August 31, 2009

A rainy day in the greenhouse

I know I mentioned this before, but late August is actually a slow time in the garden, aside from picking vegetables and repotting the summer dormant tender bulbs in the greenhouse, a task which is just about done, most of the chores are routine ones, like fertiliing orchids and summer growing bulbs, or cleaning and organizing, two things I really hate doing, as anyone who knows me, knows.

I thought for a change, I would show you some of the less fancy parts of my garden. Shots of the greenhouse, not set up for a shoot, or cleaned up, but simply, shot as it really looks on a normal Saturday. Here, the potting bench as I finish repotting Cape bulbs. The foliage was cut off of the dormant Moraea and Babiana, and some of it comes from the Romulea species. Most of the Narcissus species are not being repotted this year because I ran out of time, and in the back, you can see the Nerine sarniensis pots,ready to start growth. I have extra bulbs and offsets if anyone wants, I was going to donate them to PBS, but I never seem to get them into the main, I am such a slug sometimes! Trying to do too much, I guess, at once.

My potting bench was built out of Mahogany ten years ago, but it is alreadu starting to decay in spots. This is a pretty humid greenhouse in the winter, and since I keep a pile of soil on it most of the time, it rarely gets to dry off. People always comment at how much we can jam into the greenhouse every autumn, and it's true. Here in New England, even the Rosemary has to be brought in, and so many large clay tubs and pots come it, that even this potting bench has very little room on it. The upper shelves in the middle are strong, so I can lift large tubs of lemons and camellia onto them, also, the cieling is 18 feet tall inside, I can stand on these upper benches in the middle, and walk around without touching the ceiling. Now that I cut down the tall Acacia trees, there is even more room ( and sun). I plan to only bring in 2/3rd's of what came back in last year, so that I can have room for new things. MY list of must-gets are long, a big sand bench for alpines, a collection of tropical Rhododenron from Borneo, some R. Madennii species, new Cymbidiums, and some semi hardy shrubs. But now that Joe want's half of the greenhouse, I may have to clean out more! Yes, this greenhouse has a little bit of everything.

Pots of Nerine sarniensis just after their first watering of the season. I time it to match the first drop in temperatures, fall rains and the shorter day length. In a couple of weeks, the flower buds will start emerging.

These seedling Gasteria came from gardening friend Roy Herold, he shared some of his crosses this spring. They have already doubled in size. The pots are from my kiln, not quite Guy Wolf, but getting better ( and larger). I love Gasteria, especially when viewed as a collection. They all seem to bloom for me in March, and their long flower stems are so interesting with their subtle variety in bloom and leaf color. RIght now, the larger pots are outdoors getting as much sun as they can take on the steps of the deck, but in a few weeks, they will be relocated back under glass along with these.

These Primula polyanthus hybrids are from Barnhaven Primroses in France. The owners visited us this spring, when they we're here for the American Primrose Society national show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. )Joe was elected national president at that meeting, so since I am expecting more Primula guests in the year to come, I thought that we should have some decent forms in the garden. Barnhaven are the premiere source from polyanthus, the farm moved from Oregon in the 1930's, to the UK, and then France.

Mmmm..... Stuffed Cyclamen graecum Leaves

I know, it's a little overkill for a kitchen sink ( pardon the dirty stock pot), but with all of the rain we've been having, the cyclamen make it in again, even though these lost alot of flowers in the rain, they are still starting to bloom. Two more weeks, and the window will be full, as will the walk outside of the greenhouse, since I brought the pots all outdoors to get a good, soaking rain to start them into growth.

In this season of transition, the first cool nights, hot days, autumnal rains, bulb plants from the Mediterranian and South Africa begin to emerge from thier summer rest across our planet. It's one of the wonder of the plant kingdom. Cyclamen species are particularly seasonal, as such, most species are begining to emerge in the forests around Rome, in the gardens of those living in the northern hemisphere, and on the Greek Isle of Rhodes, where, the leaves of Cylamen graecum are surely being picked for eating. Yes, eating. hmmm Check this out.

