January 7, 2013

Winter Therapy - Branches and Books.

Cornus mas forces into bloom ever so quickly in January, with tiny yellow flowers along every branch and twig. Out side, they will be in bloom by mid-February if the weather cooperates, so it only takes a couple of days for cut branches to bloom indoors.


On these short days of winter, there is little to do aside from tagging lists in seed catalogs and watching Downton Abbey, ( did you see those wedding flowers in yellow and white?), but if you are itchy to experience the garden, now that it is early January, you can begin to force some branches into bloom. Not every shrub or tree will force so early, but two will force within a week - witch hazel ( Hamamellis) and Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas). Both will come into bloom in about one week after cutting - no need for pounding stem ends with a hammer - a habit that have proven to be useless, yet still gets passed along as "a handy garden tip". Just cut your branches,  bring them indoors and place into room temperature water. I force mine right in the kitchen, as it is the warmest room. As we are hosting a luncheon for the N.E. Primula Society on Saturday, I always try to have a few vases of forced branches around the house to freshen things up ( and to distract guests from the pine needles and junk).

I cut my branches long, around 4-5 feet long as I use large vases. These branches of Hamamelis x Intermedia 'Arnold's Promise' will have fragrant, long petaled blossoms by Saturday ( maybe by Sunday, as I am a day late!). After New Years Day, I can force these branches every week ( I plant 'cutting shrubs' just for winter bouquets,  near the edge of the woods).


My gardening book library is now completely organized, this time by subject and not by color. ( um...the chair? OK...I know, ugly - but I am selling our other house next door, and this recliner was left in the house by the renters - brand new with tags. It will do for now, until I can replace it with something less 1990. But the dogs like it as a squirrel perch, so who knows - it may stay.

On these cold days, the nights are long, which gives me time in the evening to organize my gardening books. A little project I did this weekend. Sure, I've tried the Pinterest friendly 'organizing by color' which looked great as you can see in some old posts, but not very practical if one actually uses ones books. I am continually moving books around, up to the bedroom, out to the greenhouse, and stacks of books just appear next to every chair and sofa ( this is a very liven in house). Now, I organized my books by subject again. Alpine with alpines, orchids with orchids, bulbs with bulbs.

Today I received a nice gift from fellow blogger, friend and gardener Margaret Roach  who many of already follow on her popular gardening blog A WAY TO GARDEN- her new book! The Backyard Parables - lessons on gardening and life. I will be reading it and writing about it starting tonight, but stay tuned, as I will be offering a giveaway in a few days! You can be one of the first to win Margaret's newest work.


Grevillea thelemanniana 'Spider Net Grevillea', a new addition to the greenhouse subtropical shrub collection

I should catch you up on some of the newer additions to the greenhouse collection, two new Grevillea species - as I am Australian plant deficient. Grevillia, are subtropical evergreen shrubs which have been grown in Victorian greenhouses and conservatories, but have remained uncommon in many collections, especially now as few nurseries grow them outside of California where they are common landscape plants. A large genus ( with 360 species), Grevilla are relatives of the Protea. I find their spidery blossoms just as exotic as the protea,  as they are botanically petal-less, consisting of just a calyx tube with four long styles. I can't wait until my plants grow large enough to bloom more.

Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon' - one of the most popular cultivars, is still a cutting, but I expect blossoms by late summer.

January 4, 2013

Saving Summer - Rooting Cuttings

Rooting your own cuttings taken from summer annuals and tender perennials is easy, but they don't always winter over well indoors, one is best undertaking such tasks with a cold greenhouse, or under lights, if you have a cool cellar or cool sunroom. Indoors, such plants as abutilon ( flowering maples) and salvia species, suffer under the dry conditions and are prone to getting many insect pests.

New Years Day I spent cleaning the greenhouse, which seems like the only bit of gardening I did on my Christmas vacation. Most of the time I spent recovering from that nasty flu, and then a good bout of laziness. It's amazing at how little I can accomplish when I really put my mind to it. Wednesday it was back to the office, and back my routine - it was odd being away from my office for three weeks ( nice, but oddly disorienting). Getting back to the grind and craziness somehow helps me to use what little free time I have, in more useful ways.

I think on New Years Day, it was part guilt and part panic, that got me outside to sweep the benched, rake the isles and re pot a whole lot of plants. It was also sunny, and even though bitter cold outside, under glass, it was sunny and warmer ( 'warmer', as in 50º F).  It was a little nerve wracking as snow kept blowing off of the hemlock trees from the storm we has two days earlier, and it would drop onto the glass roof with a bang. Inside, I wore a T-shirt and jeans, which got wet from the hose, and muddy from the pots - it all felt a little bit summerish.

A well-rooted salvia cutting rooted simply in sand

I found a flat of cuttings from a post that I did in September, where I walked around the garden and snipped various salvias, abutilon and other tender shrubs and annuals. I don't know why I always buy new plants each year, when all I need to do is to take cuttings in the fall, to carry them through the winter. I think I just become bored with the same cultivars, so a fresh colored abutilon sometimes feels new. But I do have my favorites, such as this abutilon 'Firefly' with tiny, deep scarlet-red bells, always worth having a few pots to place around the borders or to share with visitors.

An Abutilon 'Firefly'  cutting that I took in September and placed in a tray of damp sand, is now well rooted and ready to be potted up.
 Cleaning the greenhouse was fun, as I made extra room simply by filling 4 large garbage bags with old containers, flats, pots with cracks and unused insulation ( bubble wrap) from earlier winters. I'm a bit of a hoarder, so purging every now and them makes me feel good. It was also great to get my hands into the soil, as there were many plants to be repotted. I think one of the most rewarding aspects of having a greenhouse is gardening on these short, cold winter days when it is sunny outside.

