GBFD February

Each month on the 22nd Christina of Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides invites us to join in on a consideration of foliage in the garden.  Foliage effects in the winter months can seem to drag on and February may have its pleasant moments in Christina’s Italian landscape, but here in Pennsylvania February is the month when the relentless assault of winter begins to wear down even the toughest greenery.  Imagine my surprise when a beautiful February weekend comes along and gets me thinking about outdoor things other than snow.  It felt great to get outside again, do a few spring-like tasks, and consider what was holding the garden together.

pelargonium foliage color

Even a nice February day needs some warmup time, so while waiting for the thermometer what better thing to do than enjoy the foliage of geraniums (Pelargonium) and other tender plants indoors under the growlights.

One task I did tackle was a little front garden cleanup.  The snowdrops are coming up here in the front foundation bed, and dead sunflower trunks do not add to ambiance of the scene.  Blue fescue (Festuca glauca, cultivar unknown) does though, and I’m enjoying the edging of faded blue which lines the front.  A nice solid swath of one plant helps tie this bed together but I’m not entirely convinced I can give up my collecting habits in favor of better (notice I won’t say good) design.  My single mass planting of little fescues is a starting point though and even if I can’t add more solid pools elsewhere maybe I can at least repeat a few nice patches of similar foliage here and there for the sake of continuity.

Festuca glauca winter color

Cute tufts of Festuca glauca in their winter finery…. which looks remarkably like their spring summer and fall finery, but every garden needs a few reliable doers.

Another grass which has lasted well throughout the winter are the native little bluestem clumps (Schizachyrium scoparium) which dot the back meadow area.  They will be cut down shortly as crocus blooms begin to fill the meadow, but for now they’re a nice backdrop to my weakly flowering witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis ‘Pallida’).  It’s too dry and exposed here for the witch hazel to do well in this location, but it hangs on and every now and then has a good spring.

witch hazel pallida

The crinkled blooms of ‘Pallida’ Chinese witch hazel are always a nice winter surprise and I feel like the russet foliage of the little bluestem grass in the background complements the flower color well.

It may have felt like spring for a few hours but it’s still surely winter around here.  El Nino has thrown things for a loop and by my wildly inaccurate guess we are about three weeks ahead of a ‘normal’ winter.  Not a problem I say, and I’ll take the early snowdrops and deal with future wild temperature fluctuations as they come.

snowdrops and eranthis aconite

Cyclamen hederifolium foliage and a mulch of dried autumn leaves looks so much more comfortable than bare mud.  I guess even last year’s dead foliage counts on a February foliage day 🙂

So even in the dead of winter there is foliage making a contribution and there is hope for the upcoming year.  Hope is always a good thing, and what better way to breed more hope than to look at other inspiring foliage effects from around the world.  Give Christina’s blog a visit and as always have a great week!

The Winter Garden 2016

An actual greenhouse would be awesome.  To spend the winter nights out in the humid warmth… or even sweater-cool, as long as you can smell that healthy dampness of growing plants, would be a fantastic break from the dry static of central heating.  Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon I’ve got to make do somehow and to that end I have my little winter garden.  It’s two shop lights hung over a table in the small workshop behind the garage.  That’s the reality, but the magic is much more, and of course as with everything else I try to do there’s a story involved.

galanthus in containers

The first of the Cyclamen coum (a nice seedling flowering for the first time), a snowdrop dug from the garden (Galanthus elwesii), and the frilled leaves of a scented geranium are filling the space beneath the lights this year.

