January 9, 2014


The rare Chinese primrose, Primula sinensis ( P. praenitens) is one of the seed items on my wish list of plants to find.

Plants on my Lust List

Don't worry, I'n not going to bore you with what heirloom tomatoes I am going to order, or what purple podded pea I am going to try this year, there are enough of those posts out there - rather, these are some of the plants I am either looking for (help!) or ones which I am planning to grow. I/ sharing them with you because I think you might find some of these choices interesting, maybe even inspiring as you create your own lists.

Later I will share my list of special projects that I plan to work on in 2014 ( like growing hops, or raising a garden of 19th Century cottage annuals), but for now, here are some items making the top of my list:

Primula sinensis (p.praenitens), a rarely grown greenhouse or conservatory primrose

Primula sinensis (syn. P. praenitens) seed

I have been searching for this tender primrose for ever! Please, if anyone has seeds to sell or knows of a source, let me know. This uncommon primrose requires greenhouse conditions, preferable cool, moist buoyant air and a long growing season. It's sad at how many blogs and sites list this with the incorrect photo and incorrect information, as I have seen even on well known sites, along side a photo of Primula obconic a - clearly someone just performing a lazy Google search using the key words Chinese Primrose. Primula sinensis is from China, but it is not the same plant as P. obconic a - again, be wary of common names, and sloppy research. I NEED this plant! (smile).

Even Gregor Mendel used Primula sinensis in a his color variation  studies. Amazingm right? What has happened to all of these strains? Are they lost forever?  I wonder where these selections are today.

Primula mallophylla seed

This recently rediscovered primrose from Chongquing China was first described in 1916 but has not been seen since, until rediscovered in a recent botanical expedition. Documents in 2011, I don't even know if seeds are available yet, but apparently it makes a great alpine garden subject. Again, if anyone has any idea where seed might be available, or knows of a source, please share.

Cobaea campanulata, a rare green cup and saucer vine that I must find!

Cobaea campanuliflora ( C. campanulata)

I'm not even sure how I found this more unusual related species of the more common Cup and Saucer vine, Cobaea scandens, but like many planst, the lesser species are often forgotten by many gardeners. I was so surprised that there are a handful of cobaea species that are quite interesting, but this one is irresistible. I found a source for seeds, but they are sold out, so once again, I am asking you for help. I can certainly see some interesting cobaea growing in my garden this summer.

The Remarkable World of Named Double Nasturtiums

OK - Most seed catalogs list common, annual Nasturtiums, and I agree, they all seem rather un-special, nice - but not special. You also probably know already that I grow many of the very rare wild species, both tuberous forms and seed raised form, but there are a handful of sterile, double strains which are ancient, or recently rediscovered, which are much far more special - so special that they can only be propagated vegetatively, from cuttings or via micro propagation,  and thusly, difficult to find, especially in the US, as most micro propagation for these plants occurs overseas.

In the mid to late 19th Century, the Victorian growers had a long love affair with the common seed-raised Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), with dozens of named varieties available, and with their images appearing on everything from tea cups and spittoons to Valentines Day cards, but in the great estate conservatories and private greenhouses throughout this period, they real jewels were the ever-blooming sterile double forms, which were grown by cuttings, named, and shared in secrecy. Today, a few of these are being rediscovered, and a few, are literally re-imerging as sports, and now being propagated for sale. My greatest concern is us, the consumer - will we know what these plants can really offer, when we see them at our local garden center?

Why grow these forms? Aside from the  provenance, one grows these double forms for their amazing capacity to produce copious blooms. Being sterile, the plant has no genetic shut-off switch, so a vine can fill a pot in months, and then cover the plant with flowers - and what flowers these are.

Today, a few of these named varieties are emerging, yet they are terribly difficult to find.
Here are a few of them below. Yes, they were on my wish list last year too, go on - say it. I welcome any contact information or sources where I can find them or other forms. Sorry for the crappy images - hey, find me some and imagine what I can post here next year!

Double nasturtiums are the queen of the genus tropaeolum, and, they are some of the oldest varieties available today.
Left to right:
'Darjeerling Gold' or 'Darjeerling Double' was discovered as a sport in India by Bleddyn Wynn Jones of Crug Farm Plants, it is similar to sport which emerged in the late 1800's, but it now becoming available after being propagated by the Dutch and Danish, 'Hermine Grashoff', a reddish salmon double is perhaps the oldest form not lost, with references dating back to the early 1880's. It is now an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. Lastly,' Margaret Long' is a peach colored truly double sterile form. Not pictured is 'Apricot Twist', and another recently re-emerging sport from Ireland, that I am also looking for as a potted greenhouse specimen.
This image from an old Ebay auction for an 1881 print of 'Hermine Grashoff' 

Most of these double varieties are being propagated by the Dutch, and it seems a couple are being distributed to  some US nurseries, but european gardeners have a much better chance of finding these plants, for now.  Burpee's and Annies Annuals carry one or another, variety as plants, but demand must become greater for any nursery or importer to justify the cost of importing liners from overseas. Better images and deeper stories about these old double varieties can be found here at the great nasturtium site of collector J.S. McFarlane.

Image from Thompson & Morgan sell sheet for 'Flame Thrower' nasturtium plants, only available in the European market aside from one selection available from Burpee's.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower'

Then there is the story of a Nasturtium variety called 'Flame Thrower', a selection now marketed and developed by UK owned Thompson & Morgan, Co., but was bred by an amateur plant breeder in their home garden. Here in the US it is hard to find, but Burpee's does carry a red selection ( I had thought that there was only one color available until I found the European selections).I will be ordering the red form from Burpee, but again, as plants need to be micro-propagated from tissue culture, I can't find the other colors here in the States. Apparantly, seed is not available which limits availability. If anyone knows of how I could get the other color variations ( and don't you agree that they are awesome!), please let me know!
I have discovered that 'Nasturtium majus 'Flame Thrower' and the double  'Darjeerlilng Gold' are being vegetatviely propagated in the Netherlands by a company called Jaldety, yet it seems that few if any US company has picked up these selections for their product lines, at least from what I can tell. Again, if anyone knows more - please share.

