April 11, 2010

Pleione Orchid 'Irazu Mallard'

Pleione 'Irazu Mallard'
Todays flower is a precious bulbous Orchid that is semi-hardy, and one that spends half of it's life dormant. The Pleione is an addictive Orchid species in a genus which is already rather addictive. The greatest challenge is finding Pleione bulbs ( most of mine have come from trips to Japan, and from a grower in Vancouver, Washington, Burnt Bridge Creek Nursery. There are very few collectors growing these beautiful orchids today in North America. The bulbs are potted in a loose mixture of leaf fiber, charcoal and wood chips along with some sphagnum. I grow mine in small Japanese pots, with either one bulb per pot with the bulb sitting on the surface of the soil mixture, or in a pan with many bulbs. My small collection grows and shrinks each year, but the first Pleione to bloom, breaking it's dormancy with a huge bud in relation to the bulb size, is this one every spring.

Spring Garden Tour -Berkshire Botanic Garden

Magnolias set the stage in the Berkshire Botanic Garden, saying "spring is here" boldly.

Prunus subhirtella autumnallis

Identified yesterday after viewing this blog by John Grimshaw ( thanks John!) as Petasites hybridus, not P. japonicus as we first we're told that it was, ( although it was correctly labeled at the BBG), this is then indeed a different form of Petasites from our selections of P. japonicus. Mr Grimshaw also informs us that this is a northern European species, "It has nothing to do with P. japonicus beyond generic kinship and the shared habit of extreme invasiveness". Take note: Plant this with caution! This will run and carpet a significant part of your garden. We like it, but we have a large garden and don't mind dedicating a few hundred square feet of wet garden to such plants.

which has a distinctly different blossom in color and form, than our form of the same species. Thankfully, the Berkshire staff shared a division with us ( ha, shared - most people dread planting the plant since it runs, but we are the sort who like such statements). I think that this form may be the slightly smaller Petasites japonicus that was being shared in the 1990's and not the true P. japonicus var. Giganteus' that we have ( from the old Heronswood) since our form has flowers that are lime green and massive. Still, I love the way this form blooms, much denser and when naturalized in the woodland in moist areas, makes a nice early statement in the garden ( in the 'right' garden setting, anyway). In the summer, the huge umbrella like leaves will look like lotus leaves floating above the ground. I've been told that these leaves are about 3 feet in diameter, our form has some that are 4 feet wide, and 6 feet tall.

More Petasites (pronounced Pet-ah-sight-tee's).

A jeffersonia blooms in the woodland garden.

The Bloodroot is starting to blossom in the garden, a few weeks before out native form blooms in the woods.

April 10, 2010

May Flowers in April

Today I share our rarely seen state of Massachusetts state wild flower, the May flower. OK, it's not May, but Mayflowers (Epigaea repans), also known as Trailing Arbutus actually bloom in April, with some wild population blooming around the first week of May. They only grow in high acid, sandy woodland conditions exactly what we have here in central Massachusetts. The Mayflower ship that the Pilgrims used was named after this plant which they found growing in the woodlands here in Massachusetts.
Sweetly scented, one would need to get dirty knees to appreciate the sweet smell, but my Dad ( who is 96) reminded me that as a kid in the 1920's he and his friend would pick Trailing Arbutus and sell them short stems in bloom to local florists who would make May Day nosegays with them. Today, the wild plant is rare, and, this pink form, even rarer. The wild forms open pink and age to white, this form I have ( micro propagated) remains pink.

According to Wikipedia, curiously, the lower part of the flower petal of Epigaea repens tastes remarkably similar to Lychee berries.