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Posts from the ‘Gardening’ Category

All about the Anemone

Hello there, friends!

With the daffodils and tulips taking their sweet time to poke through the earth, this spring has, so far, been all about the anemone. I’ve never seen them spring to life with such a passion. Their vivid violets, soft whites, and glistening eyelashes surrounding the dramatically dark inner “eye” make for an striking show of early color in the cutting garden. Most of you guys will recognize these beautiful anemone coronaria, commonly grown as cut flowers, but there are lots of other cultivars that bring the spring garden to life.

You might have already caught sight of these fragile white flowers rising above the forest floor. The carpet of white created by colonies of anemone nemorosa may put on more of a subtle and subdued spring show than it’s colorful cousins, but what it lacks in intensity and size it most certainly compensates with in sheer mass. Once these guys get established, there’s no stopping them!

Another little cutie is the anemone blanda, a daisy-like rosette of thin and dainty petals. Like all of the others, these shy flowers curl closed as dusk falls or during dark and dreary weather. They also tend to close up once brought inside for arranging… oops.

Despite their differences, the various anemone growing in my garden combine nicely into a precious little posy of bright blues and whites. While the majority of the corms that I’ve planted in the garden have come up a solid color, I seem to have lucked out with this one beautiful variegated specimen. If only I could order a whole bag of those colors… *sigh*

Do you guys have any anemone growing in the garden? Are you already reaping the benefits of an early spring crop? In celebration of my birthday and the courageous crop of anemone, I think that I’ll cut all of the mature blooms tomorrow and spread a few of this season’s very first Lonely Bouquets from the garden! :)

Hellebores: The Final Cut

Hello again, friends!

I know that last week we got all haute couture and fancy-shmancy with a lace hellebores headdress, but today I wanted to personally introduce you to the few varieties of winter-blooming beauties that made the final cut and found their way into my garden. The decision was difficult, involving a fair amount of pulling plants from the shelf only to put them back and trade them for a more colorful (or frilly, or larger, or upward-facing, or…) contender. In the end, I decided on: Picotee seedling, Dark Purple Double, Picotee Double, Purple, Green Double, Pink Double, Green Picotee Double, and, thanks to the generosity of Linda and Roger Bastin, the incredibly fabulous Tutu.

I’m secretly hoping that this interesting variety of colors, shapes, and textures will cross-pollinate, leaving me with a somewhat-shady garden full of exciting seedlings. Maybe I could even try to influence the pollination procedure myself? How amazing would the anemone-flowering Tutu look cross-bred with the dark purple double? Drool.

The Picotee seedling (pictured above) has unexpectedly stolen my heart. The darker edges (hence “picotee”) and dramatic purple-veined coloration make for quite a fetching combination. The Green Double and Pink Double (pictured below) are equally stunning in very different ways.

For those of you who fell in love with Tutu after I posted her picture on facebook, you might be interested to know that she drops her inner “skirt” of petals along with the pollen-coated stamens as she ages. Thus, by the time she’s ripe for the pickin’, she’s lost her characteristic and frilly tutu. Speaking of picking… who has trouble with hellebores getting sad and droopy a mere day after being cut? *raises hand*

To combat this widespread and quite frustrating issue, you can choose to float your flowers instead of leaving them on the stem. I’ve found that they last much longer this way. In fact, the buds I cut on Thursday are still going strong today. They do, of course, shed their stamens, but the “petals”… which are actually sepals and not really petals at all, stay nice and perky and full of color.

Whether you choose to float them as a grouping in a large, shallow vessel or as individual specimens in separate vases, a bath full of water is definitely the easiest trick to making your hellebores buddies stick around for a while.

After wearing my hellebores headdress around for a significant part of the morning and early afternoon, a few of the flowers were, as expected, looking a little sad. Worried that I’d cut their life short, I hurriedly plopped them into their watery refuge. Happy to be back within the realm of relative safety, they immediately perked up and looked as good as new. Yippee!

