April 28, 2009
A slightly less common Fritillary, Fritillaria persica is completely growable for many North American and European gardeners. The best strain apparently is one called 'Adiyaman' but it is muddled, and few can offer the accurate form. Still, the bulb is carried by most retailers of Dutch bulbs in the fall, and I encourage all to buy as many as you can afford. Like many large bulbs, they are not inexpensive, but a dozen or two make the best impression.
Fast drainage and summer dryness is preferred by this native of Iran, I grow mine in a raised rock garden, with gravelly soil and deep snowcover, since it slides off of the greenhouse onto this foundation bed. It seems to work. Many say to plant the large skunky scented bulbs on their sides, since water can collect in the cavity on the top, but they will reset themselves in one growing season, so it seems fruitless to do do. Try all of the Frits, they are awesome when they are seen in bloom.
March 30, 2009
Yes, those are dirty dishes. And frankly, not much design fuss went into this. I just snapped these photos tonight, since I jsut noticed that these are all yellow flowers ( I know, the Halogen lights are blowing out the yellows, but with a flash, this would have looked far worse). I just thought that I would capture this honest moment, as I found it when arriving home from work tonight. You should smell these Gladiolus tristis....wow....almost too much.
OK.....This is about as bad as it gets...I will now admit, full disclosure, that I have a display window over my sink. Yeah....I installed a 90 degree bay window, and had lighting added, and a copper tray with gravel, just so I can display pots from the greenhouse that are currently in bloom.
I was inspired by three things here, first, Thalasa Crusoes early writings, where she remembers her first home in Boston, and the plant window she asked her husband to build, with a copper tray and "proper pebbles" placed in it so that she could display paperwhites. Second, the estate I worked at while in high school, that of Mr. Robert Stoddard and her famous Fletcher Steele garden, Mrs. Stoddard had a plant window in her dining room, and I had to stock it with peach colored tulips, periwinkle Hyacinths and Primula Obconica for much of the winter. I loved that window. And third.....the New England Spring Flower Show, where an annual contest was held each spring on displaying plants in a faux bay window. All of these I first experienced when I was a teen ( obviously, a nerdy one) and, now, as an adult, I can bring many of these to reality - albeit above my sink full of dishes!
Now it gets worse.
I actually theme the displays ( like this one, which really occured by accident, being themed as "Yellow-South-African-Flowering- Bulbs-that-bloom-in-March." Of course, I could go on, and say that it is 'A window of geophytic Cape Bulbs that are pollenated by sun birds" but I did that last year. ( see?).
The other plants are a rare yellow flowered Velthiemia bracteata ( the one that looks like a red-hot poker that got scared), and a beautuful new seedling that I brought back from Mr. Nakamura's farm in Japan of a yellow clivia, one of his Vico Gold offspring,(which too is fragrant), and a nice little pot of the precious little South African bulb, Lachenalia alata ssp. aurea from leaf cuttings last year started in the greenhouse.(no fragrance).
March 29, 2009
Ahhhh...The Scent of Gladiolus tristus. For those of you lucky enough to have a cold greenhouse, the species Gladiolus offer some incredible scents and colors that rarely are seen in the garden. These South African natives often require the same conditions that many SA bulbs need, mainly a dry dormancy, and a wet growing season. G. tristus has a strong following, albeit secretly, amongst plant enthusiasts. Old gardening books often romance it's fragrance in ways like this " A pot of Gladiolus tristus when brought indoors from the conservatory, will emit it's haunting fragrance when evening arrives" or " Stepping into a glass house at night, during a blizzard, the scent of the Gladiolus tristis attacks ones senses with the subtlety of a Department Store fragrance clerk armed with atomizer and samples". OR better yet, 'Gladiolus tristus, when brought into the home on a Friday evening after work, and placed in the plant window above ones kitchen sink, instantly transforms the scent of the space, from 'Friday at the fish-fry', into "Friday at the Abercrombie and Fitch mall store."
