March 13, 2009


A first for me, A pot of Notholirion thomsonianum, of course!
Oh, to live and garden in the North West.......someone please find me a job here!
A basket of select miniature Narcissus by Cherry Creek Daffodils, at the first day of the plant sale at the NATIONAL ROCK GARDEN SOCIETY'S WESTERN WINTER STUDY WEEKEND.

It's Friday, and people are arriving at the Double Tree Hotel here in Portland Oregon, and rushing out to the parking lot where there are in impressive about of plant vendors with tables of the most incredible plant material that any hortiphyle can imagine. Gosseler Farms, with rare shrubs, magnolias and perennials, Cherry Creek Daffodils with amazing miniature daff's all in bloom, Bovees Nursery with Vyreya and Rhody's, Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, Mt. Tahoma Nursery, Hedgerows Nursery, basically every catalog I have sitting on my coffee table at home, has a table out there.....what was I ever thinking bringing myself to a west coast plant conference, and believing that I would leave empty handed! Actually, I did bring an empty suitcase, just in case. It's full, now!

A potted Fritillaria bithynica in the plant show.

Fritillaria eastwoodiae

I am so impressed with the growers here in the N.W. Of course, thisis Frit country, but the members of the host chapter of NARGS, the Columbia-Willamette Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society really have their, um...Frits together on this weekend. The speakers, the plant vendors, the location, even though I keep being told that the best NARGS chapter in the world in apparently the Rocky Mountain Chapter ( someone still needs to prove this to me!), this host chapter has really raised the bar on how to kick off a weekend for us crazy plant people. I can't wait to see what's next. The plant show looks like an AGS show, in England. Very impressive.

March 11, 2009

Off to Oregon for a long weekend

I'l leaving for Portland Oregon for a number of reasons, for a long weekend. I love this city, and can't beleive that it been nearly ten year since visiting it last. Maybe 13 actually!! Not only does my oldest brother live here, and his family, but I have friends and their family here too, so even though I will be very busy until next Monday, I hope to squeeze in visits, dinners and playtime. Leaving home today, it was still clearly winter. Packing the bags on the bed, Fergus knows and does Margaret, that someone is leaving. Of course, they assume both of us are, and since they usually travel with us, even to Switzerland, they know that their beds are not being packed up, and this might be serious. Dogs are so funny. But fret not little doggies, Joe's broken Fibia will be keeping him home for some time! Even from Switzerland!

While in Portland, I will be attending the North American Rock Garden Society's (NARGS) Winter Study Weekend. And even which when heard by my cohorts at work, brings snickers, but to those of us who love plants, mark on our schedules as MUST-DO events, not to miss. These weekends are sponsored twice a winter, one in the east, and one in the west cost of the US. The NARGS is a fine group of people of varying horticulutral passion and intellect, friendly and open, and always willing to let new people in to learn about mainly what are known as 'Rock Garden Plants" in the very nineteenth century way that alpine plants, when cultivated in pots and specialized rocky gardens, where known as 'rock gardens' or 'rock gardening'. Today, the society name is a bit misleading perhaps, for it encompasses not just alpine plants, but woodland plants, shade and wildflower plants, and honestly, and unusual plant that is not tropical. The definition is a bit blurry, but the group is where most plant-people end up, if they don't graduate to the ORchid Society, it is NARGS where the plant mastery is exercised. THat said, all sorts of people interested in plants are here.

A Fragrant ( Oh...SOOOO fragrant Nemesia 'Opal Innocense" in bloom in the greenhouse, with snow outside. I want to bottle this!

NARGS aside, I might hike with some friends ( more on that later) if the weather holds out - I will make time for this, and even skip a session or two, and I have another secret meeting about another botanical venture that I have been working on for 9 years, to see if that will take seed. So this is still a 'work' weekend, anyway you describe it.

