WHAT’S IN BLOOM THIS DECEMBER

A DAPHNE MEZEREUM ‘ALBA’ OPENS A FLOWER NEAR OUR GREENHOUSE WALK, RESPONDING TO THE MILD WINTER TEMPERATURES THIS DECEMBER. IT WILL BLOOM SPORADICALLY – SHARING A FRAGRANT BLOSSOM HERE AND THERE UNTIL MARCH, WHEN THE ENTIRE SHRUB WILL BURST FORTH.

In most years, I can say that I can find something in bloom in each month of the year, but I sometimes have to cheat, and include flowers which might be blooming under glass in the greenhouse, but this year, our mild winter temperatures are allowing me to include outside plants as well. I love snow, and I love winter, but I have to admit that I really don’t mind this unseasonally mild break here in New England. My heating bill for the greenhouse has been incredibly low (so far) – (which, I probably could have predicted since I took the time to bubble wrap the glass roof with insulation this year!). I’m sure that it won’t be long before an arctic blast arrives, so I plan on enjoying it as long as I can – short shirt sleeves and all.

THERE ARE MANY NAMED VARIETIES OF HELLEBORE DEVELOPED BY THE DUTCH FOR HOLIDAY BLOOMS – GET ONE AND ENJOY THIS MOST TRADITIONAL OF HOLIDAY PLANTS.

 Helleborus hybrids from Holland are becoming so common again as Holiday gift plants, as they once were a century ago, that they can now be found at upscale supermarkets and home stores, but keeping them alive indoors is another thing. I keep new ones purchased or received as gifts this Holiday, on the back porch where temperatures dip into the twenties ( with no harm to the flowers). Later, they make their way out to the cold greenhouse where they spend the rest of the winter in a cool spot under a bench. If lucky, they will be planted out into the garden, or, if not, they may end up like last years’ plants – sitting outside the greenhouse door, looking a little less fancy, but still blooming this December.

Here is an odd little gem – one which I raised from a packet of seeds purchased last February, but one which I sowed too late to enjoy outdoors. True French Mignonette (Reseda odorata) – the old fashioned flower of perfumery and Parisian bouquets from the Victorian era. Mignonette is rarely seen today, but it once was a common Christmas flower, as well as an Easter potted plant at florists. Seeds, which were sown in August directly into raised beds in a greenhouse, would provide spikes for cutting around the Holidays according to old gardening books. Reseda could be grown well in the winter under glass, and then after their first picking for the Holidays, they could provide fragrant cut spikes throughout the winter. Today,who would ever bother to grow these plants in this way as the public wouldn’t even know what they were.

My poorly grown plants may perk up now that I am transplanting them into a raised bed, ( the one where I planted white anemones which failed to grow all but one), but even with their scant display of flowers, the fragrance is sweet and rich, reminding me of what a greenhouse may have smelled like a hundred and fifty years ago. I love that sort of thing. Old fragrance, like an antique come to life. An old recording of a voice never heard before like Lincoln – come to life again. Surely, The Lincoln’s would have enjoyed the scent of Mignonette, along with that of violets.

SCENTED GERANIUMS GET MORE APPRECIATION IN THE WINTER, WHEN ONE CAN PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR COLORFUL LEAVES AND FRAGRANCE

 Speaking of scents, I should not forget the scented geraniums which for some reason, seem more special in the wintertime than in the heat of summer. Scented geraniums remind me of my first college job in the school greenhouse, where potted scented geraniums needed frequent trimming and pinching. I like to keep a few of the old-rose type handy, just for nostalgia’s sake.

SPEAKING OF FRANCE, MIMOSA ANYONE? I WILL ALWAYS ADORE ACACIA FLOWERS – THEIR BABY POWDER SCENT AND FLUFFY, YELLOW BALLS.

 Many of you might remember the great displays of winter and early spring blooming acacias at the great spring flower shows in the East during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Gone, it seems for ever, – remember those tall, potted and tubbed trained acacia trees from the Stone family estate (from 1924 until the last 1980’s) which used to grace the walks at Philadelphia, New York and Boston spring flower shows?  They were somewhat  – Hell, they were totally ifluencial to me while growing up, after I first saw them on display at our local Worcester County Horticultural Society spring flower show in the late 1970’s. Even I cannot grow these plants to such grandeur, but do keep a couple in the greenhouse, and when they bloom with their exquisite scent and pale, yellow powerpuff flowers, I am transported back to when I was 15 years old. Dumb, perhaps – that I like such things – but today, few would bully me for appreciating such things (not as it was for my in Jr. high). Horticultural nerdyness? It was all worth it.

And speaking of horticultural nerdyness – rare tuberous alpine Chilean nasturtiums anyone?

In anticipation for a spring bulb and flower show at our local botanic garden (the TOWER HILL BOTANIC GARDEN which yes, was once the Worcester County Horticultural Society and I am involved in bringing back this even this year in a landmark show this February…..more on that soon) , I am hoping to show this pot of a specimen of Tropaeolum speciosum ( or perhaps another one – the labels are crossed!) It’s being trained onto a rather elaborate wire form this year, instead of a random branch from a Japanese maple. Double potted for no real reason other than the fact that its original long tom already had a sprouting specimen in it, and I didn’t want to risk repotting it when it’s delicate wiry stems were emerging this past autumn. I used lots of perlite, to keep the pot light and to aid in drainage. I have just been too lazy to top-dress the pot with a more natural tinted gravel. It shall be done next week, as I am off from work.

REMEMBER THOSE WINTER FLOWERING SWEET PEAS THAT I PLANTED IN SEPTEMBER? HERE IS WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW. THEY’VE BEEN PINCHED BACK, TO PRODUCE STRONGER STEMS, WHICH YOU CAN SEE ARE NOW GROWING QUICKLY.

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