Gladiolus tristis is a bit strong, but oh, so nice. I had trouble finding bulbs for the past two years, looking for them in various catalogs during the summer, for fall planting, but last year, I found some at Telos Rare Bulbs, and purchased 6. One bloomed in October, and was salmon colored, and clearly another ( perhaps rarer) species. Now, the balance of the bulbs are blooming in the same pot, and they are indeed, tristis. So I shall need to remove said bulbs, and repot this spring. The best discover is that many of the species glads are available for spring planting, for late summer or autumn blooms. So if you want to enjoy this scent, which is rather lovely and not cloyingly acidic as the fragrance of an A&F store, do plant many, 24 or more, in a nice deeply planted clump in your garden. Just be certain to dig them up when frost arrives, and store in a cool, dry place until spring ( unless you live in zone 8 or higher, of course!). I plan on ordering 96, for one, massively fragrant clump. Now, I wish I lived in San Fran.
A pot of Gladiolus tristis brought outside with some early blooming greenhouse bulbs.
The Velthiemia bracteata are beginning to bloom ( see the yellow flame var. in the upper right hand corner). Their size is different each year, I guess is is a combination of light quality, temperature and water. This year, the greenhouse was very cold, it even froze a couple of times, and the sun was brighter in the front of the house, so these plants received more bright light than usual. I like the shorter habit.
Don't believe what they all tell you! Most South African bulbs look pretty crappy by the time they bloom. This Babiana looks like all of my Babiana, starting to yellow and brown, and then sending up buds. Dang ungroomed baboons, ( Babiana are named after Baboons, who dig and eat thier bulbs in Africa).
This was glass cleaning weekend, at least Saturday was. I was only able to wash the inside and outside of 7 rows. These panes were green with algae, but now the sun is strong enough to burn the foliage ( see the cyclamen) so the shade cloth is going up this week.
January 21, 2009
Amaryllis 'Sweet Lillian'
January is becoming busy. I've been trying to catch up with posting, since last week was my birthday ( 50!), and I had to deliver a keynote speech in Florida, we had two snowstorms, I changed four flights in two days, had the furnace break down twice, and then there is work...and, of course, a new President which I spent celebrating by watching the inaugural on the back seat TV of a Jetblue plane for five hours. Amazing.
The Amaryllis continue to bloom, with these two newer cultivars of the "Cybister-type', those with spidery form which are much nicer, I think , than the showier standard Dutch forms which we are so familiar with. The first, 'Rosado' has such a dark center, that it is difficult to capture it's lushness on screen. Believe me when I say that there should be a lipstick color named this. We have received so much new snow ( 13 inches in two days) that when the sun came out on Saturday, the greenhouse literally shrieked with joy ) or from melting ice on the glass) which made the Amaryllis inside, glow so brightly.
The second new cultivar is called 'Lillian', and it is strikingly gorgeous, it looks more like a Crinum than an Amaryllis, and it's colors are complex and even more interesting when viewed at a close distance.
Short post this week, since the tub is running, and I need to pack for another trip tomorrow. Hopefully, I will catch up this weekend, but for now, this will have to do. At least be assured that I am not wasting time, I am busy on-line ordering new plants from the many catalogs that have arrived, especially Plant Delights Nursery. Maybe that is what I will share later - my list.
Some pottery I made, ready to fire
It's a snowy weekend, snowed in and missing two flights, so I decided to fire up the kiln so I can make more pots. These are pretty poor looking, but I thought that I should at least fire them so that I can fire the nicer ones that I threw this winter. Joe was at the National Pigeon show, ( notice the feathers!) so he stored some of the California pigeons in the studio which is wood heated, because of the cold temps outside for a few days. It was so cold, that we lost one of the ducks, the black one named Jack. RIP Jack. I'm sure there will be more, egg laying season will start soon with the Indian Runners.
Last image - some of the Primula malacoides seed which I brought back from Japan last year is starting to bloom. Early, and since the house is cold, they are small, but soon there will be more. By next week, the sun will begin to feel warmer in the Greenhouse, and by Feb. 14, I can really feel the difference.
For now, we are suffering an amazingly cold winter, with this weekend bringing below zero (F) temperatures again. So far, the greenhouse furnace is plugging on......
December 26, 2008
It was a rather mild Christmas day, and finally, the sun came out, enough to raise the temperatures in the greenhouse to near 70 degrees F, opening the vents. This is not unusual for New England, and looking back at other late December photos, I can see my honey bees taking advantage of a warm-ish 40 degree heat wave. This short jaunts are fine for them, as long as they can return back to the hive in time, before the automatic greenhouse vents close.
