I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The ten day forecast says spring will arrive on Tuesday, so if you’ve been dilly dallying because of the snow I suggest you get ready to hit the ground running!  It is April after all, and although our weekly and sometimes daily snowstorms might hint otherwise, I do see a 70F day approaching and then no below freezing temperatures for the next week…. as long as we wait until Tuesday of course.

hellebore in the snow

Monday morning and the kids began the first week of April with a snow day.

Most everyone has been complaining about the weather but I always like to remind these buttercups that we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the whole ‘April showers’ thing was probably dreamed up by some idle poet wasting away another gloomy English morning on a sofa by the window, waiting for the sun to make an appearance.  Come to think of it this cold and gloomy, precipitate-rich spring weather is what I imagine spring in the UK and Pacific Northwest to be like.  It’s excellent weather for growing things like moss and liverworts but less entertaining for the gardener.  Even if it does keep the winter flowers like snowdrops in bloom for what seems like forever.

galanthus nivalis

Some late, almost completely white snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) still looking good in spite of the on again off again snow cover.

Now would probably be a good time to pat myself on the back for not going as far overboard on the snowdrops as I usually do.  You’re welcome.  Even though it’s been one of the longest seasons ever, with not too-much heavy snow and zero single digit arctic blasts, it’s been cold and dreary and I just don’t enjoy taking pictures when it’s so miserable out.  That and I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook through the ‘Snowdrops in American Gardens’ FB group.  That probably helped as well, and probably saved many a reader from straining an eye muscle from too frequent eye-rolls.  I don’t know about elsewhere but optic strain seems to be a problem in this house when I mention snowdrops.

leucojum vernum

A snowdrop cousin, the spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) coming up in a damp corner of the yard.

I will round out the season with one last mention of snowdrops.  Two years ago I found an amazing clearance deal on bulk snowdrops and planted about 300 Woronow’s snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii) late in the season.  As fate would have it, great joy is often tempered with tragedy so of course they were nearly all destroyed by a brutal freeze just as they were coming up that first year.  This year it’s been better though, and a few of the survivors are actually strong enough to put up a flower.  Green tipped snowdrops are always a pleasant find and there are only a few green-tipped woronowii, so finding this one was a real treat.

green tip worowonii

Woronow’s snowdrop, aka the green snowdrop, aka Galanthus woronowii, with strong green tips and some extra green on the inner petals.  Woronowii are often a little boring, so of course I love it 🙂

In between snowstorms I’ve been ‘that guy’ trimming back perennials, cleaning out beds and hauling mulch on the day before six more inches are predicted.  To be honest I started in February when we had our first warm spell, but it was only last week that the far end of the front border finally lost enough of its snow cover that I could finish up.  For those who don’t already know, my mode of attack for spring cleanup is trim it all back to the ground with the hedge trimmer, rake most of it onto the lawn, run it all over with the lawnmower and bag it up for mulch.  As a finishing touch I cut the lawn real short and bag that as well so that everything looks obsessively neat and green and ready for spring.

chopped leaves mulch

The least professional part of my cleanup is when I lug the chopped leaves over from the neighborhood dump at the end of the street, and spread them out across the bed.  Another man’s trash…. plus it covers all the twigs and debris that I didn’t care enough to rake off.

Not to rub my garden cleanup obsession in too much but I actually finished the last of the spring cleanup yesterday.  It doesn’t all look pretty, but at least there will be no dead stalks and dried weeds to bother me in May.

narcissus rijnvelds early sensation

A mulch of the chopped debris from out front will keep the weeds down in back.  It’s just fine for the first daffodil, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’, flowering for the first time that I can remember.  Usually it’s usually too early and the buds get frozen off in February.

All the cleanup has distracted me from seed starting, of which I’ve gone overboard with this year.  The cold left me inside way too long and I’ve been up to just about everything else except the starting of tomato seedlings which should have sown two weeks ago.  I’m sure I can find one at the nursery if things get desperate.  Much better now to focus on the unnecessary native southeastern NA fern spore dust which has miraculously done something over the last few weeks.  I spend way too much time admiring the green fuzz inside a baby food container, but to be honest I still can’t believe the dust I sprinkled on top had done anything.

growing ferns from spores

I think I have ferns!  Not to gloss over millions of years of primitive reproduction but the spores grow a green fuzz and the green fuzz does the sex stuff which results in new fern plants.  I suggest searching for more on the topic in case I’ve become too technical 😉   

I’ll leave you with even more evidence of snow day idleness.  Coleus plants ready for new cuttings to be taken, and way too many succulents.  I started even more a few weeks ago and still have absolutely no plans for what to do with them, so we’ll see where this ends up.  Maybe they can go outside Tuesday even though that does nothing to answer the question of what to do with them.

succulent cuttings

Succulent cutting in the winter garden.  They’re another thing I spend way too much time looking at.

