Scilla latifolia

On my first day working at Montrose, I made a trip to the compost pile in the woods, where I found these charmers blooming:

Scilla latifolia, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Scilla latifolia, an autumn-blooming Scilla.

Scilla latifolia is an autumn-blooming Scilla. Like many of Montrose’s plants, I had never seen it before. Nancy Goodwin graciously allowed me to scavenge them from the pile and take them home, where I transplanted them high on the bank of my rain garden. I’ll pot a few up to grow indoors, for insurance. Nancy grows them in a greenhouse, but they may also be elsewhere in her garden.

So far, it’s been hard to track down information on this plant. It may be native to the Canary Islands, or it may be native to Greece and Turkey. It may be renamed Prospero autumnale, although those flowers seem to be more on the rose-purple segment of the spectrum. This one produces offset bulbs and may also reseed. I have lots of questions to ask Nancy when I get to work.

These blooming now are short–six inches tall, perhaps–but Nancy’s greenhouse specimen is tall and regal. It looks exactly like this.

I’ll update you with more as I learn details myself. I love getting acquainted with new bulbs!

Garden log, 10.27.14

Just a quick reminder to myself–I transplanted broccoli raab and spinach today, watered the plants in the cold frame and the potted cyclamen. It’s been dry for about ten days now. The nights have been nice and cool but today got up to 80 F (26.6 C), which doesn’t feel like fall at all. We’re also late for our first frost, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have any chance of it before Saturday at the earliest.

I’m starting to get enough falling leaves to be worth raking and shredding. My personal promise to myself is not to let the leaves get too far ahead of me. It’s depressing to have to spend an entire weekend raking and shredding (but oh, the wonderful leaf mold!).

 

My seed-grown cyclamen

Last year, I planted cyclamen seeds. Last month, I saw their first stirrings to life.

This month, they’re going nuts. Every time I pass by the pots, I find more leaves pushing up from the gravel.

Cyclamen seedlings

Cyclamen seedlings

Two species are doing very well: Cyclamen coum album, and Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum. I’m surprised that Cyclamen hederifolium isn’t doing as well, as that’s supposed to be the easiest to grow. I have heard that C. graecum is supposed to be quite finicky, although plants from Greece and Turkey tend to perform well here as long as the drainage is good. I can’t wait to see their foliage take on its pattern. Here are two images  from John Lonsdale of the Pacific Bulb Society:

Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum foliage. Photo by John Lonsdale, via Pacific Bulb Society.

Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum foliage. Photo by John Lonsdale, via Pacific Bulb Society.

Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum leaves. Photo by John Lonsdale via Pacific Bulb Society.

Cyclamen graecum ssp. anatolicum leaves. Photo by John Lonsdale via Pacific Bulb Society.

I can transplant them after they have 3-4 sets of true leaves–no idea how long that will take. The Pacific Bulb Society indicates fertilization with an 18-8-18 formula, alternating with a fertilizer based on calcium nitrate. I’ll show in a future post how to mix your own fertilizer blends.

For now, I must sow the rest of the seeds and see if I can get another batch going. The prospect of having such wonderful foliage to get me through a grim winter cheers me up immensely.

What are your favorite winter plants?

Water garden inspiration

I visited a garden center the other day that had a very humble water garden–just 4 x 4 timbers stacked into a large box, basically, and lined with EPDM rubber. But water gardens enchant us, regardless of design.

This simple water garden was constructed by layering 4 x 4 posts , installing a pond liner, securing it to the top post, and covering the rim with 1 x 4 trim.

This simple water garden was constructed by layering 4 x 4 posts, installing a pond liner, securing it to the top post, and covering the rim with 1 x 4 trim.

It wasn’t the aesthetics of the garden that appealed to me, but the simplicity of the construction. Water gardens don’t have to be elaborate, in-ground structures with lots of expensive stone work and magnificent waterfalls. Just about anyone can build a box like this, and the height makes it safer and more accessible. While the fountain the nursery used doesn’t suit my personal style, I could easily envision other options to keep the water aerated.

What I really loved, though, were the plants on display.

water lettuce

Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a floating aquatic plant. I find its almost succulent, fuzzy leaves charming, but it’s a plant to be cautious with. It’s not on the US Federal List of Noxious Weeds, but it is problematic in Florida, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and a few other locations. It can rapidly cover lakes and as a result, may hinder boat navigation and reduce oxygen levels in the water. In a small water garden, a few plants can provide cover for fish and landing spots for insects. If they reproduce too rapidly, compost them. Never dispose of them in bodies of water or in sewers.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), as lovely as it is, can be a real nuisance.

Water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes

Water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, can be a dangerous weed if it gets into natural bodies of water.

Water hyacinth is also a free-floating plant. It is not cold-hardy, dying off at 54 F (12C), but it grows quickly, doubling in population in less than a week. To combat the problem this plant poses in tropical climates, some artisans use water hyacinth to weave baskets that get sold in tony home stores. The downside of this lemons-to-lemonade approach is that the baskets get marketed as being made from a “rapidly renewable resource,” implying a sustainability that isn’t really genuine. A market for what is essentially a recycled waste product is wonderful, so long as it doesn’t encourage people to grow more of the stuff.

Many more wonderful water plants exist, most obviously water lilies and lotuses, but because it’s the end of the season they weren’t on display and I don’t have photos of them.

If you’re toying with the idea of installing a water garden in the upcoming growing season, consider some ways you can use water plants responsibly.

Playing catch-up

What a busy month October has been! With moderate temperatures and low humidity, it’s been delightful to be in the garden.

My visit to Montrose at the beginning of the month for a Garden Open Day yielded (of course) a box full of plants.

Trick or treat? Treat, definitely.

Trick or treat? Treat, definitely.

I came home with:

  • Edgworthia ‘Snow cream’
  • Saruma henryi
  • Iris unguicularis
  • Zephyranthes drummondii
  • Zephyranthes ‘Capricorn’
  • Cooperia ________ ( I’ll look this up later)
  • Cyclamen hederifolium
  • Cyclamen coum ‘Lake Effect’
  • Sternbergia lutea
  • Two seedpods of Aesculus parviflora, bottlebrush buckeye, that I found in the parking lot of the school next door.
  • A part-time job.

Well, nearly. I casually asked someone working at the Open Day if they ever needed any help, and coincidentally, they do. It’s time to get all those tender plants in the greenhouses, you see, and down into the cellar and in cold frames. So I came back a few days later to have a proper conversation/interview about working there, and I guess I looked sturdy enough to be of some use.

So I work two mornings a week there, doing what needs to be done and learning everything I can. I hope to have lots to share with you.