March 20, 2016

First Day of Spring

The well know early blooming Iris reticulata 'Katherine Hodgkin', perhaps the perfect subject for my new camera (I'm switching from Nikon to Canon, so it's a bit like switching political parties. The quality in even the past 5 years, has progressed so much, plus with the opportunity to create videos, I think I will get more use out this camera.

When I think back to all of the 'first day's of spring' that I've experienced, today really seems no different - I mean aside from the fact that we had the warmest winter ever recorded, after the coldest and snowiest winter ever recorded last year, and that now we are buckling down for a late winter snowstorm tonight, it's all good!

Most of my time this week has been spent in the greenhouse, with only a few crops planted outdoors - parsnips, peas, lettuce, the typical cold weather crops are sown, and this late snow won't hurt them one bit. I am glad that I have resisted relocating some hardier plants outside for a few weeks (camellias and rosemary), as a few more nights of 18 degree weather are sure to arrive. No worries, under glass, things are keeping me busy enough as garden planning continues with more seeds to sow.  I don't know about you, but I am still ordering seeds, and have barely started ordering plants yet - just a little late, I guess. maybe this is something I can do if we have a snowday tomorrow?

Nemesia, the pots that I've been sharing with you over the past few weeks, are really beginning to look great. Again, these are a great example of how important specific fertilizer is, as well as knowing what a particular genus requires. I never had any luck raising nemesia from seed until I learned more about their requirements - particular for iron, magnesium and calcium. These were sown last autumn, and historically, nemesia were common winter cold greenhouse pot plants.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to give two talks to the Connecticut Master Gardeners association - a pretty incredible turn-out, with about 350 attendees - and both of my talks were sold out, which kind-of made me feel a bit like a rock star. I spoke about old-fashioned vegetables - forcing Sea Kale, Rhubarb and Chicory as a winter crop, and various stories about the history of vegetables. I think the crowd liked it, but it wasn't something that I would typically talk about - so I was up late the night before making tweaks to the presentation, so I am pretty tired this Sunday. What a great group they were, and what a terrific event. 

Just in time for Easter next week, I spent the morning washing eggs from our chickens and ducks. Aren't the colors beautiful? We may not have to color any this year.

Sweet Peas and other rare Lathyrus and Species

It's high seed-starting time here, as I assume it is at your house too. I know that I forgot to mention that I am raising a collection of lathyrus species (flowering sweet peas - yes, but not specifically the cut-flower sweet peas we are more familiar with like the Spencer varieties, as I am also collecting the species - many of which are currently being used in breeding,many of these have interesting colors such as green and yellow). I've found about a dozen species from three sources, as well as a few from some specialist collectors. Sure, I am raising regular English Spencer varieties as well, but not as many as I have in last years. 

Some of the more wild species of lathyrus are just as interesting as the hybrids. This L. tingitanus will have bright pink flowers. A more unusual annual rarely seen, it is just one of about a dozen new species of flowering sweet pea species I am studying this summer in the garden. I already enjoy it's more delicate foliage, but it does seem to be growing rather fast!

English Sweet Peas - Spencer Varieties, shown here a couple of weeks ago, are now all leafed out and pinched - pinching stimulates the secondary shoots, which are more vigorous, and those are the ones I will train onto canes. I want long stems for cutting. All of these will be hardened off soon, and planted outdoors in a couple of weeks.

The above image may not look like much, I am more than delighted, as this blue tropaeolum had suffered a terrible accident last December (my fault!). After potting up the tuber of this rare and recently described blue-flowered Tropaeolum (T. hookerianum ssp. austropurpureum a blue-voilet flowering form not to be confused with the other blue flowering trope -Tropaeolum azureum, which I already have in the collection). 

The Survival Story of my Tropaeolum hookerianum ssp. austropurpureum

You may remember the post from around Christmas, when I knocked a pot over of a rare tuberous nasturtium - a blue flowering species recently described? It's always the rare plant, right? After the stopped swearing, and arranged the segments and parts on the potting bench the new shoots on one side, and the separated tuber on the other, I decided to not throw the entire mess away, but to just reassemble the pot as best as I can. I figured, what do I have to lose? Besides, maybe this happens in nature -a rock slide or an animal disturbs a bulbous plant, and sometimes things all work out.

