October 19, 2016

Mum Season Begins with Early Blooms and a Feature in Martha Stewart Living

A very random bouquet of late fall blooming rarities from the garden. Tricyrtus hirta, Saxifrage fortunei, Allium thunbergeii, Cuphea viscosissima,  a white bottle Gentian clausa var. alba and Daphne transcaucasica - all post-freeze survivors.

Our first hard frost arrived last Friday, which knocked out the dahlias and most of the tender annuals. One season ends, while a new one begins in the greenhouse.

 It seems that every weekend has been booked since June, but I think my schedule slows down a bit beginning this weekend, which I cannot wait for. For example, this past weekend I attended a Dahlia Society demonstration, hosted the Primrose Society for a lunch, bought paint to paint the house, needed to sow seeds of bulbs in the greenhouse, and had to attend Joe's pet project, a Halloween doggy dress up party in Connecticut.

The earliest of the large exhibition chrysanthemums are beginning to open. Derek Bircumshaw is always the first one to bloom on the large dis-buds. Keeping them dry requires fans, and time under glass at this point.
I really wanted to drive down to the New York Botanic Garden for a personal tour that some officials offered me so that I could see their Kiku chrysanthemum exhibit which is up until the end of the month (I know that it is incredible as I have seen it before), and I wanted to attend the Tri State NARGS meeting  - which I always seem to miss, but I just couldn't find the time to do it all.

Last summer and autumn, the editors at Martha Stewart Living wanted to come see the chrysanthemums. I felt that they were not the best (this years are much better) but they still came - the results of that photoshoot can be seen in this months Thanksgiving issue.

I'll share much more about my ongoing chrysanthemum projects, and as I hinted at, they are being featured this month in the Thanksgiving Issue of Martha Stewart Living (I added some screenshots at the end of this post).  I won't be exhibiting any this year, since it seems that our northern grown mums bloom a few weeks later than those on Long Island, which happens to be where the nearest chapter of the American Chrysanthemum Society holds their exhibit. Maybe next year. For now, my chrysanthemums will stay in my greenhouse (but I may exhibit a few at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in mid November, so that others can see them up close).

So, for now - some catch up on what's been happening around the garden, and greenhouse.

We hosted the New England Chapter of the American Primrose Society last Saturday, and our friend Amy Olmsted from Vermont brought these treasures for us! - These hardy orchids have long been on my wish list. Spiranthes cernua 'Chadds Ford' will be set out in a special damp spot in the garden next weekend when I can find some time.

At my friend Mike Fusaro's house this weekend in Connecticut, a lovely white fall-blooming Japanese Anemone reminded me about how much I love this plant. Any late blooming perennial, for that matter. 

How striking is this big old fashioned Flowering Maple? Abutilon 'Red Tiger' available from Logee's Greenhouses is a big plant, with large leaves and giant flowers. Vigorous and worthy of a big pot in your parlor or greenhouse.

I found some time this weekend to sow seed of bulbs and tuberous plants which require an autumn sowing, as they are winter growers. Cyclamen species and many rare narcissus were added to the collection this year. All sown deep in 2.5 inch pots in a fast-draining lean soil mix made from 50% pumice and 50% soilless mix.

A favorite autumn blooming narcissus is just starting to bloom, it's blossom is smaller than a blueberry but so fragrant. Narcissus serotinus from Spain, Portugal and Greece. Not all narcissus are spring blooming.

Narcissus seed from England ready for sowing, a task I do every autumn. Most of these are smaller species from collectors, types which are best grown in a cold, winter greenhouse. They include many crosses of Narcissus cantabricus, N. romieuxii and other hoop types or small, rock garden types favored by alpine plant collectors. Real treasures.

Small bulbous iris, such as Iris reticulata and I. histrioides have their bulbs set shoulder to shoulder in square pots to root. They are kept near freezing under a dark bench for 12 - 14 weeks, a little less than tulips which are better when forced after 16 weeks. These little iris will emerge and bloom in just a few days in mid winter - just when you need a touch of spring.

I love the scent of hyacinths in January, and new bulbs produce a wide fan of foliage and have enormous if not monstrous buds, so I plant them further apart so that they have room to 'spread their wings'. 

Small bulbs are set into square plastic pots that I can set under the back benches in the greenhouse to root where the it is dark, and near 38 degrees during the winter. It's  a method that works for me. Pots of these narcissus, species tulips, muscari and Iris reticulata are then brought out into the greenhouse to force beginning just after New Year Day.

The Napa cabbage and Chinese greens planted in these, the Elevated Cedar Planter Box which I am now raising most of my veggies in, they are from Gardener's Supply Co. are maturing, enjoying the shorter days and colder temperatures. These will be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.

