Cult Flowers: Narcissus

~

‘Cult flowers’ appeal to us so persistently that we respond to them in ways that don’t quite make sense.  Their grip on our imagination, our affections, and yes, our resources defy reason.

~

~

Is it possible to fall in love with a genus of plant?  Absolutely. 

Across horticultural history you’ll find characters who left home continents behind to collect them.  You’ll find those who quit their day jobs to breed and raise them full-time.  And, sadly, you’ll find those who ignored their spouse’s better judgement to collect them…. year after beautiful golden year.

~

~

To gain a deeper understanding of the many ways in which daffodils have been ‘cult flowers’ for the last few centuries, treat yourself to Noel Kingsbury’s beautiful and very useful book Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower.  

Kingsbury, a beloved British landscape designer and horticulturalist, takes us on a journey of all things daffodil that actually begins in pharonic Egypt.  Yes, the Egyptian royals were talented gardeners, collecting many of the same plants that we do today:  Narcissus, Iris, lilies, Alliums, and many sorts of fruit bearing trees.  Kingsbury tells us that Ramses II’s  mummy was found with a Narcissus bulb covering each eye.  Now that goes a bit beyond what even we moderns do to enjoy our spring daffodils!

~

~

Because Narcissi return so reliably as winter transforms into spring, they’ve earned a mythic association with time and eternal life. They’re often planted around cemeteries in areas where they perennialize, where they return year after year in ever greater numbers.

Extremely poisonous, Narcissi have a narcotic quality when used medicinally.  They were used, in measured, carefully prepared potions, to sedate and treat pain.   Never mistake a Narcissus bulb for an onion; this has been done from time to time with disastrous results.

~

~

I appreciate the poisonous qualities of daffodils and plant them with confidence where deer shred non-lethal flowers and shrubs.  And I plant a ring of daffodil bulbs around newly planted shrubs and trees, to protect their roots from voles.  In fact, we’ve learned to stop vole traffic to parts of our garden by planting rows of daffodils across their former paths.  Unlike chemicals that must be reapplied every few weeks, the daffodil solution proves permanent, growing denser and more effective with each passing year.

~

~

Kingsbury gave me a good, basic understanding of the various species daffodils known and loved since at least the dark ages.  He quotes medieval manuscripts which describe the daffodils growing in certain royal or monastic gardens, often with small paintings to illustrate the flowers.  He then builds on that knowledge of the species, their characteristics and countries of origin to help explain the work of modern day daffodil breeders.

~

~

There were already nearly 80 distinct types of daffodils recorded in British horticultural records by 1607, when British colonization began here in Virginia.  And yes, those early settlers brought their daffodil bubs with them, sometimes sewn into the clothing they wore on the voyage.

Daffodils were planted early on all over coastal Virginia, and they thrived here.  As European/American settlers moved ever further west, they took their daffodils with them.  So much so, that Kingsbury describes how Native Americans carried daffodil bulbs with them along the Trail of Tears.

~

~

By the early 19th Century, there were 150 distinct types of daffodils cultivated in England.  A Yorkshire vicar dissected all 150 varieties to develop a classification system and discovered that many of the flowers were sterile.  This was in the early days of enthusiasts and scientists understanding the principles of hybridization, and at this time all of the known daffodils were species or natural hybrids.

~

~

Daffodils had perennialized across Virginia’s Gloucester Peninsula when Brent Heath’s grandfather, Charles, visited in search of the farmer who grew a terrific cantaloupe.  It seems his grandfather wanted to arrange personal deliveries of the especially tasty melon.  He found the farmer, and  he also found fields of daffodils, ripe for the picking.  Residents in those days picked the wild daffodils to sell as cut flowers in cities up and down the coast.  As late as the 1980s, daffodils were sold on street corners in Richmond by vendors who purchased daffodils from Gloucester, as soon as they bloomed each spring.

Charles Heath ended up buying the family’s current properties in Gloucester where Brent and Becky’s Bulbs still does business today, and went into the cut flower business.

~

~

That is how the Heath family first entered the wonderful world of growing daffodils.  Charles Heath had connections in Europe, and soon introduced many new European varieties of daffodils to his Gloucester fields, where the flowers were picked, bundled, shipped and sold each spring to ports along our East Coast.  His son, George, continued in the business and had one of the largest collections of Narcissi varieties in North America when his son, Brent was born.

Brent tells stories of how he was instructed at a very early age in how to properly pick and bundle daffodils for sale, and he earned his pocket money by picking daffodils each spring; and later by raising bulbs from small divisions on the family farm, and selling his bulbs.

