Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Need More Corydalis

Corydalis solida 'Dieter Schacht' (named after the former curator of the Munich Botanical Garden), is always about the first corydalis to bloom in our garden, which is reason enough to grow it; the very bright, clear pink flowers are another reason. I have been adding corydalis varieties to the garden for the last two years, but need more.
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Fine Spring Day In Iowa

What a difference a day makes!
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Goodbye To Spring

With predictions of 4-8 inches of snow and 25 mph winds tonight, spring (and probably a lot of the spring flowers) are exiting the stage. At least this storm isn't ushering in the terrible Arctic cold blast that seems to descend on us every spring lately, killing or maiming much of the garden; the low temperature will be in the twenties this time. Now I wonder what I did with the snow shovels?

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Soldier Of Spring

With snow predicted for tomorrow, the garden trembles; yet one plant carries on as if nothing is amiss, blooming through rain and snow... it is hepatica nobilis, the liverwort. Pictured above is the variety japonica, but our native varieties acutiloba and obtusa are also troopers; true soldiers of spring.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Springtime Gold

Eranthis hyemalis and cilicica (the two species of winter aconite) have been charming little residents of our early spring garden for many years. This year they were joined by Eranthis x tubergenii 'Guinea Gold', a hybrid between the two species just listed, which has larger, deeper gold flowers. Apparently there are impostors that are sold that are hybrids as noted, but not the specfic selected clone of that cross that is truthfully called 'Guinea Gold'. I'm a little suspicious of my purchase, as the true 'Guinea Gold' should have bronzish foliage; I think mine did at first, but has now faded to light green. My bulb does show astonishing vigor, and very large flowers (well, large in this case is relative; the flowers are the size of a quarter). So, it may be the real thing; time will tell, as the true 'Guinea Gold' is a sterile hybrid.
I'm now envisioning a raised, rocky spot covered with these bright little sunbeams, interlaced with an early, deep purple crocus... oh, yeah!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Go Figure...

One of the more interesting questions in horticulture is why certain plants grow great in one garden, and disappear in another. For example, crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis) have a reputation for being very finicky but they grow like weeds here, and I have no idea why. Both of these clusters were planted as single small offset bulbs two years ago; now each is a clump of five. It must be something in the water...
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Erythronium dens-canis 'Pink Perfection' is the first dog tooth violet to bloom in our garden this spring. Dens-canis is the European dog tooth violet, native to the mountainous areas of southern Europe. All the Erythronium species are native to North America except for the dens-canis complex, which is comprised of four species or sub-species; the southern European dens-canis, then as you travel progressively east, E. caucasicum, E. sibericum, and E. japonicum. Some lump them all under dens-canis, but the plants are distinct enough to assign each its own species.
'Pink Perfection' is a beautiful named selection of dens-canis with its flowers an indescribably lovely shade of soft pink.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Galanthus fosteri

This is a species of snowdrop that I think probably shouldn't grow here, as it is native from the Eastern Mediterranean (what used to be called the Levant), up into Turkey. I grow it in kind of a dry, shady spot, and it seems happy enough. It has two green spots on each inner petal, the lower of which has been described as horseshoe-shaped; it is a very distinctive little snowie.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kiss Of Spring

This is Crocus korolkowii 'Kiss Of Spring'; a selection of an early-flowering buttercup yellow crocus with deep maroon feathering on the outside. It is native to the dry mountains of Central Asia in the "stan" countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; "stan" means "the country or place where one dwells". Thus Afghanistan is "the place where the Afghans dwell". Crocus korolkowii, coming from dryish, very well-draining alpine conditions, is prone to rot, so I have it planted on the upper side of a small ravine with early spring exposure to the sun. It seems content, and favors our garden with little cups of sunshine in earliest spring.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Galanthus Bitton

Galanthus 'Bitton' is just a very lovely little selection of G. nivalis, supposedly originally found many years ago growing under a hedge by the famous flower bulb gardener and writer, E. A. Bowles. I can see what caught his eye; it is absolute perfection in its symmetry, proportions, and bearing.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Galanthus Merlin

Merlin is thought to be a hybrid between Galanthus elwesii and plicatus. Merlin is one of the most widely available and popular of the snowies with all-green inner petals. It is also known for carrying its flower at a slight angle, due to a short pedicel. Its plicatus sire gives the plant nice, waxy green foliage, and it is a strong grower in our garden.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Galanthus Scharlockii

Galanthus Scharlockii has been grown in gardens for many, many years. It is easily identified by its long, split spathe, which is said to resemble "donkey's ears"(a spathe being, of course a leaf or leaf-like structure that grows around or over the inflorescence to protect it from the elements; an elaborate version would be the "pulpit" that surrounds the "jack" in jack in the pulpits). Scharlockii's flower is noteworthy for the small green spots on the outer petals as well as having the usual green marks (looking like little upside-down hearts) on the inner petals. The whole plant has somewhat of a wiry, fly-away look, but it is a cool little snowdrop (and is still around after almost two hundred years in gardens).

