One thing that a rock garden needs is rocks, so I am always in the market for interesting rocks. When the local chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society said it was planning a trip to a local quarry to harvest rocks, I was all for it. Especially on Inauguration Day when I wanted some productive distraction.
It was a rainy overcast day which didn’t help the aspect of driving into the quarry which is almost canyon-like after years of harvesting rock. Despite the mud and wet, cold weather it’s actually a very beautiful place which you would never see unless you were part of a similar expedition.
The slope was steep enough that having my wheelbarrow was less use than I expected, unless you are accustomed to pushing up 30 degree slopes.
The most desirable rock was (of course) at the bottom of the hill.
By the time I got each individual rock up to the truck I was huffing and puffing like a steam engine. Nonetheless they were worth the effort.
I had two concerns that limited my collecting efforts. One, the sheer physical difficulty, and then two, the fact that the truck was parked on a steep muddy hill and whether I would be able to get it out again.
However, I did manage to get out with only a mild amount of wheel spinning.
Some of the rocks had beautiful crystalline structure.
And one very special rock up at the office illustrated what limestone can do.
In the end I only brought home about a dozen rocks but they are beautiful and I’m sure they will find a place in our gardens.
If the club runs a similar field trip in the future I am ready to sign up for a repeat visit.
Well the first crocus for this year popped out on a 53 degree day today. Although it gives the illusion of being a double crocus it’s really just double-nosed if such a descriptor can be applied to a crocus. In other words it’s two separate flowers but beautiful nonetheless. Apparently this is not unusual for the species. Rukšans in his marvelous reference ‘Buried Treasures‘ says that as many as 20 flowers can be found coming out of a single corm. I mentioned in an earlier post that you can get these little early blooming gems Augis’ Bulbs in Lithuania but they can also be obtained from Odyssey Bulbs in Massachusetts. How we missed growing this crocus all these years is beyond me.
And close by, just starting to open in the new alpine bed, is the related variety Crocus korokowii ‘Marble Tiger’ with distinct markings on the outside of the petals.
Ironically, in the greenhouse, we have star flower which almost has a similar appearance.
Another spot of yellow in the greenhouse is one of the small narcissus.
I noticed today that the first flowers are appearing on an alpine plant that I started from seed last January.
This is distinctly unimpressive thus far, though in the Dolomites it had tons of flowers covering the plants, almost like a cushion. I’ll put it outside this spring and maybe it will be more floriferous with a cold winter.
Also blooming in the greenhouse (still) is the South African Cyrtanthus that first came into bloom over a month ago. This is a winner.
As you might imagine the lead photo from this month’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is not growing outside. In fact all these flowers came out while the little Clementine was living in the basement. I find the citrus do quite well in the basement with minimal light and hardly any watering. But once it started to flower like this (it is covered with flowers) I decided I better make room for it in the greenhouse where it might actually get some light. And who knows maybe it will get pollinated as well as I don’t exclude insects from the greenhouse. I had put the citrus in the greenhouse originally and they had lots of disease and insect problems that I now attribute to too much watering. I’ve since slowed my greenhouse watering schedule in the wintertime and perhaps it will work out better this time.
Meanwhile, as the song says ‘The weather outside is frightful’, or at least it’s been cold enough that not much is happening. That’s probably good for the plants in the long run but I can’t help looking at the few things that are starting to grow, as in snowdrops.
Just as regular as can be, the snowdrops are back again and right on schedule.
We also have a red camellia japonica that always wants to be first off the mark.
Meanwhile the Adonis are very close to blooming.
Just a couple more 50 degree days will see these guys opening up with their bright yellow flowers. And then they will stay in bloom until April.
Another flower that is on the verge (stay tuned) is the new crocus that’s been planted in the new alpine bed.
These were in the collection that I ordered from Augis’ Bulbs this year. They have a wonderful selection and you can order by personal check.
The other flowers are in the greenhouse. In addition to the oxalis, the hoop daffodils are still making a show.
