January 11, 2016

A new Year, New Puppies, and, an Anniversary

My friend Glen Lord delivered the best birthday present ever to me - a generous load of antique Italian rolled rim Imprunetta clay pots from an old estate. I never realized that the rolled rim was actually the rim of the clay pot, literally 'rolled over', which really makes them easy to lift.  I am still speechless. The largest one is 14 inches in diameter. Now, I have the difficult task to figure out what to plant in them - thinking about classic woody herbs like rosemary, and maybe some nice camellias.

Yep - It's January 9th, and I am just beginning my second post. I know I am not alone, for a few fellow garden blogger friends are also feeling the stress of catching up. My good friend and neighbor, Rochelle Greayer (of Pith & Vigor, the seasonal and quarterly, and author of the top Amazon rated book - Cultivating Garden Style) admitted in a blog post on January 5th, that she too is trying to catch up.

Rochelle and I did find time to meet for dinner though, twice actually, over the Holiday break and last week, so maybe time itself isn't the issue exactly, maybe the reason we garden bloggers are stalling is because it is still rather unseasonably warm here in the East? Or perhaps, we just all are still recovering from the Holidays? I do know that one reason I am more than a little tired is Daphne's new litter of puppies, which were born over the weekend.

This interspecific Clivia cross give one a good idea of the size of this fine pottery. Look at the big pot behind!!!
Happiest Gardener Ever!

Read more, about these pots and other plants, click below.

The old pit house at Logee's Greenhouses. My favorite house here, even though it is the smaller greenhouse. Cyrtanthus makenii bloom in the foreground, while other cold house plants from another era grow such as herbs, woody shrubs and scented violets. I even found an old carnation for my collection! One that Logee's has been growing for over 100 years.

After my friend Glen's visit with the pots ( both of our birthdays are this week), we decided to head down to Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, CT, only a 20 minute drive from my house. We joked that we really didn't need anything, but then, who really does? Of course, that didn't stop us from leaving with a box or two of treasures!

Old and new varieties of rosemary, in the cold pit house at Logee's.
Glen Lord picks our some woody herbs for his greenhouse collection. We both have a greenhouse so sometimes it gets a little competitive while shopping for plants together!

We both liked this Cat Thyme, which was new to us. Teucrium marum is strongly scented, dare I say 'like cat', but I liked it's grey color and dense growth.

The large cold house at Logee's even had a large old Acacia in  it ( upper left). It's trunk is nearly 1 foot in diameter, but the tree has been heavily pruned over the years. This cool house has barely changed since my first visit when I was a kid in the 1970's. it still smells the same, and is full of large citrus, camellias and persimmons planted into the soil. I modeled my greenhouse after this one, but it is much smaller. Same height, though, and with open soil so that I can plant into the ground.

At home, the winter sunshine may be weak, and at a low angle, but it still warms the greenhouse. The olives and tree aloes catch a few rays, as a tall, Higo camellia begins it's winter season of bloom.

Daphne (Doodles) went into labor this weekend. Her first litter.

Daphne's Pups

Daphne (we call her Doodles most of the time), had her first litter of Irish Terrier pups this weekend. Even though her twin brother is the number 2 Irish terrier in the country this past year, this was her first litter. At first we felt that all would go well with this one, but there were some complications, and as usual, late at night as such things happen to always go. It all seemed good after she broker her water at 6:00 PM. but then, after 13 hours of labor Saturday night and Sunday morning, we needed a 5AM trip to Tufts University Veterinary Hospital for an emergency C-Section.

 Now that it is Tuesday, the drama is over, and Doodles is the proud mom of six little, rascally puppies. We lost the 7th one last night, but she never looked as if she would make it. We've been tube feeding every 2 hours around the clock for the past 2 days which is generally Hell for everyone, but now she looks as if she has her mommy genes in order, and has mastered the "feeding thing". I can't imagine surgery and then 6 suckling pups without pain killers! Now, we all just need to catch up with some sleep after to harrowing days and nights.

Daphne and her six hungry pups after her emergency c-section. I wish that Tufts Vet school didn't shave her so drastically, but we are grateful that 6 pups are healthy. 

