December 6, 2009

First measurable snow, time to prune!

I keep a number of large topiaried shrubs in the collection, mainly for decorative use, but as you can see here, they have planting of other uses, mainly the Bay Laurels, Rosemary's and Olive trees. If you live in California or Spain, then it may not seem like a very big deal, but here in New England, such plants will freeze to death, if not provided protection under glass. This is the only way I can maintain such large specimens of Rosemary and Bay Laurel, for if kept in the hot, dry climate of a house, they will soon dry up, in the hot, dry air that winter ensures we all have indoors.

Every autumn, it's a struggle, and I am sure that the year will come, when I cannot drag the large tubs in from the garden, even this year, it looked as if I was going to just bite it, and let our plant, we call, 'The Largest Gardenia in New England" just go the way of many other tropicals, since I tore a tendon ( again) in my arm, and I am not supposed to be lifting anything. But as things usually go with us gardeners, everything has made it back into the greenhouse, at the very last minute, since this weekend marked our first snow fall with measurable amounts ( only 4"). but it's coming.

The Bay Laurels. which we started as cutting received from the late Alan Haskell, are close the 12 years old, now. I think, every 4 years or so, I will have to cut them back hard, if not only to keep the busy and dense, but to keep them in scale, and, at a manageable size. As you can see from the greenhouse behind me, this hard cut, was needed. Besides, now, I have loads of fragrant bay leaves with which I can make Holiday wreaths from ( great gifts). Probably even a garland, for our kitchen.

This olive tree, which we keep merely as an ornamental plant, came as another small Holiday plant, which was being sold in New York City at the now defunct Smith & Hawken company store on West Broadway. Now, about 8 years later, it's a tree, and it even has some olives on it. I keep this outdoors until the weather becomes very cold, and when the temperatures start to dip into the low 20's (F), I bring it back into the greenhouse along with it's friends, the Rosemary's.

I know I said that I was going to keep more Rosemary shrubs outside to die this year, and I even took two trays of cuttings, so that I would have all of my favorite varieties ready as small plants in the spring. But....... I found more room! SO, they are coming back in again. Still, I am trimming them hard, not sure if this will work with them, but if they don't survive, than I can call it a day. It just that I keep thinking of Renny, our Carolina Wren who visits the garden in the summer and who loves to court amongst the big rosemary pots that surround the bird house pole. he would want them, right?

I've reduced the size of this estate gardenia to about 3 feet in diameter. I would imagine that Gardenia's enjoy a hard cut every now and then, but this one required lopping sheers. The pot, is the largest container in the greenhouse, it is nearly 4 and a half feet wide, and full of wet soil! It weighs a TON! Yes, it too was dragged in again. Now, we await the deliver of our new heater, since the wrong one arrived. If everyone in the world could call Griffin Greenhouse Company and tell them to scurry it up...it's been two weeks since they visited, and now we can't get ahold of them. Sometimes, it's tough being a hobby grower, and being required to buy supplies from the large wholesale distributors. I think we just get pushed to the bottom of the list. Yet, the head of sales, was kind enough to drive out himself a few weeks ago, and promised to help us. Yet we still have not heard back from him.

Now, I have to hear out old heater go KABOOM, ever 16 minutes, and the gas ignites randomly in the damp, cold air. One of these times, it's going to blow the whole greenhouse up, and who will I blame? The Gas company that wont come to clean it? The Furnace manufacturer who sent us the wrong furnace? The Greenhouse supply company who is daudling, and taking 3 months to come replace our heater? Mother Nature for bringing us cold damp, snowy weather? ( no not her, we have had the warmest November since 1923). I don't know, but I can her the furnace exploding from the office here, and I am on the other side of the house! Last night, it took a Lorazapam topped off with a Manhattan, to calm my nerves, and to block our the explosions. Ugh. Me thinks me ranted.

November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend Flowers

Fergus sleeps off a turkey hangover, behind the shaving brush blossoms of a large pot of Haemanthus albiflos.

The South African evergreen geophyte, Haemanthus albiflos blooms for me in December. This year it has bloomed a few weeks early, so I brought one large one in to the house for Thanksgiving.The name Haemanthus is derived from the Greek "haima" meaning blood and "anthos" meaning flower - a reference to the red flowers of most species. Albiflos refers to the white flowers of this particular species.

