December 25, 2014


Merry Christmas everyone! While picking camellias from the greenhouse for our Christmas Eve dinner,- I thought that I might share some images from our Christmas around here, which we celebrated last night on the 24th in goog, Lithuanian traditional style - most of my brothers and sisters attended ( the ones from the East coast) and their children, and Joe's nieces, nephews and childhood friends. As this is the first year without my Dad, (it would have been in 101st Christmas in this house)  we still wanted to hold this dinner that the Lithuanians call Kūčios, according to the Wikipedia, it's described as this:

 Everyone in a family makes a special effort to come home for the Christmas Eve supper, even from great distances. They make the journey not so much for the meal as for the sacred ritual of Kūčios. Kūčios draws the family members closer, banding everyone together and strengthening the family ties. In this spirit, if a family member has died that year or cannot attend the meal (only for very serious reasons) an empty place is left at the table. A plate is still placed on the table and a chair is drawn up, but no spoons, knives or forks are set. A small candle is placed on the plate and lit during the meal. It is believed that the spirit of the deceased family member participates in the Kūčios along with everyone.

We still set a place at the table for the departed. I know, it seems a little creepy, but when you've been doing it for your entire life, it truly becomes tradition. I went with mix and match china as it seemed to fit with out theme of 'family artifacts' found in the cellar. Like old ski's only snowshoes, and old pinecones from past trips. Camellias from the greenhouse helped round out all the old mercury class on the table.
For more images from our Christmas celebration - click below.

December 15, 2014


It's a Schlumbergera party! And it seems that I have been focusing on inviting only the newer varieties ( most in the S. truncata group). I love these new colors, many in rich tones of red and peach, and some bicolored or fringed flowered forms - these are not my mothers Christmas Cactus ( of which, I still adore). Native to Brazil, (generally) these tropical cacti from the jungle make terrific house plants, with the only problem being trying to get the to bloom 'on-time' meaning, for Christmas - but these delightful plants do keep a secret deep inside their DNA - as they are daylight sensitive. Also, preferring days which are warmer than the night by nearly 20º. Together, this is what they need in order to set flower buds. Not a dry period, not locked in the cellar for a month.  I was so surprised to see that within one year of being set out into my greenhouse, the all bloom together now, and they always bloom the week before Christmas. How perfect is that?

To find all all that you may need to know about these Christmas Cactus, click below for the rest of my post.

December 10, 2014


I feel as if I need to post something, as my Holiday break closes in. So here are a few random images from the past two weeks - not too much gardening going on due to parties, work and general elf culture. Naturally, this time of year can get a teensy bit hectic for me with my 'day job'. I look forward to 'Santa's sleigh' to be well packed for the year ( of course, 'the year' being the year 2016). Soon, I can enjoy a few weeks off from the 'workshop', once I get through a few Holiday office parties and the general elfish tasks which need to be completed before work shuts down for the Holiday break.

Since most of you have been good boys and girls this year, here are some photos and notes so that you know that I have not fallen off of the face of the Earty - they are somewhat random, but all are from what has been happening around here during the past two weeks.

My eHow posts have kept me busy, but I am having so much fun with them - trying to inspire their readers to try something ne, while at the same time, helping them attain great results. As a product and graphic designer, I really enjoy these sort of tasks. They really haven't been a 'time suck' since I take loads of photos anyway, and the subject matter is a little more 'everyday gardening' than what should appear on these pages, so I don't feel that it interferes with my content which I create for you.  Here is my latest post on eHow to make a berry bowl for the 21st century -  which I call " How to make a more sustainable berry bowl". I wanted to say "'Partridge berry bowl" but then realized how dangerous and irresponsible that could be.  As always - eHow is a social media driven site, so feel free to comment on it, or click on the 'share' tabs - it helps me get kudos'. Which in turn, helps me pay the heating bill on the greenhouse!

