May 7, 2013

The Birds of Paradise Project

Last night, after four days of plant society meetings and work at home, I treated Joe and myself to an amazing lecture and presentation in Watertown, MA, just outside of Boston,  The Birds-of-Paradise Project, a study which lasted 8 years and took 18 expeditions. It documents the journeys and studies of two men, Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photojournalist Tim Laman who, after 8 years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea and Australia, captured the most incredible and moving images of all 39 species in the bird-of-paradise family for the first time ever.

You all know I am obsessed about plants, but my real love has always been birds. Yesterday, which happened to another spectacular May day with bright blue skies, and cool temperatures, could have been a very bird-enhanced day, as, I had wanted to get up early ( I took the day off to recoup from the weekend!), as I wanted to go for a pre-dawn hike in the mountains nearby, to simple listen to the morning chorus - as the peak warbler migration is nearing, and the forests here become alive at 4:30 am with vireos, redstarts, warbler species, robins, thrushes and most every migratory bird who arrived here over the past two weeks. But, instead, I laid in bed just thinking about getting up, but I could not drag myself out! I knew I would regret it, as these days are rare, and this weekend, it is supposed to rain. At least I had this lecture planned.

I know this is not plant related, but I think you all will enjoy this regardless - check out their introduction video below ( this is how they opened their presentation) and it is so well done - also be sure visit their well designed and content-rich website, as it has so many cool features, such as the ability to click on any of the species and see footage, or hear the song of each one, it's far better than any nature show ( no sharks, dramatic music or ....well, sharks).  In these videos you experience just the sounds of the forest ( Oh man, is it too late for me to become a wildlife photographer?). Be sure to check and see if these guys are coming to speak near you, as this was a monumental undertaking and the spectacular footage, as you will see, will leave you wanting more. This video below provides just a glimpse of their beauty, and the amazing photographic work presented in this study.

I too was very impressed with the quality of the entire presentation itself ( they used no Powerpoint or Keynote, but rather a new cloud based program called prezi, which by itself I found inspiring). In the end, I totally regretted not majoring in ornithology at Cornell, as was my life-long dream ( to become a wildlife artist), but at least, with modern tech, I can still participate in some small way. Enjoy this video, the footage is incredible. Oh, and be sure to order the book too! (BTW- no one paid me to post this, or even asked - it's just something I believe in, and I have a feeling you guys might enjoy it too!).

I did get some birding in this weekend, at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, a few Yellow Warblers in the forest behind the garden, my first of the year as they just arrived this week ( plus, a few Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers and a few mystery Warblers! I have so much more to learn! Warbler ID is HARD!

May 5, 2013

Two Spring Plant Society Shows

It's a magnificent spring here in New England, with daytime temps above freezing, and night temperatures near freezing, which has allowed native trees and plants, as well as spring bulbs and garden plants to extend their display to their maximum potential, a rare event as it is far more common for weather to swing into extremes of warm, wet , or cold. Across New England, even though we are dryer than normal, we are all appreciating the bright blue sky and stunning display of flora.

This weekend, as many of you know, we hosted the National Primrose Show members at our home for a party, and, we have been participating in the actual national show being held nearby at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts. If you live near to Boston, this Sunday may be the day you make a day trip to Tower Hill, for you can get two shows for the price of one, as the Seven States Daffodil Show, as National Daffodil Society sponsored show, a show that was cancelled last year due to hot weather ( no Daff's), but this year, the benches are full, as well as the National Primrose Show sponsored by the New England Chapter of the American Primrose Society.
 Enjoy the spring pics. as I need to run back up to Tower Hill for a lecture!

Neat rows of award winning daffodils at the Seven States Daffodil Show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Drama ensues as judging commences as entrants check their status.

There were so many entries this year, that beer bottles were recruited to help

Technology is beginning to emerge in some of these plant societies.

The National Primrose Show had fewer entries than in the past, but there were far more unusual species. Here,
early blooming Primula denticulata from Tibet, the 'Drumstick' primrose.

A beautiful fire-colored Primula x polyanthus

Primula veris and related species, sub-alpine meadow primroses, which are ideal garden candidates if you can find them.

