It’s Spring — Finally!

Adonis ‘Fukujukai’ in the snow

Last Monday the sun finally broke through and the temperatures started rising.  And the Adonis needed only the slightest hint to start opening their flowers.  By Wednesday they were fully on display — at last!

Adonis ‘Fukujukai’

Adonis ‘Fukujukai’

The thing about the Adonis is that they are not easy to find and take forever to spread.  Since they are sterile you can’t rely on seeds for them to spread and the slow propagation seems to make them unappealing to nurserymen.  So if you find them, buy them.  They are the first reward for the end of winter.

Of course there are other good signs that we are moving into springtime.  Winter Aconite are another of my favorites steps to springtime and the first to show up this year are the slightly paler German version

Eranthis hyemalis ‘Schwefelglanz’

I was also please to see that a more another Winter Aconite cultivar was also appearing already.

Eranthis hyemalis ‘Orange Glow’

But even more special was a little flower poking up in the cold frame.

Eranthis pinnatifida

This is particularly stunning little flower that I had outside a few years ago and it disappeared.  I’m not sure I have the confidence to take this one outside of the cold frame yet.

There are also several crocus popping out.

First Crocus

In addition I’m pleased to see that the snowdrops are moving into the lawn.

Snowdrops moving into the lawn

Of course the witch hazels are happy to tell you that it is springtime also.

Hamamalis x intermedia ‘Diane’

More surprising is to see the first flower on the primula vulgaris.

Primula vulgaris

I also saw a Northern Flicker at the bird feeder and that never happens in wintertime for us

Northern Flicker at the feeder

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day February 2021

Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’

Well it’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and the picture above is NOT what our garden looks like.  The picture is from the same day last year.  This year you have to search really hard to find flowers amid the ice and snow.  We are probably 2 weeks behind last year in flowers.  Here is the same set of Adonis this year.

Adonis in bud

February has been super dreary with low temperatures, cloudy days, and intermittent snow.  What follows is my attempts to find some flowers for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  First of all we must give credit to the snowdrops which persist no matter what.

Snowdrops continue in blooming

And then there is that first hybrid Hellebore which started flowering in December.

Helleborus niger HGC® ‘Jacob’

Likewise the Heather hybrid that started flowering in November just continues to ignore the crummy weather.

Krarmer’s Rote Heather still blooming

The Camellia’s have hung in there too, although I know they would like warmer weather.

Camellia sasanqua red still in bloom

A glimpse of Camellia japonica red flower

Double-Pink Camellia japonica wants to bloom

Usually I would expect to see the first witch hazel blossoms by now, but I must say they are much smaller and more beaten back than usual

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ (Witch Hazel)

Aside from those instances in the outside world we have to turn to the greenhouse plants.  This Lachenalia came from Gettysburg Gardens last year.

Lachenalia aloides

It is multiplying rapidly in the greenhouse.

There is also another Cyrtanthus which I think I have identified based on descriptions on the Pacific Bulb Socity site.

Cyrtanthus flanaganii Baker

And then lastly, a very cute little false yellow crocus which provides it’s own grassy leaves and bright yellow flowers for multiple weeks.

Nothoscordum sellowianum

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day January 2021

Camellia sasanqua red

Well the fall camellia next to the garage continues to be our most reliable bloomer for Garden Blogger Bloom Day and the wintertime.  It’s hard not to imagine the backyard without the camellias.  They are such a continuing delight.  The hybrid that I picked up from the camellia society a couple of years ago has been blooming all winter long as well, but the flowers are starting to decrease in size.

Camellia hybrid white/pink

Meanwhile the first of the spring camellias is blooming again.

Camellia japonica red

Some of the other flowers around the yard are pretty reliable participants in the late winter/early spring bloom.

1st Snowdrops

Japanese Quince

Helleborus niger HGC® ‘Jacob’

But it’s worth noting that we have never seen this red heather blooming persistently over the winter.

Krarmer’s Rote Heather (Erica x darleyensis)

It’s also worth noting that I’ve never seen flower buds on the Cyclamen coum in January.

Cyclamen coum flower buds

I wanted to include a picture of the buds on one of the other Hellebores as well.  This is a particularly dark foliaged plant with dark red flowers as well.  It looks like it wont’ be long till this one is in bloom.

Helleborus ‘Ice and Roses Red’

In the greenhouse we have more Narcissus showing up.  This is a particularly nice one (note the buds yet to open)

Narcissus romieuxii ‘Atlas Gold’

We have also decided (in response to Covid) to upgrade our basement lighting and get an early start on the planting year.

New LED light added for starting seeds

And as a result here are the little plants from the seeds that I planted last week on my birthday…

First seedlings for 2021

Our 2020 Christmas

Snow came in mid-December for us and lasted on the ground until Christmas

This was the first snow we’ve had this year and indeed the first really cold weather.

The snow was the first we’ve had in quite some time and led to good opportunities for sledding

We have about a 600 foot run down the pasture which gives a long walk up the slope for exercise

This was definitely a different and unusual Christmas.  One to regret the things we missed and to be thankful for the things we still have.  Our youngest son ended up spending the Fall with us and then on through Christmas.  He has sparked the rediscovery of the many things that we associate with the holiday season around Ball Rd.  There are many large and small things that connect us with past shared memories.

