January 31, 2007

Winter arrives

Look closely and see the dollar bills flying out of the furnace.
The NARGS WINTER STUDY WEEKEND is over, and I am recouping from a nasty intestinal virus, so I barely could make it into the kitchen, let alone to the computer! I am back, and so is winter. Early January was certainly the warmest on record here in New England, and the news this evening also said that we now hold the distinction of having the least snow ever recorded for the month too. They now assure us that record cold temps are back for a while. Perfectly awful for the plants, especially everything that started growing outside. This will be an interesting spring.

In the greenhouse, now that the temps outside hover near zero d. F, frost forms on the glass, within minutes after the sun passes behind the house, and the shadow starts the cooling process. One can hear the glass creak and snap with ice (not breaking the glass, but the ice crystals forming jack frost which grow right before ones eyes). It is besutiful, but it does make me wish that I wrapped the greenhouse in bubblewrap this year (I was traveling most of Oct and Nov. so never got to it.

Asphodelus acaulis
This lovely rare bulb is just starting to bloom, a high elevation form of Asphodellus, the only one which is low growing, and forms a basal rosette of leaves, as well as pink blossoms. This plant should provide some nice winter color in the next few weeks as the buds begin to open in the winter sun. Native to Morocco, and the Atlas mountains, this alpine house bulb requires witner coolnes and moisture to bloom, as well as a bone-dry summer baking. I keep the pot under glass year round, and give it my standard South Africa routine of winter wet, summer dry.

Tropaeolum azureum

Nasturtiums are both easy annuals, and challenging bulbs. This, is a challenging one. I lost it last year, along with T. tricolorum, which did bloom in time for inclusion in the New England Flower Show in Boston, but perished shortly after. Growing from a tiny tuber, like a small potato, both are lesser known winter growing, tuberous forms of the easy annual, nasturtium. Remaining dormant all summer, bone dry, in a hot corner of the greenhouse, where the hose doesn't reach, I can honestly say that I forgot about these bulbs, until Sunday, while squeezinig past the thorns of an overgrown bougainvillia, I saw the pot and realized that I needed it for a Fritillaria that I was repotting. I then saw the this shoot, but first thought that it was a wire from the pile of folded sweat=pea netting on the bench next to the pot, but I was wrong. I pulled the pot, which was heavy, since the soil mixure is mostly granite chips, and the wiry stem came along with it. Thankfully it didn;t break.

Look carefully, and you can see the thread of growth which is now woven around some branches. Within a week, the tendrils will take hold.
Apparantly this is common, in Trop's anyway, to start to send out thier wiry stem before one realizes that they didn;t kill it. Anyway, I zipped outside, snapped some branches from a nearby alder, (no fancy curly willow or manzanitia this time) and gently wrapped the black wire of growth, which was nearly a yardstick long, amongsth the twigs. We shall see if I get blossoms this year.

January 18, 2007

Off the the NARGS Winter Study Weekend

Today Joe and I are off to attend the North American Rock Garden Society's Eastern Winter Study Weekend, held this year in Rochester, NY. I will try to post from the site, if not, I will update on Sunday night. The NARGS event is one of two hosted by local NARGS chapters annually, one on the east coast, and one on the west. They feature three days of speakers, slide shows and fun, all focusing around alpine and woodland plants. See you later!

January 13, 2007

Winter (ish) arrives

Romulea bulbocodium
The first Romulea to bloom this winter, is R. bulbocodium. Grown from seed, they we're surprsingly easy. The Narth American Rock Garden Society seed exchange often offers many species, and I was inspired by fellow gardener Roy Herald to try some, besides, he shared a decent collection which he started from NARGS seed. Now, I can't seem to get enough of these South African corms. The Brit's grow them for exhibition in bulb pans, and they make an extraordianry disply when grown tightly, but some of the images that I found on line, especially some magnificent specimens grown by Jim Almond in the UK, show that one likely must pot a few hundren corms in a pot to get a decent show. I have four. But at least, all four bloomed this year, and are slowly dividing, since I started with two last year!

Romulea bulbocodium from seed

The color is a nice grape-soda purple, but seems to be impossible to photograph well, either because of my camera setting, or the winter light, or maybe both.

At least the heating bills for the greenhouse have been infrequent. With all of the talk in the news, about the snows in the western US, and our record warmth in the east, we've probable had enough of the prognastication. Today, it became cold. So cold, that the glass on the greenhouse frosted over. In typical years, I bubblewrap the glass, but this year, since I was traveling the entire month of October, I missed my deadline for wrapping it. Now, I will take my chances that it will continue to be moderately cold.

Narcissus romieuxii Ex 'Julia Jane' in home made pot
This week, I can focus on this blog again, at least for a few days, since the first manuscript for my book was sent to my editor, which gives mee a weekend to breath, but only a bit, because my job is heating up with other deadlines due next week. Oh how I wish I had time to work on pottery, a gardening book maybe, and other projects, but then again, I lvoe my day job, but it is does suck up time and energy. When I look at accomplishments this past year, creative directing four DVD's for Paramount Home Entertainment, a musical touring stage show for My Little Pony LIVE, writing a book on design, concepting a few feature film concepts, editor for the PRimrose Journal (which I have had to cut back on), and this blog, I guess there is no wonder why I have little time. Why is it that as we get older, time and becomes so precious? Oh yeah, my book is a design/innovation book, for graphic designers and marketers, on design trends and influence, not a gardening book - the later will come someday, perhaps.

A Draba Lasiocarpa, from seed, tests a few blossoms in the alpine house. This high elevation alpine is in the cabbage/mustard family, and when you look at it's cruiciform blossom, you can clearly see the connection. This is one family where the flowers generally look the same, it's the plant itself whose characteristics define it.