In the meantime enjoy whatever weather comes your way and I hope spring has either found you or is well on its way.  Hopefully the weather doesn’t turn too nice though, I still need to start a few tomatoes…. and plant some pansies, since I may have bought some pansies 🙂

Moving at the Speed of Stopped

Spring would be nice but it’s snowing again, and it’s hard to look normal trimming back dead perennials and grasses in a white-out so even I will be staying indoors this morning.  I suppose spring will make it eventually, it usually does, but in the meantime looking at snowy snowdrops while my toes are freezing has lost its magic.  Whatever.

galanthus nothing special

Most of the snowdrops have recovered from being buried in snow for two weeks.  This is ‘Nothing Special’ for those who need to know.

As the snow continues to accumulate now might be the perfect time to confess a few more gardening purchases.  Let me start by first congratulating myself on not ordering any hardy camellias from Camellia Forest Nursery.  They are extremely reasonable in price and I was already excited about them through speaking with Charles Cresson and having several of my own seedlings survive last winter’s cold.  Right now I’m not buying any, but you never know what will happen if this cold lasts.

I’ve spent some money on far more reasonable purchases.  $4.88 for some water soluble plant food and $22 for a new pair of long handled loppers to help in the spring cleanup.  The fertilizer is for some of the potted bulbs in the winter garden and the loppers are to replace a pair which disappeared last summer.  Really I should really charge the loppers to the ‘child care’ fund but there’s also a possibility I’ve thrown them onto the compost pile again, so for now it’s a garden charge.

A not-so-reasonable purchase was $14 for rabbit repellant.  The snow crocus were true to their name and emerged right as the last snow melted so as usual the rabbits are excited and hungry for something other than blueberry buds and dwarf conifer shoots.  I don’t mind losing a few flowers but based on the math of over a thousand bulbs planted I would think leaving a half dozen or so might be a reasonable expectation… unless you’re a rabbit.  One day of blooms were enjoyed and then another snowstorm appeared to have neutralized the repellant.  My meadow is once again bare.

crocus in lawn

A few crocus out back in the meadow.  There are still a bunch of late ones coming along, but once the rabbits find them they don’t stop.

So I don’t think that’s too bad.  $41 to add to the tally and for the most part it’s all gardening essentials.  The local garden center opens again next week so I’m already accepting the fact some pansies and a hellebore will follow me home, but for right now responsibility is the name of the game.  Good for me 🙂

$5 fertilizer
$22 new loppers
$14 two days worth of rabbit repellant
(oops)$95 worth of obscure Japanese Solomon’s Seals from Michael Vaughn via Facebook
(oops)$79 worth of unnecessary, uncommon and therefore expensive things from Odyssey Bulbs

$547 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

 

A Mayday Celebration

The last few weeks have me drowning in the color of spring bulbs.  They’re not the fanciest varieties and they’re not laid out into the most exquisite vignettes, but they are bright and to me they’re just about the nicest explosion of spring that I could imagine.

perennial tulips

Perennial Darwin tulips in the vegetable garden.  I keep threatening to evict them in order to make room for tomatoes, but tomatoes can wait and for now this is something you just can’t buy at the grocery. *photo credits to my wife for this one.  The spring color lured her out as well… in spite of allergies!

Every summer I make an attempt to reclaim the vegetable garden and every spring it seems like the bulbs are multiplying faster than I can dig.  The daffodils are carefree, but even the tulips make a go at it, and I think the summer baking in thin, heavy soil is really what they seem to enjoy.  If only the vegetables did as well.

potager garden

The area more commonly known as the “Potager”.  To put minds at rest I’d like to proudly announce that the center bed actually now contains vegetables as well as a few blooms.  The seed potatoes finally went in this week.

