October 18, 2009

Starting up a new season in the greenhouse

The bulbous oxalis are starting to bloom, here are a trio. And, just in time for our first snow of the season. Look at how floriferous the one on the right it, Oxalis lupinifolia. Last year it only had one flower.

The white Nerine sarniensis are particularly beautiful this year.

I am beginning to think of October as the start of my favorite gardening season. It's amazing what a greenhouse can do for you. Even though this is a time of transition, the phase isn't a shift away from gardening, but rather a shift indoors, where there is more to do. Upon entering the autumn greenhouse, one is met with moist air, which is a fresh as an early spring day in April, but scented not with Lilac's, but with the ssweet cent of Osmanthus fragrans, a smell which I instantly associate with autumn days in cool greenouses.

Bulbs in pots, that are all starting to grow and bloom, and the most exciting in these October days. Nerine sarniensis, Oxalis bulbs from South Africa's cape region all steal the show.

Oxalis ciliaris has few flowers, but their color is unique.

An early surprise snow, lands on Catalpa leaves, so early, they have not yet turned color for the season. Is this a sign of our winter to come?

A Cypella herbertii, an South African bulb in the Iris family, begins to bloom in the greenhouse. It seems to have poor timing, either blooming at night, or when I am not around. In bloom, it looks very much like a Tigridia.

Not all Nerine are big, this little Nerine masonorum is a tiny species which is evergreen.

The Nerine stems, when not staked twist and turn in the sunlight.

I cleaned the greenhouse walk today, and the garden in front of the south side of the greenhouse, which was planted with Dahlias and Colocasia, now dead with our killing frost this week. Now removed and tossed in the compost, I dragged over the sassanqua Camellia's. which can sit in their pots until it becomes too cold for them. By Thanksgiving, they too will be brought back into the greenhouse.

Cyclamen africanum beginning to bloom in the sand bed, in the back of the greenhouse. Many of my Cyclamen species are late this year, I don't know why. Maybe they too just want to sleep in late given our weather.

October 12, 2009

A Quintessential Autumn Weekend in New England

Heirloom Pumpkins and Squash in Stockbridge, Massachusetts

I and Pam Eveleigh at the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA

Giant Pumpkins in front of the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA.
It's been a busy week, but since we sort of like to be busy, it's OK. Besides, today is Columbus Day in the US, and a Holiday, so I have the day off. Back in April, we we're asked if we wouldn't mind hosting Primula (Primrose) expert, Pam Eveleigh, as she skipped between NARGS chapters ( North American Rock Garden Society), while on the Fall NARGS speaker's tour. We knew of Pam only from her fabulously informative web site Primula World, which is quickly becoming the source for accurate information and up-to-date photo images of Primula.

Pam travels around the globe to study Primula, and she is often asked to contribute her botanical expertise on expeditions most recently to China and the Himalaya's with the Kunming Botanical Institute. She is an accomplished photographer, and her images are some of the very best ever taken of many species, even beyond the clan of Primroses. Be sure to visit her site. Pam stayed with us Friday and Saturday, and we then drove her to the Berkshires where she presented a talk and slide show entitled the Genus Primula, to both the Berkshire Chapter of NARGS, and, the New England Chapter of the American Primula Society. The talk, which was very informative had amazing images of some primula rarely photographed in the wilds of China and Tibet. One chapter member even told me that he thought that she was one of the best speakers that they have ever hosted.

A white gourd dangles from a rustic pergola at the Berkshire Botanic Garden

Seed pod from a Magnolia macrophylla looks a bit like an artichoke.

Joe ( President of the American Primrose Society, 'father's' over the Rockwellian table during our lunch at the Red Lion ( notice the small, framed Rockwell on the wall to his left).

Before we arrived at the Berkshire Botanic Garden, we met some friends from the N.E. Primula Society in Stockbridge, MA, at the Red Lion Inn. The waiter asked us if we realized that the large table was the inspiration for local artist Norman Rockwell's famous painting (see below). WHo know;s if this is urban legend or truth, but we had a chuckle. It was a beautiful autumn day in New England, and I suppose there was no place many of us would have rather been, than sitting in the lobby of the Red Lion Inn, in vintage sofas, crackling wood fire, and brisk, cold New England air outside. Apple Crisp anyone?

