Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Indian Summer's End

The frosts have touched the garden, yet pockets of life survived the cold. The days have been warm and somewhat windy, always calming down by dusk. As I walk with Darla down the long drive, We go in and out of warm temperature layers, almost like how lake water can be, depending on the depth.The spicy scent of oak leaves and tall grass and the pungent stank of a buck in rut,  somewhere close.                                                                                                                                                                                              

I have the native orchid Spiranthes species, blooming in the grass, like little fairy wands. These vanilla scented wildflowers are always a treat to look foreword to during October. I found a beautiful cultivated variety at a local nursery, to add to a shade garden by my house. It is at least four times the size of my delicate native variety-I love then both!
 My local native Spiranthes, could be S. cernua?

I am not a big fan of all the "landscape" roses being sold everywhere here, but I bought on on sale, to fill a
spot in my front garden. It has been one of the most colorful, healthy roses I have ever had! It's called R."carefree celebration", a glowing coral pink that blooms and blooms-non stop! It has even gone through a light frost, and till kept blooming!
The Great Blue Lobelia-Lobelia sphilitica
I've always taken long walks, as a child with my dad, and now with my dog, Darla. We explore all the many areas of the farm, so I'm more likely to find special plants and flowers in isolated spots. We had a horribly dry fall, it still is- my pond is three feet down from normal, but the grass is still somewhat green.On a walk with Darla a week or so ago, I found a beautiful Lobelia siphilictica, the Great Blue Lobelia. If it hadn't been so dry, they would be in many spots, but not this year!

A few weeks ago, I went on a hike with my friend Jeff at the creek at the front of the farm. Normally, this would have flowing water, but it's just puddles in places right now, so it was a good time to explore, when we could walk it's shore. We found a pretty blue Campanula americana overhanging the edge, so beautiful.

Campanula americana

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beauty Before the Frost

Colchicum "Lilac Wonder"

In the last glorious weeks prior to our first frost, fragile beauty abounds. Every year, I add a few more Colchicums, They are referred to as autumn crocus, but that title has already been taken by the real autumn flowering crocus, a very different thing, and genus. Colchicums bloom at the time when every gardener needs a shot in the arm! Their interesting foliage arrives in the spring when everything else is surging in to bloom.It is gone before you know it, blending away in the cacophony of Hosta, Violet and Monarda leaves surrounding them. The garden fills in and blooms, going through the spring and summer seasons, then it slows way down, the heat and lack of rain taking their toll. Then, in early October , we get a decent rain storm. The rain triggers the Colchicums to surge in to growth, literally over night. The buds appear like a true Crocus, but continue to expand and grow in to a large clump of translucent lavender bloom. They are supposed to spread, but mine have not so far. There are many varieties to try, double, whites, checkered-they are pricey, but get better every year, and live long lives in the perennial garden.

This little Morning Glory, Ipomea sp. has traveled with me through my entire life. When I was little, I would help my father in the vegetable garden, were we also grew Sweetpeas for the house, as well as broken, flamed tulips, sweet Williams and this little beauty self seeded every year.I would gather the light tan seed pods in the fall, crumbling their shells off, exposing the jet black seed.When I moved away from home, the first garden I created, I plantd these simple flowers. You would think that they would be invasive, like the variety  I."Grandpa Ott's", but it keeps a low profile, never taking over the scene. This spring, my neighbors Ann and John gave me some seed they had saved from the same type of Morning glory, so I have "fresh blood" for the next seasons progeny, It's like a miniature I."Heavenly Blue", but with tri-lobed leaves,( and not the species I.triloba..) Does anyone know what variety this is? I found this vine growing through an Abolone shell by my door, what a perfect combination!

Anemone japonica  "Whirlwind"

Plants that come in to their own in the fall are so underused. These perennial Anemones are fantastic tall flowers to use in groups, or as a soft focal point all by themselves. They are beautiful cut flowers, but the blooms last at least a month on the plant if they are getting ample moisture. There are varieties in white, pink, mauve, raspberry-some single, others fully double. They will bloom until a hard frost, and even then, you might get some continued blooming if an Indian Summer settles in. This is a new one for me, and I've planted it in more sunlight this time, and gave it more organic matter in it's planting hole, I think the change will be good, my others are planted in dry shade, and suffer from low moisture in the soil. The new planting bed will be kept a little wetter than most of the areas in my gardens.

