Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better Than Christmas

Every day for the last week, mail-order plants have been arriving at my door - sometimes twice a day. I really cut my orders to the bone this year, and tried very hard to select some really choice and/or unusual things. So far most everything has arrived in good to excellent condition (thank you White Flower Farm, for sending a potted rose, not a bareroot!), with the exception of 3 'Black Cat' petunia plants from Burpee's. They came in a 3-pack. One was fairly robust, one is currently hanging on by a thread, and one flat-out died the day after it arrived. Even though it annoyed me initially to have to buy 3 of them, I guess it was a blessing in disguise, because now I'd have none if I'd only bought one plant. Not worth making a stink about, on the whole.

Most of the catalogs I deal with are highly reputable and eager to give good customer service. No complaints there. The only problem I still occasionally have with catalog operations based in the South is their eagerness to get me out there planting. This causes difficulties because, while they can be out there planting their fool heads off in early April, I'm crazy to try to do much of anything before the beginning of May. They don't always look at zone maps, apparently. Fortunately now, just about everyone gives you the option of choosing your ship date when ordering online, so it's almost a non-issue. A couple don't, so I have to call them and patiently explain where I live and why they simply can't send me my plants before the date I'm telling them. Oh, well....

There are still some orders yet to come, so every day is a surprise. My husband typically orders the most stuff, so it's a real pleasure to go into the house with a box or two and see his face when I say that they are MINE, MINE, MINE! It's just like Christmas, only better - it's a damn sight warmer than it is at Christmas....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bluebirds of Happiness (and other spring delights)

Happy, happy, joy, joy - we now have a nesting pair of bluebirds in our box!! We're so happy, because they came back much later than normal this year - we were afraid they'd forsaken us. It would have been especially disappointing because last year's birds were our first in about 5 years. Something got to those birds that year and killed all the fledglings. Bruce found dead babies several days running near the box, and then one day it was down to one very frightened baby bird who was perched on the bodies of dead siblings in the nest, while Mom and Dad kept trying to coax it out. We found that last one dead on the ground the next day, and no more bluebirds lived with us until last year. So we are happy and excited and shelling out money for mealworms!

The other happy occurrence today was the discovery that my little sweet violets are out in abundance. These are the low-growing violets with the intense fragrance, in shades of white, cream, dark and light purple and pink ('Rosina'). They're always precious to me for many reasons: other than 'Rosina', which I grew from seed, these all came from a dear gardening friend and mentor. Violets always shout "Spring" to me, and they always remind me of my late mother; they were her favorite flower. When I was little, our yard in Ohio was full of them, and I would go out and pick as many as my little hands would hold, take them in to my mom, and she would put them in a small crystal basket. Seeing the violets out is like having my mom drop in for a visit, and never fails to cheer me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Perfect Spring Day - and It Better Last Through the Weekend!

Oh, to have had today free for gardening! Cloudless blue sky, temps in the 60's, a light breeze - what more could you ask for when there's cleanup to be done? Unfortunately, I had a garden club meeting, then other places to be after that. It was a good day regardless, but there IS cleanup to be done, and tomorrow is my day to do it. I hope. Tonight's weather forecast is for possible thunderstorms by afternoon. And I have to say, if that happens, I will have a crabby of Biblical proportions. This is the same thing that happened to me last fall. Every day that I was free all day for gardening, it was rainy and/or cold. Every day that I was tied up all day, the weather was superlative. It wasn't quite so bad when everything was dying, but now that growth is ramping up almost by the minute, every day counts. Already things are budded and ready to burst, so I really, really need tomorrow. We will see what the dawn brings.......

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Goes Out - and None Too Soon!

Today is the last day of March, and I for one am damned glad of it. While indoor spring is fully cooperative, with nearly all my seed trays and propagators full of green seedlings, outdoor spring (or what passes for it at present) is another matter altogether. This morning, I woke up to a lawn and trees covered with snow. Again. Fortunately it had disappeared by noon, but it still honked me off. The only cheering note was that new crocus have come out, and now the striped squill is nearly ready to open. And I will confess, it could be worse - the eastern part of NY and much of New England stand to get upwards of a foot of snow tonight and tomorrow! So I'm trying not to whine overmuch. Still, I was going through some old magazines this afternoon, and I found a quote that pretty much encapsulates how I'm feeling about winter at this point in time. It's by a woman named Kathleen Norris. "There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year."

