interest you? Imagine topics like sowing difficult to grow seeds, forcing bulbs, creative crafting like topiary and espalier?

I have yet to add slideshows to my site, feeling that since I have so many images, that the site already feels like a slide show. Thoughts?

If I write a book, what would you like it to be about?

OK. I've been avoiding this one, but perhaps the time is near. Now, I most likely would only bother with a book if a big publisher was interested, you know - like Taschen or Cronicle Books, because, I would want an awesome cook-book quality book, naturally (really dreaming here, I know! But hey - if cookbooks can do it….).  So if I did write (and yes, designed) a book, what would you like it to be about? Here are some suggestions:

I've been throwing around ideas such as traditional garden craft (hard core topiary, building a root cellar, pleaching hornbeams, forcing vegetables like sea kale, rhubarb, etc).

Or my dream book - a quality book showcasing the garden in a month-by-month photographic journal and then excellent content along with this journey. 

How about the ultimate how-to-grow vegetables book? You know, grow and force your own Belgian Endive? 

A garden cook book? There are SO many out there, but  I can't think of one that actually shows how to grow a plant, and then shares recipes. Salsify from seed, step-by-step, and then recipes. It would need to be seasonally organized, naturally.

A greenhouse book? There really isn't a decent one out there.

How about one about collector and connoisseur plants like rare clivia and those lost conservatory plants? Plant collections.

Only dreaming, but it would be nice to know if there is any interest in any of these topics.

Is there any interest in products which I have designed? Container, pots, tools, my own seeds, clothing, vases, TShirts, soil mixes, bulbs, plants from my greenhouse?

I am always approached to give away products, but I am selective. Let me know if I am being too selective or if you love all sorts of giveaways.

I used to publish PLANT SOCIETY, a small, self published magazine. Is there any interest in something like that again? What if it was an annual? Or more thematic, such as one issue on how to start a vegetable garden? I've been toying with that sort of concept also.

More  garden tours? Famous gardens, inspirational gardens, back-door access to places that you have never seen like amaryllis growers in Holland?

I am also open to any other ideas that you may have. This is the time folks, to request what you would like to see come from me without me freaking out.