~

~

Eventually, Brent Heath decided that he wanted to also develop new hybrids.  He was mentored by skilled breeders, and had the knowledge, patience, and attention to detail to develop and bring to market many beautiful new hybrids.  The Heaths are known and respected internationally for their tremendous selection of daffodil and other bulbs, and for the health and vigor of the bulbs they sell.

~

Narcissus ‘Katie Heath’ named for Brent Heath’s mother.

~

Some might wonder why certain people passionately devote their lives to breeding new varieties of a single type of plant.  Once there are already many thousands of named and recognized varieties, why would the world want more?

Consider that it may take a Narcissus seedling up to five years to flower, and once selected, it may take another 10 to build up a large enough stock of bulbs to market commercially.

~

Mary Gay Lirette, a Heath hybrid.

~

Only someone passionately devoted to their art would persist so long in the pursuit of offering a new variety of daffodil to the world.  But there are many breeders willing to make the commitment, and who have the resources to generate new hybrids.

On the one hand, there is a desire to perfect the plant, generating stronger stems, more disease resistance, hardiness, and a willingness to grow well and perennialize under a wide variety of growing conditions.  On the other hand, there is the desire to produce certain combinations of form and color.

~

~

Miniature daffodils appeal to many hobbyists with limited growing space, and many breeders are working now to develop ever more combinations of flower form and color on a miniature plant.

Kingsbury opens his chapter on daffodil breeders with a photo of a delicate white miniature daffodil, with a tiny green cup and recurved petals, which stole my heart.  I skimmed ahead for its name so I might order it.

~

~

Sadly, it was an ‘unnamed seedling’ produced by California breeder Harold Koopowitz, and not yet on the market when Daffodil was published in 2013.  The ability to create such variety within the relatively limited scope of the Narcissi characteristics defines both the breeders’ passion and the collector’s lust for new plants.

~

~

Most of us think about the classic yellow trumpet daffodil as our ideal.  It is sunshiny yellow, has six nearly identical petals surrounding a long, wide trumpet, or corona, of the same color.  It stand about 16″ tall on a soft hollow green stem, and has narrow green leaves surrounding it.

~

Pure white N. ‘Thalia,’ two flowers per stem, blooms beside double N. ‘Cheerfullness’

~

Now, imagine this same flower in white, and you have N. ‘Mount Hood.’ Daffodils may have white, yellow, yellow-green, golden, peach, or pink petals.  The corona may be long or very short, wide or narrow, frilly, doubled, or split into sections, and splayed back against the petals. It may appear in white, green, orange, gold, red, peach, yellow or pink.  Some doubles look like Camellias, their coronas are so full.

~

N. ‘Obdam, a sport of N. ‘Ice Follies’

~

The petals themselves may be wide or narrow, rounded or pointed, twisted, long or very, very short.  Flowers may be scented or not, one to a stem or many, and the stems themselves may be anywhere from 4″ to 24″ tall.

Finding the variations and interesting new combinations makes the work endlessly fascinating.

~

N. ‘Erlicheer’, 1934

~

Daffodils bloom over a long season here in coastal Virginia, some as early as late December and some as late as May.  They arise from the wintery earth to grow and bloom when little else is in season, and then once the leaves have re-fueled the bulbs for another year, they die back and disappear.  If naturalized in grass, the grass can be mown again a little more than a month after the flowers finish.

~

~

Many of us enjoy growing daffodils around shrubs and under trees.  They make their spectacular spring show, and then are gone as the trees begin to fill in the canopy of their summer leaves.  We don’t have them around for long enough to grow tired of them.  In our garden, by mid-spring, a new variety or two opens each week.  As the first ones fade, the late daffodils are just blooming.

~

N. ‘Delnashaugh’

~

I’ve ordered lots of 250 or 300 bulbs of the same daffodil variety from the Heaths each summer for the last several years.  Gardening friends and I divide up the order, each of us growing some number of the same variety in our own yards.  This is a great way to purchase enough bulbs to make a good patch of a variety, without breaking the budget.  Generally, the larger the quantity you can order, the better the price per bulb.

~

~

This year, I’m undecided which variety to order.  I’ve asked some friends for their opinions on my short list of ten varieties, heavily weighted towards the Heath’s own introductions.  I happen to like the more unusual flower forms, like the doubles and split coronas.

~

N. ‘Madison’

~

I also like those with white petals and color in their corona.  I believe we are leaning towards a beauty called N. ‘Gentle Giant,’ which has white petals and a frilly, bright orange cup.  Whichever one we choose, we will be happy growing it.

~

~

Daffodils are happiness inducing flowers, greeting us each spring with cheerful faces and easy demeanor.