Every Christmas day, I like to take note of what is in bloom in the greenhouse. It's interesting to see what plants bloom exactly on schedule, and which ones take a year off. Certainly there are many reasons, daylength is critical, but then, so is temperature. How many cloudy days, vs. how many sunny days also factors in. With the greenhouse, one thing is for certain, WInter never feels dead to me, in fact, it is quite alive and vibrant under the glass.
The newest addition to the greenhouse bulb collection this year, is the Calochortus species I purchased. I've avoided collecting these bulbs for no reason, other than to save something which I could collect when I am older! Sad, but true. Alas, I could not wait, and although I certainly am 'older'. ( turning 50 in 2 weeks), I am still learning when it comes to plants. Calochortus is a genus native to North America and the new world, with near 70 species. I saw my first Calochortus, not in the wilds of Colorado or northern California, but in the alpine house at Kew, in England, growing in pots. That one June visit, convinced me that I must grow this amazing genus, but the rare bulb nurseries carried so many species, and they were a little pricy, that I would end up making wish lists in the fall, but then never getting around to ordering them, becuase I could not make up my mind once I realized the cost involved. Not that they are expensive, but when added to my Oxalis, and other South African bulbs on my wish lists ( which you can imagine are quite wishy), I simply had to edit, and the Calochortus were the first to go.
This year I finally started with 5 species, and the first bloomed on Christmas day. I know that I made one mistake already, I potted my bulbs in small pots ( 6-8 inch clay pots in sandy, fast draining soil). I read later that they prefer larger pots, but since they are plunged in a sand bed, maybe they will be alright. The first species is this lovely lavender species Calochortus uniflora. The stamens are vivid powder blue, which is so different. I think I will order some seed of other species and try growing some from seed, since I am told that that is not that difficult.
Some Velthiemia are in bloom also. I received this plant as a gift from a friend who told me that it was the one species of Velthimia which I did not have Velthiemia capensis, but I believe that it appears that the plant is simply the still beautiful, V. bracteata, which is more common, but still nice, although I have ten of them. Still, it bloomed early, at Christmas, so I brought it into the plant window for a little South African cheer.
Narcissus romiuxii are still blooming, with many more on the way.
Also in bloom, Camellia, Cymbidium orchids, Clivia species, Oxalis species, Vireya Rhododendron, Haworthia, and in bud are many more plants, like the tree aloe that froze last year, a massive green flowered Cymbidum orchid that I recieved as a gift from a supermarket ( Whole Foods) last year, and this year it has 11 spikes! We are all convincing ourselves that winter is almost over, and imagining that the days are already getting longer.
November 30, 2008
Dormant for one year, this lone, single leaf on a Resnova megaphylla shows how stunning even a single leaf can be. Native ot a specific area of South Africa which has a wealth of these relatives of Ledebouria, these species range from cold climatically severe grasslands in the interior summer rainfall areas of the country to narrow endemics only known from one mountain top.
Some species like this are rare and vulnerable to habitat degradation and destruction. This applies particularly to several dwarf species such as this one, known from only a handful of localities on the Mpumalanga escarpment. this tiny bulb finally emerged after a two year domancy with the hope that next year, this tiny rare bulb may actually bloom. Even if it doesn't, the leaf -"although it be tiny, it be cute". The leaves are awesome.
Other plants with oddly paired leaves are many of the Lachenalias, which only produce two leaves, and the Massonia, here, a Massonia echinata shows it pair of fleash, ground-hugging leaves, and it's seasonal shaving brush tuft of flowers. The Massonia are quite fascinating, some have pustules on the leaf surface, like tiny blisters, and other species have fuzzy hairs covering the leaves. They are all small, tender South African bulbs which each produce only a pair of leaves, and with similar flowers during the winter months of December and January.
