Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year- Week 5- January 3, 2016

Happy New Year everyone.
It is a time for reflection and for looking ahead.
Julia's grandmother grew up in what was then Yugoslavia. She would tell you that she was from a German section of that former country, not the Serbian. She would always serve chicken on December 31. Chickens scratch back. She would then cook pork on January 1. Pigs push forward. We have carried on that tradition.

It is a new year. The days are getting longer. We bottomed out at 9 hours and 7 minutes of daylight, on December 21. It took a few days to even add that first minute. We are now up to an astounding 9 hours and 14 minutes (as of Saturday).
I did the math. We have to add almost 3 hours between now and March 21. (Actually it is 2 hours and 46 minutes.) March 21 is 78 days away. 166 divided by 78 days is a little over 2 minutes per day. That is 15 minutes a week. Go daylight. I leave work around 5:15. I want it to be light out.

I try not to go on about the weather. But gardeners, like farmers, are always about the weather. It is too hot or too cold or too dry. It is good weather for some plants, or some bugs, or just people. Last year, 2015, I never had to get out the hose to water the garden. That was really unusual. We had timely rains, whenever they were needed. And that remained the case into August and September.
Winter did arrive on Monday. Goliath only gave us 4-5 inches of snow. The temperature is now where is should be, between 15-30.
But...before it arrived, last Sunday, I planted allium bulbs. I found them at the garden center the day before. They been put out in September for people to buy and it hadn't happened. I offered to buy the entire rest of the box, about 9 in all. I got quite a bargain. I have planted bulbs before at Thanksgiving. Never after Christmas.

On to the contest.
Last week's winner was the white Iceland poppy. It was a great picture. The petals really look like crepe paper.

The full vote count was
White Iceland Poppy 20
Oriental Poppy center  14
Blue anemone 14
Orange Asiatic Lily 12

For your viewing pleasure I give you these Week 5 contestants.

#1- Louisiana Iris
Louisiana Iris
There is nothing like sunshine to make for a great picture. With high shade in my yard I get a lot of dappled sunlight. It can create spotlight moments. This was one such moment on May 30. This is a Louisiana Iris.
Iris give you a great sequence in the garden. At the beginning of the year there are the little iris reticulata. They are actually little round bulbs. Then May is the month for bearded iris, from the dwarf variety to the tall ones. Here is a remarkable fact. The dwarf ones bloom first. You will see a dwarf bearded iris later in the contest. After the bearded iris come the Siberian and Japanese irises. You should get blooming iris of some type from April to July.
Louisiana Iris bloom about when the Siberian Iris bloom, mostly in June.
Iris differ as to the plant structure, which influences where they can be planted in the garden.
Bearded iris have rhizomes, which are elongated round roots, that will rot if too wet. You should give them at least a mild slope. Siberian and Japanese have more traditional roots, and like water.
Louisiana iris have sort of a real fat root, with stripes. It is kind of different, and right there below the surface. They like wet conditions too.
Louisiana iris do well in the north. I would grow more if I had more sun. They come in many colors.

#2- red orchid cactus
Orchid cactus
This amazing flower is an orchid cactus. I found my first one in Virginia probably 20 years ago. We brought it home on the plane. These plants are cousins of the Christmas cactus. They are not really cactus and not really orchids. Go figure.
They probably have "orchid" in the name because they originally were epiphytes. That means they grew on/in trees. They do not need full sun. I hang them in the trees in my mostly shady yard. They share space with my real orchids.
But...and there always is a "but", they get big and have to come in the house in the winter.
They come in many colors. If you google epiphyllum you will find some of the nurseries that sell these plants. Those places will usually sell you cuttings. One exciting development for me in the past few years is that my plants have gotten big enough to set seed pods. Last year I let one ripen and for the first time, I harvested and planted the seed. Look in the bonus section for the story of those babies.
The picture was taken on June 22. The earliest plants will bloom not long after you take them outside.

# 3-  purple pasque flower
Purple Pasque flower
This is the purple pasque flower. The pasque flower is the state flower of South Dakota. It blooms in the spring and is not a bulb. It might be about the first thing to bloom that is not a bulb.  (I just remembered hellebores and pulmonaria so its not the first but it is very early). This picture was taken on April 14. It comes back for me rather well.
I really only noticed that purple thing in the middle of the flower for the first time this year.
The plant comes in both red and white. They are harder to find. The foliage is neat and sticks around for long time. The flower makes a great seed head, giving an indication why one of its common names is prairie smoke. How many times have you heard that compliment: great seed head. One seed head picture was in the contest a few years ago. I will put that in the bonus section.