Judith Sellars' award winning Hose-in-Hose form ( which means two-flowers stacked on top of each other).
A rarely seen species here, Primula rosea, small and sweet.

I entered only one plant, and I did win a ribbon in my class, ( a class of 3, but still!).
Some other highlights from the show, these auricula entries - always an audience favorite.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden looks great at any time of the year, but in early spring, it really puts on a show. One can walk in the woodland, meadows of daffodils, or simple stay on the many paved paths, strolling in the warm, spring, sunshine.

I really struggled last fall when picking out my Color-Blends tulip collection, I wanted this one, but decided on another ( which I will post soon), but next year......this might be it.

Rarely seen here in New England, a primula relative, Soldanella. A common high-elevation plant in the Alps, but challenging in a container, let alone in an American garden. There is a class for any plant included in the Family Primulaceae.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden is located on a hill overlooking a resoirvoir, and on a nice May day like this, the view is amazing.

The new winter garden at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, the glass house beyond, is the Orangerie.

The Stoddard Visitor center at Tower Hill ( I was Mrs. Stoddard's summer gardener years ago, when I was in high school and college, so I remember her every time I visit here.  She would be pleased that her endowment created such a grand gift to the Worcester area.

May 4, 2013

Spring Garden Party Flowers

Red an golden garden flowers paired well with black hellebores, salmon gasteria and vermillion nasturtiums from the greenhouse, just one of the arrangements we made today for our annual cocktail party for the American Primrose Society. 
We've been so busy this week, trying to get the garden, greenhouse and house in order for our annual American Primrose Society cocktail party and dinner that we host every year as the society holds its national primula show near us at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, MA (if you live in the Boston area, be sure to check it out both Saturday and Sunday until 4:00 PM). 

I always feel unprepared for garden tours, but less so when more knowledgable guests are coming, as they often can look through such things as bad lawns and dumpy garden furniture, focusing more on the rare or unusual plants. Tonights party always is a hit, and many of the guests are noted botanists, horticulturists, and well known plantspeople. We know who is coming - like Taylor Johnston, greenhouse manager for the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum and her husband, a professor at Harvard, former nursery owner ( and friend) Ellen Hornig, Botanist, author and garden designer Kris Fenderson. There will be officers from the North American Rock Garden Society, and many members from local chapters, and last year Darrell Probst stopped by and partied with us until the wee hours of the morning, so we always get a good list of who's who in the plant world, particularly from the Primula Society. Tonight, we are also having as special guests Merrell Jenson from the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, Alaska. These are serious plant people.

A black hellebore has stayed in bloom.

What this mean is that I need to cook alot of interesting food, which I don't mind doing, it means that I need to stock up on lots of wine, and it means that I need to pull out more interesting plants to decorate the house, or call out more interesting plants in the garden. The trillium and wild flowers are looking fine, so I am not worried about that, and even the more common bulbs are in peak bloom this year, given out long, cold spring, so all I needed to do was to pick some branches for the house ( my annual giant 8 foot tall arrangement of yellow magnolia flowers for the studio), and some planted troughs near the doors to capture the attention of the plant-saavy group.

The Frittilaria imperialis are in peak bloom right now, which I am thankful for.

Erythronium, or Dogs Tooth Violets, are just opening.

To die for - this Podophyllium delavyi just emerging is still under the protection of the glass in the greenhouse.,

I planted a new trough near the entrance to the house. ( not the blue 'Lagoon' Verbascum - new this year to the trade!).

Muscari, or Grape Hyacinths make a simple arrangement for the bathroom.

Branches, even if they only have small oak leaves on them, sometimes can make an arrangement. In this one, I combined native trees, shrubs and wild flowers in a granite container.

Yellow can be a difficult color to work with, but combine different shades of yellow, and sometimes it can work.

Each year I struggle with this very nice yellow magnolia, as it shades the greenhouse, and few plants can grow under it's dense shade, but during these few weeks of bloom, it is stunning, and I always change my mind. For now, it stays!

This black iris has no name, but we have shared it with more botanical gardens than any plant I have. Most recently it went to the collection at Wave Hill. It was one that my mother had grown here since the 1940's. Isn't the color amazing?