Welcome 2018!

Another year is upon us, and here in the Northeast it’s off to a slow and frigid start.  On the day before Christmas I was poking around looking for snowdrop shoots, now just a little more than a week later I’m watching the birds huddle around the feeder while the rivers and lakes freeze over.  It’s a bit of a shock to have actual winter weather after years of lackluster cold, but I’m pretty confident it won’t last.  The weather is still all over, and when I randomly checked the Nome Alaska forecast it looks like just outside the arctic circle they’re enjoying high temperatures just below freezing while we’re developing our own permafrost here to the south.  My best bet in scenarios like this is to head for the warmth of a decent conservatory to enjoy a little warm indoor gardening stability 😉

planting fields arboretum

Camellias flowering under glass, safely sheltered from the single digit weather outside.

My choice was the glass houses of Planting Fields Arboretum, located just east of NYC on Long Island.  Built in the 1920’s it’s the former Coe Estate, an old Gatsby era Gold Coast mansions which rather than face the wrecking ball or subdivision like so many others, was donated to the state of NY which has cared for it ever since.

planting fields arboretum

Looking through the Camellia house.

My pictures really don’t do the estate credit, I was working with an older cell phone camera and the cold outside caused the battery to shut down for most of the visit (thanks Apple)… so only a few photos… but hopefully someday soon I’ll be back for better.  The not-yet-full-of-flowers camellia house is where I did get a few pictures, and although the peak is still two or so months off (late February/early March) the contrast between this and  icy walks with cold-curled leaves of rhododendron was perfect.

planting fields arboretum

Get a deal on a couple hundred camellias, build a massive greenhouse to protect them, enjoy the blooms each winter.

I seem to recall reading that this camellia house is the largest under-glass collection of camellias in the Northeast, but there are even more extensive greenhouses on other parts of the estate.  They’re full of holiday poinsettia displays, tropical fruit and blooms, cacti, orchids, bromeliads… but of course camera issues will spare you from all those photos today.  We did manage to make a quick tour around Coe Hall before our noses froze completely (and the phone shut down).

planting fields arboretum

The front door and approach to Coe Hall.

It was a shame to skip the holly and conifer collections, but we weren’t up for a long walk and didn’t have the time regardless.  Better to linger during magnolia season or when the azaleas are in bloom, or the rose arches, peonies, perennial borders, annual displays, lilies, dahlias….. 😉

planting fields arboretum

Round back.

Since the camera died at that point, and in retrospect the photos aren’t all that great in the first place, I’ll move on to another more local winter conservatory… my own winter garden of fluorescent shoplights and workshop benches.  It may not have overhanging boughs of fruiting citrus, or banks of multicolored poinsettias (the variety of which rivaled much larger gardens) but it does have my absolute favorite plant, a returned from the dead Australian Tree Fern.

overwintered tree fern

After three months of ‘will it live?’ the Australian tree fern has said ‘yes!’ and has earned itself pride of place under the winter growlights.

Don’t ask me why but I’m this excited about a stupid fern.  As you know they just sit there being green, but there’s something extra special about it, maybe it’s the accent.

primula obconica

The other end of the growing bench.  My only primrose this year, Primula obconica, is in full bloom.  It’s a sad, malnourished example of this non-hardy species, but it’s all mine and of course I’m overly proud of it.

It’s still another week or two before snowdrops and cyclamen show up under the lights, but rather than go outside again to take pictures of frosty dead things, I’ll leave you with a bright reminder of the hot colors of summer.

overwinter geranium

The geraniums (pelargoniums) are still blooming well in spite of the cooler temperatures.  I believe this dark red is ‘Caliente Fire’.

May your 2018 be filled with joy, friendship, and success, and thanks to all who take the time to visit this blog and entertain my ramblings.  All the best!

24 comments on “Welcome 2018!

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I could get excited about a tree fern too. I have thought about seeking out one. My luck the darn thing would grow to be big and I am getting too old to be hauling a big ole tree in and out of the house. Yet, if the opportunity presents itself, I might succumb. I do enjoy your blog. The best of 2018 to you and yours.

    • bittster says:

      I was so lucky to find this tree fern at a local garden center in with their tropical summer plants. I didn’t even think it was much money, probably around $7, and I probably could have convinced myself to spend twice that it there was a possibility I could overwinter it.
      I’ve read the hairs on it will cause skin irritation. I’m not sure if they really do or if it’s now my imagination that I feel itchy whenever I move it around!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Always a pleasure to read one of your posts, Frank. Hope your holidays were enjoyable. I’m looking forward to the growing season ahead… it’ll be here before we know it!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Eliza. I feel like winter goes faster when the thermometer keeps at a steady low. It’s the warm spells in January that feed my spring fever!

  3. johnvic8 says:

    You really do need to move to the south. Why it was only down to 16 this morning.

