}

December 25, 2015

Our Christmas Festivities

Clove-studded oranges, or Pomander balls, were featured on our Holiday table. We used to make these wreathes and Della Robia style decorations back in the 1960's and 1970's to exhibit at the Worcester County Horticultural Society Holiday show. This year, I decided to try and make them again. The scent brought me back but the pain from shoving cloves into oranges did too!

 A very happy Christmas to everyone! Here in the Eastern US, as you undoubtedly have heard, it's been unseasonably warm - if not balmy. Today I think we reached nearly 70 degrees F. and broke an all time record for having not a speck of snow here in Worcester, MA, but warm Christmases are not unheard of here in New England ( as in the movie White Christmas), I am sure we will get our share of winter soon enough. Here are some pic's of our Holiday festivities this year. I'd love to hear about your family traditions, especially if they involve plants, but food is OK too, as you will see in this very 'food-bloggy' looking post! After-all, it IS the Holiday season!



Christmas is often all about nostalgia and tradition. In Worcester, MA where I live, there are many Eastern European markets such as this Polish market, which carry imported treats and home made items not only from Poland, but from Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Lithuania. I heard stories about my grandmother, whom I never met, who used to shop on this same street in the early 20th Century. I used to go with my mother to buy sauerkraut, horseradish, sausages and fresh churned butter and farmers cheese for the Holidays. The scent of the herring barrels, garlic pickles  and rye bread transports me back to my childhood.



 I usually make (don't gross out now!) Jellied pigs feet, which in Lithuanian is called Košeliena. Just around the corner from the Eastern European markets here are some very good Asian markets. This one always had split pigs feet, as well as duck heads and cleaned chicken feet (hey, I warned you!). All this will make for a nice, clear aspic in which tender braised pork with be set in.




A selection of pigs feet, hocks, chicken feet and pork neck bones will be slowly boiled in a stock pot for about 20 hours, then strained. Not unlike chicken stock, it contains carrots, onions and parsley from the garden. The bones are removed, the clear stock strained and it will set into an amazing gelatin.


Once the Košeliena is set, it is unfolded, cut into cubes or slices and served with freshly grated horseradish and beets from the garden, vinegar and flaked salt. My brothers and sisters hate it, but Joe and I can't get enough of it, and we make so much, that we share it with our elderly Lithuanian neighbors who really cherish it.



Like many cultural Holiday meals, its all about tradition. The Christmas Eve Kūčias traditionally was (pre-Christianity) was a winter solstice event, complete with talking animals and seven cold courses of fish, dried fruits and beets. Today, many traditional dishes include primarily fish with no dairy or meat, but we deviate with - um - Prime rid, but balance it off with other Lithuanian dishes such as beet soup, pickled herring and fruit compote, but nothing beats the family favorite - virtiniai, cheese filled dumplings swimming in melted butter. Similar to Polish pierogi, these contain no potato and are 'lighter', generally speaking.


Gingerbread Houses made a debut at our house this year. They were much harder to make than we realized.
 On a sweeter note, but still not garden or plant related - my friends Jess Rosenkranz and Glen Lord came over to make Gingerbread houses. I don't know what we were thinkings, as it was a bit of an undertaking which next year we will know better and start a few days in advance. Still, for our first try, it wasn't that bad.



I try to decorate the studio in a different way each year at Christmas, sometimes working with a theme. This year, I referenced Scandinavian Jul decorations, Saint Lucia wreaths and old-world pomanders ( clove-studded citrus), which my sister and I used to make each Christmas until our thumbs bleed. I forgot how much work these were, but then in true 'Matt fashion' I decided to 'raise the bar' and make some boxwood trees like those used in colonial Williamsburg. 

Fruit and evergreens are very traditional Holiday decorations. This Della Robia style was adopted in North America and influenced the Colonial Williamsburg style of decorating, with pineapples, magnolia leaves and citrus. Many Old-World designs used citrus, pears, apples and greens such as holly, boxwood and mistletoe. 


The Loquat tree, planted in the ground inside the greenhouse is almost 16 feet tall, and it blooms around christmastime. I never seems to set fruit, but the foliage is nice and tropical looking.

I started with a base of cake stands and foam cones, which I hot-glued together. I picked some loquat leaved from the greenhouse, since hey - I had loquat leaves, and no magnolia leaves which would have been more traditional.