I also wanted to share the planting of our Christmas tree. We’ve had a family tradition of purchasing a live tree and then planting it outside after Christmas. The first tree was a white pine that was planted 40 years ago in the middle of the backyard. It is probably 40 ft tall at this point. The trees have been moving further from the house by necessity. Most recently we’ve started a little grove at the bottom of the pasture.
Well, that’s the state of gardening on our hillside today. Let me close with a shot of the Heavenly Bamboo taken this morning after an overnight rain.
Well real winter has arrived just in time for bloom day. I took a walk around the yard and could not discover a single flower outside. That is very rare. I found one camellia bud that was seriously considering blooming.
But the outside looks to be in for a cold spell. The real flowers are in the greenhouse or in the house at this point. The house spectacular is the red cattleya orchid that blooms every year at about this time.
It has a marvelous fragrance to compliment the exotic flowers. This orchid spends the whole spring, summer,and fall on the porch with zero care, so it’s very nice that it rewards us with these flowers when we bring it inside for the winter.
Another plant that has been sharing it’s flowers with us in the kitchen actually came from the greenhouse. It’s Cyrtanthus mackenii, part of a large genus in the Amaryllis family.
This south african native blooms for a long period with a succession of long tubular flowers and seems to relish being crowded in the pot.
Another greenhouse plant that is very consistently flowering after thanksgiving is Daubenya stylosa.
The beautiful yellow stamens are an absolute magnet for slugs. I didn’t actually know that I had slugs in the greenhouse until the Daubenya started blooming.
There are numerous oxalis still in bloom, such as this purpurea.
The next flowers coming into bloom are the small hoop daffodils. Silver Palace is an example.
I think this is about the third year of blooming and they are starting to fill the pot quite nicely.
I had a little thrilling adventure in the greenhouse last week. I looked at the weather station that I keep in the utility room to monitor the greenhouse temperature and saw, to my dismay, that the temperatures were dipping close to freezing. By 2am the temperature showed to be 33 degrees so I found myself out in the greenhouse checking on the function of the two heaters that I use to keep the temperatures up. They both seemed to be working ok and plants seemed to be handling the cold so I went to bed. In the morning I saw the temperature had dipped to 31 degrees. What then discovered was that I had been looking at the ‘old’ weather station. Last year I put in a new one and moved the ‘old’ sensor to the garage. When I put a new battery in the ‘new’ weather station it dutifully reported temperatures closer to 50 degrees which is more what I had in mind.
Just ask this Gerbera if 50 degrees is more the temperature that it enjoys…
It seems appropriate for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day to give due credit to this little dwarf Daphne which has bloomed on and off in the Alpine bed since April. The flowers (like most Daphnes) are very fragrant and the plant has prospered in the Alpine bed despite my placing it in a spot between two rocks where it seemed to me most appropriate to its small size. And it’s much bigger now, though still very pleasing.
Even the Winter Daphne which I moved into the sunshine this year after torturing it in the deep shade for several years seems to be enjoying its exposure to the elements.
It’s out by the front fence in some of the poorest soil on our hillside. We shall see how it survives. The Edgeworthia, its new neighbor, has put out some fat buds so maybe it’s not as bad a location as I imagined.
Our weather has flirted with frost but we haven’t really had a hard, killing frost yet. That has let some of the hardier plants continue to flower. Here are just a few of them.
The Lantana is one of the feature plants that will tell me when it has gotten really cold, and I should take the citrus to the basement.
As we go back to the Alpine bed, another plant that has bloomed for a long time (essentially nine months) is the Erodium chrysanthum.
It’s close relative, the alpine geranium, is also fond of flowering every day.
What has been particularly surprising this fall is the Delphinium cashmerianum.
Retreating finally into the greenhouse (which will be my refuge before long) I want to share the bright red flowers of the a little Aptenia that I grew from a cutting (thank you Marianne!)
And the tiny little flowers of Polyxena ensifolia which looks much bigger on the web.
Perhaps mine will grow up some day…
Besides myriad Oxalis, there is also a pot of Cyclamen worthy of note.
These are pure white with lovely leaves.
Finally I will finish up with the first Camellia of this season. Beth picked it before I could photograph it in place, but it’s another reminder of what an extended Fall season we have had.