An ancient nativity set

The potted rosemary has lights in the front hallway

A good friend gave us this small Christmas tree which comes out before Christmas

Two friends who miss the grandkids

Greens and Reds await Christmas

Stuffed animals and the greens

A cardinal and wreath

Pewter mice from Malaysia

The mantle dressed in green

Cuttings from the Japanese Quince

Christmas tree at night

Nerine x ‘Pink Triumph’ comes in from the greenhouse

Sunflower seed cookies

Christmas tree on Christmas morning

Enjoying Christmas morning with the rest of the family in Massachusetts

An Exhausted Christmas Elf

In addition we jointly watched the Christmas Revels celebration in Cambridge.  It was great fun and I highly recommend it for anyone looking to move forward into the new year with contemplation of the way the human community has moved from the dark to the light over centuries.  On the night before Christmas we tuned into the Follen Unitarian Church in Lexington, MA where the Reverend Claire Feingold Thoryn delivered a marvelous sermon discussing the Christmas Weed Tree of Toledo, Ohio and what that means for the rest of us.

Finally I should mention that I had a chance before Christmas to preview a new book written by a good friend.

Tropical Plants

Tropical Plants and How to Love Them will be available in March but it can be ordered now on Amazon.  It is a wonderful exploration of tropical plants for the temperate gardener and I think a great many people will enjoy both the authoritative descriptions and Marianne’s always entertaining writing style.  Highly recommended!

Returning to Spain and Portugal

Map of our journey

Last year, which now seems like ages ago, we joined an Alpine Garden Tour of Spain and Portugal that was focussed on the various Narcissi that grow naturally there.  For us it was intended to be little bit earlier taste of Spring than we would normally get here in Maryland.  We began with several wonderful days in Porto getting a sense of the culture and the cuisine.  Then we met up with our guide and headed out to our first destination in the hills near the Serra da Estrela National Park

Hotel Rural Quinta da Geia near the Serra da Estrela National Park

As you can see from the citrus, the climate is indeed a notch warmer than our Maryland zone 7a.  But, as it turned out, the first couple of days were definitely on the cool side and we were bundled up with our warmest clothes.  This short movie clip will give you a sense of what it was like to go plant exploring those first two days.

At the end of the day we came back to the warm farmhouse for a lovely meal and after dinner drinks.

Fig Leaf Liqueur

After two days in the mountains we drove down the coast past Lisbon. Along the way we encountered lovely rock rose on the hillsides.

Rock Rose (Cistus albidus)

These are widespread in Portugal but are apparently zone 8-10 in the U.S.

We ended up at Cape Espichel.  The weather was warmer but still not what one would call spring-like.  

Botanizing at Cape Espichel, Portugal

The flowers were incredible though.

Giant Fennel ‘Ferula communis’

It was here where we began to realize that as nice as the Narcissi were the really special aspect of the trip was the display of terrestrial orchids.  These are plants we just don’t get in the U.S.

Sawfly Orchid ‘Ophrys tenthredinifera’

Bee Orchid ‘Ophrys lutea’

Naked Man Orchid ‘Orchis italica’

For the balance of the trip we were located near Ronda, Spain in lovely farmhouse that dates back to Roman times.  The couple managing the hotel were a wonderful source of information about the area.  For four days we traveled out into the surrounding hills looking for flowers.

Hotel Cortijo las Piletas near Ronda, Spain

The picture below gives a good sense as the environment with a sense of discovery around every corner.

Erodium all over the hillsides

Iris planifolia

One morning found us out in a pasture that was full of beautiful little white Narcissi

Botanizing near Ronda Spain

Narcissus panizzianus

But also the characteristic Fritillaria of the area.

Iberian Fritillary ‘Fritillaria lusitanica’

Another day took us to top of a local peak where we could look out across the Asphodelus to the surrounding countryside.

Asphodelus fistulosus on hillside above Ardales, Spain

It turns out that the animals really don’t like Asphodelus (Onionweed) so it is everywhere.

Some of the towns we went through are very picturesque white villages hanging on the mountainside.

Grazelima, Spain

And with more orchids nearby.

Orchis olbiensis

Orchis olbiensis

This was, ironically, near the time when the covid-19 was beginning to spread rapidly around the world.  It was striking to see this image in one of the villages.

Júzcar, Spain

As it turns out we left Spain on one of the last flights before all travel shut down.  Nonetheless we will keep in our thoughts this lovely part of the world with beautiful flowers and remarkable scenery.  I leave this post with this image of Ronda as a place to be returned to someday.

Ronda, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day December 2020

Helleborus niger ‘HGC Jacob’

Well it is December so it’s not surprising that the first Hellebore is blooming for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Helleborus Niger is always well ahead of it’s compatriots in providing winter bloom.  Nonetheless it’s still the camellias that are providing the most stunning flowers around our hillside.