I realized something this week - this year marks the ten year anniversary of this blog Growing with Plants. I kind of can't believe it. The idea of writing at least 2 posts a week for ten years seems so overwhelming when I think about it, yet I have so many more ideas for posts and projects, than I doubt that I will run out of ideas. Thanks to all of you, I feel motivated to continue writing these little posts which I know sometimes, can be a bit geeky, too personal or even a little discursive sometimes, but hey, it's a blog, not a book. Again, that time will come - and then, my editor can worry about my amateur writing skills!

These early weeks of January, as the days slowly being to become longer actually involve a good bit of gardening. That is, if one considers gardening as ordering seeds, hunting though seed and plant catalogs, or ordering seeds and plants, which must be done quickly sometimes, since plants can sell out. I've already ordered a few chrysanthemums before my larger order in February, since I know they will sell out - even though the cutting won't be shipped until late March.

The Blackmore & Langdon website has always featured their award winning tuberous begonias and delphinium, but the delphinium were only available in the US as seed. This year, White Flower Farms has made plants available, which has me very excited.

Dahlias are on my early list too, just the hard to get ones. Then, some double victorian nasturtiums which cannot be started by seeds, only cuttings, which have been shared between enthusiasts since the Victorian era, that I have been looking for (must keep my sources secret until I get my order confirmation!), but I found them. Now, something very exciting -  some very remarkable delphiniums from British plantist Blackmore & Langdon available for the first time, here in the US as plants.  So, if I could tell you how many times that I have orders Blackmore & Langdon delphinium seed from B & L in the UK, and never had any success in growing them, you can imagine how excited I am to now see their plants available at White Flower Farm. If you've ever had the chance to attend the Chelsea Flower Show, you would know what I mean. I have visions of tall, hybrid delphiniums in front of the greenhouse next year, as it will take two years for the perennials to bloom.

I have already received some seeds, and tonight, I am soaking 14 species of Australian Acacia seeds - first in boiling water, to mimic the bush fires so necessary to break through their hard seed coats, then sown in a mixture of sharp sand and potting mix. Many people only think of Acacia trees with the plains of Africa, where yes, there are plenty of species, but most there are thorny and not worthy of a good clay pot in a greenhouse, but many of the Australian species are known as fine conservatory plants, even as house plants. Trees? Sure, but many are shrubby, 3 meter high mini-trees which if allowed to grow in a cool, unheated room, or in a cool greenhouse, will bloom during the late winter with clouds of often fragrant blossoms which need to be experienced by every gardener.

Seeds of Australia acacia species soaking in boiling water to help them germinate. The heat is necessary as these are seeds which often often burned by bush fires, which helps to break through the hard seed coat. A short blast with nearly boiling water and a 24 hour soak should suffice.

There was a time, Twenty or thirty years ago, when a very famous collection of Acacia trees were grown here in Massachusetts - the famed Stone Family Acacias, (you can read about them here) a private collection kept in the 12 wood and glass greenhouses at the Stone Family Estate in Marion, Massachusetts. This collection, which any plant enthusiast of a certain age will surely remember if they lived on the East coast, were very influential to me. Today, I can't seem to find any record of the collection, perhaps it has been lost, but I have many memories of them, and I dreamed of someday raising my own collection.

Acacia trees reaching the tallest peak in the greenhouse, are already in bud, and should be blooming within a month.

That dream never really stopped me earlier. In high school, when I had a home made greenhouse made of storm windows, I kept a half dozen trees alive until I went to college in Hawaii (where, honestly, there were plenty of acacias for me to loose my self in!). More recently, I have raised a few species both planted into the ground in my greenhouse, or raised in pots. The problem is, they grow too quickly, and become unmanageable over time. I am trying again, but now with some smaller growing species. I just need to keep the trees under 16 feet tall, which shouldn't be too hard.

I have so many memories of potted and forced acacia trees from childhood, that I practically become teary eyed when I see a potted tree now (like last summer, at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, where a tall specimen was in full bloom near their entrance). If I see a cut flower bunch at our local market, I can't resist it, even though I know the leaves with shatter and dry up in just a couple of days. They are available at florists, but sadly, cannot handle hot and dry indoor climates.

