Saturday, December 31, 2011

Billbergia nutans

Here's an old friend helping us to celebrate the end of the year: this is Billbergia nutans, a long cultivated bromeliad often called queen's tears. It has been grown as a house plant since at least  before the Second World War. It thrives under typical house plant conditions and treatment and can be potted in soil. Our plant spends the frost-free season outside in full sun. It is brought inside when night frosts are likely. This year it waited until the end of December to produce any sign of bloom. About two weeks ago I left it outside overnight during a period of rain, and within a week the inflorescences began to appear.

The plant in the image above is not yet actually in bloom: none of the flowers is actually open yet. I'll add an image of the blooms later.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day in the garden

It's been a full month since the last post: what have I been up to? I've been up to planting; the community garden plots are now stuffed with roses, tree peonies, lilies, other bulbs both ornamental (tulips, bulbous irises, alliums, musk hyacinths et al.) and comestible (garlic, shallots, multiplier onions and others). Thirty-nine roses (wichurana hybrids, large-flowered climbers, polyanthas, some early hybrid teas and old shrub types among othres)  were planted last week (or was it the week before?). Most of the planting is now done, and I'm beginning to relax a bit and look forward to next year's garden. We've had two months of perfect planting weather, and the opportunities presented by the weather have kept me energized and sometimes even exhilarated: I can hardly believe what I've accomplished in the last two months.

Week after week of relatively mild weather has had an effect on the home garden and other local gardens, too. This year may well have been the best year ever for fall blooming camellias, and some precocious Camellia japonica sorts are also reported as blooming now. Those who keep lists of plants blooming on Christmas Day or New Year's Day will probably have long and varied lists this year.

My Christmas Day list from the home garden is short but sweet this year: snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii sorts), winter sweet, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle, Camellia sasanqua and Elaeagnus pungens. Iris unguicularis was in bloom late last week, but the one flower had started to shrivel by today. Dandelions are blooming here and there. Helleborus foetidus (here) and H. niger (elsewhere) are blooming. Some garden hellebores are in advanced bud. I could not find any witch hazel flowers. In one of the cold frames Narcissus tazetta is blooming. Knock Out roses are still to be seen blooming here and there.

This morning I saw (and heard - what a pleasure to hear bird song on this date!)   a flock of birds (goldfinches?) working over the buds of the red maples.

In terms of what I've accomplished in the garden, I'm better prepared for the arrival of real winter this year than in any recent previous year; but emotionally I'm not prepared at all, and it's going to sting when it happens.

That's winter sweet, Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' in the image above.