Tuesday, April 13. 2010
Things moving too fast? Spring's flying by here. The bulbs are half-way home and lots of little rock garden stuff is popping into flower everywhere. Before you know it the perennials will be putting on their show.
Worse yet, the work is piling up at breakneck pace. Weeds, weeds, weeds...planting...improving soil...feeding...mulching...pruning and cutting back. It feels overwhelming, doesn't it?
Grab a coffee tomorrow morning. Walk out in your slippers...maybe even p.j.'s (this might work better if you do it BEFORE you get dressed for the day). ENTER your garden--slip across the edge. SIT DOWN in the middle of everything and just look around you. Don't move for twenty minutes.
If you need me to tell you how good this is for you, repeat the process the next day. If you KNOW how good this is for you, you won't need a reminder.
NOW...go back to your regularly scheduled day.
Tuesday, March 23. 2010
Showers BEFORE April.... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Weather at 11:42
We've had no shortage of moisture here in west-central New Jersey this year, but yesterday's rain was a tipping-point weather event. Apparently the rain, in combination with air and ground temperature (and who knows what else) have reached that magical stage where spring, a day or two late, has arrived.
In the course of a day, things are different. Yesterday's winter-red sedums and sempervivums are letting go of their cold weather finery and taking on their growing season hues. The stubs of cut back lavandula are showing signs of life that were nearly absent just 24 hours ago. Bud swell is now very apparent on the lilacs and quince and the trees are stirring. Perhaps most gloriously of all, spring bulbs which we'd seen a sprinking of flowers on prior to yesterday are blooming in larger numbers, making a push to finish things up before it gets warm again.
It's game-on in the garden!
Sunday, March 21. 2010
Rolling the dice... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Gardening at 11:51
Moving plants out from their indoor safe-havens when winter is past (?) is always a little dicey. Edible figs (Ficus carica cvrs.) which began leafing out weeks ago in the basement, just couldn't wait anymore. Low light levels began to etiolate new growth and that will spell trouble later in the season if they don't get more light NOW. So the figs were moved outside (and even those with fruit showing appear to be none the worse for wear). Perhaps their early start under lights will give them the longer season they need to ripen fruit on a more consistent basis.
Japanese maples--the couple that were in non-frost hardy pots--had also leafed out under the lights and were actually flowering. They are probably two weeks ahead of their brethren who passed the winter outdoors in pots. Within a few weeks everyone will be on the same page. Being of the thread-leafed persuation, I was more than a little concerned that moving them out would result in burn or die-back, but a few cloudy, rainy days were heaven sent to ease the transition.
Friday, March 5. 2010
Nerium oleander, the ubiquitous median tree of highways in Spain and elsewhere around the Mediterranean, has ripened its seed capsules in the front room of our New Jersey home. NOTA BENE: Oleander is poisonous and not generally considered much of a houseplant if you have small children or pets that might come into contact with it (not a problem here).
Our particular tree spends the winters indoors and all season on the deck in as much sun as we can muster. It flowered fairly late last year, and, rather than trim off the spent blooms, I left them to see what would happen. By what magic, I know not, many of the flowers were pollinated and resulted in slender seed capsules. All fall and winter they remained upright and green. Gradually turning brown, they are now beginning to split, revealing ranks of small, pointed seeds with a puff of fluff for their mode of transportation. Interesting.
Now the big question: sow or no? Researching the how is easy enough. Whether to dedicate the space...that's another question. It would be interesting to see what sort of variation would arise from one plant's seed (no question it was selfed), but there isn't room for dozens of small trees, and they'd likely need to be around for a while before they'd bloom.
Such questions us plant folk must ponder....
Friday, February 26. 2010
Waking up the Clivia.... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Plants at 08:50
They're not exactly Rip-van-Winkles, but the Clivia in my collection HAVE been snoozing since the middle of November--under the bench, no water, no fertilizer. As I witness a bit of rousing from their slumber, I help them along. Moving them into warmer, brighter conditions and watering, judiciously at first, and then with increasing frequency helps them shake the cobwebs. The plants respond, and, since they've had their requisite cool, dry rest, they do this: http://bestc.am/f3P
The exciting news this year is the first blooming of my yellow seedlings. The best so far is a clear "real-butter" yellow that I'd name Clivia miniata 'Land-O-Lakes' (but not without first getting the permission of the churners at Land O' Lakes). As you can see, the yellows have lost none of their cache, despite being more available and affordable than ever. They are a beautiful addition to any plant collection. http://bestc.am/mGK
Among the finer attributes of these plants is their willingness to tolerate household conditions with great aplomb. Mine get placed around the house while in bloom, spend their summer outside, and, as mentioned above, are happy to take their positions in the cool, relatively dark spaces under the plant benches in the basement for their winter rest. What more could you ask?
Thursday, February 18. 2010
Like Lazarus, rising from the dead; like Ramonda going from a crispy, brown wafer to a lush, green, LIVING thing after a good soaking rain; like Polypodium polypodioides, Florida's famous "Resurrection Fern" unfurling it's dried croziers like a sponge for life enhancing moisture; BGBlog IS ALIVE!
It's been a good long time since anything has been posted here, and I hope my seven readers are still out there. (Hello...hello...is anybody there?). I wouldn't blame them for not showing up, but a good bit of river has gone under the bridge since these pages have heard from me and I'm back.
Mea culpa, mea culpa. I won't bother anyone with the gory details surrounding the neglect, but I promise better things ahead.
I'm still trying to figure out how to migrate the web page publishing from PC to MAC, so if anyone has a brilliant suggestion for a low/no cost web solution for MAC (go easy on the learning curve), AND a way to get existing content from where I'm at to where I want to be, PLEASE let me know. My plants and I thank you.
