}

January 16, 2011

BULBOUS OXALIS OF THE WESTERN CAPE, UNDER GLASS

A TINY BIT OF THE WESTERN CAPE, BLOOMS UNDER GLASS IN JANUARY

As the snow falls outside, under the protection of glass, tiny bulbous oxalis species from the western Cape, continue to bloom in their pots. In the center, the large pale pink blossom of Oxalis zeekoevleyensis, which grows in wetter places in its native habitat, grows in a pot which is set in a pan of rainwater. I am always surprised at how much water some of the winter-blooming bulbous Oxalis can take, even standing water. 
A CLOSE-UP OF A PEACHY PINK OXALIS PURPUREA SELECTION

MY NEW FAVORITE OXALIS ANNAE, WHICH BLOOMS FOR AT LEAST TWO MONTHS

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE CANDYCANE OXALIS, O. VERSICOLOR

YOU ALL SAW THE PHOTO LAST WEEK OF MY CLIVIA'MOONDROPS' X, BUT I WANTED TO SHARE HOW IT CHANGES COLOR AS THE BLOSSOMS AGE.








January 15, 2011

Primula Society and Baked Alaska? You betcha!

We were Primula deficient at the luncheon meeting we hosted today for the American Primula Society New England Chapter, but the Camellia's were welcome, just the same. 
Each January, we host the planning meeting for the New England Primula Society, as it plans the national show held in April  for the National Primrose Society at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, which is near us. We belong to many plant societies, but I have to say that the Primrose Society is the most social and they have all become good friends over the years. This is a great takeaway/lesson for any other plant society - plan social events like this. We started hosting a dinner party and an evening cocktail party at  our home on the night before the national exhibition, since there are many people in town for the show from Alaska, France, England and for nearby states. 


The events became so popular, because members can meet, have a class of wine, tour the garden and chat with guest speakers in a more casual environment. Our mid winter meeting has also become an event that everyone looks forward to, since we try to make it both special and fun. After all, it's all about the experience. Last year we themed the lunch around Indian food, and the year before that, it was Mexican food. This year, I wanted something different, so we went with a winter ski lodge theme, with open faced Croque monsieur sandwiches on rustic rye, with Ementhaller and Appenzeller cheese, ham and smashed fingerling potatoes on top, all broiled until they were stretchy and yummy, like you get on a Swiss alpine ski vacation. The entire kitchen smelled like fondue.

We served this with a bowl of Carrot, ginger and apple soup, and for desert, we took a chance, and made a Baked Alaska, (of course, something easy). Our guests from the plant world seemed to enjoy both the greenhouse tour, the crazy dogs, and I imagine, the highlight of the day, which was watching me assemble, pipe and blowtorch the Baked Alaska, (or should I call it Torched Alaska?). It was sort of fun!

I ran out of Swiss Merengue, so thank goodness I had an extra box of blackberries.

It felt more like a cooking show  than a Primrose Society meeting, but definitely not Hells Kitchen! I think people really enjoy watching food being prepared, as much as they like eating it. Which makes sense, after all, this is why the Food Network is so popular!
Everyone seemed to enjoy the lunch, it started snowing again after this, which really added to our ski theme. Be sure to check out the National Primrose Show the last weekend in April, at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Everyone is welcome.

January 12, 2011

The Snow Bomb

IT NOW LOOKS LIKE JANUARY, ESPECIALLY WITH TWO FEET OF NEW SNOW

I love snow.
A lot. As I've said many times before, I even like winter better than summer, a very odd thing for a gardener, but then again, I really don't like 'gardening', itself, I like plants, design and the culture of plants, but I hate weeding, cutting shrubs and lawns, and anything that falls under category of 'maintenance. But I do like snow.

 I think this unusual obsession’ for a gardener evolved for a number of reasons. First, snow was always anticipated in my home, especially when I was a child. We even celebrated a snowfall. Second, my garden was designed to look best in the winter, with a formal structure complete with symmetrical tall evergreens, lots of shrubs which are both evergreen and trimmed deciduous shrubs, each providing a unique texture when draped in a thick blanket of snow, it can be very pretty, and it's hard to find a part of the garden that looks ugly after a snowstorm.

 I cannot take any credit for this, since I live in the same house that I was born in, (and the same house and garden that my 97 year old father was born in for that matter), whenever snow is forecast, we would, as  a family, celebrate the event with a number of rituals, many of which I continue today. Rituals like homemade buttermilk waffles in the morning when it is snowing, and illuminating the snow at night with spotlights both on the house, shining out onto the garden, which at night, makes the entire yard look like a stage set from ‘The Nutcracker”.
Homemade buttermilk waffles, and since we didn't have any maple syrup, I used frozen wild blueberries from the summer, and some of our fresh honey from the hives with butter to make a coulis. 

Planting  your garden so that it looks awesome after a snowfall is key. I remember my father explaining how his late brother planned the original design for our garden back in 1925, when it was first planted with a design. I have the unique luxury to be able to speak to the history of every tall tree, or shrub in my garden, and tell you when it was planted, and yes, many are as old as 90 years.

The key here is balance. Many of our trees are too old, so to be honest, we are removing a few each year to adjust the balance of height, volume and scale, but when you plant younger evergreens ( spruces, pines, hemlocks) you then begin to get a tiered effect, understory trees  that are evergreen when combined with mature deciduous trees like ash and oak, or a combination inspired by nature, my favorite combination of white birch trees in clumps and groves, mixed in with fir, spruce and pine.

Inspiration can come from nature itself, or idealized nature, in my case, from a Disney animated film like Bambi, where you see perfectly assembled ‘natural’ scapes of evergreens and tall forest trees, with woodland meadows that are suddenly open spaces, edged with birches and sprinkled with wild flowers in drifts. It is safe to say that I am both inspired in my garden design by a combination of influences, ranging from the grandeur of nature itself ( Paradise Meadows at Mount Rainier) all the way to vintage Walt Disney animated films).

LYDIA'S FIRST SNOWSTORM, IT WAS DEEPER THAN SHE IS TALL, BUT SHE WENT ABSOLUTELY CRAZY IN IT.

FERGUS CAN'T HELP HIMSELF


ANIMALS, ESPECIALLY YOUNG ONES ENJOY SNOW SO MUCH MORE THAN HUMANS

OK, the only thing missing from my motif is deer, but sadly, we have never seen one here ( really!). Please don’t email me about this.

Many of my friends who hate snow  ( like Joe), grew up in a home where life was centered around the TV,  and not centered on  what was happening outside.  Any lighting at night came from just an orange halide lamp over a dumpster, and snow only meant one good thing ( no school) and many bad things like shoveling. I think his hatred for snow is intensified because there was not ritual which was positive, or celebratory.

So if you have children, consider the good side of snow, its beauty, its magic. GO skiing or tobogganing. Try snowshoeing, sledding or go on a walk at night when it is snowing.

And remember, January snowflakes taste the best.



THE MARTIN HOUSE IS TRANSFORMED WITH THE DEEP SNOW INTO  A FAIRY TALE COTTAGE

IN THE GREENHOUSE, THE SOUTH AFRICAN BULBS ARE IN BUD, THE SPRING DUTCH BULBS ARE SPROUTING, AND THERE ARE FRESH MEYER LEMONS FOR TEA. NEXT YEAR I EXPECT PERSIMMONS!