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September 28, 2014

EQUINOX COLOR AND A NEW SEASON BEGINS

ZINNIA'S ARE IN SUCH ABUNDANCE, THAT THEY CAN JUST BE CUT TO DO THINGS LIKE THIS!
'ZINNIA OKLAHOMA MIX' FROM JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS, DIRECT SOWN IN JULY

IN THE GARDEN

It's official - fall is here. Cold, dewey mornings, strangely warm afternoons, and then cool evenings again - perfect for a fire, and a glass of red wine. and aside from the annoying buzz of yellow jackets, there is little not to love about October in New England, (or anywhere in the northern hemisphere for that matter). In the garden, so much is coming to an end, or has ended already, the tomatoes are just about done, with dry, brown foliage yet surprisingly,  enough fruit still on the vines so many in fact that I need to pick them every day. I am not quite sick of these flavorful tomatoes, but I will admit that it seems more are being left in the bowl on our counter, and maybe even more are going to the fruit flys.

 Peppers and eggplants are really deep in their season - they are probably secretly wishing for even a longer seasonal transition with warmer days, but I fear that summer is really over for both us, and them. Apparently our summer has been the 5th driest on record, but for some reason, our vegetable garden only needed the sprinklers turned on three times this summer. I think that I can credit our unique geography here - just west of the Bershire mountains, Worcester gets frequent thunder showers in the summer. Many of our hot peppers are showing some cracks, just  tiny, woody cracks that are more of a sign of heat and dry stress than anything else, (I think after this week, I have a few more cracks too!) As you can see below, what's a few stress cracks - They are still full of flavor and maybe even photogenic, if not technically 'picture perfect'.


THE TREE PEPPERS IN THE MIDDLE HERE ARE 'LUNCHBOX' MIXED, FROM JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS


I only grew three types of peppers this year, Jalapeño ( for salsa which make about every three days - a little crazy for Mexican food lately!), and worth mentioning - a great blend of peppers from Johnny's Selected Seed called Lunchbox mix (this is not a product placement nor a sponsored post BTW - I only mentioned Johnny's because I trust them and honestly order from them), Lunchbox mix, an organic mix of sweet snack peppers produces the sweetest peppers that actually have flavor without the bit. Your kids would love them, as they are nearly as sweet a candy. Surprisingly, the plants are ornamental too ( I grew mine in containers and in the garden, but the container plants grew the best, but they may be a little tall for most small plantings - the plants reached 3 feet tall. I will grow them again. Oh, the Jalapeno's are also from Johnny's -  'El Jefe' on the left and 'Concho' on the right. I really didn't fuss over them, they had to fend for themselves in some raised beds out behind the greenhouse.

For more, click below!




Zinnias seem to make it into my garden every year  my mom used to grow many, for the house and for church (when we went to church! Eeek). Today, I grow them for both the nostalgia and of course, their awesomeness. I particular like like the small flowered types with tall, tall stems, like 'Oklahoma'. Forget about sowing them indoors in the spring, because you will never get those tall stems, at least not as tall as those from plants that come from seeds sown directly into the garden in late June or early July. I sowed my zinnias around the 4th of July, and in four weeks I have flowers to pick, and now - near October, I have enough  to make a carpet with, if I so wished. There is something about these tall, small-flowered zinnias  - their blend of colors, that reminds me of state fairs, or those bags of pom pons at the craft store, or better yet - jars of gum balls.



A WHITE HARDY CYCLAMEN HEDERIFOLIUM IN FULL BLOOM IN MY GREENHOUSE


IN THE GREENHOUSE

There is no stopping the arrival of autumn under glass. Nothing reminds us more that plants are alive, than their incredible ability to sense the shift of the seasons - no matter where they are from. In the greenhouse bulbous plants from Turkey, South Africa or other distinctly winter and summer rainfall areas that respectively, shift from a dry summer or winter, to a wet summer or winter, are all started to burst forth with growth. One would think that one could hold back this growth by withholding water or rainfall, but the triggers to seasonal growth is much more than just moisture - these plants can sense the day length shortening, the cooler night temperatures, the increased dew in the cold morning and other factors that I probably don't even know about yet.


THIS CYCLAMEN AFRICANUM IS MORE TENDER THAN C. HEDERIFOLIUM, ALTHOUGH IT LOOKS VERY SIMILAR.


I've noticed that my cyclamen collection ( all are species) presents a wide range variability especially with the quality of flowers each year. I know that winter fertilization can affect flower formation, but also such factors as summer moisture ( less for C. africanium, and more for C. graecum) can also affect floral display. I have been trying to repot the corms less often, to reduce root damage, and holding off on water until flower buds form in September or October. This year, everything is early - both under glass and outside. My first flowers began to appear on the cyclamen collection in early August, even without watering - in other years, the collection has bloomed as late as mid-October.



