Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Blooming Trees Around Town

The crab apples and redbuds are beginning to bloom all around town, and luckily it appears that they have not been fazed by the late frost that ruined most of the magnolias, apricots, and early ornamental cherries.

A crab apple (Malus sp.) on campus...

 ... and a redbud (Cercis canadensis)

I also managed to find the one saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) in the neighborhood that somehow escaped the frost damage.

The sole saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) in bloom in the neighborhood this year

Finally, here is an interesting article from The Guardian on an admirable initiative to save the plant heritage of traditional Palestinian agriculture, in acute danger not just because of changes in agricultural methods and materials but also because of the aggressive spread of Israeli settlements:


One has to wonder just how much biodiversity we are losing as collateral damage of conflicts, in that part of the world and elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Garden Update

Even though today was chilly and rainy, it is finally really, properly spring in the garden, and everything is sprouting and greening and blooming.

A view of the central portion of the garden

My heirloom tulips are doing particularly well, and this year Tulipa 'Elegans Rubra' is among them. After last year's attempt at this rare and pricey historic variety failed completely, Old House Gardens with their impeccable customer service sent me a replacement bulb for free, and it has developed perfectly.

The spidery Tulipa acuminata, the bright red lily-flowered Tulipa 'Elegans Rubra', and what should have been the white-flowered pure species of Tulipa clusiana but instead turned out to be the pale yellow selection 'Cynthia'

Now back to that conference paper...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Garden History Meets Activism

I woke up this morning only to find something - I am afraid it was a mouse - had wreaked havoc on the rice seedlings in the sunroom. Luckily most of the seedlings that had been completely destroyed were of the easier, earlier varieties of which I have plenty of seed rather than the rarer landraces that I am trialing this year and of which I only have very limited seed, and which moreover might be less likely to succeed if I have to start them anew at this point. Even so, I was seething with frustration, especially since I have to somehow figure out another place for the young plants where they can grow undisturbed, safe from the predations of whatever nocturnal critter has apparently taken up residence with us.

In the meantime, here is an article from the Harvard Gazette about one of my peers and his very exciting work as both an academic and activist working for the preservation of historic gardens in Istanbul:

Defender of Urban Gardens

Needless to say, I am very excited to read Aleksander's dissertation when it is completed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Return of the Duchess

My 'Duchesse de Parme' Parma violets (Viola 'Duchesse de Parme') are beginning to bloom and even though they are tiny they are lovely and deliciously fragrant.

Viola 'Duchesse de Parme'

This is actually the second time I have tried my luck with Parma violets. The first time was many years ago when I was still a kid in Germany, and the two plants I had then died on me rather quickly. My current attempt at their cultivation began last spring, so I am definitely doing a bit better this time, though I still find them to be quite a challenge. I started with one plant each of the three varieties offered by Select Seeds, 'Duchesse de Parme', 'Marie Louise', and 'Comte de Brazza'. They grew well over the summer and by fall I had six big pots full. Inside in a cool, bright spot for the winter, however, they began declining rather precipitously with some sort of viral or fungal infection. One pot I had to discard entirely, and two I planted out in the garden as soon as the weather warmed up the teensiest bit, while the remaining two that stayed in slightly better shape are now back on the shady side of the balcony. The plants in the garden are the first to flower; hopefully those on the balcony will follow suit.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Catching Up

Somehow I managed to miss Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again this month, and otherwise, too, I seem to have been behind on everything of late. This spring has also been in some ways the weirdest - and, from a gardening perspective, the worst - that we have had here for as long as I have lived in this area. The winter was unusually mild, which caused many plants to sprout much too early or to not go properly dormant, only to be decimated by three days of extreme cold in mid-February - three days so cold that they completely defoliated all the bamboo in our neighborhood. Another bout of late frost and snow following days of warmth a little over a week ago then destroyed a lot of what had survived that Arctic blast in January - including a lot of the magnolias and early ornamental cherries and the like. That being said, there are still quite a few things in bloom in the garden now.

Returning hyacinths - I had forced these indoors two years ago and they were pale pink, but in the garden they faithfully come back in this pale lilac-purple

The somewhat more sophisticated - or decadent - 'Chestnut Flower'...

... and the even more classy 'Madame Sophie'

One of the only surviving clusters of the wonderful Narcissus 'Avalanche'

'Trevithian', too, was somewhat decimated by the February cold spell

A gloriously double 'Van Sion'

The woodland or Florentine tulip (Tulipa sylvestris), a new favorite of mine - I wish I had tried these earlier, and hope they will multiply and naturalize

Grape hyacinths (Muscari sp.), another spring bulb I had never planted before

Yet another new addition - my very first Ipheion uniflorum!

In my hometown in southern Germany the winter and spring were less unsettled and problematic, and my mom recently sent this picture of the camellia I planted in our garden when I was ten or eleven:

My first - and still most successful - camellia

Of course there is also a ton of seed starting going on and all the window sills are filling up with little seedlings to move out into the garden once temperatures warm up a bit. Even in the garden quite a few seedlings are quickly coming up now that the weather is stabilizing a bit - opium poppies, garland chrysanthemums, sweet peas, broad beans...