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Mother-in-Law's Tongue Can Be A Beautiful Thing

I walked into my little conservatory the other evening, and was bowled over by the lovely fragrance in the room. It took me a minute, but I suddenly realized that it came from the large pot of sansevieria, or as it's commonly known, mother-in-law's tongue. I had seen the appearance of the flower stalks (for the second winter running), but I generally don't go in there at night. The strong scent made me grab my Mac and start doing a bit of research. Last winter, I had noted the sweet smell of the flowers, but it was very faint. This in-your-face perfume at night made me wonder if it might be a night bloomer - and that appears to be the case. Internet searching and my AHS Guide yielded some very interesting facts.

First of all, Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii', which appears to be the cultivar I have, comes from dry, rocky areas in Africa and some other countries. The plant seems to produce flower stalks only when potbound, as mine certainly is. It originally came from a dish garden that was sent to my mother's funeral nine years ago, and is now a large clump that's as tall as me (5'7"). It's grown on in the same pot all those years, undisturbed. Sansevieria will tolerate a good deal of neglect; in fact, it should be underwatered in winter, as too much water easily causes the plant to rot. The room temperature (a consistent 70-72 degrees) appears to suit it. According to the AHS Guide, a mature plant in happy conditions will send out flower stalks in late winter. The stalks vary in length from about 6" to 12" inches, and have bright, lime-green whorls of flowers all along them. I'd need to do more research on pollinators, because the buds are all dripping with nectar (similar to peonies) which might imply ants, but as night bloomers, moths would be more likely. Interesting. To interested parties, I hope to be able to post a photo, but I'm not a techie by any stretch of the imagination and I haven't figured out how to yet. You can see photos from similar species on GardenWeb.

I had been fixated on the two flower stalks at the front of the plant, but further investigation revealed that there are 6 stalks in total, scattered throughout the plant leaves, so that explains the powerful fragrance. Once the flowers open, they quickly begin to fade and drop their petals. They're a bit messy, but if you're a fragrance freak like me, that's a minor matter. I'll enjoy it every minute it lasts!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Madness - Meh.

After two glorious, warm and sunny days, we're back to the kind of late winter weather we here in Rochester know and are tired of - gray, cloudy skies and a chill northwest breeze. Inasmuch as spring officially begins tomorrow, it really shouldn't matter, but after being outdoors without a jacket, feeling the sun on my face (and seeing a nice pink glow looking back at me in the mirror) and seeing so many flowers beginning to bloom, being busted back to a de facto winter is just so disappointing. And I don't even have the consolation of going to the annual garden show this weekend. I gave up on the Rochester Gardenscape show after seeing the Philadelphia Flower Show in all its glory. Rochester's show, I regret to say, is a joke. Once upon a time it was an eagerly anticipated event. The Federated Garden Clubs (my peeps) had a standard flower show there that was a huge crowd pleaser. There were special exhibits by the area florists, tons of plants and seeds for sale, etc. Well, they kicked us (flower show) out first, moving us from prime floor space to progressively smaller and more cramped areas, until our last show which wasn't much better than a modified storage area! When they started wanting us to pay a premium rate for that crappy space, we left. Then the florists disappeared. After that, the number of plant vendors began to steadily decline, followed by other garden vendors. Now most of what's in the market area is totally unrelated stuff - foods, clothing, as-seen-on-TV junk. As a garden show, it's pretty much a bust. Even the landscape displays have declined in quality. What really makes me laugh is how the organizers love to tout it as "the next Philadelphia Flower Show". I've seen the Philly show folks - in your dreams....

So what's a Rochester gardener to do on a day like this? Curl up with a cup of jasmine tea and write a blog post, I guess!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Bloom Day!!!

It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - woohoo! This is a fun tradition that I only learned of today, and I certainly will mark my calendar for next year. We garden bloggers are supposed to blog about what's coming up in our gardens on this date so, ever suggistible, I promptly went out to have a look-see. Since I live just south of Rochester, NY and we only just got rid of our season snowfall total of (I believe) 120", the pickings are a bit slim - but not for much longer. My half-acre here in zone 5 contains the following:

winter aconites, 1 snowdrop ('S.Arnott'), 1 patch of bright orange crocus, 1 light purple crocus and some pussy willow stems

The hellebores are all budded and just waiting for a few more mild days to open up. Daffs, tulips, glory-of-the-snow, striped squill, more snowdrops, hyacinths and other crocus are pushing up by the day. Peony tips have begun to emerge. There's no stopping it now, baby - spring is as good as here, no matter what the calendar says.....