Not to paint myself as some greedy, plant hording ogre but here are the tulips which were supposed to end up next door in my brother in law’s yard.  At the time it sounded like an extremely noble gesture, this selfless donation of extremely fat tulips to someone else’s garden… but then I had second thoughts and into my own garden they went.  Looks like my petition for sainthood will still face a few bumps in the road.

darwin mix tulips from home depot

The orange tulips were already here, but the purples, reds and whites were newly planted from a bag of ‘mixed Darwin tulips’.  They’re nice enough, but as it is with these mixed bags from a big box store they’re not Darwin tulips, and they’re nothing like the photo on the bag.  They are colorful though.

Another issue with my sainthood (other than still being on the living side of the divide) was that I actually pulled out a few tulips from this mix which were deemed too ugly to stay in this garden.  This was horribly judgemental on my part, but the tulips were a grossly congested, small white multiflowering thing and even though I would have never thought I’d ever see an ugly tulip, there they were…

narcissus bright angel

The beautifully pristine narcissus ‘Bright Angel’.  The early and midseason daffodils may be over but these are still just perfect!

While the tulips are taking the spotlight there are still plenty of daffodils.  This is the tail end of the season, and the late varieties are really welcome as the others begin to fade.

narcissus irish linen

Narcissus ‘Irish Linen’.  A clean, pure beauty which has stood up well to the wind and changing weather.

For this little slice of Pennsylvania 2017 has been an excellent daffodil season.  Occasional rain, reasonable temperatures and no brutal freezes have reminded me that these bulbs can be overwhelmingly awesome, and I’m almost ashamed to admit I considered entering a few flowers into a daffodil show.  What kind of fanatics do things like this!?  The closest would have been a two hour drive each way and me being a complete novice I just couldn’t rationalize my way into it.  For now maybe I’ll just rejoin the American Daffodil Society and consider a try in 2018… that sounds entirely reasonable.

narcissus winston churchill requiem

The fragrant double ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ on the left with ‘Requiem’  to the right.  Both deserve more recognition than that of a passing rabbit or lone, wandering gardener.

Looks like we will have to wait and see what happens.  Spring is such a busy time and I hate to lose a full Saturday during primetime, but for some reason it’s tempting.  Must be that attraction of spending time with equally crazy plant people, I think that’s what always gets me 🙂

narcissus requiem

‘Requiem’ again.  The Petals have a lemony flush to them which I love, and the small cup looks so perfect.

Daffodil shows or not, one thing I definitely need to still consider is the call for adoptive parents for the many extras which fill the bulb beds.  The beds are packed and I need to get rid of hundreds of bulbs from old favorites to heirlooms to newer varieties.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any,  all it takes is the price of postage.  Please.

narcissus mission bells

Narcissus ‘Mission Bells’.  This one deserves a little more room but…

Now I really can’t justify the next flower.  Double tulips are gross wads of colorful tissue paper stuck onto the ends of pipe cleaners and pen ends.  Completely lacking in class and of course just what I need more of.

magic carpet double tulips

A few years ago I planted a ‘Magic Carpet Mix’ of double tulips and I’ve been digging them each summer and moving them around trying to find just the right spot for them.  I’ll let you know if I ever succeed.

I admit I do like tulip monstrosities.  The singles are so plain and elegant it’s nearly unstable of me to want anything else, but I do, and I know next year will see a few more doubles and probably a few of the twisted and distorted parrots as well.  I think the only oddities I don’t like are the fringed tulips.  It’s probably good to draw the line somewhere.

magic carpet double tulips

More ‘Magic Carpet mix” double tulips.  The taller pink and blush flowers make excellent cut flowers btw.

It’s not all bulbs here, there are a few other treasures here as well putting on a nice show.  As this is my 9th spring here I’m starting to wonder where all the billions of seedlings I start each spring go.  I kill thousands, and another million are annuals, but here and there I’m starting to see a few nice perennials joining my garden.  Not as many as you might hope for or expect, but it’s still a fun trip.

valentine bleeding heart from seed

Here’s a bleeding heart from seed.  The seeds were labeled as being from ‘Valentine’ and the plants do have darker stems (which have faded in some warmer weather) and the red flowers of its parent, but as for growing it from seed I can’t give any reason other than you can and I did 🙂

One group of seed-grown plants which is almost a problem now (since I keep starting more and more each spring) are the primroses.  A few of the tougher types such as the polyanthus and veris (cowslips?) types are building up decent clumps, but I’m still pretty sure they just tolerate my garden and aren’t really that thrilled to be here.  I’ll take what I get though and for now they’re worth the extra trouble of watering.

primula seed exchange

Seed grown primula from the American Primrose Society seed exchange.

