Intimations of Springtime!

Adonis ‘Fukujukai’ opening up

When the Adonis light up the yard I always feel like a light bulb has been turned on for springtime.  Yes, I know that there are still snowy days in our future but the Adonis can usually tolerate that and in the meantime they take full advantage of today’s 50 plus temperatures.  When I see them, I have to ask the rhetorical question ‘why doesn’t everyone plant Adonis’?  Of course slow-growing, expensive, and not easily available are parts of the answer.  But sometimes the good things take patience.  The March Bank at Winterthur is full of Adonis.  And has been for over one hundred years.

Adonis are part of the ranunculus family and have all the sturdiness that implies as well as the brilliant yellow that runs in the family.

Adonis ‘Fukujukai’

Apparently although Fukujukai is often listed (as I have done in the past) as a cultivar of Adonis amurensis it is actually a naturally occurring sterile triploid hybrid between Adonis ramosa and Adonis multiflora.  That would explain it’s vigor and early flowering.

There are other indicators of spring today.  The Chinese Witch Hazel is very much in flower as well.

Chinese Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis)

And the Winter Aconite is not far behind.

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Even the Jeffersonia is showing buds that it may wish to reclaim after the next cold snap.

Jeffersonia dubia in bud

I was surprised to see the newest of my Fritillaria from Augis’ Bulbs rising up in the Alpine Bed.

Fritillaria stenanthera Karatau

This should be interesting indeed.

Of course the Red Camellia still has no sense of the season.  I should end this posting with that out of character plant.

Red Camellia Japonica starting early

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)

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day December 2016

Red Cattleya Orchid

Well real winter has arrived just in time for bloom day.  I took a walk around the yard and could not discover a single flower outside.  That is very rare.  I found one camellia bud that was seriously considering blooming.

Red Camellia Bud

But the outside looks to be in for a cold spell.  The real flowers are in the greenhouse or in the house at this point.  The house spectacular is the red cattleya orchid that blooms every year at about this time.

Red Cattleya Orchid

It has a marvelous fragrance to compliment the exotic flowers.  This orchid spends the whole spring, summer,and fall on the  porch with zero care, so it’s very nice that it rewards us with these flowers when we bring it inside for the winter.

Another plant that has been sharing it’s flowers with us in the kitchen actually came from the greenhouse. It’s Cyrtanthus mackenii, part of a large genus in the Amaryllis family.

Cyrtanthus mackenii

This south african native blooms for a long period with a succession of long tubular flowers and seems to relish being crowded in the pot.

Cyrtanthus mackenii close-up

Another greenhouse plant that is very consistently flowering after thanksgiving is Daubenya stylosa.

Daubenya stylosa

The beautiful yellow stamens are an absolute magnet for slugs.  I didn’t actually know that I had slugs in the greenhouse until the Daubenya started blooming.

There are numerous oxalis still in bloom, such as this purpurea.

Oxalis purpurea ‘Cherry’

The next flowers coming into bloom are the small hoop daffodils.  Silver Palace is an example.

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Silver Palace’

Narcissus cantabricus ‘Silver Palace’

I think this is about the third year of blooming and they are starting to fill the pot quite nicely.

I had a little thrilling adventure in the greenhouse last week.  I looked at the weather station that I keep in the utility room to monitor the greenhouse temperature and saw, to my dismay, that the temperatures were dipping close to freezing.  By 2am the temperature showed to be 33 degrees so I found myself out in the greenhouse checking on the function of the two heaters that I use to keep the temperatures up.  They both seemed to be working ok and plants seemed to be handling the cold so I went to bed.  In the morning I saw the temperature had dipped to 31 degrees.  What then discovered was that I had been looking at the ‘old’ weather station.  Last year I put in a new one and moved the ‘old’ sensor to the garage.  When I put a new battery in the ‘new’ weather station it dutifully reported temperatures closer to 50 degrees which is more what I had in mind.

Just ask this Gerbera if 50 degrees is more the temperature that it enjoys…

Red Gerbera

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day November 2016

Daphne collina x cneorum

Daphne collina x cneorum

It seems appropriate for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day to give due credit to this little dwarf Daphne which has bloomed on and off in the Alpine bed since April.  The flowers (like most Daphnes) are very fragrant and the plant has prospered in the Alpine bed despite my placing it in a spot between two rocks where it seemed to me most appropriate to its small size.  And it’s much bigger now, though still very pleasing.

Even the Winter Daphne which I moved into the sunshine this year after torturing it in the deep shade for several years seems to be enjoying its exposure to the elements.

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)

It’s out by the front fence in some of the poorest soil on our hillside.  We shall see how it survives.  The Edgeworthia, its new neighbor, has put out some fat buds so maybe it’s not as bad a location as I imagined.

Our weather has flirted with frost but we haven’t really had a hard, killing frost yet.  That has let some of the hardier plants continue to flower.  Here are just a few of them.





Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

A few remaining Fall Crocus

A few remaining Fall Crocus



The Lantana is one of the feature plants that will tell me when it has gotten really cold, and I should take the citrus to the basement.