If you’re determined to have long and lengthy stems of hellebores, it’s best to know the “right” stage for picking. If you look at the left image above or the right image below, you’ll see a selection of hellebores buds at various stages of maturity. You might notice that the Double Green Picotee (the furthest to the bottom of each image) has shed its stamens and has seedpods just beginning to form. This is actually the best stage for picking. Unfortunate that we have to forgo the showy stamens, the flower’s flirting eyelashes… but, alas, we can’t make miracles happen.

I’m so excited to introduce my new flower friends to the rest of the existing members of the garden. Luckily I’ll be able to admire their pretty buds for a bit longer… and then it will be a waiting game, anxiously anticipating the first flowers to pop out of the ground next winter!

Hellebores Heaven

Good evening, flower friends!

Boy do I have a floral treat for you guys tonight… ’cause my favorite local nursery is holding their annual hellebores festival this weekend, and, after perusing the drool-worthy photos posted on their website, I couldn’t resist taking a sneak peek at the fabulous flowers they have in stock. For any and all local hellebores lovers, I highly suggest taking a trek over to Kwekerij Bastin to see if there’s a wonderful winter-blooming plant just for you.

The whole entrance of the nursery is packed with cascading layers of pinks, purples, creams, and reds. Singles, doubles, picotee, anemone-blooming… from the brightest of whites to the darkest of blacks- you name it, they’ve got it.

As I gazed longingly at the ocean of beautiful blooms before me, I was well aware that my budget would accommodate only a small selection of new plants. Decisions, decisions…

While some of the varieties were more “run of the mill” hellebores, there were some knock-outs here and there that really stole the show. The plants whose “wow”-factor initially caught my eye were “Tutu”, “Elfin”, “Picotee”, “Painted Bunting” and the pink doubles.

To further complicate the delicate process of elimination, each plant from the separate cultivars had subtle variations. These tiny differences made it especially difficult to make a definite decision as to which plants were coming home with me. Did I want one with more freckles? A softer shade of pink? Darker edges? Larger flowers?

As the sun sunk lower in the sky, I knew the countdown had begun. Time to pick out my new flower friends, pay for them, and bring them back home. The final selection revealed a definite soft spot for doubles and, oddly enough, it seemed that the soft pinks had stolen my heart.

Tune in tomorrow to see which plants made it into my final few and to enjoy a little more hellebores fun with me! :)

Visions of Violet

Hello there, everyone!

Isn’t it interesting how nature’s timing can work out in such a way that several very different flowers of very similar hues blossom simultaneously? A carefully orchestrated concert of the finest and most fragile flowers conducted by the flower fairies… a sweet symphony of spring. I couldn’t help but notice such a harmonious stroke of good luck while working in the garden the other day- my very first bright blue anemone, a scattering of deliciously-scented violets, and the friendly faces of iris reticulata. The vivid colors of all three friendly faces definitely made quite a statement in the garden amidst a decidedly drab backdrop of browns and grays.

I couldn’t resist cutting a few of these very violet vixens to celebrate the new life that the flower fairies have granted the garden.

The tiny violets got bundled into one very petite, sweet-smelling posy. A springtime bridal bouquet for a precious little flower fairy, perhaps?

The rest got thrown into a crazy combination of foliage and forsythia. I quite liked how the bold yellow of the forsythia blossoms contrasted with the violet hue of the anemone and brought out the tiny specks of gold in the iris.

I hope you’ll join me as we raise our flower fairy wands and cast a spell of good growth over this years garden. Here’s to a brand new season full of flowers , may your garden flourish and thrive! :)

Sowing Seeds of Sweet, Sweet Summer

Welcome to a fresh new week, flower friends!

I hope the weekend treated you kindly, leaving you refreshed, rejuvenated and full of new energy. Sunshine poured through the windows this morning as the birds chirped in the garden, which made it nearly impossible to deny the sneaking suspicion that spring has sprung. From the very first violets to crocuses covering the grass, a distinctly spring atmosphere has swooped down upon us.

There’s no inspiration quite like Mother Nature… she really knows how to get you in the mood, keeping you on your toes and gently pushing you in the right direction. With weather like we had today, it’s impossible to stay cooped up inside. Alas, I promised myself that I would get some seeding taken care before heading out to spend a blissful afternoon in the garden.

I’ve been itching to get some sweet peas off to an early start indoors, so this morning was all about getting them soaked and ready for planting. Soaking the seeds prior to popping them into their little pots is optional, but I find that it really does work well. It might be tricky to tell from the photos (taken several hours apart), but the small seeds swell to about twice the size and soften up quite a bit. This short bath allows them to germinate more quickly, giving them a healthy head start on their journey toward maturity.

I’m trying out some new varieties this year as well as some seeds left over from last season. This is me being super organized, by the way. Labeling and tagging isn’t usually my strongest suit, which, in the long run, doesn’t seem to hurt my final judgement calls as to which varieties make the cut and which will get the boot. Luckily the varieties that I’ve grown have been relatively easy to tell apart once they begin to blossom. This year, however, I really want to keep everything organized right from the get-go. We’ll see how long that lasts!

I won’t be going crazy with early sowings of sweet peas, though, since a hefty number of volunteer seedlings are already happily growing in the garden. Thanks to a combination of our incredibly mild winter and my laziness in harvesting last years seeds, this is the first year that I’ve seen such a surprisingly large turnout of healthy-looking baby plants.

I suppose my next task will be removing all of last years debris from the trellises and raking the soil clear of weeds. Then I’ll pinch the baby plants back to promote bushier growth and transplant them against the trellis.

Hopefully this succession of sowings will keep the sweet peas coming all throughout the summer… ’cause, let’s face it, you can never have too many sweet peas! :)

Have you guys already gotten started with seed-sowing? What’s growing on your windowsill or in your cold frame?

Stop and Smell the… Leaves?

Good evening, flower friends!

I’ve regretfully neglected my small stash of scented geranium plants that have been housed indoors, letting them grow far too long and leggy. Since it was high time to give them a little trim, I figured that now would be as good a time as ever for a round of show and tell… I’ll share a few of my favorites with you guys and show you how I like to use them. Plus, to be totally honest, it makes for an excellent excuse to play around with the first flowers of the season!

Among the varieties that I have growing, there are several that really stand out either in terms of fragrance and/or form. Although “Chocolate Peppermint” doesn’t currently have any leaves, it’s a real winner in both of the aforementioned categories. The others (from left to right: “P. Denticulatum”, “P. Graveolens”, “Maple Leaf”, and “Giant Oak”), vary in terms of potential flower arranging value. I have a few other varieties as well, but, for today’s purposes, they aren’t even worth mentioning.

A very close runner up for favorite fragrant foliage is “Maple Leaf” (shown below en masse). It’s fragrance is somewhat standard (albeit still incredibly delicious), but it’s extraordinarily large leaves and long, sturdy stems make it a wonderful addition to any hand-picked bouquet. “Giant Oak” has softer, fuzzier leaves with much less sharply-incised edges. It tends to be a bit floppy, though, so the leaves seem best suited for buttonholes and other small-ish arrangements.

All leaves make excellent additions to handheld arrangements of all sorts- the constant contact and rubbing releases the fragrant oils that make scented geraniums so special. Today, since most of the flowers that can be found growing in the garden at the moment are on the petite side, I figured it would be fun to put together a couple buttonholes.

The first fragrant bunch includes one dreamy, creamy double hellebore, a short stem of burgundy-edged helleborus foetidus, plum-colored heuchera leaves, maidenhair fern, a couple extremely early knautia flower heads, one tiny sprig of jasmine, and a small selection of scented geranium leaves.

If you thought that colorful options got thrown out the window for winter weddings, then you’re painfully mistaken. If you should be looking for a splash of gold, it’s during these late winter months that forced bulbs, bright yellow jasminum nudiflorum, and vibrant forsythia take center stage. For this bright bunch, I used forsythia, hellebores, jasmine, scented geranium leaves, and one solitary painted daisy specimen.

Who says that flowers are the only thing worth smelling? Sometimes an unassuming leaf can pack just as powerful a punch of perfume. The combination of the geranium’s subtle spicy-rosy aroma and the floral fragrance of the jasmine make for an incredibly delicious bunch of flowers to wear on your chest.