As you can see, they ended up looking rather fancy, but everyone seems to enjoy the decor.  I added some Forelle pears and kumquats to the topiary trees as well. In the wreath, I also used battery powered candles for obvious reasons.

I know it looks fancy in pictures, but really, we 'wing it' every year since this room has a high ceiling and it difficult to heat. We need to update it too (wood paneling) and we need lighting. Until then, many, many twinkle lights!




Helleborus niger makes an annual appearance at Christmas, just like it did in 1900. I am so happy that commercial selections like this one are available now at markets.




On Christmas day, we relax. This morning a good friend of mine stopped by with a surprise - a home made chocolate cream pie, which should balance out all of the butter, cheese and beef in our diet. I had nothing to give her, as she was traveling to her sisters house out in the Berkshires, but I quickly threw together an impromptu gift of camellia flowers set into a box with wax paper. She could then have her sister float them in a platter somewhere in their home for a bit of vintage Christmas from the 1800's when camellia's were common in cold, New England greenhouses as a florist flower.



I found a stack of my fathers old home-made Christmas cards starting from the 1940's until the 1970's. Here are a few. (check out the Sputnik in this one!). 

I hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful Holiday!



I wasn't born yet for this 'Magazine' themed card, but he did design another magazine card in the 1960's - I was featured on the cover of the 'Trains' issue, which is a hint about how I loved model trains (still do secretly!). Yeah, we had a pet falcon too. Didn't everyone?


December 12, 2015

A December Tour of the Greenhouse


We're all so busy during these last few weeks before the Holidays, that it's hard to rake a break from all of the cooking, decorating, shopping and trying to finish up everything at work before the year comes to an end. I look forward to my Christmas break because thankfully, I do get one, with only a couple more days of work until January 4th. I can't wait. Hopefully, it will give me some free time to work on the blog, in the greenhouse, and to just relax and catch up on some reading. I always treat myself to one, good order of antique gardening books, which I can loose myself in.

Here are some bulbs, citrus and camellias which are dominating the greenhouse this warm December in New England.

Massonia jasminiflora, an unusual, collectable genus of low, near-to-the-ground tender bulbs from the cape of South Africa. Just a pair of pustulated leaves, with a cluster of white, tubular blossoms.

Of course, there is also the greenhouse, and work doesn't end in there; We are having some minor plumbing issues - need a new faucet, and a new hose but most of the tasks are just the fun type - repotting, staking tropaeolum vines, which I still am experimenting with in an attempt to find the perfect trellising system for these tiny vines. Some older tubers however are being a bit more aggressive this year, one large 24 inch pot of a Tropaeolum x brachyceras has so many stems emerging that I can't even count them. I wonder if it split or multiplied this year? Right now, it looks as if it could take per the greenhouse! I may just train it onto a tall column of chicken wire.


 Ipheon recurvifolium, a relative of the common blue Ipheion uniform which we sometimes see in the fall, Dutch bulb catalogs. Taxonomists continue to argue if this should be placed into Tristagma, as T. sessile, but it doesn't change that that this bulb has been blooming under glass for 2 months now. Three tiny bulbs was all I could afford of this sweet thing from Uruguay, but maybe it will set seed or divide.


I so love snow, but I have to admit that this unseasonably warm sunshine was healing. I'm definitely thankful for the break as well, since I have not been able to make time to wrap the greenhouse glass inside with bubble wrap - maybe we will be lucky and El Nino will grant us a mild winter?  I am kind-of OK with 60 degrees F in December - my heating bill for the winter so far has been $42. Can't complain about that, but it does make me sound like an old fart - I should be hoping for snow, and a white Christmas like 5 year old Matt somewhere inside of me.

Another bulb which is blooming now, is this Cyrtanthus (Fire Lily). This is a cross who's parentage which we are not sure about, but it's a reliable bloomer each autumn.

Paperwhites have been planted for Christmas. I prefer to grow them in soil, and then top dress the pots in gravel, and later, with moss from the woodlands.


Meyer Lemons do so well in the cold greenhouse. I love how they ripen starting in December, almost the same time that they ripen in California. I have two large trees now, but I may get one more. It seems we can never have enough Meyers for tea, marmalade and for cocktails.



Summer succulents were cut back, and the cuttings are being rooted in seed flats. This helps me save space, and it refreshes the plants, since cuttings perform much nicer when set out again in the spring. Plus, I can quadruple my collection, which is always nice.