Wednesday, July 8. 2009
We're all a-Twitter... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Check this out! at 08:14
Yes, I broke down and am tweeting on Twitter. You'll find me at @botanicalgarden (you're not the only one that couldn't believe it was still available this late in the game). It's an experiment at the moment--for real time, short reports and quips on our favorite topic and others. It's a lot easier to do 140 characters than it is to write a blog entry--much less to think about and ponder--much less pressure to come up with a "great idea."
Follow me if you are interested in a slice of my life. It won't go into the gruesome details that some people love to spew into the electro-sphere, but might give you a better idea of where I'm coming from and who I am.
In the short time I've been tweeting, I've probably got more followers than readers of this blog--so let me know if you found me on Twitter from reading me here--and don't stop...
Wednesday, July 1. 2009
Winkin', blinkin' and... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Check this out! at 05:42
In one of the most fascinating reads I've had in a long time, Carl Zimmer talks about fireflies (they're already out you know...) in The New York Times (June 29, 2009). His article "Blink Twice if You Like Me" examines the current state of research on how and why these insects use flashes of light to attract their mates. Everyone with a backyard should check this one out!
Monday, June 22. 2009
Fungus among-us... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Gardens... at 11:07
It should come as a surprise to no one who's followed the weather in the northeast (rain, anyone? How about more rain, and more and more...) that leaf fungus are making an ugly appearance in the garden. It should be a great year for them. Even invasive mainstays like Tradescantia have been attacked and are looking horrible.
And there's nothing that can be done. The weather doesn't appear to be changing soon, and I hate the idea of spraying fungicides all over the place--it's doubtful they'd have any effect anyway. The implication is that certain things in the garden will look like, well...you know what.
What to do?
If you can stand the sight of spotted leafs and collapsing plants, doing nothing is an option. Ma Nature has been here before, and so have gardens. Plants may be lost--and will at least be set back significantly. In the event you can't stand the look of your garden, the other option (I've already ruled out the spray--I don't have the capability for flyovers...) is to clean things up. Cutting and removing affected plants will immediately improve the looks of any bed, BUT care must be taken with disposal AND your cutting tools. It's easy to spread these diseases and sloppy horticulture IS a vector.
To be on the safe side, don't compost diseased plants; bag them and remove them from the garden. Sterilize your cutting blades well (soak in rubbing alcohol for at least a half-minute or flame until the edge is red) before using them on ANY non-affected plant. Not doing so is akin to plunking a kid with swine flu in the middle of a kindergarten class of vivacious, healthy young children.
It's happened to us again. Here we were, bemoaning the lack of rain and setting up all the irrigation to compensate, only to have the heavens open in biblical fashion. We obviously have no pull where it really counts. Do what you can, manage the damage, and be here again next year.
Cent' anni! You'll need them...
Float your way back to BotanicalGardening.com...see you soon.
Friday, June 19. 2009
Finally, someone tells the truth... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Check this out! at 11:04
What a beauty!!! AND ain't it just the truth..... Check this out:
Thursday, June 11. 2009
What to do (or not) about Paeonia ... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Gardening at 11:42
The drooping of peony flower heads is a common phenomenon regarded by commentators as either romantic or a curse. It is generally attributed to: 1) rain gathering in the flower petals—a particular problem with cultivars bred for large double flowers; 2) wind; 3) over-feeding, especially with fertilizers high in nitrogen.
Typical solutions to the problem feature some sort of support or staking. Methods abound, but none are considered totally effective.
It is perhaps telling that the website of the American Peony Society contains not a single word on the subject of supporting or staking paeonia despite having pages on peony care and problems.
Peony producers in the Netherlands grow hectares of plants in open fields without support.
Klehm’s Song Sparrow Nursery, a major US peony grower, does not support its peonies, which are field grown in the open. They don’t recommend supporting the plants, but will sell peony supports if pressed by a customer.
Only one of the two major peony nurseries to address the drooping problem (most nursery websites, like the peony association, don’t mention supporting or staking in their peony care pages) suggests a remedy—and it strikes me as one that would be difficult to keep from looking unsitely. David Furman of Cricket Hill Nursery (a peony specialist) suggests the following:
“SUPPORTING PEONIES: To support large clumps of peonies, lay a flat piece of 2”chicken wire, cut to a size of about 2 ft. x 2 ft., carefully over the new red shoots in spring. This has to be done early in the season, as soon as the shoots emerge from the ground. Adjust chicken wire to allow one shoot to go into one cell of the wire. As the shoots grow taller, the chicken wire will lift up and be a part of the growing plant, settling under the foliage. Fold down the edges of the wire under foliage so it is not visible. This will support the stems, and keep the plant more upright.”
The other, Don Hollingsworth of Hollingsworth Peonies
does not support his plants and suggests that doing so does not prevent drooping:
On the other hand, you could just enjoy the natural presentation of the flowers, the romance of the arched canes with their fulsome heads of papery petals--an attractive scene not lost on the legion of artists and photographers who have depicted peonies through the years.
Either way, stop back at BotanicalGardening.com when you're done and let us know how you've managed with yours.
Sunday, May 24. 2009
Tuesday, May 19. 2009
Land sakes! It's May 19 and thar's frost on the windshield...
Thursday, May 7. 2009
Stinky orchids...Bulbophyllum ... Posted by Carlo A. Balistrieri in Plants at 06:07
At long last I am about to bloom Bulbophyllum
I first saw--and smelled--the plant in the collection of The New York
The huge flower is graceful in appearance with spreading sepals and petals
The species hails from Sulawesi and
Even amid orchid growers, certainly amongst the geeks of the
Monday, May 4. 2009
This is the rain that takes us from spring to summer. Slow,
Before you know it, the green smudge we so exalted just a
I don’t mind the explosion…I tolerate the explosion—the
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