Monday, January 26, 2015

Blizzard Outside, Blossoms Inside

It looks as though we are getting a snow day tomorrow, as blizzard Juno is expected to dump massive amounts of snow on the Mid-Atlantic and New England over the course of the next twenty-four hours. Indoors,  meanwhile,  something new began blooming today. "Chinese Sacred Lilies" or Narcissus tazetta var. chinensis are similar to the much more commonly offered paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus) but the individual flowers are somewhat larger and have a bright yellow "cup" or corona as well as a much sweeter fragrance. They also take quite a while longer to come into bloom when forced indoors.

Nacissus tazetta var. chinensis in the sun room

I also recently got two florist's cyclamens (Cyclamen persicum cv.), both somewhat unusual. One has soft pink flowers with a fuzzy fringe, the other pure white ones irregularly streaked with hot pink. Their foliage, too, is differently shaped and patterned.

One florist's cyclamen cultivar (Cyclamen persicum cv.)...

... and another one

I generally am more taken with the dainty little hardy species cyclamen, like Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen purpurascens, but these more delicate and quirky varieties of florist's cyclamen will do just fine for the time being.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Suddenly Inspired

I spent last week in London visiting friends and poring over manuscripts in various libraries for my academic work. In spite of various Londoners' apologies about "this very cold weather" I rather enjoyed the comparative balminess of a southern English winter and the abundance of things still green and in flower. Apart from flashy warm-climate things like camellias and Abutilons and Clematis armandii and Jasminum polyanthum and Viburnum tinus and various kinds of Eucalyptus and Acacia and all sorts of fuchsias and - and at this I really did a double take - a two-story tall Solandra maxima in bloom (!), I also noticed little creeping blue and purple bellflowers (Campanula sp.) that were almost everywhere, colonizing not just yards but cracks in walls and pavement and even many a front stoop. I have never been particularly interested in campanulas, although some of the larger species have been showy and reliable garden perennials for me, often willing to grow in rather tough spots. These little ones caught my attention, though, with their charmingly opportunistic growth habit and their seemingly unseasonal flourishing.

A creeping bell flower on the front steps of a house in Notting Hill

And another one growing through the fence; this was just a few feet further but it looks rather different

Lo and behold, when I went to Trader Joe's to get groceries earlier this week just after getting back they were selling little pots of creeping bellflowers that looked rather like the ones I had just been seeing everywhere in London (as well as some other nice things, but more on those at another time). I decided to give them a try; maybe they can do their thing in my sun room like they do in damp London corners.

My new creeping campanula among the other plants

There is something particularly satisfying in such a quick turn-over for a particular idea, and that, too, without any special effort and expenditure. Not that I would want this sort of instant gratification all the time. Hunting for a particular hard-to-get plant, too, is a joy all its own.