Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The fancy amaryllis are all very well

But when all’s said and done, I like this clear, deep red.

I have had this one, in the same heavy stone pot, for at least 8 years (I think it’s more). It blooms very late in the season (now), probably because I never give it a dormancy period, just letting it go its merry way as a houseplant. In a few months, I’ll bring it outside for the summer.

This was the year I decided to break away from the red amaryllis and try some of the doubles and the different shapes and colors. One double—Nymph (above)—was so sumptuously full, one blooming stalk toppled over and broke right off. Even then, I was able to keep it going in a vase for another week or so. Then there was a tall one—Exotic Star (below, when in bloom). La Paz and Lemon/Lime still have buds. (Clueless as to why even the new ones are taking so long.)

They’re all beautiful, but there’s something about this red one. I particularly like the leaves coming up at the same time. More like a real plant.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Concrete gardens and more at the garden show

Sadly, I did not get a shot of the armchairs made out of stone pavers, but you can likely imagine them. And I did not have the patience to document the dozen or so outdoor fireplaces.

But all was not lost at the local garden show, Plantasia. The cliché that these shows are meant to give gardeners ideas is not entirely specious. I saw some things that I loved but can never have, like a gorgeous stone outdoor sink. While I find outdoor kitchens and monstrous grills ridiculous, I can totally see the point of a sturdy and attractive outdoor sink. I’ve felt the want of one many times.

And I found some things that I loved and can or should have. There was a beautiful hand-crafted fountain made of bronze or steel leaves that was unfortunately already sold. And the guy only makes them in the winter, so I’ll need to wait a year for mine, unless I change my mind, or the guy who put a hold on it changes his.

I haven’t mentioned plants as they are not usually much in evidence at these. It’s not a good time for plants—whatever they have has to be forced, so you’ll generally see bulbs and hardy shrubs. Recently I have been seeing more early spring perennials. (Canada Blooms had a gorgeous stand of hellebores.)

Some of the vendors do sell some bulbs, houseplants, and cut flowers, though, and I couldn’t resist a colocasia bulb almost as big as a bowling ball, a bag of glads, and some dahlias. So much for the garden show is over, but at least I bought plants.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The thin end

Thanks to such fellow bloggers and gardeners as Mr. McGregor's Daughter and Cold Climate Gardening, I have started to reconsider the spring ephemerals. You all may think of me as a bulb fanatic, but in fact I have been ignoring an entire group of early-spring-flowering plants.

But then I started looking at the images on other people's blogs. People who have a lot more going on that I do in March and early April!

So last fall I ordered some previously ignored species. At top you see eranthis hyemalis. And you may well wonder why I never
had these delightful plants before. I also planted some early-blooming dwarf iris to join the other early bulbs, though I've not seen the iris yet. Other than galanthus, most of my bulbs-even the scilla, species tulips and the erythronium-bloom in late April and May. My earliest perennial is helleborus (above).

Now what I need are some hepatica (which aren't bulbs). The main reason I've ignored many of the early-bloomers is that I've grouped them with crocus, which can look like wet rags in bad spring weather (and bad is pretty much the only item on the weather menu in March). But we've had some great March days and I'm getting soft on the whole issue. I'm still not sure about crocus, but eranthis were a good idea.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blooms here—and there

After seeing fields of flowers in Carlsbad, California (above), the bright bougainvillea of Old Town and the wildflowers of Torrey Pines, it might seem like a letdown to come home to snowdrops and the last of the indoor bulbs.

But I’ve never suffered too much from zone envy. As it happens, there was one day during our vacation when the temperature of San Diego and the temperature of Buffalo differed by only 2 degrees. Whatever. Gardeners are of necessity guided by the weather; we need certain conditions in order to be out there planting, tending, and so on. I must not be that dedicated a gardener, because warm weather makes me think more about what it might be like at the beach than what it might be like to get out there and dig.

The double snowdrops were blooming when we got home, and I picked a few so they could be enjoyed comfortably, inside. They’re joined by the eternal bloom cycle of the amaryllis—4 of these are still in bud, while another is on its third blooming stalk. There is also a pot of tulips and some final tazettas. It really looks like the indoor flowers will overlap with the outside ones this year.

Buffalo does not have much of an early spring. It will be chilly and rainy for a while and then all of a sudden I’ll walk outside to see the craftspeople setting up their booths for our outdoor art festival. In between there somewhere are tulips, daffodils and tree peonies, all of which have their brilliant and beautiful—if brief—seasons.

One thing I do envy about California is its reputation for wildflowers (bush sunflowers and poppies shown here). I know we have them in Western New York—trillium, bloodroot, even lady's slippers—but I have never ventured out to find them—they aren’t quite as well publicized. This year, I’ll try to figure out where they hide out and venture forth to find them. There’s a spring resolution for you. And this is by way of being a GBBD post.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Giving spring a little nudge

From last year.

Forcing branches is one of the most time-honored ways to create blooms inside during winter. I think many more gardeners are familiar with this type of forcing than they are with, say, using hyacinth glasses.

For one thing, it’s easier. There’s no chilling period; one need only cut the branches when the buds are properly matured—say a couple months before they would ordinarily bloom—and bring them inside. Then, a brief soak in water and some time in a vase—voila. Flowering branches.

I am not a big fan of forsythia (too harsh a yellow and a boring plant the rest of the year) and so don’t have any bushes, but I do have a cherry tree that I barely tolerate for its gorgeous May display. In March, I always cut a few short branches for forcing. I bring them in, soak them (submersing the entire branch) in warm water for 8 hours or so, and then put them in a vase in a sunny spot. It takes 2-3 weeks. I’ve seen much fussier directions for branch forcing on various websites, but this simple technique works for me.

I also notice that the websites rarely mention cherry branches. Can’t imagine why—works every time for me.