March 1, 2013

DSC_0004The first day of March cannot go unnoticed here. Goodbye February and as for winter, now you really have your marching orders. Every year is different and this March begins with snow covering most of the garden. Last year there were crocus in bloom in February and snowdrops in full bloom around the first of March. DSC_0002The winter aconites were also starting their sunny show. Snowdrop closeupOnly one small patch of snowdrops is even visible right now but there are warmer days ahead. This post is here to encourage the blooms. With a bit of warmth it takes just a short time for color to show. Let the games begin.

The Trouble with Dibbles

Tools at Heligan
No, these are not mine. Pretty though.
I love garden tools. I really do and I have many. Trowels, rakes, hoes, lawn edgers, shovels, spades and the list goes on. Every gardener needs a good cache of tools. Some of the better made tools are really works of art.
45 Waterhouse Lane, England
Nope, not mine either.
I don't have many of those, just basic tools. The prettiest tools, in my mind, are those that are weathered and worn with a patina from use. Therein lies a big problem. They get lost in the garden.
Oh, yes, these are mine.
From the compost heap to one garden then another and another and finally back to the shed where they sit in the wheelbarrow unless I actually hang them. The large tools do hang but the hand tools are in a bucket and it was only upon returning to the bucket to plant the rest of the little bulbs that I noticed my dibble was missing. A dibble does make short work of planting the little bulbs. It plunges somewhat easily into the soil and the bulb gets popped in. I then top it off with compost. The big bulbs are different. They often require a pickax given the amount of rocks here in this garden. Pickaxes are much harder to lose since they have heft and size. It was about two weeks ago that I noticed the dibble was missing. There are many more small bulbs to plant. Small bulbs are very gratifying but there needs to be an abundance of them to make an impact. One hundred don't go very far. I did plant some with the red handled trowel but it took more time and energy than that required by the dibble. I had to find that dibble or buy a new one. I retraced steps several times and after many days it came to me...look in the garden by the fish pond where you planted the muscari. It was a bit covered with leaves when I finally found it. I brushed them off for the picture. It is still a bit hard to see.
Dibble in the garden
It blends.
The dibble weathered a week or so outside plus the rain of the recent hurricane.  I am a pragmatic person. The organic look of this tool almost led to its demise. It certainly slowed down the bulb planting here.
A bit of neon solves the problem.
I have solved that problem with a can of neon spray paint. The artistic wall of garden tools will have to wait. There is life left in this tool and there are bulbs to be planted. Sacrifices must be made. I need sunglasses to use my tools now. Have you ever lost one of your favorite garden tools? 

Pineapple Lily - Eucomis

DSC_0007The pineapple lily is a South African native which adds a thrill to any container planting. There are several different species of pineapple lily and over fifteen different cultivars. All have strap like leaves and a flower stalk which emerges from the center of the foliage. This is topped with a pineapple shaped flower composed of many small waxy florets. They are easy to grow and will grow in full sun or light shade although flowering is better in full sun. If I lived further south I would consider bedding them out for interesting texture in the borders. They are a bit pricey though and I hope to overwinter this one in the dormant state in a cool basement. We shall see what happens. DSC_0008I planted 'Sparkling Burgundy' in my containers near the house this spring. This cultivar has dark foliage and the flowers are creamy with bits of pink and yellow stamens. I have not detected any repulsive odor although, since it is pollinated by flies, it is said to have a bit of a stench. DSC_0005I am enjoying the tropical, exotic look it brings to these containers. Eucomis 1In addition to the burgundy pineapple lilies in my container, a friend gave me a bulb which she had potted up from last year and overwintered in her basement. EucomisThis lily has green foliage, a smaller flower head and interesting markings on the stem. It looks quite nice on its own in the small clay pot on the patio and is also a reminder of friendship. Thank you Lois. If you are looking for Eucomis bulbs, there are several on line sources.  Mine was purchased as a potted bulb already showing promise.  Now, a promise fulfilled. Have you grown this plant and, if so, what are your thoughts on Eucomis?

Candles in the Wind


Ornithogolum magnumI am not sure why I rarely see this flowering bulb in other gardens. Perhaps it is the cumbersome name which seems to only be in Latin, Ornithogalum magnum. It is listed in John Scheepers catalog as hardy from zone 5 to 8. I have it planted in a border with filtered light and this is its first year in that border. I plan on adding more.O. magnumA member of the Hyacinthaceae family, this bulb produces multiple white star shaped flowers on  a raceme borne on 2'-3' stems. Ornithogolum m.Planted in among perennials, the flower spike shoots up through the foliage appearing suddenly creating another dimension to a border. It blooms in June supposedly with the alliums. The alliums bloomed early here and are past bloom  but, no matter, this flower is just a delight. Star spikeI think this flowering bulb deserves a more marketable name. Want to give it a go? I vote for 'Star of Spring' or 'White Lance'.  Ornithogalum magnum doesn't really roll off the tongue or give any hint of the beauty of this bulb. That name sounds as if it should belong to a big bird. What name would you like to see on this flowering bulb?