Iris germanica "Immortality"

I love this Iris, it blooms beautifully in the spring with the rest of the Iris, but then reblooms again in the fall, especially if it's gotten good care during the growing season. These Iris are called remontant, and there are many other colors and varieties  to try! This is an oldie, but a goody,with very fragrant blooms,  a whisper of pale blue on  a pure white ground. Remember to never plant a tall bearded Iris too deep-their rhizome needs to see some sun, half out of the ground, like a turtle in the water. The night after I took this picture , we had the hard freeze, ending the party, but this was the last blossom on the plant, so it was great timing!

Tricyrtis "Miyazaki Hybrids"

I love Tricyrtis, the Toad Lilies. I would have a serious collecting lust for them, but I loose them after a year or two, due to the population of voles that eat their roots in the winter here. I guess I could grow them in wire baskets, sunk in the ground, but that's not my style. I enjoy them for a few seasons, then get a few new ones to grace the fall shade garden. They look like tropical lilies or orchids, often banded and speckled with purple and brown. Although none of them are what I would call tall, they make great cut flowers, exquisite and long lasting. Some have striped foliage, or even spotted. Great companions of Epimediums, small Hosta, and ferns. Dappled light, even moisture and a light organic mulch will suite them well-and if happy, they will form gently expanding colonies. They are also super in containers with similar shade loving plants or all by themselves in a group.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spider Lilies Steal the Show in Late Summer

Lycoris radiata radiata-Red Surprise lily

Once you have been bewitched by these ethereal bulbs, you will want more! I began seeking them out, and liking what I found..! The first one I grew was the traditional Southern favorite, the red spider lily. Some refer to them as hurricane lilies, fairy lilies or by their rightful description-Lycoris radiata.

Lycoris radiata pumila

These are the most common one you will see in the southern United States.These are sterile, polyploid plants, producing a  larger, more showy display. There is another L.radiata,---pumila. I think this is the original species, that's still fertile and seed bearing,  and half the stature of the popular L.radiata radiata.I'm buying some bulbs from a new collection from china, this is great, because I will have a whole new gene pool to work with. It seems like only about half of the discovered "species" are really natural, sterile hybrids that can only be multiplied by a slow division of the bulbs. One species that is a likely natural hybrid is, Lycoris houdyshelii. This spider lily is a real stunner! It has about the same stature as L. radiata, but the bloom cluster is larger and more ruffled. It is norrmaly a creamy white with streaks of pale pink, getting stronger with age. When I took this shot, only a touch of pink was apparent, due to the 100 degree weather we were having. Cooler temperatures would have brought out more blush, but it's still a highlight in my late season garden.

 Lycoris houdyshellii
Another amazing species is believed to be one of the parents of the popular Naked Lady pink surprise lily, L.squamigera. The other participant in this clandestine mating is most likely L. longituba. This is the spectacular L.sprengeri. It will not only surprise you with it's appearance seemingly out of nowhere, but with it's shocking true blue petals. The base of each petal in a bubble gum pink, but depending on the individual plant, it can be almost entirely covered with electric blue!

Lycoris sprengeri just opening..

the color is really more pronounced in sunlight..

The last one I'll talk about, is actually the first to bloom, late July here in the central Midwest. Lycoris sanguinea var.kuisiana is a demure plant, with smooth petals, in a soft salmon orange color. It has been shy to bloom for me, alternating years at this point. I believe in spreads by runners or roots, because it has shown up at least three feet away from the original bulb. It has never set seed that I know of, but that could be an answer as well! This year, just as the first and only stem was making it's debut, a snail got to the flower stalk and ate right through it! I found it laying on the ground, decapitated. Oh well, one more year I won't get seed! UGG. I brought it in to the house were it bloomed for well over a week. Lycoris make excellent cut flowers!

Lycoris sanguinea var.  kuisiana

There are some truly beautiful man made hybrids and more species as well--these are all hardy in my zone 5 garden, there are more tender species and cultivars for a little warmer location, in to zone 7-8. Dappled light and adequate moisture is all they need. The "neck" of the bulbs need to be just below the ground surface, but mulch and ground covers are a good idea. They are perfect with Hosta plants, and you can pair the different statures with a appropriate mate in scale-as Hosta come in all sizes too! Surprise yourself, try some Lycoris this year, they get better every season!