No wonder they have remained ‘cult flowers’ over many centuries of human history, growing perhaps more popular with each passing year.  A gardener knows that the bulbs planted this fall will bloom again and again, long past the time when another gardener has taken over the work.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

Advertisements

Blossom XLVII : Corn Leaf Iris

~

Iris bucharica, the ‘corn leaf Iris,’ brings fragrance, beauty and forage for pollinators to the early spring garden.  It was first collected near the city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, in the late 19th Century, in the mountains just north of the border with Afghanistan.  Bulbs were shipped to the English bulb merchant Van Tubergen, who introduced it into the nursery trade.  Some gardeners call these ‘Bukhara Iris’ after their place of origin, high in the mountains of Central Asia.

As with so many small Asian Iris grown from bulbs, the bulbs like cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers.  In their native environment, they grow in gravely soil on the slopes of mountains above 5000 feet.   These conditions are nearly impossible to provide in coastal Virginia without giving a bit of thought to how and where to plant the bulbs.

~

~

These Iris want excellent drainage, rocky, slightly alkaline soil, and full to partial sun.  They are hardy in Zones 5-9.   I have planted my bag of bulbs brought home last December from the Heath’s Bulb Shop in Gloucester in several different situations to observe how they perform in each.

I planted some in the ground, under a dogwood tree, covered in some course gravel mulch, one or two in pots in partial shade, and another couple in full sun, directly into the ground around some other bulbs.

~

Iris bucharica bloom this week at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden.

~

I noticed the first beautiful yellow and white flower blooming in full sun at home on Sunday, in the upper garden near other bulbs.  The bulbs planted under gravel mulch in partial shade had buds and leaves but no open flowers.  The bulbs planted in pots were showing leaves but not buds.

These Iris are called ‘corn leaf Iris’ because the plant itself resembles a corn plant.  The leaves are shiny and soft, growing from opposite sides of the main stalk and resemble corn leaves in their shape and drape.

~

Our Iris were in bud on Sunday, and sport three flowers today.

~

The first flower opens at the top of the stem, but later flowers emerge from where leaves join  the main stem, much likes ears of corn grow from the main cornstalk above a leaf.  The stem continues growing and more flowers bloom as the stem gets taller, for a total of around five to seven  blooms per plant.

Brent and Becky’s have offered Iris bucharica in their catalog for a number of years, but this is the first year I have given it a try.  It is fun to try a few new plants each year, don’t you think?

~

Iris bucharica bulbs have fleshy roots, unlike most other Iris bulbs.

~

I like the delicate, almost translucent quality of the flower’s standards and falls.  Their colors blend so well with the many daffodils blooming now in our garden that my partner hardly noticed these little Iris until I pointed them out.  As with most other Iris, deer and rabbits leave these flowers strictly alone.

I’ve read about Iris bucharica offered in shades of purple and blue, but the yellow and white are all I’ve yet seen available.  They are very pretty and cheerful on these early spring days when we still have nights a bit below freezing and cold winds blowing all day.  The flowers are said to be fragrant, but I’ve not noticed a fragrance.  Others, who don’t live with a cat, may be better able to smell subtle fragrances…..

~

March 21, 2019.  These plants develop very quickly once they wake up for spring.

~

I am told that the secret of keeping these Irises going year to year is to make sure their bulbs don’t get waterlogged in heavy, wet soil in summer.  Raised beds, rock gardens, or soil that drains well would best suit these Iris.  Alternatively, one can wait until their leaves fade in mid-summer and then dig them up and dry them out in a garage for a few months before replanting them when one plants daffodils in autumn.

I am still experimenting with gravel mulch, and have so far experienced great success.  I intend to add more gravel to our Forest Garden in the coming weeks, and will make sure that all the areas with the Iris Bucharica have gravel mulch and just leave them be as their leaves die back.

~

~

It’s looking more likely that we’ll add another bag of these unusual Iris to our fall bulb shopping list, and plant a few more around the garden.  The bulbs increase, year to year, when they are happy, eventually forming beautiful clumps of early Iris.

Bulbs are usually a great investment, and if sited properly, take care of themselves.  Spring ephemerals such as these finish fueling their bulbs for next year and die back, just as you need their garden space for summer perennials.

~

~

These corn leaf Iris came into bloom right as the reticulatas were finishing.  I expect the Iris x hollandica to come into bloom, and maybe even some of the German bearded hybrids to begin blooming, as these little yellow corn leaf Iris finish.

