January 21, 2009

Birthdayweek Amaryllis

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......

January 11, 2009

Getting Buff for the New Year

Cymbidium 'Massachusetts Sunset'

Color is a curious thing. It can be so universally beautiful, collectively agreed upon shades of tints and tones which everyone loves. Then, there are those of us who are more individual. Who prefer unusual shades which either surprise us, shock us or simply, stimulate us in some way. And so it is, with shades of buff.

Currently, in my greenhouse two plants in particular are blooming, each in a similar hue, that of buff. Or beige, or is it brown? Either way, I think the color is exciting, and quite pretty actually. The first, a new hybrid Cymbidium which we purchased this autumn at our local Orchid society annual show, ( at Tower Hill Botanic garden, in Boylston, MA), a Cymbidium cross which we spotted under a salesmans table, in bud. He sold us that it was a new cross entitled 'Massachusetts Sunset' or 'Mass Sunset" as the tag reads. I don't know too much about it, perhaps I shall Google it and find out, but regardless, it has now bloomed and I am including a few photos here which show how different the color looks during different times of day, and the light in which it is photographed. Reminding us all.....to never choose paint color at the Home Store under florescent lights, (unless you are painting a room washed in florescent light). A pet peeve of mine, happens to be watching homemakers on Saturday morning either choosing colors for their living room by matching a swatch or a pillow, or, those who simply choose a color without testing it painted on the wall. Think - "Green grass in the summer reflecting light in" or " Snow reflecting white light in" or...OK, forget it, I will leave this rant to my design blog...but look at how different this orchid looks in each shot.

Light is critical in choosing color or in photographing color for accuracy. I love the color of sunsets in winter, and this show proves how the Cymbidium "Massachusetts Sunset' earned its name.

Cymbidium 'Massachusetts Sunset" has a fragrance which I think smells exactly like dried orange peel. Scent is such a powerful memory, that everytime I smell a large, standard Cymbidium, I am transported back to when I was in high school, and I had to go on an interview for my first job, a work-study position as a gardener for a Fletcher Steele garden, here in Worcester. Helen Stoddard, who's estate it was, had brought in a large cut spike of a brown, standard Cymbidium and had it in her parlor. The memory of the March light, the color of the flowers which then, to me, we're quite exotic since the only Cymbidium one saw normally in my town came in acetate corsage boxes at Mother's Day. Today, my favorite color in this genus of orchids that are terrestrial ( grown growing) and cool greenhouse growers, are the green and brown flowers strains. I just love them.

A new Hybrid Amaryllis, Exotica® with a unique color which actually has a hint of yellow in it.

A new variety which I found in the White Flower Farm catalog, was this Amaryllis variety called 'Exotica®', a registered variety which is a bit more pricey than the average Dutch varieties, but has a color which is most interesting, which shades of yellow, mustard, lime and pink in it. Or, is it raw veal? Anyway, I do like it, and, if the cost seems steep, the Amaryllis from WWF are worth it, since each will produce at least 2 of not 3 stems, so one bulb can be in bloom for most of the winter.

January sunset colors on the greenhouse Friday, before another snow storm arrived. Next week, we are being warned that temperatures will reach -5 below zero F! I can't imagine that my gas furnace, which explodes ever time it ignites, will ever make it. We shall see! I am in Florida next week speaking at a conference, maybe it is best if I do not know what happens while I am gone.

An Eastern Grey Squirrel trying to stay warm in our sub-zero temperatures.

January 6, 2009

Inkadate - Rice Field Art

Rice farmers in Inkadate, Japan plant rice pictures, some are amazing.

Others are commerical, but awesome.

WIshing everyone a wonderfull great New Year.
I'm busy working on my gardening book ( more on that later), and back to work this week, so I've been behind ( or I took a tiny leave) from the Blog posting. To hold you all over, here are some interesting photos from Flickr of inkadate, a rather new trend in Japan of planting rice varieties which grow in different colors, in rice fields. Farmers either rent their fields out as advertising, or they hire artists to make an installation. Rather nice, but so typically Japanese-ly strange.

Here are what some have written about the trend in Japan.

In the Japanese village of Inakadate in the Aomori prefecgture,villagers plant ancient varieties of rice. The green areas are tsugaru-roman, the local variety while the purple yellow and red areas consist of kodaimai, or ancient strains of rice.

Inkadate Rice Fields is rather new, trend-wise. Not unlike corn paintings and crop circles, the ingenious farmers from Inakadate started planting artistic rice fields in 1993 after one farmer started and gained much publicity. While the INKADATE has earned the title of the most popular town when it comes to decorating rice paddies, the small Japanese town is not alone. Farmers in Yonezawa, from the Yamagata Prefecture, as well as farmers from Nishio, in the Aichi Prefecture, plant artistic crops as well. Their works are incredible, but still pale in comparison next to the portraits painstakingly planted by the Inakadate farmers.

Most Rice fields in Japan, and throughout much of Asia, are much more than a simple place to grow food. In some cultures, whether or not a farmer owns land on which to cultivate rice is symbolic of his stature in the class system and overall social hierarchy. They spend hours of time not only in the fields, but also blessing and decorating the granaries within which they’ll store the rice once it has been harvested.

Today, modern technology has replaced some of the older traditions. Farmers aren’t as likely to conduct religious rituals in the fields or harvest their crops by hand. They instead embrace their culture by spending countless hours planning the layouts for rice fields that, in some cases, challenge the dedication of some of today’s finest modern artists.
In the case of Inakadate, however, the project originally simply came about as part of a revitalization effort designed to help enhance the beauty of their small village- checking in with only 8,700 residents. They started with simple designs, such as a picture of Mount Iwaki, but later began challenging themselves as their skills grew and they became more confident in their work.
In 2007, they attempted to recreate some of the famous woodblock prints created by Katsushika Hokusai in his series known as “Fugaku Sanjurokke,” which translates to “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” There are not enough words to describe the results of their marvelous efforts.
So how do they do it? Japanese farmers commonly grow a variety of rice, called tsugaru-roman, which buds with green leaves. In order to design their crop art, they include kodaimai rice, which grows with purple and yellow leaves and provides the contrast needed to create lines and depth within the work of art. Some farmers incorporate brown and yellow rice into their field art as well.