Sunday, November 27, 2016

Happy Advent!

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and being German that means I had to put together my Advent wreath and light the first candle.

The first light on the Advent wreath

Thanks to the wreath the living room now smells wonderfully of pine. There is really nothing that makes it feel more like Christmas.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Planting More Bulbs

On Friday I volunteered with the Rose Fitzgerald Greenway Conservancy to plant bulbs with a group from my husband's place of work. We planted over five thousand bulbs in three hours - various species of Allium and narcissi, Chionodoxa and species tulips. It was a lovely fall day, and it felt good to spread around some beauty.

Loads of narcissi laid out for planting

Apart from fall foliage, there were also a few things still blooming and a few things just beginning to bloom around us in the Greenway's gardens as we were working.

Some of the last blooms of the fall-flowering Crocus speciosus

An early Christmas rose (Helleborus niger)

Today is decidedly gloomier and colder. Perhaps our first frost will finally arrive tonight. On the other hand, the latest of my chrysanthemums are only now beginning to really bloom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Quick Excursion: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Today I spent some time at two of the wonderful museums we have relatively nearby, the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The latter does have a lovely little Japanese Garden, but as it was already almost dusk by the time I got there I did not visit it this time. However, the former is chock-full of horticultural interest - in fact, as much of the art there, while impressive and of great significance, is not exactly my cup of tea, the plant displays are for me the main attraction!

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's iconic courtyard, with its tree ferns and the late-fall display of chrysanthemums

Another courtyard view

17th-century Mexican tiles in the museum's Spanish Cloister

A decorative wood carving

Detail of a Japanese screen showing the red wild form of Camellia japonica

In the greenhouse

Flowers, foliage, and fruit in the greenhouse

One of many perfect citrons

 Massive bicolor chrysanthemums

A very happy Paphiopedilum lady's slipper

Very tall orchid inflorescences of a species unknown to me 

 'Lili Gallon', a chrysanthemum that has yet to fully open in my own garden, as a disbud with a single giant flower per stem

'Kokka Bunmi', another variety I have been growing, as a disbud

Some beautiful red chrysanthemums grown in a more relaxed manner

I really should make more of an effort to make it to the museum more frequently to see the different seasonal floral displays. In particular, I have yet to see the famous display of nasturtiums trailing down the courtyard façades in April. The chimney bellflowers (Campanula pyramidalis) in late summer, too, are quite unique and must be worth seeing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - November 2016

We have had a very mild fall so far - the climate change perhaps that this country's new regime will be so vigorously and dementedly denying? - with predicted freezing temperatures having failed to actually arrive three times so far. The one upside, perhaps, is that we still have quite a few flowers in bloom.

The last of the Abyssinian gladioli (Gladiolus murielae)

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), revived by the cool, wet weather

One of the last of the strawflowers (Xerochrysum bracteatum)

Bidens pilosa or Bidens alba - I never know which one it is that pops up in our garden

A pale calendula (Calendula officinalis)

A big, wonderfully butter yellow chrysanthemum, grown from a potted plant bought at Trader Joe's for Chinese New Year last winter

French marigolds (Tagetes patula) still blooming

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) positively glowing

Tassel flower (Emilia javanica)

Chrysanthemum 'River City'

 A vigorous red dahlia whose name unfortunately escapes me

Chrysanthemum 'Samson'

 'Slater's Crimson China'

Chrysanthemum 'Kokka Bunmi'

 The indefatigable purple ice plant (Delosperma cooperi)

Chrysanthemum 'Emperor of China'

 Chrysanthemum 'Cambodian Queen'

To see what is blooming elsewhere, do check out many other garden bloggers' current blooms at May Dreams Gardens!

Monday, November 14, 2016

An American Survivor

For the past week, I have been all but paralyzed with the terror of what is happening to this country, the way racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia and all sorts of other hatred and bigotry, as well as just plain apathy and ignorance, have seemingly won out and are now threatening to derail and reverse virtually all the progress we have made in the past years. I am still reeling, still very afraid, and still furious. However, there are still flowers, and one of the ones still blooming in my garden in particular is giving me a shred of hope as a symbol, a metaphor of what we all must strive to be - an American survivor.

