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.
Meanwhile the first of the spring camellias is blooming again.
Some of the other flowers around the yard are pretty reliable participants in the late winter/early spring bloom.
But it’s worth noting that we have never seen this red heather blooming persistently over the winter.
It’s also worth noting that I’ve never seen flower buds on the Cyclamen coum in January.
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.
In the greenhouse we have more Narcissus showing up. This is a particularly nice one (note the buds yet to open)
We have also decided (in response to Covid) to upgrade our basement lighting and get an early start on the planting year.
And as a result here are the little plants from the seeds that I planted last week on my birthday…
This was the first snow we’ve had this year and indeed the first really cold weather.
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.
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 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!
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
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.
After two days in the mountains we drove down the coast past Lisbon. Along the way we encountered lovely rock rose on the hillsides.
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.
The flowers were incredible though.
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.
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.
The picture below gives a good sense as the environment with a sense of discovery around every corner.
One morning found us out in a pasture that was full of beautiful little white Narcissi
But also the characteristic Fritillaria of the area.
Another day took us to top of a local peak where we could look out across the Asphodelus to the surrounding countryside.
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.
And with more orchids nearby.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there is also a little ice plant that is flowering way out of season.
You can see white tips on the snowdrops and the adonis are also coming into bud.
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.
And there is also the beautiful wavy-flowered Nerine undulata still flowering after more than a month of bloom.
We have put up our traditional live Christmas tree, this time a Canaan Fir.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the green patterns on the cyclamen are also very striking.
In the front yard the yellow corydalis has continued its unabated flowering.
Back in the vegetable garden the annuals are still flowering, though running out of steam.
Most striking by far are the calendulas.
And the greenhouse has offered up a South African native Nerine.
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.
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.
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.
And the calendulas in the raised bed are bright and beautiful.
Under the cherry tree in the back yard a clump of cyclamen hederifolium is putting up flowers before the leaves are showing.
Japanese windflowers are spectacular as usual for this time of year.
And they are joined by various instances of toad lilies (such a strange name for exotically beautiful flowers).
The canna lily that returned from last year is soldiering on in a very crowded garden bed.
And month by month the cestrum continues a flowerful statement at the back gate.
I noticed that the beautyberry bush is covered with its distinctive purple berries right now.
In the alpine bed by the greenhouse there is a rather striking little saxifrage from Japan.
In the greenhouse itself the oxalis are dominating the show.
But there is also a rather special scilla that I brought into the house.
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
and lots of monarch butterflies visiting the many tithonia.
In addition I found a very distinctive moth that I had never seen before.
Of course, it’s important to note that at this time of year, one does not live on flowers alone.
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…
Dahlias seem to be taking center stage for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. I start each year with the intention of posting up the large dahlias in the garden but at first they seem to be supporting themselves just fine. However, by this point in the season I find that they are mostly lying on the ground with their enormous flowers and it’s hard to prop them up without snapping the stems. So perhaps next year I will get them propped up (but probably not…).
But my favorite dahlia is one stemming from a Welsh hybridizer in the 1920’s. The contrast of the bright red flower with the dark foliage is always noteworthy.
Elsewhere we find the roses making a comeback as they always do for a second bloom.
Nearby is a perennial bloomer that was said to be marginal in our area but we find this striking salvia comes back every year and is actually increasing it’s stand.
Next to the salvia is a remarkable perennial that dies down to the ground for the winter in Maryland and then comes back vigorously in the springtime. It’s been flowering all summer long and shows no sign of stopping.
Also in this garden bed are several instances of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. Talk about a low maintenance plant — I hardly notice that its there until it starts flowering.
Behind this garden is a very large crepe myrtle which is blooming quite happily at the moment
Out in the pasture is a butterfly bush that is having a lot winged visitors right now.
One of the really nice sights in the yard at the moment is the Limelight hydrangea framed by a pyracantha.
I noticed while walking about the yard that the arisaema fruit is almost as showy as a flower.
And as we turn to fall, the greenhouse is already putting out some showy flowers.
and finally the first of the many oxalis that will run through December.
We feel blessed to have wonderful fall weather in Maryland compared to the horrific fires in the west and torrential rains in the south. Stay safe.
A good start for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is the crinum which has been blooming since early july. Although as a plant the crinum is not the most exquisite hortticultural speciment — large strapping leaves and continually expanding its space in the garden — but the individual flowers are lovely.
Another member of the amaryllis family that is popping up right on schedule is what many people call naked ladies.
We have had a very wet August with many afternoon thunderstorms rolling through.
In the monument bed we have the last of our lilies. This formosa lily came originally from seed obtained from the Pacific Bulb Society seed exchange.
Nearby is a clump of the very pink Allium millenium
A lot of our focus is on the vegetable/flower garden for this season. Every time we visit nowadays the goldfinches erupt from the sunflowers, the hawks make a lot of noise from the surrounding trees, and the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are all over the tithonia.
The greenhouse still has contributions to the flowerfest. Zephyranthes and Habranthus make a lot of seeds and one needs to pay attention or they will pop up in surrounding pots.
The other note for mid-August is finishing the harvest of the garlic.
It was a grand year for the garlic. Of the three varieties we grew, I really like the firm lovely Northern White variety. It’s a hardneck which means that it also contributes scapes in June for the dinner table.
Stay safe and well-distanced.