  4. Happy New Year, Frank! It sure is cold! I foolishly left all the bulbs I want to force out in the garage, and of course, they froze solid. I brought them in today, planted some, and put them in a cold, not freezing, place, and I hope they’ll grow and bloom! We’ll see. Thankfully, it was just tulips, paperwhites, and some narcissus–the Amaryllises are all safe, and some of those got started today!

    The Camellias are soooo pretty. ALMOST enough to make me wish I lived in the South. Thanks for sharing. And congratulations on your fern!

    • bittster says:

      I’m sure your bulbs will be fine, and if not…. easy come easy go 😉
      I bet the wind and cold are brutal up there in the highlands this morning -assuming you made it back by now, I seem to recall hearing you were stranded somewhere and hunkering down with blankets and a good movie!
      The amaryllis will be nice. I should probably check on mine, but after their summer of neglect I’m not expecting too much this winter.

  5. The lily of the valley I am forcing is finally showing signs of life. I was starting to wonder if they had gotten cold damaged sitting in the shipping box on my porch. Hope you have the best gardening year ever!

    • bittster says:

      An excellent gardening year to you as well!
      Glad to hear that the LoV are doing fine. They’ve always been a mystery to me since I just can’t smell any fragrance off of the flowers and everyone else seems love them for just that. At least I can enjoy calling the roots ‘pips’. It reminds me of phlox flowers, since for some unknown to me reason they are also referred to as ‘pips’…

  6. nanacathy2 says:

    Happy New Year. I can smell the warmth, damp and flowers of the hot house, just lovely. Now I wondering if there is a hot house I could visit here.

  7. Annette says:

    Yes, I’ve been thinking of you while listening to the news. Scary weather, your snowdrops must wait a little longer but at least everything’s well insulated. Thanks for the tour. Keep warm and take care…and of course best wishes for the new (gardening) year 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Don’t be too worried about what the news shows. It’s your average winter weather and other than the fancy new names which seem to get applied each year, we’re no strangers to snow.
      It’s an excellent excuse to spend more time under a blanket and extra time reading!

  8. Christina says:

    A very Happy New Year to you Frank. I like the idea of a glass house that is warm! Even my greenhouse isn’t very warm this year; we are definitely having a very cold winter (for us). Every few days we get some warm sunshine but I’ve never know such a cold start to winter!

    • bittster says:

      I hope your share of warm sunshine increases, I picture you being able to wander the garden coatless on a nice winter afternoon, maybe even get a few small jobs done outside without too much discomfort.
      It’s these ups and downs which I don’t like. Right now the cold is good, but next week things warm up, and I don’t want the plants thinking it’s time to wake up.

  9. Cathy says:

    Happy 2018 Frank! Glad you could find some indoor plants to admire, and your own display is pretty impressive too. I hear the cold spell is spreading further south even to Florida. Hope it doesn’t last too long. We have hardly had any wintry weather apart from the usual gloomy damp and some wet snow and sleet flurries. But I believe I have noticed the days are getting longer by just a few minutes! 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I’ve been looking at the calendar as well and figuring out how many more minutes longer each of these days must be. So far it all seems to be in my head though, and it’s hard to tell anything on some of the real gloomy days. It will come though. There will be a bright sunny winter day when you realize the sun seems much stronger, and then all of a sudden, Boom! It’s spring 🙂

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Happy new year! The Coe estate is certainly impressive but nothing beats the joy of your very own winter conservatory. Congratulations on the survival of your tree fern!

    • bittster says:

      Happy New Year to you as well!
      Each winter I try and move my indoor garden a little further from the hoarder theme which it has now to something closer to the indoor refuge which you have… with maybe a few less bromeliads…
      For some reason I haven’t yet ever needed to take a bromeliad home with me, that and orchids have never made it onto my list (oddly enough).

  11. Best wishes for the new year, Frank. You know, I grew up on Long Island but never visited this place. Thanks for sharing your photos. I’ve been thinking Judy and I need to visit some of the local conservatories over this frigid winter.

    • bittster says:

      A local greenhouse visit always does me good. Too bad nearly all the greenhouses around here (that would be a total of 1) are sadly underutilized, and I’m forced to take a two hour drive at least.

  12. Can’t believe we have a great conservatory here and I had not even thought of it. Love the look of Coe Hall itself. How nice to have that kind of money to build a really gorgeous house and gardens. You should be proud of your fern. I think they are striking plants and even having a small one indoors is a feat in a cold climate.

    • bittster says:

      Yes, it’s amazing what can be done with a few extra millions lining your pocket. It would be hard to stop once started though. I didn’t even show a third of the estate, it really goes on for hundreds of acres in a part of NY where you would struggle to find a fixer upper or building lot for under 1M. I just remind myself of the taxes, that’s usually enough to cool my admiration.

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