Clivia miniata bloom here in March, but the interspecific crosses - those which are crosses between the autumnal blooming species such as C. caulescens and C. gardenia with the spring blooming C. miniata, tend to bloom around Christmas time. This one, which is a cross we made about ten years ago, is sending out 5 spikes.

It's nearly citrus season in the greenhouse, and aside from the Meyer Lemons, we keep adding other citrus like these Kumquats, which are still green. They should ripen in January, and will provide a nice treat when eaten whole, warm from the sun, my favorite way to eat kumquats.

Limequats are a cross, which are already ripening. Terrific in Holiday cocktails, these may not last through my Holiday break! They are tart and sweet, and much juicer than typical kumquats.

My good friend from college,Jeannie, which is Chinese but practically hawaiian now, loves her Calimondin oranges, since most of her friends are from the Philapines. She may be spending Christmas with us, so I hope to impress her with this large variegated Calimondin - it's just beginning to ripen now.

Camellia season has started under glass here in New England. We can't grow camellias outdoors, but under glass, they thrive if it is kept cold. It's been so warm, that I fear that many of mine may bloom early this year.  For now, the late sassanqua fall-blooming ones are ending, and a few Higo types like these singles.
'Yuletide', a classic fall-blooming camellia is effortless in the cold greenhouse. 



I know, it's a blurry shot, but still, so pretty. This is a new single red, but I can't find the label! 



Many of the large Higo camellias are blooming, now, and most will last throughout the winter, especially those which have been planted in the ground in the greenhouse, like this one.

Chrysanthemums continue! A stunning apricot spice colored quill-type.

One of the great benefits of an unseasonably warm winter? I can order bulbs on markdown from the mail order catalogs, in volume. Most are %50 or more off right now, as are peonies. Check your favorites sources - it's not too late as long as they can still ship, and while your ground is still thawed. I plant bulbs until the ground freezes in January in some years.

December 10, 2015

RAISING A COLLECTION OF EXTRAORDINARY CHRYSANTHEMUMS

A contemporary photograph of classic chrysanthemums by Japanese artist Tomoko Yoneda, Chrysanthemums, 2011 c-print. First cultivated in China, cultivated forms date as far back as the 15th Century B.C. Today, they remain important in much of Asia and especially in Japan where their appreciation remains unmatched.


This was a very special year for me. As many of you know, this year I grew (and trained) a collection of exhibition and Asian chrysanthemums - a collection which, thanks to many who shared plant material with me including Smith College, and Brian from Kings Mums . I had an opportunity which I could not turn down for an editorial piece for a publication next year, but due to a shortage of plant material ( an indication of how rare these plants actually are) I had almost not been able to get any cuttings started. Thanks to these folks, in addition to Five Form Farm and Mark Hachadorian from The New York Botanical Garden who helped me make some further connections, I was able to complete what ended up being one of my most fascinating special-growing-projects. 

Be prepared, this is a long post, but I wanted to share with you not only my process and results, but some of my influence as well. It's my hope that all of this might inspire even a few of you to consider growing chrysanthemums  next year, thus rediscovering this interesting, beautiful and historical craft and flower which sadly, is close to becoming extinct from culture. Consider joining the American Chrysanthemum Society too, for on their site, you will find great cultural advice. Facebook will connect you with very good growers in the UK too, such as Ivor Mace. Few grow these exhibition chrysanthemums today, and as you will see, for a few practical reasons, but mostly because they require some work to grow well.



A late nineteenth century rare Victorian chromolithographic trade card for Van Houghton Cocoa. once the world's most prominent chocolate maker. These collector trade card featured anything from children to tourism, to even how to grow the 'new' and stylish chrysanthemums .

A Century and a half ago, these larger, looser and more formal chrysanthemums where treasured greenhouse and conservatory plants. Grown outdoors and later in the season, brought indoors where they would bloom under glass for autumnal and winter displays. Yes, the chrysanthemum was considered a Christmas-time flower, blooming from early November until nearly January when set on display indoors.

What helped the chrysanthemum achieve such popularity during the Victorian era is exactly what keeps these plant uncommon in our gardening world today - and those reasons are more practical than anything else. SImply said, time and money. These are not plants for those with a modern home or lifestyle, unless you have an unheated brightly lit room that could act as a conservatory (an unheated bedroom?) for these chrysanthemums are tall, need to be raised in pots, and will not bloom until late in the season.

