Picture This – Best of 2014

Greenhouse during snowstorm

Greenhouse during snowstorm

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.

February

Ferraria ferrariola

Ferraria ferrariola

It was the first year I grew ferrarias.  They are spectacular in every respect.

Oxalis compressa double

Oxalis compressa double

Nearby and almost at the same time as  the ferraias was a delicate oxalis that was especially charming seen from the side and rear.

March

Adonis amurensis 'Fukujukai' in the snow

Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’ in the snow

The adonis are so wonderful at combatting the snow, even as early as they come into flower.

April

Scilla siberica 'Spring Beauty'

Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’

You have to kneel down to see those blue stamens, but wow are they ever spectacular.

Erythronium tuolumnense

Erythronium tuolumnense

This is a Sierra Nevada endemic that is one of the parents of the commercially successful ‘Pagoda’ erythronium.  It has an almost ethereal purity.

May

Paeonia lactiflora 'Krinkled White'

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’

Speaking of purity, it is hard to exceed the golden stamens on white petals featured on this peony.

June

Tausendschon rose

Tausendschon rose

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.

Arisaema candidissimum

Arisaema candidissimum

Then there are the flowers that are not strictly flowers that stick in your memory.  This is my favorite arisaema.

British Soldiers

British Soldiers

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.

July

Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

I think it was about 10pm when I photographed this Epiphyllum in bloom.  It was busy extending an invitation to the local bats.

August

Hoverfly (Allograpta obliqua?)

Hoverfly (Allograpta obliqua?)

What I especially like about this picture is the way the colors overlap between the fly and flower…

September

Anemone × hybrida 'Whirlwind'

Anemone × hybrida ‘Whirlwind’

 

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.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Krinkled White'

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’

A Post-Solstice Muted Celebration

Backdoor view on Jan 21

Backdoor view on Jan 21

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.

Sidewalk crew

Sidewalk crew

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).

Oxalis cathara

Oxalis cathara

And I found a number of Narcissus pots starting to flower up.

Narcissus romieuxi 'Julia Jane'

Narcissus romieuxi ‘Julia Jane’

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.

Narcissus romieuxi 'Julia Jane' in bud

Narcissus romieuxi ‘Julia Jane’ in bud

Botanically Inclined

Lewisia pygmaea

Lewisia pygmaea

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

Erodium carvifolium

Erodium carvifolium

Formosa lily

Formosa lily

Gentiana paradoxa

Gentiana paradoxa

Calandrinia spectabilis

Calandrinia spectabilis

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.

Chadwell packages

Chadwell packages

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.

Greenhouse with many little seedlings needing separation

Greenhouse with many little seedlings needing separation

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day January 2015

Aubretia overcoming the winter cold

Aubretia overcoming the winter cold

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.

Fall planted viola

Fall planted viola

Similarly the Jacob hellebores have been smashed to the ground but are still sharing their flowers with us.

Helleborus niger 'Jacob'

Helleborus niger ‘Jacob’

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.

Bud on Cyclamen coum 'Lake Effect'

Bud on Cyclamen coum ‘Lake Effect’

I have the slavonia pasque flower growing in one of the large troughs.  It has the most intricately hairy buds showing above the ground.

The hairy buds of Pulsatilla halleri sup. slavica

The hairy buds of Pulsatilla halleri sup. slavica

For more flowers we have to go into the greenhouse where the oxalis are still holding forth.

Oxalis purpurea 'Skar' bud opening

Oxalis purpurea ‘Skar’ bud opening

Oxalis purpurea 'Skar'

Oxalis purpurea ‘Skar’

The Oxalis purpurea have been blooming since October.  More recently a lovely little Oxalis obtusa has popped up.

Oxalis obtusa 'Peaches and Cream'

Oxalis obtusa ‘Peaches and Cream’

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.

Moth orchid

Moth orchid

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…

The Green of Christmas

Saxifraga paniculata Large Flowered

Androsace vitaliana

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.

Saxifraga exarata ssp. moschata

Saxifraga exarata ssp. moschata

And as you go out the front door a long lived epimedium stays green long past expectations.

Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’

In the front rock garden there is a patch of sedum that has four season interest.

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

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.

Campanula poscharskyana 'Blue Waterfall'

Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’

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.

Corydalis solida Blackberry Wine

Corydalis solida Blackberry Wine

In walking around I noticed a couple of signs of spring (even in December).  There are buds showing on all of the Adonis plantings.

Adonis amurensis 'Fukujukai' in bud

Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’ in bud

And more surprisingly I see buds on the Hepaticas as well.

Hepatica nobilis in bud

Hepatica nobilis in bud

Let me close with one more example of lovely foliage, this time from the Alpine bed.

Anemone multifida 'rubrum'

Anemone multifida ‘rubrum’

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.

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day December 2015

Camellia japonica 'April Tryst'

Camellia japonica ‘April Tryst’

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.

