Forsythia.

Not sure how long this forsythia is going to last. I cut it this week when I should have been driving to work. A quick wet snow came on us in the morning and I wanted to bring some inside before the petals fell. These flowers looked slightly suspect and may have succumbed to the freezing weather. We shall see. 


I’m going to root these branches–easy to do–and find a sunny spot to plant them. Forsythia flowers much more if planted in sun, but once the petals fall it looks rangy. Need to tuck it away in a sunny corner. In Chinese medicine forsythia is used to detoxify the body and treat colds and fever. A perfect antidote to winter. 

Nandina.

Nandina berries generally ripen to a bright red in the fall and winter. In spring they darken and sometimes shrivel, so I am happy to have a bounty to cut today. The berries dry beautifully without water, so I was able to be creative about where to put them. I tucked a small sprig in a Staffordshire figurine of two greyhounds and the rest in a Chinese export Rose Medallion bowl.

Greyhounds have a special place in my heart because we’ve rescued 4 ex-racers–Stoner, Tom, Andy, and Diana–all through Greyhound Rescue, Inc. in Gerrardstown, WV.

My reticulated Rose Medallion bowl, made to hold fruit while allowing air to circulate, is one of my favorite pieces. It’s perfect for a big arrangement of Nandina. Thin strong stems easily fit through the slots of the bowl which anchor the berries. I took the photo on a chest, above which rests a beautiful painting of cabbages gifted by my mother-in-law Benita. Immediately after, the berries went out of reach and onto the mantel because of their high toxicity to dogs and cats.

Lenten roses. 

Hellebores, also called Lenten Roses, are so named because they bloom during Lent. At least for everyone else they do. They also like shade. At least for everyone else they do. My hellebores start blooming in March and continue to bloom in the heat of the summer months, in full sun, without being watered, until frost. This week I tried an experiment and cut them for an arrangement, that’s how desperate I am for flowers indoors. I love the look of the droopy flowers in this bowl vase.  


The experiment failed. The blooms lasted only a day until they drooped even more (read wilted). Tried to fluff and coax them, and that bought me 1 extra day. Just learned that the word “hellebore” derives from the Greek meaning “to injure” and “food.” Now that I know they are highly toxic, that Hippocrates used them to purge himself, and that they are used in witchcraft to summon evil, my hellebores will be living their lives outdoors. 

White saucer magnolias.

Saucer magnolias are one of the earliest harbingers of spring. They are also one of the most tempermental. The slightest chill once the buds open and the flowers immediately drop. I was able to cut these branches one evening last week before a frost. Luckily the blooms survived to make a beautiful arrangement. And once the blooms fall, I keep the branches in the vase.  I love their minimalist look.

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My neighbor’s quince. 

My neighbor Carol, who owns the exceptionally well curated Gray Antiques and Interiors, has the most beautiful quince cultivar that I’ve ever seen. Not too brick-colored, and not too light. We’ve lived across from each other for 14 years, and I’ve coveted it from day 1. I bought what I thought was the same shade at least 3 times. Alas! No luck. So this year, with the branches Carol gave me, I’m going to try to root it. Early bloomers pussy willow and forsythia are easy to root. Not so sure about quince. If you’ve had luck, let me know.

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Even scrappy Howard loves quince!

In like a lion.

It’s perfect that the first post in my garden blog begins with one of the earliest bloomers–daffodils! For years, beginning when I first moved to Somerset, I’ve kept a meticulous diary recording all aspects of my garden including when various plants, shrubs, and trees were planted, when they bloomed, how I prepped the soil, when I pruned, when I fertilized and how much, etc. I then compare these entries year to year.

Alas, my daffodils, sadly enough, mock me with their yellow faces! There is no rhyme or reason for the number of blooms my gardens produce each year. In 2010 I had 21 daffodils. Sadly, only three beauties bloomed this year. Perhaps that’s a result of the depth I planted them? Or more likely the result of a hungry and industrious squirrel digging up and eating my bulbs? Do you have any pointers?