If you love Iris, as we do, and want to lengthen your season of enjoyment, these Iris Bucharica are a good choice.  Whether you add them to a pot of spring flowering bulbs or find a great spot in one of your own borders or beds, this is an unusual spring bulb that you’ll certainly enjoy growing.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

 

Narcissus: Variations

~

A Narcissus is among the simplest of flowers, yet the genus is populated with thousands of cultivars and hybrids.  There are even a few ‘species’ available for gardeners to buy and grow, for those of us who enjoy seeing the purity of what nature gave us before a human hand got creative with it!

~

Narcissus ‘Cragford,’ a pre-1930 heirloom Narcissus.

~

Amazing creativity has allowed all of these fascinating variations, once we figured out how to go about hybridizing new varieties from old.  This was a very passionate topic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Enthusiasts wanted to apply the new understanding of plant genetics to create beautiful and useful new plants.  Others believed that it is wrong to tamper in this way with the natural world.  In the end, there was enough of a market for all of the new varieties of grains, fruit, vegetables and flowers that hobbyists breeding new plants realized there was a great deal of money to make from plant breeding.

Most of the plant breeding was done in small, family businesses or on estates.  The market for these new and unusual plants drove the industry to keep providing new plants for enthusiastic gardeners and collectors.

~

Double Van Scion, or Guernsey Double Daffodil c. 1620 England

~

Today, The American Daffodil Society has divided the genus into 13 divisions, based on the shape of each part of the blossom, and its heritage. 

If this interests you, please find a copy of Noel Kingsbury’s beautiful book, Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower.  You will learn about the fascinating history of daffodils, their collection, breeding, mythology and the many beautiful variations in their flowers.

I am particularly fond of daffodils from Division 11- Split Corona.  The corona, or cup, in the center of the flower is split into sections, often frilly, and curved back against the flower’s petals.

~

Mary Gay Lirette, a Heath hybrid.

~

The corona is often a contrasting color from the petals, and the stamens are yet another shade.  This makes for a flower that looks double, though it truly isn’t, and shows a beautiful, open face to the world.

~

~

Many of the split corona daffodils come along a little later in the spring.  The first daffodils to open in our garden are generally the ‘normal’ looking ones, with a long, tubular corona, or trumpet,  and six simple petals:  Division 1- Trumpet.

~

~

These are followed closely by some of our miniatures of similar form.  Miniature may be classed in various divisions, but are called miniatures because they are only about 6″ tall.

~

Tete-a-Tete

~

We buy nearly all of our daffodils now from Brent and Becky Heath.  The Heath’s are internationally famous for their beautiful daffodils and sell many of their own hybrids.  I am endlessly fascinated with growing daffodils, and love seeing how the slight variations of color and form recombine in so many beautiful ways.

~

Right: Ice Follies, a popular 1953 hybrid that multiplies extremely well.  Division 2-Large Cup.  This is their second spring in our garden.

~

Daffodils, grown from bulbs, are true perennials.  These are tough and persistent plants that increase each year.

~

~

Each bulb sets off new bulblets each spring, so a single daffodil bulb becomes a sturdy clump of daffodils within just a few years.  Many of these flowers also set seed.  If you don’t deadhead the flowers, the seeds will ripen and spread in early summer.  New plants will grow from these seeds, and crop up in unexpected places.  This is how areas around old homes often come to be carpeted in stands of daffodils each spring.

The daffodils you plant will very likely outlive the gardener, bringing spring time beauty to many, many others in the years ahead.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2019

~

 

Fourth Dimensional Winter Pots

~

Gardeners work in the first three dimensions of height, depth and breadth with every shrub, herb, perennial or creeping ground cover that we plant.  When we plant bulbs (or tubers)  in one season to enjoy in the next,  we also work in the fourth dimension:  time. 

Planting spring flowering bulbs on a chilly, autumn day feels like an act of faith; faith in the future, and faith in the magical forces of nature which will transform these little brown lumps into something fragrant and beautiful.

~

Daffodil bulbs, ready and waiting to be planted so they can awaken to new growth.

It is easy enough to dig some holes and bury a few bulbs in the ground as one contemplates the holidays.

But there is artistry in composing a floral composition which will unfold gradually, over several weeks and months.

I learned about this more interesting approach from Brent Heath, master horticulturalist and owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA.

~

~

Spring bulbs open over a very long season, in our climate, from February through May.  When you consider the ‘winter bloomers’ that may be paired with bulbs, like Violas, Cyclamen, Dianthus, Daphne, Hellebores and Galanthus; as well as evergreen foliage plants like certain ferns, ground covers, herbs,  Arum itallicum and moss; you have an impressive palette for planting a ‘fourth dimensional’ potted arrangement.

~

Hardy Cyclamen species bloom over a long season from late autumn through mid-spring, Their beautiful leaves persist for months. Purchased and planted like bulbs, these little perennial plants thrive in shade to part sun.

