Reminders of a Warmer Time

Aglaeonema leaf with insect damage

I am guessing when you saw that title, insect damage wasn’t what you were thinking. But I confess, every time I see this leaf, I think back to the days when my house plants were outside–so late spring and summer.

In my climate, in an optimal year, if I am lucky, they go outside in early May and come back inside in early September. It’s not that September isn’t warm enough for them to stay outside. It’s a quality of light issue.

When they come back inside, the light level drops dramatically for them, even if I place them in South windows. So the sooner I can transition them in, while light levels are still relatively high, the better it is for them. There is significantly less leaf loss.

Orchid leaf

You wouldn’t think an insect would like to chew a leathery leaf like this, would you, but obviously it did. It took several bites out of several leaves. I find this extremely interesting. It just reminds me of what goes on outside that I never see.

Gardeners, Do You Know the National Garden Bureau?

Last year, a lot of people started gardening–and a lot of gardeners tried other types of gardening for the first time.

To assist with this, the National Garden, a non-profit organization which describes itself as one “whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners and those who want to garden, that will inspire them to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer. ”  (That quote comes directly from their web site, by the way), put together a series last spring all about vegetable and fruit gardening for beginners. It was fun and informative and helpful.

What else does this organization do? Well, every year it showcases 5 plants–an annual, a bulb, a perennial, an herb and a vegetable that it selects as its “plants of the year.” This year its plants are sunflower, hyacinth, hardy hibiscus, monarda, and green bean. I don’t always find that its plants are the easiest to grow or the most trouble free, but that’s a story for a different post.

It also spotlights AAS winners, which are generally annuals and vegetables that have been trialed in AAS trial gardens and been found superior for a particular trait. If you click on the photo of the plant they are featuring, they will tell you why that plant is an AAS winner: generally it is more heat tolerant, or drought resistant, or disease resistant than others like it. So it is a good way to find out about new varieties of plants that are coming to market.

One thing to be aware of though is where the plant was trialed.  Generally they are trialed in a number of places, but often they might say, “this is a tomato bred for the heat of southern gardens.” That’s a cue to me that I don’t want to try to grow it in Connecticut–I just don’t have the necessary heat–at least most years! I also probably don’t have a long enough growing season. So why should I set myself up for failure?

It’s always great to experiment and to try to grow things that you’re curious about and you wonder if you can “push the envelope” a little bit with, especially when it comes to things like annuals and seeds which aren’t too expensive. If however, you know something needs a long growing season (bred for the heat of southern gardens) and you’re up north, maybe you want to try something with a shorter growing season just so you’re not disappointed–or buying your tomatoes at the farmer’s market (although there’s nothing wrong with supporting local farmers too!)

So check out the National Garden Bureau for some tips and new varieties. You’ll be sure to learn something!


It’s Time to Order Seeds

There was a time, not so long ago, when printed seed catalogs would start to arrive shortly after Thanksgiving and continue to arrive into March at my house.

These days, between the mail slowdown because of the pandemic and sustainability policies that many garden catalog companies have put in place, printed catalogs are few and far between. And that’s just fine. I don’t know many gardeners that don’t go online–or have the ability to have someone help them with that.

But without the annual reminder of the flood of seed catalogs, it may not be the first thing in some people’s minds that now is when to order for best selection–especially if, like me, you live in a cold place with frozen ground. Putting seeds in that ground–which might not thaw for months yet–isn’t foremost in my mind either.

I do remember last year though. Many varieties of seeds sold out early because of the pandemic. They are likely to do so again this year. So if you have your heart set on something, order now, even if you can’t plant for months.

Once the weather warms up, you’ll be so glad that you did!

Imperfect Chilling

Forced Hyacinth

If you knew me, you could think that the title of this post refers to this winter and me! Even though it has been abnormally mild, I am still constantly cold. My running commentary is that I own a coat that’s supposed to keep me warm down to minus 7 (Fahrenheit) and I am still frozen in that!

Needless to say, I don’t buy the idea that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. If I don’t own enough layers for my very temperate climate, I have no idea how people fare in really cold places.

But what this post is actually about is the hyacinth, above. It’s blooming–in fact, I am not sure if you can tell, but there’s 2 flowers in bloom there. And I am reaping all the benefits of the forcing like the scent. But it’s not the most attractive thing I have ever seen.

What’s happened is that the bulb didn’t get a decent period of chill. I am not quite sure why it decided to bloom anyway. None of the other bulbs are showing signs of blooming yet.

But just to be sure, I have moved them to a cooler spot so that they stay cool a while longer. It’s only been 6-7 weeks. That’s a little early for bloom, as you can see.

But this was a nice surprise!

Inside and Outside

Oxalis regenellii Irish Mist

This lovely bulb spent the summer outside on my slate steps. It’s an eastern area where I stage a lot of my house plants for the summer. I received the bulbs last February, probably started them in April and have been enjoying them ever since.

The common “weed” oxalis

Normally I shy away from plants that look like weeds, particularly weeds that I struggle with– and the common weed oxalis, also known as wood sorrel, is a huge problem for me. You can see it here in one of my pots. I wish I could say it was just in one of my pots. It’s in almost all of them.

The problem with the weedy version of this plant is that it can produce as many as 60,000 seeds (no, that is not a typo–I meant 60K) per plant. You can see 2 plants alone in this container so do the math. Suffice it to say weedy is an understatement.

The cultivated bulbs have no such issues. The biggest issue is below.

Two oxalis started from bulbs in November

These bulbs arrived in the fall and were started immediately. You can see the difference between them and the spring started bulbs. To say I am disappointed is an understatement but I am not surprised.

Unfortunately these bulbs were only available in the fall so this was my only choice. But if I can nurse them through the winter, perhaps getting them outside where air circulation and some strong sun will strengthen their stems (gradually of course) will salvage these. Time will tell. I hope so,though. One of these varieties is supposed to have stunning flowers. Stay tuned….

Lingering Sadness

It’s January. The Christmas tree is down–in fact it is down by the road awaiting pickup and recycling by the town.

All the extra lights–and light–from the holiday are put away so the house seems darker now. And while we are past the winter solstice, so sunsets are very gradually getting later, at this moment, it is still difficult to tell. The one pleasure is that winter sunrises and sunsets tend to be lovely.

But this very cold and dark time of year is always a time of sadness when it is difficult to look forward to the coming spring and the gardens. This year it even more difficult with the news of each day and the pandemic. I try to keep my consumption of that to a minimum and even then, the sadness is sometimes almost unbearable.

Still, I have a lovely crop of forced hyacinths coming along, as well as some new amaryllis. These days, that may be the best I can hope for until warmer weather (which of course could be any day now–we have had some crazy warmth in between the snow and ice).

And before I know it, it will be time to get back out and do a little pruning and weeding–true balm for my soul.

Until then, I will keep my news consumption to a minimum and take walks with the dog. And maybe even start a few more bulbs.