Camellia japonica 'April Tryst'

Camellia japonica ‘April Tryst’

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’.

Helleborus niger 'Jacob'

Helleborus niger ‘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.

Aubretia

Aubretia

Aubretia spreading in alpine bed

Aubretia spreading in alpine bed

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.

Oxalis versicolor

Oxalis versicolor

Oxalis luteola glauca

Oxalis luteola glauca

Oxalis luteola glauca

Oxalis luteola glauca detail

Narcissus cantabricus 'Peppermint'

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Peppermint’

Narcissus cantabricus 'Peppermint'

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Peppermint’

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.

Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya Orchid

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.

Amazon Lily (Eucharis x grandiflora)

Amazon Lily (Eucharis x grandiflora)

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.

Blue Spruce for Christmas

Blue Spruce for Christmas

May your homes and gardens overflow with joy…

A Link to Nepal

View of the mountains from the road between Pokhara and Kathmandu

View of the mountains from the road between Pokhara and Kathmandu

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.

A young mother who was happy to have me photograph her child

A young mother who was happy to have me photograph her child

Little girl at Boudhanath Stupa

Little girl at Boudhanath Stupa

Green Sapphire, Heliophorus androcles, wings closed

Green Sapphire, Heliophorus androcles, wings closed

Baby Elephant in elephant grass

Baby Elephant in elephant grass

Asian Pied Starlings

Asian Pied Starlings

Osbeckia stellata

Osbeckia stellata

Annapurna South reflection

Annapurna South reflection

Returning from the Heights

Annapurna pano

Annapurna panorama

We returned last week from a trip to Nepal that lasted most of October.  Hard to summarize the adventure except to say that it was a lifetime experience that will provide memories for years to come.  The natural world there is every bit as exceptional as the mountain scenery would promise with butterflies, plants, and birds that stretch the imagination.  But the people were the most wonderful part of the trip.  More about Nepal in a separate posting if I ever get through my several thousand images.

In the meantime we returned to the mid-atlantic to find that autumn season has taken a very relaxed approach this year.  While our typical first frost is around the 20th of October, it hasn’t even come close to that.  Many flowers are still doing quite well thank you.  The pineapple sage which is always a late bloomer has had time to go on and on this year and has put on quite a show in the herb garden.

Pineapple sage has exploded in the herb bed

Pineapple sage has exploded in the herb bed

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans)

The new Tricyrtis that we put in the monument bed has put out an extravagant array of blossoms, each one of them like little orchids.

Tricyrtis 'Sinonome' overloaded with flowers

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’ overloaded with flowers

Tricyrtis 'Sinonome'

Tricyrtis ‘Sinonome’

Next to the tricyrtis, the Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ has the yellow flowers that you expect from a Mahonia, but without the thorns.

Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’

Surprisingly, a single stalk of an Avalanche Daffodil has decide to raise it’s flag way, way before spring time.  And the insects had practically shredded it by the time we arrived home.

Narcissus 'Avalanche'

Narcissus ‘Avalanche’

Another flower reminiscent of springtime is the fall flowering crocus, which survives nestled up against a tree so it doesn’t get mowed.

Fall Crocus

Fall Crocus

Our usual flowering hero for this time of year would be the red Camellia Sansanqua but last years fluctuating winter has left it without flower buds.  On the other hand a newly planted ‘Survivor’ Camellia is putting out lovely white flowers.

Camellia x 'Survivor'

Camellia x ‘Survivor’

It is a cross between between two very hardy Camellias (C. sasanqua ‘Narumi-gata’ X C. oleifera).

Another few flowers of the white persuasion are two japanese anemones and a wonderful David Austin Rose ‘Crocus Rose’.

Anemone  × hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’

Anemone × hybrida 'Whirlwind'

Anemone × hybrida ‘Whirlwind’

Crocus Rose

Crocus Rose

Next to the greenhouse I found that the Pommegranate Bush that I had set outside for the fall had opened up its fruit for all to see.  They ripened earlier than I expected and the seeds have been delicious.

Pomegranate bursting with flavorful seeds

Pomegranate bursting with flavorful seeds

Inside the greenhouse itself the Oxalis have flowered up a storm.  Many different species are in flower but none is quite so spectacular as the Oxalis bowiei.

Oxalis bowiei in profusion

Oxalis bowiei in profusion

One new plant for me was the Nerine pudica.

Nerine pudica

Nerine pudica

This a lovely little South African native that I got as a bulblet from one of Pacific Bulb Society’s bulb exchanges last year.

However, the most dramatic flower in the greenhouse is a very pretty Cypella.

Cypella peruviana

Cypella peruviana

It is also known as Hesperoxiphion peruvianum, how’s that for a mouthful?  It is supposed to be marginally hardy in our area so I might try of few of the bulbs outside next year.  It seems to be spreading rapidly in the pot.  This is a fairly good size flower — similar to a dutch iris — and a wonderful addition to our flower collections.