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Tulips Are Blooming – Indoors

Tulips at Smith College

Yesterday I drove into the valley to see tulips, and many other  bulbs and flowers, blooming at the Mt. Holyoke College Talcott Greenhouse and the Smith College Lyman Plant House. Both institutions are preparing for their annual Spring Bulb shows which require attentive and scientific handling of the potted plants, cool and then slowly warming so that they are at the perfect moment for spring-hungry flower lovers to visit them when the shows open on Saturday, March 2.  Both shows run for two weeks and the greenhouses are open from 10 am to 4 pm.

When I visited yesterday both greenhouses were in the process of being set up. Potted plants have been living in the working sections while they are not blooming, and are just now being arranged in a beautifully designed array. Tulips are always an important part of the display and it is easy to understand. Tulips are so tall and stately and come in so many glowing colors. I love seeing tulips in the greenhouse because rodents inevitably eat them when I plant them in the garden. I love tulips, but I grow daffodils in my own garden. And some of the little bulbs like grape hyacinths.

My tulips

Don’t laugh! I don’t know why my forced tulips are so short. Maybe I should just be glad that mice didn’t eat them before the bulbs even had a chance to sprout.

Bloom Day February 2013

Paper White Narcissus

On this Bloom Day the ground is covered with snow and the plow drifts are still  substantial. My indoor blooms are modest. These paper whites, a bonus from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, have been blooming for over a month. A couple of the stems collapsed, but I cut the blooms off and they continue in a little glass vase.


This little pot of primroses was a door prize at the annual meeting of the Greenfield Garden Club. I will plant it  outdoors when the snow is gone. We’ll see if it has enough vigor to survive after  all these indoor days.

White Cyclamen

I found this little pot of white cyclamen in a forgotten corner of the piazza in the fall when I  brought the houseplants in. I began to water it again and that is all it needed. It began to bloom before Christmas and will continue for a little while longer I think. They are beautiful on my bedroom windowsill.

I thank Carol at May Dreams Gardens every month for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and giving us all a chance to show what we have blooming. This is a great gift for us all, especially those who have so few winter blooms. Click here to see all those other blooms.


Dig Up, Dig Down, Cut Back and Rake

North Lawn Bed

Mild weather this long holiday weekend has  given us time to work together to dig up, dig down, cut back and rake, all parts of putting the garden to bed. Henry helped me slightly enlarge the end of the bed around the fountain juniper, cleaning out weeds, and making room for small bulbs, miniature golden daffs, ‘Diamond Ring,’ Pink Sunrise’ and macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’ muscari. We will be able to see  these from the dining table in the spring. All these bulbs came from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs along with an extra bag of beautiful big paperwhite bulbs – a gift to cheer gardeners after Superstorm Sandy. I have a lot of daffodils, but none of them can be seen from the house, but it is smart to think about what you see from your windows and plan a ‘windowscape’ that will bring you pleasure, in whatever season.

The Lawn Beds are pretty well cleaned up. The Daylily Bank has also been cut back and some weeding was possible because the ground is not yet frozen. The Herb Bed is nearly cleaned out. I just have to dig out the horseradish. I thought I got rid of all the horseradish last fall, but I was wrong. When shoots came up in the spring I left them, but I am going to make another attempt at removing the horseradish. I was warned it would be a tough job.

‘Blue Princess’ holly

I cut back the epimediums, cranesbill, acidanthera, and yarrow growing in front of the holly. This holly bush was filled with brilliant berries last year, but not this year.

Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Thread’ False Cypress

On this beautiful sunny Monday morning the ‘Gold Thread’ Chamaecyparis is just glowing in the garden reminding us that we may still have a few golden days before winter sets in.


Time to Think About Spring and Spring Blooming Bulbs


Narcissus poeticus

While attending a wonderful art show featuring my friend Trina Sternstein’s paintings at the Forbes Library I couldn’t help using the library services as well. I was searching in the garden section for a book on trees, but I came away with Anna Pavord’s big book, Bulbs. When I got home I found that the mailbox was full of bulb catalogs, from John Scheepers, Van Engelen, and Old House Gardens.

That made for a very dangerous night, browsing through the book with its gorgeous photographs of the many faces of the allium to the three faces of Zantedeschia or calla lily. Can you imagine what kind of a list I could have made up going from the book to search through the catalogs to see if I could find the petite Allium flavum with its delicate and airy yellow blossoms in any of the catalogs..

