March 17, 2013

Green Flowers

Two greenish flowers bloom on March 17th, left - Lachenalia aloides var. Vanzyliae, and on the right, Gladiolus watermeyeri. Two wild bulbs from the Cape of South Africa, that are in bloom today in my greenhouse.

On this Saint Patrick's Day, I share with you some green, greenish or otherwise thematic subjects that are all blooming in the greenhouse on this sunny, yet cold, March 17th. Green coloration is rare in most wild flowers, but it wasn't until I started looking at the photos that I took today while in iPhoto, did I notice that many had the green tint in common, which thankfully allowed me to find another reason to group together some of my favorite plant - Lachenalia, into another post!

Gladiolus watermeyeri, native to the Cape of South Africa, is a fragrant, small wild gladiolus that makes a nice potted greenhouse subject bloomin in March. Even as the snow falls outside ( 12 inches tomorrow???) this beauty is protected under glass.
 This is the time of year when I feel a little guilty about not sharing my collection at some of the spring flower shows, such as Philadelphia or Boston, but honestly, I just don't have the time. So my little spring flower show remains private, and something I share with a few friends. In mid March, there are so many bulbs and South African plants in bloom in my greenhouse, that sometimes the display is almost a little obscene. I will try to share some of the best photos here, since after all, this blog is as good as a spring flower show, right? Ok, so there isn't any wood bark mulch, you got me.

Full pot images of Lachenalia aloides var. Vanzyliae,  with its striking spotted leaves, and Gladiolus watermeyeri, making a nice collection even nicer, as most gladiolus species are too weak for display in small pots.

Veltheimia ' Lemon Flame' has more green than one may at first believe.  It could be named 'Lime Flame'.

OK, Oxalis annae is technically South African, but hey, it is 'clover-like', right?  So Irish, it is.

More Lachenalia aloides species, here is L. aloides var. aurea, with only a hint of green, but lovely in the raised bulb plunge bed in the front of the greenhouse.
Lachenalia aloides selections get their name from the fact that their blossoms look like that of the aloe ( compare for yourself with the aloe in bloom in the back of this image. 

More Lachenalia species grouped together, so that you can see the scale, foliage and other variations side-by-side/

...and Lachenalia aloides var. Luteola, just beginning to bloom. Look at how green the open blossoms become, while on the same inflorescence, the buds are scarlet.

Irish of the terrier kind. Our Irish Terrier puppies are getting bigger! Official now, the girl's name is Daphne, and the boy, Weasley. Lydia (middle) looks pissed because she was caught attacking the turkeys this morning after sneaking out of bed, and zipping out of the house via the cellar door. Bad dog, no cookie.

Finally, yes...according to Yankee lore, March 17th in New England is the traditional time to plant peas. I am settling on sowing some Sweet Pea seeds, this year, I am focusing on black and those known as flakes - striped, speckled and broken flowers that were once so popular in 1900.

March 11, 2013

Beyond Chihuly - Botanic Gardens try some Big Boy Art

Philip Haas' 'The Four Seasons' 'Autumn' ( rear) and Winter' expands the repertoire of contemporary artwork seen at botanical gardens.

You never know what you are going to find at a botanic garden. How about important contemporary art? These huge, curious and wonderfully complex sculptures which seemed not out of place, but delightfully odd and beautiful, (if not slightly frightening in size and subject matter).
Could these be the same pieces that I saw in Artforum magazine and at the American Pavilion the Venice Biennale? The amazing work of American artist and filmmaker Philip Haas ( Sonnabend Gallery NY) is hard to confuse with anything, well, at least these pieces are. Not bad for an artist who is more known as a Oscar nominated film maker ( Angels & Insects, 1995). Talk about cross-over, this makes me feel a little better about my retired contemporary art moment that ended in 1997. I guess it's never too late to start again.

Maybe it's time to give 'ol  Chihuly a rest, as these four pieces tour various botanic gardens this coming year. Entitled 'The Four Seasons', these four monumental sculptures are inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo's Renaissance paintings of the same title comprising spring, summer, autumn and winter ( as well as his other work).  Here, scale and site elevates experience - Kudos to whomever had the innovative idea to suggest touring these works at botanic gardens, rather than at museums. I can appreciate how the four white walls of a gallery space or a glass contemporary courtyard at a museum can isolate and frame such organic yet fantastic works such as this, but I also can't help but be captivated by the obvious juxtaposition nature invites into the dialog. The experience walks a thin line between that of Koonsian carny and Alice in Wonderland.

On display at the Desert Botanic Garden in Phoenix until April 28, 2013.