~

The recipe is simple:  begin with a large pot (with drainage holes) and a good quality potting mix.  Amend that potting mix with additional compost or a slow release fertilizer like Espoma’s Bulb Tone.  You will have much better results if you begin with a good quality, fortified potting mix.  Make sure that there is excellent drainage, as bulbs may rot if the soil is too wet.  You might add a bit of sand or perlite if your potting mix isn’t porous.

~

Naturalized Cyclamen beginning their season of bloom at the Connie Hansen garden in Oregon.

~

Lay a foundation in the pot with a shallow layer of  gravel or a length of burlap laid across the drainage holes.  This helps keep moisture even and blocks creatures who might try to climb up into your pot from the drainage holes.

~

~

The fun, creative part comes from choosing what to plant in each pot.  Keep in mind that different types of bulbs bloom at different points during spring awakening.  I try to plan for something interesting in the pot from late fall through the winter months.  Violas or pansies, ivy, moss, Arum italicum, Cyclamen, Hellebores, snaps, evergreen ferns, Saxifraga, or even evergreen Vinca will give you  some winter green in your pot, and foliage ‘filler’ and ‘spiller’ once the bulbs bloom next spring.

~

When I removed a Caladium last week, I tucked a Cyclamen tuber into this pot of ivy by our kitchen door. We keep something interesting growing in this pot year round.

~

Next, choose bulbs which will bloom in late winter or early spring, some for mid-spring, and possibly even something that will extend the season into late spring.   As you choose, remember that even within a given genus, like Narcissus, you will find cultivars blooming at different times.  For example, plant a very early Narcissus like ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ and a later Narcissus, like ‘Obdam,’ together in the same pot to extend the season of bloom.

~

~

Also keep in mind that there are taller and shorter flowers growing from bulbs.  A Crocus or Muscari may grow to only 3″-6″ high.  Miniature Narcissus may top out at only 6″-8″.  But a large Narcissus or tulip may grow to 18″-20″ tall.  Plan your bulb arrangement with the flowers’ heights in mind.

Mixing many different bulbs in the same pot is possible because different bulbs are planted at different depths.  You can plant in layers, with the largest bulbs near the bottom of the pot.

Once you have all of your bulbs and plant material, put about 4″ of amended soil in the bottom of your pot, and arrange the first layer of bulbs nestled into the soil so there is at least an inch or two of soil below them for their roots to develop.  Cover these bulbs with more soil, and plant another layer of bulbs.  Keep in mind spacing, so that all of your layers will have room to emerge next spring.

~

~

If your pot will contain a small tree, shrub or perennial, like a Hellebore or holly fern, place this (not directly over any bulbs, remember) and fill in soil around it.  Likewise, plant any small annuals, like Violas or snapdragons at the correct depth.  Finally, fill your pot with soil up to within an inch or so of the rim.  Make depressions with your finger for the smallest of bulbs that are planted only an inch or so deep.  This would include tubers for Arum, Cyclamen, winter Iris, etc.

Smooth the soil with your hand, and add a shallow layer of fine gravel or a covering with living moss.  When planting mosses, firm these into the soil and keep them moist.  Fill any crevices between pieces of moss with fine gravel.

The bulbs will easily emerge through the moss, which will remain green all winter so long as you keep it moist.

~

~

Water your finished pot with a dilute solution of fish emulsion.  Brent Heath suggests allowing the pot to drain, and then watering again another time or two so that all of your soil is well moistened.  The fish emulsion ( I use Neptune’s Harvest) has a dual purpose.  It helps establish the plants with immediate nutrition, but it also helps protect this pot from marauding squirrels or deer.  The fish smell will deter them.

If your pot is likely to be investigated by wildlife, try throwing a few cloves of raw garlic in among the gravel.  Garlic is another useful deterrent, and eventually may root in your pot.

~

Violas in late March with Heuchera, Daffodils, and Dianthus.

~

I planted five of these bulb filled pots on Friday, and added Cyclamen or Arum tubers to several already established pots where I had just removed Caladiums to save them over winter.  I am giving several of these newly planted pots as Christmas gifts, and so have simply set them out of the way in a protected spot outdoors.

Once watered, you can largely forget about these pots for a month or so.  They only need light if you’ve included plants already in leaf, or moss, in your design.

~

~

When the bulbs begin to emerge in late winter, move your pots to a sunny location.  Keep the pots moist once the bulbs begin to show green above the soil, and plan to water daily once the flowers are in bud and bloom.  Bulbs grow extensive roots.  You will be amazed how much they grow, and will want to provide plenty of water to keep them going once the weather warms next spring.

