Articles for the Month of November 2013

A Primula Arrives Early to the Party

Primula allionii 'Wharfdale Ling' peeking out

Primula allionii ‘Wharfdale Ling’ peeking out

I was surprised to see a glint of color in the Alpine bed yesterday.  Indeed it was actually a first flower from the exquisite little Primula allionii ‘Wharfdale Ling’.  This tiny little primula species is relatively rare in the wild but has been widely propagated and hybridized because of the size and beauty of the flowers for such a small plant.  Jim Jermyn has a great write-up on this species and its natural growing conditions.  I’ve just finished my seed order for the Scottish Rock Garden Society seed exchange and I’ve included a different Primula allionii selection on my list.  This one has the honor of being the first plant to flower in the new alpine bed — months ahead of time.

Early blossom on Primula allionii 'Wharfdale Ling'

Early blossom on Primula allionii ‘Wharfdale Ling’

It’s been generally a great week for gardening.  Crisp mornings but sunny afternoons.  I spent this afternoon cleaning the moss off of pots in the greenhouse.  But not before noting that yet another oxalis species had come into flower.

Oxalis densa

Oxalis densa

Notice the little hairy leaves.  The oxalis are all so different.  The buds on these are yet another distinctive image — I need to get a picture.  Back to the moss, it  had really built up on some of the small bulb pots.  As it turns out when you use a gravel top dressing the moss just lifts out taking the some of the old gravel with it and doesn’t disturb the underlying bulbs.  And then you just replace the gravel.

We took off one day on an excursion looking at garden art at Alden Farms and the unusual plants at Susanna Farms.  Many of the items at Susanna Farms were landscaping specimens beyond our price range, but we did come back with two very nice additions.

Rhododendron nakaharai 'Pink ES'

Rhododendron nakaharai ‘Pink ES’

The fall coloring is just great on this prostrate rhodie.  It will be interesting to see how it flowers out in the spring.  It’s said the flowers appear at nearly the end of the rhododendron season which would make them very late indeed.

Crytomeria japonica 'Little Diamond'

Crytomeria japonica ‘Little Diamond’

We have always liked Cryptomeria.  Our biggest one is 30-40 feet high at the back of the yard.  This one should stay within the 2-3 ft range.

The garden art visit was equally fun.  We met David Therriault, stone designer and walked through his sculptures.  He works mostly with salvaged materials and repurposes them into artwork.  We saw several pieces that we liked (it’s Beth’s birthday present), but the one which was our favorite seemed to large for the new garden that we’ve built this fall.  However, when we came home it seemed like it could fit after all.  To check our perceptions I photoshopped a copy of the sculpture into place, and indeed, we think it fits.

Garden without totem

Garden without totem

 

Garden with Totem

Garden with Totem

This is all part of our growing love for stone of all sorts.  We went to the local stone dealer yesterday and came home with some very pretty pieces from their loose rubble.  It’s like buying plants except you don’t have to water them…

Stone with character

Stone with character

Silverlake strip

Silverlake strip

Emmitsburg-Brown

Emmitsburg-Brown

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for November 2013

Camellia sasanqua - red

Camellia sasanqua – red

As is traditional for this time of year the red fall camellia leads the parade of things that are always in flower now.  For Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day one can see the progress of the seasons and by looking back to previous years to see how this year compares to previous years.   I find that because our weather has been so dry we actually fewer of the old favorites in flower now.  The pineapple sage is an exception as it is still flowering up a storm in the herb garden.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

It truly does smell like pineapple when you crush the leaves.

Fortunately there are some newcomers to fill in the flowering gap.  The new Mahonia that we’ve put in the extended Peony bed is a real winner.

Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’

Both flowers and foliage are exceptional.  I hope this one gets through the winter ok because it looks very nice from the kitchen window.

I gave Beth a couple of choice little daphne’s for her birthday.  Here is one of them in flower.

Daphne collina x cneorum

Daphne collina x cneorum

Of course it has the fragrance that you would expect from a daphne, but this one should only get about 15 inches high when it becomes a grown-up.

A surprising flower that came out of the Rock Garden Society seed exchange is this little Rock Cress.

Rock cress - yellow

Rock cress – yellow

This doesn’t match the seed package title so I’m not sure of the true identity.  It seems to be happy to flower even with frost though.

Another plant that seems to be defying the season is a very tiny Vitaliana primuliflora in the Large Trough.

