February 1, 2016

February Flora

As we are experiencing a rather mild winter, spring seems to be arriving earlier under glass. Many of these pots are old friends - going dormant during their hot and dry summer rest, and blooming sometime during the winter months. Crocus sieberi (left) bulbous oxalis (upper orange color), a Babiana fragrans (upper right pale yellow), Viola adroit (lower right) and Cyclamen coup (center pink), help represent some of our planets rarest treasures.

A true winter garden, is generally an un-heated conservatory or glassed structure which is often unheated, but protected from deep freezes. My greenhouse is technically still a greenhouse, albeit a 'cool house', as the temperatures remain above 40 degrees F., it can reach 70 degrees during sunny days in January. Now that it is February, I feel that we are 'over the hump' at least when it comes to the coldest temperatures, which generally arrive in early and mid-January. I should be careful though, as last winter, it remained far below freezing, near 0 deg F. until nearly March ( and that 119 inch snow fall), I do believe that our el Niño treat will continue here - the thermometer reached 65 deg. F today - outdoors! Talk about winter garden! At least, the bulbs inside are earlier this year - here are a few that are blooming now. Many of these will be familiar to you, if you are a blog follower. I am always so surprised at how these little treasures return year after year, sometimes with more bloom, and in other years, not so much.

Ornithogalum fimbriatum - a small, tine alpine form of these lovely yet under appreciated genus, native to the Balkans, Republic of Georgia and Turkey. This is a rare bulb which few ever see outside of collectors greenhouses.

This unusual species of Ipheon,  Ipheon (Northoscordum) dailystemon is one small bulb that you won't find in most, if any, bulb catalogs. This tiny beauty has been blooming on and off, since November. I am trying to save seed from my 5 bulbs so that I can fill a pot with the tiny bulbs. I dream of having full pots of these flowers, as one sees in the great British Alpine Society shows.

Oxalis obtusa selections ( all from Telos Rare Bulbs).

Oxalis obtusa 'Elizabeth'. In a genus which can be notoriously weedy, most of the bulbous forms make neat and well-behaved winter-blooming greenhouse plants. I have grown most every species, and not only are the flowers cheerful and bright on sunny days, the foliage is sometimes even more interesting.

A pot of Lachenalia ( Cape Hyacinth) is well-budded, and nearly ready to open.

Let's not forget about winter fragrance - words cannot capture what this tiny bouquet smells like right now (at 11:00 at night), where it sits next to my chair  There may be snow on the ground, but it the air in this room smells like Hawaii. Lead by Tulbaghia fragrans ( a less common, night scented Tulbaghia) and topped off with heady notes of the Sarcococca hookeriana, and intensely fragrant tender shrub from the Himalaya, and of course some almond-scented Osmanthus fragrans. 

Some random images of young cyclamen species. Here, Cyclamen graecum ssp candicum. These are the high-brow relatives of your florist cyclamen, but oh so much nicer. They are still seedlings, but should bloom next year.

A more common hardy selection of Cyclamen hederifolium, this one with nicer foliage, which is how one selected such selections, shares a pot with some offspring! Babies are a nice thing, when it comes to species cyclamen. Thank you ants, for helping me sow them!

Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum, with one of the weedier oxalis!

Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum, this one with gray/silvery foliage. I love this selection, and this species, as it is so variable, and so nice a tight growing. A collection  of cyclamen looks so much better when one combines many selections and species.
I hope that I am not boring you with this Cyclamen love? A couple more. Here, is Cyclamen graecum ssp anatolicum
One needs to look carefully with some of these to identify the differences, but when displayed side-by-side, the differences are clear.

Lastly, a very nice silver leaved Cyclamen hederifolium. It may be hardy outdoors here, but this one is one which I just can't get myself to set outside. Not until I grab more seed from it.

A little messy, but I've been busy. Pots of ranunculus are emerging, Ixia, Freesia bulbs and some carnations.

Young camellia trees have been relocated to the upper sand beds, with hopes that they will all bloom in time for the Massachusetts Camellia Society show, at the end of this month. I now have around 30 varieties, but most are still too young to show off in pots, but that won't stop me from exhibiting single flowers. Here in the north, camellias are now rarely seen, as they must all be raised in greenhouses.

My good friend Abbie Zabar once showed me how she started her olive cuttings, but cutting them in the winter and saving the clipping in a jar of water, she insisted that they rooted and grew into the lovely topiary olive trees that I once saw on her penthouse terrace. That winter, about 4 years ago, I came home and tried it myself, substituting damp sand for the water. My cuttings all roots, and now the few plants I kept are 6 feet tall, and yes, trained as topiary standards. Time to do it again!


  1. How nice that you're also a cyclamen enthusiast! I just started seeds of C. purpurascens, intaminatum, and rohlfsianum. Any tips for germination and growing on of those?

    1. Thanks Helen. I grow most of the species, but have little experience raising them from seed, aside from C. purpurescens, C. graecum, C. Persicum and of course, C. herderifolium. I would suggest checking out the Scottish Rock Gardening Club website and Ian Young's Bulblog, or John Lonsdale's website, Edgewood Gardens. Both Ian and John supplied much of my knowledge bank, as well as seed from the SRGC and NARGS. John sells plants as well. You may already know about all of these sources of course, but if not, they are the premier destinations for cyclamen enthusiasts. I have not had much luck in raising C. intaminatum or C. rohlfsianum from seed, but perhaps the seed was old. Fresh seed would be best, and I rarely get seed set on those two species.

    2. Thank you, I did not know about those sources. I bought the seeds from Chiltern, and got my information from the Cyclamen society. Now I know to plant them a little deeper.

  2. Anonymous2:10 PM

    dear matt

    thank you for the photos of what is happening in your greenhouse. yum.
    too many cyclamen NOT! wish i was a more exacting gardener and could be trusted with seed of rarer forms, but i am too offhand and negligent. one red mini florist's cyclamen from the supermarket has been a champ at seeding itself around in my 'winter garden' for years, but i cannot claim any credit; i just pot them up when i find them!
    was at logee's last week looking for citrus and camellias and found things fairly well picked over, credit for which must be due in part to your enthusiastic support!
    a friend alerted me some time back that seneca hills nursery would be closing, and luckily i was able to buy a small but nice collection of hardy forms with lovely leaf patterns from her. they are all doing well outside under big oaks, with one hederifolium in particular seeding itself thickly. as you say, thank you, ants!

    all best,
    ~ 02568

  3. Anonymous3:16 PM

    You are so lucky to be able to go out to your greenhouse and have all of those wonderful flowers. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Such lovely blooms! And a night-scented Tulbaghia? Cool!

  5. Such a lovely set of flowers! Would love to be able to go into my greenhouse and see all this livery.

    Michelle - Landscapia

  6. Gorgeous! Always great to see some color out there after winter. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. I love that image from inside your greenhouse looking out to the snow! How wonderful it must feel to be the caretaker of all that beauty. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hi Matt, I have an off topic question. How did you make out with the Delphinium elatum F1 Hybrid New Millennium 'Blue Lace' seeds you purchased last year? I'm looking at getting some, but wanted to see how you made out. I enjoy your blog and learn so much. Thank You! Ann


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