}

December 30, 2014

THE RARE, CURIOUS AND JUST PLAIN AWESOME WITHIN THE UCONN GREENHOUSES

ANT PLANTS, LIKE THIS MYRMECODIA SPECIES,  HAVE SWOLLEN STEMS IN WHICH ANTS LIVE - THIS ONE T THE UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT / STORRS GREENHOUSES IS CUT TO SHOW THE INTERIOR STRUCTURE WHICH LOOKS VERY MUCH LIKE AN ANT COLONY. POPULAR WITH A SMALL GROUP OF PASSIONATE COLLECTORS. 

As this year comes to a close, and now that I have a little free time, I felt that I should accept the invitation from my friend Glen Lord to bug our mutual friend, and fellow member of the Cactus and Succulent Society, Dr. Matt Opal and tour the University of Connecticut greenhouses in Storrs, CT. Storrs CT, is a short 20 minute drive from my house located in central Connecticut, and on this rather mild December day, we decided to spend a few hours touring the many greenhouses at this agricultural school conveniently situated amidst classic New England white farm houses, nineteenth century red barns and the rolling farmland hills of central Connecticut.


MY FRIEND GLEN LORD OBSERVING SOME TROPICAL ANTHURIUMS IN THE UCONN GREENHOUSES
Once inside, we were met with the warmth of steam pipes and the steamy heat of an equatorial rain forest - well, OK, we first entered into the Equatorial Africa house, which somehow was perfect for any December day. The horticultural and botanical delights were  outstanding and I encourage you all to visit your local university ( check first if the accept visitors) if only to experience what few botanic gardens do offer today - botanical diversity and highly interesting, if not educational and certainly inspiring collections of plants rarely seen outside of a handful of collections.

THIS JUST IN - Just a teensy reminder that the Garden Bloggers Hall of Fame Awards is accepting nominations for readers favorite gardening blogs - and there are a few categories. ( until Jan 9th).  Much Obliged!

FEW PLANTS ON EARTH ARE AS RARE AS THIS ONE IS - Brighamia insignis, FOUND ONLY ON THE ISLAND OF KAUAI, THERE ARE ONLY SEVEN MATURE SPECIMENS LEFT IN THE WILD, AND IT'S ONLY KNOWN POLLINATOR IS NOW EXTINCT.


WHEN VIEWED FROM ABOVE AND ADJACENT BUILDING ON CAMPUS, ONE CAN SEE THE SCALE OF THESE GREENHOUSES USED FOR BOTH RESEARCH AND PUBLIC VISITS.



THE UNIVERISTY KEEPS A COLLECTION OF ERIOSPERMUM, A SUMMER DORMANT GEOPHYTE WHICH IS NOW ON MY COLLECTING RADAR.  Clock wise from top left: Eriospermum cervicorne, E. cervicorne from another collection, and E. cf. dregei.



NO RARE COLLECTION WOULD BE COMPLETE WITHOUT THIS PLANT - Welwitschia mirabilis, the Tree Tumbo from one of the driest places on Earth, the Namib Desert where it enjoys occaisional coastal fog. It is known as one of hte longest lived plants on our planet with some specimens considered older than 1500 years. Indeed, a living fossil.


Amorphophallus konjak tubers, resting near a pool in the greenhouse. They will soon start growth once potted up again in the spring.


More Amorphophallus tubers resting through the winter under a bench - what a great idea as I kept mine in pots of dry soil, and they still rotted in the greenhouse.



THE AMAZING FOLIAGE OF Tylecodon singularis A PLANT FROM NAMIBIA, WITH A SINGLE, SUCCULENT LEAF WHICH LOOKS VERY MUCH LIKE A THICK, BEGONIA LEAF WITH A MORE INTERESTING TEXTURE.




I HAVE YET TO BUILD AN INTEREST IN INSECT EATING PLANTS, BUT THIS ONE MIGHT CHANGE MY MIND - MEET Drosophyllum lusitanicum, THE PORTUGUESE SUNDEW WHICH GROWS ON SANDY HILLSIDES NEAR THE SEA ON THE IBERIAN PENINSULA AND IN MOROCCO.



THIS BRAZIL NATIVE HAS AMAZING FLOWERS WHICH ARE ATTACHED DIRECTLY TO THE STEM. Pavonia strictiflora MAKE AN ATTRACTIVE WINTER-BLOOMING GREENHOUSE TREE.