Click on this link to see what the work will look like when on display at the New York Botanical Garden this summer (May 18 until October 27, 2012) outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

'The Four Seasons', Autumn and Spring

March 9, 2013

Late Winter in the Sonoran Desert

Saguara Cactus ( Carnegiea gigantea)  punctuate the desert on a chilly hike in March, in Arizona's Desert Botanic Garden in Phoenix. I am here for a few days for a special blog event hosted by Troy-Bilt. 

It's a tough task, but someone has to do it. With 24 inches of snow dumped onto the home garden this weekend, I find myself in Arizona, enjoying the sun ( and hail!), and the late winter desert as a guest of Troy-Bilt, who has invited me to be one of their Saturday6 spokesmen. You'll hear more about my Saturday6 partnership with them soon, for now, I am just going to share a few images from the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where the six of us Saturday6'rs visited today.

After the sun sets, the desert garden becomes even more colorful. No retouching here ( really!). Natures filter takes over
ones camera, and Photoshop can be left alone. Violet Opuntia sparkles on a chilly, evening in March.

The Sonoran Desert reminds me of vintage, black plasticViewmaster's. I know, it's sad, but it's true. ( I can hear you now....."what's a Viewmaster?" ). When I was a kid, my older brothers had Viewmaster's, and I remember the disks of the Sonoran Desert as well as the ones of the National Parks of the Western United States. I suppose I am reminded of the Time Life Nature Series of books too, but that's way too much information. Plainly said, In my mind, the desert is surreal - existing as postcard images, cliches of how travel magazines, calendar's and Sunset Magazine portray the great South West, but if you ever get a chance to visit the deserts of Arizona or New Mexico, be prepared to be awed, for when experienced in real life, they can be awesome and life changing.

It's been cold this winter in Arizona, so many desert plants are either weeks behind, or even frost bit. This cactus was the only one we saw blooming on a hike yesterday. I have no idea what species it is.

Aloe longistyla, the Karoo Aloe, blooms, showing off it's trademarked "longi-styla" - those impressively long
 stamens and styles which impress the lady-aloes. (No, wait a minute..) The sexy bits extend from the mouth
of the up-curved blossoms and that is where this plant gets its name. In the world of aloes, this species is known
for its large blossoms and small, dwarf habit, as the plant forms small rosettes of foliage. New selections are being introduced for home gardeners, but this one is the pure species, as it is found in the wild.

Another, much taller aloe in bloom in the winter garden is Aloe striata, from the Cape Region of South Africa. This
species if popular with gardeners as it spineless. It also blooms profusely, as you can see, in large panicles, and botanists group these species together at 'Paniculate specie's'. Organizing similar species together makes identification easier.

A Barrel Cactus in fruit. Who needs flowers? Notice those nasty, yet amazing hooked spines.

I added three new birds to my lifelist - here, a Hooked-Billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) gathers nesting material just before sunset. I also spotted some Gambel's Quail ( a covey?) and a nesting cactus wren. Oh yes, and
hummingbirds. lots, and lots of Hummingbirds.

A popular landscape plant that we are seeing everywhere in bloom right now is this Senna artimisioides v filifolia, or Green Feathery Senna. It is fragrant, and at first, I identified an un-bloomed specimen as a Grevillia species ( duh), but after some ID work, I now know better ( dumb New England Gardner here!). I wonder if I can grow this shrub
in my cold greenhouse?

 Light transforms a desert, especially in the evening when the air is still, and the thorn refract the evening light.
Like a painting, the desert shimmers and sparkles even without sunlight.

Of course, even with sunlight, it's not that bad!

Thorns are what makes the Ocotillo, or Fouquiera splendens, so splendid. This Southwestern native
is a common landscape plant in Arizona and New Mexico.

And what Botanic Garden would be complete, without a Dale Chihuly installation.

Soon I'll be writing about my new partnership with Troy-Bilt, but for now, I share this awesome sneak peak at a lawn mower I test drove this weekend in Scottsdale. I've fretted about accepting advertising and sponsorships for some time now,  for as many of you know, I don't accept a very much advertising ( and believe me, I get asked a lot!) or even sponsorships on this blog - but I think you will soon see why this offer from Troy-Bilt makes sense. I'm thinking a couple of really incredible giveaways here....just sayin'. A couple of you readers might be super happy come this summer.

 I'm a little bit selfish about design and space on these pages. For me,  visual design is very important, and honestly, I really don't need ads, especially if they don't add visually to the site. I do this for you too, as much as me. After great consideration, I've accepted to work with the nice folks at Troy-Bilt as a blog spokesperson for a number or reasons but mostly because it is a brand I really believe in.  We have many Troy-Bilt products in our own shed, a couple have worked the soil in our garden for over 30 years and have been handed down from my parents!