Although most of the other types (mostly the p. aucalis and wanda types which usually show up at groceries in the spring) die off during the summer, but eventually I hope to find a few others which aren’t too much trouble.  Granted “too much trouble” is a very relative term if it’s something you really, really, really need to grow!

primula seed exchange

More primula from seed, these are probably ‘Sunset shades’, a cowslip (p. veris) strain.

Okay, I’m already distracted by the bulbs again.  As we move around to the front yard the Camassia are blooming in the front foundation bed.  I love them but they flower so quickly, especially if we get a few hot days.  By the way these need to be divided as well, so if anyone wants a couple dozen…

camassia

The foundation bed with blue camassia and (in my opinion) a very nice blend of foliage colors and textures.

More tulips.  The “Incendiary Collection” from Scheepers is flowering in the newest section of the front street border and I’m more than pleased with it.  The mix is a blend of three colors but even for the gardener who planted them it looks like a mix of two unless one looks really hard.  No problem though,  all I notice is the bunches of perfect color and the…. well really, the tulips are the only thing I notice.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

A $40 splurge on 80 bulbs.  They weren’t even on sale and if I were the introspective type I’d wonder why I bought them and how I rationalized it after saying earlier “no new tulips this fall”.

Actually I did notice one other thing.  Still tulips, but they’re a much shorter and more subtle version of the group.  It’s tulip “Green River” and they’ve come back nicely for a second year.

tulip green river

Tulip ‘Green River’.  I’d call this an orange sherbert color and although it’s not as showy as the others I still think they’re cool.  Don’t overlook the variegated foliage, it’s another subtle touch on a pretty little tulip.

Spring is moving fast so it’s really best to soak these things in while you can, and believe me I’m trying.  The house has a ton of projects which should be getting done but whatever.  I’ll leave you with a parting glimpse of the front yard tulipomania.

incendiary sizzlers tulip mix

Bright flowers, green grass, and springtime sunshine.

Hope spring is going great for you as well.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Earliest. Cleanup. Ever.

The title says it all.  Nearly all the snow has melted, jackets were thrown aside, and for a glorious weekend we enjoyed obscenely nice spring temperatures and sunshine.  I didn’t even do the responsible thing and wash the car first, I went straight for the clippers and rake and tidied winter away from the front yard.  With flowers bursting up out of the soil it was the only logical thing to do.

first snowdrops

The first snowdrops and the bright yellow of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

I’m not one to hem and haw about “is it too early” or “can I uncovered the perennials yet”, I just dive right in as soon as the weather gives me the chance.  Sure it will probably get cold again, but I find that covered or not they’re going to start growing anyway.

galanthus nivalis

The earliest of the common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) came up completely as the snow melted Saturday.  I think they look even nicer coming up amongst a nice groundcover of hardy cyclamen.

I’d love to assault you (again) with far too many snowdrop pictures, but for now will limit myself to just three.  I do want to have a few readers left for the other 11 months of the year…

galanthus wendy's gold

‘Wendy’s Gold’  is one of the “yellow” snowdrops.  The color is exceptional this year, and just as bright as today’s sunshine.

After a downright miserable snowdrop season last year, this year (all three days of it so far) is shaping up to be outstanding.  With the usual optimism of a gardener I’m positive that last year’s arctic blasts and heat waves, combined with downpours and hail, will not repeat.  I see nothing but idyllic temperatures and sunshine, even though it is about a month early.  But just in case, I’ll keep watering the winter garden since it’s coming along as well.

forced hyacinth

A few of the hyacinths I forced this winter.  Not bad for a bunch of clearance bulbs.

The indoor snowdrops are mostly over, but the cyclamen are going strong and the primrose are promising a nice show as they send up flower buds.  Miraculously I’ve managed to see my Primula auricula through the winter and bring it back into flower again under the lights.  I managed to grow this from seed (somehow) and I’m afraid it’s literally led me down a primrose path to membership in the American Primrose Society.  Now for a third year in a row I’ve ordered more seed and just in case you’re brave enough, the society has just opened up this seed exchange to non members.  Click here for a link to some of the best (and cheapest) primula seed available in the US.

primula auricula

Definitely not the fanciest example of an auricula primrose, but it’s my very own (and most importantly I haven’t killed it yet).  The fancier versions come in rich reds, blues or greens with larger flowers, bicolor blooms… all with that cool white-powdered center.