Santa brought the kids electric scooters this year, and that has nothing to do with winter gardens but they needed a spot cleared in the garage near an outlet for charging.  Space is tight in the garage so obviously I needed to clean the attached furnace room first.  A day later the furnace room was cleaned and I had room in there for a few bikes, but the cannas and dahlia roots in the furnace room needed a cooler spot.  They had to go into the workshop which had now become remarkably full and as a result also needed tidying up.  A day later with the workshop cleaned and the bulbs stashed away I made the observation that the workbench was really unacceptable as far as winter gardens go.  A few years before we bought this house a pipe burst in the workshop, all was soaked, and the pressboard workbench soaked, sagged, and warped.  It was time to replace the top so off to the DIY store for lumber and hardware.  A day later and the old top was off and a new one had been crafted, more than doubling the tabletop and practically calling for another light to be added, so of course another light was added.

potted amaryllis

Merry Christmas to me.  A ridiculous clearance sale on amaryllis bulbs left me with eight new ones and the repaired workbench is the perfect place to pot them up.  Don’t even ask me how hard it is to find terracotta pots during the holiday season….

So one more day for the stain and polyurethane to dry and then finally I was able to bring in a few things for under the lights.  Just in time since the Cyclamen coum were beginning to flower and I was tired of dragging them in and out of the garage with every frigid weather forecast.

growing bulbs under lights

Twice the growing space of years past and already nearly full.  Overwintering cuttings share space with cyclamen and various too-special-to-be-outside seedlings under the growlights.

I should have tackled this job on a pleasant summer weekend, but at that time the lawnchair was so much more inviting.  Had I been ready to go at the start of the season (or had I built that coldframe I wanted) then maybe these seedling pots of tulips and allium wouldn’t have started to sprout in the garage, and maybe I wouldn’t be the only person in NE Pennsylvania growing species tulips indoors under growlights in January….

bulbs from seed

Hellebore and cyclamen seedlings growing in the winter garden.  The small wisps in the other pots are tulips, allium, and a single fritillaria  seedling.  The economics of spending years nursing along seedlings which are available cheaply (100 blooming sized bulbs for $14 last time I checked) is something else we shouldn’t look at too closely.

To wrap up my ‘How I spent my Christmas vacation’ essay I’ll just add that on the last day I moved an air compressor and rabbit hutch onto a shelf and was able to plug in the scooters.  Don’t ask me how I didn’t see that a week earlier.

pale moonlight eranthis

After two rainy days of 55F (13C) weather the soil has thawed and the first winter aconites have broken the surface. I think they’re perfect and they should be fine even if winter does decide to come this year.

Now I’m all set.  Even though I spotted the first winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) breaking out of the earth this weekend I think winter will still make an attempt at cold before the robins can come home.  Today in between rain showers I put up the bird feeder, braced the pole against tipping out of the mucky quagmire of lawn it sits in, and drug a flat of primula seedlings into the workshop.  Now when the cold hits, repotting a flat of young primrose should be just the diversion for a dark winter evening.

The Winter Garden 2014/15

My winter garden is having a good season so far.  Usually I don’t bother setting things up until around New Year’s but this season the shop lights went on in October for some special cuttings, and things have been humming along since.  The hardy cyclamen coum which I keep potted up are just starting to put on a show, and now that I’ve dispatched Mr. Mouse the blooms can open in peace.

winter garden under lights

The “Winter Garden” with cyclamen coum in bloom. I love the flowers alongside the bright variegated leaves of the plectranthus (probably ‘Troy’s Gold’).

For those of you who might not be as up to date with my garden as you’d like 🙂 here are a few statistics on the tiny little patch of plants which serves as my winter garden.  Basically it’s a four tube fluorescent shop light set up in an unheated workshop just off the back of the cool (never freezing) garage.  The bulbs are a generic T-8 type, usually in the ‘daylight’ or ‘natural light’ category but it really just depends on what I grab the day I’m shopping for lights.  That’s it.  Not quite a citrus filled orangerie or a warm, sunny conservatory, but it does the trick on a dark January evening.  I’m considering buying a few more and lining the side of the room with them in order to grow something bigger and fragrant.  A little goldfish pool back there wouldn’t bother me much either, might as well put a fountain in while I’m at it.

hardy cyclamen growing indoors under lights

Another two or so weeks and the cyclamen should really put on a nice show.