~

Crocus with ferns and Ajuga

~

If you have planted up bulbs with perennials, hardy ferns, or a shrub with winter interest, then by all means put them out now, where you will enjoy them.  Then you can simply watch and wait as the show unfolds.

Time is the magical ingredient for these intriguing ‘fourth dimensional’ winter pots.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

 

 

Celebrating Caladiums, and Remembering Their Growers

~

We’ve spent much of the weekend glued to news reports from Florida, watching the progress of Hurricane Irma on radar on our tablets, and checking the National Hurricane Center’s updates.  We have weathered a hurricane or three here in coastal Virginia, and have a pretty good idea what our neighbors in Florida are going through.

Of course, they are facing off with the biggest, strongest hurricane to hit the United States in any of our memories.  And hurricane force winds and rain have swept across the entire state.

~

Caladium ‘Desert Sunset,’ a 2016 introduction from Classic Caladiums. C. ‘Sweet Carolina’ is peeking out to the left.

~

Our thoughts turn to friends and family in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.  We appreciate all that local governments have done to prepare, and marvel at the can-do spirit shown by even political rivals in the face of this catastrophe.  Let’s hope that more than a little of that pragmatic, cooperative spirit lingers once the flood waters clear and the clean-up and re-building commence.

~

Calaldium ‘White Delight’ was introduced in 2015 by Classic Caladiums.

~

Our Caladium suppliers all live and work in central Florida.  Classic Caladiums is based in Avon Park.  Another supplier is based just to the south in Lake Placid.  This part of Florida produces tons and tons of Caladium tubers each summer.

In fact, Florida produces a large percentage of the plugs and plants sold through nurseries on the East Coast.  I hope these hard working, largely family businesses, can weather a storm of this magnitude.  I certainly hope their crops and infrastructure can bounce back.  I would surely miss them.

~

Caladium ‘Gingerland’

~

I try to keep in mind the small businesses that feed my gardening addiction.  It is only through their dedication and continued hard work that such an amazing wealth of plants is brought to market each year.  These folks love the plants they raise and sell.  They work hard to educate the rest of us and to support the thousands of gardeners, like us, who turn to them each season.

~

Caladium ‘Pink Beauty’

~

And I believe that our best gesture of appreciation is to loyally support them with our repeat business.

I know it’s easy and cheap to turn to the big box stores for our plant purchases.  We can get inexpensive bulbs at Costco, bedding plants at Wal Mart, and shrubs at Lowes.  And I won’t pretend that I’ve not ‘been there, done that’ from time to time.

~

~

And yet, every time I return to our local family run nursery, I’m reminded of the level of quality and customer service they bring to each transaction.  Many of the plants they sell are raised in the neighboring county, and come from greenhouse to nursery in an hour or less.  I am glad to support them and invest in their continued success!

~

Caladium ‘Moonlight’ with hardy Begonia is in the pot, and C. ‘White Christmas’ grows beside it.

~

We do our best to support small, local businesses.  When we find a special one, like Brent and Becky’s in neighboring Gloucester County, we deal with them as much as we can.  And we are richly rewarded with fine selection and top quality plants; and also with top quality horticulturalists and fine friendly people!

In fact, the Heaths source the Caladiums they offer each spring from Dr. Robert Hartman at Classic Caladiums in Avon Park.  Brent Heath piqued my interest in Classic Caladiums in the first place, by singing their praises for quality tubers!

~

Caladium ‘Sweet Carolina,’ introduced by Classic Caladiums in 2016. 

~

We come through trying times best when we pull together.  I know that many of us want to give when we see neighbors in trouble, and there are a plethora of charities wanting to channel our dollars into aid to those affected by catastrophe.

But let’s also keep small businesses in our minds and hearts during these challenging times.  Some purchases may cost us a bit more, but we have the peace of mind that our dollars directly support a family business and  a local economy.  They don’t wash into some vast, corporate pool of profit.

Doing business directly with growers and small nurseries is also a form of insurance.  We help insure their survival, and a continued long and happy relationship with them.

~

~

Today, I’m thinking of our friends in dangerous places, and feeling appreciation for our garden.

I’m enjoying our beautiful Caladiums, even as I remember those who grew and supplied them to us.  I hope their lives return to normal soon, that their challenges are manageable, and that we will enjoy many more beautiful years of working together!

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

~

~

“We have to recognise that there cannot be relationships
unless there is commitment, unless there is loyalty,
unless there is love, patience,  persistence.”
.
Cornel West

 


 

Fabulous Friday: The Urgency of Spring

Narcissus ‘Cragford’

~

It’s warm enough again to spend a little time in the garden again.  It didn’t freeze last night, for the first night in several, and I spent a happy hour planting a few more perennials, cleaning up around the Siberian Iris, and generally tidying up in the front garden yesterday afternoon.

