}

October 11, 2011

Living Exotica in the glasshouses of Longwood

A highland Nepenthes, a carnivorous pitcher plant from Borneo, grows in a corner, well established in a hanging teak basket.

 It was easy to believe that it was 1909, and that I was lost in the maze of 100 year old wood and glass greenhouses at Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania. These back greenhouses are what greenhouses are supposed to look like, the sort that we see in period films where the wealthy kept exotic black orchids and man eating plants. No man eating plants here, but I thought that I might share some of the images that struck me as interesting from our trip this past week to PA ( Lydia, our Irish Terrier was in a string of national dog shows, and the national terrier specialty this week).
Sometimes, the simplest of ideas can inspire us - I liked this thermometer box, protecting the device from the hot sun.

 X Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich 'Misty Lime'  

This name may be a mouthfull, but once you disect its name, you can see where it came from. It is a what is known as an intergeneric cross between three species, here, a Brassavola, a Cattleya and a Laelia. Many growers abbreviate this name as Blc.  
The Cycad relative Encephalartos are investments for any collection, with even tiny plants selling for hundreds of dollars. This South African native is Encephalartos woodii, or Wood's Cycad, and it is nearly 14 feet in diameter.

Read on for more....

A Vist to Longwood Gardens

THE VICTORIA WATER LILIES AT LONGWOOD GARDENS, ARE WORTH THE VISIT, ALONE.
Longwood Gardens is best known as one of the great gardens of the world. Formerly the summer home of Pierre S. DuPont, the 1077 acre estate is open to the public year round. Located in Kennett Square, PA, visiting the gardens has been on my bucket list ever since I was about ten years old ( when I would look at the many iconic photos of the garden featured in a Time Life Book on gardening). Now, as an adult, my visit was less monumental, as I expected it to be - the victim of over-exposure, knowledge, or perhaps simply age - the gardens and greenhouses we're like many things experienced as an adult - a little under-stimulating. The vista's and mature plant material particularly the trees, were impressive, what I am talking about are is the general experience - ( common plants that my ten-year-old mind would have been excited to see, but now are less exciting)  - frankly, it just probably takes much more to get me excited, today. 
NEARLY 6 FEET IN DIAMETER, THESE PADS ARE LARGEST, IN SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER.

 That said, I did enter the gates at Longwood with low expectations, but left inspired and pleasantly surprised with the grandeur that beautiful architecture and vintage glass houses with mature plants can deliver. I was most impressed with the water lilies ( another post to come), the outdoor bedding plant displays ( large swaths of multiples, with perhaps a hundred plants of one variety in borders that must have been 500 feet long), and mostly, with the old, horticulturalness of the turn-of-the-century greenhouses.
CHRYSANTHEMUMS BEING TRAINED IN A WORKING GREENHOUSES BEHIND THE SCENES AT LONGWOOD. MORE ON THIS IN MY NEXT POST.
The classic, glass and wood greenhouses at Longwood are magnificent. Others may like the conservatories and formal plantings, but I like the behind-the-scenes areas best. I can't think of another word, but maybe gestalt is best - whitewash, old glass, steel and wood, ancient clay pots - it's why poly hoop houses are just not the same as a steam-pipe, hot water heated glasshouse with cut flower crops growing under the bright sunshine - it's all part of why many us choose to keep a glass house. I venture to say that the working greenhouses at Longwood are the best part of the visit.

October 2, 2011

Planting Heirloom Garlic

SOME OF THE MANY HEIRLOOM VARIETIES OF GARLIC I AM PLANTING THIS WEEKEND. ALL ARE FROM TERRITORIAL SEED. IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO ORDER SOME RIGHT NOW, AND PLANT A ROW OR TWO.
 If you are new to vegetable gardening, it might seem odd that some crops are planted in the autumn, especially here in New England, where one associates harvest with autumn,pumpkins, gourds and apples rather than planting anything beyond bulbs....but wait, if you plant ornamental allium varieties and species, than it should not be a surprise at all to know that the proper time  to plant garlic is also the fall, for it too in indeed, an Allium. Allium sativum

 Garlic is currently one of those stylish crops, stylish in a sense that hip farmers markets now carry countless varieties of heirloom garlics, and festivals abound in the late summer just after the garlic harvest in August.  I have resisted growing garlic for no particular reason other than perhaps that when it comes time to order garlic, I prefer to spend my money on other bulbs. I also rarely think of garlic until spring when I see garlic scape's in other peoples gardens ( like my brothers), and then I kick myself for not planting it.
GARLIC MUST BE ORDERED IN THE LATE SUMMER, AND IS BEST PLANTED BETWEEN OCTOBER 1 AND NOVEMBER 15 IN MOST NORTHERN US ZONES.

 Being a passionate foodie and cook, as well as a lifelong gardener, it's about time the I grow garlic, and folks like most things I do, I am not jumping in with a little splash - I am growing many varieties of heirloom garlic, some from Spain, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. There are three things I do love about garlic in the garden, the first being their flowers - long graceful necks with a gooseneck bud that hangs gracefully down, it makes any cottage garden look more "cottagy". Second, these buds are also delicious to eat in stir fry's. At Whole Foods, they are a seasonal treat that I rarely can afford, so since they need to be cut off anyway, BAM! I get two great reasons for garlic in the garden. Third reason is simple, I love garlic. And NOTHING compares to garlic when it is fresh, especially when you can choose from many types of garlic that you will never find in a market.

There are two types of garlic, Hardneck type which has a stiff 'neck' or dried stem, and it typically has very large cloves, then there is Softneck - the sore you typically get at the supermarket. You can plant supermarket garlic too, but don't expect good results since most commercial garlic is grown in China or California, and most has been treated with a sprout inhibitor, which will cause even sprouting cloves to eventually weaken and die.

CLOVES MUST BE SEPARATED BEFORE PLANTING, AND 3 or 4 HEADS WILL GIVE YOU A BOWL FULL OF CLOVES, OR ABOUT 35 - 45.
 Garlic is fun to grow, and the flavor from home-grown garlic will surprise you, depending on the variety, it can be fiery and hot, or intensely sweet. Either way, if you LOVE garlic, you will NEVER buy store bought garlic again.
PLANT CLOVES TWO INCHES DEEP AND 6 - 8 INCHES APART. ROWS CAN BE 8 INCHES APART IF YOU PLANT IN A GRID, WHICH IS FINE IN A SMALL RAISED BED. COVER CLOVES WITH SOIL AND WATER WELL - THE GOAL IS TO STIMULATE THE CLOVES ( BULBS) TO START TO PRODUCE ROOTS BEFORE IT SNOWS.

 Once the bed is planted, it is recommended to cover the bed in mid to late November with 6-12 inches of straw before the first snow. The straw is removed once growth begins in late winter, pine needles could also be used since once growth begins, this mulch will be removed in the spring.
Since I have a "terrier problem", I used the now cleaned cucumber trellising to discourage unnecessary snuffling and digging from our furry friends, until they forget that I showed some interest in the raised beds. 

Here is a shot of the Brunsvigia bosmaniae mentioned in y previous post. After a cool, rainy weekend, it is starting to fade. It does look like the honey bees were successful in pollinating the rare plant, and in a pot next to this, some seedlings from last years bloom are emerging.