This rare Brunsvigia bosmaniae, another South African is slowly every so slooooowly growing, in its giant pot of fast draining soild. Dormant for most of the summer, I hope that it blooms in my lifetime! I carefully spends each winter on this sand bed, carefully watered and fertilized, tempting me with the possibility of bloom. IT will probably freeze before it ever blooms, the greenhouse ran out of gas last night, and thanks to a rather unfriendly gas company I use, I had to wait until today to get the tank refilled. We are having problems with our heater, since the greenhouse is kept rather cool, condensation creates an unfavorable combustion atmosphere ( my guess, anyway) so the heater explodes when the gas runs out, and then is refilled. Or on chilly damp days, tomorrow I will spend time on the phone trying to find out what the problem really is. Until then, my not-so-friendly Arrow Gas Company in Rochdale Massachusetts fined me $150.00 for running out of gas, even though they installed a self reading gas meter which does not work, and which I could not read because the locked a cap over it. Nice.
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November 24, 2008
A view of the greenhouse on an unseasonably cold November day.
As temperatures hovered near 18 deg. F, ice forming on the glass and winds reaching 30 miles per hour, inside, the sun was strong enough to keep the temperatures near 80 degrees making the weekend task of winterizing the glasshouse with bubblewrap warm enough to take our shirts off. This view, down the aisle on the western side of the greenhouse shows some of the blooming plants, mostly South African Cyrtanthus, Nerine and Haemanthus this time of year. The steamy air, as evening closes in, is just beginning to freeze into ice crystals on the glass walls in the back. Still this is one of my favorite times of day in the greenhouse, when the sun is just at that special angle, the air is warm and fragrant with Rosemary, Fragrant Olive and early Narcissus. It is sweet and fresh, yet moist and damp - just unique to winter greenhouses, I think, but good for the soul. I never get bored with the seasons with the greenhouse now, each season is now just a different list of superlatives.
Started four years ago from seed gathered in South Africa, these rare Lachenalia species is blooming for the first time. Lachenalia pusilla is rather prostrate, with speckled foliage which remains close to the ground. The stemless flowers bloom low, in a raceme, and when the sun hits them at mid day, the smell a bit like coconut ( they look like it too!). This Lachenalia also has a bit of an identity problem, there appears to be some taxonomic confusion whether this is truly a Polyxena and not Lachenalia. As taxonomists fight it out, we enthusiasts continue to keep it in our collections as Lachenalia pusilla. They look a rather bit like an undersea anemone, don't they? I potted them in a home made terra cotta pan, which I think makes this pot quite attractive. This autumn blooming Lachenalia is the first of the genus to bloom for me this season.
I have found that there are some real benefits with single pane glass, and one of them is not heating costs. The benefit is light quality, so critical for many Southern Hemisphere plants which are primarily winter blooming as demonstrated but this pot of seed grown Lachenalia pusilla. When grown in the brightest sun possible, one can achieve the best characteristics with many of these plants, who naturally grow out of doors in direct sunlight. I have found that when I keep many of these mottled or reticulated species in the sunniest part of the greenhouse, near the glass, their foliage darkens, the spotting becomes more abundant, and their overall form is more dense.
Please help identify my mystery Gladiolus.
Received as Gladiolus tristis, this pot of winter-blooming Gladiolus has bloomed in a very uncharacteristcally tristisness. Perhaps it is a Homoglosum? I have many books and photos, but the genus is quite unfamiliar with me. I have been holding off on collecting the many wonderful species of South African Gladiolus for a while now, but got some this year to try. Gladiolus tristis has been a classic cold greenhouse plant for years, so I thought I would begin with this. Especially since it is known to have an intense fragrance in the evening, which one can enjoy by bringing the pots indoors. No fragrance with this beauty, but it is still quite striking. Please help!
Gladiolius tristis not?
The first pot of Narcissus romieuxii ssp. cantabricus with buds emerging.
These tiny bulbocodium-like Narcissus are the earliest of the fragrant, winter blooming species native to Morocco, the Atlas Mountains and Turkey. A favorite of mine, they are common amongst many plant collectors who grow miniature bulbs, or alpines in cold greenhouses, so they are a true cross over plant, which appeals to many. Rarely seen in the states, this is a narcissus one will probably only see at a Botanic garden or at the home of a collector. I know of only two sources in North America where one can buy bulbs, and actually, only one carry's more than one species. If you think Narcissus in the fall and winter is strange - remember the paperwhite ( Narcissus papyraceus), a neighbor of these species. And, in case you were wondering, yes, you can bring Paperwhites back into bloom year to year, in exactly the same what one cultivate the other winter blooming Narcissus species. Not practical for home growers, but if you happen to have a cold greenhouse or a room which stays cold, bright, and never freezes, you can do it too. But my point is, many of the more unusual Narcissus are autumn or winter growing - why be so normal?
