Featured Plant: Maxillaria tenuifolia

maxillaria tenuifoliaMaxillaria tenuifolia, also known as the Coconut Orchid. It has a strong fragrance (especially when it first opens) which smells like just like coconut suntan lotion. This species of orchid was discovered near Veracruz, Mexico by Karl Theodore Hartweg, a German botanist who collected plants throughout Mexico, Central America, and California, in the 1830s and 40s. It grows at low elevations from Mexico to Central America.

maxillaria tenuifoliaOrchids in the genus Maxillaria are not difficult to grow. The hard part is believing that they can get by with so little water! They like humidity but not wet soil. Because they are epiphytes,  they can be grown mounted on bark or branches, or in coarse, well draining substrates such as pine bark or small stones, mixed with a little bit of potting soil. Bright indirect light is best. Maxillaria tenuifolia is propagated by the division of the pseudobulbs which you can see at the base of the leaves, growing from the creeping rhizome. The overall plant appears a bit straggly but looks nice in a hanging basket.

maxillaria tenuifoliaCoconut Orchid has long strappy grasslike leaves, and the flowers are hidden in among the foliage. They are dark red to rust-colored, with a speckled lip. They are only about an inch and a half in diameter, but the fragrance is wonderful and delicious.

maxillaria tenuifolia

 

 

 

 

 

The Light Coming into the Greenhouse

Here’s a treat: These beautiful photos were taken in the Conservatory range last week by Noah Le Claire-Conway, PhD student in Plant Sciences. (Equipment: Nikon D2X camera with an AF Micro Nikkor 60 mm lens.)

jewel orchid

Jewel Orchid, Ludisia discolor

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Brazilian Orchid, Epidendrum sp.

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum

Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum aquaticum

Haworthia

Aristocrat Plant, Haworthia coarctata

ice plant

Yellow Ice Plant, Delosperma nubigenum

sundew

Spoon-leaved Sundew, Drosera spatulata

Echeveria

Echeveria sp.

Papaya, Carica papaya

Papaya, Carica papaya

 

And Yet Some More

snow in botanical gardenFor the record, I don’t hate winter or snow; I would much rather have a cold snowy winter than a brown, gray, muddy winter. At least you can play in the snow! I like XC skiing, sledding, ice skating, building snowmen and snow forts and all that good stuff. Snow also contributes some nitrogen to the soil and protects perennials from freeze damage. And lucky me, I don’t have to do the shoveling at my house :-) !

But Sunday night we had about 6 inches added to the two feet or so on the ground, Yesterday a bit of rain, woke this morning to snow falling again –just got the phone call that school will be dismissed an hour early. Prediction for low of 8 F tonight. Basically, I have run out of things to say about winter. The author of “New Hampshire Garden Solutions”, a great blog about the natural world of the White Mountains, remarks on this long cold snowy winter  –with beautiful photos– in his post “Wintering”. Enjoy!

snow in botanical gardensnow in botanical gardens

Featured Plant: Witch Hazel

It’s noon, and it’s 12 degrees, but it’s sunny with no wind… so I went out to the garden to look for signs of spring….crazy, I know. I stepped in a snowbank over my knees but then was able to walk on top of the two or so feet of frozen snow on the ground. I wanted to look at the ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel over by the gazebo. It has skinny little yellow flowers with a light fragrance, and like all the witch hazels, blooms very early. Today I saw just the tiniest bit of yellow peeking out from between the scales of the flower buds. That’s a good sign! From the sidewalk on Upper College Road I looked closely at the ‘Jelena’ witch hazel , another very early bloomer. It is at the same stage as ‘Arnold Promise’, with about a millimeter of orange petal showing. Our third witch hazel is the native Ozark witch hazel, with slightly smaller flowers but much more fragrance. I did not see any sign that it is waking from it’s long winter’s nap just yet.

arnold promise witch hazel

‘Arnold Promise’, Hamamelis x intermedia, March 25, 2014

Hamamelis , the genus of witch hazels, are hardy, low maintenance plants with few pest problems. Whether you think of them as small trees or large shrubs, they are a manageable size at 10 to 15 feet, with some spreading forms nearly as wide. They have smooth, rather plain brown-to-gray bark and heavily textured oval leaves, which turn mostly yellow in fall. And then there’s the reason we love them: spidery, strappy little flowers with long, crinkly petals, all along the branches, when almost nothing else is blooming.

witch hazel jelena

‘Jelena’, Hamamelis x intermedia, February 28, 2011

Hamamelis virginiana, native to eastern North America, blooms around November, and is the plant used for the witch hazel extract you can buy at your local drugstore.