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Galanthus Lady Elphinstone

One of the true treasures of the genus Galanthus is Lady Elphinstone, discovered way back in 1890 in Chesire; it is a double flowering nivalis, with buttery yellow inner petals. It seems to be a pretty good multiplier; my one bulb has turned into four in two years. It is said to need acid soil to develop the yellow color; here it is planted in an azalea bed with peaty, loose soil.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Dull Snowdrop Scissors?

I obtained this snowdrop as Galanthus 'Scissors'. Now there are several selected clones of Galanthus that carry the sobriquet 'Scissors', (named such because the green spots on the inner petals supposedly look like tailor's shears). Two others that I could find pictures of are both elwesii selections; G. elwesii 'Daphne's Scissors' and G. elwesii 'Raphane's Scissors'. The latter is particularly fine, with very clear 'scissors', while Daphne's pick shows quite a bit of blurring of the upper 'blades'. My snowie is instead a Galanthus plicatus selection, with just a big blob where the blades should be. Pretty dull scissors, if you ask me. Hopefully it will sharpen up next year.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Real Deal

Every gardener, I suppose, has their own harbinger of spring; for me it's the blooming of Adonis amurensis. Sure, occasionally these bright golden flowers get buried by a few inches of snow, but nothing's perfect. I know that when Adonis opens its flowers, that the rest of the garden is awake and soon there will be hundreds of other plants shoving up through the icy earth. Besides, who could resist these little cups of sunshine in mid-March?
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Out The Other End

After a long, dreary, cold winter, I think today we've come out the other end, into spring. Shibateranthis pinnatifida, a tiny Japanese alpine seems improbably frail to be blooming when the ground is still largely frozen. Its flowers appear just a little shabby if you look too close; kind of an off-white and wrinkled. I've always figured that's just what you'd expect in such a fragile flower which starts to bloom while still under the receding snow; then I saw some pictures of this plant flowering in an alpine house in great Britain, and the flowers looked just the same as mine. It kind of looks like it shops for clothes at a thrift shop.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Big Chill

Yesterday, it was warm and foggy with water gurgling down the ravines and male yellow shafted flickers were fanning their wings and playing peek-a-boo with the female flickers, high in the treetops. The temperature has now dropped forty degrees overnight; the creeks and ground have re-frozen, and all is quiet and cold. The snowdrops have wrapped their petals so tightly, I fear they will break, and have laid the flowers almost on the ground, each pointing south, like little wind vanes as the arctic high pressure blows clouds, leaves, and little snowdrop flowers before it.
But soon the wind will shift around to the south, and with the sun high in the sky, spring will return... not soon enough, but soon.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Do As The Brits Do

When it comes to finding out how to grow hardy cyclamens, British gardeners would seem to be the ones to consult, as they are quite passionate about the cyclamens in their gardens. Unfortunately, Iowa is a long ways from misty, cool England and so it is rare that their horticultural advice transfers well.
However, after a number of years spent growing these plants, rather to my amazement I can heartily recommend the Brits' advice: grow your cyclamens under trees. I figured that in summer here in Iowa, these areas would get too dry, but in fact the cyclamens I've planted right near the trunks of various trees and shrubs have thrived and multiplied, while those planted in what would seem to be prime plant real estate, have usually sulked and eventually disappeared. I'd opine on issues of drainage, competition, summer dormancy, etc.; instead I'll just say... go figure!

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Number Two?

It's going to be a toss-up for the second flower to bloom in our still-wintery garden (snow flurries are predicted for this evening): Cyclamen coum is just getting ready to open a few flowers, and Shibateranthis pinnatifida, with its tiny flowers looking at this stage about as attractive as an old coat in the back closet, is trying gamely to pretend that the weather is no problem.
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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bridging The Gap

As one gets older, time certainly does seem to pass more quickly, except for a couple of weeks each early spring; the time between the blooming of the early snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) and the awakening of the rest of the garden. The ground is still mostly frozen, and it just seems to take forever for the second type of bulb to cast its fate to the winds and to open its little flowers to the vagaries of March in Iowa. It's as if all the other little bulbs are sitting around waiting for somebody else to take the plunge. Galanthus nivalis Viridapice (at top) is showing its hallmark green spot on the outer petals, and should be open in a few days, but I really need something to bridge this gap; the few crocuses I have are starting to show their buds (below). This fall I aim to plant a variety of crocuses in spots in the garden that get early spring sun... this early spring gap in the garden is too hard on the knees.
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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sleepy Garden (er)

This spring the garden (and this gardener) are having trouble shaking off the torpor of a long winter. Today was the first really warm day (shirt-sleeved 68), yet the ground is basically still frozen solid to the point that a sharp knife will not penetrate it (I tried). The only things blooming are a few patches of Galanthus elwesii, the early snowdrop. In wandering about the somnolent garden this morning, it suddenly struck me: even the birds were just sitting around; not a chirp, not a tweet, not a single song. What gives?
In looking back, I see that this is the latest spring ever in the garden for bloom times; by now the early snowdrops have usually come and gone. This year half of them haven't even opened. I haven't gardened, I haven't blogged about the garden, I've hardly set foot in the garden.
Yet, by this afternoon, with the warm sun bearing down, I could count a dozen other types of snowdrops at least peeking up, and the Carolina wren and the titmouse finally shook their feathers and started calling.
It's a start...

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