One of the blossoms on this violet colored Tropaeolum hookerianum. I am hopeful that both the tuber and the stem have survived, and the good news may (must) be that the stem has rooted in the pumice, and produced a secondary tuber.

Thankfully, they have. And although I don't have a vigorous vine tumbling amongst the branches with violet blossoms, I do have a pathetic little shoot that has not died, nor hardly grown in  3 months, deep in a big old plastic pot, but it never died - AND it has produced a few flowers. So, I am rather thrilled.

This alpine Vireya (rhododendron) was a nice subject for my new lens. SO, here is what it looks like when I take a photo with my old camera......
...and this is the same Vireya with my new camera an lens. (18mm - 135mm) Canon.

Japanese chrysanthemum cuttings - gnome types and cascades, rooted in February, have just had their fast pinch.

Dendrobium speciosum

More about the Dendrobium Speciosum Monstrosity

I have to show this plant one more time, even though it is far from perfect or award winning - otherwise I would have brought it down to the Philadelphia Flower Show or to the New England Flower Show. Orchid societies and orchid growers are very selective about the plants they accept in exhibitions, and this one although impressive with its fourteen spikes and 6 foot plus stature, it has some sunburn on its foliage, and some damaged leaves. I really don't care about that though, it is absolutely spectacular this year. So, bear with me as I share a few more photos of this magnificent specimen which is native to Australia - and, one of the worlds largest orchid plants.

A detail of the Dendrobium speciosum
Dendrobium speciosum selections are difficult to find, probably because they are so large growing, so here in the East, they are less common than they are let's say, in Western collections. Most of these Australian native species are cool greenhouse orchids, so they should make useful cool house plants, if you can handle the size. That said, there are many smaller cool-house dendrobium from Australia that you can try. IN particular, the many crosses with this species and other dendrobium. Check out the selection at Santa Barbara Orchid Estates. That's where I ordered the young plant of this one.

The entire plant of this D. speciosum is so large, that I would have to open both doors of the greenhouse, to move it outdoors. The slat basket is 24 inches in diameter, and I am wondering where I could find a larger one when I have to repot this beast later this spring.
If I counted every orchid blossom, I wonder how many corsages this would make for Easter? If people still wore orchid corsages on Easter.

An Edgeworthia  continues to bloom, in the greenhouse. I really enjoy this Asian shrub, but the akebono variety is really nicer, with its orange and yellow blossoms.
What's this yellow flower on the floor?

Jasminum 'Revolutum' Surprise

So, here was a surprise today. I vine which I have barely noticed for a couple of years, is blooming, and I wouldn't have even noticed it, if I didn't look down and spot a single, yellow blossom on the ground in an aisle. Jasminum 'Revolutum' or Jasminum humble. A vine which I planted as a cutting a few years ago ( from Logee's). I knew that I smelled something  jasmine-like a couple of weeks ago, but I could not find the source. Little did I know that it was 12 feet above me.

The yellow jasmine 'Revolutum' was trained along a beam high in the greenhouse, and was partly hidden by other vines over the past two years, but they were cut out this autumn when I decided that they were too vigorous to be allowed to grow any more - something, which one must expect with vines in a greenhouse! This may have a similar fate in a couple of years, but for now, I shall enjoy it's blossoms and scent - and just before a blizzard hits too - how perfect.

Parsley seedlings are almost ready for transplanting into individual pots. Parsley is tap rooted, and prefers little root disturbance, in particular, the flat-leaf types, which tend to sulk if transplanted too late, or with disturbance. I should have individually sown the seeds I suppose, as I do my Hamburg type Parsley, which is grown for its white paring-like roots.

The mesclun is up and growing already, even though it is just past St. Patrick's Day. These are being raised in a cold frame, so tonight snow should not hurt them.

Irish Terrier Puppy shot - puppy number 3! They're getting super cute, but off to their new home in a couple of weeks.
Doodle (Daphne), rubbing her back on the boxwood - like her father Fergus used to do. Just what a want, a boxwood-scented dog (actually, I like the smell of boxwood).


  1. Incredible coincidence: Daniel Perry of Rio Grande Cactus gave us a flask full of seedlings of the Dendrobium a week ago he'd grown on agar in a flask! My God, It's gorgeous!

    Lovely post, as always.


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