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.
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.
And then there is that first hybrid Hellebore which started flowering in December.
Likewise the Heather hybrid that started flowering in November just continues to ignore the crummy weather.
The Camellia’s have hung in there too, although I know they would like warmer weather.
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
Aside from those instances in the outside world we have to turn to the greenhouse plants. This Lachenalia came from Gettysburg Gardens last year.
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.
And then lastly, a very cute little false yellow crocus which provides it’s own grassy leaves and bright yellow flowers for multiple weeks.
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, I’m super late at posting this month for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day but I’m sure everyone on the planet is aware of all the extraneous forces gobbling up our time and attention. We returned from a botany tour in Spain and Portugal just under the wire from the border closings and we’re now under self-imposed quarantine while we enjoy the flowering bounty that we found here in Maryland. The camellia’s are particularly abundant. I’ve never seen all five of our japonicas blooming at the same time before and with so many flowers!
Likewise the Hellebores are enthusiastically greeting the spring.
Some of the Helleborus flowers are really exceptional.
The daffodils are the other mainstay for this season, though it seems like they are all coming at once.
The daffodils on our hillside number into the thousands by now and they are seem to be having a great year.
The star magnolia is always a sign that springtime is here and it’s almost two weeks ahead of last year’s blooming.
As I walk about the yard there are lots of smaller joys of springtime as well.
The glory of the snow has its little blue flowers all over our pasture and woods at this point. But I planted a few of the selected cultivar in the perennial garden and they are quite showy.
And a very special little Fritillaria always garners my attention.
When I look at the alpine beds and troughs there are some really special things showing up. Dionysia are happier in Turkey and usually our winters don’t work for them outside on the East Coast, but this one came through just fine.
This is a new tulip for me obtained from Odyssey Bulbs last year. Notice the very crinkled foliage.
And from John Lonsdale I got a marvelous compact Asphodelus.
Paradoxically, even as the springtime is bursting forth with flowers we are getting an outpouring of flowers in the greenhouse, some of which just have to be brought inside.
But there are also many other little items in the greenhouse.
But probably the most unusual flowers in the greenhouse are the various Ferrarias. They are the appropriate end to this extra-long posting.
This is a wonderful time of year to watch the Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) emerge from their slumber. They spread every year — into the grass and other parts of the garden. But it’s a nice kind of spreading. Hardly any other plants are doing anything at this time of year and in six weeks from now they will have disappeared till next year. There are some other color forms of the winter aconite, either paler yellow or orange shades, but one of my strong desires has been to grow the white species, Eranthis Pinnatifida. I got one flowering a few years ago, but it didn’t stay with us. Nevertheless, the flower is so intriguing that I keep persisting. I ordered one from Japan last fall and got it planted out in December. I noticed on my daily stroll about the garden that It is growing but it looks like no flowers this year.
At the same time, and almost so small that i nearly missed it, I found a flowering Eranthis pinnatifida in a seeding pot that I had started in 2016 from seeds obtained from the NARGS seed exchange.
Not only was this little jewel growing but there was another little Eranthis in the same pot. So hope spring eternal someone once said.
The seed exchanges are a wonderful introduction to new plants that you will never see in a commercial catalog. My package from the Alpine Garden society arrived just this week.
But I have already started many seeds obtained from NARGS, the SRGC, and individual seed vendors.
Also in the greenhouse is the first of the Ferrarias to bloom this year.
Ferrarias are very easy to grow and easily one of the most unusual flowers you will ever set eyes on. The curls around the edge have a fractal quality to them.
I also just brought the first of many Scilla peruviana into the house to enjoy.
But getting back to the daily walkabout, I would be remiss not to note that many crocus and snowdrops are appearing around the yard.
And the first Primula is showing it’s flowers as well.
Like the Winter Aconite, these are happy to spread into the lawn.
A more unusual spotting from the walkabout was to see the first pink color in one of the Saxifrages in a trough.
This little jewel flowered in April last year.
And I also noticed in the alpine bed that one of the Callianthemums from Japan that I planted in December has a bud on it!