In fact  did find A. flavum listed in Van Engelen, but with no photograph, and in Scheepers with a tiny photo. I would have passed both by if Pavord had not directed me to search for this lovely thing. Giant alliums like :Mount Everest and the violet-purple Early Emperor, have their place, but I just fell in love with this dwarf allium.

Another series of photographs that caught my eye was of the Erythronium family, dogstooth violet or trout lily. Pavord shows pink, white and yellow varieties, and varieties with severely reflexed petals. They are all lovely, and very hardy. Our climate and acid soil suit them to a T. I found that Scheepers offers only the yellow Erythronium pagoda which is fine with me. It comes with the urgent direction to plant it immediately upon arrival. Trout lilies cannot dry out. They need to be planted in rich soil in light shade. Right away. And watered well.

Here is the problem with bulbs. Each genus, narcissus, tulip, allium, lily etcera, etcetera, etcetera, comes with such a variety of form that no catalog can  carry all for sale, or truly capture the full beauty of each.

On the other hand, each variety, no matter how limited by lists or photos in a catalog, is beautiful. I don’t know if there is any such thing as an ugly bulb, or one that you would be unhappy with, only given that it is hardy in your garden.

Many bulbs bring us color and a promise of warm weather early in the spring. I have patches of snowdrops growing in grass down below the vegetable garden that bloom even while there is some snow on the ground. Because I rarely walked down in that direction so early in the season, I dug up a few last year and moved them into the Herb Bed in front of the house. I do see them earlier now, but I realize that I want a LOT of snowdrops in view. Like crocuses these tiny plants really cry out to be planted in masses.

I also try to remember to have the grass cut short late in the season, just so the snowdrops won’t have to push their way through so much dead grassy debris.

There are many ways to use bulbs in the garden. I am partial to the large family of narcissus which includes daffodils. I am especially fond of them because they are not bothered by mice or other burrowing creatures, or by deer. I plant them and I want to be the only one to cut them down.

My daffs are now mostly planted at the eastern edge of the lawn where I can let the foliage ripen after blooming and not be bothered by the tattered and brown appearance. Letting bulb foliage die back naturally is key to the survival of the bulb. The foliage makes food  for the bulb to store for next year bloom – and multiplication.

In my small attempts to limit the amount of lawn that needs to be mowed, I have planted the groundcover barren strawberry (Waldsteinia) at the farthest southeastern bit of lawn and underplanted that with daffodils. In the early spring I sprinkle compost or greensand in the areas where bulbs are just sending up tiny shoots. Do not use nitrogen rich fertilizer on bulbs.

I can handle bulbs planted with a groundcover, but I prefer not to use daffodils or tulips in a flower border because of the unattractive problem of ripening foliage.

Some people plant wonderful bulb-only borders that are a glory in the spring, and then plant annuals in that space when the old bulb foliage can be cut down.

All bulbs need to be planted in well drained soil. Most of them like sun. Fortunately in the spring deciduous trees are leafless so there is sufficient sun even in woodland areas. All bulbs use their foliage to gather strength for the following year so foliage must ripen for several weeks after bloom.

Having said that, I realize I do have some bulbs in the Lawn Beds, alliums, and lilies like Casa Blanca and Black Beauty. These have tall stems that can be cut back by a third after blooming. That late in the season the stems that remain are not very noticeable among all the other mid and late summer foliage.

Do you have favorite bulbs? How do you use them in your garden? I would be happy to hear from other gardeners by email at  Hope to hear from you.

Between the Rows October 6, 2012

Acidanthera – A Gladiolus?


Acidanthera, now officially named Gladiolus callianthus, was an impulse buy this spring. I have admired it on the Bridge of Flowers and when I saw a bag of ten little bulbs at Shelburne Farm and Garden I popped them in my basket.

Acidanthera is a tender bulb which means it will have to be dug up in the fall – or be treated like an annual and simply left in the ground. It does not have the rigidity of the gladiola at  all. It is tall, over two feet in my garden and delightfully graceful – and long blooming. These have been blooming since early in August and still going strong even though we have had a week of nights with temperatures in the 40s.

They have required no special care and haven’t seemed to mind the drought. You can bet these will be in my garden again next year.

Surprises on Wordless Wednesday

Toad in watering can

Toad finally leaving watering can

Succulent flowers - big and small

The first tigrida blossom

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

April Has Been the Cruelest Month – Almost Over

White daffs benealth white Miss Willmott lilac

April proved herself to be the cruelest month indeed this year alternating summer and winter temperatures. The past couple of nights we’ve had frost – and this after we had gotten quite used to balmy temperatures and tender zephyrs in mid-month. Now these lovely white daffodils might as well be snow cover – it is so cold. And windy. And dry.