The Blue Eyed Tulip - Tulipa humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata'

T. humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata'There is a rather dear little species tulip which is clear white with a lavender blue eye. It bloomed in my garden this week until the heat hit it and knocked it right over. Species tulips can be a bit pricey and the price is one of the reasons I only have about five of these little bulbs. At barely five inches tall this tulip needs a place of prominence in the garden. Mine are growing next to the stone bench by the fish pond. This bench is a wonderful place to contemplate the beginning or the end of the day accompanied by a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The little blue eyed tulips, Tulipa humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata' sit right at the foot of the bench. When faced with an unusual plant with a high price tag, I find that trying just a few in the garden can do either of two things. Both of those things depend on the performance of the treasure. Sometimes the pictures in a catalog are deceiving with the promise of impossible colors and performance. Sometimes the plant in question fails to emerge from the spring soil. If this happens, only a few dollars have been spent and knowledge and experience are added to the gardener's data base.  Tulipa humilis 'Alba Coerulea Oculata'The second scenario can be costly. The plant in question performs beautifully and the gardener wants more. A large drift of this little tulip would be lovely. They can cost as much as $2.00 per bulb. Blue is a much coveted color in the garden and blue and white are clear and clean and restful to the eyes.  Do you think they are worth the cost? Should I get a few more?

St. Patrick's Day - 2011

Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Right on cue the little white snowdrops unfurled to reveal the green.  They have been closed up tight as the temperatures were cool all week.  Until today.  Today the thermometer rose to 62 F and the snowdrops opened at about 55F.  They have a very sweet fragrance and someday I hope to have rivers of them.  Yes, rivers.  It is a goal. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

The First Flowers of Spring

DSC_0006 Spring is over a week away according to the calendar but the garden rarely waits for the specific date as Mother Nature has a schedule all her own.  These are the only flowers in the garden.  They are revered for that fact alone.  DSC_0004 The bees do not know that they are here yet.  I am going to pay attention and watch for that first pollinator.  It is still cold.  There is still snow.  Spring will come and go for the next few weeks alternating with late winter but spring will take over.   It is inevitable. 

Heat wave!

High 88 F but it was 95 F in Boston!
Low 53 F
The end of April brings record high temperatures here in New England. Currently, at ten a.m. it is 80 degrees.  I know many other parts of the country are experiencing highs also and this gardener does not approve.  The blueberries are in bloom, the tulips and daffodils are marching on to heat destruction and many of the early flowering shrubs are also blooming.  The blooms last such a short time when the temperatures are high.  Today's high is an expected 88 F which feels way too warm to this unacclimatized gardener.  The flowers will come and go much more quickly and it is hard to garden in this heat. The frost is sure to come and tender new foliage and flowers will be at risk. DSC_0047    I can empathize with the Austin and other southern bloggers when I feel as limp as the petals on the tulips.   That ends the complaining and I am still embracing the  'River of Bulbs' in the GFSD garden.  There is a newcomer to the river.  DSC_0046 This orange tulip was in a orange/yellow Color Blends mixture and is one of the first to show up in this border.  I realize that I should have just planted orange as the daffodils are yellow and provide enough contrast.  We are all enjoying the color here and Tucker likes to pose...well, he grudgingly obliges me, and poses to provide scale and a canine element to the garden. DSC_0018 What is a garden without a dog?

Bulb Planting commences!

High 66 F
Low  38.3 F

May 9, 2007  Tulip 'Orange Princess'

I generally order bulbs every other year.  Why?  Because I always get carried away with the beautiful promise of the pictures and I order so many that it takes great effort to get them all planted.  Every other year I seem to forget how much work it was and only remember the beauty of the blooms.  Last year I did plant a few tulips such as the above 'Orange Princess' but this year I placed my order with the thought of adding a river of bulbs to the new Garden of Five Sisters and One Daughter ( aka GFSD).   A river of bulbs!  Sounds great doesn't it?  Planting bulbs at 'Ledge and Gardens' always requires a pickax.
I dug a trench about fifty feet long and eighteen inches wide although there are a couple of wide spots.The job foreman is hard at work as you can see.   I planted Dsc_0001 100 Narcissus 'Accent' which is ivory white with a pink trumpet or perianth.  I get tired of yellow in the spring and white always is refreshing.  These will bloom in April and I have to say that these were the biggest bulbs I have ever seen!  Fat and healthy, many with offsets.  If you are going to dig a trench in soil which requires a  pickax then you should optimize the use of that trench.  With this in mind, the daffodils and Tulips are interspersed in the same 'river'.

Dsc_0006 Click to enlarge picture.

  I added Tulipa  'Avignon' which is described in the John Scheepers catalog  as 'brilliant spinel-red with fire-red edges, a tomato red interior and a sunny yellow base'.  I'm not sure what 'spinel-red' looks like so check back in May when these beauties will bloom!  I did plant them closer than six inches.  The bulb police have not yet been here.  In addition, in the wider areas I planted Camassia quamash which I have never grown before.  This is blue and  is native to the Northwestern U.S.  It will be about 15" tall.  Camassia will take a moist soil according to  the catalog. I'm not sure this is moist enough but I saved some bulbs for a different area so I can see which group does better. Dsc_0007 In the wider spots I have planted some species tulips.  There are one hundred Tulipa 'Little Beauty' which is cherry red with a blue center and blooms in early May.  Also planted were T. clusiana 'Lady Jane' which is described as 'candy cane' . The picture looks beautiful.  I did spray the bulbs with neem to keep the critters away.  It has a bitter taste which is supposed to make the tulips less delectable and it will also mask the smell of the bone meal which is mixed in the soil at the bottom of the hole. Dsc_0008 The Job Foreman loves the freshly turned soil and is taking a much needed rest. Dsc_0009 A couple of  blisters and a tired back later and all that is left to plant are one hundred assorted alliums,  a few Camassia and some dog tooth violets.  Oh, and the two pounds of garlic bulbs which arrived in the mail while I was out planting!