I’m excited again about the primroses, but Cyclamen coum are still a favorite.  Their numbers have dropped a little due to someone not being the most capable cyclamen grower, but I have plans to turn that trend around.  I’ve been going and dabbing pollen from flower to flower in the hopes of getting a few seeds to form, and if all works as planned there will be a new batch of these coming along in no time.

cyclamen seed forming

Unpollinated flowers will wilt and fall over, pollinated flowers will curl up and tuck themselves down close to the ground to form a seed pod.  I think this is one of the most curious traits of these little plants.

As the cyclamen set their seeds and the other flowers join the show I’ve decided to bring a few of the forced tulip bulbs under the lights to see what they can do.  Tulips indoors are a first for me, but with the way our weather’s going the ones outside will be nearly open anyway so it’s no great loss if failure strikes.

forced tulips

In typical fashion bulbs have been carelessly stuffed into a too small pot, and although I don’t anticipate any overwhelming demand for this less than attractive photo, in my opinion it looks extremely promising.

And we will see where this season takes us.  It’s a freakishly early start to spring but even in a normal year there’s plenty of unfortunate weather to go around, so a beautifully warm weekend in February isn’t the worst thing.  I guess we will just have to enjoy it while we can, and of course I’m fine with that.

A freeze and the daffodils

I can’t really hold the weather against them, but I do.  Again and again I told them not to get such an early jump on the season but they ignored me and sure enough one final blast of winter came through and taught them all a lesson.  Three weeks later and I’m still mourning the daffodil season which never was.

cold damage daffodil

Can you guess the prevailing wind direction?  Like a windswept bonsai this daffodil ‘Actea’ still managed to pull through and open a few blooms in spite of the 20F winds which blew through. 

I shouldn’t say the whole season was a wash but if I had to guess I would say about half the daffodils lost their buds and blooms completely and only about a quarter opened up nicely.  A quarter goes a long way though and I’m still grateful to have what I do, plus the weather has been very accommodating since so I suspect the surviving daffodils will put on an extra special show next year.

Isn’t that typical of a gardener?  It’s always “wait until you see this next week” or “imagine next year”…. or the apologetic “you should have seen it a few days ago”. 🙂

narcissus daffodil stepchild

One of my many favorites, narcissus ‘stepchild’ is later and in a spot sheltered from the wind, and although neighboring clumps were still de-flowered by the cold, she seems as pretty as ever. 

In spite of the wild swings in temperature the various butterflies of the garden seem unfazed and continue to shake off the cold and go about their business as soon as the weather warms enough.  Perhaps I hadn’t noticed in previous years, or perhaps there were other non-freeze burned sources of food available, but this year the daffodils have been very popular with several types of butterflies.

butterfly on daffodil black swallowtail

A black swallowtail feeding off the windblown and weather-beaten flowers of narcissus ‘kokopelli’. 

I hope my wallowing in self pity hasn’t made it seem like all is lost in my end of the woods.  Spring is a fantastic relief even with its frequent ups and downs and if one looks past the blackened cherries and mushy primrose blooms and perennial shoots there’s still more good than sad.

daffodil newcomer narcissus

Later is better this spring, and because a late replanting last fall set daffodil ‘Newcomer’ back a few days, its blooms missed the worst of the weather.  The tulips as well, the shelter of the garden’s tiny boxwood hedge seems to have helped them avoid the full brunt of the winds.

In the lee of the house the front garden missed the full force of the wind.  Here if I ignore all the mushy, blackened hyacinth blooms, and wilted early daffodils I can still find plenty to enjoy.

narcissus geranium daffodil

Blooms of the good old reliable daffodil ‘geranium’ set off by ‘pink impression’ tulips, yellow Euphorbia polychrome, and the purple flowers of ‘Rosemary Verey’ Lunaria annua (moneyplant).  I was hoping for darker foliage on the Lunaria but maybe having all the old leaves frozen off a few weeks ago left me with only fresh new green ones.

Maybe this freeze was a warning to diversify.  I admit to having way too many daffodils and maybe adding more supporting players isn’t the worst idea (as if I need a reason for adding more plants!)

mertensia Virginia bluebell from seed

Finally!  After several failed attempts and then a three year wait for my only sprouted seedling to grow up, the first Virginia bluebell (Mertensia Virginica) is in bloom.  Others claim it to be nearly weedy in its ways, but I managed to kill the first one I bought and then never found it in the garden center again.

