October 13, 2015


In nearby Brookfield, Massachusetts there are beautiful old farms dating back to the 1800's. While apple picking this weekend, Joe and I stopped here for a picnic lunch, it's where my parents use to take us for fall and winter picnics. The color in the foliage is later this year, so we are about 2 weeks away from peak, but who's complaining!

Face it folks - there is no holding back fall. After a long, hot weekend, and only a little color on the trees here in New England, some are wondering when fall will actually arrive. I say - relax. The Wooly Bears know. The chipmunks know ( I know that they know, because they just planted a nice crop of sunflower seeds in each of my pots of annuals I was starting for the greenhouse.

SO…Wolly Bears. In  New England, there is a saying that children often share - that the banded wooly bear larvae, which have a black, fuzzy body with an orange or rust colored band can forecast he seasonal intensity of winter.  Curious? You can read about the legend here.  Briefly, thanks to a scientist in the mid 1940's who studied such things, a lovely story began.  Of course, this is disputed by modern entomologists, and although fun for the child in all of us to play with, I would suggest strongly that you get the app 'Dark Sky' ( really, it's my fav weather app - and remember - I work with a bunch of futurists and geeks who know these sort of things.) Get Dark Sky, you'll love it, and you'll know when your first frost will hit. Yeah….You're welcome.

Big sky picture here, its a rather typical fall in New England. A week off this way or that is totes norms. Sure, folks will chat about how the 'foliage just won't be a great as last year because of the drought' or why the color is late this year, due to the heat'. but ask any meteorologist and they will tell you that ' sure, we might be a week or two off, here or there, but overall, there is no holding back the inevitable.  Believe me, winter is coming, and the garden knows it. Hell, nature knows it. The woodpeckers are red squirrels around here are fighting over the acorns, the chickadees and titmice are visiting the empty feeders with those 'over-weight doggie at the cookie jar-eyes. 

They know. We all know. That big garter snake that darted across my path going to the greenhouse doesn't know, but nobody tell him.

Thick, huge carrots are a variety appropriately named  'Hercules'  ( from Johnny's) . Aside from the always tempting  Gladiator reference (duh, they tricked me - Damn you Johnny!) , these did succeed in transporting me back to the 'great, epic  carrot harvests' of Matt's  youth. Sure, my parents grew many varieties to can, but our neighbors did as well. Here's to you Mr. Pockevicious and Dr. Lingappa - the scent of this massive harvest has transported me back to you root cellars! and the year 1968.

If you've never tasted carrots directly from a garden, then all I can tell you is that you have no idea what  carrot really tastes like. Do this! Plant carrot seed next spring, if not for you, then for your kids, since those little, ground-down 'baby carrots' in the poly bags which are neither 'baby' nor barely carrots by any measure are better off as a replacement for dog cookies (which is what we buy them for) and not for the kitchen. 

Aside from a homegrown tomato, or a crisp, sweet winter cabbage,  of the greatest pleasures front eh home garden - one where you can truly distinguish a significant difference with from store-bought, is, the lowly carrot. Lowly no more, one you try them this way. Along with the musky scent of woodland leaves, damp and decaying with mushrooms and pine ( or what Joe described yesterday as "that 'rotting stank of fall"- he hates winter, mind you), the scent of carrots pulled from the earth is somewhat therapeutic.

This past weekend brought us seasonally warm temperatures and sunny, sunny days. A few cold nights around here (expected this coming weekend with our first frost) will ensure bright colors on the sugar maples.

 Remember, these were root vegetables which were once white and purple (not orange, actually until man messed around with their genes through selections and cross-breeding in the late 19th century), the white carrot was one of the first vegetables not only grown by humans, but believed to he wild harvested by them as well. ( Iraq, Iran, Caucuses, Turkey where it grows wild in high elevations). Of course, back then, it was used primarily as an aphrodisiac ( what wasn't, right?). These 'medicinal properties later evolved into using the vegetable as food, and more tender and colorful varieties were selected.

We really should respect the carrot much more than we do today, where we either use it as part of a base trilogy in dished, or use it as a substitute for doggie treats even!