Last year I had a bunch of snowdrops and some early spring blooming perennial purchases from Far Reaches Farm.  They were awesome but this year I spent my winter treat money a few months too early and had to improvise, so on a warm December afternoon I went out and dug up a clump of almost completely frozen primula vulgaris for forcing.

forcing primrose

They needed dividing anyway, which eventually I did…. after letting them thaw out and sit in the dark for a week or so (not a recommended of course, but you know how things can get away from you during the holidays!)

A month later and they’re starting to wake up.  They probably won’t have as long a bloom season as some of the newer hybrid types, but I love their soft yellow color and big clumps of blooms.

primula vulgaris forced

One of the primula divisions coming along.  Fingers crossed for a good show!  (please ignore the dying coleus next to it.  Cold weather, overwatering and coleus are not a good mix)

I have a new favorite celebration.  As any Northern hemisphere gardener will know, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the point beyond which days lengthen and the march into spring begins.  But gardeners also know we don’t rush out in January and start planting.  It takes a while for the sun to catch up, shake off winter, and get things going again.  According to the ever interesting blog at MacGardens, the turning point for this is the January 21st celebration of ‘post-solstice’.  One month after winter solstice and the sun is starting to turn the tide of winter, bringing soil temperatures back from their lowest point (happening somewhere around Jan 21st) back up into the civilized range.  Speaking of civilized, check out MacGardens for a special treat of cool plants, exotic alpines, and just plain old interesting gardening.

cyclamen coum potted

I’m always trying to get out of the ‘average’ category of photography. Here’s one of my favorite cyclamen coum which I attempted to set up for a nice portrait.

Until post-solstice kicks in and we can again search for signs of life outdoors I’ll stick to the indoor garden.  With more snow on the way tonight I think that’s the best plan.  Here’s another plant making me happy sheltering from the storm under lights, it’s a variegated ice plant (dorotheanthus bellidiformis, probably ‘mezoo trailing red’).  Not to ‘out’ my slacker gardening, but the cuttings might have been hastily thrown on a workbench back in November when the first hard frost hit.  They sat there unplanted for at least a month until I got around to potting them up and don’t seem to have minded at all.  Surviving rootless on a table for over a month ranks well on my plant-o-meter.

dorotheanthus bellidiformis 'mezoo trailing red'

Variegated ice plant finally living the good life with soil and water (and plenty of roots- I checked)

A few snowdrops weren’t stolen out of their pots or had their heads nibbled off by the late Mr. Mouse, so February should be off to a good, post-solstice, start.  In either case I’m just happy that there’s already a bit of light on the horizon when I pull into work, and a rosy glow to the sky when I walk out!

Trudging through Winter

I really can’t say I dislike winter.  I have a few objections but overall it’s autumn I dislike, with its end of the season, everything dying, days so short, vibe.  So if it’s excuses I’m looking for to explain my blogging absence, the only one I can find is that I have nothing to say.  Snow and cold are here and nothing much has changed since November.

Fortunately others haven’t been so idle.  I’ve been enjoying the posts from both milder and colder climates and since I’m starting to feel a little guilty about not contributing, I guess I should do a little catch-up.  Don’t worry, this won’t take long!

lop eared house bunny

Meet ‘Bun-Bun’ the newest member of our household.

Our little lop bunny with the oh so original name of ‘Bun-Bun’ has been sharing the kitchen since November.  He’s messy, hungry, bouncy and just about the cutest thing in our house.  BunBun was supposed to live in a hutch on the back porch but softer hearts prevailed and he’s been indoors since joining us.

Garden-wise, the annual trip to Longwood Gardens went off (almost) without a hitch this year and we enjoyed the always beautiful indoor and outdoor gardens.

winter conservatory at longwood gardens

I can’t even begin to imagine having a winter garden like this at my doorstep. Coffee here in the morning and then off to work in the greenhouses!

