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.


  1. Matt,

    What's your opinion on glass greenhouses vs inflated double poly? Obviously you have glass and it looks very nice in the landscape, but from my research, they are quite expensive. It seems like poly can be functional and still work in the landscape, a la Snug Harbor Farm.

    Great pictures, btw.

    1. Poly houses are the best for both cost and efficiency, agreed. But they lack on the 'experience scale', which can be hard to justify when cost factors in. I was fortunate, in I was just in the right place at the right time when I built my greenhouse ( financially - a book advance and some stock options from work all came together, and in a weak moment around 9/11, I made the decision that I should not wait until I retired, to build a greenhouse, as I would be both healthier and able to afford the heat more, when younger than when on a tighter budget). That said, I now sit in this strange place where I really don't regret building the greenhouse at all, yet at the same time, totally chained to a money pit, with heating bills. Maybe I should post about the realities of building a greenhouse? So, OK...to answer your question: Yes, I would totally build a double poly house if I have a farm, or more land so that I didn't have to look at it, or, if I had a more rural landscape, and yes, yes, yes, what Snug Harbor has done, is exactly what I would do. In fact, if we cut down our sickly hemlocks in the back, I may put a larger house up there, just for hardier plants, in case I want to start a nursery - just sayin'.

  2. Anonymous8:52 AM

    Sounds like a perfect day spent in the greenhouse, snow and sun are always a great combo and even better when you're warm and under glass. Glad to see the camellias lasted!
    I'm sure you've been, but just in case- check out the camellia house at Planting Fields Arboretum on Long Island. A cool temperature greenhouse full of camellias, a perfect visit for an early March day.

    1. Dare I say that I have never been to Planting Fields Arboretum on Long Island? I have heard of it, but I really don't even know where it is.....OK. Consider it on my radar ( if you want to write about it, please let me know). I certainly never knew that they have camellias, which must mean that they have a greenhouse too, right? Long Island remains unexplored for me, perhaps only because I live in New England, and driving north on Long Island makes little sense, I mean, I can't just stop over on the way home from NYC!. No excuse, I know...but I promise, I will try to visit!

  3. Matt, I'm so glad you posted these pictures - Gail talked about what a great time she had at the meeting/party! And thanks for the shout out here and in your last post!

    1. Thanks Kris. I really do need to visit there, too. I have the same excuse for southern Rhode Island. Sure, I commute an hour each day to the Providence area, but any idea like driving another 45 minutes south, always makes a weekend trip a bit like a longer commute south for me! ( I know, I am SO selfish with my time!!!). I know the trip would be worth it. My tattoo artist in in Newport, and I am due to get a sleeve, so perhaps I can do both on the same trip? don't laugh, I have done this often with friends in Tiverton. Gail has also convinced me to come for 'Fairy Festival' and the Daffodil displays both in April, right?

  4. I've been so tempted by the Persicaria (I have so many)...but had been warned that it reseeds like the devil...still, it's so darn cute :-)

  5. Sure, after all, this is a Persicaria, but it's not a nasty as P/ cuspidatum thank God.I believe that these Persicaria capitata ( or. P. capitatum) forms are nearly sterile, but I have friends in Texas who swear that they spread faster than the flu in southern gardens. Here in New England, they are not hardy, even though they are marketed as hardy to Zone 4, at least here in Zone 6. Perhaps it is the seed too which does not persist. In Portland, I would too stay away from any persicaria. Gardeners around here take cuttings in the fall to ensure plants in the spring, but it does have a weedy appearance to it, so I might just keep it in a pot. I am guessing that this might even be a strain called 'Pink Bubbles' which was in the trade. To confuse things, there are a few seed companies selling both named selections which confuses many as a common name for this Persicaria is also 'Magic Carpet'. I only hope that it is not the true species, as that will reseed terribly, even in the greenhouse.

  6. Your mention of outdoor lighting and your family watching the snow reminded me of the lights my Dad would set out each winter. Made our backyard feel like a snow globe. I need to do the same! Also received my first Digging Dog Nursery catalogue today thanks to hearing of them on your blog. Thanks for all the great information and inspiration.

  7. Love love your camellias! I can look at them for ever! I wonder if they take temperatures as low as 45F. That is how low it gets in my sun-room when it is 0F or lower outside!


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