Last night was also our first frost of the season, so we spent much of the day, moving heavy clay pots into the greenhouse. Notice how some of the bulbous Oxalis are starting to bloom in the sand, plunge bench.
Agave's and other tender plants are starting their journey into winter, in the cold glasshouse.

Last chance for fresh veggies before the killing frost. I quickly decide to save some chili peppers and tomatoes on my way back in from the greenhouse, as I pass through the veg garden. Rosemary was for the lamb roast, tonight.

I promised myself that I was going to edit what was going to go back into the greenhouse for the winter, since I wanted to leave room for some new plants. So I let my Begonia collection freeze to death. It was SO hard! Although, I saved this one. For now!

Here is what greeted me in the kitchen this morning, one of our ducks, let himself in. He has to walk up 10 steps on the deck, and then through the open door on the porch, and then the kitchen. Fergus and Margaret just sat and watched him. He wanted to be fed, I suppose. He is one of the baby ducklings we hartched earlier this summer.

October 9, 2009

An Evening with Ken Druse

This past Wednesday evening, we attended a lecture by America's premier gardener writer and talented photographer, (and a friend) ,Ken Druse. Ken's books are stunning, and they are all much more than mere gardening books, being beautifully designed, full of his amazing photographs, loads of information and highly inspirational, they are in fact, all of that, and more. My favorite (and I always say is one of my top 5 most influencial plant books in my gardening life, is his book The Collector's Garden. Find a used one if you can, but his more recent releases are just as great. HIs most recent book, Planthropology was printed and released last year. Kens many books are all worthy of space on any garden lover's side table but as many people at the lecture and book signing chatted about over cider and cookies, was that these are special books, rare today, since they are not coffee table books or display copies, ken'd books are used, revisited often, and many of us shared our torn, well used copies proudly as if they were Julia child Cookbooks, or, even, dare I say, plant porn. I watched people during the reception grasp their favorite books close to them as they sipped tea, as if to say, "My book, stay away".

Ken's garden moved from Brooklyn to New Jersey, and he shared an entertaining and beautifully designed presentation in the theater at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, near our home in Boylston, MA ( Ken, we would have asked you to stay with us, but we are in the middle of hosting another garden Goddess, which you will see posted here tomorrow!) themed roughly on how design, culture and plants all come together. I shouldn't have said "roughly" for maybe it was the artist in me, but I found his talk completely engaging, since he made connections between physics, math, biology and the plants and flowers which are familiar to many. The overall them for the evening, was garden art, and Ken was asked to speak by the Botanic Garden about garden art, ( thank God I was't asked!), and then, share the evening with the curator of an exhibition of garden art which Tower Hill is hosting for a month, entitled THE SCULPTURE SHOW AT TOWER HILL , which was beautiful when viewed at night as we did, which included a tour and walk through the woodlands on perhaps the windiest night of the year. It was rather fun, and we almost backed out, planning to sneak out after Ken's talk! But with over 80 people attended this sold out lecture, it looked like it might actually be a bit of an adventure.

The walk started at the Stoddard Visitors center at Tower Hill, which is located at the top of a high hill above the Wachusett Resoirvoir in Boylston, MA. A cold front had just passed through, and although the evening was supposed to be full-,moon, lit, the lighting that Tower Hill placed was thoughtfully arranged, as was the art. Not particularly a fan of garden sculpture myself, I still found the work stimulating as an artist, even more so when viewed at night.

Ken's talk featured all sorts of garden art, and I think he inspired the audience to consider trying some of the more unusual work which anyone can do. I was amused how after a talk about the classics and well know gardens of the world, most of the questions from the audience focused on Ken's little joke about " how nice it would be to see a conservative 'Yankee' New England Gardener be daring, and paint a dead tree brilliant red" something which would integrate into a garden more successfully in California, or in the tropics, or desert, rather then in the north. Still, it came off as a challenge to many.....watch out Ken, you may have just ignited a trend!