I awoke this morning to find that the world around me was in tears. In no way could I imagine that the U.S. could elect an ignorant charlatan to the highest office in the land. I am profoundly ashamed of the system that takes two years of campaigning at enormous expense to arrive at this terrible state of affairs. I’ll take a parliamentary system any day as a more effective representative government. I have no idea how to fix the cultural divide between those who think that knowledge is a flexible thing to be bent to one’s whims and those who respect education and the country’s historic values.
I can think of nothing more appropriate to the moment than to quote a letter from E.B. White that appears on the wonderful Letters of Note website
North Brooklin, Maine
30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)
I am way behind on reporting on garden developments here on Ball Rd. I walked around last weekend to try to catch up with what has been happening (mostly what persists in growing despite the lack of rain hereabouts). I was quite pleased and surprised to see that the first flowers have appeared on a little delphinium that I had placed in the new Alpine bed (more about that in a future post). I grew this one from seed (obtained from the Scottish Rock Garden Club seed exchange) planted last February. As I look at the plant I’m dubious that the name is correct. The leaves are much more narrow than shown in the online pictures of D. cashmerianum.
There are a lot of species of Delphiniums so I’ll have to live with it for a while to see if I can hone in on the correct name.
It’s been so dry that I haven’t had a lot of new flowers for quite some time. I did see that the Mahonia by the front door has it’s yellow flowers showing.
The big question is whether we’ve found a spot where it will successfully survive the winter.
There are many annuals still about in the vegetable garden. I’ve shown the Tithonia many times now. But out front the Gaillardia deserves some commendation for persistence.
And there was a solitary rose in flower next to the garage. It was just about perfect with a wonderful fragrance.
I know longer remember the name, but it seems to me it had something to do with ‘blush’.
There a couple of instances of Bottle Gentians having escaped in the garden behind the garage. I’ve never been that keen on flowers that never open, but they are beginning to win me over with stubborn endurance.
And it you look closely while walking in the back yard you can see crocus blooming in the lawn.
But even as the flowers are waning during this Indian Summer, the greenhouse is abounding with the bright green growth of many bulbs. Daffodils, triteleia, tritonia, ferraria, moraea, freesia, lachenalia, and more are sending up new shoots. And the oxalis are in full bloom now. Here is a sampling. Notice how variable the leaves are from the clover-like bowieii , to the wonderfully textured melanosticta, and to the very narrow hirta.
Lastly a Cyrtanthus hybrid that has been living in the house for two weeks now.
It has been a generally hot and dry (read depressing) summer for our garden). In early August we awoke to find that we had drawn down the well with watering and so had to forego our normal watering plan. So my looks around the garden prior to Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day were fewer than they might otherwise have been. We did still water Beth’s new raised bed and the Nasturtiums and Calendulas have responded by blooming all summer long and into the Fall.
Many of the other flowers in bloom are a testament to how well some species can survive in adversity.
Venturing out onto our ultra-dry hillside which never gets watered at all anymore, I found several champions of the survival school.
Notice the spider on the Lemon Queen and it’s very adaptive coloration.
The butterflies are also very attracted to Lemon Queen.
I also saw a lovely Monarch Butterfly on the Tithonia in the vegetable garden.
One very noteworthy Fall-blooming flower is the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. I’m becoming more of a fan every year and it’s a good thing because it keeps spreading of its own volition.
Another fall bloomer was a bit of a surprise. This Sweet Autumn Clematis was something I pulled out three years ago and I was surprised to see it return in two separate places this year.
It’s a lovely flower but can get too aggressive if left to its own devices. I will probably try to transplant it to the woods.
In the alpine beds I have two erodiums that are returning to bloom right now.
In the greenhouse I have just finished restarting all the oxalis. At the same time the Bulbine has come back into flower.
And one of the cyclamens has taken on a very distinctive flowering by simply spilling over the edge of the pot with a great many flowers and no leaves at all.
Lastly just to note that man (or woman) does not live by flowers alone. The raspberries are joining the apples as delectable fruits to be harvested this month.