Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hyacinth vases: stop the madness?

I am now the proud owner of 2 blue hyacinth vases (shown above), and one amber one, in addition to the 6 or so I already have (some of them are not that great). An antique place in Nantucket that specializes in British imports had the blue ones and I got the amber one from ebay for not that outrageous a price—it has a couple small nibbles. The last time I bid for a good one, I had stopped at £40, and when I checked back I had been, as usual, overbid. The closing price was £149. That’s $266. It was a nice vase, but still.

The ones I have are a gorgeous blue, but they have relatively smooth bases; I couldn’t find a broken-off pontil. So, I’ll still bid on a few, to get the verifiable pontil mark. It’s discouraging, because obviously my fellow devotees will pay anything.

The irony here is that I’m very hesitant to actually use these to force hyacinths. I’m afraid the temps in the root cellar might break the glass. When I have used cheaper ones for forcing, I’ve found that the bulbs always grow better in dirt. So this is what I will end up doing: growing the bulbs in dirt, then, in December, taking them (carefully) out of the dirt and putting them in the hyacinth vases to finish the process. You can also chill the bulbs separately, but you need an extra refrigerator for that. And they get moldy.

There you have it. I’m buying bulb-forcing containers that are so expensive I’m afraid to use them and even if I do use them I know they may or may not work. It's kind of fun.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Putting the garden away

Well, not really. It’s still very much there, but as we basically have a patio/courtyard garden with isolated beds, its formal existence largely depends on the structures (fountain, pots, furniture, sculptures) we use to define it. And now, most of those structures are sitting in the basement. I felt a bit of a wrench as I tore armfuls of still-attractive diascia, lobelia, coleus, and more out of the pots, but they are required for bulbs now. I’ll be filling them all with tulips (and a couple lilies) and storing them in the garage.

The hideous task of leaf-raking remains, though bags of them will come in handy to protect the hydrangea. I have high hopes for hydrangea flowers next year—I bet it’s an on-again, off-again thing. We are also curious to see how the lighting works once the snow cover kicks in. This, by the way, is supposed to be a snowy winter. I hope so; it’s better for the plants. Anyway, if it’s going to be cold, we may as well have snow.

For some reason, the remaining roses have put on an insane growth spurt over the past few weeks. One of the back ones is halfway up the house. It’s as if they know I’m toying with the idea of tearing them all out. Silly of them—the skinny new canes will be the first to go when cold hits.

I have heard that there is less fall color this year because of the hot, dry summer. We did get some interesting reds on the viburnum, though the creeper has not yet turned.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bulb management

So now I have various boxes of bulbs sitting in the back room, awaiting proper in-ground, forcing container, regular container, hyacinth glass, and paperwhite vase dispersal. I’ve finished the hyacinths, all of which (30 pots worth) are now in the root cellar. I’ve saved 4 for special antique hyacinth glasses, though I’ve been beaten on every ebay auction for them that I’ve entered. The fact that I made someone else pay more is little consolation. I wish someone just sold these things outright.

The tulips, scilla, and snowdrops are still sitting in their unopened boxes, and I just received the lilies a couple days ago. I’m recording where I plan to plant these so I can remember to check if they came up or not.

So: Copper Coin (trumpet), Chambertain (oriental), 2 speciosum rubrum, and Mother of Pearl (orienpet) should land in the rose garden. The removal of another rose bush should facilitate this.

Then, another rubrum in the front, maybe the Double Prize (oriental) in a pot, and the Barbados (oriental) along the side of the house.

I spend way more gambling with bulbs than I ever would at any of our four lovely area casinos. Much better odds though. And considerably more time spent hopefully imagining a successful result.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Operation paperwhite

There’s a reason paperwhites are great nature projects for kids—they’re dead easy, But here’s why adults should love them too: they are also tall, graceful, beautiful plants, with a great fragrance, if you get the subtler varieties.

Unfortunately, all the garden centers usually stick to Ziva, the most common variety, which has a piercing fragrance some find unpleasant (doesn’t bother me, though). I never buy them anymore, now that I’ve tried some of the other varieties, such as Nazareth and Israel. There is also the Grand Soleil d’Or, which is supposed to be the crème de la crème, but somewhat difficult. I’ll try it next year.

If timed correctly—I would plant 4-5 bulbs per container and stagger the plantings every 2-3 weeks through December—paperwhites can supply your indoor floral needs from late November through January. The varieties I choose take a bit longer, so I just started a container a few days ago. I use river rocks, clear glass pebbles, or colored glass, if I’m feeling festive. Tall glass containers are best, planted about half way up, so the stalks have support and the roots have room. The water should be just below the bottom of the bulb—and the glass container makes this easy to maintain.

Here’s the one I just did. The river rocks camouflage the bulbs pretty well.