Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Day of the Year

As the weather allows, I’m still working out in the garden. Temperatures today reached the mid-forties and it was sunny. Ordinarily that would be good weather for garden work, but today the wind was terrific and relentless. I spent about two hours in the early afternoon working with the plants in the protected cold frame. It was good to see that many of the Narcissus of the cantabricus-romieuxii sorts are budded and should be in bloom soon. Two of the tazettas, 'Ziva' and Narcissus pachybolbus, have scapes up, too.

There are fresh flowers of Crocus ochroleucus in one of the unprotected frames, and some Crocus longiflorus on their last leg are still colorful. All of the fall-blooming crocuses were plated very late this year, and so in effect I lost this year of bloom (although some are still trying).

Tomorrow I’ll do the official New Year’s Day count. I’m not expecting much: the temperature is expected to drop into the low 20s F by morning.

Lycoris aurea of commerce has produced a thick clump of foliage this year, and that’s raising hopes that it might bloom next fall. This grows in the protected frame: the foliage will typically not survive our winters in the open ground. Several of these have been acquired from various sources during the last two years; they all agree in having yellow-green foliage. The plants grown in the past had much darker foliage. All of this adds to the anticipation of the first flowers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Season's Greetings Everyone!

A forty-foot pergola divides the garden into two unequal parts. The near side of the pergola forms the wall of the pool garden. In the center of this side of the pergola is an oculus, an eye-shaped opening which allows a view along the garden's main long axis. Here you see the oculus in its holiday season dress.

Welwitschia mirabilis

The Welwitschia gave me a scare about two weeks ago. It went from a healthy green to a pale, dull green with much too much yellow. It was still green, but it reminded me of pea soup.

I've had this plant for eleven years now; I acquired it as a one-year old seedling in 1997. It was raised from Silverhill seed by a member of our local rock garden group. Earlier this year I acquired more fresh seed from Silverhill, but I have not attempted to germinate it yet. I sent Rachel Saunders a photo of my eleven-year-old plant. When I did this, a little voice warned me that some envious demon lurking in the background might interpret this as the sort of boasting which merited a bit of taking down. So when my plant began to lose color, I momentarily wondered if I was getting what I asked for.

My first impression was that I might have over-watered the plant. I carefully tipped the pot sideways to see if any water would drain out. But there was no sign of water. Then I tried to remember the last time I had watered the plant. Hmmm......maybe it just needs a drink. So I watered it. Within a few days the good, healthy color began to return and I breathed a major sigh of relief. I'm very attached to this plant. I expect it to be the Gila monster of my adult life (when I was a kid I had a Gila monster which lived for a bit over twenty-five years).

Several years ago the Welwitschia put on another, more dramatic scare. Again, it was shortly after I brought it in for the winter. For several days it sat in my bedroom far from any window and without any supplementary light. And then it happened: its usual healthy green color began to change. The color became streaked with mustard yellow and rusty red. At one point most of the surface of the leaves was brilliant iridescent blue such as is seen in Selaginella uncinata. It was a bizarre sight, and I was panic stricken. But after a few days under fluorescent lights the odd colors began to fade, and eventually it was back to normal.

When I'm a very old man I might will this one to some public collection; but for now it's staying put.