~

Narcissus ‘Thalia’

~

We feel very content as we watch the garden spring back to life.  Fiddleheads and perennials push through the soil, announcing their presence once again.  Like out of state relatives you rarely see, unless they want to vacation in your area; these beautiful bits of plant life fill our hearts with happiness at their arrival.

~

A seedling Columbine, grows in the driveway.

~

Of course, the spring clean up presses now with even more urgency as we try to pluck the early weeds and drying leaves out of the way.   Branches, fallen in the wind; almost forgotten perennial stems left in autumn; and a few winter casualties must all be cleared away.

And this is the time to do it, while it is comfortably cool and relatively bug free!

~

Helleborus

~

There is another job needing attention now which might surprise you:  deadheading.  While your garden may be still covered with snow, ours has been re-energized long enough now that the earliest daffies have faded.  And so my last several tours around the garden have included both deadheading faded blossoms, and plucking those still vibrant flowers knocked over by the wind.

There is something immensely sad about these elegant flowers lying face down on the ground, and so I rescue them to a vase.  My vase, a friend’s vase; either is good.

~

~

Now, there is a running debate over whether to deadhead daffodils.  And so I turned to the experts, Brent and Becky Heath, of Gloucester daffodil fame, for an informed opinion.  I’ve been reading their book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, this week.

As with so many gardening questions, the answer is complicated.  First, they advise that most hybrid daffodils can’t set seed.  Therefore, there is no reason to leave the spent blossoms and they advise removing them for neatness sake.  Emerging daffies just look more beautiful if those spent ones near them aren’t crumpled and brown.

~

~

Some of the older varieties, and certainly the species daffodils which can set seed, will pour energy into those seeds at the expense of storing energy in their bulb for next year’s blossoms.  So one must consider whether it is more important to produce seeds at the expense of bloom size or quantity next spring, or whether one can skip the chance of the daffies reseeding in the interest of neatness and next year’s crop.

With that guidance in mind, I’ve been more attentive to deadheading the spent daffies this spring than ever before.  It’s easy enough to snip them off with scissors, but I’m usually equipped with little more than a thumbnail when I notice them….

~

~

A further bit of advice from the Heaths is to snip the fading flower, but leave the stems.  The stems will stay green, like the leaves, for many weeks to come;  making food each day and building up the bulbs for the coming season.

After the blossoms die back, each bulb calves new bulbs from its basal plate.  So the single bulb you planted last fall may have morphed into a small cluster of bulbs by early summer.

~

~

That is why patches of daffodils grow and spread over the years.  After four or five years, you might decide to dig your clump, then divide and replant the bulbs to spread them around a bit.

Do this after the flowers fade, and as the leaves are browning in early summer.

~

~

Even the very small bulbs, known as ‘chips,’ will grow leaves next year.  It may take a year or two of growth before they flower, but a single bulb may grow into thousands when given good care and enough time.

That is pretty fabulous, when you think about it!

~

~

I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to write about each Friday. 

Now that the Weekly Photo Challenge has moved to Wednesdays, I am starting  “Fabulous Friday” on Forest Garden. 

If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

~

Narcissus, ‘Katie Heath’

 

Blossom XIX: First Snowdrops

The first Snowdrops of spring.

The first Snowdrops of spring.

~

We were delighted, and a bit surprised, to discover these pretty snowdrops blooming on the bank behind our house today.  Sheltered, and facing the afternoon sun, these tiny Galanthus emerged to brighten our day with their pristine flowers.

Our bulbs have been popping up all over the garden during the last fortnight.  But these are the first bulbs to bloom in our yard this year.  The premier act, we expect others soon to follow.  Galanthus nivalis lead the season, closely followed by the Crocus and early Daffodils.  I’m happy to see a little clump forming here where the original bulbs have matured and multiplied.  One of the nicest things about many spring bulbs is that they naturalize over time, making spreading patches of  color to delight my gardener’s heart.

~

february-6-2017-flowers-013~

We enjoyed a sunny afternoon in the mid 60s today, and used it productively.  I made the tour and spread a bag of Milorganite around the perimeter of our garden, watching for signs of spring.  I”m still pruning, cutting back spent perennials, replenishing mulch and noticing buds swelling on many shrubs and trees.

We can’t get overly confident just yet.   We expect wintery weather to return by the end of this week.   Williamsburg often endures winter storms right through March or even early April.