#4 -Crown Imperial Fritillaria
Crown imperial fritillaria
This is a crown imperial fritillaria. In the category of spring bulbs this is the one that would be a favorite of Dr. Seuss. I have grown/tried to grow these bulbs for 20 years, with mixed success. As with many plants location seems to make all the difference. I have this one with 3-4 of its friends in a sunny location at the southeast corner of the house. Did I mention that it was on a slight incline. Good drainage.
It is tall for a bulb, getting to maybe 20 inches. It comes up sort of early. You can see the big shoots coming up and know it is not a snowdrop.
It blooms and then goes away, like the bluebells. Daffodils on the other hand sometimes will have leaves that last until July. You are supposed to let most bulbs go as long as they are green, to store up energy for the next year. I must quietly confide in you that sometimes after July 1, I cut any remaining daffodil foliage down.

Some gardens will have a part with just certain types of flowers. There might be an all red garden, or an all fragrant flower section.
Imagine if you would an all Dr. Seuss garden. What would you find there?
In the spring there would be this fritillaria. There would also be rip van winkle, the daffodil in the electric socket. (see bonus  section)
I will spend more time thinking about this.

So there you have the contestants for Week 5. Vote away. Get your friends to vote. Send in those comments. Let me know why you liked a particular picture.

Bonus Section
So much to write about. Sometimes the words and ideas just come so fast my fingers are inadequate.
Here are more pasque flower pictures. Some are from previous years as I want you to see the other colors. The seed head picture was from the contest in 2008.

Now I want to tell you my story of growing orchid cactus from seed. I did it for the first time a year ago.
First you need a nice ripe seedpod.
As my plants have gotten older I have started getting seedpods. I got 4 this summer, from 3 plants. And that is without really trying to help with the pollination. When the pods first form the are rock solid, just like most of the avocados I find in the store these days. They vary a little in size depending on the plant.

Here is a pair of those pods still on the plant up in the cold room. (You want them to have a winter rest.) The pods are getting softer but I have not yet found the time to tackle them.
They are a little smaller than a Kiwi. Actually I mention Kiwi because that is what they look like when you cut them in half.

Here was the seed pod last November. It felt like a Kiwi.

When I cut it in two it still looked like a Kiwi, and smelled a little sweet too. I read that they can taste good.
So the idea is to get those little seeds out of the pulp. You use your fingers in a bowl of water.

I guess at this level and without prospective they look a little like watermelon.
You crush the pulp up trying to separate the seeds.
Then you strain them to get the water out. I made the mistake last November of letting them dry on the paper. They sort of stuck to the paper. When I did the first two pods this fall I did not leave them on the paper. That worked better.

June 27, 2015
  I planted the seed right away in December. As recommended I planted the seed in one of those plastic containers with a clear plastic lid that fresh spinach comes in sometimes. This created a closed environment for germination.
There were a lot of seeds. I had 2-3 seedlings come up. I was disappointed. I transplanted those to plastic pots. There was one little seedling per pot.  I used the dirt from the spinach container. Wonder of wonders, when I put the 2 pots out for the summer, when I checked mid summer I had more sprouts. The seed that was in the soil that had not germinated for 4 months, germinated once it got outside.

July 12, 2015

In this picture just several weeks later you can more clearly see the new sprouts, clearly the same plants as the one in the middle.

January 2, 2016

Here is one of the pots today. The sprouts have grown. The main plant that sprouted last winter has grown enough to be out of the pot. At some point I am going to have to think about dividing them. I have no idea about how long it will be until anything will bloom. 3 years? Maybe. I believe this pod was from one of the more colorful plants. There is not much better for a gardner than experiencing the first bloom from some plant you grew from seed where you have waited for years.

Here are more crown imperial pictures. The first picture is the plant just coming up. You say to yourself or anyone nearby-that is not a daffodil or a crocus.

This is what the face of the flower looks like. Dr. Seuss would like the plant from many angles.
This is the orange one. The do hang down.
These plants bloom when the bluebells bloom. What a color combination. They are also tall enough to emerge from the bluebell forest.

In case you wondered, the orange one is taller.

Here are several more iris pictures, including some Louisiana iris. I assume you can figure out which ones. They have a distinctive shape.

This is a tiny iris from Korea. It has grown into a nice clump in 3-4 years.
This is an old picture. It is a Louisiana Iris that did not make it into this century. I do not know if pampering would have made a difference. You can see how there are great color combinations possible.
This is from May 30, 2015.
This is a Japanese Iris. They are known for being rather flat. They also can be quite large.
This is a little blue reticulata iris. This particular picture was taken on March 23, 2010. I find them beautiful but not as reliable to come back each year, compared to crocuses or snowdrops.

Another reticulata.

I am going to work on the Dr. Seuss garden candidates. Here is Rip Van Winkle, the daffodil. If you have some nominees let me know.

So that is about it. I have to stop at some point. I pulled some of these iris pictures out of the iris folder of all my pictures. Gosh, Iris are great.
Maybe I should just put all those pictures up for review some time.

Stay warm and drive safely.
It is a new year.

1 comment:

Shirley Litchford said...

The Louisiana Iris picture is spectacular! The color is stunning. Thank you for the beauty.Love all your photos!