We’ve just had a marvelous mid-sixties day as we closed out the cold spell that hit us for the end of January. Although temperatures down to the very low teens is not unexpected for January we have gotten terribly spoiled by the mild winters that have been our lot of late. We got jerked back to zone 7 reality with a week of very cold (for us anyway) weather, where temperatures hit a low of 12 degrees last Wednesday and then stayed bitterly cold through a couple of small snowstorms. The Adonis and Camellias were the main plants that had really jumped the gun with regard to bloom cycle so I wasn’t sure how they would handle the really cold weather. I ended up putting some leaves over the Adonis but I’m not sure that it was necessary. Although they were folded up and bent over during the worst of the cold, they seem to have been completely unfazed by the temperatures.
Note that the apparently burned off blossoms were there before the cold wave and were probably animal related damage (I hope that pest got a severe stomach ache as flowers in the ranuculus clan are generally pretty unappetizing). A heavy snow or ice could probably damage the blossoms but it seems that straight old cold temperatures are not a problem.
I can’t say the same for the double pink Camellia as all those blossoms are now brown instead of pink.
Hard to complain though. We’ve many weeks and many flowers from this Camellia already this year. The Camellia sasanqua was a little more colorful after the cold, but the blossoms are sort of like paper maché. They don’t have their normal softness.
I used the warm weather to get a load of compost from the local landfill and start on some of the spring chores.
It was literally tee-shirt weather so I began building up the area where a tree fell down during Sandy. I expect we will want to do more gardening in that area since the light will be improved and there will be fewer pine roots to compete with.
Last Friday I had gone with a friend down to Behnke’s nursery in Beltsville, Maryland to help with the North American Rock Garden Society seed exchange process. It was interesting to see how organized one has to be to distribute 3500 different kinds of seeds to 750 people around the world.
Many of these seeds are quite challenging to grow but that’s part of what makes it interesting.
Today the temperature got over 50 degrees with a beautiful sunny sky and I celebrated in the garden. And a little Adonis amurensis celebrated with me. The Adonis is always one of the earlier plants for us but it’s more than two weeks ahead of last year. Who can fail to be charmed by such a bright yellow bloomer that risks the early winter weather?
I first encountered Adonis at a plant sale conducted at a NARGS meeting. Barry Yinger of the former Asiatica Nursery was selling some of these little gems at $20 a pop. Unfortunately I did not really appreciate what I was looking at and I failed to take advantage. Since then I’ve been to Winterthur in the early spring and seen their ‘March Bank’ covered with the golden Adonis. Subsequently, I did order one from Asiatica and by happenstance got a premium variety, ‘Sandanzaki’, that I have tried to slow down by mulching for this year as it lost parts of the flower to cold weather last year. It is nonetheless sticking it’s head above the ground now too. Fukujukai is apparently a sterile hybrid that developed in the wild and may be the most popular cultivar because of it’s semi-double flowers and vigorous growth habit (I see five buds above ground in it’s second year of flowering).
We will be fully testing the cold resilience of these flowers over the next few days. While they do close their flowers when the sun goes down weather predictions call for a wintry mix tomorrow with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees on Tuesday night. If so, it would be the coldest weather that we’ve had thus far this winter. In the meantime I’m enjoying these little chunks of sunshine and celebrating the steady march toward springtime…
The Adonis are not the only flowers celebrating an early spring. I also saw the little Persian Speedwell (a weed by most standards) out in force today. They seemed to enjoy the warmth reflected by the greenhouse wall.
And there were Dandelions as well. Even the Peonies were starting to get into the act. The buds from Molly the Witch were fully exposed today.
Stay tuned as the cold returns in force this week.
It’s hard to get beyond the usual suspects as we look around the garden for flowering objects in mid-January for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. Let’s face it — this is just not the time when most plants want to be frolicking. That being said there are always a few things that surprise and delight if you take the time to go looking on a cold dreary winter day.
The Hellebores are all budding up nicely and the species example above, Helleborus multifidus, is fully in flower. A green flower is always unusual and like all Hellebores the flowers will change color as they hang on for a long time.
Many of the flowers I’ve shared before, like the Red Fall Camellia and the Double pink Spring Camellia are still flowering strongly.
And the Red Flowering Quince pops into bloom whenever the temperature rises to the fifties, which it did briefly last week.
The Witch Hazel is ready to take it’s turn on the stage. The first straps appeared this week.
And besides the snowdrops (which are a little ratty for the early ones, and still tight in bud for the later ones) there are a number of plants which are right on the verge. The Winter Aconite and Adonis are popping up and a Salvia and Rose that are fully budded ready to burst forth.
But I guess my real surprise for the day was a flower on one of the Rosemarys. Not quite like the brilliant blue they get in California, but not to shabby either if you get up close and look at the flower in detail.
So that was my surprise for the day, What’s yours?
So it’s time to report on progress in the greenhouse. So far, with a relatively mild winter it has been no difficulty to keep the greenhouse temperatures in a range of 40 degrees at night to about 70 degrees in the daytime. The mister comes on every 4 days and gives everyone a shower, though as the days get longer I may have to up the watering.
I have become of member of the Pacific Bulb Society and began partaking of their seed distributions in early December. This has led to some interesting experimentation in starting seeds. Some of the seeds are already jumping out of their skins when the seeds arrive and others have taken a while to coax out. I figured this little Haemanthus was upside-down so I ended up turning him over…
On average they seem to be taking about 4-5 weeks to get little green sprouts. This is longer than when I start seeds in the basement but the process in the greenhouse is much more automated and probably mimics nature more accurately.
I’ve finished off the pots with very small gravel designed to keep the seedlings from damping off which could occur in the basement when I was keeping the seedlings for a long time (these little bulbs may have to stay in the pots for a couple of seasons). I was a little concerned as to whether the little sprouts could move the gravel but they just shove the stones aside like the miniature weight-lifters they are. I also run the overhead fan all the time and I think the air movement is conducive to a healthy greenhouse. The bulb seeds that are exchanged among the PBS members are often not available in normal commerce. So far there about 20 such seedling pots planted with bulbs that are new to me. They should be worth waiting for. I mean how can you go wrong planting exotics with names like Paradisea lusitanicum and Habranthus brachyandrus. It calls up images of the early plant explorers…
Another greenhouse exercise involved dividing a clump of Primula vulgaris last November.
When we returned from a trip to England in 2008 we planted a number of these wild primrose that dot the fields of England hoping to see them spread around our hillside. And while they grow well and flower reliably here they don’t show any sign of moving from the places where we planted them. The clumps expand every year but I have yet to see a seedling away from the mother plant. So I dug a clump and split it apart in mid-November.
By the time I had divided the little pieces I had a dozen little primrose plants.
Now, seven weeks later the little Primrose are flowering as they greet what they think is spring in the greenhouse. Then I will plant them out when it really gets warm. It’s another way to multiply these lovely little guys…
I’ve also put in some lettuce and spinach just to see how that grows at this time of year…
What I am really looking forward to is the Hepatica that arrived from England last fall. It gets a daily inspection with the magnifying glass, just like the little seedlings. Go little Hepatica, go…