Sunday, March 8, 2015

Winter Without End

It is sunny as I write this and the last snow is melting, tempting us all to believe we are done with the winter of great hideousness. Do not be fooled. The two story tall icicles hanging from the eaves are just a tease, I’m convinced, to torture us, to get our hopes up so they can be dashed upon another soon to fall bank of bleak, white, snow.

Oh, sorry, just being a little morose here, apologies to all, I’m just back in bed with yes, yet another sore throat, snifflely, coughing head and chest cold. I believe it’s my fifth of the season. I realize I was sick the last time I wrote so you must either think I’m a hypochondriac or a wee, small, delicate little flower of a frail thing.  Hmm. If you knew me at all you’d understand how funny that was. 

Anyway, I want to pronounce, from my pile of pillows on my bed throne, that this winter is not yet over, but that doesn’t have to stop us from starting to think about our gardens. Now granted, when I went to visit a couple of our plant vendors last week we all shook our heads over how delayed the season was going to be, muttering about how last year at this time we had hellebores in the shops already along with primulas and forced bulbs. The Helleborus x ballardiae were past peak, full of flowers that had lost their stamens and would actually be fantastic is picked and put in a vase, as hellebores, like hydrangeas, need a little age to be their best in a bouquet.  Unfortunately, they are past nursery primary so didn’t jump into my car, and luckily the hybrid oriental hellebores all looked about two weeks away from prime so the growers both volunteered to bring them on down when they’re ready.

I wish I had more time to walk all my vendors’ yards and greenhouses during the season, because that’s how you discover great plants. I found a primula this trip called ‘Valentine’ that one grower was growing as a trial and I’m begging him for a few for my collectors and I saw a delosperma that wasn’t my favorite color but has such a vigorous growth habit we have to slide some onto our orders.  Unfortunately, when the greenhouse start really blowing up, so does the demand for my time.  It’s such a shame.  At one of my vendors the snow was so ridiculous that we could only get into two green houses out of the entire 600 acres. Crazy right?  But of course, in one of those houses I found a double white hellebore to add onto my order that was so lovely it made me drool with desire to see what was hidden all those other poly houses.

It also made me long for a greenhouse.  To be able to walk aisle after aisle of baby plants made me long to start some of my own. I am infected with this desire each year at about this time, and I start ordering seeds and plants and bulbs with a vengeance.  Actually, if I’d waited until now to do all my ordering I’d be in trouble as I’d be too late for a lot of the special dahlia tubers.

Luckily, I had a reminder scheduled in my phone to order more of the Brown Owl Dahlia. This flower was spectacular. Pink with orange highlights, or golden backed petals, it’s huge sherbet colored flowers were one of the luscious blooms in the garden last year, and as there is only one source for this plant in the whole country, I had to make sure I have my order ready in a timely fashion. As it was I missed Vera Seyfang from two of my growers so this week I had to place an order with a third grower just to get it. You notice the “had to” in the above line, that means that I couldn’t just order one tuber of Vera Seyfang from Old House Dahlias, the only vendor that had them left, no I had to order 8 other tubers of pink dahlia as well to make sure I got my moneys worth in freight. Sigh.

Frankly I normally wait and get my more basic dahlias and lilies from local nurseries, as you normally get 2 tubers for the price of one from the specialty nurseries, and the tubers are big and juicy and sometimes double or triples.

Of course, regardless of the piles of snow, Marders has just received their dahlia bulb order as they do every year just in time to celebrate Daylight Savings. Now of course we all know its too early to plant dahlias outside, but you can start them inside in pots if you have the right conditions (I don’t but a girl can dream) or you can just grab the ones you want this year and keep them someplace safe and cool until it’s time to start them outside. Normally you wait until the last frost day, which last year was around April 20th, before planting them out, but you might need to wait even longer than that is this year continues at it’s current pace. So why buy you dahlias now you ask? Well silly, it’s simple. They sell out. In fact if you look at all the other place you thought you could get Café au Lait dahlias, those luscious, elegant subtly pinkish beige creamy colored flowers so beloved by Martha Stewart and brides everywhere, most people are sold out. And have been for a month.

Marders has two cases.

Much like tulips lovers, those with houses out here who traffic in the world of dahlias know to come in early and snatch up their favorites and to stash them in the cool corners of their basements until the time is right. I personally am going to grab some Prince of Orange and Classic Poeme as well as a couple packages of my stalwarts, Thomas Edison and Otto’s Thrill soon as I can lift my head from this pillow. I might need more Café au Laits too, but I’m trying to over winter them in the basement so I have to check first.  I like them combined with Break Out, a dahlia, which is very similar, but a tad pinker, and is another one I’m trying to overwinter.

Unfortunately my washer and dryer and boiler are in the basement, so the basement is definitely not cool. I’m trying to keep them the right temperature by placing them on the steps to the backyard, but I’m not really being that successful. I guess along with that green house I should wish for a cooler to keep bulbs chilled over the winter and to keep cut flowers longer during the season. Hmm, good fantasy right? Almost as good as dreaming that last weeks snow was the final fall of the season. And what else is a girl to obsess about as she swims through a world of duvets and down pillows sniffling and sneezing and hoping that someone brings her a triple shot decaf coconut milk latte?

Paige Patterson has dibs on two boxes of the Organic French Fingerling Seed Potatoes at Marders, so no fair buying them before she gets better.

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