Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Leap Day Lady Beetle

A Lady Asian Beetle explores Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'
on a record-tying day (66° F - 1976) in NW Ohio.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arrowhead Alpines Bids Farewell to Winter

Don't you know, that after the winter that wasn't, it would decide to show up for the Winter Sucks Party that was held on Saturday at Arrowhead Alpines Nursery in Fowlerville, Michigan. One last hurrah...we hope.

This party is a yearly event, held traditionally by Brigitta Stewart and her husband, Bob, at their retail and mail order nursery known for its unusual perennials, alpines, trees and other wonderful things. I'd wanted to go last year, but something I can't recall just now prevented me from attending.

Sadly, Bob Stewart passed away in December, after waging a valiant fight with colon cancer. Brigitta will carry on the business, with help from family and others, and after my visit there, I'm both blown away by the scope of that task and relieved that such a treasure will continue.

My friend Joseph Tychonievich, who is a brilliant horticulturist in his own right, is one of the people who will help keep Arrowhead going. I can think of no better person for the job. He was on hand for the festivities and spent an inordinate amount of time showing me the cool and quirky plants that the nursery is known for.

Had any "normal" person been following us up and down the rows of benches in the greenhouses, they may have been bored - not from all the plants, but from the constant dialogue that basically went like this:

"Look at this!
"Wow. That is so cool!"

But of course, being a novice plant geek (novice compared to all the brilliance and talent I was surrounded by), I was in heaven. Many shared my exuberance, and I have to tell you, it's nice to be understood when you walk into a greenhouse and you breathe deeply and sigh loudly and everyone in the place knows exactly why you're doing it, because they did the exact same thing upon entering.

My friend Jan Bills, of Two Women and a Hoe™, was also there; in fact, we had made plans to meet and enjoy the party together. She got away from there with more of her wallet intact than I did, but it wasn't all about the plants. We got to see people we knew and we met many that we didn't. And the food! Never have I seen such a spread of homemade goodies as there was on the bench in the main building. Twenty-five feet of yum.

Every garden needs a cat, they say (and I agree), and Arrowhead has no shortage. There's Rosie, who is demanding of your attention and protests when you stop petting her, by grabbing your hand with her paws. ("Where do you think you're going? I didn't say you could stop yet!")

Rosie (and others) makes it necessary to keep trays over the tender seedlings.

And then there's this marmalade kitty that looks just like our Max. (I forget this one's name.) As you can see, they have assumed ownership of the place, which is to be expected whenever cats are in residence.

Easily, the most-sold plant of the day was the Narcissus cavanillesii, a species daffodil. I saw more people walking around with them in their hands (including me) than any other single thing. And it's easy to see why. These hoop petticoat daffodils could not have screamed spring any louder if they'd had voices.

Narcissus cavanillesii

Because so much is still dormant, not all the greenhouses were open, but those that were, were enough to keep me busy for several hours. I drooled over the Agave victoriae reginae v. compacta. These larger ones weren't for sale, but I picked up a pup. I'll likely be an old lady before mine looks like this, but see what I have to look forward to?

These Agave victoriae reginae v. compacta are stock, used to propagate
plants for sale.

Galanthus 'Beth Chatto' was in bloom. It's much larger than the 'Flore Pleno' growing my own garden, or the singles that blogger Kerri sent to me a few years ago. It wasn't for sale, but I enjoyed just getting to see it in flower, because I won't likely see it anywhere else in my lifetime.  You can't even buy it at the famous Beth Chatto Gardens in England, according to the catalog on their website. I read somewhere that a single bulb went for $100 and that was considered to be a bargain.

Galanthus plicatum 'Beth Chatto'

I can't tell you how refreshing it was to be within the confines of a working nursery again. Everywhere I looked, I found some unusual plant that made me pause for a closer look...

 Flower + foliage = sweet.
Ranunculus ficaria 'Cupreus'

Bukiniczia cabulica (formerly Aeoniopsis cabulica) is a biennial that forms
offsets, but will also self-seed if you let it.

This variegated rock cress (Arabis ferdinandi-coburgii 'Old Gold')
has snow white flowers.

Alpine plants are like most miniature things - just plain cute, like this
little tufted ice plant (Delosperma sphalmanthoides).

I currently have a yen for foliage that has reddish tints to it, even if it only
exhibits that coloring on new growth or when exposed to direct sun. This
is Gilia rubrum.

In one of the propagation houses, the Edgeworthia gardenii was blooming.

I couldn't go home without some hardy cyclamen. There were several in bloom,
but when I got home, I realized I hadn't take a single photo of the blooms.
I was just so enthralled with that foliage.