Now for some silly fun - two years ago Joe started the New England Irish Terrier Club, a regional club for those who own Irish Terriers, an endangered breed which was once quite popular in the New England area as they made good, hearty farm dogs. Our Weasley (Grand Champion Red Devil's Lucifer's Fire) dressed here this time not for Westminster or the World Dog Show in Milan, but....as a Ghost Buster.

Lydia, decided to tramp out as a sexy little Oktober Fest Frauline complete with braids. She kind-of enjoyed it.

The line up of some members with their dogs. It was a beautiful autumn day, as well.

I designed some quick solutions for prizes - tiny garden pumpkins was all we needed.

Check out the feature on my chrysanthemums and greenhouse in this Thanksgiving's issue of Martha Stewart Living available now.

Lastly, I am so humbled that my garden has been featured in two significant articles this month in two great magazines. You can find a wonderful feature which was shot last November here on my chrysanthemum projects in this November's Martha Stewart Living. This was a huge project, which began in May 2015 and which ended in November 2015 when they flew a photographer from the UK out for 2 days of shooting that ended up with the fire department coming (hey, he wanted a romantic, foggy greenhouse scene and it happened to be warm and sunny! He needed a smoke machine - stat.

So Joe got his bee smoker going with some pine needles, and started a fire in the fire pit, and basically,the rest was history but the shot never made it into the article. Somehow, they got the shots they needed ( yeah, it's a long story as these big shoots tend to be).  The best part was that to top it all off, Daphne, our youngest terrier decided to - how do I say this elegantly - - well, she decided to get layed right in front of the greenhouse. She was actually due to be bred that day, and the male was visiting, Needless to say, this was the highlight of the shoot - out came the smart phones so that they could all document the biology and text them to Martha. We named one of the puppies after the art director, Jaspal. (but her name was changed, as she now lives in the Netherlands).

If you happen to be in South Africa, the South African House & Garden magazine by Conde Nast also wrote a wonderful surprise piece which features four garden bloggers that they feel are the four best Online Gardeners to follow. (gush!).  I'm so honored to be associated with these other media writers such as David Marsden from the Anxious Gardener, my friend Non Morris from the Dahlia Papers, Debbie Tenquist from South Africa. Thanks, Condé Nast! 


  1. Oh wow! Two such high profile articles, very impressive!

  2. I love your way of forcing small bulbs in 4" pots to bring cheer indoors but I don't have a greenhouse. I've been keeping the pots in outdoor raised beds but that delays flowering until near "proper" time. Outdoors our nights in Asheville, NC, do go into the 20's nearly every night, usually above freezing during the day, but the alternative house garage is a warm 50 to 60 degrees. There is an open 2nd story porch floor above the garage entrance. Could that be used if the pots are covered with insulation? Have you any other suggestions?

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  4. Sieglinde - bulbs themselves don't want to freeze, so as long as you can keep the pots cold and not frozen, you should be OK. I have heard of some tricks - setting pots into a bag of leaves, even placing them in a beer cooler set out onto the deck. In the UK, where it doesn't get too cold but near freezing, they sometimes just place heating cables into their raised sand beds in alpine houses so that the roots don't freeze, or place layers of newspapers over the pots. Setting pots into sand also may work, for a light freeze is OK, but one would want to avoid the freeze-thaw-refreeze process. That damages both bulbs and roots. You may just need to try a few things before you get it right. Another option is a new one - Brent and Becky's bulbs now sells pre-chilled bulbs which are intended for southern growers, but they could also be used to force if you pot them immediately. I would check those out, which would be much easier! Thanks! Let me know how it all works out for you!!

  5. I received an arrangement for Valentine's day with red roses, tulips and purple calla lilies. The presentation and quality by San Francisco Flower Delivery was amazing. From the paper packaging to the handwritten note atop a flower stem, these are the most beautiful perfect flowers I've received.

  6. Paige Nugent/A Girl in Her Garden11:16 AM

    I loved the dog costume - so cute!

    I am also jelous of the Flowering Maple. Maybe I need to build a greenhouse.

    1. Hi Paige!
      Thanks. Hey, you really DO need to build a greenhouse! - I highly approve!. Thanks for the comment. Matt

    2. Anonymous12:32 PM

      dear matt
      i enjoyed your last couple of posts very much--a little of this and a little of that, plus your excellent pix, as always.
      you aren't crazy to do these projects and pursuits, or have a greenhouse. you are shouldering the burden of transmitting a part of our cultural héritage and modeling the behaviors we need more of.
      hope your jaws heals up fast--all best,
      ~ 02568


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