My Early Garden in front of the house is still adorned with row covers that blow and blow in  the wind. I think they are making the lettuces quite tough. And yet, with all the cold and wind plant growth is inching forward. Rhubarb leaves are up – and in need of serious weeding. Actually, almost every bed is in need of serious weeding.


Some of the daffodils are later bloomers. I am particularly fond of this one, and I will be sending off to Old House Gardens for more. The daffs are planted in the lawn and you can see the hawkweed in my ‘flowery mead’ is budding up nicely.

Grape hyacinths and daffs

Grape hyacinths are beginning to bloom – and some of them have scattered themselves in unlikely places. I am glad there are flowers that have the stamina to withstand heat and cold in our New England spring, but this year I am really ready for for the warmth and libelous displays of May.

Bridge of Flowers Is Sweetly Fragrant

Viburnam carlesii

As I walked across the Bridge of Flowers yesterday I was suddenly aware of a sweet fragrance. Looking around and sniffing first in one direction and then another I realized the fragrance was coming from this Viburnam carlesii, just beginning to bloom.

This shrub is also called Koreanspice viburnam, and the fragrance certainly certainly is spicily sweet. It is not a surprise this is a member of the honeysuckle family. It is not fussy about soil, but I can tell you that the Bridge volunteers keep all the plants well fertilized with compost, and occasionally organic amendments if they are needed. They like full sun but can tolerate some shade. Happily in this dry spring the Bridge can borrow water from the river to supply the irrigation system.

Red and Purple Tulips

The viburnam has pink buds but the blossoms open to white. A very different palette is shown in this large show of tulips.

Light just before sunset begins

When the sun is low in the west it shines on the hills in our viewshed.  You can just see the square green field in the midst of the woodlands. All these years later that field, Cutter’s Field, is kept mowed and free of trees though it has been many decades since Mr. Cutter would take off and land his little plane there. Heath has always been progressive in many areas.

To see more skies on Skywatch Friday click here.

Record Breaking Heat Brings More Bloom

Forsythia - two days after Bloom Day

I hope you can see how yesterday’s heat – 88 degrees – is making the forsythia bloom as it never has before. We also have a lot of wind which is drying, but blossoms keep coming.

Wild cherry trees

All of a sudden the wild cherry trees in the chicken yard have burst into bloom.

Weeping cherry

Last year we gambled on this weeping cherry, bought at Home Depot where I do not buy many plants, and it came through the winter and just started to bloom.


More and more daffodils are coming into bloom. These are planted under the Miss Willmott white lilac. Her buds are amazingly big for this time of year.


While I was pruning deadwood out of the blueberries yesterday I saw that this primrose, bought years ago at the supermarket, is still thriving – and in bloom. The sunny shades of daffodils and primroses are so heartening in the spring.

Violets, blue and white, have joined the dandelions in my flowery mead – I mean the lawn – and there is more green on every tree and shrub. No more flannel sheets!

A Surprise on Bloom Day


Bloom Day and I have the most respectable forsythia ever. Which isn’t saying too much. A little rain would probably have helped. We haven’t had any real precipitation since two inches of snow on March 8.

Van Sion daffs

The Van Sions, an old early blooming  variety were here when we moved in, have been blooming for a couple of weeks.


Now other daffodils are just starting to bloom as well. Lots more to come. Rain would help.

Glory of the Snow - Chionodoxa

I have little bulbs, Glory of the Snow, scillas, and grape hyaciths in the grass at the end of the  Rose Walk. The grape hyacinths are not blooming yet.


Dandelion and ground ivy

Not all the bloomers are quite as welcome as welcome as the daffs. You can’t really see the blue ground ivy blooms. The dandelions began blooming three days ago.

The surprise came when I went to water a pot of annuals and prostrate rosemary that had spent the winter in our unheated, but very sunny, Great Room. Amazingly the prostrate rosemary survived with occasional watering and temperatures that did dip to 32 degrees. This morning I noticed that last year’s lobelia revived and is blooming again.

To see what else is blooming around the country visit May Dreams Gardens. Thank you, Carol, for hosting this great meme.

Orchid cactus

Another surprise. I went into the guest room, where this orchid cactus lives. I pay no attention to it. It is such a big plant I don’t really have a good place for it,. It is rarely watered and I am amazed it is still alive. And yet – every once in a while it bursts forth. One huge blossom and twelve more buds still to open.