These plants are really hard to find in the U.S. and my thanks to Yuzawa Engei for the wonderful packing to get it here.
Well this GBBD posting is almost like an advertisement for camellias. The winter has been very mild so far and not only are the fall camellias doing what they are supposed to do, but the spring camellias are getting into the act too.
In addition I found this morning, for the first time, a bloom on a camellia japonica x sasanqua hybrid that we have been growing for several years.
There aren’t a lot of other flowers out for December so the camellias really steal the show. Here are few things I noticed.
The greenhouse has a few things to put forward besides the oxalis which continue to bloom
And the very first narcissus of the season
A total surprise for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is this lovely Lycoris. It started blooming last week and I almost missed it because it’s been terribly dry and not very rewarding to check out the growing things. In general it’s been more a case of survival with less than a 1/4 inch of rain in September and only just now getting a few drops.
We can still count on the annual zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos, but we’re definitely on the light side for flowers right now.
The Nasturtium in Beth’s raised bed have been putting on quite a show.
A couple of the perennials that reliably show up, even with drought are shown below.
And a first time plant for us that may or not be perennial is the Cestrum.
This flowers all during the growing season in our area. And it just keeps getting bigger.
There are also some lovely flowers still hanging on the Hydrangea by the back porch.
One of the troughs that I inherited from a member of the Potomac Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society has a delectable little Sedum growing in it.
I noticed in the alpine bed several flowers on one of the Daphnes, and that seems quite out of season.
Also in the alpine bed the Sculletaria continues to flower, as it has all year long.
In the greenhouse itself, there is a marvelous little gloxinia-looking plant from Bolivia.
The color on this little beauty is really remarkable.
And just outside the greenhouse is a little Zephyranthes that has jumped ship into the alpine bed.
Speaking of escapees the grass in the orchard has all of a sudden become Japanese stiltgrass. This is an almost total takeover in one year. It’s quite beautiful, but definitely invasive.
I did mow it after taking pictures. Ideally one does this before it sets seeds for next year.
It’s appropriate to feature a zinnia for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day post because they are all over the place — in vegetable garden, by the driveway, and in the orchard. It’s hard to disagree with a flower that comes from seed so easily and lasts all season long. In fact zinnias were the first flower we planted when we got inspired to start gardening fifty years ago. We read a book by Jeanne Darlington (Grow Your Own) that led us to scratch a little garden plot next to our student housing. There have been a lot more flowers since …
Typically we have Dahlias and Glads in the vegetable garden just for picking.
And son Josh planted a lot of wildflowers around the property this spring.
Including especially zinnias and sage in the orchard, but also this particularly pretty variety of basil.
My eye tends to get distracted by the perennials, especially those that are giving a bonus rebloom.
There is also a nice little patch of Colchicum in with the wildflowers in the backyard.
As you walk down the driveway it’s hard not to notice the Viburnum with it’s berries hanging out into the drive.
In the greenhouse I found the Scilla maderensis budding up a few days ago.
And now the flowers are opening up.
This is also the oxalis time of the year.
One after another, the Oxalis break into bloom from early September into February.
I’ve also found myself reading up about Zephyranthes and their close relatives Habranthus. These are both part of the Amaryllis family and they are spectacularly easy to grow. They are often called rain lilies because the rapid appearance of the flowers in late summer. I’ve had the yellow forms (like Zephyranthes smalli and Z. jonesi, or Habranthus texensis) for a number of years, but what I’m discovering is that the pink and red forms of the family are really special.
This little Habranthus has white flowers that are tinged pink on the outside.
And these two Zephyranthes are both of the pink persuasion mixed with white.
This last one is especially large for a Zephyranthes. It was found in Mexico on a red mountain, therefore it’s name. Most of the Zephyranthes prefer a southern climate (say zone 8), but they are easy to overwinter in a pot. They make abundant seeds which will start popping up in other pots if you don’t pay attention. I’ve got a number of pots that I thought were tritoma or babiana or some other bulb, only to realize that they were actually Zephyranthes volunteering to use an empty pot.