Monthly Archives: January 2013

Some Favorite Winter Photos

Although no winter here in central MA can ever be described as easy, a few are more difficult than others. Ice storms, blizzards, arctic air,100 + inches of snow are all part of our “normal” winter here .Two years ago we had record snowfall amounts, along with the accompanying collapse of roofs and snow removal budgets. Last year, our annual snowfall was way under normal totals, but we got hit with an  early snowstorm  that caused a lot of tree damage.

This year  we have had about a foot less than usual  of snow, and have been suffering through a stretch of arctic weather with bitter cold temperatures with very  little snow on the ground..and that is the recipe for garden disaster. Snow acts as a great insulator for plants and being all tucked in under a heavy layer prevents wind burn for small evergreens, frost heaving for perennials, and stops  rabbit munching as a bonus. My hydrangeas also will bloom beautifully if their buds have spent the coldest part of winter protected by snow. Only time will tell if we suffered plant loss here in The Burrow, a full report can not be given until May at the earliest, so I may as well just sit back and enjoy the scenery and the fire and the wealth of pictures I have taken over the last few years of snow and ice covered landscapes.

Later today we are expecting 1-3 inches of snow followed by some icing, so it will be a tea and knitting kind of afternoon. Join me by looking through my photos before settling in with your favorite book/project/indoor winter activity.

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Grow Clematis as a Houseplant?

…Oh yes you can!

Given my perfectly well founded frustration with houseplants, I find it  just delightful to discover that clematis can be grown indoors. Thanks to clematis breeder Ray Envision, there are now clematis plants that are as equally happy indoors as out. Ray and his team have a  new-ish series called “Garland Clematis” that will happily sit on your south facing sunny windowsill and twist and twine and then bloom profusely for about 8 weeks IN THE WINTER! How awesome is that.

There is another series, designed for compact growth  and ideal for indoor growing as well, called the “Boulevard Series”, that will  bloom indoors in the winter, but then it is suggested that you cut them back and plant them outdoors in the spring for the best results.

The only bump in the road, as these plants are very easy to care for as long as they are getting enough sun, is availability.

If you lived in the UK, Ray would happily ship you lovely pots of clematis in bud/bloom for your indoor growing pleasure. If you live stateside, it is a crapshoot as to where and if you may find them.

Often Dan over at Brushwood  Vines will usually have one or more in his catalogue listings. The downside of ordering them from here is they are not shipped as in bud/bloom house plants so you must pot them up with a small obelisk or other structure and grow them on yourself.

Many years around Mother’s Day I have seen them in local florists to be sold as gift plants, although they are usually only  clematis florida. Clematis florida is a pretty small climber, usually topping out at  6 ft and staying pretty slender as clematis vines go. The lovely pearly tepals seem to be at odds with the very prominent and “in your face” dark purple stamens and anthers, which also curve inwardly  resembling a spider that has recently gone on to meet it’s maker ( as seen in the Monroe basement on a regular basis).

Currently, clematis florida is making a winter statement in the Monroe picture window where it has been left to it’s own devices to twine around whatever it can grab on to. It has a friend, a bare root start that was not ready for planting in the ground this year ( and whose identity I have forgotten) that has joined in the twining fun but has yet to form buds. In the spring the “friend” will get planted in the garden, but clematis florida is best as an indoor or conservatory plant so it will summer out on the porch and return , as it did this September, to the family room.

I have found that the early bloomers, like clematis macropletala and clematis alpina will generally bloom indoors around the same time they would bloom outdoors which would be in very very early spring, providing  a great boost to your winter weary spirits .You can see Queen of the Houseplant-Tovah Martin’s clematis here.

No matter which variety you try,you can be sure any clematis blooming indoors will remind you wistfully of warm summer days , even if you currently have your face pressed against a cold window pane staring out at new fallen snow :)

 

 

 

 

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Baby It’s Cold Outside

It is cold today. No, not just cold, Siberia cold .Temperatures plummeted into single digits with below zero wind chills and when you step outside it feels like everything around you , including your own fingers and toes , is going to crack and shatter . Even the intrepid corgis do not want to be outside, and that my friend is very very rare.

Yesterday I ventured out to fill the bird feeders, and promptly ventured right back in to assess what I could accomplish indoors where there is heat and no discernible wind. I have been knitting and knitting for Christmas gift giving. I have 5 projects currently cast on the needles as nothing says winter to me like creating lovely warm clothing for lovely cold people, but frankly my shoulders hurt from the repetitive motion and I am a little bored. That means it is time to hit the books and dream, learn, and drool (with a little studying thrown in there as well) about all things plant.

