A SUNNY JANUARY DAY UNDER GLASS

Can you guess what this plant is – – ?
Thankfully, we are having a sunny break here in New England, and even though the temperature outside the greenhouse remains below 20º F, inside, the sunshine warms the air near 70º.  Spending a day working in a greenhouse in January is something one can hardly complain about – the scent of soil, the simple joy of turning on a hose and getting a little wet, the moist, cool air and the sweet fragrance of whatever is in bloom offers a contrast so rare when the air outside is essentially dry and hostile. After the big freeze and associated drama this week, I spend a few hours rearranging plants and repositioning some benches which had to be moved for the workmen, when I discovered a surprise – a beautiful Cymbidium elegans in bloom. 
Cymbidium elegans
Cymbidium elegans is a species more likely found is the collection of a serious orchid grower than at a retail store, as it is not easy to find ( Santa Barbara Orchid Estate has a few, and it’s where I purchased mine a couple of years ago – this is the first time it has bloomed.). Unlike most Cymbidium species, this one, which comes from Northern India, Nepal and Bhutan, has blossoms with a unique form, as they don’t open completely. They look like lemon colored bells,  appearing more like a limp tuberose stem than an orchid. This species has a light fragrance, and pendant floral scapes when the plant is mature.

I SET MY BULBS WHICH HAVE BEEN CHILLING SINCE OCTOBER OUT ONTO A BENCH TO FORCE

Joe and I are hosting the American Primrose Society next weekend for our annual Primula Society Winter Luncheon, which of course includes a greenhouse tour – like a little garden tour in the middle of winter. Always popular, I usually try to clean or rearrange the greenhouse during my Christmas break from work, for for some reason, that never happened this year ( skiing, drinking, sleeping, etc). So today I spent a few hours arranging plants so that things just made more sense. I noticed the many pots of bulbs which have been chilling under the benches in the dark nooks of the greenhouse, getting ready for the big spring bulb show at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in February.

I AM FORCING A COLLECTION OF MUSCARI, EVERY SPECIES AND SELECTION THAT I COULD FIND – NEARLY 25. MUSCARI, or GRAPE HYACINTHS PRODUCE FOLIAGE EARLY, SOMETIMES EVEN EMERGING IN THE AUTUMN WHEN OUT IN THE GARDEN.
I WAS TOO EAGER, SINCE THESE BULBS ARE NOT YET READY TO FORCE, NEEDING AT LEAST 2 or 3 MORE WEEKS, SO BACK THEY WENT INTO COLD STORAGE. WHEN READY, THEY WILL ONLY NEED 2-3 WEEKS OF TEMPERATURES AROUND 68º, AND I NEED THEM IN PEAK BLOOM AT THE LAST WEEK OF FEBRUARY.

I am attempting to force enough bulbs to set a display on a 12 foot table in a window (We’ll see how that goes, as so much can go wrong when trying to time bulbs to be blooming on a specific day), but I made a big mistake – I was a little too eager to pull the now emerging bulbs out of cold storage and set them on the benches in the warm sun. I potted them up on October 11th, and they need at least 15 weeks of cold temperatures under 40º F before forcing. Yes, I know, some books and sites will say that many bulbs only require 8 – 10 weeks of cool temperatures, and I too have forced many bulbs before their time, but for an exhibition I think that perfection is in order. So back they went under the benches for three more weeks.

I ONLY LOST A FEW PLANTS WITH OUT FREEZE THIS WEEK, MOST OF THEM PELARGONIUMS OR GERANIUMS, BUT A FEW SURVIVED, SOME, EVEN IN BLOOM.

I WAS A LITTLE SAD TO SEE THAT THIS BUDDLEA ASIATICA FROZE, AS IT USUALLY PROVIDES FRAGRANT FLOWERS THROUGH THE COLDEST MONTHS, BUT I BELIEVE THAT THE TRUNK IS STILL GREEN. THIS PLANT IS PLANTED IN THE GROUND.

THE VELTEIMIA BRACTEATA ‘LEMON FLAME’ WHICH WERE FROZEN HAVE BOUNCED BACK WITH LITTLE TO NO HARM. EVEN THE BUDS LOOK LIKE THEY SURVIVED.

HOLIDAY PLANTS HAVE BEEN MOVED BACK INTO THE GREENHOUSE WHERE THEY CAN ENJOY THE DAMP, COOL CONDITIONS.

EVEN A SINGLE VIOLA ODORATA CAN SCENT THE GREENHOUSE LIKE VIOLETS. I ALWAYS ASSOCIATE THIS UNIQUE SCENT WITH WINTER GREENHOUSES.

AND LOOK WHAT ARRIVED IN THE MAIL TODAY – MY NARGS SEED ORDER. ONE OF THE FINEST BENEFITS OF BEING A MEMBER OF THE NORTH AMERICAN ROCK GARDEN SOCIETY. TWENTY FIVE CHOICES IN THE FIRST ROUND, AND THEN THERE IS A SECOND ROUND – WITH MANY WILD COLLECTED SEEDS FOUND NO WHERE ELSE.

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