April 11, 2016

Winter's Late Departure Allows UsTo Catch Up

Those pots of Nemesia that I sowed in September, but then fussed a bit over by adjusting their pH, and monitoring their magnesium and calcium diet, are really taking off. Clearly, an alkaline soil and tweaks to their feed made a huge difference.

It has snowed here in Massachusetts three times since April 1st, but most of the garden seems to be handling this late blast of cooler than normal temperatures. Raking seems more enjoyable, even though one needs to wear a down jacket. Gloves are still necessary, which keeps some chores uncomfortable, such as sowing seeds late pruning of the fruit trees. It's during winters transition into spring, such as this year, when one appreciates having a greenhouse. Oh Hell, one always appreciates a greenhouse except when it's time to pay the heating bill, but the plants themselves really appreciate the warmth during the transitional seasons. Those of us who have been around a bit know that it can snow as late as mid-May, I can remember snow weighing down lilacs and late tulips in the last week before Memorial Day. It can happen again.
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A couple varieties of Nemesia bloom together. I never really imagined that they would do well at all, so the colors became jumbled up. It seems to make no difference to the honey bees, nor to me. Their cheerful and bright colors and so welcome.

I usually move some cool-loving plants outside from the greenhouse, but this year, I am late due to my trip to Iceland, and because it seemed that I have booked myself on most every weekend from early March until the end of June - what was I thinking? I have sown fewer seeds this year, aside from some cool-weather veggies such as kale, radishes, lettuce and peas, and in the greenhouse, I haven't really fussed much with annuals, at least so far, but I have sown some snap dragons and petunia varieties which were hard to get as plants. Tomatoes are sown, and most of my chili peppers are already getting their second pair of leave, so they might be transplanted into individual pots within the next two weeks.

I'm so encouraged by many of the garden shrubs which in December looked as if they were sprouting early due to our warm early winter - all, seem to have survived including the Sambucus (elderberry) and spirea, such as this one, each had most every bud emerging by Christmas Day, but even our record cold weekend in February with -20 temps didn't seem to harm them.

A pulmonary species from seed collected in the wild self seeds prolifically throughout our garden. I find it more beautiful than many of the spotted selections. It's been so cold and snowy here, that it hasn't developed its sky blue tone yet, so most of the blossoms are pinkish or mauve.

We experienced some minor winter kill with the boxwood as it wasn't wrapped for the winter, but since we were able clean much of the garden up in November for a magazine photoshoot, there is little to do regarding winter clean up now in the spring, which is a very good thing!

I've kept most of the potted plants in the greenhouse longer than usual, including many of the bonsai, which are sprouting. It's OK, since in a couple of weeks it will be May, and close to our frost-free date. Due to my Iceland trip, most plants which I would have placed outside, survived our late snows. Under glass, if feels very spring-like with the anemone's blooming.

Look! My first carnation! Now, to master raising them. It's been harder than I imagined.

I seem to have sown fewer seeds this year, but I did start my peppers and tomatoes earlier than I normally would have - all this due to a comment someone wrote me, and the realization that I really could start my tomatoes earlier than April 15 since I do have a greenhouse. Still, I had to laugh at the tall 3 foot tomato plants I saw at our local Lowes this weekend - and it was 26 degree F outside.

I use lots of parsley, so a couple of flats of seedlings, which I believe perform better in the garden than plants that I buy in the spring (it might have something to do with individual plants in individual pots vs crowded plants in one pot - tap rooted, you know). These are of a flat-leaved variety.

I planted tulips this year, but early ones, believing that they might be in bloom for our annual party for the American Primrose Society around April 1st. Clearly, I missed again! These Kaufmania-type tulips still provide some bright color.

Our late snows and cold have damaged early blooming Magnolia stellata, which isn't all that unusual here in New England. Last year we had lovely spring weather, with not surprise cold spells or a return of winter after warm temperatures, but it is far more common for this to happen.

I drove down to Logee's this weekend as it is time to plant some tubs and outdoor plants for the decks and terraces. This 'Goodwin's Creek' variety of lavender is a tender selection, but it is one which does well under glass, and outdoors in the summer. I think it will look rather fine in one of those antique roll-rimmed terra rosa pots I was gifted.

I took a break from scented geraniums, so I had to buy a few. Why is it that just when I get bored with some plants, I want them back again. Blake it on nostalgia, or just a love for the scent which reminds me of my high school greenhouse job in 9th grade, there are just some things one never forgets, and scent, they say, is one of the strongest of all memories. Scented geraniums remind me of everything from red ants, to childhood autumn projects in old greenhouses.

This plant was new to me - Sclerochiton harveyanus. A small, tender shrub from South Africa which is somewhat every blooming, and can make a nice potted plant for the cool greenhouse. I think the taxonomy is questionable here though...still researching if this is labeled and identified  correctly. Thoughts are welcome.

The last puppy from Daphne's January litter. This one is a cutie, and she is a bit of a devil. For some reason, I am connecting with her, so I try to keep any thoughts of keeping here out of my head. We can't have another Irish Terrier, besides, she is going to Amsterdam to live, which is probably why she doesn't bother the tulips.


  1. I feel your pain LOL, I am in Rhode Island and my chili peppers are ready to go along with lettuce, lavendar, and thyme. I have them in the house right now. I am not fortunate enough to plant in the ground so I do use greenhouses, I love yours. I have not started on the flowers or bulbs yet, hoping this weekend. If anyone needs help with growing any kind of plant in containers hop on over to http://containergardening1.com. I wish all gardeners a blessed and blooming crop this year. Happy gardening

  2. Anonymous5:18 PM

    I’m glad you are home and safe Matt.
    The Genus Sclerochiton has 18 species according to The Kew Plant list. What you show looks right for Acanthaceae, and is consistent with the pictures and descriptions of the genus.
    I suppose that since they are spread out over Africa in different countries there isn’t a monograph or key covering them all; at least I can’t find one.
    It is early in the year to decide that the flower form is ‘atypical’; it may settle down to look more typical and be true to name later in the year.

  3. Lovely pictures! Those tulips look lovely, as does your carnation - you should be proud of it. It's always so exciting when you get a first successful bloom!

  4. I like your photography! These flowers look beautiful in your garden. Specially Tulips and there colours. I really love your work and your plantation!! :)

  5. Nemesia are such beautiful, cheerful flowers! They bring happiness to any garden and their variety of colours are wonderful. It can be fun to collect as many colours as you can and fill your garden with brilliant gorgeousness!


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