Sources: Telos Rare bulbs, Plant Delights nursery, Bulbmeister.com and other specialty bulb vendors-even ebay!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Loving Lycoris

When I was little, there was an old farm house right behind my parents land. It had been the original farm house for the surrounding houses that now made up the popular suburb of Mission Hills, in Kansas City. The farm home had been gentrified over time, one family adding a set of iron gates, another a greenhouse, complete with a fifty year old camellia, that always had blooms at Christmas time. One of the features of this property was a garden off the dinning room, that was fenced with ornate iron work, and simple flower beds at the perimeter. Every Spring, fat clumps of foliage would thrust through the leaf mold, looking like giant daffodil foliage-that's what I thought they were! The fact that there were numerous varieties of narcissus intermingled with the non flowering leaves disguised them even more...until on fine late Summer day I was by the garden, visiting my best friend, who's family were the current owners of the house. All around the fenced garden were dozens of bright green stems shooting out of the Vinca and Ivy. A few, had opened, and they were the most beautiful pink trumpet blooms, almost brushed with pale blue on the petal tips, I was smitten, Lycoris squamigera, my first encounter with these fantastic bulbous plants! I noticed them blooming in the older gardens around the city, rarely in new neighbor hoods. There never were any seeds, but they looked like there was going to be seed, just empty pods. When I was a little older, I saw some different types offered in some bulb catalogs, but they were never hardy in my zone 5+ garden. When I was in college, I decided to try to grow some of these tender types in pots...but they refused to thrive for me. Later, I was informed by an expert in this genus, that they detest pots, and if I wanted to grow them, it would have to be in the ground. Meanwhile, I would move the hardy L.squamigera from garden to garden, rescuing old clumps from abandoned properties and vacant land. One day, I was reading through a garden magazine, and saw an article by  a wold famous bulb and garden expert, Dr.Jim Waddick. Jim was already a friend of my brothers, and I knew him by his reputation. He had collected many hardy, special species from China and surrounding Asian countries and introduced them in to America in the late eighties. Specialty bulb growers were selling these bulbs, but they were few and far between! He wrote about hardy golden Lycoris, creamy yellow ones, even an electrtic blue species...and the stunning red Lycoris radiata, more common in our southern states, but hardy here. There was even a large pure white variety, Lycoris longituba, stunning and hardy in zone 5!! His sources, in his article, gave me my first Lycoris bulbs in a whole new color palette, more on these soon! Surprise lilies give a late summer garden what it needs most, the unexpected!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Hyacinth Update in the Month of Love...

Bergamot & Ivy, my design business, just finished up with Valentine's day, a blitzkrieg of a holiday! Everyone always thinks you make a fortune during Valentine's day(s),depending on when the date falls, such as this year-on a Monday, it becomes several days of business for us. The problem is, because it's such a giant holiday for growers, wholesalers and florists/designers, the premium flowers are sold for super premium prices on down the line-from growers to retailers.You pay for quality, plain and simple.                                                                                                                                                                                                              We are not a "rose" shop, that means that we don't buy cases of cheap, South American roses, sprayed within an inch of their lives. We all know the "dozen ROSES- 12.99" specials that pop up during mother's day and especially for Valentine's day. These are frightening concoctions of weak, scentless, usually red roses (bred for shipping, not beauty), tacky baby's breath,  leather leaf fern and an acetate ribbon. What we sell to our customers is the antithesis of that, every order is custom, whatever each cherished client wants, we do our best to deliver. Lilac, sweet peas, hybrid lilies,delephinium, hellebores, hyacinth...we create living works of beauty, to woo your love.                                                                                                                       Everyone wants something different, and special, and that makes for a great deal of work and planning. special containers and vases, just the best selection of Orchids, ribbon to order, FLOWERS to order-from all over the world. Do we make a fortune? the answer is NO, we do not.We pay such high prices, to get the best, that we actually make a lower mark-up, then we would when the demand is back to normal...just to be able to carry the product and make our regular clients happy.                                                                  Most of the year, an event or nice wedding , makes a much better profit because you are working with a set plan, and can order accordingly-like a recipe-no waste. Finally, you have to get many, many orders delivered all over an entire metroplex, as early as possible and in flawless condition...be kind to your florist, they have worked so hard for you!

