Friday, March 26, 2010

Broken Thermometers

Back to winter here:

Snowdrops dropped by snow...

Helleborus niger, white flowers well camouflaged.

And the dark red Helleborus orientalis hybrid, can't you tell?

Forecast low for tonight -8C, with a high tomorrow of -7C??!!! Meanwhile +19Cin Firenze (northern Italy) just now.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wild Thing

A rare walk in the woods today (on foot, not even on a bike!). Days like this I miss not having a dog anymore...

As suspected (17 Mar) Speckled alder (Alnus rugosa ) is in bloom. 2 photos of it. The long showy catkin is the male flower, the small reddish catkins above the males are the female flowers.
(above the males... hmmm.) I have been calling this "black alder" for years, but in looking up the botanical name discovered I've been wrong even if consistant; the black alder is a tree, imported from Europe; speckled alder is a shrub rarely much over 12 ft or 4 metres tall. And, yes, the bark is heavily speckled, good clue, although also very dark blackish (edit 1April: what was I thinking of when I wrote that? it's not black, rather a mid-greyish with brown tinting!!) in the major part between the specks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More of the Hellebore

The first two are blooming for the first time; they are either two stems of the same plant or two plants of the same seed batch sharing a pot, I can't tell right now! The seed was labelled as Helleborus orientalis/caucasicus. Not quite white, more cream to pale yellow. From the first photo I have to assume it has been in hidden bloom for quite awhile now, since the pollen is all gone. I admit I hadn't really been looking very hard.

Helleborus niger in full flower, the same plant as 17 March.

A nice deep red, almost black Helleborus orientalis hybrid, flowers somewhat darker than the camera saw.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring flowers already?

First, yes it's true I am back at posting to this blog again! Can't promise that I'll keep it up regularily or long, but we'll see as we go along. The multi-year gap involved here was spent gettin my head together on nursery and personal issues and managing to mesh gardening with cycling (still not a done deal, but getting there).


A very early spring, a good two weeks earlier than usual. Nor was it a very cold winter either, overnight lows rarely going below -15C. More, there has been a good run of sunny days to break the frosts, whereas we have been more used to cloudy or wet springs (or at least that seems to be the case from looking back at my cycling records!!)

Two days ago crocus leaves were starting to show in a couple of sand beds, and Helleborus niger buds were swelling and semi-open. Today, crocus flowers are in bloom and the Hellebore is noticeably open. Other Hellebores are starting to show flower stems in bud erecting themselves above the ground. Probably black alder bushes are in bloom too, but they are not showy and I haven't walked into their area very often since I ran out of dogs.

A pair of yellow-flowered Hellebore plants just showing through the snow down the hill from the house. The first is just a bud at ground level right now, the second further along. One of them is a species and the other is a hybrid, but their labels are still under the snow so I can't be more specific now.

Snowdrops, budded but not quite open. These are in deep shade beneath a large Rhododendron.

A large Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose) hybrid quite far along because it is situated not far from a basement wall close to my wood stove, so the ground there is the warmest in the yard.

A well- and long-established bunch of crocus in the root zone of a Spiraea bush (hence all the branches laying amongst them). These probably first opened a couple of days ago but I didn't notice them until today. How is that possible?!
These are no particular species or cultivar, just a generic crocus patch which started as a half-dozen corms sometime in the early 80's. I suspect there has been some self-seeding in addition to the corm offsets.

A couple of species or botanical crocuses in a sandbed. The yellow ones are pretty obvious, the pale lilac-coloured ones are shyly hiding beneath the leafs of a yucca.

Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose. This in a bed along an unheated section of the basement and beside the sidewalk. Sunny at this time of year, shady once the trees leaf out. I planted a pair of these close together, but the other one in the pair blooms in November, and yes, still showed some remnants of white sepals as Christmas approached. These are not as vigorous for me as H. orientalis and its hybrids.