As we go back to the Alpine bed, another plant that has bloomed for a long time (essentially nine months) is the Erodium chrysanthum.

Erodium chrysanthum

Erodium chrysanthum

It’s close relative, the alpine geranium, is also fond of flowering every day.

Alpine Geranium (Erodium  reichardii 'Roseum')

Alpine Geranium (Erodium reichardii ‘Roseum’)

What has been particularly surprising this fall is the Delphinium cashmerianum.

Delphinium cashmerianum

Delphinium cashmerianum

Delphinium cashmerianum full plant

Delphinium cashmerianum full plant

Retreating finally into the greenhouse (which will be my refuge before long) I want to share the bright red flowers of the a little Aptenia that I grew from a cutting (thank you Marianne!)

Aptenia cordifolia 'Red Apple'

Aptenia cordifolia ‘Red Apple’

And the tiny little flowers of Polyxena ensifolia which looks much bigger on the web.

Polyxena ensifolia

Polyxena ensifolia

Perhaps mine will grow up some day…

Besides myriad Oxalis, there is also a pot of Cyclamen worthy of note.

Cyclamen hederifolium 'Perlenteppich'

Cyclamen hederifolium ‘Perlenteppich’

These are pure white with lovely leaves.

Finally I will finish up with the first Camellia of this season.  Beth picked it before I could photograph it in place, but it’s another reminder of what an extended Fall season we have had.

Camellia japonica

Camellia japonica



Gaillardia in Tears

Gaillardia in Tears

I awoke this morning to find that the world around me was in tears.  In no way could I imagine that the U.S. could elect an ignorant charlatan to the highest office in the land.  I am profoundly ashamed of the system that takes two years of campaigning at enormous expense to arrive at this terrible state of affairs.  I’ll take a parliamentary system any day as a more effective representative government.  I have no idea how to fix the cultural divide between those who think that knowledge is a flexible thing to be bent to one’s whims and those who respect education and the country’s historic values.

I can think of nothing more appropriate to the moment than to quote a letter from E.B. White that appears on the wonderful Letters of Note website

North Brooklin, Maine

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)

Catching up with the Fall

Delphineum cashmerianum

Delphinium cashmerianum

I am way behind on reporting on garden developments here on Ball Rd.  I walked around last weekend to try to catch up with what has been happening (mostly what persists in growing despite the lack of rain hereabouts).  I was quite pleased and surprised to see that the first flowers have appeared on a little delphinium that I had placed in the new Alpine bed (more about that in a future post).  I grew this one from seed (obtained from the Scottish Rock Garden Club seed exchange) planted last February.  As I look at the plant I’m dubious that the name is correct.  The leaves are much more narrow than shown in the online pictures of D. cashmerianum.

Delphinium cashmerianum

Delphinium cashmerianum

There are a lot of species of Delphiniums so I’ll have to live with it for a while to see if I can hone in on the correct name.

It’s been so dry that I haven’t had a lot of new flowers for quite some time.  I did see that the Mahonia by the front door has it’s yellow flowers showing.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress'

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’

The big question is whether we’ve found a spot where it will successfully survive the winter.

There are many annuals still about in the vegetable garden.  I’ve shown the Tithonia many times now.  But out front the Gaillardia deserves some commendation for persistence.

Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’

And there was a solitary rose in flower next to the garage.  It was just about perfect with a wonderful fragrance.

Blush pink Rose

Blush pink Rose

I know longer remember the name, but it seems to me it had something to do with ‘blush’.

There a couple of instances of Bottle Gentians having escaped in the garden behind the garage.  I’ve never been that keen on flowers that never  open, but they are beginning to win me over with stubborn endurance.

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)

Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)

And it you look closely while walking in the back yard you can see crocus blooming in the lawn.

Crocus speciosus 'Conqueror'

Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’

Crocus cartwrightianus alba

Crocus cartwrightianus alba

But even as the flowers are waning during this Indian Summer, the greenhouse is abounding with the bright green growth of many bulbs.  Daffodils, triteleia, tritonia, ferraria, moraea, freesia, lachenalia, and more are sending up new shoots.  And the oxalis are in full bloom now.  Here is a sampling. Notice how variable the leaves are from the clover-like bowieii , to the wonderfully textured melanosticta, and to the very narrow hirta.

Oxalis bowieii

Oxalis bowieii

Oxalis luteola glauca

Oxalis luteola glauca

Oxalis hirta 'Gothenburg'

Oxalis hirta ‘Gothenburg’

Oxalis melanosticta 'Ken Aslet'

Oxalis melanosticta ‘Ken Aslet’

Oxalis pardalis

Oxalis pardalis

Oxalis bench with O. pardalis and O. luteum glauca

Oxalis bench with O. pardalis and O. luteum glauca

Oxalis flava yellow next to O. hirta 'Gothenburg'

Oxalis flava yellow next to O. hirta ‘Gothenburg’

Lastly a Cyrtanthus hybrid that has been living in the house for two weeks now.

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus

Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus