Begonia Silver Jewel

Since my passion for begonias, particularly rhizomatous types, continues to grow, I try to be judicious about acquiring new plants–It’s difficult not to give in to temptation–In the last month I’ve bought two new ones at work where they are propagated in our greenhouse from the collection of our Director of Gardens–I also have a habit of ordering from online sources, as with this recent purchase, an exquisite emerald and silver-textured fantasy named, appropriately, Silver Jewel:

This is a young plant, it already displays a trailing habit, so it will be interesting to see how this one continues to grow–

I have it on the front porch with the ferns and a number of other begonias that I keep in bright shade–

A closeup of one of the leaves–I’m curious how this will respond to higher light levels, so I have taken a cutting and started a second one to put on the back deck where it will get a few hours of early morning and late afternoon sun–Not all begonias can take so much sun; it’s trial and error, but of the begonias I have there, the colors tend to be more bright and saturated on some, darker on others, but always different than their counterparts in all-day shade–When I was recently at the Botanical gardens in Puerto Vallarta, I saw that they had planted a number of their rhizomatous begonias in beds in full sun–They looked content, growing thick and relatively low to the ground (though still quite large in their spread)–

As Silver Jewel continues to grow, I’ll post updates–


Grooming Plants

We are fully into spring and all the tender and tropical plants have been out for several weeks now–Everyone had a tough winter in the garage and house but came through like champs–The orchids had the most trouble since I was forced to move them from their initial home in the temporary winter greenhouse I set up the past several years—-Unlike the historic neighborhood we moved from, our new, more rural home has a wide and open expanse of lawn that winter winds move across ferociously–The structure was simply not stable enough to make it through a fall of unusually heavy tropical storms and winter winds–So in the garage everything went–I situated all the plants on racks by the windows with supplemental lighting–There was one terrible morning in January when I discovered to my horror that somehow one of the garage doors had been left open overnight when temps dipped into the 20’s–Ugh–Thankfully I had a heater going and though I lost some valuable orchids, most of the plants survived–Luckily I had moved all of the rhizomatous begonias and smaller tropicals into the house–Now that everyone is out and starting new growth, it’s time for a bit of cleaning and grooming–

I love lemon button ferns with their narrow fronds–I divided a large one into two pots and though they look fine, I needed to clean them up–All plants benefit from regular grooming, but potted plants are especially happy when kept clean and tidy–I make a point of going through all the potted plants regularly and clean them up by trimming away dead leaves, any debris that has accumulated in the pot, removing spent flower stems, etc.–I’m also sure to check for pests during this process–

Not a huge difference, but the removal of old fronds and dead matter from the fern will allow the new fronds just peeking up to grow in quickly–I made my way through all the pots on the front porch and ended up with a basket of plant matter for the compost pile–

One side effect of this process for me is that too often I will be compelled to save a few begonia leaves to root for a backup plant or to give away:

These are all winter leaves that needed to be removed to make room for the flush of new growth on each plant–They’re not all pretty but they’re healthy–I simply trim the leaf stems with a knife and plop them into glasses of water to root–I prefer to get new plants by this old-fashioned method as opposed to potting up leaf section cuttings–I like to monitor the formation of roots and there are few issues with mold and fungus, which can lead to rotting–The key is potting them up at the right time when the roots are not too long and very tiny leaves are forming on the end of the stem–That will be in about 3-4 weeks for these cuttings–

Sometimes when cleaning up plants you’ll come across the unexpected, like these diminutive and colorful fungi in a small pot of begonia ‘Marmaduke’:

I don’t normally worry about removing these ephemeral and mysterious life forms from my pots unless they get out of hand–Besides, the visible parts of mushrooms are short-lived and most of the plants will undergo a repotting or freshening up of soil at some point over the spring and summer–

Another bonus with the grooming process of potted plants is that, as with the aforementioned fungi, you often encounter surprises like this sly little griffinia flower spike sneaking up through new spring foliage:

I’ll post a few photos once the blooms begin to open–Griffinia is an exquisite amaryllis relative from the forests of Brasíl–

Be sure to groom your potted plants regularly–They will be healthier and reward you with beautiful displays of growth and flowers–

Plant Goings-On

A friend in Florida gave me a cutting of this yellow-blooming walking iris that grew by their pool, above–It decided to bloom–

I had to bring in my seedlings last night, it was

Super chilly–Here’s what I have so far: butterfly weed, asters, two varieties of zinnia, Chinese lantern flowers (for pots only), echinacea and moon flowers–

The moon flowers so far–I saved the seed from last year’s vine and so far they’re Nice and robust; I’ll plant the rest of the moonflower seeds outside along with a number of other seeds I’ve saved or bought–Meanwhile, here are a few hostas coming up in the front bed:

None of these are identified, they were gifts from a friend–Love them–I’ve got some sedum blooming now:

Above, sempervivums (hens and chicks) with winter-sun color–Lovely–

Pampas Grass

We spent part of yesterday cutting back our pampas grass–Backbreaking work dealing with stalks and treacherous saw-like blades –Though we wore pants, long sleeves and heavy gloves, I got cut up pretty good–We took two trips in the truck to the county landfill to dump cuttings–

The “stumps” look pretty sad, we are rather late doing this and it looks like they haven’t been cut back in years–Plus we’re novices–Five more clumps to go–

Sone need to be divided, but that’s for another time–Hopefully they’ll come back more full and healthier too–I’ll post updates along the way–

Tiles from Mexico

I bought a few of these handmade tiles while in Mexico and managed to get them back without breaking any–

I love their bright colors and hand-crafted, slightly rough quality–They remind me of Mexico and make me happy to look at–I lined them up on the kitchen windowsill and put the African violets on them–

They look much better than the pink tray I had under them before–I got these violets last year on markdown at Krogay–They’ve all bloomed multiple times for me–I’ve posted them previously–They love this window–

Narcissus in Bloom

There are a few more daffodils just in bloom that I planted last fall–The first up is Narcissus ‘Barrett Browning’, a classic hybrid from 1945:

This is the first of the blooms to open–Sweetly scented, these bright bicolor flowers really stand out in the garden–

Next up is Narcissus obvallaris, a species also know and the Tenby Daffodil–It is of shorter stature and the flowers are overall smaller than the modern yellow Dutch Master, but they are charming and bright–

This flower has a large cup, smaller petals and a delicious fragrance–Daffodils are one of the most welcome harbingers of spring and, given full sun, quite carefree growers–

Blooming Now

This unnamed “pink” daffodil is among a number coming into bloom now–

This particular one was from a bag labeled ‘Pink Mix’ that I purchased from Lowe’s last fall–I wasn’t sure what to expect, the label had a photo of a number of single and double pink daffodils–The color isn’t actually pink, but more a pinkish coral–Either way I love this one, and can’t wait to see the others–

Naturally I had to bring one in to enjoy–It smells wonderful–Looking forward to see what the rest will look like once they open–Also just starting to bloom in the yard is the classic white and yellow ‘Ice Follies’:

These crisp bicolor flowers are a nice companion to the excellent ‘Dutch Master’, an improved form of the king of modern yellow daffodils, ‘King Alfred’:

These blooms have been open now for two weeks and show little signs of fading, a testament to superior modern breeding–The flowers are large, well-proportioned and nicely scented–If you come across ‘ Dutch Master’ bulbs at your garden center this fall, I encourage you to buy some to enjoy next spring, you won’t be disappointed–

I planted these diminutive muscari last fall and am happy to see they are pushing up spikes of blooms–I remember thinking how tiny the bulbs were and wondering would they make it through the winter–I needn’t have worried, they’re doing great–These are one of my favorite spring flowers and I am looking forward to them filling in nicely over time–I plan to look for more varieties or species this fall–

The first bloom of Iris Japonica ‘Eco Easter’ in the new yard–I dug these from the yard at our previous house and potted them up when we moved–We were so busy during the first few months settling in that they sat in the pot until I mid-winter and wasn’t sure if they would survive–Happy to report they seem fine!–

Inside the house, a red hippeastrum has opened its blooms–Seen here with another recent bloomer, these both may be ‘Red Lion’; I’ve lost a few tags during our recent move–The newer one is more pink, but the color may mature to a deeper red–Enjoying both immensely–I keep three African violets on the kitchen window sill above the sink so that I can enjoy their blooms all the time–I have a number of them so that as one goes out of bloom I inevitably have another just coming into bloom with which to replace it–This white and purple picotee is one of my favorites–Another is this pink:

I think it’s important to have flowers in the house all year–They please the eyes and lift the spirits–

Red Amaryllis in Bloom

Most of my hippeastrum (aka amaryllis, a prettier name, but incorrect) have been sending up spikes–Just as the previous one, ‘Apple Blossom’, has finished, this noid red one has come into bloom–I have it in the living room so I can see it all the time, but for this photo I put it in the afternoon sun to capture the wonderful orange-red color–

Flower Frogs

I’ve developed a new interest:

These are flower frogs that I’ve grouped on the window sill in the laundry room–It’s only a small collection so far, but I find their shapes interesting and they are pleasing to look at–

A neat vintage/antique glass one given to me by my mother, above–I love the glass ones–

This metal one (zinc?) was another gift, from a volunteer at work–I am looking forward to using these small utilitarian (though interesting) items for arrangements this year–