GBFD: March 2015

Christina at My Hesperides Garden hosts Garden Bloggers Foliage Day each month. I missed it yesterday, but better late than never:

daff buds

My snowdrops and crocus finished their show a week or two ago, but the daffodils will take their place very soon. We bought our house at the end of March, many years ago, and I remember the day we closed on the house we drove by, and the front garden was full of waving yellow blossoms.

nettles and comfrey

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) grow in a half-barrel in my garden, providing an enduring source of fertilizer.

The fertilizer barrel woke up last week as well. For two years now, I’ve grown stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) and comfrey (Symphytum officinale) in a half whiskey barrel to produce homegrown liquid fertilizer. Concocting this homebrew is not for the weak of stomach: It reeks. But the nettles provide a terrific source of nitrogen, and the comfrey provides nitrogen, potassium, calcium and phosphorus, which helps promote root growth and blooming/fruiting. My garden plants love it, and the tea feeds the soil.

Red stems and budding green leaves of Salix 'Hakura-Nishiki.'

Red stems and budding green leaves of Salix ‘Hakura-Nishiki.’

And my willows are leafing out. I’m new to growing willows but love the fact that I can whack them back in early spring and they’ll produce lots of lush growth each year. I’m not whacking them this year; I only planted them last fall, so I plan to give them a season to get settled in. I have, however, cut a few twigs to make willow water, which promotes rooting in cuttings. I’ll talk about that in a separate post.

I hope you northern-hemisphere types are enjoying spring wherever you are.

Postcard of spring: Crocus tommasinianus

My first purple crocus, Crocus tommasinianus, bloomed over the weekend. When I see these fellows poking through the mud, I know spring really is nearly here.

tommies sunning

They’re not the first flowers to bloom in my spring garden, but they do seem to be the first ones to signal that warm weather is genuinely on its way.

Snowdrop walk

On Saturday, Montrose hosted a short tour to see the snowdrops at their best. At least, it’s their best between now and, say, Christmas. I expect to see them blooming in the woods throughout the winter and into the spring.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) beneath a fallen trunk of Maclura pomifera, commonly known as osage orange.

Nancy started with a packet of snowdrop bulbs purchased at the local feed store. She tended them, divided them, shared them, transplanted them. At some point, the casual interest metamorphosed into a passion.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

In late November, the snowdrop ridge turns from a hill of fallen leaves into a rippling white ribbon.

On my second or third day at work, I helped to weed the ridge pictured here. Microstegium grew in billowy clumps, camouflaging English ivy and the foliage of various species of cyclamen. Out came the Microstegium, just before it set seed, as well as the ivy. The fallen leaves remain to decompose on their own schedule.

At the time, I found no evidence of snowdrops anywhere. My colleagues promised it would be lovely in time. (And it will look even more heavenly when the Podocarpus [left-hand side] fill in behind them.)

snowdrop ribbon

I know of four Galanthus species in the garden (G. elwesii, G. nivalis, G. reginae-olgae, and G. woronowii) but I am sure there are more. Then, there are named varieties and the charming mutts begotten of self-hybridizing.

clump of snowdrops

I particularly like them grouped amongst Pulmonaria.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

Snowdrops growing amidst Pulmonaria sp.

I’m sorry if you had to miss it (Susie and Erica…). Hope you can come next time.

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?