JOe asked is the snowdrops were out yet, and I told him fo-get-aboutit, since it was 8 degrees F, and still a new foot of snow on the ground last week. But look at what I found in one of the raised rock walls alone the foundation of the greenhouse where the snow piles up when it slides off of the greenhouse. This deep snow reminds me every spring, ( sometimes I am so stupid) when I see all do the nicest Daphne's that I've collected over the years, crushed and broken by the wet snow that slides off of the greenhouse roof. Next year I HAVE TO MAKE PROTECTIVE ROOFS. Which I somehow equate with those 1960's ranch homes in New Jersey near my aunts house, where they clip their foundation plantings into cones and balls, then cover them with painted white or green T-Pees. I need some of those. Besides, I'm starting to wear socks with sandals, and like the look, and I'm 'at that age'. Next...Big Boy Tomatoes behind the garage!

Last week I may have mentioned that in a fit of greenhouse chores inspired bu the increasingly warm, radiant spring ( late winter) sun, I decided to reward one of my tuberous Nasturtiums with a nicer pot and trellis for performing so well. One thing I've learned over my years, is that reward and praise will always get you results, whereas discouragement and insults will only get you shut ears. This this weekend too, is about motivation and positive encouragement.....um.....so too, will my best perfoming plants get an upgrade. Not trudy rare, at least to many of us plant enthusiasts, this Tropaeolum tricolorum ( sorry, I'm traveling and too lazy to Google the latin!), is not only doing well, it's doing spectacularly well, and even after sliding one stony pot into another, and letting it have a trellis instead of a nice twisty piece of manzanita wood that my other peers might use, I rewarded this plant with a recycled $10.00 trellis from Target. Nothing but the best, man! Still, it's cousin, the rarer Tropaeolum azureum, which remained dormant for me, for three or four years now, is indeed growing, and even has some fowerbuds, I am doubtful that it will ever look like this, since it's spindly single vine is only about a foot long, and the aphids seem to really like it. Poor thing. If he ( or she) Decides to try again next year, I may try to wince, shut my eyes, and pinch that single wiry thread-like stem which emerges first like Scottish Rock Gardening Society Plantsman and fellow blogger, Ian Young ( who I will be able to meet this weekend as he is one of the speakers at this weekends' Western Winter Study Weekend), this pinching makes sense, and although I think this is something that is too late to do, I will try next time.

Also, in this photo, in the foreground, is a "sea onion' to those who are familiar with the houseplant. Bowiea volubilis, which is one of those crazy house plants that everyone is atracted to for it's beautiful yet certainly unique growth pattern of twisting stems that have no leaves. It does look like something one would find under the sea. This plant is easy to grow, and does prefer a domant period, which naturally is in the winter, but if you grow it indoors, it will simply tell you when it needs to lose it's top growth and sleep for a while, buy turning yellow and drying up. As long as the "onion part' is still wintermelon green and fleshy, you are fine, and new sprouts will emerge not long after, just keep it dry while resting. This is a member of the Hyacinth family, which is interesting enough, but one can see the similarity when it flowers in it's single blossoms, that are fragrant at night. Bowiea may seem like something that you cannot remember, but since the plant was named for James Bowie, a British plant explorer, just think David Bowie, and you may remember the name better. As you can see, I am growing it on a tuteur, in an experiment on finding a nice way to grow this plant so that I can display it. Left alone, it will just find it's own way, wrapping itself on poles, or on other plants, or around itself. This is one plant than left on its own, can look rather messy. The finest specimens that I have ever seen are those grown on a nice branch of Manzaneta (sp?) wood, which one can find at reptile or pet shops, or in the wild if you live in southern CA. or Arizona. The twistier the better, for Bowieia will not make tendrils, it twists its single terminal stem along what it finds. Be sure to provide something for it to embrace before the more flourishy stems emerge, since they will all instinctually point upwards, and once the rest of the stem-like foliage emerges, the stop growing. One wants to achieve a natural sweep of growth, and trying to wrap a mature stem around an introduced structure will only result in a messy, bent plant that has stopped growing for the season. So if your plant is already in full growth, it;s prob. too late, and start thinking about providing something cool for next seasons growth to climb on.