 It snowed here last week. Part of me was hoping that we would get the 16 inches predicted - the other part of me was hoping for a dusting ( because Joe's broken leg would mean that I would have to snowplow and snow blow everything). Our 8 inches was just fine. Enough to make it look like December at least.

In the greenhouse, plants are still blooming during these shortest days of the year, and the scent of Viola odorata - these French scented violets sure makes the greenhouse smell as if it was 1825. It's amazing how strong they can be, yet how mysterious the scent actually is.

 My berry bowl post inspired Joe to bring back this pot of commercially grown Wintergreen, or Teaberry as my father used to call it ( you know, like Teaberry gum). It's so interesting that now there is commercially cultivated Galtheria procumbens ( it grows in the woodland behind our house). I am going to keep this in the cold greenhouse, and then plant these steroidally large 'Teaberries' in the shady, acid rock garden where it might enjoy the company of blueberries and our native Mayflowers.
A bit of the Massachusetts woodland growing right here in my, um…..Massachusetts woodland garden.

No snowy greenhouse motif is complete in December or January without the insanely rampant vines of this Australian native - Hardenbergia violacea. Come January - the color will be so intense, that I will see the purple pea-like flowers from the house. The almost seem to glow. This vine was common in old New England conservatories in the 18th and 19th century. Not a great houseplant, it might do well in a sunroom or a protected, glassed in porch which does not freeze.

Just a view down one of the paths in the greenhouse. The last of the Nerine sarniensis blooms along with a golden-leaved osmanthus ( the holly-shaped leaves), and a well budded Daphne odora. I can't wait for that to bloom in a month as well - the scent, just like warm cinnamon buns. Or cold ones.

Everyplant seems to have a famous relative, and in the world of Camellias, this Japanese variety is about as famous as a camellia can get. 'Tama no ura' is the parent of countless "Tama's". I am so impressed with the quantity of flowers that I have with my plant. It's really trying to get my attention - probably because it knows that I have a big order coming from Nuccio's this week. So big, that Mr. Nuccio actually called me on the real telephone.

Speaking of Nuccio's, this is one of their best introductions - so perfect during this time of year. It's called "Yuletide". An early blooming red single camellia which can give 'Tama No Ura' a run for it's money - or 'famocity' as everyone seems to want this one in their collections - be they a gardener in a southern garden, or in northern cold plant room. Oh - behind it is a precious red-flowered tropical rhododendron which of course, is tender. It'f from the alpine region of Borneo - meaning that it's a species that grows at a high elevation in the cloud forests where it is cool, but does not freeze.

Oh great - now I forgot what this was called! We saw it growing at Logee's greenhouses in Connecticut, and we had to have it - but they didn't have any plants started, so we begged for a cutting ( they kindly obliged). We left with a loooooong cutting, which may start many plants. If anyone knows the botanical name of this, please share.  I thought it was a Tecomanthe species at first, but now I realize that the image in my mind was close, but quite incorrect.

Check out this incredible scene in the cool greenhouse at Logee's - this Fuyu Persimmon is ancient ( I mean, I remember it growing here since the 80's when Mrs. Logee Martin would have to come looking for me when they were closing, to make sure that I would not get locked in. The perils of living 20 minutes away go much deeper than my wallet does!. So many memories here. Joe and I finally planted one in our greenhouse, which is about the same width and height as this one, also with a dirt floor, but ours is only 28 feet long, and not 100 feet long. I dream of winter steamed Persimmon pudding like that served in December at the Yosemite Lodge in my distant future.

Lastly - not everything goes perfect around here. Remember those heirloom red Cardoons which I raised from seed this year? They were huge and so impressive in the garden, but with only a hint of reddish tint. Anyway, they have frozen solid - which seems to have destroyed them, unlike traditional cardoon varieties which have remained turgid. The same, by the way, had happened to my tuberous oxalis known as Oca. Our growing season was just not long enough, or at least, for me - some that I gave away to a friend performed nicely.  More on that, later.