The Stone Family Acacia's we're renowned through the late 20th century at the great East Coast flower shows, from Philadelphia to New York to Boston, even featured a few times at our own local Worcester County Horticultural Society Spring Flower show in Horticultural Hall here in Worcester. I imagine each of those exhibition days - mostly freezing cold snowy days in February or March. I don't know for certain, but it may have been 1966 or 1972, or even 1976 - when those pruned and trained, 15 foot umbrella-like trees with cascading branches of fragrant clouds of golden yellow flowers took over my romantic mind. I keep a bar of mimosa (acacia) soap from Spain on my dresser even. I know, don't say it, it's an illness.

The horned acacia, A. grandecornuta is a particularly spiny one, with horns like that of a bull, only smaller.

So, these acacias are worth revisiting for me, and perhaps, for you as well. They can be kept as house plants as long as you never allow them to dry out, and if you can keep them in a cool room, again, that unheated sun room or bed room with a bright window. Fast growing, they can and should be started by seed, and eventually kept in tubs or pots of various sizes ranging from 10 inches to 24 inches if you really want something impressive.

II have ordered my seeds from the Seedman, who carries a few good varieties that might be worth trying. All of the seeds from The Seedman.com are Australian, but a few can also be found at Chiltern seeds in the UK, they ship to the US.  Logee's Greenhouses have a few available as seedlings, but you may have to call them, for they are not in their catalog. I saw flats there this weekend.


  1. Anonymous4:50 AM

    Hybrid delphiniums flower reliably in their first season even from seed here. Do they sulk in your hotter summers?

    For over 50 Acacia species from seed australianseed.com offer a wider range than I can source local in the UK.


  2. Happy Anniversary! Happy puppies! Thank goodness things finally straightened out, and she's able to feed the puppies. I can't imagine no painkillers either. Ugh. I love your blog. You know that. Thank you for all your wonderfully geeky posts. From one geeky gardener to another.~~Dee

  3. Anonymous3:34 PM

    I love your blog and every thing you've written about. Plants, yard, greenhouse, dogs, etc....

  4. Anonymous4:21 PM

    dear matt
    great post! i remember those acacias. these are the kind of things that hook us.
    my father worked as a gardener and attended flower shows. hé would always ask us four children, who wants to go? and i was the only one who ever wanted to make the trip. have a faint memory of one trip to a show in worcester; the heater in the truck was not working well--was there a place called mechanics hall? or could that have been a year in boston? as you can see, that was a very long time ago. but the acacias were there; they were so golden and other-worldly and fragrant--indelible impressions for a young kid in the early 50's.
    all best,
    ~ 02568

  5. wow! quite the ode to acacia. i totally get it about the lacy foliage and the mimosa flowers. but having lived in hawaii too, they are kind of like weed trees! the lehua honey is nice though i can't imagine growing acacia inside in pots. but love is love....and you are clearly hooked.

    congratulations to daphne. can't wait to see the little ones get bigger.

  6. Happy Birthday! Congratulations on the new puppies, well done Daphne! Looks like you have been very busy. That is a real achievement 10 years. I have not blogged regularly this last year because running our small business too more time as we are growing. I do enjoy keeping up with everyone else's gardening trials and tribulations. Happy New Year!

  7. Congratulations on the anniversary! I do love acacia bouquets in the winter, I wish they were as common here as they are in France.

  8. Wendy C8:14 AM

    Just discovered your blog ( from Pith & Vigour) and I love it, perfect timing for winter reading and dreaming. Plant crazy people are the coolest and most interesting people I know.

  9. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Avant Gardens doesn't seem to be carrying double victorian nasturtiums; hopefully the one I got from them last year will successfully overwinter.

  10. john in cranston7:37 PM

    Hey! I thought that the January birthday pilgrimage to Logees was my own personal tradition. I go tomorrow. If only I had room for more, ie I feel your pain.

    Another year wiser, eh? And this one with puppies!


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