The kids still enjoy the trip in spite of other play options and the long drive, so I’ll drag them with me for as long as I can.  During this trip the boy got it in his head to use my phone and photograph everything.  Who ever suspected a phone could hold so many pictures?

the kids at Longwood Gardens

Inside the conservatory at Longwood Gardens. This year’s theme was birds, and there were plenty of feather inspired displays.

We got there around three in the afternoon to see the gardens during the day and then stayed for the lights at night.  The crowds weren’t as bad as in previous years but it was still packed, and I think unless we can get there on an ‘off’ day next year we might skip.

Longwood gardens decorated for Christmas greenhouses at night

Inside the conservatories of Longwood Gardens at night. Sparkly and magical, just perfect for the holidays.

After dark we toured the gardens again and then walked through the greenhouses one more time.  Inside the greenhouses there’s a children’s garden which involves several kid friendly fountains and tunnels and hidey-holes which they love playing around in.  Unfortunately this is also where the girl wandered off and got a little confused as to where the play area was, so after a little frantic looking around we ended the day with a teary reunion.

outdoor Christmas lights at Longwood

Just a part of the outdoor Christmas light display at Longwood Gardens.

Back at home the only signs of gardening are the bookmarked seed catalogs on the kitchen table and the crowded shop lights out in the garage.  This year’s indoor garden is an odd mix of overwintering tropical cuttings and winter blooming hardy perennials.

houseplants growing under the shop light

Out in the garage cuttings are still doing well under the shoplights. This begonia is actually happy enough to throw out a few blooms, while some creeping houseplant is making a play at smothering a potful of cyclamen seedlings.

Normally the “winter garden” under the shoplights is reserved for a few cyclamen and forced snowdrops, but this year the tropicals are still out there sharing spare.  The plan was to set up a spot indoors for another shoplight setup and move the warm weather plants in there for the winter, but as usual things are slow in coming together.

pelargoniums, cyclamen, and snowdrops growing indoors under lights

A slightly non-traditional indoor garden jammed full of scented geraniums, houseplant cuttings, hardy cyclamen coum, and a few potted snowdrops.

It’s this little garden under fluorescent shoplights which will keep me going while the snow flies outside.  It’s maybe 6 square feet of grow space, and won’t be nearly enough when seed starting begins, but right now while the cyclamen coum come into bloom it reminds me that things won’t be frozen forever.

Happy new year!

Daylight savings time

During daylight savings time I’m not entirely sure where all the saved light goes, but after getting to work in the dark and leaving in the dark, I’d like to pretend a little shows up in my winter garden.  Ok, winter garden is a pretty fancy label for my shoplight in the back of the garage but in a family that calls the vegetable garden “the farm” and one apple tree “the orchard”, it makes sense.  I cleaned things up a little with a plastic liner and gravel base and I’m more pleased than ever.  My only complaint is I should have used a sand base to place the pots on, a sort of ‘sand plunge’ that would distribute the watering better.  Looks like that’s the plan for next year.winter garden under lights

Things seem late, maybe because of the cold spells or my late setup and start-of-watering, but from the looks of things it should pick up soon.  More of the cyclamen coum are sending up blooms including the darker ‘Meaden’s Crimson”potted cyclamen coumThis is my current favorite though.  It’s got a nice pink shade that darkens around the petal edges giving almost a bicolor effect.cyclamen coum under lights The seedlings from last winter are also recovering well from my neglect.  For about the first year of their lives these cyclamen hederifolium will grow quickly sending up new and larger leaves if kept cool and watered with a little fertilizer.  Once they get past a certain point, around their first birthday, they either get too big or get too old (I’m not sure) and no amount of light, water, cool or warm will keep them actively growing through the winter.  They just sit there until warmer weather and drought bring on dormancy.  In this batch of seedlings I like the silver leaf in the center with it’s slight pink tinge.  Maybe it will hold onto this as it grows, but I’ve seen other babies play this trick and it never lasts.cyclamen hederifolium from seed