Now, I had to touch base on valentine's day, but my intention was to give some hyacinth up dates, and share some bumps along the road! Everything was going great, roots were starting to develop, and I forgot about them for a week or so. When I checked up on their progress, I found to my horror, that the spare refridgerator had malfunctioned, and some of my glass forcing vases had ICE forming inside!! DRATS! I lost three good forcing vases to ice expansion, and two hyacinth bulbs as well. Forcing bulbs, should never freeze. Cold, yes-but not frozen, they turn to a rotted mush. Two of the vases were contemporary English vases, too bad, but no big loss, the third was one of my oldest, and although plain, a flint glass beauty in my eyes. I thought it was fine, then picked it up, and the bottom dropped off, a clean break. There just isn't any point in crying over spilled milk, as they say-move on. All the rest of the forcing bulbs and vases survived, thank goodness! I've started to bring out a selection, based on how much growth is beginning to commence.
this is a good example of proper root development and top growth to begin "forcing"

It was fun to pull out the more active hyacinth vases, seeing all the roots and bright green shoots just beginning to elongate. I grew my more rare bulbs in terra cotta pots of soil, those seemed even more robust to me, maybe the soil has acted as an insulator, protecting the hyacinth bulbs from the near freezing temperatures in my faulty fridge. Plump white roots are growing out of the drain holes, and all looks great! I'm bringing a tiered iron and frosted glass plant stand inside, to display all the bulbs and vases to their best advantage.

getting ready for a display....moss comes next.

I'll bring this first group inside, keeping them well watered and cool-warm temperature can be disatrous at this point, the flower stalk needs time to elongate before flowering. Sometimes, if the temperature is too hot, the flowers will almost bloom down deep, inside the bulb, ruining the display. I always add fresh, live sheet moss to my bulb pots, it looks natural and keeps the soil moist and cool.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Festival of Snow

What a day! in so many ways...We, here in the central Midwest of the U.S. are in what is being called a "snowcastrophy"....It is fiercely cold, and the snowflakes are swirling around in eddies as if choreographed to the Nutcracker suite. The downy abundance is forming peaks and valleys, looking more like meringue than just frozen water.

Everyone I know has stocked up with as my best friend Lisa calls "provisions" This includes firewood, good food, chocolate chips (for the necessary oatmeal chocolate chip cookies,) good wine and movies...I have plenty to keep myself busy at the farm, always paperwork, working a large painting for a dear friend, seed starting, movies that I never have time to watch-you get the idea.                                                                                                                                                          When I first got up this morning, frankly, I was disappointed. We had a nice layer of ice from the day before, but only a half inch of the white stuff. I went out, fed the chickens and gave them fresh water, giving them some green"treats", rather than feed the compost pile. After strong coffee and a breakfast of fresh eggs, I noticed the snow had begun again, this time-it didn't stop!

It is truly spectacular out there, but being in the single digits now, I'm glad I'm inside! I received a new camera for the holiday, and I love it, but the memory card is faulty, and only will let me take six images before shutting down. Believe me, this is not the day I'm going to go find a replacement card! A friend I was chatting with thought I should go out and capture the winter moment, although I only had six shots, these are what you are seeing now, thanks Aaron!

I thought I would share two poignant stories with you.First off, two of my amazing designers are blessed with a new baby into their family as of today! For one designer, it's her little sister's first baby, and for the other designer it's her brother in law's first---see, they introduced the happy couple, and of course did the flowers for their wedding a year ago, good job guys! and welcome to Lucille Rose!! We are all thrilled for the happy threesome. A great story of life and birth and fresh beginnings., right? Right. But, and this is a big BUT...at the same time all of that was happening, my third designer has had a sad, sad 24 hours to deal with...Her parents, who are a fantastic couple from Holland, moved to Kansas City to be closer to family and services, getting settled into a nice retirement community that has worked out well for them. Her mother, a charming lady, who is a fine designer in her own right, has been suffering from early stages of dementia. She has had the best of care, but the outlook has not been good for her. Last night, while walking their family dog, she slipped on the ice, falling and hitting her head, she is now on life support, waiting for her children to come and see her one last time before they will turn off the respirator. The blood thinners she has been on, and other health related issues have made surgery out of the question for the family.I send my love and thoughts to the entire family. It does seem ironic, that we celebrate the entrance into the world of a tiny baby, only to be balanced by the sad loss of a loving mother,wife,and true lady-you will be missed by many! Life is nothing if not a true balance, take the time to be loving to one another and celebrate that!