Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Garden shows vs. flower shows

It's not even a contest as far as I'm concerned. Flower shows win, by several million miles. They tend to be unpolluted by vile horticultural commerce, presenting the flowers themselves, en masse and in as many varieties as possible. There are intersections of course. Garden shows often use spring flowers—tulips, hyacinths, azaleas, and daffodils—as their chosen plant material because those are the plants most available at this time of year, when the shows are held. And flower shows sometimes have a design element, though usually it's as simple as grouping color and cultivars in effective combinations.

This year, the contrast between the Botanical Gardens spring flower show and Plantasia, our yearly garden and landscape show, was dramatic. As usual, I walked into Plantasia to find the vendors on one side and the landscapers on the other and a truly horrendous stench of some kind of fertilizer or compost. You wouldn't think the plants would need all that just to get them through 4 days. See how disturbed Bambi looks? (He's animated, just as you hoped he would be.)

Vehicles are big in garden shows this year; they appeared in both San Francisco's and Rochester's. Ours is a blue pick-up; the tailgate has been modified to be a water feature.

The kids' garden in the back was thankfully segregated from the rest and was redolent of pine. Garden Walk has a booth there; we did very well with the book.

I've yet to see the Botanical Gardens' entire spring flower show, as the tulips aren't close to being up yet—mine outside are almost as advanced. Actually, that's the cool thing about this type of exhibit; it transforms itself from week to week. And there are plenty of reserves to bring out when the current flowers are done.

The selection of primroses and ranunculous was particularly good.

I'm looking forward to checking out their tulip hybrids; maybe they'll even have some species, though I'm not optimistic. Maybe if the Gardens would lead the way in displaying more unusual species, hybrids, even native spring bulbs, consumers would seek them out. Or not.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring is busting out all over

But nowhere else quite as literally as at the Botanical Gardens, where, in addition to their glorious spring flower show (some caveats—more on that later), this American agave plant is putting on a display of its own. The gardeners have removed one of the greenhouse panels so that the agave stalk can grow as high as it wants and then bloom.

Then, I guess it dies. But my other guess is that once the stalk gets high enough and well away from the warmth of the greenhouse, it's not going to be too happy with our April in Buffalo temps. I can live with highs in the 50s, no prob, but a plant usually found in a desert climate might want things a bit warmer, at least in the daytime. And highs in the 50s is a best case scenario at this time of year.

It would be cool to see this blooming, high above the Gardens, but I don't think so.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Push, pull; old, new

Renewal and positive change keep things exciting. Buffalo's Albright-Knox Art Museum recognizes that importance this month as it sells some older, seldom-exhibited works in order to strengthen acquisition funds. It's been quite a local cause celebre (one that I won't rehash here), but it’s made me think about changes and additions to gardens large and small. A picture I took on a recent walk to the museum reminds me of how familiar landscapes react to change. I suppose some would see the sculpture in the picture (added a couple years ago) as detracting from the museum, but I was so struck by it, I took several pictures—and normally I'd never consider photographing the museum. It's too familiar.

When in England a few years back, we toured Hestercombe, designed by Lutyens in the eighteenth century and planted by Jekyll in the early twentieth. There was a lake surrounded by woodland walks and several beautifully-restored follies. But in addition to restoring the follies, the trust had brought in some new elements. Various sculptures created by contemporary artists appeared throughout the grounds, drawing the eye and providing focal points. Our party was divided on their efficacy, but I thought it was interesting that the restoration effort did not confine itself to keeping the garden frozen in time, but rather attempted to continue its development with twenty-first century additions. I don’t know if they were meant to be temporary installations; I suspect so. In any case, I admire the concept and hope to always be adding and subtracting from my garden, keeping it fresh and interesting. There will definitely be some deaccessioning this spring! And some acquisitions.

Restored folly:

Contemporary addition:

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Seed king to the rescue

Be careful what you wish for. Through a combination of persuasive rhetoric and petulant threats, I managed to sell the neighborhood association on returning hanging baskets to the street this summer. Of course, it turns out the budget isn't all it should be, so we're cutting corners everywhere we can, including potting our own baskets. We figure most of our resources will need to go toward a watering service; the baskets are too high and water sources too few and far between on the street.

As we sat conferring on plant selection during our first meeting, we had the impulse to call in one of the neighborhood's best plantsmen. Bob grows hundreds (thousands?) of annuals from seed in his basement every year; he also maintains a small but lovely perennial garden and koi pond. He immediately and most generously offered to grow as many plants as we needed and obligingly wrote down cultivars and colors.

Yellow, purple, and white, we're thinking. They'll need to be hardy and drought-resistant. Bob is growing us some marigolds, wave petunias (Tidal Wave Silver), tall ageratums, and other annuals, while another basement magician will produce a crop of yellow cannas. We'll have plenty for both the sidewalk planters and the baskets.

Even if they're not the most exciting plants in the world, I'm looking forward to this effort. While many have landscaping services take care of all this for their neighborhoods, we're growing and planting our own. I've found too, that while Bob's seedlings will start out small, they'll be lush and healthy when we need them the most: in late July, August, and September.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Late and cheating, besides: Bloomday in Buffalo

Nonetheless, I've very proud of this Grand Soleil d'Or narcissus, which I planted and gave as a gift at a holiday party. I have no idea of when it actually bloomed, but I do know these take much longer than the average paperwhites—maybe even eight weeks. Anyway, the recipient didn't send me this image until yesterday so: voila!

Of course, I could display some miserable pictures of the few half-petrified snowdrops I've seen outside, or maybe some even more pathetic and very unpromising hellebore buds. I don't think so.

I'm so impressed by these that next year I may keep some around for myself. They justify their difficulty.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vacation post

Hi readers,

I'm basking in the semi-tropical regions this week and will have a post on the flora and floral customs I've found here on Friday.

Thanks for sticking with me.

(Posted from the Naples Public Library under severe time limitations and psychological duress.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More lilies? Why the hell not?

The wonderful Lily Garden sends out its catalog in fall and spring, so just in case we didn't order enough lilies in the fall, we have one more chance.

Normally, I buy all my lilies in the fall, with the rest of my bulbs. That way, you're getting the lilies when they're freshly harvested; in the spring, you're getting bulbs that have been kept in cold storage. So it's not ideal, but I trust this vendor. (Brent and Becky's, another good vendor, also has lilies in the spring.)

Of all the plants I grow, lilies, which are among the most exotic looking, have been the most reliable performers. So I'm always finding special nooks and crannies to squeeze more lilies in.

I'd love more martagons. I'd like to try the speciosum album again (last time I think McClure Zimmerman sent me Casa Blanca by mistake). And I'd especially like to get a speciosum rubrum that has a fragrance, as none I grow do.

More lilies!

(Sorry-fixed the link!)