Wishing you all a sweet day. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses… and the leaves! :)

More Seeds, Please

Good morning, friendly faces, and happy Monday!

Well, they say a gardener’s work is never done. With the coming and going of seasons, the constant assault from all sides launched by armies of weeds, the unpredictability of the weather, and the varying degrees of nurture that nature demands, I’m inclined to agree with those words of wisdom. Not that “work” is always a burden… there are lots of “jobs” that aren’t much of a drag at all. Take browsing through pages and pages of available seeds and indecisively placing orders, for example. That’s one “job” I don’t mind at all!

During the middle months of winter, I can be found behind the computer constantly adjusting my online shopping cart with inspirational seeds for this years cutting garden. As the subtotal dangerously rises, I readjust my priorities and cut back trivial choices here and there. Finally, and with a wavering hand over the mouse, I gain the courage to finalize my decisions and click on through to the check-out procedure. Phew! Another years garden ready to be packaged up and shipped in an envelope. Crazy, right?

As the cutting garden grows, I’ve been able to narrow down a short list of favorites, save seeds, and cut back on the need to purchase a plethora of experimental varieties. That being said, picking out several new sorts, colors, and radically different flowers is still loads of fun. This year, for example, I limited my sweet pea selection to only a few new-comers: two kinda crazy lavender-hued varieties and two very intriguing perennial sorts. Fun!

I’ve also ordered a few never varieties of some tried and tested favorites (foxgloves and lupines) plus several shades of inexplicably challenging flowers (larkspur). Why am I thus far unfortunately unable to grow larkspur from seed? It’s always marketed as “foolproof” and “carefree”… I’m starting to have my doubts. BUT, maybe this is my lucky year! :)

I’m also trying some totally new seeds… verbascum and monarda, to name a few, plus some fluffy and feathery grasses. I also snuck in a little treat for the veggie garden. Tomatillos! An article I recently read explained that, despite being relatively unknown and ungrown here in Belgium, tomatillos are actually very well-suited to our weather conditions… more so than tomatoes, oddly enough. Salsa verde, here I come!!

I can’t wait to get started with some early sowing and will be sure to keep you guys posted on the seedling progress.

What about you guys? Are you experimenting with any fun varieties this year?

Early Bloomers

Hi there, everybody!

It’s been exciting to see life slowly creeping back into the gardens and fields around us. Although I shouldn’t imply that all signs of life were ever totally drained from the local landscape. The mild winter temperatures (thus far, at least) have kept things relatively green and vivid-looking throughout the normally drab months of winter. Even so, it’s hard not to get giddy at the first sight of snowdrops or the helleborus buds beginning to burst with color. It’s these early bloomers whose anxiously awaited arrival signals the sweet promise of spring.

Despite their diminutive size and dainty build, the lovely little snowdrop is really quite a tough cookie. She’ll sprout and blossom and the slightest sign of good weather and should any unexpected snowfall arrive, she’ll patiently wait out the storm before popping right back up.

It’s funny how living in a climate where there’s always something blooming can cause a jaded inhabitant to take nature’s efforts for granted. I don’t know if it’s an increased interest in gardening and flowers in general or if it’s more to do with living in a colder climate, but I never really appreciated these early bloomers in California. Which begs the question, do they even grow there? All information that I’ve read points to snowdrops disliking warm winters of any kind… which, I guess, the name itself already implies. On more recent trips back, however, I’ve noticed lots of other friendly faces like Daphne, freesias, paperwhites, and even the occasional hellebores.

Here in my garden I’m growing a few different kinds of hellebores, including helleborus foetidus. Apparently this little beauty is commonly known as the “stinking hellebore” or “dungwort”. You could have fooled me! It seems that the name stems from the foul odor released from the plants leaves when crushed… but I’ve never caught a whiff of this infamous scent. Instead, I prefer to admire the pretty petals on the clusters of flowers that are just now beginning to put on a performance in the garden. When out of bloom, however, I’m not so crazy about the appearance of the leathery green leaves… but that’s just me.