I COLLECT AND GROW MANY SOUTH AFRICAN BULBS, BUT THIS IS ONE WHICH WAS NEW FOR ME - Brunsvigia namaquana, ONE OF THE MANY SOUTH AFRICAN  PLANTS IN THE UCONN COLLECTION FROM THE QUARTZITE AND GRANITE OUTCROPS OF THE CAPE.

ANOTHER PLANT FROM THE QUARTZITE RIVERBEDS AND DESERTS ARE THESE Conophytum berger RAISED FROM SEED COLLECTED IN SOUTH AFRICA.THE SPERICAL ORBS LOOK LIKE EXACTLY LIKE THE RUBBLE OF QUARTZ IN WHICH THEY GROW. 

I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE THAT THEIR CONOPHYTUM AND LITHOPS SEED POTS LOOK VERY MUCH LIKE MINE. PERHAPS THERE IS HOPE FOR MY COLLECTION WHICH I SOWED LAST SUMMER.
THE MANY GREENHOUSES AT UCONN ARE KEPT AT DIFFERENT TEMPERATURES AND MOISTURE LEVELS, RANGING FROM THE DRYER DESERTS OF CHILE AND SOUTH AFRICA, TO THE HUMID JUNGLES OF EQUATORIAL AFRICA.


Canarina canarensis HAS BEEN ON MY WISH LIST FOR SOME TIME NOW. THE CANARY ISLAND BELLFLOWER FROM TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS SEEMS LIKE A PLANT THAT WILL DO WELL IN MY GREENHOUSE.


EVERY PLANT HAS A STORY, AND THIS ONE SOUNDS LIKE A HORROR MOVIE. THE BUG PLANT, Roridula dentata FROM THE WESTERN CAPE OF AFRICA IS A SHORT SHRUB WITH VERY STICKY HAIRS WHICH TRAP INSECTS. THE TWIST IS, THIS PLANT IS NOT AN INSECTIVEROUS PLANT, RATHER IT ALSO HAS A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH ANOTHER BUG, A Pameridea species, WHICH EATS THE TRAPPED INSECTS.


A VISIT TO A BOTANIC GARDEN OR A UNIVERSITY GREENHOUSE COLLECTION ALWAY INSPIRES ME, AND MY WISH LIST INSTANTLY GROWS. I ADORE THIS Bulbine bruynsii, BUT SADLY IT IS REPORTEDLY THREATENED DUE TO ROAD CONSTRUCTION, AND AT THE SAME TIME, CHALLENGING TO GROW AS WELL.



IF I INCLUDED ALL OF THE IMAGES THAT I TOOK OF THE UCONN PELARGONIUM COLLECTION, I COULD FILL ABOUT TEN OTHER POSTS. HERE ARE JUST A FEW. NO COMMON GERANIUMS HERE!


LASTLY, ANOTHER SAD TALE - Agathis moorei, THE MOORE KUARI FROM NEW CALEDONIA IS ANOTHER RARE PLANT OF WHICH MORE GROW IN CAPTIVITY, THAN IN IT'S NATIVE HABITAT WHERE IT IS THREATENED DUE TO HABITAT LOSS. 

December 27, 2014

WHAT'S IN BLOOM THIS DECEMBER

A DAPHNE MEZEREUM 'ALBA' OPENS A FLOWER NEAR OUR GREENHOUSE WALK, RESPONDING TO THE MILD WINTER TEMPERATURES THIS DECEMBER. IT WILL BLOOM SPORADICALLY - SHARING A FRAGRANT BLOSSOM HERE AND THERE UNTIL MARCH, WHEN THE ENTIRE SHRUB WILL BURST FORTH.

In most years, I can say that I can find something in bloom in each month of the year, but I sometimes have to cheat, and include flowers which might be blooming under glass in the greenhouse, but this year, our mild winter temperatures are allowing me to include outside plants as well. I love snow, and I love winter, but I have to admit that I really don't mind this unseasonally mild break here in New England. My heating bill for the greenhouse has been incredibly low (so far) - (which, I probably could have predicted since I took the time to bubble wrap the glass roof with insulation this year!). I'm sure that it won't be long before an arctic blast arrives, so I plan on enjoying it as long as I can - short shirt sleeves and all.