Many plants needed to be organized, orchids brought together with other orchids, Nerine brought back to the upper benches now that they are out of bloom, sand plunges needed to be cleaned out and pots replaced with blooming South African bulbs or other interesting alpines. With our annual Primula Society luncheon happening next weekend, much needs to be tidied-up. Especially the greenhouse as the day is more garden tour as much as it is business meeting and social party, and since the rest of the garden is under snow, the tour becomes a greenhouse tour.

I took many cuttings of summer-blooming salvia species, each root easily, and one can have dozens of rooted cuttings in a matter of a few weeks. These can quickly become lanky, so it is best to pinch them back to the second internode after the cutting have rooted.
 I also needed to make some room for seeds that will be arriving in the next couple of weeks. Perennials that have been cold-treated will need to be sown, and next Saturday's Primula Society meeting will also include a special members-only seed share from an expedition to the Himalaya ( our good friend Chris Chadwell), so more seeds will be coming from his very special collections from the past year. Other seeds that will be arriving soon are early annuals - that will need to be sown in the first few weeks of January - these include impatiens, begonias and geraniums. Snapdragons too, will need to be sown soon too.

I am so angry at commercial growers for using growth retardant on their annuals ( and vegetables) incorrectly, that this year I am starting everything at home. Last year zinnias, marigolds and most every other annual which I purchased in bloom - all nice and tight in their little 6 packs, stayed that way - nice and tight, failing to produce another bloom after being placed in the garden, and eventually they all died ( and believe me - I can grow most anything!). This year I was 4 foot tall marigolds, sweeps of coral zinnia's, tall spikes of snapdragons, and waving wands of cleome and cosmos that are 5 feet tall, and I know from experience that each of these will either need to be sown into the garden, or started a few weeks early indoors, for store bought plants will sulk and pass away after a month of sitting in the garden and doing virtually nothing.

Geranium cuttings are root quickly, but heirloom variegated forms take more time, and even bottom heat.

January 1, 2013

Twelve Months of Awesomness

JANUARY - Mixed greenhouse pickings on a cold, winter day made for an interesting composition to start the new year off with.

Here is my look back at the 2012 garden. I was going to skip sharing such posts, but as I filed my images from the past year I found looking back at some of these images inspiring, so I felt you may think so as well. So here are three posts showing some of the highlights from last years garden. Later this week, I will share a quick recap of those study projects from 2012, the highlights as well as some of the failures. Then I will share what study project ideas I am thinking about working on for this coming year.  As most of you know, I like to choose a few projects to deep dive with - such as what I did with the English Sweet Peas this past year. If any of you have any ideas for projects that you might like me to attempt, please let me know. 

In many ways, these garden projects are like New Years resolutions. Plants that I have never been able to grow successfully, most likely because I never really took the time to research exactly what their needs are. As with my Sweet Pea Project, I decided to grow as many varieties of Spencer Sweet Sweet Peas as I could find, and then attempt to grow them in the most proper way, often the results are so rewarding, that the effort of time and labor pays off. Sometimes, as in my Japanese Morning Glory project this past year, I ran out of energy, became lazy and the results showed. But more on those later. For now, the best photos month-by-month of 2012.

JANUARY 2012 - Starting the New Year off inspired by a book I purchased as a Christmas gift to myself published in 1805, when domes covered floral displays, apparently to keep 'poisonous gasses', which people believed could be emitted from fragrant flowers, from entering the bed chamber.

FEBRUARY - A Valentines Day arrangement of camellias made it to one of my chalk board pieces. Oh, I do love my Camellia collection. I think it might be time to join the American Camellia Society.

MARCH - By March, the alpine troughs were beginning to come to life. This Primula marginata bloomed an entire month earlier than the previous year due to the lack of snowfall.

APRIL - For Easter, I picked various wildflowers, hellebores and some small bulb flowers from the alpine garden, arranging them in vintage milk glass ( white jadite) spice bottles.

MAY - Spring arrives full force, with bees, ducklings and wildflowers. Baby ducks, turkeys and geese share a pen in the new grass as Joe works the bee hives.

JUNE  Brings Poppies. Papaver rhoeas bloom in savory tones in the warm, June sunshine.
Also known as Shirley Poppies, these annual poppies were one of my annual study projects last year. In a future post, I will be sharing more of these projects from last year, as well as some ideas I am tossing around for 2013.

Some of the fantastic Shirley Poppies that captivated most of June. That is, until the Sweet Peas began to bloom.

JULY - Our Mid Summer Garden Party to Celebrate the Sweet Peas Blooming

The Sweet Peas bloomed just as we were celebrating my friend Jess's departure from work to start her own design business. Our summer Solstice dinner features locavore selections and garden produce. Best of all....the sweet peas cooperated and reached peak bloom on this warm summer evening in the garden.

English Sweet Peas are a favorite of mine not only because of their colors, but also because of their fragrance.

AUGUST - Olympic Spirit as expressed through our garden.

SEPTEMBER - We visit the New England Poutry Show and add some Barred Plymouth Rocks to the heritage breed fowl collection.

OCTOBER - A trough of autumn blooming rare bulbs that I brought with me to the North American Rock Garden Society annual meeting in Pittsburgh, where I was a guest speaker.

NOVEMBER - Chrysanthemums seemed to be everywhere, and these exhibition varieties were very choice as I photographed them at the annual Chrysanthemum show at Smith College.

DECEMBER - The greenhouse, last week before our first snowstorm of the winter. Still messy, but I was in the middle of picking up the garden during my Holiday break from work. Today, with a blanket of deep snow, and howling winds, then entire garden has been tucked in for a long, winters nap.