}

October 16, 2012

Historic Victorian Glasshouses at The Phipps Conservatory

RED CHINESE PAPER LANTERNS FLOAT ABOVE GOLDEN CHRYSANTHEMUMS ON THE OPENING DAY OF THE ANNUAL FALL FLOWER SHOW AT PITTSBURGH'S PHIPPS CONSERVATORY.

America has only a few historic glasshouses - Longwood, Smith College and the New York Botanical Garden come to mind, but the Phipps Conservatory is special, located within the city of Pittsburgh, it shares something with all of the above - it was a gift from a wealthy industrialist. In 1893, Henry Phipps built the conservatory because he wanted to "erect something that will prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people." Designed by the New York Firm Lord & Burnham, the conservatory cost $100,000. (twice what my greenhouse cost!). The plant material came from the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago after it closed in 1893. Located in Schenley Park, the conservatory stands today as a cultural and architectural centerpiece, a proud legacy for the citizens of Pittsburgh.

FALL CRYSANTHEMUMS DOMINATE THE FALL FLOWER SHOW AT THE PHIPPS. BUT FEW ARE TRAINED IN THE CLASSICAL CHINESE OR JAPANESE STYLES,ALSO,  FEW WERE TRUE EXHIBITION MUMS, THOSE OFTEN TRAINED TO SINGLE STEMS OR ELABORATE FORMS, BUT IT WAS EARLY. SURELY MORE WILL BE PLACED INTO THE DISPLAYS AS THEY COME INTO BLOOM.
THE EARLY LORD & BURNHAM GREENHOUSES AT THE PHIPPS CONSERVATORY CALL TO MIND THE GREAT PALM HOUSE AT KEW
Victorian glasshouses are gems from another era. They are both art and architecture, functional and decorative. Their elaborate arched roof lines constructed from glass, steel and wood elevate these buildings from being merely functional greenhouses, they are crystal palaces. Inside one is transported not only geographically into the tropical rainforest's of India or equatorial Africa, but one is also transported back in time since so little has changed from 1885. The opulence and grandeur remains as impressive today, as it undoubtedly was over a century ago - quite a feat in a world where modern architecture and fancy electronics and media rule our everyday lives. One can only imagine the impact such structures had on visitors 120 years ago when the electric light was considered a novel modern invention. Towering palms, steamy heat and jungle orchids in the middle of January must have been an incredible experience.


October 15, 2012

Inspiration and Learning at the NARGS Study Weekend


JOSEPH TYCHONIEVICH, MANAGER OF ARROWHEAD ALPINES BROUGHT A TRUCK LOAD OF RARE PLANTS TO SELL. JOE IS ALSO AN AUTHOR HIS SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED BOOK ON BREEDING YOUR OWN PLANTS CALLED DO-IT-YOURSELF-PLANT BREEDING ( MARCH 2013/WORKMAN/ TIMBER PRESS), CHATS AND LAUGHS WITH ATTENDEES.



If you are a serious gardener, you know that finding inspiration and new ideas becomes more and more challenging as you gain knowledge. One of my most favorite ways to not only become inspired but to learn new things is to attend a study weekend, the two unique meetings held each year, one in the west, and one in the east, sponsored by the North American Rock Garden Society ( NARGS), but if you are imagining that NARGS is all about rock gardens and alpine plants, think again. Most members are knowledgeable -true, most members are experienced -true, but most members are plant people - often growing much more than just alpine plants.


SOME OF THE TREATS OFFERED AT THE VENDOR TABLES. THESE ARE FROM ARROWHEAD ALPINES .


Each year, there are two Study Weekends, generally, one hosted by an eastern chapter, and one hosted by a western chapter in North America. They have been held in places like Newfoundland, Portland, Massachusetts, Victoria B.C., New York City, and Colorado. Each venue offers talks, hikes, plant sales by select growers and more. The term 'Study Weekend' is a bit of a misnomer.  Simply said, these are events where there are talks scheduled for both the morning and afternoon, often two each, plus breaks for buying plants from the vendors who are invited ( they stop selling while the talks are on, then they rush back to their tables when each talk ends, since attendees are motivated to snatch up every rare hellebore that they just saw in a presentation by a hellebore collector! That's one of best reasons for attending!. These weekends also about about socializing. Meeting other plant people who are passionate about plants, but there are people of all levels here. Beginners who are curious, as well as experts, who love nothing better than meeting people who are passionate beginners! And why wouldn't they?


