Articles for the Month of January 2017

Collecting Rocks

Pink Marble Rock showing lots of white

One thing that a rock garden needs is rocks, so I am always in the market for interesting rocks.  When the local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society said it was planning a trip to a local quarry to harvest rocks, I was all for it.  Especially on Inauguration Day when I wanted some productive distraction.

It was a rainy overcast day which didn’t help the aspect of driving into the quarry which is almost canyon-like after years of harvesting rock.  Despite the mud and wet, cold weather it’s actually a very beautiful place which you would never see unless you were part of a similar expedition.

Entering the Quarry

The slope was steep enough that having my wheelbarrow was less use than I expected, unless you are accustomed to pushing up 30 degree slopes.

Lot’s of Rocks but on a steep hill for getting them out

The most desirable rock was (of course) at the bottom of the hill.

The beautiful pink marble was near the bottom of the hill

By the time I got each individual rock up to the truck I was huffing and puffing like a steam engine.  Nonetheless they were worth the effort.

Pink Marble Rock

I had two concerns that limited my collecting efforts.  One, the sheer physical difficulty, and then two, the fact that the truck was parked on a steep muddy hill and whether I would be able to get it out again.

Cars were parked at the bottom of a muddy road.

Truck wishing it was 4-wheel drive

Turn-around spot was a mud-hole

However, I did manage to get out with only a mild amount of wheel spinning.

Some of the rocks had beautiful crystalline structure.

Rock showing lots of calcite crystals

And one very special rock up at the office illustrated what limestone can do.

Complex limestone formation

In the end I only brought home about a dozen rocks but they are beautiful and I’m sure they will find a place in our gardens.

Rock harvest

If the club runs a similar field trip in the future I am ready to sign up for a repeat visit.


First Crocus for 2017

Crocus korolkowii ‘Agalik’

Well the first crocus for this year popped out on a 53 degree day today.  Although it gives the illusion of being a double crocus it’s really just double-nosed if such a descriptor can be applied to a crocus.  In other words it’s two separate flowers but beautiful nonetheless.  Apparently this is not unusual for the species.  Rukšans in his marvelous reference ‘Buried Treasures‘ says that as many as 20 flowers can be found coming out of a single corm.  I mentioned in an earlier post that you can get these little early blooming gems Augis’ Bulbs in Lithuania but they can also be obtained from Odyssey Bulbs in Massachusetts.  How we missed growing this crocus all these years is beyond me.

And close by, just starting to open in the new alpine bed, is the related variety Crocus korokowii ‘Marble Tiger’ with distinct markings on the outside of the petals.

Crocus korolkowii ‘Marble Tiger’

Crocus korolkowii ‘Marble Tiger’

Ironically, in the greenhouse, we have star flower which almost has a similar appearance.

Tristagma sellowianum

Another spot of yellow in the greenhouse is one of the small narcissus.

Narcissus romieuxi ‘Julia Jane’

I noticed today that the first flowers are appearing on an alpine plant that I started from seed last January.

Round-leaved Pennycress (Thlaspi rotundifolium)

This is distinctly unimpressive thus far, though in the Dolomites it had tons of flowers covering the plants, almost like a cushion.  I’ll put it outside this spring and maybe it will be more floriferous with a cold winter.

Also blooming in the greenhouse (still) is the South African Cyrtanthus that first came into bloom over a month ago.  This is a winner.

Cyrtanthus mackenii




Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day January 2017

Algerian Clementine (Citrus clementina)

As you might imagine the lead photo from this month’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is not growing outside.  In fact all these flowers came out while the little Clementine was living in the basement.  I find the citrus do quite well in the basement with minimal light and hardly any watering.  But once it started to flower like this (it is covered with flowers) I decided I better make room for it in the greenhouse where it might actually get some light.  And who knows maybe it will get pollinated as well as I don’t exclude insects from the greenhouse.  I had put the citrus in the greenhouse originally and they had lots of disease and insect problems that I now attribute to too much watering.  I’ve since slowed my greenhouse watering schedule in the wintertime and perhaps it will work out better this time.

Meanwhile, as the song says ‘The weather outside is frightful’, or at least it’s been cold enough that not much is happening.  That’s probably good for the plants in the long run but I can’t help looking at the few things that are starting to grow, as in snowdrops.

Galanthus nivalis

Just as regular as can be, the snowdrops are back again and right on schedule.

We also have a red camellia japonica that always wants to be first off the mark.

Red Camellia opening

Meanwhile the Adonis are very close to blooming.

Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’ in bud

Just a couple more 50 degree days will see these guys opening up with their bright yellow flowers.  And then they will stay in bloom until April.

Another flower that is on the verge (stay tuned) is the new crocus that’s been planted in the new alpine bed.

Crocus korolkowii ‘Marble Tiger’

These were in the collection that I ordered from Augis’ Bulbs this year.  They have a wonderful selection and you can order by personal check.

The other flowers are in the greenhouse.  In addition to the oxalis, the hoop daffodils are still making a show.

Narcissus ‘Taffeta’

Narcissus seedling ex Roy Herold

I also wanted to share the planting of our Christmas tree.  We’ve had a family tradition of purchasing a live tree and then planting it outside after Christmas.  The first tree was a white pine that was planted 40 years ago in the middle of the backyard.  It is probably 40 ft tall at this point.  The trees have been moving further from the house by necessity.  Most recently we’ve started a little grove at the bottom of the pasture.

Kubota with extensions on bucket to move the Christmas tree

Hollowing out a hole for the Christmas tree

Son Josh helps get this year’s tree (a Douglas Fir) in place

Well, that’s the state of gardening on our hillside today.  Let me close with a shot of the Heavenly Bamboo taken this morning after an overnight rain.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)