April 20, 2014


Few words can describe the yummy colors found in the blossoms of this particular Cape Hyacinth - perhaps the rarest of them all - Lachenalia aloides var. vanzyliae with pale true blue, teal and olive green. 

Around here, common Easter Lilies are just not going to pull it off - nor will foil-wrapped plastic pots of sky blue hydrangeas,  florist azaleas or even those bright plastic Easter eggs. There are so many gifts which come with the ownership of a greenhouse collection and a suburban garden, but perhaps one of the finest is that of rarity - a brief glimpse of nature at her finest. Around Easter, the last of the South African Lachenalia aloides bloom, particularly the most precious of all the L. aloides clan, the variety known as L. aloides var. vanzyliae - a mouthful, but delightful because few gardeners have ever seen in other then in photos.

Unconventional color palettes can delight. This dark, brown pansy was extracted from a flat of gold 'tigers eye' pansies -
I could not resist - I mean, how many brown flowers are there in the spring?

As a visual designer, I know that I appreciate color a bit more than a sane, 'normal' person - in fact, today, when my brother visited for Easter, I had to listen to him groan about how "Oh yeah, you grow flowers more than vegetables" (sometimes, I just think that he doesn't know what I grow - maybe it's better that way - but I dutifully fulfilled my little brother role, and filled the trunk of his car with pepper seedlings and a few precious pots of Oca - which took a little convincing, on my part (along with a Google search to show him what they were all about). I should have sneaked in a few 'flowers', but I let it slide.

All Euphorbia have fascinatingly complex floral forms, once you zoom in close. In the greenhouse, this pot of Euphobia characias shows off its chocolate brown eyes, and multi-toned greens. For us, best grown as a potted winter blooming greenhouse plant, but if you live in USDA Zone 7 or higher - go for it outside.

Spring in New England also means unpredictable weather, which can drive those with a greenhouse crazy. Few sympathize with us, as we rush to crank open the vents on a sunny day when the temperatures can rise to over 100º F within an hour, or when we rush home from work at lunch, to shut the vents because outside temperatures suddenly drop to below freezing, with a bitter, harsh wind and snow squalls. This week, we satisfied all of these tasks, plus one night where the thermometer dipped down to near 20º F., when we awoke to a dusting of fresh snow. Not unusual, but it does make me wonder about all of those tomato plants that I saw people hoarding at our local Home Depot. New or impatient gardeners will learn, and perhaps, this is the best lesson. Patience rewards those of us with a late sowing of tomatoes. Until late May? Most of my warm veggies stay snug underglass.

In the greenhouse, hybrid Dutch Ranunculus bloom in the back raised bed, but their visit with us will be short, as once daytime temperatures reach 85º F under glass, their show will be over. These are cool-loving winter-bloomers, and poor candidate for most New England gardens ( yet they are unrealistically tempting when sold at garden centers).

Who needs Easter Lilies ( Lilium longiflorum) when one can have pots of Tulbaghia fragrans around. A relative of the far too common lavender Society Garlic ( Tulbaghia violaceae), this rarely seen cousin seems like a mis-named plant, that is until night falls when one simple stalk will fill an entire greenhouse with a fragrance so intense, that one can smell it's warm, jasmine -like scent from outside the glass.

We all know the common Kalanchoe but this hangin form is a treasure. Kalanchoe uniflora makes a magnificent 3 foot wide hanging basket when grown well ( um...mine is not 'grown well' this year, a victim of my December greenhouse furnace 'event', when most of the plant was blasted with dry heat). Still, it's coral and pretty, and coral. 

I am sharing one more image of a pot of Cape Hyacinths today, for this pot of Lachenalia aloides var aloides is begging for a photo. I never tire of Lachenalia, but the season is nearly over, as most are going dormant for the summer.

Lacinata or Tuscan Kale seedlings, which were set out into the raised beds a few weeks ago, held up well through this weeks snow storm. Natures Manure my father always called it, I was fortunate to have kept most of my plants under glass this year, but I may have lost a flat of seedlings of Cuphea viscosissima ( argh! figures.). This is a Kale variety which does better as a fall crop here, but I am taking a chance - maybe we will be blessed with a cold spring and summer?

Seedlings are everywhere right now. Under lights in the spare bedrooms, where we keep eggplants, tomatoes and peppers, and out in the greenhouse where some red celery, chicory and lettuce have been upgraded to cell packs.

It's a South Africa flush in this sand bed, with Gasteria showing off their gastric-inspired blossoms. Yeah, that's how the earned their botanical name. The stomach shape of their blossoms.

....oh, and 'bro' I think this are not flowers, but mesclun growing in the greenhouse, so there! I may even plant some out into the garden as early lettuce 'cheats', as the extra seedlings work out well when planted in this way.


  1. Clever title. I learned a lot from this post ... never heard of Lachenalia before, very exotic looking, I want; gasteria=stomach, ha-ha, I like, so do the hummingbirds; love the brown pansies, very warm and appealing, would go well with Salvia africana-lutea, golden (brown) sage, if they bloomed at the same time and the same place, I dream.

  2. There is a mention of snow in the forecast for Wednesday here.

  3. What beautiful photos. The cape hyacinths are amazing. And the pic with the mesclun flat is really artistic. You do great work!


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