Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weapons of Mass(achusetts winter) Destruction

I'm crawling, bare-knuckled and teeth-gritting, towards spring. To battle those terrors of frigid temperatures, dirty piles of snow, and black ice, I have these weapons.

Who can resist in the face of shamelessly over-the-top roses?  I love red.  And anything that comes wrapped in tulle and ribbon.

The butterfly petals of a white cyclamen always look clean and fresh, even on an overcast day. Yes, there will be sunshine and spring breezes, eventually.

This "Novella"amaryllis keeps me going until the rest of my bulbs are ready to come out of the refrigerator, get themselves planted, and start blooming.  Hey, it might just be that time!

A straggly forsythia Lynwood Gold, transplanted a year ago, has finally sprung shoots for flower forcing.  What a struggle up the backyard hill in knee-high snow just to snip some twigs!  This plant is not exactly burdened with branches, but hopefully a few won't be missed.

And within 30 seconds of cutting the ends of the forsythia twigs under warm water, this little twist of leaves had unfurled.  Even if they don't bloom, that sight was worth the inconvenience of snow down my boots and icy hands.  But, oh, I do hope that they will flower!

But to really arm myself against winter, I spent a few hours in the the 19th- and early 20th-century greenhouses at the Lyman Estate in Waltham.  There, the weather is always balmy, the bouganvillea is in bloom and, through the glass panes, the skies shine a sunny blue.

And there were gazillions of orchids to see and sniff. And what doesn't combat a New England winter better than these? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Midwinter moonlight gardens

A girls-only trip to western Florida last weekend landed me at the Edison winter estate in Ft. Myers.  In addition to the glorious orchids nestled in the boughs of mango trees, heirloom roses embellishing the grounds, and banyan trees dripping with prop roots, this romantic little private garden was a heart-stealer.

Designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1929 for Edison's wife, Mina, this moonlight garden was restored to its intimate, contemplative beauty in 2006.  The diminuative outdoor room, extending from the back of Edison's "Little Office," is enclosed on its other three sides by a deep green hedge topped by scarlet-flowering bougainvillea, "Barbara Karst."  An antique white climbing rose, Prosperity,” sprawls up the Little Office's chimney.  Between the white Chinese paper lanterns ringing the garden perimeter are more white flowers: Pentas lanceolata, star-like Vietnamese gardenias, and Begonia odorata "Alba." What glorious scents there must have been at night!

In the evening, strings of electric lights would have been reflected, starlight-like, in the pool below.  This is one of those thoughtful gardens which succeeds as much because it aligns perfectly with the personalities of those for whom it was designed as for its own gentle charm.

Returning up north, I peaked out at my own moonlight garden last night.  Here it is, shivering in the frozen, snow-covered midwinter darkness. How much longer?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Xeriscaping, not

When I set as one of my garden goals for this winter to read up on xeriscaping, I had in mind the horticultural improvement of this modest dry patch in the side yard.

Little did I know that my job would be sending me a few months later to a place where the dry patches are really dry. Desert dry. And desert big.

This is not a place where xeriscaping or native plants or environmental stewardship has made much traction. The plants are almost exclusively imports: petunias, bougainvillea, mangroves . . . even these palm trees are indigenous to another continent. Irrigation systems are necessary to supply de-salinated water.

The solitary native plant that I encountered was this hardy soul, perhaps Lycium shawii, which was enjoyed as camel fodder.

I had hoped to bring back some photographs, plant lists, and landscaping ideas for drought-tolerant species. Perhaps even a few seed packets would find their way into my luggage.

But, no, nothing.  Though I did pick up a most appropriate memento in the Amsterdam airport on the way back.

Don't look for it in the xeriscaped area of my garden this summer.