Sunday, 10 March 2013

Signs of spring

Wych hazel, or witch hazel if you prefer.  Brilliantly sunny demeanour on an early spring day.
We had a lovely weekend in Toronto - blue skies, plenty of sunshine, and temperatures a few degrees above freezing. The snow is finally melting, and since we had snow on the ground for several weeks this year, it actually does feel like spring is arriving quite properly.  In the last couple of years, we've had rather sparse snow cover, so the bite of winter was less harsh, and consequently, the joy of spring, whilst welcome, was somewhat diminished.

We had a quick visit to the Toronto Botanical Gardens this weekend, more just to stretch the legs rather than in anticipation of any flowers to see, but there were some nice drifts of snowdrops (too far through the bushes to photograph clearly), lots of bulbs poking their noses out of the soil, and some very cheerful wych hazel.  Naturally, a quick scout around the shop resulted in some impulse purchases, in the form of seeds and summer bulbs/corms.  The seeds are all "Renee's Garden" - not a brand I've tried before, but the very pretty watercolour designs on the packages reeled me in, and I snagged Painted Lady sweet peas (apparently dating back to 1737 and heavily fragrant), lacinato Kale (which I've had my eyes on for a couple of years, but never found seeds in Toronto), lemon cucumbers (no idea where I'll find space), a type of Italian salad leaf called "garden ferns" and mesclun mix named "Paris Market Mix".  On the tender bulb side of things, I got some classic "Lucifer" crocosmias (very common and popular in my hometown of Aberdeen, where they seem to grow like weeds despite being too tender to withstand a Toronto winter), two types of gladioli (Prince Claus and Byzantinus), some scented and exotic looking acidenthera, and another fragrant bulb, Polianthes tuberosa "The Pearl".  I haven't grown any of these before, but since I've had reasonable success in the last couple of years with tender bulbs in pots, and they are easy to bring down to the basement for overwintering, it seemed like a good idea!

The brook that runs through the Toronto Botanical Garden was in spate with melting snow .
These dogwoods were absolutely glowing in the sunshine.
Talking of overwintering in the basement, I started looking at what has been lurking down there since the fall.  The pelargoniums that I just dumped down there, still in the window boxes in which they were planted are springing up, and so it's time to get them properly into life.  See below for the method I've used in the last couple of years, which is very little work.  Cannas were also excavated from their pots and inspected.  They are all looking nice and healthly, and I've cut up the huge tubers into smaller pieces, each with several strong, fat buds and some good roots.  Will leave the cuts to dry off for a day and then should get them planted up.  Haven't got to the dahlias yet, but did see at least one good shoot poking up, so they will also need attention this week.  So much going on....fingers crossed for no more snow (good luck with that!).

overwintered pelargoniums in my basement (excuse the mess!).  Not much to look at, but signs of life are there.  A couple of years ago, when I didn't have time to mess around in the autumn, I just grabbed the window boxes, still full of geraniums and stuck them in a chilly (but not below freezing) and perfectly dark spot in my unfinished basement, with no further ceremony.  They sat there, looking dead all winter and I quite literally did nothing to ease their suffering (not even a drop of water).  As soon as the earliest signs of spring came, they started sending out new shoots.

Pots waiting to receive the awakening pelargoniums

Once I've got the poor things out of the soil, I soak the roots in water for half an hour or so.

After soaking, they are potted up in 6 inch pots.  I don't do any pruning at this stage, as in some of the plants it seems to be the final straw and they perish.  After a week or two on a sunny window, there are usually plenty of robust and healthy shoots, and then I do some pruning to shape the mother plants, and to supply cuttings for new plants.
These were the plants I overwintered, which in turn had been overwintered the previous season, to good effect.
Cannas, awakening after their winter dormancy.
A sturdy, if chlorotic leaf is emerging from this tuber.  I sliced the large parent into 4 good sized pieces, and will let the cuts dry out for a day or so before planting them up in pots. 
More Cannas - not sure where these are all going to go!

No comments:

Post a Comment