OK, I know, strange to many of us but I happened across the site History of Greek Food, and here is what they have to say abour our precious Cyclamen graecum leaf thanks to Blogger Rachel Laudin.
“In ancient years the cyclamen was especially known for its medical virtues (it contains a powerful purgative poison). Its tuberous Rhizomes (thickened roots) have cyclamin which is a toxic saponin, so never try to eat them. The leaves of Cyclamen graecum have a bitter- sweet taste.
The best known florist’s cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, is an important edible wild plant in Iran and Palestine. Its leaves are also cooked filled with rice, minced mutton meat, spices and eaten with yogurt (Palestinian Za’ matoot, Iranian dolme). I do not know if the leaves of this species have different taste.
However, the Greek cyclamen recipe is old and almost forgotten. In fact, the use of local Mediterranean food plants stands at a crucial point. As you know, Eastern Mediterranean communities were very much centered around cultivated and wild food both for subsistence and profit. After World War II the consumption of wild plants and seeds changed following the socio – economic changes. Unfortunatelly the amazing traditional knowledge regarding wild plants resources has not been infused to the young generations and I wonder if it already is on the brink of disappearance.”

August 29, 2009

Buckle Up Butter Cup, Tropical Storm Warnings

A yellow Kniphofia blooms in the front yard. Common for you? The are not common in a New England Garden, for this is as exotic as a tender Banana would be in Zone 5. Recent introductions though are bred from newly collected species that are from higher elevations in South Africa, and these are proving to be hardier for norther growers. It all comes down to where you plant it, and, if sited well, these plants can become long lived and impressive perennials. Just remember..... Fast drainage, full sun, and a fast draining spot in the winter too, for it's not the cold that makes these difficult in the north east US, it's the spring thaw and refreeze. Use plenty of gravel in the hole, and site it in a raised or elevated spot in the sunniest spot in your yard. Try Ellen Hornig's nursery Seneca Hill Nursery in upstate New York for the best species that are hardy in ZONE 5b AND colder regions.This is a Zone 7 plant, but it has survived for 3 years.
This weekend we are enjoying the rainy remnants of tropical Storm Danny, a storm which is churning the seas barely a hundred miles from our garden, off of the coast of Massachusetts. Even though we are not getting the wind, here in central Massachusetts, 35 miles from the coast, we are getting the rain bands. I love rainy days like this, they are cozy and cool, and at the end of a hot summer ( listen to me! I mean, a long three weeks of summer), a cool day like this makes one just want to light the fire, settle in a big chair and nest. Today, I am cooking, catching up on emails, and even sneaking in a little greenhouse work.

In know it may sound crazy to people who garden in Zone 6 or higher, but the idea that we have a Kniphofia growing in our front yard is not only noteworthy from the New England perspective, it has been slowing cars down. This 'Coolknip' form was planted three years ago, but it still only produced one stem of flowers, which seem to emerge late in the summer, a few weeks before frost. The plant is getting larger though, and this year, it is nearly twice the size from last year.

A view of my 'work in progress', the front yard.

This steel urn feels so, um....1990's, but lately I've been planting formal little plantings in it with succulent cuttings, it looks rather nice now, doesn't it? I like how one summer of sun can merge the cutting into a solid form which accents the formality of the overall design on the urn.

In the greenhouse, all is not dead. Here, the Clivia that were not moved outside for the summer for evaluation, are sharing a bench under the shadier side of the house. It's nice to see so much room in here after the big summer cleaning this year. Now, Joe is trying to convince me that he wants half of the greenhouse so that he can, in his words " keep my junk away from your junk".Two gardeners sharing, is not a new concept, but to those of us who must share a garden, it's a constant battle for space.
So here's the deal...If he buys the new furnace this year, I'll pay for the heat this winter. ( wait, I pay for the heat everywinter!) But I do need a new furnace quick, before mid October, so perhaps this deal will work.

Outside in the rain, A Japanese Neofinetia begins to bloom. It's fragrance will be strong tonight, so sweet, like cotton candy.