|Here is a view you rarely see, peeking in through the back of the greenhouse looking forward toward the front door. I am just beginning to clean it, and to casually relocate plants from their summer vacation outdoors, to their places indoors.|
In some years autumn arrives early - at least in the greenhouse. Cyclamen can bloom as early as mid August for us, but for some reason, this year, it has arrives late, and I'm OK with that. It all came as a surprise to me, last week. I walked into the greenhouse which was till relatively empty for the summer. Pots of Nerine sarniensis which still need to be cleaned up an repotted ( a typical last for July, but I was late this year) sat on the potting bench, and even though a few flower buds were emerging, most were still dormant, allowing me to refresh some soil, and time to begin organizing the greenhouse for the winter.
I love this time of year - moving plants in for the winter. As many of you know, I prefer winter growing in the greenhouse more than I do most of the summer. I feel that it controls me a bit. I can get too distracted outdoors, with so many options, but under glass, space is limited. I am adding some new collections this year - a new collection of rhododendrons, the rarer and more tender yet fragrant R. maddenii series, as well as a new collection of shrubby Erica's from South Africa. More about those, later. Maybe I'll be getting more camellias too, and bulbs have been ordered for forcing - a must, which I missed out on, last year.
Right now, much is happening around the garden and greenhouse, beginning with the cyclamen - the wild species, various types all from southern Europe and not C. persicum, the one most of us are familiar with from the florist. As the cooler weather strikes us hard. Cyclamen are often the first sign of autumn, followed up by the Nerine which all have just had their first drink of water. Typically, I provide them with their first drink around Labor Day, but waiting until the cooler nights arrive, is smarter, and seeing the volume of bloom is telling me that this might be a good move.
Cyclamen species do love a summer baking, well, at least most of them do. Dry forests, woodlands and shady nooks between hot rocks throughout the Mediterranean in lands like Greece where many of the choicest species grow. Cyclamen are sturdier than most people know, but it did take years for me to figure out how to grow them. I used to order seed from Thompson & Morgan back in the 80's, and once, I had one single seed germinate.
|Cyclamen graecum ssp. candicum, has foliage which is highly decorative.|
Nothing much became of that poor, weak seeding, but it was only later in life when I realized that it really wasn't my fault at all. Cyclamen seed is actually quite easy to germinate and grow into full sized plants, the only trick, if one can call it that, is to sow impeccably fresh seed (as in - straight-from-the-pod fresh). That is, if you can get to the seeds before the ants do. Ants can't help it - as the seeds are genetically designed for ants, with a tiny piece irresistible sweet tissue on each seed - ant candy, if you will, which seems to be enough of a payment for each seed to be carried away and planted here and there throughout the greenhouse and garden.
Around here, ants usually do get to the seeds first (but sometimes our dear friend Judith Sellers from the New England Primula Society is faster than the ants!). She visits us annually, attending our now infamous annual party for the American Primrose Society which is usually around May 1st - just as the seed pods are ripening on the cyclamen. We're OK with folks taking them, as we have enough, and they usually all fess up to sneaking a few pods, usually confessing after they tour the greenhouse with a glass of wine. I sow a few pots of the nicest ones every spring, allowing the seeds to sit dormant until September, when I water them in.
Seedlings emerge quickly if sown this way. I look for seed pods from the arrowhead-shaped leaves, and the silver patterns of C. hederifolium - they are the ones everyone wants, and I love the white flowered forms. We have loads of C. graecum, a species many find difficult to raise, but a cold greenhouse makes the task effortless. The rest of the seeds are left for the ants - which means that in September, we find cyclamen coming up in all sorts of odd places.
|Cyclamen hederifolim, just one of the many seed-raised cyclamen in our greenhouse.|
This year, our cyclamen are blooming very well, even though they were neglected throughout their summer dormancy. I did leave them alone, however, so their roots were able to go exploring deep into the sand, where they undoubtedly found a tiny bit of moisture, I guess. This is usually the trick for keeping the tender C. graecum through its summer dormancy, that or a teaspoon or two of water. Other cyclamen, can get by with only a hint of moisture, something that maybe helped both these in the greenhouse, as well as those out in the garden, for I noticed today a few C. hederifolium blooming near the walk which leads to our driveway.
|I single cutting of this 'Primrose Tennis' chrysanthemum has grown, through careful pinching and now staking, into a tiered pyramid form. It should be in bloom by late October.|
Chrysanthemums are still moving forward, even though we are getting our first hint of true, autumn weather. Today, I staked a 'Primrose Tennis' incurve, into a shape called a pyramid. A nineteenth century style of training which is based roughly off of the more traditional Japanese methods which are far more elaborate - thousand bloom pyramids and domes. My plant may only have 25 blooms, but is still somewhat traditional - I have an engraving in an old chrysanthemum book which shows one trained just like this. Much can still go wrong, and I am still learning much about how to raise and train exhibition mums - truly a lost art one of which I am steadfastly trying to not let slip away.
|Some chrysanthemums will be very large when they bloom, like this one, which has a bud that is already 2 inches across, but still very tight.|
|Tropaeolum moritzianum is a vine not for the small garden, but if sited right, the foliage alone can be an asset. The blossoms come late in the season however, so pray for late frosts.|
|Calicarpa with violet berries can be downright too striking for some of us, but the white berried form is so much nicer.|
|Other dahlias like this fimbriated bright red one (lost the label) bloom in the vegetable garden. In the back? Another dahlia look-alike - Tithonia, or Mexican Sunflower. These plants are about 16 feet tall again, even though it is dry.|
|Dahlia 'Lakeview Ripple' a new introduction from Clearview Dahlias, a go-to source for exhibition types, had bloomed for me between our two Massachusetts dahlia shows, which Donna Lane, our chapter president tells me is called a 'Wednesday Garden' meaning that they bloomed off-schedule, on the Wednesday between shows.|