Best Gardening Blog nominations are now open

I always feel funny posting this sort of info - but writing a blog has it's business-side too - not that I am a stat counter, and frankly, I should not complain as I am in the top 10 gardening blogs on most stat sites, but with that comes some clout.  So it's worth mentioning that The Garden Bloggers Conference which will be held in Atlanta this coming  February, is accepting nominations for readers most favorite gardening blog between now and Jan. 9th.   If you this my blog or another, please feel free to nominate it as it helps us all tremendously. There are four categories (all sponsored by Proven Winners) which include Best Garden Writing, Best Overall Gardening blog, and Best Photography - the nominating site is here .

If you are interested in checking out what other rarities are blooming around the garden here including some old fashioned Mignonette, click below for more.

December 25, 2014

A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL


Merry Christmas everyone! While picking camellias from the greenhouse for our Christmas Eve dinner,- I thought that I might share some images from our Christmas around here, which we celebrated last night on the 24th in goog, Lithuanian traditional style - most of my brothers and sisters attended ( the ones from the East coast) and their children, and Joe's nieces, nephews and childhood friends. As this is the first year without my Dad, (it would have been in 101st Christmas in this house)  we still wanted to hold this dinner that the Lithuanians call Kūčios, according to the Wikipedia, it's described as this:

 Everyone in a family makes a special effort to come home for the Christmas Eve supper, even from great distances. They make the journey not so much for the meal as for the sacred ritual of Kūčios. Kūčios draws the family members closer, banding everyone together and strengthening the family ties. In this spirit, if a family member has died that year or cannot attend the meal (only for very serious reasons) an empty place is left at the table. A plate is still placed on the table and a chair is drawn up, but no spoons, knives or forks are set. A small candle is placed on the plate and lit during the meal. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased family member participates in the Kūčios along with everyone.


We still set a place at the table for the departed. I know, it seems a little creepy, but when you've been doing it for your entire life, it truly becomes tradition. I went with mix and match china as it seemed to fit with out theme of 'family artifacts' found in the cellar. Like old ski's only snowshoes, and old pinecones from past trips. Camellias from the greenhouse helped round out all the old mercury class on the table.
For more images from our Christmas celebration - click below.

December 15, 2014

THE CHRISTMAS CACTUS AND ITS LITTLE SECRET ABOUT FLOWERING


It's a Schlumbergera party! And it seems that I have been focusing on inviting only the newer varieties ( most in the S. truncata group). I love these new colors, many in rich tones of red and peach, and some bicolored or fringed flowered forms - these are not my mothers Christmas Cactus ( of which, I still adore). Native to Brazil, (generally) these tropical cacti from the jungle make terrific house plants, with the only problem being trying to get the to bloom 'on-time' meaning, for Christmas - but these delightful plants do keep a secret deep inside their DNA - as they are daylight sensitive. Also, preferring days which are warmer than the night by nearly 20º. Together, this is what they need in order to set flower buds. Not a dry period, not locked in the cellar for a month.  I was so surprised to see that within one year of being set out into my greenhouse, the all bloom together now, and they always bloom the week before Christmas. How perfect is that?

To find all all that you may need to know about these Christmas Cactus, click below for the rest of my post.

December 10, 2014

BUSY LIKE AN ELF…LITERALLY.


I feel as if I need to post something, as my Holiday break closes in. So here are a few random images from the past two weeks - not too much gardening going on due to parties, work and general elf culture. Naturally, this time of year can get a teensy bit hectic for me with my 'day job'. I look forward to 'Santa's sleigh' to be well packed for the year ( of course, 'the year' being the year 2016). Soon, I can enjoy a few weeks off from the 'workshop', once I get through a few Holiday office parties and the general elfish tasks which need to be completed before work shuts down for the Holiday break.

Since most of you have been good boys and girls this year, here are some photos and notes so that you know that I have not fallen off of the face of the Earty - they are somewhat random, but all are from what has been happening around here during the past two weeks.


My eHow posts have kept me busy, but I am having so much fun with them - trying to inspire their readers to try something ne, while at the same time, helping them attain great results. As a product and graphic designer, I really enjoy these sort of tasks. They really haven't been a 'time suck' since I take loads of photos anyway, and the subject matter is a little more 'everyday gardening' than what should appear on these pages, so I don't feel that it interferes with my content which I create for you.  Here is my latest post on eHow to make a berry bowl for the 21st century -  which I call " How to make a more sustainable berry bowl". I wanted to say "'Partridge berry bowl" but then realized how dangerous and irresponsible that could be.  As always - eHow is a social media driven site, so feel free to comment on it, or click on the 'share' tabs - it helps me get kudos'. Which in turn, helps me pay the heating bill on the greenhouse!


