“January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow.”
Coldest days of the winter so far are upon us. I received a gift of an indoor-outdoor thermometer which records minimum/maximum temperatures. Now when I get up 5:30 I know it really IS cold, instead of guessing! I am hoping to skate on the pond by this weekend, something that doesn’t happen every winter here in southern Rhode Island.
5 F this morning up here at the greenhouse, (0 F down at my house) but bright and sunny. I love the magical, feathery frost patterns that form on the glass inside the conservatory! It’s warm and lovely in the greenhouse, especially when the sun comes out. The grafted citrus tree is blooming, and the scent of orange blossoms is in the air, mixed with the fragrance of the flowering gardenias…heavenly! Since I can only show you the flowers, you’ll have to come in and experience the sweet smells for yourself.
Hard frost came to my home garden in the wee hours of Monday morning. Here at the top of Kingston Hill, the Botanical Garden had none to speak of, but the plants are looking pretty tired. Lack of rain, deer, woodchucks, and rabbits took their toll this year! Wide swaths of Phlox and Chelone were eaten to little nubs, then eaten again. Hostas disappeared early on. Echinacea has become a wildlife delicacy. Annuals were lunch as soon as they were set out. There are a few bright spots: Japanese Anemones (eaten and recovered), Dahlias (near the road= not eaten), Toad Lilies (also eaten and recovered), Ornamental Peppers (untouched!), Callicarpa, and of course, beautiful fall foliage.
Oh, and last but not least: Gaillardia, in the All-America Selections Display Garden. These little plants fly under the radar at the annual Plant Sale, but they can’t be beat. They are perennials blooming first year from seed (started April 1st), withstand heat, drought, animals, and insects. October 21 –still blooming! Save a garden spot for them in the spring.
That’s what everybody here is walking around saying, with a smile and a grateful look at the gray skies. Yes, it’s been quite a while. I like having a rain day to focus on the greenhouse, dividing and potting up plants, rearranging, cleaning up, and taking cuttings. Here are some greenhouse plants which caught my eye today.
Come see us at the East Farm Spring Festival! The URI Botanical Gardens will be selling Annuals, Garden-dug Perennials, and vegetable seedlings. All-America selections, heirloom varieties, and more. All proceeds benefit the Botanical Gardens!
Earlier this week Andy handed me a new seed catalog. I hadn’t gotten any in the mail yet and so I hadn’t started that delicious daydreaming about springtime, gardening, warm weather, and especially, seeds. So let the daydreaming begin, that’s what January is for if you’re a gardener. I adore seed catalogs; there is something so old fashioned about them. Pictures of impossibly beautiful vegetables and flowers, with over-the top-descriptions of how tasty, productive and gorgeous they are! The earliest, sweetest peas, the best tomatoes you ever had, giant pumpkins. The biggest zinnias, the tallest sunflowers, and the most fragrant sweet basil! Not to mention that seeds are one of the best investments you can make. I’m a sucker for all of it, and being a little old-fashioned myself, I like the actual paper catalog in my hand, by the woodstove, with a cup of coffee.
Last fall I emptied my two giant cookie tins full of seeds and sorted them with a critical eye. I composted any which were more than three years old, and I was surprised at how many that was. Time to buy some new seeds. I’m looking at old favorites like Benary Giant Zinnias and Northeaster Pole Beans. I’ve only gone through the Johnny’s and High Mowing catalogs…impatiently awaiting Fedco (top favorite), and Territorial (they are selling wasabi plants!) and Cook’s Garden, and Nichols…. I found many enticing new-to-me varieties: Esterina cherry tomato, (“sweeter than Sungold and resists cracking”!) Listada di Gandia Eggplant, Calypso Pickling Cucumber. Veronica Romanesco Cauliflower: stunning! Or how about Painted Lady Sweet Peas ( “This variety dates to 1737 and was planted by Jefferson at Monticello in the early 1800s.”). I have never had much luck with Sweet Peas –it gets too hot early on here –but I ‘m convinced I should try again…
As I said in this post, every year I plant seeds and every year I am thrilled and amazed when the seedlings push up through the soil. What are you daydreaming about this January?