Another beauty is helleborus orientalis (or hybridus), the much-revered lenten rose. The beautiful buds that have sprouted out of the ground are just beginning to show a bit of color. I can hardly wait for them to burst open in the softest shades of pink, purple, and mauve.

Judging from the rapid progress of these early bloomers, the grape hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips shouldn’t be too far behind… barring any late winter weather, that is.

I awoke this morning to a message from my sister in LA with a picture showing her pink jasmine ready to flower its butt off… which, of course, makes me extremely jealous! Alas… I hope, like me, that you’re content with enjoying what’s blossoming in your area :)

Snowdrops… Not Snow

Hello everyone!

I’m happy to report that both today’s skies and mood were of a much sunnier sort. Yippee! It’s amazing how a bit of sunshine and fresh inspiration can lift your spirits. Although the temperatures have taken a bit of a dive towards freezing, it’s still generally enjoyable to spend some time outside. This is an opinion that the plants and flowers seem to share. Tiny green shoots of grape hyacinths are peeking through the ground, and snowdrops and hellebores are nearly in full bud.

Being the proud new owner of an awesome thrift store find and the impatient gardener that I am, I couldn’t resist plucking a few sprouting spring bulbs to bring indoors. Tucked behind a smorgasbord of random kitchenware, this footed tin dish (maybe there’s a more technical name that I’m missing?) was calling my name. I happily snatched it up, paid my pennies and brought it back home to meet my other tin friends.

Not sure if it’s a genuine antique, but who cares! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? :)

To get started on my little preemptive springtime spectacle, I lined the bowl with a layer of chicken wire. Since this vessel wasn’t particularly meant to house living bulbs, there aren’t any drainage holes… the chicken wire will hopefully make the process of watering the bulbs a bit easier.

Before adding the snowdrops and dirt, I lined the chicken wire with a layer of moss in order to create a sort of planter within a planter. Then it was time to gently tease apart groupings of snowdrops and arrange them within the bowl.

I tucked them into a thin layer of dirt before adding a dressing of moss to make everything look neat and tidy.

If we can’t enjoy a skiff of snow, I’m happy to enjoy my little snowdrops instead! For as long as they continue to blossom, they’ll grace our little coffee table with their light and airy presence. After their curtains have closed and their performance has ended, back into the ground they’ll go!

Forcing bulbs and snipping branches are wonderful ways to make springtime come early. The pussy willows are beginning to burst and I’ve already seen fruit branches of all sorts being sold at the market. So why not treat yourself to a simple spring pick-me-up and trick your brain into thinking colorful thoughts of new life! :)

A Beautiful Blossom in a Bulb

“Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn.” – William Arthur Ward

What a touching quote. It’s with great patience, forethought, imagination, and sweat that a garden is grown. Nothing happens overnight, and you can bet your bottom booty that nothing will happen without a little (or a lot!) of elbow grease. To me, that’s the great gift of a gardener- to see beauty in something as small as a scraggly-looking seed, to see the potential for so much life in something that, to the naked eye, looks pretty darn dead, and to provide just the right circumstances and tender loving care needed to help the garden grow.

This winter, my big plan was to expand the selection of spring flowers in the cutting garden. With just a handful of daffodils and tulips sporadically scattered around the borders, spring has been the only growing season with scarcely any flowers.

Terribly tardy, I set about placing an order for spring bulbs right before the cut-off date for deliveries arrived. Oops. Days later, I received a carefully packaged set of crates packed to the brim with spring bulbs and lots of extra goodies. Many thanks to Fluwel for the top quality bulbs, gifts, and speedy delivery. Yay!

A fun variety of bulbs in an array of colors and textures has been slowly making its way into the garden. Each day, I’ve dedicated an allotted amount of time to cleaning out the gaps between the roses and planting the promise of sweet spring flowers.

Deep reds, peaches, purples, and whites… I’m keeping my fingers crossed that most (all?) of the bulbs will gather their strength during the winter in order to put on a stellar performance come spring.

This is all a bit new to me, so I can only have faith and trust that there’s a beautiful blossom just waiting to explode from every bulb! :)