So, given that few today have a cold greenhouse, let alone a conservatory, growing and even moreso, displaying these plants will be a bit of a challenge. A hundred and fifty years ago, the idea of owning a conservatory or greenhouse, was not uncommon, at least amongst those with the means. Estates often had greenhouses from raising display plants, and most every proper Victorian home came with a conservatory room attached. Like show dogs or race horses, exhibition and Japanese chrysanthemums need growers and a staff to train. Today their culture and thus, their survival is left to the wealthy, a few botanical gardens and the a handful of crazy, obsessed working folk like me who are willing to sacrifice vacations, retirement and a career over raising something which few people ever see anymore. Whatever. 

Click below for more

December 6, 2015

BOTANIC GARDENS ARE FOR... CHRISTMAS LIGHTS? WHY NOT.

The winter holiday lights display at your local botanic garden may surprise you. This one, 'Winter Reimagined' at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston MA is worth seeing.

Is your neighborhood like mine? Deficient in Holiday light displays?   There used to be a time the whole family would jump into the station wagon (what's a station wagon mommy?) and drive around looking for impressive holiday displays. Today who really has time for that, besides, am I the only one thinks that there is something just a little weird about secretly looking at other peoples houses? SO, because isn't 1960 anymore, and because those handful of home who really go all out have seemed to become too...well, disco-y, why not make the experience nicer - visit your local botanical garden. Most have now discovered that Holiday light shows are not only good for getting a little extra bump at the fourth quarter gate, but the shows offer an experience found at few other venues in December.

In the Boston area or New England? Need I say more? After last winter, we are ALL for reimagining it!  How's this for a Wednesday - Saturday night event in December with the family? Hot chocolate, snacks in the cafe, and an entire freaking botanic garden illuminated at night. Awesome.



Even in the evening, the brand new 'Garden Within Reach'  at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden which opened this week looked inviting. The temperatures here in the East have certainly been anything but winter-like, but after last winter, I'm not complaining. It made looking at Holiday lights enjoyable (as in wearying-a-t-shirt-enjoyable).


This past weekend we visited our closest Botanical garden - the Tower Hill Botanic Garden about an hour west of Boston, up in the wooded New England hills of rural Boylston, MA - one of those quaint, New England villages which already looks like a Christmas card with a white church and steeple, a town common and a sub shop. I go there a lot, but I have to admit, on this visit (I was just going for a meeting), I was surprised. In a good way. It was breathtakingly transformed into a Christmas wonderland.

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November 30, 2015

A $75 GIVEAWAY FROM JACKSON & PERKINS,WINNER!

Who doesn't love large, winter-blooming amaryllis bulbs? With this $75 dollar gift card to Jackson & Perkins, imagine what you could buy?
++++++ CONGRATULATIONS TO HEATHER ++++++
Heather, You won! (as number 7 who posted a comment). Please contact me at mmattus@charter.net with your contact info (just your email I think) it needs to be shared with the folks at J&P. Thanks for entering!  Matt.




I try not to do too many giveaways or partnerships. Only a couple this year, but this one is pretty good. A Holiday $75 gift card courtesy of the  Jackson & Perkins company. I don't know, maybe it's because it's the Holiday season? Most likely, it's just because I kind of liked the surprise element of them sending me something from their Holiday catalog--

"anything, really, I'm not fussy." I told them.
Can you tell that I accepted to do this out of pure selfishness? No one buys me Christmas gifts anymore, so I was desperate.

Two weeks ago it came.

I opened the box and guess what I got?

-
-
-

A waxed amaryllis bulb.


I probably would have chased another color than this Star Wars silver, but it does match our kitchen.



Stop it!


 Look, I'm finding that growing it is kind of fun. Yes, this surprises me, because I needn't remind you that even thought I love me some nostalgia,  I even felt that forcing hyacinths in bulb vases was tacky (that changed after I had a 'talking-to' by my friend Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings ). Funny how I had to grow up to learn how to play like a kid again?

Two years ago these novelty hand-dipped in wax amaryllis bulbs began showing up at trade shows. My many plant-geek friends loved to joke about the on social media with snarky notes. Even Instagram photos of them with horrified faces in front of displays with waxed amaryllis.  I dismissed the idea as well, but really, out of everyone, I should have known better - - I work as an inventor and a futurist at a toy company - - a freaking toy company, which means that I am essentially like an elf, if not Santa himself - I should be all about play.