Hamamelis vernalis is native to stream banks of the south-central US. It is the earliest shrub to flower in spring, and its small, yellow-red blooms open  from late February to early April, depending on the weather. It can form dense, multi-stemmed colonies  by sending out suckers. The medium green leaves turn golden yellow in fall. Our Ozark witch hazel is H. vernalis, and when it blooms it smells like springtime!

Hamamelis x intermedia are vigorous hybrid witch hazels, crosses of the Japanese and Chinese species. Blooming from late February to March, their yellow-red petals unfurl on warm days but curl up tightly during chilly nights. The fall foliage is an attractive yellow-orange. Our ‘Arnold Promise’ and ‘Jelena’ are both H. x intermedia. They are sure signs that spring is on it’s way. Take a walk through the Botanical Gardens in the next few weeks (wear your boots) and you’ll find the earliest flowers on the witch hazel, a treat for the winter-weary and anyone ready longer, warmer days.

ozark witch hazel

H. vernalis, February 22, 2012

Some More Snow

The sun has come out in a clear, cloudless, blue sky day, after many (5?) days of mostly gray weather. It’s so cold that there is still ice on the Conservatory windows at 11 AM, but bright and warm inside. We’ve had two more snowfalls since the last post (yes, that’s Monday classes cancelled three weeks in a row, for those of you keeping track.) More snow and very cold weather predicted for the weekend, so I’ve decided warm pictures are in order for today.

pencil Euphorbia

Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’

Brazilian Orchid

Brazilian Orchid

succulents in greenhouse

Red Echeveria and a trailing Kalanchoe

Oxalis triangularis

Oxalis triangularis

pomegranate flower

Pomegranate, Punica granatum

evolvulus flowers

Evolvulus glomeratus

Bromeliad

Fingernail Bromeliad, Neoregelia spectabilis

shrimp plants in green house

Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeena and Golden Shrimp Plant, Pachystachys lutea

I love the colors in the greenhouse but all I really need today is this one: “New Growth Green”.

japanese holly fern

Japanese Holly Fern, Cyrtomium falcatum

February 13 2015 026

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Snow

snow in firelane Monday night and Tuesday we got about 14-15 inches of snow. Enough for a snow day, hooray! Coffee by the woodstove, lots of shoveling and car clearing, then cross country skiing out the kitchen door and down the unplowed back roads of West Kingston. Life is good…

greenhouse and drifted snowThe Botanical Garden fared well in this storm. The snow is deeply drifted (3-4 feet) in areas, but no broken trees despite fierce winds. I have a theory that we lost so many trees in Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy, and the Blizzard of 2013 that the ones left after those storms are in pretty good shape. Once again lots of rabbit trails through the garden and evidence of human visitors too. With classes cancelled two days in a row, there’s been plenty of time to play in the snow.

metasequoia trunk

snow in garden

Our water garden is under there, somewhere.

icicles on greenhouse

The warmth of the greenhouses always creates a great display of icicles.

The angle of the sunlight coming into the greenhouse yesterday afternoon was making everything glow. I grabbed the camera, and tried to capture it even though my glasses are “in the shop” (caught without a spare pair!) The orchid, which doesn’t have a label, often looks bedraggled quickly, but the blooms have been holding up for over a week. The maroon and greenish flower is Hippeastrum papilio, also known as Butterfly Amaryllis. Peeking in at the Pharmacy Greenhouse, the beautiful magenta daisy-like flower with a purple center is Osteospermum. A beautiful sunny treat for today’s “Cold Rain and Snow”.

orchid orchidorchidbegoniaHippeastrum

hippeastrumosteospermumosteospermum