Saturday, January 30, 2010

Things to Do in Winter- Go Somewhere Warm

Last night was one of the coldest of the year. I'm always worrying about the greenhouse and its contents but after much fretting on my part, it survived the -19c temperature.
This seemed like a good time to post a completely escapist sentiment about winter--Get out of town! Here is a picture taken in St. Lucia earlier this month of the view from Jade Mountain.
No, I wasn't actually staying at this hotel ( voted the third best in the world and first in the Caribbean), but rather I was touring one of the luxury suites. This was arranged by David who is the Head Gardener and Manager of the Organic Farm owned by the hotel.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things to Do in Winter- Seed Starting 2

My earlier post on seed starting was a little brief . I fell into the blogging trap of feeling compelled to post something everyday and as a result rushed the discussion of something that is rather complex. What to do? Delete the whole thing and start again? I then remembered my dear friend Prashant Miranda who is a brilliant artist journal keeper. His sketchbook/ journals are an inspiration, and I remembered that in a bound book, you can't erase or remove an image but just have to keep on keeping on.
So instead of pulling the plug on the Jan. 25th post, I'll keep it as a record of that moment in time. And now I'll add something that will explain my enthusiasm for propagating plants from seed.
Many seeds benefit from soaking in water for 24 hours before sowing, one of these is Phytollaca americana (Pokeweed). In fact, this seed has a pulpy coat that inhibits germination, so a soak in warm soapy water removes this and helps speed up the process. I'm sowing a variegated strain of P.americana called 'Silberstein', it has varying patterns of speckled markings and with reddish stems. It should be fun to germinate, as each plant is slightly different. Hopefully I can show the progress of these plants over the next few months. In these pictures you'll see that 'Silberstein' seeds released this magenta pink colour as soon as it hit the water. In the second image, 'Silberstein' seed makes good contact with the growing medium and will later be covered with w thin coat of Turface.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Things To Do in Winter- Seed Starting

When I got back from St.Lucia a few weeks ago I was excited to see that my friend Erika had picked up my seed order from The Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society seed exchange.
It's been a busy couple of weeks so it's only over this weekend that I've made a start of starting to sow the seeds.
My method is pretty simple, I plant the seed in a commercial soil mix amended with Turface. This gives the soil a light easy draining texture and absorbs and later slowly releases water in the pot. I also sprinkle a layer of Turface on the top of the pot. I then water the pot from the bottom by standing it in a bowl of water.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things to Do in Winter-Look Out the Window

I suppose that looking out the window at the garden is a year round activity, but in Winter it is quite often the only connection with the outside world. Also at this time, colour is reduced to an almost monochromatic palette and silhouettes are more pronounced.

Things To Do in Winter- Get out the Books

These books weren't exactly arranged this way, they had accumulated in this order as I pulled them off the shelves. There are a number of bulbous plants in bloom in the greenhouse at the moment and in the excitement of the moment I've been refering to these excellent books to check on growing conditions and to compare my plants to those illustrated. Narcissus, Cyclamen and Veltheimia are some of the plants that are either in bloom or in bud at the moment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Geraniaceae Again

The reaction to my post on Geraniaceae was one of dismay, particularly from those who are not familiar with cold season dormancy. As a result of that I'm posting a few pictures of these plants in the middle of Summer.
These images include one of my Geraniaceae trough ( a rather academic planting of the three main members of the Geraniaceae family i.e. Geraniums, Pelargoniums and Erodiums) as well as one of a pan of small Geraniums. And since there was particular concern for the sad looking Pelargonium endlicherianum I've also included a picture of the flower which will I'm sure convince everyone that it is worth growing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Geraniaceae Inside

Inside the greenhouse the living is easy. There are many things in bloom as the days get longer. The Geraniaceae family again are quick off the mark to get going. Erodium pelargonifolium has started to bloom and E. reichardii has sent out one tentative double flower. In a pan of Semperviviums a self-seeded E. species (maritimum?) has formed a lovely rosette of fresh new leaves. The Geranium maderense is also sending out new growth from the nodes of the older leaves.

Geraniaceae Outside

I was surprised to see how well some of the Geraniaceae family have fared outside this winter. I have a trough planted with small Geraniums, Erodiums and even the hardy Pelargonium endlicherianum. They all look in good shape, in fact one of the Geraniums, a cinereum cultivar, seems completely unharmed by the recent sub-zero weather. The Pelargonium too, looks relatively lively.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Species Narcissus

I love Narcissus ( well I am a Welshman after all). In the garden I prefer the smaller cultivars, they seem more in scale to a city garden, my favourites are N. cyclameneus and it's hybrids,
For the last couple of years I've been growing N.cylameneus from seed and last Fall planted them out in one of my bog-gardens hoping it will bloom this year. I've also planted N. pseudonarcissus, which I'm looking forward to this Spring.
In the greenhouse I grow a few of the tiny Mediterranean species, N.romieuxii, N. cantabricus and N. cuatrecasasii. I hope to grow more and would appreciate information about their availability in Canada.
N. romieuxii bloomed on Christmas Day (my post for that day) and N. cantabricus is just starting to bloom now. I have a mystery flower in the pot of N. romieuxii, as the two flowers started to fade a third bloomed with a completely different form. I understand that there is a lot of variance in these flowers but this, I feel, must be another species or hybrid. To begin with it has a much paler colour and also a flat corona. I will post a picture of this flower which you can compare with the N.romieuxii on my December 25th post. I am also posting a picture of the lovely white blooms of N. cantabricus.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lucky Bamboo

This poor plant had become wallpaper for me, that is to say that its presence was so taken for granted that I hardly notice it. But today, maybe because the sun was backlighting it, that I realized I had a large plant guarding my front door, and even more noticeable was the fact that it was green ! In January!
This Bamboo (Phyll0stachys not sure of species) has stayed in a fairly manageable clump for the last seven years. It leaves are green all through the Winter( in Zone 6b) and it's only in the Spring that they drop and are replaced by new shoots.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Last day in St.Lucia

My trip to St. Lucia is still fresh in my mind, so I'm posting these last few images I took before leaving. They are taken on the organic farm that my friend David manages, and where I was lucky enough to stay during this holiday.
They include the lovely planting of Cosmos sulphureus that greets you when you drive up to the farm. I've also included pictures of some sort of mallow ( I should know exactly what this is as I gave David the seed) and a passion flower. Finally a picture of David (on the left) with the very lovable Moxie and myself with the very silly Fruvus.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TORCH GINGER ( Etlingera elatior)

Seen at The Diamond Botanical Garden, Soufriere, St Lucia.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tropical Harvest

This time last week I was in St Lucia visiting my friend David Leeman who manages an Organic Farm for a well known Eco-resort.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays David and his staff harvest salad greens, as well as tropical fruit, vegetables and flowers. It was with a great sense of achievement that we packed into David's truck and delivered it to the resort, spending the rest of the afternoon on a beautiful beach.