Finally, there are many tuberous and seed raised nasturtium ( tropaeolum) species that I am looking for, or planning on adding to my collection, but for now, this list will focus on the N. magus selections.
Are there any forms which any of you grow? Have you tried some cross-breeding of your own?

January 4, 2014


Well, here we go. My first video. Not bad, I suppose for a hand-held 'selfie', shot with my iPhone and edited in iMovie. Eventually, I know it will all get better with a real video camera, some nicer editing software and, um...some on-screen talent! I know that these things just take time to master. Let me know what you think. No real subject matter here, as I was just getting a feel for how to do this well. Moving forward, I can see how-to videos, step-by step videos, puppy cam, etc. Now, off to shovel more snow!

January 1, 2014


More travel is tops on my list of things that I would like to do more of in 2014. I was planning on visiting Chile this Holiday break, but my fathers deteriorating health has put that on the back burner for a while. But there are other things I can do to make this blog more interesting - share your ideas now. What are you not seeing on other blogs?

As things start to settle down after the Holiday season, it's time to start the new year with a fresh slate.
Even with three full weeks off from work, I never seemed to work on redesigning this blog. As a digital designer, one might think that this sort of task would be a dream job, but the reality is when one is designing for ones self, (the worst possible client), nothing seems to seem right. So I ask you - my loyal readers -- What would you like to see more of on this blog?

I know most bloggers like to keep this thought process secret, but I have no problem with opening up the question to my readers.

Right now I am working on my new sidebar categories, something that I have been wanting organize better, but I need to know what you guys like or want. Look at the list below, and let me know what means little to you, or what you might like more of? The same goes for posts, of course - what your you like to see more of here in the coming year?

Here is one idea on possible categories (let me know what categories you like better than others, or which ones might be missing).

Home Grown - (about Veggies, or should this be organic vegetables? How about raised beds?)
Bloom – Floral Inspiration ( I think I need a category on cut flowers, or flower design?)
Collector Plants ( for the collator - various plant collections)
Rare Bulbs ( a place to share my greenhouse bulbs - might need a better title)
Containers ( all sorts of container planting ideas, colors, textures, ideas)
Alpine & Rock Gardens ( troughs, alpine gardens)
Plant Craft ( topiary, forcing, bonsai)
Matt’s Projects – (those step-be-step projects I do, like growing poppies or mastering sweet peas)
Cooking (with Plants) Canning, home preserving, recipes

Wanderlust (travels, hikes, expeditions)
In the garden, now ( a "what's in bloom now" section, so imagine JANUARY) ?

There must be categories of topics that you would just love knowing more about, please share.


Here's an idea: What if I simply organized sidebars by plant type? Orchids, Bulbs, Perennials, Greenhouse plants, house plants, vegetables?

While I have your attention, any thoughts about the following would be very helpful, too:


How about a section where you can send in your trouble spots, garden design issues, a photo of your front entrance, your back yard, a special bed…. and I redesign it…draw up a plan, supply a plant list, would that interest you?

I could answer questions about most anything

How about design trends in gardening, landscape design, floral design, color trends - that sort of thing?

I've been toying about with adding video, which totally freaks me out, but I did design the greenhouse so that this could be possible. Would bi-weekly video segments interest you? Imagine topics like sowing difficult to grow seeds, forcing bulbs, creative crafting like topiary and espalier?

I have yet to add slideshows to my site, feeling that since I have so many images, that the site already feels like a slide show. Thoughts?

If I write a book, what would you like it to be about?

OK. I've been avoiding this one, but perhaps the time is near. Now, I most likely would only bother with a book if a big publisher was interested, you know - like Taschen or Cronicle Books, because, I would want an awesome cook-book quality book, naturally (really dreaming here, I know! But hey - if cookbooks can do it….).  So if I did write (and yes, designed) a book, what would you like it to be about? Here are some suggestions:

I've been throwing around ideas such as traditional garden craft (hard core topiary, building a root cellar, pleaching hornbeams, forcing vegetables like sea kale, rhubarb, etc).

Or my dream book - a quality book showcasing the garden in a month-by-month photographic journal and then excellent content along with this journey. 

How about the ultimate how-to-grow vegetables book? You know, grow and force your own Belgian Endive? 

A garden cook book? There are SO many out there, but  I can't think of one that actually shows how to grow a plant, and then shares recipes. Salsify from seed, step-by-step, and then recipes. It would need to be seasonally organized, naturally.

A greenhouse book? There really isn't a decent one out there.

How about one about collector and connoisseur plants like rare clivia and those lost conservatory plants? Plant collections.

Only dreaming, but it would be nice to know if there is any interest in any of these topics.

Is there any interest in products which I have designed? Container, pots, tools, my own seeds, clothing, vases, TShirts, soil mixes, bulbs, plants from my greenhouse?

I am always approached to give away products, but I am selective. Let me know if I am being too selective or if you love all sorts of giveaways.

I used to publish PLANT SOCIETY, a small, self published magazine. Is there any interest in something like that again? What if it was an annual? Or more thematic, such as one issue on how to start a vegetable garden? I've been toying with that sort of concept also.

More  garden tours? Famous gardens, inspirational gardens, back-door access to places that you have never seen like amaryllis growers in Holland?

I am also open to any other ideas that you may have. This is the time folks, to request what you would like to see come from me without me freaking out.