 It snowed here last week. Part of me was hoping that we would get the 16 inches predicted - the other part of me was hoping for a dusting ( because Joe's broken leg would mean that I would have to snowplow and snow blow everything). Our 8 inches was just fine. Enough to make it look like December at least.



In the greenhouse, plants are still blooming during these shortest days of the year, and the scent of Viola odorata - these French scented violets sure makes the greenhouse smell as if it was 1825. It's amazing how strong they can be, yet how mysterious the scent actually is.


 My berry bowl post inspired Joe to bring back this pot of commercially grown Wintergreen, or Teaberry as my father used to call it ( you know, like Teaberry gum). It's so interesting that now there is commercially cultivated Galtheria procumbens ( it grows in the woodland behind our house). I am going to keep this in the cold greenhouse, and then plant these steroidally large 'Teaberries' in the shady, acid rock garden where it might enjoy the company of blueberries and our native Mayflowers.
A bit of the Massachusetts woodland growing right here in my, um…..Massachusetts woodland garden.


No snowy greenhouse motif is complete in December or January without the insanely rampant vines of this Australian native - Hardenbergia violacea. Come January - the color will be so intense, that I will see the purple pea-like flowers from the house. The almost seem to glow. This vine was common in old New England conservatories in the 18th and 19th century. Not a great houseplant, it might do well in a sunroom or a protected, glassed in porch which does not freeze.


Just a view down one of the paths in the greenhouse. The last of the Nerine sarniensis blooms along with a golden-leaved osmanthus ( the holly-shaped leaves), and a well budded Daphne odora. I can't wait for that to bloom in a month as well - the scent, just like warm cinnamon buns. Or cold ones.



Everyplant seems to have a famous relative, and in the world of Camellias, this Japanese variety is about as famous as a camellia can get. 'Tama no ura' is the parent of countless "Tama's". I am so impressed with the quantity of flowers that I have with my plant. It's really trying to get my attention - probably because it knows that I have a big order coming from Nuccio's this week. So big, that Mr. Nuccio actually called me on the real telephone.



Speaking of Nuccio's, this is one of their best introductions - so perfect during this time of year. It's called "Yuletide". An early blooming red single camellia which can give 'Tama No Ura' a run for it's money - or 'famocity' as everyone seems to want this one in their collections - be they a gardener in a southern garden, or in northern cold plant room. Oh - behind it is a precious red-flowered tropical rhododendron which of course, is tender. It'f from the alpine region of Borneo - meaning that it's a species that grows at a high elevation in the cloud forests where it is cool, but does not freeze.


Oh great - now I forgot what this was called! We saw it growing at Logee's greenhouses in Connecticut, and we had to have it - but they didn't have any plants started, so we begged for a cutting ( they kindly obliged). We left with a loooooong cutting, which may start many plants. If anyone knows the botanical name of this, please share.  I thought it was a Tecomanthe species at first, but now I realize that the image in my mind was close, but quite incorrect.


Check out this incredible scene in the cool greenhouse at Logee's - this Fuyu Persimmon is ancient ( I mean, I remember it growing here since the 80's when Mrs. Logee Martin would have to come looking for me when they were closing, to make sure that I would not get locked in. The perils of living 20 minutes away go much deeper than my wallet does!. So many memories here. Joe and I finally planted one in our greenhouse, which is about the same width and height as this one, also with a dirt floor, but ours is only 28 feet long, and not 100 feet long. I dream of winter steamed Persimmon pudding like that served in December at the Yosemite Lodge in my distant future.


Lastly - not everything goes perfect around here. Remember those heirloom red Cardoons which I raised from seed this year? They were huge and so impressive in the garden, but with only a hint of reddish tint. Anyway, they have frozen solid - which seems to have destroyed them, unlike traditional cardoon varieties which have remained turgid. The same, by the way, had happened to my tuberous oxalis known as Oca. Our growing season was just not long enough, or at least, for me - some that I gave away to a friend performed nicely.  More on that, later.