More snowdrops are coming into bloom.  I don’t think any of these are galanthus woronowii (like the label said) since they just don’t have the glossy green leaves that they should, but the blooms are welcome anyway.forced snowdrops

The first of many Van Engelen clearance sale bulbs are blooming.  I can’t hold them back any more!  It’s difficult to tell from the picture but these are barely half the size of the others.  Still nice though as more snow falls outside.potted snowdropsI have a birthday coming up.  I’m considering gifting myself two more shoplights rather than endlessly wishing for a greenhouse.  It’s not quite the same but it’s a start!

disclaimer: I guess daylight savings time is technically the summer time change, but just like I’m desperate for sun I was also desperate for a title 🙂

Opening day for the winter garden

There’s only so much I want to do outdoors while the snow is blowing and the temperatures drop.  It looks beautiful and we have plenty of cozy winter gear but unless I have a snow shoveling job to do I’d rather just admire the whiteness from inside the house.  So instead of bundling up, I dusted off the shop light and set up my little winter garden.  These cyclamen coum and cyclamen hederifolium are hardy enough to overwinter outdoors easily but I’m sure I’d miss them too much under the snow, so it’s nice to have them under lights and in the garage.  Plus with blooms starting, it’s time to give them a nicer spot than the dim, dusty windowsill.hardy cyclamen under lightsThe snowdrops also need more light,  I try to keep them back by holding them in the coolest corner of the garage but they have their own growing timetable.  The first of this bunch bloomed in November and now I’m happy to see the rest starting.  My apologies for the mess and dirt and less than attractive cardboard backdrop…. no Martha Stewart gardening here.potted galanthusLast winter’s cyclamen seedlings also appreciate the lighting.  They didn’t sprout until temperatures cooled in the fall but will now grow and reach a decent size for planting out next spring.cyclamen hederifolium seedlings

With the lights on, these cyclamen will get more regular watering and we’re going to pretend it’s spring 🙂  There are new blooms just under the gravel waiting to come up, and if it’s between looking outside and looking at this, I’ll take the flowers.cyclamen coum blossomNot a bad way to start off the new year.  It sure beats the -9F (-23C) I saw on my drive to work the other day.  Stay warm!

Cyclamen on the move

Rather than do the right thing at the right time I like to test the limits of my plants,  so if you’re looking for good advice you might want to move on to your next search result 😉 but if you’re like me and can barely get around to half the stuff you want to (even at the wrong times), well then I say “Tally Ho!”

Cyclamen should be transplanted when dormant if possible.  It’s easier and probably less stressful for the plant.  I’ve found they don’t really care all that much and do it whenever the mood strikes, so when the mood struck last week (about two months too late) my little guys got roomier quarters.  Winter blooming cyclamen coum was my target and this replanting is to get them ready to come indoors and brighten up my winter garden.cyclamen coum ready for repottingC. coum is perfectly hardy outdoors around here (zone 5/6ish) and I only keep them potted because they’re so easy to grow and bloom in the back corner of our semi-heated garage.  They’ll bloom throughout the darkest days of winter, unless for some reason one decided to start now.

early blooming cyclamen coumFor repotting, a gritty good draining mix is perfect, but mine do well enough in a blend of 3 parts purchased potting soil mixed with about 2 parts sand robbed from the kid’s sandbox.  Sometimes the kids complain, and the mix gets less sand.  Replant the round bulbs with the top of the corm just at the soil surface and then cover it up with about an inch or so of gravel or grit.  I prefer chicken grit since it’s easy to find around here and was the topping first recommended to me by Carol, my cyclamen mentor and enabler.