I’m kidding of course.  Although I do need to find new homes for many of the most promiscuous daffodils (please let me know if you can take any in), there are billions of new plants on the way regardless, as seeds sown last fall and winter begin to sprout.  I always love these new surprises as much as I love the warmer up sides to this spring’s manic mood swings.  Even a bright yellow dandelion makes me grin when the sun is out!

creeping Charlie dandelions

Creeping Charlie and dandelions on a sunny day.  A beautiful lawn in my opinion…. even if Charlie does get on my nerves later in the season.

I have one more gloomy post as I complain about the assault which the cold made against the tulips, but after that things should return to a happier tone which more accurately reflects the joy of the season.   Have a great weekend, I’ve spent far too long on the computer and need to get out there and dig a little before the first Little League game drags me elsewhere 🙂

GBFD April ’16

Imagine my embarrassment when I saw it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post.  I know the exact reason for the pause but right now just  don’t want to get into the ugly truths about mixing brutal cold fronts with fresh spring growth.  Instead I’ll focus on the beautiful sunshine of a cool spring morning and join in for a very quick visit to celebrate Garden Bloggers Foliage Day with Christina from ‘Creating my own garden of the Hesperides’.

muscari and blue fescue

The grayish leaves of blue fescue (Festuca glauca) alongside the blue flowers of grape hyacinths (Muscari).  Please ignore the freeze burned tulips to the left of the photo…

Thanks to Christina for the monthly reminder to reexamine the contributions foliage makes to the overall look and feel of the garden, and this month it’s a border of blue fescue which has me most pleased with foliage effect.  This border was switched up last spring when I divided and spread a few clumps all along the foundation plantings, and this spring it has filled in with a lush vigor which really shows off the bed.  Now that the fescue is making me happy I’m fixated on a clump of blue muscari growing just behind the grass clumps.  There’s a strong possibility this will be divided and spread along as well since I like the combination.

The fescue and muscari are extremely common plants and both were free shovel-fuls from other gardens.  It kind of makes me reconsider that bucket of plant labels which no longer match living partners… but not enough to cure that plant lust for all the new goodies 🙂

See?  I promised it would be quick.  Please visit Christina’s blog as well, it’s always a pleasure to see and hear about the foliage others across the globe are enjoying in their own gardens, and have a great weekend!

Bury your head in the sand

Ignorance is bliss.  As the garden shivers and crackles under a freezing blanket of cold the wise gardener will hunker down indoors and enjoy the luxury of a warmer, climate controlled gardening experience.  Outdoors he can’t do anything but wait for the damage to show but indoors he can at least tweak the thermostat a little higher and take another sip of coffee… spiked or unspiked depending on the latest weather report.

rebloom amaryllis

Leftover Easter flowers and a few too many amaryllis blooms.

I’ve been a little too excited about the new amaryllis I bought this winter and in my excitement ended up bringing the older bulbs out and giving them a little water too.  In a normal year I just throw the dormant bulbs outside in April and let them bloom right alongside the tulips, but this year I thought ‘the more the merrier’ and as a result I’m ending the winter with an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) extravaganza.  I’ve had these bulbs at least seven years now and if I remember to give them a little attention after flowering they reward me each spring with a fantastic color show.

red amaryllis

The bright red and pure white are perfect for Christmas… or I guess Easter 🙂

It sounds slightly ungrateful but of all the colors, Christmas red and snowy white are not what I’m normally looking for come springtime.  This of course was not what I was considering years ago when I picked the bulbs up for $1 a piece at some box-store clearance shelf… but please humor me as I shamelessly brag about how well they are doing now.  Each pot is already showing at least four bloom stalks a piece, and the plants themselves are on the verge of nearly overwhelming the dining room table, even with less than half the flower stalks open.  On the edge of the group you barely notice the last of the newbies, a delicate pink-flushed mini white named ‘Trentino’.

amaryllis trentino

Bigger may not necessarily be better as in the case of this ‘mini’ amaryllis ‘Trentino’.