AS I leave for Portland, the snow is falling again, but spring is not far....right? Just look at the Witch Hazel Hamamelis 'Arnolds Promise' whos scent now drift through the falling snow when I bring water out to the ducks. Yay...a week off from feeding the ducks!

Late Lachenalia are starting to bloom, such as these seed-grown Lachenalia longebracteata, another of the 'green' or teal flowered South African bulbs that are so amazing.

I am trying, finally, to grow some Corydalis from seed. Henrick Zetterlund gave me details on how to grow them myself, especially the seed of C. solida, which should be everyones favorite spring bulb outperfoming crocus and tulips. A little pricey from the bulb catalogs, ( but coming down in price) are the many cultivated forms of the Eastern European native Corydalis solida. These pots of seed we're potted up in June, of last year, when Joe luckily spotted the seed cases being split open by sugar ants, as they we're attempting to steal the seed for their sweet lipids. Globally, ants disperse many seeds of ephemerals, and this relationship is important for Cyclamen and Corydalis in renewing populations, so killing the ants on your plants is as danderous as saying "no more forest fires in the red wood forests, for these are all natures way of seed dispersal and regeneration. Anyway, these seeds needed to be sown fresh, and then I kept them dry under a large Daphne, just seeing the pots again now, as the snow melts. Not the ideal method, since the pots may have been too frozen, and a cold frame plunge may have been more effective, but we shall see. I brought the pots into the greenhouse, and I am letting them thaw slowly. Fingers Crossed.

The last of the Camellias are blooming, and this white species ( which I need to look in my note book for the species name( which I planted in the ground in the greenhouse, quite nice with it's boss of stamens.

Another Nuccio hubrid, I think it is PInk Perfection, but surely a Rose Form.... but I too need to check, but not from an airport terminal! Time to go....

March 1, 2009

Getting ready for another snowstorm

Gethyllis ciliaris

I've had this rare bulb for two years, but they have remained dormant, until this winter. According to Paul Christian, these should have masses of leaves, spiralled around their length and then spirally arranged. These then, are covered in long white silky hairs on both sides. The flowers are large, pure glistening white and very strongly fragrant.

As with all members of this genus very sharp drainage in an infertile, mineral soil is best.

We received some new pigeons in the mail, after someone read about the 'Sharp-Shinned' Incident last week. Margaret has to inspect every bird that goes into her loft. This one passed.

The species or wild form of the florist cylamen, C. persicum, blooms like crazy in these days which are getting longer every day. The radiant heat of a longer day length, keeps the greenhouse floor warmer, longer, so even when the sun begins to set, the heat causes the glass to fog over, before the furnace turns on. Of course, spring also bring with it Nor'Easter's, we are getting one tonight with 16 inches of new snow expected by tomorrow at noon. Ugh,but with temps dipping near 0 deg, F tomorrow night, we need the snow cover again, to protect any plants that are starting to emerge, such as the snowdrops, Hellebores and the early crocus.

The bees are active again, yesterday the daytime temperatures reached 50 degrees, enough for the bees to go on cleansing flights, the small cup near the door of the hive is full of sugar water, which they can feed off of while the weather continues to shift.

Our Indian Runner Ducks took a run out of their pen today, while I took advantage of the warm weather. As I was spreading manure on the vegetable garden, they ran around, but cautiously remaining in a tight flock, in case Margaret spotted them.

In the rock garden, a mouse, or vole, or something, had made a very nice hole in the wooly thyme. It's so nice to have to ratters like Margaret and Fergus, who rather lay on the bed on the down comforter than chase rodents!

A spiny Acantholimon or 'Prickly Thrift', an alpine plant from Crete, this species which I lost the tag,except the 'Crete' part, is a trough but prickly plant, it is handling the rough weather very nicely.

I repotted one of the Tropaeolum tricolorum into a larger pot ( double potting it actually, as to no disturb the roots and tuber). It seems to really want to climb like crazy, so the trellis will help. native to Chili and Bolivia, this species love to climb, and requires a nice branchy support or a trellis. It grows from a potato-like tuber.