February 23, 2017

Cabin Fever Relief

One of the three Irish histrioides x winogradowii hybrids, Iris histrioides x  'Finola' is lovely with white falls that have blue streaks. You already know of it's sister (or cousin?) the more infamous 'Katherine Hodgkin'.

As much of the United States enjoys a bit of warm, spring-like weather ( record breaking 65 degrees here today!), I still can't believe that it is already the end of February. Is it a cliche to say things like "where did this winter go?" or is it just a jinx-worth statement? Peas can be planted any day now if this keeps up, and although I love do love me a good, snowy winter, I think I'm good.

 If I tell you why I seem to have taken a few weeks off from writing you'll laugh. I am so self-conscious about my 'casual' or 'conversational' writing style, that I bought a writing program and signed up for an app called Grammarly that would help me. Over the past few weeks, I've written at least 10 posts, then saved them all as drafts - as I keep editing, and editing, and editing and editing, and then re-writing. I somehow lost my timing.

The result is that I lost my momentum - my natural rhythm which was quite simple. Taking pictures and writing that just followed whatever the pictures required. I know that it can seem random, and I had some concerns that after ten years things begin to repeat, but the truth is, each year is different in some way, as most who garden, know.

I'm not kidding! Here is a snippet of my post feed with unfinished posts. I think I just need to relax a bit
Iris reticulata 'Pauline', a nice rich, dark purple with thinner falls, but plenty of open flowers. To achieve this effect, I set as many bulbs as I can in a 4 inch plastic pot. The bulbs root in the cold, dark space under the rear benches in the greenhouse, and by mid January, they begin to sprout. So easy.

Remember all of those Dutch bulbs that I potted up and stashed under the greenhouse benches last October? Well, they are all blooming. It's funny (or sad?) that as we grow older, time passes much for quickly, for October seemed as if it was yesterday. That phenomenon does have me investing more in things like forced bulbs which seemed to take forever when I was a 12 year old, and often became discouraging.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony' is a rich violet with the most classic if to cliche of falls - the sort that kindergarteners draw with crayons when ever they are asked to draw an Iris reticulata. (well, hey - at least, the sort I drew!).

Here in New England, weather February can be fickle. OK, it can be fickle most any month of the year, but one notices such difference on those fringe months. February can keep us deep under 5 feet of snow (as in the past two years) with witch hazels waiting to bloom until March or even April, or they can burst into bloom during the first week of February.

Hamamelis x 'Arnold's Promise' nearly fully open before the end of February. It's our 'groundhog', and a reliable sign that spring is near.

This year, I would say that it's pretty average, as our Hamamelis x 'Arnold's Promise' has unfurled its golden threads today, and since it is nearly the end of February, the 65 degree. F temperature (even with a foot of snow still on the ground) is welcome.

Another sure sign of spring - Leek and onion seedlings in the greenhouse! I am using cell trays this year to avoid transplanting and damaging roots. 

It's funny how the Lachenalia behave differently from year to year. Maybe I started them off later than I usually do, but then again, this pot I never repotted, and I may have not divided it for three years now. Usually these bloom in January but it looks like a big March display is lining up in the Lachenalia department!

Usually the hybrid lachenalia bloom earlier as well, but this year, the species (these are all aloides - group) look as if they are a bit earlier than all the rest, but they all should share some bloom time on the benches.

In the greenhouse the Chrysanthemums from just a few months ago, have all dried back a bit, having been cut back to stumps and set under the benches, but even kept dryish and cold - near freezing, new growth has emerged. There is hardly an 18th century gardening book that doesn't advise the gardener to 'strike cuttings' starting in January of each chrysanthemum variety. Im only growing a few this year, but here I am, taking cuttings of a few more than "just a few". Stop me.

Oh 'Margaret Davis',  you are indeed the queen of the Camellia world. If you were a Dahlia, you would be 'A.C. Ben.' (meaning that you are always a crowd pleaser and a good doer. And you win all the shows.).

This may be Tropaeolum brachyceras, or a cross. It's another tuberous form from the Andes that a reader sent me but I the flowers are still immature. In a few weeks with the brighter sun, these should open more.

The first blossoms on another tuberous Tropaeolum, T.  tricolor are also starting to show color. If it stays this warm it should put on a great show in a few days, but one must be careful with all tuberous winter blooming tropes, because any day over 55 deg. F discourages their growth, and could potentially trigger them to believe that their hot, dry dormancy period has arrived prematurely. I sometimes set these pots on the cool gravel outside on sunny winter days.

I feel as if I repeat this sequence of blooming plants year after year! But here you go. The darling and sweetest of all of the Ornithogalums - the alpine house favorite O. fimbriatum. Low, tiny and it blooms for a long time.

Since all timing is off throughout the small world within my greenhouse, this lonely typicaly early-winter blooming Nerine undulata had presented us a half dozen stems. I now believe that this deserves the 'Best Nerine Ever' award. Much more reliable as a pot plant in a cool greenhouse than it's fussier sisters (the showier, yet crankier  N. sarniensis group).

Our rescue dog 'Bob' came to stay here from France- he needs a good home!
 And now for something different. In December we received a rescue dog from France, who came to stay with us while being evaluated at Tufts University to see if they could restore this sweet four year old Wire Hair Fox Terrier and French Griffon (clearly, more Griffon). He was separated from his litter mates in France as a puppy when his breeders, who was breeding hunting dogs discovered that he was blond. HI as discovered by a team of dog rescue folks from France and the Mid West, who sponsored his trip here. They asked us to help and we welcomed the chance as they helped us once with an Irish Terrier rescue.