Honestly, I am having fun with it, even though I know that it won't be a fancy new variety, or one of the spider-flowered ones. Each morning it greets me as I make coffee, and I can see it's progress. Last year I grew about 20 large expensive amaryllis, and I can't say that I paid as much attention to them growing in their clay, Guy Wolff pots as I have watched this little guy. Maybe because there is only one, and it is the first week of December. For whatever reason, it's reminding me of the very first amaryllis I grew back in the early 1970's. I was so excited and proud when it bloomed. That won't happen here, but the process of watching it mysteriously grow has been fun again.

Get one of these for your kid - it may kick-start a love for plants.

Sure, it will die once it blooms, but who cares? I rarely save my amaryllis anyway. We all know that it's not a very horticulturally sound method (I mean, in a purist 1960's-force-a-colchicum-on-the-window-sill sort of way, (or even in a 2013-hotglue-a-airplant-anywhere-sort of way for that matter). Better than a Chia Pet but not as cool as Magic Rocks and not even close to a Fuzzy Wuzzy.

My wax coated amaryllis bulb is quickly growing - without water. It just sits on a wire ring, and is waterproof, even on our antique Arts & Crafts unfinished wood furniture.

Better yet, leave a message below and share this joy with a real kid - which this would be perfect for, or even better, with an elderly parent or neighbor (I am ordering a few for some of my neighbors who rarely get out anymore). Its more fool proof than a regular store-bought bulb, and it's cleaner.


The nice folks at Jackson & Perkins are offering up a terrific Holiday giveaway for my readers - a $75 gift card. To enter, just leave one message below (duplicates will be eliminated) and I will draw a winner using the randomizer web site on Thursday night at 9:00 PM EST. 

November 28, 2015

10 ROMANTIC WEDDING FLOWERS JUST WAITING TO BE REDISCOVERED

A selection of heirloom mums - spoons, Japanese cascades and anemone forms, combined with a few thistle, quill and formal incurves. I dare you David Stark - 17th century kimono meets October on Mount Fuji -Gold,  bronze, and pink? I say it works.


Also in the past two years,  I've noticed signs - an increasing interest in some very old fashioned flowers. My talks on how to grow many plants which were once so popular in the nineteenth century are attracting a broader audience. People under 40 are asking me about exhibition chrysanthemums, dahlias and my 'How to raise exhibition English Sweet Peas' classes are selling out. Some images of mine, particularly those on spider mums and sweet peas on flickr and Photobucket are getting hits nearing 50K. Something is happening.

There was a time, in the 18th and 19th Century when when local cut flowers were available 24/7. Although we've become dependent on imported flowers, revisiting some of these old fashioned flowers which are too tender to ship, or too seasonal, may be possible again - if local growers invest in new crops.

We can thank the wedding social media world so so much, from the 'good' to the 'bad' . They jump started the DIY/Michaels Craft Store make-over with the rush for galvanized metal anything, to blackboards and chalk. Wedding blogs re-defined wedding photography, making it an art form, than a job that old product photographers embarrassingly  retired to. Photoshop Actions shifted colors to unrealistic levels as bright teal and coral flowers emerged from simple bouquets which were -re-pinned in the thousands by eager brides-to-be. 

As far a flowers are concerned, the social media world has created it's champions which we can now recite as common as any brand name - 'Cafe au Lait 'Dahlias , 'Green Trick' Dianthus, not to mention long-stemmed English Sweet Peas, and the White and black 'Panda' Anemone's - did I forget the 'Billy Button'? 

Along with cool and epic mustaches, beards on the groomsmen, to the use of Mason jars for everything. Factor in farm tables, paper flag banners, chalk boards, succulents and air plants  - and that whole - Jumping the Shark thing - yeah, when it all moved beyond Target and Michaels, we have a problem. Now that social media has successfully redefined the formality of what a wedding originally was  - -  and within a couple of years turned what was so disruptive and original into mainstream? What's next?

So as a plant-guy, this has my day job as a 'futurist' factoring into what I do at night. What will we dare to kick-start next in regards to wedding trends? OK - Flower farms take note, I am sharing some secrets and predictions.