Nerine x sarniensis 'Kola'#1
The last of the Nerine sarniensis are blooming this week, and an interesting thing has happened. I mentioned earlier that many if not all of my Nerine sarniensis have bloomed this year, and I am relating this phenom to a late division of bulbs which I executed in early September. This variety, named 'Kola' has unusually wavy petals, ( undulata-ish or Alba-ish?!)...anyway, an even more interesting fact is that each of these divisions is blooming with a slightly different tint of pink. Call me crazy ( or mixed up, since, sure, I could have mixed up the bulbs too, (but I don't think so), ( besides...the wavy petals are unique to this variety), something has gone wrong here, yet the similarities are interesting.
Maybe the soil is different in each pot, which it is, but then again, the bulbs have been formed for a year, or two in advance, so that could not be the case....a mystery unfolds ( or curls) but whatever the cause, these late bloomers in the Nerine world are pretty nice cheer, for a cold, wintery day in November when everyone else is raking leaves and complaining about how cold it is, I am sitting stripped to the waist, drinking a beer in the hot sun enjoying the rest of the day in the garden ( or I am high from the bubblewrap spray mount).
Nerine x sarniensis 'Kola' #2
November 1, 2008
Another autumn flowering Narcissus, the green flowered Narcissus viridiflora is currently in bloom. Every fall I seem to want to post a photo of this plant, I guess I like it. With a scent a bit like cloves ( or nail polish remover!), this jem has begun to product more bulbs, and my onetime purchase of 2 bulbs, has grown to 7, which is nice.
Not much of a plant, I suppose, but still a nice, annual, visitor. It wouldn't be Halloween without it! I still love it, even though is grows slowly. How could one not love a green Daffodil, especially when in blooms in the fall?
This Oxalis lupinifolius ( I think, the tag is missing), is a shy bloomer. But the pale pink color, which is difficult to photograph, is pure and light. The foliage is certainly Lupine-like, and looks nice in a bulb pan for most of the winter, although it only blooms briefly in October.
More shy ( and rarer yet) is this beauty, Oxalis monophylla. A single-leaved Oxalis ( or monofoliate form) which I have had in the collection for four years, growing in pure sand. It finally sent up a couple of flowers which open ever so briefly when the sun is out. This species is rather uncommon, in both collections and in herbariums.
Oxalis monophylla, a unifoliate species of Oxalis from South Africa.
The maples I ordered after visiting the NYBG arrived from Forest Farm quickly, I was able to get all but one on my wish list. Now, all I need to do is to decide where I will plant them.
October 26, 2008
I get bored easily.
This is not a very practical trait, but then again, no one will ever label me a one who is practical.
When I become bored, it's also not due to depression or of a lack of having anything to do, I simple grow less interested, and start looking for new stimuli. And so it is with my plants. The best way for me to fight my over-curious mind, is to continually introduce new stimuli, be it another genus to explore and collect, or the addition of a rare species of Narcissus, such as this new bulb of a early autumn blooming species from the area around the Mediterranean mainly Corsica, Crete, Cyprus, the East Aegean Islands, France, Greece, and Italy where this tiny Narcissus grows wild ( it's indeed surprisingly tiny - no larger than a dime). This bulb cannot freeze, so I keep it in my fall blooming Narcissus collection, which inhabits about 25 square feet of bench space in my glasshouse.
These 25 square feet dedicated to a collection is about normal for me, who has another 25 feet dedicated to the small South African bulb genus Romulea, and another 25 square feet ( or maybe it's more like 50 Square feet) dedicated to Lachenalia, another for fall and winter growing Cyclamen species, another for Nerine, another for Oxalis ...well, you get the picture.
The problem is this...I work all week.
I commute home late, and in the winter it is dark.
In the morning it is also dark when I leave.
