A Gardening Journal


Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Stinking Hellebore in the Snow

Winter in New England makes wise gardeners thrilled with details that might scarcely be noticed in warm weather. Here's a hellebore bent down beneath heavy snow—and it is so worth noticing. Not least, it's alive! Even more startling, being snow-buried doesn't appear to be causing it any distress. If this plant could talk, it would say, "I'm doin' great, and—since I know it's on your mind to ask—I just love this weather."

Helleborus foetidus under the snow 020117 320

The snow makes the red petioles—like slenderest stems of rhubarb—even more visible; they are tipped by ferny palmate leaves. The lighter-green leafy growth at the tips of the stems is unlobed and—can it be, in early February?—hiding fat round flower buds: this plant really is comfy in the cold.

Read more: Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Stinking Hellebore in the Snow


The Best Season Ever: Meyer Lemon in Bloom

Meyer lemons are irresistible fruit: their fragrant sweetness makes typical lemons seem coarse. Plus, their thin skins make them tricky to ship, especially outside their peak November to March season—and, therefore, all the more desirable.

Citrus x meyeri flowers fingers 012017 320

So why not grow your own? The trees are compact—shrubby, really—and will flower and fruit prolifically even as youngsters. If you need to overwinter your Meyer lemon indoors, you'll want to get right in the action with hand pollination. It's easy with a kid's paintbrush.

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Meyer Lemon in Bloom


Wire Vine in Winter

In milder climates, it's easier to tell if a plant is dead in the winter. With only a modest challenge to remain green during a season that is merely chilly, not arctic, if the plant is brown, it's usually a goner. For plants in climates with more intense winters, this basic Green : Alive / Brown : Dead thinking must sometimes be tossed. Plants stay alive on their own terms, leaving the conceptual catch-up to us.

Muehlenbeckia axillaris Nancy Taylor overall 012117 320

This is a large colony of wire vine—most often seen as a container annual, or a rampant but beautiful groundcover in Zones 8 and 9—that has been thriving for many years here in southern New England. The foliage of the upper reaches is green, while that of the lower is brown. For this plant in this site in this Zone 7a climate, its reality is Green : High / Brown : Low / Either Color, High or Low : Just Fine. What gives?

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The Best Season Ever: First Flowers of the Paperwhites

How can it be that I hadn't ever forced paperwhites before a friend brought over a pot of them earlier this month? Their fragrance is shockingly powerful and voluptuous; it's really a slap-in-the-face astonishment.

Narcissus papyraceus upper growth 011817 320

I'll force a few pots each winter from now on—if for no other reason than to see how they perform when watered with diluted gin or vodka, which is reported to keep the leaves and flowering stems dramatically shorter. Finally, I have a reason to up my annual consumption of martinis from just one or two: I'll also have the company of a plant that benefits from a sip.

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The Best Season Ever: Paddle Plant in Bloom

Shorter days in fall and winter, combined with comparatively chilly fifty-degree nights in the greenhouse, inspired my colony of paddle plants to soar into bloom. Vegetative stems are squat, with closely spaced pairs of round leaves that are, indeed, the size and thickness of paddles—or flapjacks or cabbage. When each stem is a year or two old, a tall flowering stalk emerges from its tip. Mine developed so quickly that they hit the translucent roof of the greenhouse before I noticed. 

Kalanchoe luciae overall 010517 320

I put the container on a lower bench, bringing the entire colony into right-at-hand view in the process. And hooray for that: a paddle plant in bloom is a strange beast that deserves to be appreciated in every detail.

Read more: The Best Season Ever: Paddle Plant in Bloom

 
 
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