An heirloom chrysanthemum blooms in my greenhouse. Many of these flowers have been in bloom for 3 months now.


1. Old Fashioned Chrysanthemums - OK, No surprise here, at least for me, except that so few people can actually find any of the old varieties that this trend may peter out before this trend ever takes off. Some may say that it's beginning though - as we all realize that chrysanthemum means more than hardy mums in the garden. Here, an entire world awaits which once captivated many cultures hundreds of years ago.  I am getting so much interest from flower farm owners to individual growers who want to try raising these somewhat time-consuming plants, that I am overwhelmed by the lust for these flowers. Not the easiest to grow, since they bloom in October and November, many flower farms are just starting to raise them again. And it's just in the nick of time, as the old varieties are almost extinct.

Buddleja asiatic, a fragrant winter-blooming shrub that was once a useful winter cut flower before air travel made flower importing possible. Regional markets in the North Eastern US needed to rely on greenhouse shrubs like this.

2.  Buddleia asiatica - This may be new to you, but there was a time, in the mid 1800's when no winter wedding was complete without orange blossoms, asparagus fern and arching, fragrant sprays of Buddleia asiatica - a cool growing, winter blooming greenhouse shrub. This is the plant that made Logee's. Logee's.  You see, back in the mid nineteenth century, boxes of cut branches of this fragrant white winter-blooming buddleia made it from the historic New England greenhouse we all love, to the New York and Boston flower markets. cut back every spring, the shrubs, which were planted in the ground would produce an annual crop of arching branches by Christmastime, blooming until March, when few plants flower with size. This Asian buddleia is just waiting to be rediscovered by flower farms looking for an authentic, Victorian wedding flower that has disappeared from our visual palette.







3. Lily of the Valley - Why this flower has not been reintroduced confounds me. At one time ( around 1900) ,  hundreds of thousands of pips of the choices selections (Berlin and Hamburg) were kept in cold storage so that cut flowers could be had every month of the year. What happened? This easy to grow, easy to force flower which today can only be found at great cost, and, during perhaps 2 weeks of the year, is just waiting to make someone rich. I mean - talk about romance! Who doesn't love the scent of Lily of the Valley? I force many each year, simple by digging up my own pips in the garden, which I just did yesterday.



Bouquet's of rented Violets- not your garden variety, but a fragrant treasure from the past - once were so popular, that shipments were made from farm to large, East coast cities every week during the late winter and spring.

4. The Scented Violets - Like the lily of the valley, the Parma or Imperial violets would be such an economical crop that again, if I had investors, I would start a business raising these plants for cut flowers. All one needs are cold frames, or better yet, hot beds with manure. Of course, one would also need a crew with good backs to pick these short-stemmed fragrant flowers, but they were once so popular that florist magazines dedicated entire issues to their production. 

A cold frame of scented violets in Rhinebeck, NY circa 1910

They were once more popular than roses at Valentines Day. A hundred and fifty years ago, thousands of violet nosegays complete with wax paper cones which protected the delicate blossoms, were hand-tied, placed in wooden crates and set on trains which would transport them to cities like Boston and New York from their growing areas along the Hudson River. Today, imagine baskets of scented violets at a wedding? These would indeed be 'slow flowers' which are sustainable and yet rich with history. They deserve a second look by flower farmers.

A few violet colored varieties of gladiolus photographed in the fields of Pleasant Valley Glads near us.

5. Gladiolus - (what?!!) Really.
Here I go, dangerously out on a limb, but I sense a rise in interest in Gladiolus. If you aren't seeing it, just wait.  I don't mean those glads we see at the market or the florist, or at funerals even, but the amazing exhibition varieties sold only at small specialist nurseries like Pleasant Valley Glads (they have loads of Dahlias, as well). 

A striking new cross at the Western Massachusetts Gladiolus show. Ordering glads from a breeder will ensure that you get varieties not available anywhere else - remember, the Dutch only grow a select few - those that ship well, or propagate well for them. If you want 5 for tall stems with a dozen flowers open at once, you need to see these.


No pictures on their site, but please overlook it. If you want to order, do what I do, and just Google a few of the names. You may see what a chocolate colored gladiolus looks like which will convince you that there is an entire world here which is undiscovered. 