Vitaliana primuliflora

Vitaliana primuliflora

Barely visible with the naked eye this one flower is way ahead of all it’s neighbors.  The whole plant is about the size of a baby’s hand.  Another name for this plant is the ‘Golden Primrose’.

My greatest flowering pleasure for the moment is coming from the greenhouse.  I walked in a few days ago to see a little Lachenalia in bloom and I hadn’t even seen it coming.

A Fall Flower surprise - Lachenalia longituba

A Fall Flower surprise – Lachenalia longituba

The lachenalia was nice treat but the oxalis have been a daily bonus.  I have to thank Diana Chapman of Telos Rare Bulbs for introducing me to the wonderful world of oxalis.

Oxalis bowieii in profusion

Oxalis bowieii in profusion

They are frightfully easy and continually in flower.  One after another each variety has been interesting to observe as they untwist their flowers to open for the sunlight and then close at night.

Oxalis versicolor in tight bud

Oxalis versicolor in tight bud

Oxalis versicolor in bud

Oxalis versicolor in bud

Oxalis versicolor open

Oxalis versicolor open

Oxalis flava - yellow

Oxalis flava – yellow

Oxalis purpurea 'Skar' in bud

Oxalis purpurea ‘Skar’ in bud

Oxalis pupurea 'Cherry'

Oxalis pupurea ‘Cherry’

There are more varieties to come — and they are all delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Fall, Time for a New Project…

2 red maples by the road

2 red maples by the road

It’s fall on Ball Rd and you can’t miss the Red Maples, both red leaved and yellow that are in full color on our hillside.  Just walking around reminds one that this is good time to stop and enjoy the ephemeral delights of autumn.

Big Tooth Aspen

Big Tooth Aspen

Fothergilla

Fothergilla

 

Red Oak in the front yard

Red Oak in the front yard

However, I was rudely reminded of some other aspects of fall when I went to check on my seedling trays which have spent the summer out of doors.  Several of the pots, including valuable hepatica and peony seedlings were completely dug up.  This was most likely by squirrels looking for a place to bury nuts but could have been mice as well.  In any case I was awakened from my autumnal reverie and reminded that I need to get busy on a long delayed project to provide a winter home for these seedlings.

At one time I had planned to build a cold frame next to the greenhouse but, as I thought about it, I realized that I don’t really need the protection from the cold.  For these little seedlings I’m looking for what the experts call cycling, i.e., changing the temperature from above to below freezing and back again.  For many seeds this is necessary to start the germination process.   A cold frame does give you that but the usual approach to a cold frame means that you are out there every day raising and lowering the lid to prevent heat build up and watering as necessary.  What seems like a simpler approach for my needs is a sand plunge bed with rodent protection.  The sand helps to moderate the temperature fluctuations for the young plants.  Think of a sandbox with a wire grill.

Accordingly I began digging last week.

Beginning a plunge bed

Beginning a plunge bed

You could do this with treated wood but I like the sense of permanence that stone brings so I decided to use the same stone that provided the foundation for my alpine bed.

Area dug out 2-3 inches

Area dug out 2-3 inches

My depth was limited by the extended foundation of the greenhouse wall so I ended up digging down just 2-3 inches to put the 7×11 inch blocks on end to form the wall.  I used landscape adhesive to tie the blocks to one another.  They won’t be facing a lot of pressure to move somewhere else so this should be adequate.

Laying out the block

Laying out the block

I made an effort to keep things level and so on, but this is not for show, it just has to function.  By yesterday I had completed the basic bed and poured in sand.

Plunge bed complete

Plunge bed complete

Actually I poured in way too much sand as it turns out.  After moving nearly a 1000 pounds of sand I’ve decided I could have done with half of that once the displacement of the pots comes into play.

Laying in the seedlings

Laying in the seedlings

So I’ve bagged up some of the sand that I put in and I’ll use that for phase two (a similar bed next to this one).  The next step was squirrel protection.

Adding in squirrel-mouse protection

Adding in squirrel-mouse protection

As it turns out there’s new pvc board that works pretty well for screen frame.  It’s lightweight, weather-proof, and doesn’t shade the plants.

Complete and ready to use

Complete and ready to use

So, as of today, the project is complete and ready to use.  I hope to see hepatica seedlings in the spring and I will tell them what a lot trouble I had to go to this fall…