NERINE SARNIENSIS BULBS, A RELATIVE OF THE AMARYLLIS, ARE STARTING TO SEND UP BUDS

The Nerine sarniensis collection is also a bit irregular, with about 1/3 of the bulbs forming flower buds, and the others just bursting forth into foliage, which leads me to believe that those bulbs will have no flowers this year. Nerine confound many growers with their inability to bloom, so I am not surprised by this behavior, as I have been neglecting the bulbs over the past few years, and this is a species which forms flower buds two to three years in advance deep inside. My bulbs need to be divided, they need more care as to nutrition and winter light, and I think I just might be growing tired of their annual bloom (it happens - just becoming more about maintenance than enjoyment). I predict that I will be donating or selling the collection soon, to make way for something new and more interesting. My problem is that these bulbs rather rare, or at least - difficult if not nearly impossible to find anywhere, let alone in the US - so a suitable home for the collection needs to be found. A burden? Maybe, but also a gift to have for another year at least.


CYRTANTHUS ELATUS OR 'FIRE LILY'

I was given a gift bulb of a Cyrtanthus elates -t he classic old variety with upright and open flowers a couple of years ago, and I have been propagating it. I now have about 20 bulbs, which sit high on a bench near the glass in the greenhouse. In summer, they get a spash of water every now and then, but other than that, they are abused. Maybe I will offer a few for sale of this site, as these classic old conservatory bulbs are not easy to find. The flowers are bright, if not brilliant as many Cyrtanthus are - a genus native to South Africa. This one selection seems to bloom twice for me, around Easter in the spring, and again in the autumn - always surprising me as I never seem to catch it as it begins to send up a bud. The entire plant looks very much like a miniature amaryllis, but it is evergreen, or nearly so - not really going dormant. Also known as Kaffir Lily, Scarborough Lily or even more commonly at one time 'Valotta', which is the name one often finds it listed under in old gardening books from the 20th century.


THE RARE ONION, ALLIUM CALLIMISCHON HAEMOSTICTUM
 Maybe it's surprising that Allium is also in the Amaryllis family, but it is. A mouthful, Allium callimischon subsp. haemostictum is a most curious onion indeed. Rarely seed anywhere, even in botanic gardens, this particular species forms it's flower stems and buds in the autumn ( our springtime). The floral stems remain erect and dry all winter long ( our summer) until the fall rains arrive and they burst into bloom just as the new foliage begins to emerge from the soil. Fascinating, that Mother Nature. I've been saving seed from mine ( which might be sterile, as I cant' really tell if it is the seeds which are sprouting, or if the bulb is simply dividing) but I want a full pot someday, as a single floral stem is a bit unexciting. I've seen pots in full flower in British alpine houses, and they can be spectacular, but no one can afford a pot full of purchased bulbs unless one in Bill Gates. Seed is the only way.


CHECK OUT THE FLOWER STEMS ON THIS OXALIS LIVIA - CLEARLY DESIGNED TO BE BLOOMING THROUGH BRUSHY GROWTH LIKE MANY GLADIOLUS SPECIES IN THE FYNBOS OF SOUTH AFRICA


I still grow a few bulbous Oxalis from South Africa, and this year, a new one bloomed for me. I acquired the bulbs last year, but they behaved differently than they did this year. Check out this crazy growth habit. Oxalis livida is rare, and apparently 'shy' to bloom according to my plant's source Telos Rare Bulbs, but I would argue that this one is not that shy this year. What's amazing about this odd species is not it's cute, trifoliate leaves in the winter ( um..clover like), but it's the long floral stems - over 1 foot long. Maybe a hanging basket is in order? The foliage this year is surprising me too, as it seems to be emerging very thickly.

OXALIS LIVIDA


I am not certain of the provenance of these bulbs from Telos Rare Bulbs, but according to the Pacific Bulb Society Website, they might come from a collection made on the rocky slopes, growing in the shade, collected by Johannes-Ulrich Urban at 500 meters on the Nieuwoudtville Pass in Fynbos habitat, which doesn't surprise me as fynbos is a scrubby, low growth area, and this plant is exquisitely designed for such a habitat - its long stems winding through the brushy growth to reach the light.



A WILD TERRIER IN MY 'FYNBOS', ER…VEGETABLE GARDEN.  MR. RED SQUIRREL? I'D THINK TWICE ABOUT SNACKING ON THE 8 ROW DENT CORN.



3 comments :

  1. I too love zinnias and Oklahoma seeds do well in my garden. I have never tried to save the seeds. Perhaps it is worth giving it a try. Love your photos. They are so creative.

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  2. Lovely post..I can't wait for spring to see all my bulbs peeking through the frosted soil...the dainty snowdrops being the first of course.
    Ronelle

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  3. Love the cyclamen! I have yet to try my hand at any Nerine; yours are always stunning - I hope you can find a good home for them!

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