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Seasonal Transition: GBBD, March 2023

March 18, 2023

As we approach the vernal equinox, the days are getting longer and warmer in Maine and the snow is melting quickly. And this transition from winter to spring brings with it a transition from indoor blooms to outdoor blooms.

Plant window march 2023The indoor blooms still have pride of place as my potted amaryllis bulbs are putting on a show in shades of red. In my living room plant window, the big double flowers of Hippeastrum ‘Dancing Queen’ are just starting to fade while the newly opened flowers of H. ‘Charisma’ bloom beside them.

Dancing queen march 2023 Charisma 2023

Red Lion2 2023The flame-red flowers of (I think) Hippeastrum ‘Red Lion’ are lighting up my bedroom. Another potted bulb in the bedroom has a tall bud that I expect to open in the next week. Judging from the appearance of the bud, I think this may be another H. ‘Charisma’ – an offset that has finally grown big enough to bloom in its own pot.

Pickwick buds March 2023Even as I enjoy these beautiful indoor blooms, the outdoor show is about to begin. Snow melting away from the south corner of the house foundation has revealed  clumps of Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick,’ with fat buds that are just waiting for some warm sunshine to coax them open. These are always the first flowers of spring in my garden.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is hosted each month by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog for links to other gardeners’ March blooms.

The Pleasure of Winter Flowers: GBBD, February 2023

February 18, 2023

plant window feb 2023By mid-February, we are beginning to see promises of spring in Maine as days get longer and we enjoy occasional mild temperatures. But at this time of year, we are also reminded that winter is Maine’s longest season. With many weeks of wintry weather still in front of us, even enthusiastic winter lovers may be starting to feel tired of winter.

I can think of nothing so cheering on a cold February day as the big beautiful blooms of a potted amaryllis (Hippeastrum). ‘Apple Blossom’ has been opening its gorgeous flowers one-by-one through this mid-February week. I greet them with joy each morning, and they make me smile each time I walk by. I love Apple Blossom’s green throat and the fact that, when its flowers first open, the anthers are covered with mauve-colored pollen. Apple blossom 2023

These flowers will begin to fade during the coming week, but, happily, I have four more amaryllis bulbs with flower buds that will open in the weeks to come. I keep about a dozen potted amaryllis bulbs going from year to year, and in a typical year, I feel very lucky to have three put up flower stalks. To have five blooming in the same year is a special treat.

I had intended to repot these bulbs with fresh potting soil in the fall, but I never got around to it; instead, I sprinkled some bulb fertilizer on the surface of the soil in each pot as I put them away in the basement for their period of dormancy. Was this the secret sauce that produced an unusually large number of flower buds? I’ll have to try it again next year and see if I get similar results.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly celebration of flowers hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her website to see what other gardeners have blooming in February.

The Volunteers

January 5, 2023

volunteer rudbeckiaMy understanding of what a garden is has shifted over my decades of gardening. When I began, I saw the garden as a kind of artistic product to be designed, created, and then maintained. Over time, I came to understand it more as a community of living plants that is always in process, always changing. The latter view has encouraged me to be more flexible and to welcome volunteers into the garden.

By “volunteers,” I mean plants that are growing in places where I did not plant them. Some of my volunteers are plants that I have invited into the garden and which then seed themselves around, popping up here and there. Monarda punctata bractsMy most prolific self-seeders are spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana), spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) and Siberian irises (Iris sibirica). While I love all of these plants, they can become rather too much of a good thing, and I periodically pull up and discard the ones I don’t want. All of these plants have desirable qualities. Monarda punctata, for example, which can be quite thuggish in its behavior, is a magnet for a wide variety of pollinators. This is the plant that seems to be attracting the great black digger wasps (Sphex pensylvanicus), with their beautiful iridescent blue wings, to my garden. That alone is a good reason for welcoming it.

volunteer tradescantia

lavender irisI never pull out spiderwort or Siberian iris plants without first letting them bloom so that I can see what color they are. The more generations these plants are from their nursery-purchased ancestors, the more genetic variation they exhibit, including a wider variety of colors. In the past two years, for example, I’ve seen several self-sown irises bloom in this lovely lavender color.

Geranium x oxonianum is another plant that shows more genetic variation after it has self-sown for several generations.  G. Oxonianum portraitI planted two or three varieties of this early in my gardening career; and for many years, I assumed that Geranium x oxonianum was a sterile hybrid. Then, one year, a seedling popped up across the walkway from the parent plants. As the years have gone by, subsequent generations have become more and more prolific self-sowers. On my side slope, where I planted several of these near the top, they have now seeded themselves down the slope. I welcome these plants, with their clumps of attractive foliage and their long flowering arms that drape themselves over other plants and bloom all summer long. Until recently, all their flowers were a soft, clear pink, with either a salmony or a silvery undertone. In the past two years, however, I’ve been delighted to see some stronger hues with more of a red undertone.

Other volunteers in my garden are plants that were already growing on my property before I created the garden. These are often native wildflowers that can be useful and beautiful additions to the garden. Sometimes, I deliberately transplant these species into the garden and then let them spread. strawberry groundcover patioA good example is wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana). When I created my side slope planting six years ago, I decided to add some wild strawberries, transplanted from elsewhere on my property, to see if they would make a good groundcover. The answer was Yes, and I have since added them to several other flower beds, where they are happily spreading. They have also appeared in flower beds where I did not plant them but where I am happy to see them. (I suspect some these grew from seeds transported in the digestive tract of chipmunks.) Another plant that I have transplanted and that is happy to grow in the garden is flax-leaved aster (Ionactis linarifolia). I am waiting to see whether these will spread further in the garden by self-seeding.

solidago volunteersFor many years, native goldenrods (Solidago) have grown on the wild edges of my garden. This past year, for the first time, I had this genus growing in flower beds. I  planted one species, zig-zag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) in the new woodland border. Two additional species (which I have not yet identified) popped up on the front slope. The verdict is still out on whether the self-sown goldenrods will stay; at least one of them seems to be too tall for the location where it planted itself. Whether these particular volunteers stay or get edited out, however, as my understanding of the garden shifts again to focus on its role as part of a larger ecosystem, I will be looking for opportunities to welcome more and more native volunteers into my garden.

Seasonal Switch: GBBD, November 2022

November 18, 2022

In the past week, it seemed as though someone flipped a switch to bring on a change of seasons. We went virtually overnight from weirdly warm temperatures for November to wintry weather –  daytime highs in the thirties (Fahrenheit), overnight lows about twenty, and our first snowfall of the season. All of this brought the outdoor garden season to a definitive end.

1st cactus flower 2022Just in time to keep me from being flower-deprived, however, flowering houseplants began to bloom. In the living room plant window, the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera) has opened its first flower, with many more to follow soon. red cactus bud 2022Another cactus, with red flowers, is about to begin blooming in my bedroom. (I did not notice how dusty this plant was until after I photographed it. It has since been given a much-needed shower.)

cyclamen buds 2022 As the cacti put on their seasonal display, the potted Cyclamen persica are preparing to follow them into flower, with promises of more blooms to see me through the winter months.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day is a monthly celebration of flowers hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. Visit her blog to find links to other gardeners’ November blooms.