Hybrid Fall Camellia

Hybrid Fall Camellia detail

Red Camellia sasanqua

Red Camellia japonica

The camellias are pretty consistently with us for the fall and then on again off again until into the springtime.  More surprising is the heather that is blooming right now.

Kramer’s Rote Heather (Erica x darleyensis)

And there is also a little ice plant that is flowering way out of season.

Delosperma cooperi

You can see white tips on the snowdrops and the adonis are also coming into bud.

Adonis buds

But we are expecting 10 inches of snow tomorrow (the first real snow we’ve had this year), and that means the plants are likely to slow down for awhile.

In the greenhouse we have a number of early daffodils in bloom.

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Silver Palace’

And there is also the beautiful wavy-flowered Nerine undulata still flowering after more than a month of bloom.

Nerine undulata

We have put up our traditional live Christmas tree, this time a Canaan Fir.

Canaan Fir Christmas Tree

This will be planted out in the pasture after the holidays.

December 15th is also the first day for choosing seeds from the North American Rock Garden Society’s Seed Exchange.  I was up early this morning (late last night) putting in my request for my 35 1st choice seed packets on the list.  This is great fun and I would encourage everyone to get involved.  There are 2480 taxa available including many rare and unusual varieties that you will not find from commercial sources.

NARGS Seed Exchange

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day November 2020

Fall Camellia white hybrid

We are still in an extended Fall season that has been remarkably temperate.  The weatherman says we could have frost any day now, but meanwhile we (and the plants) have been enjoying the mild weather.  The prettiest flowers for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day are the Fall Camellias.  Not only do they have the wonderful evergreen leaves, but the flowers are lovely and pickable for further reflection in the house.

Fall Camellia red

This particular camellia is particularly rewarding because I cut it way back and was ready to remove it after a hard freeze when I noticed a little green shoot coming out.  It’s now almost to the size it was originally and is covered with buds.

A bit more surprising is to see a flower on one of the Spring camellias.

Camellia japonica pink

This will get blasted when that frost comes along.

As you go about the yard it’s hard not to notice the wonderful color of the Japanese maples this year.

Japanese Maple in color

Dwarf Japanese Maple in fall color

And the green patterns on the cyclamen are also very striking.

Cyclamen hederifolium

In the front yard the yellow corydalis has continued its unabated flowering.

Corydalis lutea

Back in the vegetable garden the annuals are still flowering, though running out of steam.

Marigold

Most striking by far are the calendulas.

Calendulas

Calendula

And the greenhouse has offered up a South African native Nerine.

Nerine undulata

As a side note, I tried growing Leonotis this year after seeing it in flower just last year for the first time.  I was looking forward to that mane of orange yellow flowers that you can see in the catalogs.  Unfortunately it looks as though, even with our long season this year, we may not have enough time to see the flowers before frost.

Leonotis leonuris

So my plan is to see if this South African native will grow back from the roots next spring and maybe get an earlier start.  Stay tuned.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day October 2020

Colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’

I’ll lead off this GBBD posting with colchicum which has been spectacular this fall. They are hardy, reliable, and beautiful — the sort of qualities that beg for planting more.  So I did…

It’s been all in all a marvelous fall here in Maryland.  Mostly bright sunny fall days with just enough rain to keep everything going well.  Altogether we are 8 inches ahead of the usual rainfall here.  The annuals have continued to bloom and I noticed that the cosmos along the fence line have decided on a fall renewal of their blooms.

Cosmos fall rebirth

And the calendulas in the raised bed are bright and beautiful.

Calendula (Alpha from Johnny’s Seeds)

Under the cherry tree in the back yard a clump of cyclamen hederifolium is putting up flowers before the leaves are showing.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Japanese windflowers are spectacular as usual for this time of year.

Japanese anemone ‘Whirlwind’

And they are joined by various instances of toad lilies (such a strange name for exotically beautiful flowers).

Trycyrtis ‘Sinonome’

The canna lily that returned from last year is soldiering on in a very crowded garden bed.

Canna ‘Lemon Punch’

And month by month the cestrum continues a flowerful statement at the back gate.

Cestrum ‘Orange Peel’

I noticed that the beautyberry bush is covered with its distinctive purple berries right now.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

In the alpine bed by the greenhouse there is a rather striking little saxifrage from Japan.

Saxifraga fortunei ‘Beni Zakura’

In the greenhouse itself the oxalis are dominating the show.

Oxalis hirta ‘Gothenburg’

But there is also a rather special scilla that I brought into the house.

Scilla madeirensis

These are not easy to find, but they seem to be quite reliable bloomers.

While I was out in the vegetable garden I found many more dahlias still in bloom

Decorative Dahlia

and lots of monarch butterflies visiting the many tithonia.

Monarchs in the garden

In addition I found a very distinctive moth that I had never seen before.

Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea)

Of course, it’s important to note that at this time of year, one does not live on flowers alone.

Raspberries yielding fall crop

Raspberries in abundance

We have been bringing in bowl after bowl of raspberries for the last 6 weeks.

And finally to cap it off here is the apple pie that we made for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day…

An Apple Pie from the orchard