Camellia foliage looks best in the autumn, and this variegation on 'Daikajura' variegated form, is a great example of how attractive a potted camellia can be ( or outdoors, if you live in a warmer area). Here, camellias are greenhouse plants.

As the maples and ash trees color-up for their big show in the woodlands, in our garden things are taking many turns. The camellias are all budded up after their summer vacation outdoors. I pick a few of the buds off, so that there are only one or two per branch, otherwise they will crowd out each other. This new camellia in my collection has three things going for it. First, it's an early bloomer, as many camellia's especially the sassanqua and tea camellias bloom in the autumn or early winter.

'Daikajura' is variable, and some are entirely pink, so be sure when you find one at a camellia nursery, that it is a selection which some special benefits, or you may end up with one which is entirely pink - not a bad thing, but not as awesome as the one above.
 Second, for an early bloomer this flower is pretty showy. Most fall blooming camellias are known as 'sassanqua' camellias, bred from C. sassanqua  or mixed parentage from other species. 'Daikajura' is a C. japonica variety. which can bloom early or mid-season, often spreading it's boom period across November to January. My plant is so young, perhaps it doesn't yet know what to do, having moved here from Pasadena last autumn - or, it may mean that we are in for a nasty winter again!
I don't fall for such juju, and simple believe that it's off-schedule a bit due to age and environment. All of my camellias seem to vary a bit with their bloom, based upon when they are moved back into the greenhouse, the daily temperature shifts from night to day, and day length.

Lastly, this camellia does has pretty foliage --I mean, the leaves are large, shiny and green, not because some are variegated.  Don't be mislead - one may have only a few leaves which decide to emerge with variegation, not unusual at all with camellias. Cherish each one like a flower, and value  the rest of the un-fancy ones since they will carry the plant through the winter.

A late evening shot of one of my Japanese chrysanthemums. This bud is larger than a 50 cent piece, which means that the flower might be very large once it opens later in the month.

Frost threatens, even though it is warm and near 80 degrees F. outdoes today. One my one, I am moving choice plants back into the greenhouse ( there just isn't too much room, with all of the chrysanthemums!). This variegated calamondin orange is loaded with fruit. I can't wait until they turn bright orange. They should contest nicely with this big, Japanese ceramic tub I found.

It's a poor image due to the lighting, but don't you love this dahlia? Orange chiffon with pink tips'. I could eat it! Now, I need to try and find the label in the perennial garden! Dogs have been playing tricks with me.


  1. Interesting, your take on virus variegation on Camellias. Of several fifty-year-old outdoor plants here, only one exhibits variegation. I usually snip off twigs that show variegation. Flowers will variegate, too, but young seedlings have not shown it.

    When I decided to limb up some Camellias as trees and then in subsequent years, allowed them to grow back from the bottom, no new growth is variegated on the one tree, so it does not appear a vigorous virus.

  2. Yup, we have to accept it ... winter is a'comin' in! We can't hold back the inevitable so we might as well welcome it in! There are joys in every season but I must admit they are harder to find in winter. There is still lots going on in your garden and I love the dahlia - with - no - name !!

  3. john in cranston10:02 PM

    I never realized how wonderful fresh carrots were until about 2 years ago. Next year I may try growing something wild, white or exotic, but today I pulled up a 1/2 dozen "Scarlet Nantes" for a terrific ginger carrot soup. It's been a good autumn for carrots.

  4. Anonymous9:04 AM

    dear matt
    your dahlia looks similar to a lovely one i used to grow, 'a la mode.'
    all best,
    ~ 02568

  5. I have never seen a variegated camellia before! I am growing a few in pots - just young saplings, really - but of late they have been struggling, with leaves increasingly developing crisp brown edges. Any ideas what might be causing this? They are still outside in a semi-shaded spot, so it should not be an issue with dry air or excessive heat.

  6. Wonderful photos! Wow fresh carrots. I love you dahlia. So pretty!

  7. Yes, I too think it is "a la mode"... please photograph and post the big green, Japanese chysanthumum when it blood! ...and the citrus and vase are stunning!
    warm regards,

  8. Those are some big, beefy, beautiful carrots! Looking at them is making me want to make some nice beef stew.


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