Finished product.repotted cyclamenA few of the plain green ‘Meadens Crimson’ went into garden beds since winter garden space is limited, but this was a good start, and not as many plants as I thought, so it inspired me to take a leftover c. coum pot and bring them in too.cyclamen coum seedlings

How could I resist?  I love the one with the ring of pewter patches, and the silver leaf with the small Christmas tree center….. also a favorite.  It’s been a few days and the plants have settled in well outside.  I feel like the cooler temps and good air circulation help avoid any rot or fungus, and I think the fact they are actively growing helps too, but untangling the leaf and bloom shoots is like separating Velcro.potted cyclamen coum

Most of the fall blooming cyclamen hederifolium will stay outdoors.  There are still a few blooms coming up, but from now through winter it will be the foliage which steals the show.fall cyclamen blooms

In this dark dry spot under a weeping cherry I’ve been putting a few of the too-large or excess cyclamens.cyclamen hederifolium

They might be too close together.  I think I’d prefer to be able to enjoy each different leaf pattern separately and some of the smaller plants don’t compete well with the bigger guys.  I’ll just have to put that on the to-do list.hardy cyclamen

Also on the to-do list is finding homes for all the cyclamen hederifolium still in pots.  Last year my brilliant idea was to pot them up individually so I could get the full effect of each separate plant and maybe take them all in under lights.  Not enough room, so I tried to find a sheltered spot, dug in the pots and gave them a little winter cover and crossed my fingers.  Most died either over the winter or during the summer, so I will not test that method again.  These surviving treasures will either enjoy a winter garden spot or find a permanent planting bed.  The plants near the center are from (like nearly all the other cyclamen) Green Ice seed, these were from the ‘fairy rings’ strain.cyclamen hederifolium foliage

I like how this one’s more silvery leaves stand out.silver edged cyclamen hederifolium

Here’s one that develops a pinkish center as temperatures drop.  This one will get a windowsill spot for sure.pink foliage on cyclamen hederifolium

I do like my cyclamen…. addiction might be a word you could throw around here…. Just wait until the c. coum start to flower this winter, you’ll be avoiding this blog for sure as the entries fill with the same blooms over and over again.  I will try to show a little bit of restraint, but I don’t think I’m the only cyclamen fan out there 😉

If you’re craving more examples of great foliage, check out the garden blogger’s foliage day (GBFD) hosted over at Christina’s Hesperidesgarden.  It’s a great chance to check out each month’s best foliage plants from all over the world (and a great blog every other day of the month too!)

A few good hellebores

In the last 4-5 years I’ve noticed that hellebores have entered the tissue culture world. It was just a matter of time I guess, but I feel like it takes away a little bit of the magic and mystery of these plants….. but on the other hand there’s no way I would have ever gotten my hands on some of the newer complicated (usually sterile) cross-species cultivars that are showing up.

hellebore

This “HGC Silvermoon” is a heavy bloomer with an interesting color.  It’s attractively planted too close to a construction area and the bricks are supposed to remind me not to step on it.  Too bad the leaves get beat up by the ice and snow, I’ve seen it in bloom with foliage intact and it looks so much better.  But you get what you get when you’re too lazy to offer up any winter protection.

hellebore

“Cinnamon Snow” is from a similar cross involving 2 different species.  I could google the info and come off as sounding pretty smart but it’s late and I don’t think I’d be fooling anyone.  I believe one of the parents is H. Niger, commonly known as the Christmas Rose, and I think this is the first time I’ve got a nice bloom on this plant.  It’s in a sheltered spot so the leaves hold up well, but the sheltered spot also brings the blooms up early so they tend to freeze, abort and not open fully

hellebore

Hybrid hellebores

The “other” hellebores are the regular hybrid hellebores.  They’re a mix of several species, they set seed easily and run a range of colors from white to mauve to purple to nearly black.  There are some greens and yellows now and with spotting and doubles the range keeps getting bigger.  Nearly all of my plants are from seed, but tissue culture clones are showing up here too.  These here are all from Australian Elizabethtown seed (now sadly closed).

hellebore

I’m still waiting for the fancier ones to grow up and bloom, but I do have a couple anemone flowered (a flower part-way between single and double) starting to put on a decent show…. I hate when any part of my hand shows up in a picture, but hellebores tend to nod and sometimes you need a helping hand to peek inside.