Draba hispanica is a bright and cheery little thing. Collected from limestone
crevices of the Sierra Nevada by Czech plant hunter, Holubec.

But those hepaticas... it's ALL about the bloom with those.  Okay, the
foliage is nice too, but those blooms are otherworldly.

Isn't this a lovely tapestry?

This is the time of year for Hellebores to shine. It's one of my very favorite perennials.

Helleborus orientalis 'Ballard Strain'

Helleborus orientalis 'Yellow Lady'

Helleborus cyclophyllus

Helleborus orientalis 'Golden Lotus'

Helleborus dumetorum atrorubens

I think this is H. orientalis 'Yellow Lady' again.

I failed to note the tag on this white double beauty. Perhaps Joseph or Brigitta
can help me out here. Absolutely lovely.

Cut blooms floating in bowls of water graced the tables.

Outside, the witch hazels were in full, glorious bloom. I really do need to get more of them.

Hamamelis vernalis

So, while winter does indeed suck at this point in the game, even when winter hasn't quite been itself, the party did anything but. It got a bunch of us out of our winter funk, into the greenhouses, where we got our plant geek on, and smiled and laughed about this, that, and t' other for several hours. Thank you, Arrowhead Alpines - Brigitta, and company.  Well done!

Joseph and Brigitta

For more information and to peruse the extensive offerings of Arrowhead Alpines, visit their website here.  They open their retail store on Gregory Road in rural Fowlerville (MI) on April 15th.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Northwest Flower & Garden Show: The Container Gardens

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle was held at the Washington State Convention Center a couple of weeks ago - February 8th through the 12th - and Mom and I attended every single day. We decided to stay that long because we figured if we were going to go that far, we might as well take our time and really see it.

With all the seminars and displays and vendors (oh my!), we were busy every moment of every day. We did take some time to walk down to Pike Place Market, which I'll share in another blog post, but the rest of the time was spent at the show.

Night view from the skybridge.

I spent a lot of time looking at the 16 container displays that were set up on the skybridge. Perhaps it's because I feel container challenged. Or maybe it was just because they were so creative, charming, and beautiful. These were mini-sized displays (each in an 8' x 6' space), compared to the large display gardens, but they each packed a punch and contained no less inspiration than their bigger counterparts. Let's take a look...

Since "A Floral Symphony" was the theme, musical influence was seen in nearly all the displays, with some being more obvious with it than others.  No question here in the "Heavy Metal" vignette by Terabithia Landscaping:

Can't get much more musical than a planted piano in this display from Emerald City Orchids. They even planted the piano bench!

Here's another piano-themed planting, from Sunnyside Nursery. I especially love the quoted sentiment here: "In the garden, everyone can be an artist without apology or explanation." Ravenna Gardens had a wall plaque with this same sentiment for sale.

Speaking of Ravenna Gardens, they had one of my favorite displays of the entire show:

These metal spiral containers designed by Michelle Meyer of Gardening GaGa! (metalwork by Sarah Lavin) held lots of luscious plants representing all four seasons:

Tiffany Wilfert, of Artisans Cottage held a "Garden Party" that I joined for awhile:

Janit Calvo of Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center provided an escape to a Lilliputian landscape. I really did feel like I was in another world, taking in all the charming little gardens contained in her display.

Molbak's use of bright colors, along with lots of plant textures, made for an eye-catching display.

This seductive potting shed had me coming back again and again. The details in this display were like being in a candy store full of my favorite sweets. In fact, I was so entranced by all the details, I failed to take a photo of the display as a whole. My friend, Christina Salwitz (I call her The Queen of Containers), came to my rescue and has let me borrow her photo of it. thanks, Christina!

This captivating display was done by Cultivar LLC, with terrariums by Midnight Blossom. The company has won the show's Best Design Award for the last two years and the People's Choice Award this year.

Photo by Christina Salwitz

Other miscellaneous container displays:

Veggies in bags! (by Vee Garden)

Pyramid containers are by New Wood Manufacturing. I like how the upside-down
pyramid containers echo the overall upside-down pyramid silhouette, by placing
the smaller pyramid at the bottom rather than the top, as is done traditionally.

This container planting by Studio AB was just succulent perfection coupled
with hardy cyclamen.

Clever use of cymbals by Sunnyside Nursery.

Yes, there's music in this display from West Seattle Nursery via the
subtle "tink" of the brass cups as they float about in the bowl.

And if the show itself didn't have enough to satisfy you, all you had to do was look around the Washington State Convention Center itself:

For more images from the show, featuring the display gardens, see my earlier post:  Why Did I Go To The Northwest Flower & Garden Show...

Yet to come:  Pike Place Market

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