For christmas Wil bought me some very useful books. First off he got me The PHOTOgrahic Garden by Mathew Benson. The aim here is to learn how to better capture my garden through pictures even though I am often faced with difficult lighting ( full blazing sun) and encumbered by unfamiliarity with my camera functions. This book , accompanied by the most useful Nikon 5100 instructional tome by Rob Sylan, has been sitting next to the couch and in moments of free time I have been scouring them for technological info and practicing using my camera settings . Each manual gives little assignments at the end of each lesson that are most helpful, and neither is so technical that my eyes glaze over when I am reading them.( That is my highest form of literary praise ;)   )

Only time and/ or you , will tell if my photography improves or not.

Wil also bought me some eye candy books, which are awesome diversions in this weather. Bringing Nature Home was a book I had checked out of the library and loved so much I requested it on my amazon.com wish list. The premise of this stunning volume  is that you can enhance your living space indoors year round with plant material from your backyard, which is one I firmly believe in and practice . The authors are  lifestyle photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo and floral arranger Nicoltte Owen , and the arrangements they make and photograph take you on a journey through the seasons in the most delightful manner. Although many  designs are as simple as  artfully arranged branches, each summons you to a particular time and place in the garden  and gives you clues how to capture those fleeting moments in a vase indoors. My favorite is an arrangement of blackberry branches and dahlias of wonderful complementary hues. Simple,  beautiful, annd evvocative of time and place. In other words, perfect. This book is a joy to read and look at from begining to end .

The other eye candy book, In the Garden by Stacy Bass , I have yet to read, but one glance at the full- page size images taken at 18 private New England gardens, and I know I will devour this cover to cover .

On my nighstand for the past few months has been Dream Gardens of England  and each night before  bed I have been reading about and viewing a few of the 100 gardens featured in this beautiful book ( I am up to 76 Saling Hall in case you were interested ).

Talk about dreaming ! If only I had an old castle/stone walls/200 year old beech hedges/moats/6 hectares of land that has been in the family for 400 years, boy would I be happy! But that is the point of the book  for me, to dream , to wish , to covet, and maybe recreate bits and pieces on a much much smaller and less endowed estate. When I get to 100 I will be sad but…

for my birthday I was ever so grateful to recieve this gem, Gardenalia and it is sitting under Dream Gardens waiting take its place.The term gardenalia refers to all the non-plant material we adorn our gardens with ( statuary, furniture, containers , knick knacks and the like) , and this book focuses on those with a vintage flair, which is  right up my alley. Those of you who have been here ( or seen photos) know full well I am a junker, flea market hound, scrounger and re-purpose-er. I love antique stores, Brimfield , and haunt second hand stores looking for treasure which I display and constantly change up in my indoor and outdoor spaces. This book has my name all over it ( well I wish it did, I need to get going on that ).

On the studying side of my winter reading, these books on Botanical Latin top the list. I have to give a talk on the subject in February, but lecture aside, the topic fascinates me. Based on both Latin and Greek, and the binomial nomenclature system of Sweedish Naturalist Carl Linneaus , then seasoned with” latinized” names of patrons and botanists, Botanical Latin has such an interesting evolution. Full of science, history, and peppered with lots humor not only from some of the word derivations *, but from  people try to pronounce what is now a dead and non-spoken language that has more exceptions than rules, studying it is not the drudgery one would assume.

I love Gardener’s Latin by Bill Neal for all the interesting facts and fables he includes, and Harrisons Latin for Gardeners is a booklovers delight  with its textured cover, thick paper ,gorgeous illustrations and ribbon bookmark as well as its informative plant histories and compilation terms and names. The Hamlyn Guide to Plant Names in indispensible for the sheer volume of names , both descriptive and actual ,with the added benefit of common name cross referencing .

After I finish all these, I have a library list as long as my arm  and I am hoping to catch up on some of the non-gardening titles I have on it and maybe even squish in a little fiction ( Christopher Moore’s new book and the latest in Bernard  Cornwell’s saxon saga are waiting )

Now I need to know ….what  is on your bookshelf?

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*like  the latinized word isabellinus meaning dirty yellow or tawny , that comes from the scandalous story of  the Archduchess Isabella of Spain who vowed not to change or wash her underwear until her father Philip II won the seige of Ostend which went on for three years. Tee-hee…potty humor…now go tell your garden club about your newest plant aquisition  eremurus isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’ with a straight face lol

** plant porn: a snapdragon I picked from the garden right before the christmas snow is blooming now ( admit your jealousy and move on)

and my amaryllis is now sportng 4 gorgeous flowers with several more in bud!

 

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