An Alpine tough, full of high elevation alpine plants, is as ready as is can be for the winter months ahead, requiring no protection, these sturdy plants will relish the deep snow cover soon to arrive in our garden, just west of Boston.
As the seasons shift, here in New England, the greenhouse becomes a daily treat, with many plants blooming with the short day lengths, and long nights. Many of these plants in my collection are from the Southern Hemisphere, so naturally, they believe that this is their summer, or winter, depending on how I water them. For those plants which are more sensitive to day length, and temperature, from the Northern Hemisphere, this season marks the end of autumn, and the start of winter. So woodland plants and high elevation plants from the Mediterranean, or North Africa, or Greece, where perhaps it doesn't freeze, but becomes cool, wet and rainy, this is now the peak season. Cyclamen species from Crete, or Cyprus are blooming, Hellebore's from moderate temperate areas of Italy are starting to open, and officially, the greenhouse now has more activity each day, than out side.

This unknown ( to us) Pelargonium, was purchased by Joe a few years back on eBay. In the summer it has massive leaves, and makes a large, if not too large, potted plant. But it never has bloomed. SO this year, I demanded that it be terminated, and we cut the caudex stems off, tossed the plant away ( it was in a 14 inch pot) and these broken stems, that fell of in the drama, are suddenly blooming ( of course). Right on the bench. Maybe I will root them, and see what happens. Gotta love plants, some time!

The fruit on the Meyer Lemon, which is kept in a large terra cotta tub in the greenhouse, is starting to become ripe. This treat is carefully harvested for each fruit is precious, and so delicious. Tasting a bit like a tangerine crossed with a Lemon, it is fresh and amazing in tea during the winter months, or as long as we can extend the harvest. Each year the tree is getting larger, so although this year we have about 18 lemons, next year, we should have more. The zest makes awesome lemon curd, and pies.
Not good for anything but for impressing visitors, the giant ornamental lemon called Ponderosa, still impresses us with it fruit, seen here, as green melon like orbs basking in the late November sun high on a warm bench in the greenhouse.

Thanks to new efforts in micro culture, some Hellebore varieties may appear this Christmas at your local store. This one, which I ordered from White Flower Farm, arrived the day before Thanksgiving, and is rather impressive, with a dozen flowers, lots of buds, and a nice cache pot. I wanted it because the most traditional of Christmas flowers may be the Poinsettia today, but before 1920, it was the Hellebore, or, Helleborus niger, or the 'Christmas Rose', which grows in European woodlands. Today, these are being tissue-cultured and introduced world-wide under a variety of cultivar names. I will try p lanting it outdoors in the spring, since true Helleborus niger is hardy to Zone 4, but I am not sure how these tissue cultured forms will survive. Long forgotten in America along with the equally popular violet, Lily of the Valley, the white Anemone coronaria and Camellia, the Hellebore at Christmas may be due for a comeback. More on this on a post closer to the Holidays. But I know many of you feel that White Flower Farm is over priced and too commercial, I do prefer and recommend them for Amaryllis and, for two plants that you would be hard pressed to find, forcing pips of Lily of the Valley, and now, the Christmas Rose. Looks just like the photo in the catalog, which rarely happens! I am very pleased, even for a horticulturist!

The greenhouse benches are becoming more interesting each week. Many succulents look completely different to me when viewed up close, in the winter months. I get a completely different perspective from the same plant, than when I look at them outside in the summer.

A Cyclamen cyprium, or so I think, since the label is lost, blooming in a home made pot that I made in the studio. These tiny species cyclamen and more delicate than the supermarket forms that will be available soon. It may look like a miniature, but this is the full size of this wild species which is tender, and requires a cool greenhouse here in New England.

November 20, 2009

Plant Society Magazine - Fall/Winter published.

OK, finally, I got this one out! My little weekend project that I call Plant Society Magazine, is now available only here at HP's magazine publishing site, Magcloud.com. Please understand that posted the file and it is being published, but I am sure that there are some small errors, which I will fix, accordingly. I didn't have anyone able to proof it this time, and I hate putting people out, especially during a busy time of year. I hope you all will understand. If you love plants, you probably won't care!

I think there are some interesting articles for those who desire more content from a gardening magazine, for example, how to grow the many tiny precious species forms of Narcissus that bloom in the autumn and winter, and a step by step guide on how to grow them from seed, and an article about collecting species narcissus.

As I said before, this magazine is just an extension of this blog, but with greater detail. I spell-checked it, but surely there are still some errors, and for the real perfectionists out there, I admit that not all of the botanical latin in italicized, I frankly ran out of time, since there are some big life changes going on in my life right now ( good ones, I think, but still, big). More news on that later. Until then, I do hope you support this little magazine venture. Again, the mag. costs about $12.00 plus shipping at Magcloud.com, my profit is just 1$per mag, so that I can keep the price point down as close to $12.00 as possible. Remember that right now, there are no ad's, so at least those 60 pages are all content.

All of the artwork, writing, and photos are mine, taken in my yard, my greenhouse, alpine house and inside my house. I never write about a plant that I have never grown, and all of the photos are real plants living in my life, right now, so it is a little unique.
I hope you enjoy it!