Why he was named "Bob" in France, I have no idea. We do call him 'Robert' more than we do Bob, tough. I you know of anyone worthy of such a sweet rescue, contact me and I can put you in touch with the folks here in the Mid West who are setting up his placement. For a blind dog (who is now officially blind, the vets found his eyesight un-restorable), he is smart, learns and maps out the house and yard quickly (just don't move furniture around as we did once!).

He is bigger than you might think, but his fur is so soft, and he is a real sweetie. All he wants to do is to sit on the sofa or on the chair with you and cuddle. Oh, and he likes to eat, but then again, he is French!

It's fascinating to see how quickly a blind dog can map out his territory. He seems to be able to count stairs, he learned where the doggy door was in a couple of hours (ok, sometimes he misses it by a few inches!) but then gets it straight. He needs a good home.

In France, he was shaved so he doesn't have his Griffon-coat, which would make him look like that very on-trend dog breed that we see often in TV commercials. Is he really part Wire Hair Fox Terrier? Hey, I don't see it, except maybe in is coloring, but who cares when he is this cute.

Happy faux spring!

If anyone is attending the 36th Annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show this Sunday, come see me speak at the Garden Conservancy Seminar at 2:00 PM. I'll be speaking about Rediscovering Summer Blooming Bulbs.


  1. Anonymous5:04 PM

    So many inspirations and too many comment/thoughts to write in this box, but don't worry about your editing -- I prefer your flow of thought to a stilted Grammarly style. Most people read by seeing the first and last letters, and infer all the 2 and 3 letter ones anyway. I specially love the reticulatas, camellia, bulbs, and Bob. If he could catch rabbits, I'd convince Bruce that we need a dog.

    1. Bob can snoop-out potato chips and oreos,not to mention find and catch ducks, so rabbits are not out of the question. A good bonus is that he can't see squirrels at the bird feeders, and he's friends with the mail man, so he's quiet indoors. Irish Terriers? No so much.

  2. The photo of Iris reticulata 'Harmony' is amazing. Love the color. Our witch hazel is in bloom too and smells great. Your posts always remind me of my childhood, family wholesale growers, we sold cut iris to NYC flower market on 28th, mainly purple. And that I should grow more plants. Thanks

    1. Nostalgia is so powerful, isn't it Keith? Fragrance, memories and plants. I sometimes struggle with my memories of New England and Hawaii, but I love snow too much!

  3. There's nothing really wrong with your writing style. But you could proofread a little better....everybody should proofread a little better. My suggestion - spend your time proofreading rather than worrying about your writing style! I was wondering why any breeder would reject a dog that's "blond" until I realized you meant blind. And I still don't know what "HI as discovered" means :). Can blind dogs go on walks in the woods? Or do they have to stay close to the house? Is he good with other dogs? I might be willing to take him on but it wouldn't be for 3-4 months as I'm overseas. It is GREAT of you to take on his care. Please keep us updated.

    1. Hmm. Blond dogs do have their issues too. Almost too good to not correct, I think! Thanks so much!

    2. john in cranston8:25 PM

      I too read "blond" and wondered, "what is the color of the show worthy breed?". Hilarious

  4. Always amazed by what you manage to accomplish. Your posts are always rich in images, language and heart. And now, about Bob - my husband will be reviewing this post as soon he comes back from tennis! I only hope my cats my like him. Bob - that is! : )

    1. Thanks, your so kind MlleParadis!

  5. Hey Matt!
    First of all, I love your photos! They're all so vibrant. It looks like you have some kind of greenhouse from what I can tell. Is that true? I'm impressed with your ability to keep those plants alive despite the winter! I struggle to keep my simple ferns and succulents alive yearlong, they prevail but my plant tending skills are elementary. I'm sure if I keep to it I'll get better. You seem to know your stuff, keep at it! Have a nice day.

  6. Those irises are absolutely beautiful. I am probably depriving myself, but I've been too afraid to move into planting bulbs. To be honest, I just don't "get" them yet.

    And as for your writing style - I love the casual approach. It's more fun and personal when you just get let it flow.

  7. Anonymous5:42 AM

    Please don't worry about your writing 'style' - you have a good strong direct voice which I for one really enjoy. I am even willing to give you a pass on the proofing, if that means you'll keep up with regular posting. Thank you for these gorgeous photos. So pleased to see Margaret Davis in there - I just bought one from London's Columbia Road Market. The English seem to consider camellias rather old fashioned but I spend half the year in Tokyo so cannot imagine a garden without one. I only wish I had room for the full camellia hedge one sees all over Japan.

  8. Hello Matt, Love your website and pictures. I would be interested in adopting Bob if he remains available.

  9. Wendy C9:48 AM

    Hi Matt, Have never left a comment, guess it is high time to do it, just to tell you how appreciative I am of you sharing your wonderful adventures. I am a gardener, paid and otherwise, and love it all. I am totally jealous of your greenhouse, I have an unheated one with heated beds at work, so I can still push the envelope, and also have lots of south facing windows at home, so can have a bit of fun there. I really enjoy seeing the multitude of plants that you grow and use, and the history and back stories that you write about, it's all so very interesting. Your writing style is very good, yeah, about a little proof-reading, and wonderful photographs. I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Good luck with your new life endeavours!
    Wendy C

  10. Iris reticulata 'Pauline' is stunning....need I say more.


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