Looking for Spring

My third, and last, camellia is finally in bloom. This one is from my father. He has spent years cultivating camellias - from cuttings and seed. He has more patience and talent in these areas than me. What a beauty it is with a little splash of white in the center. This is my first year with camellias and, having followed his growing directions and advice, I'm hooked.

We had a beautiful day yesterday. I was able to get out for a walk without gloves and heavy winter coat and smelled spring on the breeze when it wasn't coming off the snow banks to the west. A warmth came from the sun that had some substance to it. Today, though, the gloves and coat were back on and the walk much shorter with another storm predicted for tomorrow and Monday. We're all tired of winter and it's hardly over yet it seems.



When I ventured into this world of hydroponic tulip propagation in November - http://northeastgardener.blogspot.com/2008/11/hydroponic-tulips.html - I did so with hopes of having better luck forcing tulips than I had in the past. Previous attempts to manage the conditions necessary to produce flowers had proven unsuccessful. Attaining their essential period of cold without having pots frozen into the ground, providing appropriate transition conditions from outdoors to in, too much water, not enough water. Considerable effort with nothing but mushy bulbs or a pot full of leaves sans blossoms to show for it.

Well six bulbs survived the refrigerator treatment. I lost about a dozen to molding. These bulbs were purchased from a local home store. The six that made it were from a reputable source. Lesson learned there.

Once out of the refrigerator, these six sat on cold south window sills from January 24th until February 17th when they started blooming. I moved them to my favorite spot for blooming plants - the north window behind the kitchen sink. There's just something special about having flowers at the kitchen sink.

I enjoyed the dim early morning light on their buds, watched them open to the warmth of kitchen lights and cooking, followed their tracking the sun across the day as they changed position in the vases, and appreciated their open faces as I cooked dinner all week long. I'd catch their scent while washing up dishes, never enjoying kitchen clean up as much as this week.

This morning the tulips are still going strong. Their fresh fragrance and color a defiance of gusting winds with 8 degree readings outside the north kitchen window. Go ahead and blow you old north wind. We're celebrating spring, my tulips and me.


Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 15, 2009

In the early morning light shining through the family room window, this semi-double red camellia greeted me over morning coffee to celebrate the February Bloom Day. I've had the camellia just about a year and have watched its swelling buds with anticipation since it was brought indoors last September.

The blossom opened on Friday (photo below) and you can see how its petals have unfurled over two days' time to a become fuller blossom.

And there's even a blossom outside today in the coldframe. The flowering cabbage is blooming and I'm hoping it will set seed that I can harvest for sowing late spring. Its yellow blossom reminds me I need to bring in some forsythia branches for forcing.


Cabin Fever

I know I've got a bad case of cabin fever when I start propagating everything around the house except the cats.

The winter starts off for me with normal propagation methods - rosemary cuttings in soil, a couple favorite begonia cuttings in a glass of water. By mid-November, though, I can't resist the urge to try something a little different. Like the hydroponic tulips in the refrigerator for example (see November 14th posting).

But after the turn of the year, winter's grip is on me like a steel trap. Something odd happens and I become a thing possessed with a kind of propagation madness. Just the other day I resurrected a method discovered mid-winter in 2006. An easy do-it-yourself humidity chamber for salvia cuttings. All you need is a short glass vase and two plastic containers (click on photos for larger view).

Snip off a couple top branches of a salvia that's getting leggy (3-4" long stem tip cuttings). I used the Pineapple Sage I'm wintering over under lights. Pinch off the lower leaves and put the cuttings in the vase with water. Fill the bottom plastic container of the chamber with about an inch or so of water and place the vase inside it. With a spray bottle, mist the leaves and the inside of the top plastic container and close the chamber. Within a week you can have a rooted cutting ready to pot up.

It wasn't more than a day later, though, that I was struck with another fit of propagation madness. The airplants had been dispersing fluffy seedheads for a couple weeks now and I hadn't taken much notice of them floating around the house until a friend mentioned them. I pulled my American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation book off the shelf and sure enough I found this simple statement: Raising bromeliads from seeds is rewarding for the gardener...

That's all the encouragement I needed. I studied the suggested method (conifer twigs, such as cypress or juniper, tied into a bundle with raffia and a little sphagnum moss; seedheads pressed evenly into the moss, misted and hung in a warm location with 100% humidity) and got busy improvising.

I pulled out a salvaged Southern Magnolia seed pod, a piece of palm fiber and some raffia. I tied the palm fiber around the seed pod with raffia, misted it with the spray bottle, pressed the fluffy seedheads into the fiber and wrapped a couple more pieces of raffia around it to hold the seedheads in place. I misted the entire thing and hung it in a sealed baggie in a warm spot.

My family's obviously used to this kind of thing. No one has even asked after the odd-looking contraption. Not a rolling of the eyes, puzzled glance. Nothing.

Next it's the baggie seed germination method on some Echinacea and triple yellow Datura seeds. Let's hope spring comes soon or I'll be stuffing the smallest Siamese into a damp coffee filter inside a gallon-size baggie.


The Aeonium blossoms are opening in the cold frame this weekend. They haven't minded the single digit nighttime temperatures, below zero wind chills and daytime 80+ degree extremes when I forget to open the top of the cold frame on sunny afternoons. What a gift for early February.

This morning the bird feeders were empty. On closer inspection it became clear why. Shortly after these shots were taken a cat fight ensued and they scared each other away. Juncos filled the hydrangea below the feeder within minutes and goldfinches, titmice and chickadees followed.

This afternoon the pampered indoor cats crowded in a tangle of legs and fur on the sunny end of the couch.

Feeble attempts to stare down weighty bodies were ignored.
Not worth the energy for a cat fight here, warmth and comfort won out.


In Contrast

In contrast to snowfall that came in overnight on a northeast wind, I could hear at first light the clear whistling "fee-bee" of a chickadee and the canary-like song of a goldfinch, both I associate with gardening outdoors in much finer weather.

In contrast to my desire to stay under warm covers, I forced myself out of bed and went outside to take pictures of:

Contrasting prints of bird feet and cat paws.

Contrasting thoughts of the Bavarian planter under a fresh cap of snow. . .

and overflowing petunias of last July.

And the arbor bench tucked in beneath barren intertwining twists and turns of wisteria. . .

giving way to cool June green.

All that is noble is in itself of a quiet nature,
and appears to sleep until it is aroused
and summoned forth by contrast.
- - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Garden Bloggers' Muse Day February 1, 2009

Open afresh your round of starry folds,
Ye ardent marigolds!
Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
For great Apollo bids
That in these days your praises should be sung
On many harps, which he has lately strung;
And when again your dewiness he kisses,
Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:
So haply when I rove in some far vale,
His mighty voice may come upon gale.

- John Keats, 1884

The simple daisy like blossom of the calendula is a member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family. I've come to realize this is my favorite flower family. The sunflower, aster, osteospermum, gazania, anthemis, yarrow, helenium, bidens, cosmos, tithonia, dahlia, rudbeckia, gaillardia, ligularia, zinnia. The single varieties of these capture my heart in their perfect simplicity.

For other musings of the day visit Carolyn at the home of the Garden Bloggers' Muse Day.