April 12, 2015


After cutting down our giant 20 year old Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold's Prommis' last summer, I knew that I would miss it's early bloom, both for the house as early forcing material as early as January, and for our first spring, woodland color. This new, young shrub, was completely under 5 feet of snow 3 weeks ago.

 I knew that it would happen eventually. really. Spring would eventually arrive, and today, as temperatures here in New England edged so close to 70º, we rejoiced (along with the bees, the crocus and even early blooming bulbs and shrubs, which have been sleeping late this year, until an unseasonably long and cold (and snowy) winter. We still have some snow in the shady spots around the yard, and even while attempting to clean up a little today, every tomato pot or outdoor tub that I moved, was still frozen to the soil below. The sun is strong, and in a few weeks, I am confident that the primula will be in bloom as the cobs on the Primula denticulata are alread emerging from their tight rosettes of leaves.

Pussy Willows in April? Typically we would pick these much earlier, my father used to take us hunting for pussy willows on March 4 every year, it was a family event - get in the Country Squire station wagon, and ride through the back roads and the first one who saw pussy willows would win. We would pick long branches ( he like big arrangements) and we would force them a few weeks longer in the dark cellar, so that they would turn pink.

I don't think that I can ever remember a spring such as this one, where the pussy willows - even the wild species are just emerging. By all accounts, it looms more like the second week of March than it does the second week of April. But in many ways, this is not unusual weather, one may even dare say that this could be the perfect spring - a long, cold winter followed by a long, cool spring with few hard refreezes ( or let's hope and pray that we don't get one in May, as that is far more dangerous to garden plants in New England than any cold, snowy winter can be), and even though plants are late, they will emerge in a timely, staged way.

I had to add a crocus image. So cheerful after this winter we had.

This bulbous Corydalis solida will need to be moved, as it has been overrun by a bamboo - Sada vietchii. I find that with a deep trowel or skinny perennial shovel, I can safely move and relocate these early spring ephemerals. Some Erythronium are on the list as well.

Chores abound, and with a big party coming up in a few weeks, I just don't know where to look first. Saturday, I focused on the greenhouse, as there is now so much damage from our big freeze back in January. Someone will need to climb up unto the rafters to trim some of the vines which froze when the furnace short circuited on the coldest day of the year. Other plants seems to have survived quite well. I have a method when I clean the greenhouse, mostly, it's about staging the benches properly. I usually like to arrange all of the Southern Hemisphere plants together on one side, and then divide the benches in the front of the house by those plants from South Africa, and then those from South America. Not this year - it's a big jumble - and go ahead, you may be thinking "well, no one will really every know, Matt". But I dare to differ - in three weeks we will be hosting  a party with many serious plant people, as we host the opening party for the national exhibition for the American Primrose Society, as well as this year, adding in two North American Rock Garden Society's as well. These people will know. (They won't really care as we shall have them suitable wined and dined).

Dendrobium 'Butter Star' an Australian cross that hints of D. speciosum in it's genes, it can handle our cold greenhouse, yet it typically blooms in late January.

Lachenalia are late as well, and even though I have reduced my collecting of these genus, a few favortites still remain.

Many plants seemed dead, so I tossed them. I did this with about half of the standard  fuchsia collection until I realized that they were not dead at all - just very dormant. I saved about a dozen, which are all showing tiny points of green. This Euphorbia, a white flowered 'crown of thorns' looked dead as well, but as I was carrying it to the dumpster, I noticed these buds.

Remember those black-centered anemones that I planted as a winter project? I know that I've been sharing a few images - they were basically a failure, and none were the black centered variety called 'Panda' which I wanted. Still, some nice purple and white ones. All in all, they grew well in the bench, and next winter I will plant many more traditional forms.

Another view of that Dendrobium but I wanted you to see this yellow flowered creature at the base of this acacia tree. I first noticed it's fragrance, for beyond that, one grows it for its bright, yellow bells which yes - typically bloom during the shorter days of winter. Hermannia verticillata, or 'Honey Bells', it's related to the hibiscus and native to Africa. An old fashioned greenhouse and conservatory plant in the north, it often looks best grown in a basket, and I will add that it is an aphid magnet. 

Gasteria seedlings, well, I suppose that they are hardly seedlings now seeing that they are about 6 years old or more,  are reacting to the warmer, and gradually lengthening days by sending up their flower stalks. This one s sending up many.

This babiana is just the typical hybrid form sold by the Dutch bulb catalogs as mixed colors. I thought that I might try a few in a pot over the winter - it's been an interesting study as my species collection of Babiana are going dormant, having bloomed last month, but these are just taking off - maybe they think that they are in California?

Rarely seen in northern gardens, Ipheon are borderline hardy as a bulb plant here in Massachusetts. I grow mine in pots and containers, and then will bring them outdoors if the weather becomes mind. This is a pink cultivar.

Even the camellias are late. This is a new one for me, an old variety from dare I say, the 1970's called 'Elegans Champage'. It's one of the 20 new varieties I added to the camellia collection  this autumn. We need to raise them in containers and tubs, which are brought under glass for the winter.

My seeds from NARGS are germinating! The North American Rock Garden Society seed list has many gems, but wonder if I should have sown these Massonia so late in the winter, as it is a winter grower. I will try to keep them growing on as long as possible, and allow them to go dormant around late June or July.


  1. I am so glad that your Spring has finally arrived and that flowers are beginning to appear. It is interesting that it is so late - ours is about 2 - 3 weeks late too, but a few warm days have speeded things up considerably , thank goodness.

  2. john in cranston7:57 PM

    I saw today that we have a daffodil that is almost open. Wow. My bees are happy too. In fact I have already been stung on the scalp. Yay Spring!

    Anyhow, forcing pussy willows in the basement encourages a pink color? Bring it on, next year's pussy willows!!!


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