Dahlia 'Mrs. I. de ver Warner'

'Mrs. I. de ver Warner' is an American dahlia variety introduced in 1920. A descendant of Mexican wildflowers domesticated by the Aztecs, like all dahlias, it survived for decades after disappearing from commercial cultivation and the bulb trade as an heirloom pass-along in some gardens in Kentucky. Most remarkably, it did so as a hardy perennial overwintering in the ground, in a part of the country generally too cold for dahlias to be hardy. It has thrived similarly for me here in New England. There you have it, then - a large, flamboyant, bright pink and hard-working descendant of Mexican immigrants that has survived and flourished through all the indifference and inhospitable conditions this country has thrown at it to produce nothing but beauty. The very essence of what being American should be - needs to be! - all about.

You can read more about the story of 'Mrs. I. de ver Warner' here.

More importantly, here are some ways to get started on doing some good and help write our own story of American survival:

Now go and fight for the America I once believed in and want to believe in again. Fight for an America where I and the people I care about can feel safe. Fight for the survival of the diversity, intellectual vibrancy, and promise of equality that really do make this nation great.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekend Excursion: The Conservatory Garden, Central Park, New York City

We were in New York City over the weekend, and while we did not manage to do terribly much sightseeing, we did stop by Central Park's very pretty Conservatory Garden. The English garden was already largely put to bed for the winter but there were still some blue and purple tropical waterlilies blooming in the central pool.

The central water feature in the English Garden

The formality of central Italian Garden with its fountain was stately in the fall sunshine:

View along the axis of the Italian Garden

The highlight, however, was the French Garden, which is at its peak right now, filled with a gorgeous sea of chrysanthemums and some other late-flowering plants.

A view into the French Garden

One of the entrances to the French Garden with splendid lion's ear (Leonotis leonurus)


A flower of aibika (Abelmoschus manihot) among the chrysanthemums

More chrysanthemums!

The display was absolutely gorgeous; these pictures barely do it justice! It made me wonder what varieties of chrysanthemum exactly these are and how much planning might go into the distribution of colors. Maybe I can emulate the effect on a smaller scale in the garden here in coming years - I am always happy to add more chrysanthemums to the garden.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Chrysanthemum Update

I have a lot of new chrysanthemums in the garden, and many of them are at the height of their glory now. The bushy small-flowered types that flower as early as late August or early September and are available almost everywhere in every imaginable size for a pittance are pretty enough and I usually get a few early and try to get them established so that they will return the next year and grow more naturally. However, the various less common perennial and heirloom types I have added this year are more exciting creatures altogether.

'Cambodian Queen'

I think this might be 'Kokka Bunmi'

'Emperor of China'

'Sheffield Hillside Pink'

A vigorous, gorgeous yellow variety of unknown name that I got as a potted, disbudded specimen from Trader Joe's for Chinese New Year last winter

Like 'Kokka Bunmi' and 'Emperor of China', a number of other varieties are just beginning to bloom, so provided we do not have any very heavy frosts any time soon - fingers crossed! - we will be in chrysanthemums for a while yet.

Weekend Travels: Las Vegas and Palm Springs

The husband had a work conference in Las Vegas at the end of last week and I tagged along, and after he was done on Friday, we drove down to Palm Springs for the weekend. In Las Vegas, I escaped the usual tourist attractions for a bit to visit the small botanical garden at the Springs Preserve. The landscaping is very much geared towards children and education - and there were exuberant Halloween decorations everywhere - but there were many beautiful plants, some common and some rare, or at least rare enough where I have been that I had never seen them before.

A detail of a massive chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

 Fruiting nopal prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)

Ripening pistachios (Pistacia vera) on the tree

An unseasonal bloom on Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty'

 A bright orange Tecoma

In Palm Springs, the plant- and garden-related sights were altogether more abundant, beginning with the charming grounds of our hotel, The Parker Palm Springs:
Palms, bougainvilleas, and bright blue sky

White roses in the desert

The hotel's distinctive entrance

Outside of the town proper, we also saw some beautiful natural - and surprisingly lush - vegetation at Andreas Canyon in the Indian Canyons.

California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) against the rocks

Oasis canopy

A stream in the desert

Back in town, we visited the Sunnylands Center and Gardens, which offer some impressive and very elegant examples of landscaping with desert plants:

The entrance to the Sunnylands Center

Rows and rows of Aloe vera set against minimalist architecture

An army of golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) in a grove of palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Fields of agave

A baby monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) munching on the flowers of a rush or desert milkweed (Asclepias subulata)

Unfortunately we were not able to tour the actual estate at Sunnylands, as that would have required ordering tickets well in advance when we did not even know yet that we were going to go to Palm Springs. Perhaps we will have a chance to see it on a future visit.