Since many hellebores are seed grown there’s always the chance your plant will be a dud when it blooms, and it’s not a bad idea to avoid buying them sight unseen, but if you go with a decent source your chances for a good ‘un are much better.  I would bet that most people in the anti-hellebore camp (if one exists) have only seen poor quality seed grown plants.  Get good seed and be patient, things will work out.

hellebore

Next year should be a good hellebore year.  I have way too many seedlings coming along and have actually been taking pretty good care of them.  I’m hoping for doubles, yellows, picotees…. all the fancy new types that I don’t have yet.  The nursery plants are usually out of my budget, but give me a packet of seeds and a couple years and I’m right there with a decent hellebore bed.

They say it’s spring, I don’t agree.

 

easter table decoration

Easter decorations

All the signs are there, the calendar, the birds, the rabbits, the plants, but one thing is missing. It’s still crappy grey windy weather and I don’t feel like spring at all. In fact after a snow day this week, I’m expecting another on Monday when another 2-4 inches comes our way. Hardly the weather of egg hunts and daffodils, but there’s not much you can do about it. I suppose the silver lining is once things start going it will be so late the threat from late freezes shouldn’t exist…. but you never know.

Every time the snow receeds (the sun when it does come out is pretty strong) the plants that reappear seem to have grown a little more.  The cyclamen coum is really taking off now in spite of the cold, and the winter aconite wins the distinction of being a flower so early it’s actually now over for the year.  My cyclamen picture doesn’t really capture the glow these early cottoncandy colored flowers give off on a grey day.

hardy cyclamen coum

A few hardy Cyclamen coum in the garden

Crocus are trying, and on the first warm day will burst out fully opened.  It amazes me how these flowers seem to explode into bloom when the temperature rises.  The snow crocus are first with yellows and creams and smaller flowers, the bigger dutch hybrids are a little later with dark purples.

Yellow species crocus

Yellow species crocus

We will see this spring how my crocus lawn is developing, it’s a bit sparse right now but I see lots of sprouts and I’m hoping more will show.  Here’s the only lawn picture I got before the rabbits nibbled off every single bloom.

Purple dutch crocus hybrids

Purple dutch crocus hybrids

A sheltered spot near the house has the first hybrid crocus ready to bloom.  The other ones planted in the open garden are barely just appearing through the mulch.

For all the complaining, spring is not much later than average.  My less than scientific investigation puts us maybe a week behind a normal year.  I’ve kept records of bloom dates for a couple years and like looking back to see what’s up and what’s missing.  My records should be more organized and I should plan a little better but this is about all my procrastinating self can handle.  Right now I feel like I’m already behind and should have more seeds started and more cuttings rooted, but you know how it goes, you’re either much too early or (for me at least) much too late.

seed exchange packets

seed exchange packets

I guess it would help if I stuck with the plan and didn’t take advantage of the surplus round of the North American Rock Garden Society’s seed exchange.  Here are 40 more packets waiting for me to do something with them.  Did I need them?  Of course not, but who can resist giving excess seeds a home and only spending $10 dollars doing it?

So in the meantime I’ll start the peppers and tomatoes and stick with the indoor gardening.  Under lights the onions are coming along, the snowdrops are starting to yellow and the cyclamen coum is still showy.  Two months of indoor color during the dullest time of the year is pretty good in my book!

seedlings under lights

Onion seedlings coming along under the shop lights

Cyclamen Coum….. indoors

Cyclamen coum under lights

Cyclamen coum in full bloom under the shop lights

In a way it defeats the purpose of growing a hardy cyclamen if you grow it indoors, but on a cold day like today indoors wins. My winter garden consists of a four bulb flourescent shop light hung over a makeshift table, but it seems to do the trick for things like cyclamen, snowdrops and hellebore seedlings. The cool temperatures of the garage are perfect for these winter growers and assuming their caretaker can handle the responsibility of watering, they should make it through the winter just fine.