Once it warms up outside (assuming it ever does) new and old amaryllis will all go out into a semi-shaded spot, get hooked up to the same drip irrigation system that waters the summer annuals, and will be ignored until November.  If I feel generous I’ll send some liquid fertilizer their way but for the most part they’re on their own.  If there’s a trick to it all I guess it’s that they sit in a gritty, peat-free soil mix which drains well, and they have a nice solid terracotta pot which breathes well and holds down their heavy tops.  Well drained, plenty of moisture, and a good feeding… mine enjoy that.

fancy leaf geranium

Geraniums blooming more than they should under the lights of the winter garden.  A better gardener would probably remove the flowers for the sake of stronger growth and a healthier spring transplant.

You may notice the attractive plastic sheeting which forms a subtle backdrop to the amaryllis photos.  The sheeting keeps the dust and debris of a kitchen remodel from drifting into the rest of the house, and also keeps us from enjoying the charms of a useable sink or stove.  If I try hiding indoors too long from the brutality of our latest arctic blast, eventually I need a new place to hide from the mayhem a kitchen run out of the living room…. so I escape to the garage and the winter garden.

scented geranium flower

The scented leaved geraniums (Pelargonium) are also blooming under the lights.  The flowers are a treat, but I love the lemony scents which come off the foliage each time I move a plant or water a neighbor.

For a while the winter garden was being ignored.  Spring was early and I was back outside enjoying snowdrops, then crocus, and then daffodils… but now winter is back and I’m pretending it didn’t all happen and I’m just doing the regular sowing and repotting of late winter.  Because I foolishly brought sprouting bulb seedlings in during a December freeze I’m now at the point where I can dig seedlings out and see what grew.  Here’s a mixed potful of one and two year old Allium Christophii bulblets which just recently went dormant.  I’m fascinated even though a less than polite reader might point out I could get a bagful of blooming sized bulbs for under $10 this fall.

allium christophii seedlings

A few Allium christophii seedlings all grown up into pea sized bulblets.  I’ll plant them outside next year and hopefully see flowers in another two or three years.  I’m sure at that point I’ll wonder where they came from, since I’ll definitely forget where I planted them!

I find it interesting that even though I sowed the seeds shallowly, most have migrated to the very bottom of their four inch pots.  Readers of Ian Young’s Bulb Log at the Scottish Rock Garden Club will already know this since Mr. Young has observed this repeatedly, but for me to see it myself is of course more fun.

tulip from seed

Second year for a tulip seedling.  In the middle of the photo you can see the dried rice-sized husk of last year’s bulb, if you follow this year’s root to the right (which would have grown deeper into the pot) you will find the newly formed pea sized bulb from this season.  Maybe by next year we’ll be up to kidney bean size 🙂 

I was also happy to find one of my fall snowdrops has made a nice sized offset.  I would have thought the double shoot from the top would have split the bulb into two, but instead it has just sprouted a new bulb off to the side.  So I guess that means there will be three growing tips next fall!

galanthus monosticus

One of my special snowdrops, a fall blooming Galanthus elwessi monosticus which a friend picked up for me at Nancy Goodwin’s Montrose Gardens in Hillsborough North Carolina.

Not all my escape gardening happens in seclusion.  Occasionally I have a helper and this year that helper has been assisting in writing out some of the many plant labels which go along with all the odds and ends which get seeded out.  She may actually do a neater job than I do, and her talent for labeling in Latin is impressive.

dyi plant label

The cut up vinyl blinds which I use for plant labels.  Plain old lead pencil seems to last for decades and I’ve found a few still readable in the garden, one going back to ’91 for a dogwood seedling which I apparently smuggled out of Longwood Gardens in a pocket…

Also impressive is one of my newest treasures.  It’s a Cyclamen Rhodium seedling from my visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens, and it’s blooming in spite of having been dumped out of its pot not even three minutes after John handed it off to me.  He was very forgiving of my clumsiness, but I never did mention that I dumped it over again a second time as I got into my car.  Fortunately it survived, and although John suggested that I give this one a try outdoors in a sheltered spot (planted six or more inches deep once it goes dormant), I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to risk its health a third time.

cyclamen rhodium

A really cool Cyclamen rhodium from the Southern Peloponnese and island of Rhodes in Greece.  Nice flower but look at that speckled foliage! 

So that’s how things are going here in my own sheltered locations.  I have some promising tomato seedlings sprouting as well as eggplant and peppers, but it will be a few days before the damage outside becomes definite.  Already things such as roses, lilacs and daffodils look rough, but for as long as I can stay in denial I will.  Maybe the hyacinth will bloom so much stronger next year now that their blooms have all been frozen off.  A gardener can hope 🙂