Posts Tagged ‘blossom’
For contrast, behold December 14, 2014. This wasn’t the first snow of that season. In fact, we’d had an otherworldly freeze in November that foreshadowed the miserable sustained cold to come.
Nearly every gardener in the United States in winter of 2014-2015 marveled at the crazy weather. Some areas—the Pacific Northwest, for example—experienced crazy, spring-and summer-like weather in what are typically the coldest months. In the Northeast, we had an unbroken string of days so cold that perennials thought they’d moved two hardiness zones north.
Here we go again. But this winter’s reports are different. Gardeners everywhere have been reporting on annuals going strong well into December—annuals that would typically wither and die in October and November. Gardeners have also reported perennials in bloom either way later than they should be, or way earlier.
It’s my turn!
Hardy perennials in a mild winter
While I garden to grow food, I’m paying more and more attention to ornamental plants. In the past few years, my wife and I have added quite a few. My flowering perennials have been just as confused by the weather as so many other perennials across the country. Photos tell the story.
This year, eight days farther into December than last year’s snowy photo above, the newest variety of viola I set in the garden in autumn was still producing buds.
On December 27, my three-year-old viola patch sported blossoms. It didn’t give up until biting cold arrived in early January.
The All-America Selections winner I acquired at a trade show in 2015 is a dianthus (Jolt Pink F1) that didn’t come with a cold hardiness rating. It looked good in the garden all summer and fall, and had a few blossoms on December 27. Even after low temperatures in the teens, it is holding onto blossoms. I suspect it will continue producing in 2016.
Not a late blossom, but rather a very early blossom. I started with hellebores three seasons ago and added two new plants last summer. In my experience, hellebores (you might know them as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose) bloom about when crocuses bloom—perhaps lagging by a few days. However, I’ve seen hellebore blossoms poking out from snow banks with no crocuses in site. I’d guess different varieties of hellebores blossom at different times. Seeing mine in bloom on December 27 was a surprise. One of my older plants has already put out a dozen or so pink buds, but it did that last winter as well and none opened until March.
The coldest days of winter and a typical central Pennsylvania snow reaffirm the area’s USDA hardiness zone rating. Freesias would not survive this winter outdoors.
Freesias! I took a flier last spring and bought a package of freesia bulbs on closeout. I’ve never grown freesias. I couldn’t have identified them had someone led me to a freesia patch to harvest a few for a bouquet.
Knowing so little about them, I planted twelve freesia bulbs according to instructions on the package: buried many inches deep in a 12-inch container. In a few weeks, exactly two plants emerged. Eventually they blossomed and I fell in love with their fragrance; freesias smell like flowers, but not like any I’d sniffed previously.
By summer’s end, the two freesia plants were done. The temperature dropped, a few weeds sprouted in the freesia planter, and one day three new freesia sprouts appeared. This was an aha moment! Freesias, apparently, draw motivation to sprout from a mild cold spell. The package had identified freesias as annuals in my hardiness zone, so I suspect a freeze would have killed the bulbs. But they were far from dead; there had been no freeze.
Still knowing little about freesias (you’d think I could read something), I guessed that sprouting in autumn and then being put into cold storage would overtax the bulbs. Now that they’d sprouted, I figured they’d need to mature and recharge themselves to make it through a dormant period.
Being uncommitted to ornamental plants, the most I was willing to offer was a place on the sill of a south-facing window. The freesias have persevered! Seven bulbs sprouted and have grown gangly leaves that hardly hold themselves upright.
I’ve watered occasionally and broken off a dandelion whose tap root has a death grip in the soil. Other than that, I paid no mind.
Until last week.
It’s so dark in the basement where my freesia pot sits on a windowsill that there’s barely enough light to take photographs. Still, the plants are abloom and the basement room is redolent of spring.
Freesias in Winter
Two weeks ago I brought an assortment of plants back from MANTS, a horticulture industry trade show in Baltimore. I set the plants on our ping-pong table which catches some light from the south-facing window where the freesias sit. As I was setting up electric lights for those plants about five days ago, I noticed the scent of spring! Sure enough, there was a blossom on one of the freesia plants.
My freesia planter sports two sun-starved flower stalks laden with buds. Five days after the first bud opened, a second is about to burst. It seems likely the blooms will continue until it’s safe to move the planter outside.
The lifecycles of my freesia plants, I’m sure, are severely screwed up, but that will remain their problem. I’ll move the planter outside in spring and back in autumn. If the plants eventually synch with the seasons, I’ll give them a cool, dark corner to winter over next year. Otherwise, I suppose they’re doomed each year to grow gangly and watch from my south-facing window while the snows fall.
A few planting beds at Cornell University’s Plantations hold a variety of peonies unlike any I or my dad have grown over the past 50 years.
Please forgive me for stepping away from my kitchen garden. I’m still working on my dad’s house in Ithaca, and on this trip I discovered Cornell Plantations was running a plant sale. Of course, I went, and it was hard to resist buying. There were so many plants I’d love to have taken home, and all at great prices!
I exercised self-control, and I also grabbed some photos. Cornell Plantations is a show and research garden. It hosts a huge collection of plants. Themed gardens show off plants from all over the world, and it’s easy to spend several days exploring. Along the walk from my car to the plant sale, there were several raised beds planted in peonies.
Cornell’s plant sale offered many shades of heucheras, the most dramatic of which was the particularly red-leafed plant in this photo.
When I was a kid, peonies were floofy, aromatic, gorgeous flowers at the back of the yard near the rhubarb patch. I used to watch ants crawl around on the peony buds and later I’d marvel at the giant flowers that bowed their supporting stalks to the ground. Years later I encouraged my wife to plant peonies, and we had three varieties until this past winter – one of them didn’t survive. All three varieties were just like my dad’s but in three colors: pinkish-purple, pink, and creamy white with pink inclusions.
Cornell’s peonies have peony leaves and stalks, but the flowers are barely like my dad’s peonies. I captured a whole bunch in pixels along with a few photos of the area hosting the plant sale. The photos tell the story, though the embedded slideshow at the end simply glorifies peonies!
An enormous pergola housed a huge collection of what must have been shade-loving plants adjacent to the plant sale. Unrelenting sunlight cast shadow stripes onto everything beyond a rope we were not permitted to pass.
And the peony slideshow:
In late spring or early summer, a starburst flower explodes on the top of an onion plant’s center stalk.
I hope you’re growing onions in your small kitchen garden. Onions provide a rather poor return on your gardening investment: if you don’t have much space for a garden, you’d do well to consider other plants that produce more food per square inch. However, onions put on an impressive display.
Most gardeners start with sets which are essentially tiny onions. Once planted, a set sprouts fleshy green shoots that grow a foot-and-a-half long and longer. Then, a ball starts to form with its top showing just above the soil’s surface. Through the growing season, that ball grows larger as the plant produces a starburst flower on its tallest stalk.
The flower eventually fades, leaving new onion plants ready to go in the soil. Finally, the fleshy green stalks wither, leaving only the onion itself stuck partway into the soil.
Life-Changing Onion Folklore
When I was a kid, my grandmother demonstrated a characteristic of onions that I’ve seen presented nowhere else. To impress upon you the full impact of this life-changing onion lore, I prepared a short video of the presentation she gave me those many years ago.
Please take two minutes to learn about this remarkable characteristic of onions so you can apply the knowledge in your own small kitchen garden: