Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is the end, my friends

For the next few months, I can ignore the weather. Which is a relief in many ways. There may be snow, there may be sleet, there may be ice—or it might just be dreary and gray, but I don’t really have to think much about it, other than dress and travel appropriately. I don’t have to focus on how weather effects or does not affect what I’m doing in the garden, because I won’t be doing much out there, not until April or thereabouts.

There are still a few bulbs to plant, and quite a few leaves to rake. For as long as I can remember, the Norway maples on our street have hung onto their leaves well into November, making leaf disposal an annoying task—much of which takes place the following spring. But this year, there was an early frost and the leaves actually did what they’re supposed to do—change color to a rusty gold and fall off the branches. I think this is the first time I’ve seen their fall color; normally they morph into a greenish black. They’re very pretty, and they’re everywhere.

I already have my first few containers of tazettas started; with any luck, some may be in bloom by Thanksgiving. I will also be spending a lot of time tending indoor plants and dealing with 40-plus pots and vases of forced hyacinths. The weather outside will soon be frightful, but I can ignore it—and continue gardening.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orchid experts make housecalls

At least in Buffalo they do. Whenever I see this friend, who is also an orchid grower and member of the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society, I always whine a bit about my orchids. I guess he'd had enough when he finally said, "Why don't I come by one morning and look at them?"

Sure! So he did, and I videotaped some of it, using my iPhone. That's why the sound and image quality are not the finest. Also, if you're prone to vertigo, the shaky camera might be annoying as well. However, I've used subheads to help make it all intelligible.

John's visit was very helpful. I feel much more secure about my orchids now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall fits and starts

(All is well in the plant room.)

If it’s not warm enough to sit in the garden, I am unlikely to want to work in it. I’m not one of those dedicated gardeners who loves to get out in the brisk chilly air and make a day of it—but I can stand an hour or two. Hence, there is still much to be done, and a bit that has been done.

The bulb project continues. Species tulips dasytemon, oculata, kolpkowskiana, and orphanidea have been added to the tarda, clusiana, batalini, humulis, biflora, bakari, marjoletti, and turkistanica I already have. (You’d think this would create a sea of color, and you would be wrong—so many of these are needed!) For the first time in a while, I planted a bunch of narcissus outside: Eudora, albus plenus odorata, and cantabricus. Just feeling crazy, I guess. Most of the indoor forcing is yet to do, but I have 4 big containers in the garage.

And this year I have a new protection system for the bulbs. For the containers I am using peony supports over the planting, as you see. I think this will deter squirrels if I use red pepper as well. I’ve also treated the outside plantings with cayenne and liquid fence. Phew! But I understand it wears off. It’s a bit of trouble, but worth it when you love spring bulbs.

You’re all reading about what a crappy little fall many of us have been having, but the perennials at least are turning brilliant yellow this year, especially the hostas. And this Solomon’s Seal I just planted is practically fluorescent.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Autumnal angst

Or is it simply angst that autumn seems to have passed us by? We went right from high summer in September to early winter in October this year. Oh well, my weather app tells me that some balmier temps are on the way.

But even with a warm spell to come, undeniably the end of the growing season has arrived, and thus it becomes more difficult to feign enthusiasm about any flowering plants that might be hanging on, even for a Bloom Day post. During spring and summer I anxiously await the development of the various flowers—tulips, roses, lilies, hydrangeas, rudbeckia, and so on. Every day has an exciting discovery, or even a traumatic disappointment.

In mid-October though, it’s winding down. I’m much more interested in planning the spring bulbs than I am in looking at what might still be hanging on at this stage. Which is really how it should be. And of course I’m very involved in my winter forcing projects. And I’m figuring out how to keep all the plants in my plant room alive.

The garden outside, now? Not so much. It’s pretty enough in its fall colors and scattered messiness, I’ll give it that.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

When you don't have a greenhouse

This post might be titled “Don't let this happen to you,” but, as crazy as it looks, I actually enjoy tending to my growing collection of overwintering tropicals and tender perennials.

It started over five years ago, when I bought a gardenia and a jasmine and kept them in this upstairs room over the winter; both bloom from May through August outside (the jasmine starts flowering inside in April). A few geraniums and an orchid followed. Then I converted the room from an obsolete home office to a full time plant room, with wood floors, humidifier, and some special lighting.

Now there is a large banana, several good-sized colocasia, a large alocasia, 6 orchids, a variegated abutilon, a large plectranthus, and many other common household foliage plants, as well as the plants I started with. Most of them go outside right after last frost. The room has a south-facing window and some high-powered compact fluorescents, which stand in for the usual shop lights many use—although I know they are not really great for the purpose. I find all indoor plant lighting to be unworkable in anything but a basement where no one will view its ugliness, and I am trying to find a better alternative.

In late December, pots of forced hyacinths and narcissus will join these plants, followed by tulips in February. That's when it really gets exciting and feels the most like real gardening.

Sure, I've had plenty of plants die inside. So what? Plants die outside too. The only ones that bother me are the orchids; they're expensive and I try to make sure they survive-with good success so far. And there are some houseplants (throughout the house) that I've had for 10-20 years.

Some day though … a real greenhouse. Or better yet, a conservatory.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Too many bulbs? Impossible.

Yesterday, I planted 150 bulbs around the front and sides of the GWI property, much to the amazement of my social networks. But it’s really not that many. Indeed, I expect to get 150 more into the ground before I’m done (and another 150 into containers and forcing pots). Over the years, I’ve realized that even on a small property, a few bulbs scattered here and there look sparse and rather pathetic. You must plant bulbs en masse.

Even dainty ephemerals and species tulips only look good if they are scattered rather thickly. A single species tulip looks good in photographic close-up, but is otherwise a sad little specimen. With these and other smaller bulbs, I’ve started to plant 3 or so together and try to make sure there are similar groups of 3 close by.

As for hybrids, I’ve stopped planting less than 8-9 large tulips or daffodils in the same hole. It doesn’t seem to impede the daffs from coming back (if they want to), and the tulips will persist if added to every year, so that the ones that falter won’t be missed. (Personally, I treat hybrid tulips as annuals, but that suits my conditions.)

So 150 or even 300 bulbs— a drop in the bucket as far as I’m concerned.

The images are of some of my tulips and plantings on a nearby street.