~

february-6-2017-flowers-011

~

But with that said, we feel spring in the air.  The Heaths opened their  Bulb Shop up for the season at their Gloucester gardens last week.  I find it satisfying somehow that the first of our spring bulbs has blossomed within a week of their spring opening!  We will make a trip later this month to enjoy their display gardens, see what is new, and perhaps pick up a bag or two of something nice for this summer’s display.

~

These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky's bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

These lovely evergreen Arum italicum are from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. This clump in its second season, growing with Violas.

~

So for my gardening friends snowed under this week, please let these little snowdrops cheer you with their promise of spring to come!  It won’t be long now until your gardens will also burst into the beauties of springtime!

~

Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our 'winter roses.'

Camellia japonica opened its first blooms of the season this weekend. These are our ‘winter roses.’

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Blossom I
Blossom II
Blossom III
Blossom IV
Blossom V
Blossom VI
Blossom VII
Blossom VIII
Blossom IX
Blossom X
Blossom XI
Blossom XII
Blossom XIII
Blossom XIV
Blossom XV
Blossom XVI
Blossom XVII
Blossom XVIII
Blossom XX

 

Wednesday Already?

February 29, 2016 early flowers 055

~

This haunting photo taken on Monday is my lone offering for Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday this month.

It is a shell my partner spotted lying on the sidewalk in Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens when we visited earlier this week. He had an eye for small treasures like this, while I was totally absorbed in the spring flowers we found.

We’ve been enjoying the many birds who visit our garden, but I haven’t the talent Tina has for attracting and photographing them.  I hope you will click to visit her post and share one of her secrets for photographing birds, which is absolutely clever!  And then,  if you have a moment, please also check out her gentle reminders to provide safe haven for our precious pollinators.

We were thrilled to find these trees already in bloom in Gloucester; an early food source for those hungry bees!  The Heaths maintain many hives at their garden.

~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 056

~

We did spot this wonderful guy beside the water garden, guarding some Crocus,

~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 018~

and this beautiful Koi enjoying the bright sunshine on his pool.

~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 022

~

But, I was searching for the earliest blossoms from the Heath’s extensive collection of spring bulbs.

~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 038

~

This little winter blooming Iris unguicularis caught my imagination at planting time last fall, and I planted the tiny bulbs in pots.  The one above is growing by the Heath’s water garden in Gloucester.  The one below is the first Iris to bloom in a pot in our garden this year.

~

March 2, 2016 Iris 003

~

It is still very early to expect to find much in the garden.  Our friend who works in the shop on Mondays reminded us of this.  But I was already headed outside, and knew there would be treasures for those who searched for them.

~

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

~

We found Hellebores and Crocus, early Daffodils and Hyacinths, Camellias and other flowering shrubs relaxing in the day’s brilliant sun.  A cool breeze off the water kept the garden visit brisk and brief.
~

February 29, 2016 early flowers 070

~

But it proved just what we needed on ‘Leap Day.’  We leapt into spring full of hope and optimism, though it still is very much winter here.
~
February 29, 2016 early flowers 012
~
And now it is Wednesday, already.  A very busy week for us, and no time to spend in our own garden before the cold settled back over us today.
No matter.  ‘To everything there is a season,’ we know.  There is time enough for every purpose under heaven…
~
February 29, 2016 early flowers 008
~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens

in Gloucester, Virginia

~
February 29, 2016 early flowers 071

Wordless Wednesday

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 042

~

Brent and Becky Heath’s garden in Gloucester, Virginia,  December 2015

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 041

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 073

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 071~

‘Guardians of the Garden’ keep their watchful eyes always open wide, observing the seasons unfold here at Brent and Becky Heath’s display gardens in Gloucester, Virginia. 

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 071 (2)

~

On this mild December day the gardens sparkled .

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 070

~

Scarlet and orange, pink, lavender, green and white; flowers bloom and leaves unfold.  We played a bit of ‘I Spy’ ourselves, watching for for them amid the fallen leaves.

~

~

Bright berries cling to branches,

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 052

~

and Koi bask in the sunlight which warms their shallow pool.

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 076

~

The Earth is soft and moist; broken here and there with early bits of bulbs poking up through its protective mass, as though we had skipped ahead to March.

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 022

~

We found Daffodils and Snowdrops, Anenomes and Roses open to the afternoon sun.

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 036

~

Vibrant green Arum and Cyclamen foliage unfold their intricate leaves against autumn’s canvas.

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 046

~

Watchful eyes can be found in every corner of this magical garden, pointing out the secret paths and special treasures.

~

~

Suspended in time, the seasons converge here like the faces of a Rubik’s cube;

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 043

~

never truly gone, only just out of sight.

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 030

~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

~

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 059

~

For the Daily Posts

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy

 

December 4, 2015 Gloucester 003

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 654 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest