It’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day and there could be few days that would seem to be less promising for flowers. The temperature topped out at 19º today and is headed for 3º tonight. There was no real full-throated flowering outside in Maryland today, at least not on our hillside. I did manage a few spots of interest as I took a short, well-wrapped walk around the yard. It’s not surprising that the Adonis is fully ready to flower if we ever get a break from this weather.
Despite the picture we don’t have much more than a smattering of snow. Mostly it’s just cold. I guess the good part for the plants is that it hasn’t been the same cycle of warm then cold that we had last year. Any plant with good sense is staying well curled up right now. The first snowdrops were out a few weeks ago and they were knocked down by wind and the tiny bit of snow we had last night.
The other hint of spring that I saw outside was the first coloring up of the red witch hazel.
Every little bit of color gets bonus points right now.
Most of the flowering that I have to offer is in the greenhouse. The greenhouse got down to 31º last night with all the heating I normally use. And that was on a 9º night. So I’ve added another temporary heater to the 110v circuit in hopes that I can cope with the 3º in the forecast. There are a lot of plants out there worth protecting. We have enjoyed a lot of oxalis. Some even go through a second flowering.
The oxalis are particularly interesting from side and back views as well.
Since December we’ve been enjoying a sequence of hoop Narcissus as well.
These frost-tender narcissus all come from Spain or North Africa and I don’t find they have the distinctive fragrance that I associate with Narcissus. Nonetheless they are easy to grow from seed and make nice companions to the oxalis to brighten up a winter day.
One of the things that leads me out to the greenhouse every day is checking on the new seedlings from the seed exchange plantings. I never fail to be amazed at the rapid development of the plants that come in those little tiny seeds.
These plants are all tickets to adventure. Researching these plants often leads me to reading the history of the species or the journals of the expeditions the plant explorers still take in the search for new plants. Google the names of the seedlings above and see what you discover…
There was another sign of spring in the greenhouse today. I saw the first growth on the pomegranate. After last year I am looking forward to harvesting our own pomegranates again.
Many garden bloggers will recall that Gardening Gone Wild used to run a regular photo contest where people shared there images from the garden. It was fun activity which encouraged one to take on certain challenges in photographing the garden. Well, Saxon Holt, at Gardening Gone Wild has restarted the Picture This activity. As a first challenge he has asked that we post our favorite photos from 2014 and select one for submission to the Picture This photography contest. This actually struck a chord with something that I had been meaning to do anyway in response to the annual suggestion from Les at A Tidewater Gardener. I post so many pictures in a year that it is somewhat of a task to go back through the years images and choose the best, but that being said here goes…
The picture of the Greenhouse is not so much a picture of high technical quality but one which captures a moment that sets forth the whole year. We had a difficult winter that ended up making every flower that survived that much more of a special gift. The other pictures are mainly of flowers that track the progress of the year.
It was the first year I grew ferrarias. They are spectacular in every respect.
Nearby and almost at the same time as the ferraias was a delicate oxalis that was especially charming seen from the side and rear.
The adonis are so wonderful at combatting the snow, even as early as they come into flower.
You have to kneel down to see those blue stamens, but wow are they ever spectacular.
This is a Sierra Nevada endemic that is one of the parents of the commercially successful ‘Pagoda’ erythronium. It has an almost ethereal purity.
Speaking of purity, it is hard to exceed the golden stamens on white petals featured on this peony.
Sometimes the profile of a flower is more effective than the full on in your face shot. I wish that this were actually my rose, when in fact I took the shot while touring Maryland gardens in June with the Four Seasons Garden Club.
Then there are the flowers that are not strictly flowers that stick in your memory. This is my favorite arisaema.
Finding the British Soldier Lichen on our garden fence post was one of the treats of the year. Not only are they useful, but they are exceedingly beautiful if you look closely.
I think it was about 10pm when I photographed this Epiphyllum in bloom. It was busy extending an invitation to the local bats.
What I especially like about this picture is the way the colors overlap between the fly and flower…
There are so many of these perfectly formed anemones in September that you wonder that more people don’t given them space in the garden.
One of the constraints of the Picture This photo contest is that I now have to select one of the above for my entry. I like so many of these, but if I have to choose one it will be the Peony ‘Krinkled White’ as it appeared in June.
Well, I got up this morning all set to celebrate a month since the winter solstice. And this is what greeted me at the backdoor. Since the inertia of the earth’s temperature makes it tough for the sun to heat things up even though the day’s have been getting longer since December 21, eventually things catch up and it begins to get warmer each day. Actually it turns out that the minimum for cold temperatures is January 15th for our area, so I’m ready to start recording signs of Springtime. Instead we had near freezing temperatures and several inches of snow.
So I went into the greenhouse where I was pleased to note that several signs of Springtime were evident. I can see growing buds on a hypericum, a freesia, a tulbaghia, a babiana, and oxalis compressa. In addition the Oxalis cathara shared another beautiful snow-white flower (to match the outside weather I guess).
And I found a number of Narcissus pots starting to flower up.
Julia Jane is from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and requires the greenhouse to look it’s best. But the frilly flowers should be with us for the next month and that is surely a sign of spring.
Besides being beautiful flowers, what do the above lewisia, lobelia, erodium, lily, gentian, and calandrinia have in common? All were grown from seed distributed through the various plant societies. Specifically I participate in seed exchanges that are conducted by The North American Rock Gardening Society, The Alpine Garden Society, The Scottish Rock Garden Club, the Pacific Bulb Society, and the Species Iris Group of North America. Each of these organizations brings access to seeds that are otherwise very difficult to come by. This year I’ve already received my NARGS distribution of 35 seed packets and many choice elements are going to get planted this week. It includes Linum elegans, Bukiniczia cabulica, Eranthis pinnatifida, and many other items that you probably won’t find in the average seed catalog. I’m still waiting for my packages from the Alpine Garden Society to see which items I succeeded in getting. You get to choose from thousands of varieties of seeds but which ones you get depends upon when you sent in your request and whether you were a donor or not. In the past I’ve gotten over half of my first choice varieties even though I am not a donor for the overseas societies.
Besides the wealth of interesting seeds from the seed exchanges there are also other interesting sources of unusual seeds. We subscribed this past year to Chris Chadwell’s 29th expedition to the Himalayas in search of seeds. Our distribution arrived this month with 50 different seed packets gathered in Nepal.
In order to bring in seeds from overseas you need to apply to the USDA for permit for a small lots of seed import permit. And you need to be cognizant of which seeds are restricted. I’ve found the USDA folks to be very helpful and cooperative. I got a phone call on the day after New Year’s asking for clarification on the shipping address for my shipment from Chris Chadwell.
There are also some other wonderful sources of seeds gathered in the wild. I think in particular of Allen Bradshaw at Alplains who specializes in seeds gathered in the western U.S. Or Bjørnar Olsen from Norway who gathers seeds in China. There are a number of famous collectors in the Czech Republic. One I’ve used is Vojtech Holubec who has the most amazing pictures of his travels in asia.
More recently I was researching a Delphinium (Delphinium tatsienense to be precise) that is in my NARGS seeds for this year and I came across a very nice website in Canada (BotanyCa) that specializes in wild-collected seeds. She has choice list of seeds for sale and a lot of information about propagation and plant lore. Highly recommended.
The bottom line for all these ramblings is that now is the time for acquiring and planting all those unusual plants that you have been meaning to grow.
I think this little aubretia blossom aptly describes the effects of winter snowstorms and frozen ground for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. We had a couple of nights with single digit temperatures where I added another heater for the greenhouse just to make sure. We’re now back to the twenties at night and thirties-forties daytime which is more of our typical wintertime. The flowers outside are still scarce to find though. There’s a few violas that Beth planted last fall that are remarkably resilient despite being smashed by the snow.
Similarly the Jacob hellebores have been smashed to the ground but are still sharing their flowers with us.
It’s not too hard to look around and find evidence that there are flowers ready to burst forth if they are given the slightest excuse. Even the Cyclamen Coum which seems quite out of season has several buds showing.
I have the slavonia pasque flower growing in one of the large troughs. It has the most intricately hairy buds showing above the ground.
For more flowers we have to go into the greenhouse where the oxalis are still holding forth.
The Oxalis purpurea have been blooming since October. More recently a lovely little Oxalis obtusa has popped up.
I’ve taken to bringing one of the oxalis into the kitchen to enjoy the unwrapping and folding of their blossoms each day.
In the house we have just one orchid in bloom.
