What a Difference A Little Warmth Makes!

April in Connecticut was nasty! It was the 5th or 6th coldest April on record (and our records go back into the late 1800s, so that’s a good bit of weather to compare with!)

We got almost 2″ of rain above average–you won’t ever hear me complaining too much about rain, but when it’s so cold, extra rain is extra ugly.

And we had over 6″ of snow above average. That I will complain about!

But so far the beginning of May is making up for it–or as I always say, we only have two seasons here in this state, winter and July.  We haven’t had much temperate weather–it’s either been below average (or much below) or much above. I presume that’s how averages are made.

Still, when I got back from Oklahoma, I found all this in bloom!


Azaleas were everywhere ( as were forsythia, but I don’t have those)


Magnolias similarly were everywhere. I have a star magnolia, but I am a bit concerned that it somehow died over the winter. I see no signs of life–either blossoms or leaves. This is a 30 year old tree. I hate when that happens!

My yellow magnolia is doing fine and will be in bloom shortly.


Bulbs are popping up in places where I planted them–and where I didn’t. More about that in another post.


My weeping cherry–which is always later than the magnolia–is spectacular.


And this funny plant–petasites japonica–is doing quite well because of all the moisture. It will do well as long as it’s moist. If it becomes hot and dry, it will get ratty and I cut it back.


So I was very pleased to see spring at last on my return.



Holiday Plants


Not quite what you were thinking of for Easter or Passover plants, was it?

I rarely have amaryllis for Christmas.   There’s just too much else going on: all the lights and decorations and the tree and glittery wrapping–there’s no real ability to appreciate these lovely bulbs.

And believe it or not, I started 3 of the 4 of them at different times. Somehow they just all decided to bloom at once.  What a bonanza . My Easter Lily is wasted.

Here are some closer photos.


This is Red Peacock. It’s a double,  with an intermittent white stripe.


This is Sweet Nymph,  which is a coral pink.


This one is occasionally available in box stores.  It’s a semi-double called Dancing Queen.


And finally my hellebores are opening. This is actually the Christmas rose, I think.  The Lenten rose is still barely showing a bud. Things move slowly here in the frozen north!

Wordless Wednesday


This is one of four amaryllis bulbs that I have coming along now. This particular one, called ‘Gervais’ has three stalks of flowers. You can’t beat these huge bulbs for indoor blooms (& yes, I know some folks can grow them in gardens. I can’t).


I did find these at my grocery store, however,  and once they have finished blooming I will be able to plant them in my garden. In the meantime,  I will enjoy them inside.

It’s Meteorological Spring

March 1 begins meteorological spring. That being said, it sure doesn’t look like that around my house.


This is the one bright spot. It’s my witch hazel, ‘Jelena.’


Its bright blooms can literally be seen from all over the yard. They can even be seen from the second story of my house!


But everything else, not so much. Here are my snowdrops–or not.


The chives on my porch are doing well–but they are in a glassed in environment.


And while these hellebores are called Lenten roses, we’re already well into the second week of Lent. They have some catching up to do, I think.

A few more freakishly warm 70 degree days are needed before my landscape catches up to where it’s supposed to be–but that’s okay. I’ll settle for what I have for now.

Amaryllis for Winter Color


If paperwhites are the “winter quick fix” bulb, amaryllis are more of a legacy bulb.

When I lecture on house plants, I have a handout that says that none of our “Christmas” or holiday gift plants have to toss aways after the holiday is over.  Most people toss the poinsettia because they can’t bear to look at the plant–or because it really hasn’t been properly cared for in the home and has lost its leaves and colorful bracts and is nothing but twigs by this time of year.

But in Mexico, where it is a handsome shrub, it is clearly a perennial and it clearly blooms each year on its own without anyone resorting to uprooting it an putting it in a closet (can you imagine? What nonsense!) We just need to get over our idea of what the “bloom” looks like.

The same with amaryllis. These plants can live for years provided that no disease or insects infest them. If that happens, because I am an organic gardener, I always practice triage–depending on the severity of the disease or insect, I will generally compost the bulb rather than have it infest the rest of my collection. I probably have 16 amaryllis and I don’t want anything damaging the rest of healthy collection!

I am a bit “un-traditional” about when I ask mine to bloom as well. I don’t try to force them into bloom for the holidays. There’s just too much going on at that time of year. I don’t appreciate their beauty then. Now is when I want to see amaryllis blooming and so I have one in bloom and several coming along behind it. It makes a long winter bearable.

For a great idea about care from how to select a bulb all the way through to care after blooming, several of the extension services have nice fact sheets. This one from the University of Minnesota (where, with their long winters they are no doubt as starved for color as I am!) is exceptionally good!

Finally, because choosing a bulb is so important, try to choose one from a garden center where you can pick it up and touch it yourself, or order it from a reputable bulb grower.

While there’s nothing wrong with those “bulb kits in a box,” the bulbs tend to be smaller, and I have gotten bulbs with red blotch fungus. The only time this happens to me is from those kits in the box. You get what you pay for!

In fact, if you notice in the above photo, the bulb in bloom is from a “kit in a box.” First, notice how it is significantly smaller than the other two, both of which were purchased from reputable growers.

Next, notice the red line all the way up the stem–that’s not a good sign. Finally notice the distortion on the flowers–again, not good.

Don’t be alarmed by the “pale” color of the foliage on the other two bulbs. In this photo, they had just come up from my basement forcing room, which had no natural light. They are now a healthy green.

So I will repeat–you get what you pay for–be careful of the bulbs in the box!