The greenhouse is relatively automatic, with vents, and watering can often wait until the weekend.
I have had the greenhouse for 8 years now, that means * autumns of Narcissus that bloom in the autumn, 8 winters of the same pots of Lachenalia, the same species blooming every year, sometimes better than others, which is a little interesting, but now many are starting to feel more like a burdon, well, more like a dependent than anything else. And the heating costs don't help much either.
What I am saying is that any new species is welcome, as this tiny Narcissus is. No matter what, there are always surprises, this little baby took two years to bloom, I even forgot I had it ( after ordering it one fall from Paul Christian in the UK. This was the year that I was either going to decide not to heat the greenhouse, and perhaps start all over again with new collections, or....I was going to edit through each collection. Niether happened, and here I am watering and fertilizing every collection as they become larger, more of a burdon perhaps, since I insist that each have the perfect handmade clay pots, or the perfect black label, Maybe I just need to make more money and hire a gardener or better yet, a plant conservator - and treat my collections more like a scientific collection, rather than a hobby. I could be the curator, and my gardeners could maintain the collections. Of course, I would need more greenhouses, another glass alpine house or two. I think this is why I respect Martha Stewart so much - I 'get' her. When others say she is simple all about being perfect, or bossy, I always conencted with her as simple another obsessively curious human, who luckily now has the means to maintain her collections, her passions. Rare horse breeds, unusual miniature farm animals, heirloom vegetables, it's all about excellence and authenticity. Maybe I'm not so crazy after all. A little obsessed, but not crazy.
We had a hard freeze Thursday night, which killed the above ground parts of many tender tropicals such as Dahlias, Cannas and Alocasia. So I spent a good part of Sunday digging them all up and preparing them to be brought down to the cellar where they will spend the snowy winter just above freezing, in a bed of dry peat.
September 25, 2008
Tis the season for Cyclamen, and I don't mean those blousy, cabbagy, foil wrapped florist Clyclamen available at your local supermarket, although, they have their place ( they are hybrids of Cyclamen persicum, and the pure species form is very lovely if you can find it), but what I am blogging about here are the other species of Cyclamen, which are just beginning to emerge from a long summer dormancy world-wide, blooming in cold greenhouses, woodland gardens and on windowsills in the cold, autumn air.
Botanists have described 20 species of Cyclamen, and at first glance, they may all look very similar but with a little knowledge, one can see very distinct differences, mainly the foliage size and pattern, but also flower size and definition, as well as blooming time. The season begins in late August, where woodlands in the UK and in the wilds of Turkey, Greece and the Middle East, cylcamen emerge bringing the un-expected color of PINK to autumn. The fact is, pink is indeed a fall color, since nature has designed Cyclamen to bloom within blankets of brown autumn leaves on the forest floor.
In greenhouse, the season starts in September with the blooming of the more tender Cyclamen, C. africanum, followed by the fussier Cyclamen graecum. Even though Cyclamen hederifolium is hardy here in New England, I have yet to try it although I am assured that it will live, especially in those conditions which is loves, mainly under deciduous trees, where the bulbs, which sit on the surface of the soil, can go dry during their summer dormancy. Cyclamen coum is also supposed to be hardy here, but I prefer to keep this tiny gem in pots in the greenhouse, where it can self seed everywhere. I now have many Cyclamen species coming up everywhere in pots. At one time, I thought Cyclamen where challenging to grow, especially from seed. But the solution was easy - get fresh seed, which may sound easier than it is - seed available in seed catalogs and seed exchanges is already dried out. Once dry, Cyclamen seed is difficult to get germinated. But my own fresh seed ( by fresh-I mean hours old) is potted as soon as the seed capsules are ripe in June, and the pots are left unwatered until September, but apparently there is enough moisture in the soil to keep the seeds alive.
Alpine plant catalogs frequently carry some Cyclamen species, and I encourage any of you living in Zones 5 and up, to try some of these out doors, or certainly in your cold greenhouse. Having plants that start growing and blooming in the autumn and continue through the winter, makes this season as exciting as Spring all over again.
Cyclamen hederifolium ssp. alba
Cyclamen species in my sand bed, with a gas can!
Cyclamen hederifolium alba
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