April 12, 2014


A  colony of Primula denticulata, (the Himalayan or Drumstick Primrose), which I raised from seed last year, are all emerging with nice, tight cobs. Maybe they will bloom in time for the Primrose show in three weeks, when we host the New England Primula Society garden party and then attend their show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden ( May 3-4).

Put aside your frets about that dreaded Pollen Vortex, because there are greater things to celebrate - it's here - the perfect spring ( at lease in New England).  As our second weekend passes, delighting us with warm, breezy days above 60º F. and with only the slight threat on one freezing night predicted for next thursday, I am confident that this spring will remain gloriously…..slow. And that's a good thing, for us gardeners.

I am reminded of how rare such springtime weather is here in New England. Sure, many grumble about the lack of 70º days, but in many ways, this is the perfect spring - the sort of spring weather one would experience where many of our cherished plants come from, the high Himalaya, the Alps, Western China, the mountainous islands of Northern Japan, or the mountains of southern Chile. What I mean is, this is a rare gift - a gift of a winter of deep snow, and then a single thaw, when the snow melts gradually, and the soil thaws gradually, never to refreeze again ( for it is this refreeze which spells certain death for many plants, even if they survived a frigid winter. This year, everything thawed over the past two weeks, nice and slow, with no refreeze, at least at root level - surely we will still continue to have frosts, but this is setting up the garden for what I predict will be the ideal spring.

Check out what's coming up after the break.

Japanese Butterbur cobs, are emerging nearly two months later than they normally do, but that's OK with me. Edible, and tasty stir fried as they do in Japan, these flower buds of the Petasites japonicus var. giganteus will soon be hidden by enourmous, 3-4 foot wide leaves. 'A runner', it's easy to control simply by pulling out the shoots.
A different speices of petasites, Petasites japonicus 'variegata' has slightly nicer flowers, yet much, much smaller.

Garden clean up takes up every daylight hour this time of year, and especially this year, as we are getting a late start due to the late thaw. This Daphne mezerum 'alba' continues to survive, for after 12 years, it typically becomes virused and passes. For some reason, our plant continues on, sharing it's highly fragrant blossoms every March and April.

My dream of a crocus lawn is becoming a reality, but slowly. I have planted two different types of crocus in our back lawn, the lighter lavender Crocus tommasinianus, in the center of this photo,  are finally started to bulk up, for it is the best choice for crocus lawns, but the 
 A crocus lawn has been a dream of mine, but I held off planting one feeling that perhaps it was too novel, or unnatural,  but that all changed when I saw wild crocus vernus growing in Switzerland, high in the alps, in grassy alpine meadows, just like it looks in the photo above. I planted this lawn five years ago, but not with the showy, larger and more common Dutch grown Crocus vernus, as I was advised to plant corms of Crocus tommasinianus, a species ( one of 90 species of crocus - it is a large family), the 'tommies' I had been told, make a better subject for naturalizing.

The first year the bloomed, their single, small and weak flowers were so difficult to see, so difficult that I thought that maybe I had made a mistake. In the second year, they were just as sucky. To make matters worse, our geese and ducks pulled out all of the blossoms, which just made me want to forget the whole crocus lawn thing. Then, two years ago, Joe planted a few hundred of the more common Crocus vernus - the Dutch crocus we all know, showy, large and easy, they look pretty fine. But then this year, as the Crocus tommasinianus emerged, a few weeks earlier than their larger relative, they really proved their worth - with large clumps, some with 7 or 10 flowers. Below, is a clump from the front of our yard, that I planted ten years ago - look at how nice one tiny corm can grow into. Now I can see why the 'tommies' are preferred for naturalizing. They will only take time.

A single corm of Crocus tommasinianus will mature into this - a cluster of color, delicate, less gaudy than it larger relative, Crocus vernus, and a honey bee magnet. This clump is ten years old, and just keeps getting larger with each year.

Last year I raised many perennials from seed, such as these columbine ( Aquilegia) which hopefully will bloom later this spring. I am hopeful that they will look awesome, as they are coming out of the ground much larger than they looked in the autumn.

Joe hangs the shade cloth on the greenhouse, much later than we usually hang it. I hauled out the large bay laurels, even though we have not found new containers for them yet - look at how crappy that one on the right looks! Fiberglass pots sometimes only last a  decade or so, when exposed to frost. Daphne checks out the bamboo canes, probably thinking about how she can drag a few into the house.

I had a bit of a disaster this week, when all of my seed became wet - I mean soaking wet, in 4 inches of water, when rain dripped in through a crack in the glass in the greenhouse into a bowl where I had the seeds. This resulted in a couple days of extreme seed sowing - even lima beans, which I suppose I could start early in the greenhouse.  I suppose this was one way to get me to actually sow all of my seed! 


  1. I'm curious about the pants from the mountains of Southern Chile. My only known South American plant is lemon verbena - as I learnt at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

  2. Anonymous6:44 PM

    Regarding the Petasites japonicus, do you harvest and stir fry when the buds are just emerging or when the flowers have begun to open as in the photo above?


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