October 10, 2012

Preparing for the First Frost, and I'm off to Pittsburgh

THE LAST OF THE LATE SUMMER PERENNIALS ARE BLOOMING. THIS NEW MONKSHOOD HAS JUST  A WHISPER OF VIOLET.

The first frost of autumn never arrives conveniently. It never arrives on a Saturday night, or on a long weekend when the weather is nice, rather, it comes on a work night, after a heavy rain which makes all of the tubs of agapanthus and olive ten times heavier. It arrives while on vacation, or when I am on a business trip, and this year, it seems to be deciding to arrive while I am in Pittsburgh, speaking at the 2012 Study Weekend for the North American Rock Garden Society. 

A LONE DAVID AUSTIN ROSE BLOOMS IN THE YELLOW AND BLUE BORDER
This year, I tried to prepare for frost, moving the most tender plants one-by-one to the protection of the greenhouse, only a few each night, believing that after a couple of weeks, I could relocate a significant part of the collection instead of waiting last minute and hauling everything in on one chilly night. Even though I believed that I had fooled Mother Nature, the first frost of the season is still causes sheets and bedding to be brought out for the larger specimens of olive, gardenia and large, tubbed tropicals which will need to wait until I return next week.

PUMPKINS AND SQUASH THAT WERE PLANTED LATE THIS YEAR ARE JUST SQUEAKING IN SOME LAST COLOR, BUT MOST WON'T MAKE IT.

 Many plants can handle a frost such as agave, some South African bulbs, the Agapanthus, rosemary's and camellia. In fact, some prefer to get a nip of frost. The large bay laurel trees and rosemary topiary will remain outside until nearly December.

THE SMALLEST PUMPKINS WILL FREEZE, LIKE THIS ONE, WHICH WOULD STILL REQUIRE A MONTH OR TWO OF WARM WEATHER TO MATURE.

FROST WILL MARK THE END FOR THE MOST TENDER OF SUMMER ANNUALS LIKE THESE COLEUS, NICOTIANA AND  OXALIS. BY THE TIME I RETURN ON MONDAY, THEY WILL BE WILTED AND MUSHY.

I USED TO KEEP MOST CITRUS OUTSIDE UNTIL NIPPED BY FROST, BUT SOME SUCH AS THIS AUSTRALIAN FINGER LIME, REACT TO TEMPERATURE SHIFTS. THE FINGER LIMES ARE DROPPING THEIR FRUIT, MOST LIKELY DUE TO A COUPLE OF NIGHTS OUTSIDE WHEN THE TEMPERATURES DROPPED TO 39 DEGREES F.


THESE FINGER LIMES WILL MAKE SOME FINE GIN AND TONIC'S

CLIVIA CAN TAKE SOME FROST, BUT I TRY NOT TO RISK LOSING THEM. TONIGHT, JOE MOVED MOST OF THE PLANT WHICH SPENT THE SUMMER OUTDOORS, BACK TO THE PROTECTION OF THE GREENHOUSE.

NERINE SARNIENSIS ARE ALL WELL BUDDED. THESE BULBS SURPRISE ME EACH YEAR BY GETTING MORE FLORIFEROUS. SOME POTS HAVE THREE BUDS! I AM BEGINNING TO THINK THAT THE LARGER THE POT, THEY MORE BUDS THEY PRODUCE.

MY NEW LACHENALIA BULBS WHICH WERE PLANTED THREE WEEKS AGO ARE ALREADY EMERGING IN THEIR POTS. SUDDENLY, THE GREENHOUSE FEELS AND SMELLS ALIVE, AND ANOTHER GARDENING SEASON BEGINS - UNDER GLASS.