The show gladiolus come in most every color in the rainbow. Again, these are not available from any main-stream catalog, you must order the new crosses directly from the breeders themselves.
Rusty, ruffly, violet eyed, pie-crusted edges - you name it, the varieties that we are not seeing in catalogs are the ones I am talking about. Gladiolus are like a summer candy just waiting to be rediscovered.  Glamellas anyone? Go ahead, Google it.

Camellias were even considered a Christmas flower in 1900, which is no surprise, as many of my trees are coming into bloom right now, in the greenhouse.

6. Winter Camellias - As we become more conscious about 'slow flowers', these one-time common greenhouse plants found in every florists glasshouse in the north is long due a comeback. Their only drawback was shipping, and perhaps stem length, but shipping today is more of an opportunity and a selling point than anything else. 

A formal rose form camellia blooms in my greenhouse. Perfection.

Add in that they thrive in unheated or low heat greenhouses and hoop houses, and one can see why the Camellia is just waiting for its comeback. Winter blooming, low cost, trees that get better every year - there was no greenhouse in New York or New England that didn't have a bank of camellia trees growing at the back of it, often with beds underneath them with anemones, ranunculus and calla lilies growing directly in the ground.


An advertisement for Camellia corsages from the 1940's.





 A Nineteenth Century greenhouse full of Mignonette ready to be cut.

7. Mignonette - Mmmm, Mignonette. What the Hell is Mignonette anyway? (I don't know, but I want it, right?). A classic greenhouse cut flower from the Victorian era, Reseda odorata has been tucked into wedding bouquets for decades until it fell out of favor. Pots of this fragrant herb with flower which are anything but pretty, have been added to conservatory displays and botanic garden displays to add fragrance, but today - just try and find it. Hence the romance.  Any proper Nineteenth century cold greenhouses on estates and in large Eastern cities often kept plants of Mignonette in pots If one could re-market pots of Mignonette again, imagine what a game-changer it would be for the wedding industry?

Mignonette illustration featured on a cover from the 1892 Sutton's Seeds catalog.


8. Giant Calla Lillies - No longer the flower of death, these are the grande dam of Hollywood film stars and early 20th century weddings. Just look at your great grandparents wedding pictures, and surely you will see Calla Lillies somewhere in the shots. Low cost, back of the greenhouse bulbs, the tall, old fashioned varieties can still be found if you look carefully. 4-6 feet tall,as ours are, they are covered with giant, white callas every March - May. Come-on flower farms, leave the 'Cafe au Lait's' to the common growers. Let's bring back glamour.

Carnations from the mail-order source, Florabundance. Not your typical carnations.


9. Border Carnations
I know, right? But if I ever dreamed that so many people - professional flower farm people to plant geeks who have written to me admitting that they have a secret desire to raise the old-fashioned long-stemmed exhibition varieties or border carnations, you wouldn't believe me. I have been craving these plants for some time now, but in the US they are virtually un-obtainable. 

Vintage print of old florist Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus)
Most of the nicer exhibition types - those used for shows are in the UK, and the rest, which are commercial, are in India and Columbia. Some serious smuggling will need to be done to get some cuttings into the States, but whomever gets there first, will surely reap the rewards because we ALL want them!




Most of our great grandmothers' enjoyed orange blossoms in their wedding bouquets

10. Orange blossoms - Or any citrus blossom. I can't imagine flower farms raising these, unless they are in California or Florida, but citrus flowers in wedding bouquets were once as common as Jasmine and Stephanotis in the 1960's (Hmmm - I wonder if Stephanotis should be re-added to this list again?). There was a time when branches of orange blossoms were as common as babies breath in wedding bouquets, and why not - dreamy scent that can't be matched, and much are winter blooming in northern greenhouses. Sure, they are hard to ship, but again, we're talking local crops here. Seasonal for certain, but if one is looking for distinction, this old fashioned flower would do the trick.


Strings of marigolds at an elaborate wedding in India. Source - Indear.in


Bonus Prediction - Marigolds

Think about it. 'Eat, Pray, Love', 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' franchise, even the Day of the Dead. The marigold is on the cusp of a comeback. String of marigolds, a curtain of strung marigolds - the effect could be stunning at an autumnal wedding.
The idea of marigolds in any garden scheme may seem odd but as a secret, closet marigold fan, I've been noticing its comeback arriving in a big way. Easy to grow, water-wise, a late summer beauty with brilliant charm - the marigold may just be experiencing a rise in popularity never experienced before.




















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