That’s it from a cold Maryland hill. I figure we are less than two weeks from January 21 which I shall now designate officially as post-Solstice. This is roughly the ground temperature analog to the December Solstice that marks the shortest day of the year. I figure that from January 21 onward the ground temperature should get warmer and warmer. I don’t want to say that I can’t wait because I actually enjoy each and every day of the march toward springtime ephemerals. Bud by bud, shoot by shoot, and flower by flower the world will be coming alive again…
One of the interesting things about this time of year is that plants with interesting foliage come to the fore. In particular green becomes a precious commodity as the leaves fall and flowers fade. Some of the plants that maintain continuing interest in December are featured in this post. I had to return to the pictures of this plant in flower back in April to see that it is an Androsace vitaliana. I had previously mislabeled it as a Saxifrage. The silvered green and the reddish undercurrent make a particularly lovely combination for the large trough.
As I step out of the back door each day the Mossy Saxifrage greets me with its lush, feathered green stems.
And as you go out the front door a long lived epimedium stays green long past expectations.
In the front rock garden there is a patch of sedum that has four season interest.
It’s very hardy and would like to consider moving into the lawn…
In the backyard another four-season contributor is the lovely Blue Waterfall campanula.
In the springtime this will triple in size with a spread of blue flowers.
Nearby the marginally hardy hybrid corydalis ‘Blackberry Wine’ has fine green foliage.
In walking around I noticed a couple of signs of spring (even in December). There are buds showing on all of the Adonis plantings.
And more surprisingly I see buds on the Hepaticas as well.
Let me close with one more example of lovely foliage, this time from the Alpine bed.
This was grown from seed obtained from the NARGS seed exchange last Spring. It flowered in its first season and is spreading in a nice clump of red-tinged green leaves.
Well I have been long overdue for posting. Seasonal illness, much travel, and many chores have kept me from my recording of events on Ball Rd. What better way to get into the swing of things again that to take note of what is blooming around here on a cold December day for GBBD. I was surprised to see that the blooming camellia in the yard is not one of the fall camellias (they are often quite showy right about now) but instead the rather lovely Camellia japonica ‘April Tryst’ that is one of the new cold-hardy varieties from Camellia Forest.
The camellias are all showing a lot of buds that should provide a real show if we have a better winter than last year.
A reliable contributor for this season is the christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘HGC Jacob’.
This is the starting point for a hellebore season that will go from now until April-May. What a marvelous plant! At some point I will have to cut away the leaves from last year’s growth, but at the moment they are still green and very pretty for December.
Some years ago we were traveling in England and noticed how the aubretia was often cascading over stone walls to great effect. One of my first thoughts in constructing the alpine bed that is enclosed by a two foot high stone wall was to put some aubretia in and let it cascade over the wall. Well half of that idea worked in that the aubretia is thriving in the alpine bed and even blooming already for the spring, but it seems to think that the idea of cascading over the wall is foolish when there is a whole bed to spread out in first.
This may take some rethinking after we’ve gotten the springtime bloom.
In the greenhouse we have a few oxalis still blooming, a couple of lachenalia, and some small narcissus.
A loss of power on one night in November took the greenhouse temperature down to 28 degrees. Most things survived but we did lose some of the oxalis flowers.
The house also has some flowers to contribute to the scene. In particular the orchids have started their parade. We take the orchids outside for the summer and then when we bring them in for winter they begin flowering one by one.
I am always amazed by the fragrance of the cattleyas. How can one plant have such incredible beauty and fragrance as well?
Also flowering right now is the amazon lily which seems to thrive on being pot-bound. I don’t believe we have ever transplanted it and I don’t remember ever adding fertilizer.
Like the orchids it lives on the shady porch in the summertime and then flowers when it comes in for the winter. The difference is that it often flowers in July as well.
Lastly, given the season, I want to share the colorado blue spruce which has come inside for the holidays.
May your homes and gardens overflow with joy…
Nepal is an incredibly rich and diverse country with a landscape that ranges from the jungles of Chitwan on the Indian border to the highest mountains in the world. In between are all stages of beautiful rivers and terraced hillsides. There are 6000 species of flowering plants, 900 species of birds, and over 600 species of butterflies. But even with all of that diversity it was the wonderfully friendly people that left us with indelible memories. Their small land accommodates a great many cultures and traditions but seems to rank tolerance very high on their scale of values. I’ve put on SmugMug a set of our images from 3 weeks in Nepal. Here are a few samples.