Saturday, March 27, 2010

Signs of Spring

Galanthus nivalis

I caught this clump of snowdrops during the freakishly warm weather last weekend. Temperatures have cooled off since then, but the snowdrops have faded, and a few daffodils located in warm sites are starting to open up.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

King Protea

Protea cynaroides or King Protea, the national flower of South Africa, is doing its thing in the UConn greenhouses right now. The flowers (technically flowering shoots composed of many small florets) last for weeks, and there are a couple of additional buds developing, so there should be a nice show for the rest of the spring. The bloom in the photo is the size of a dinner plate. It has a funny sort of chemical smell, not exactly floral but not unpleasant either. The artists among my readership might be reminded of the smell of kneaded eraser.

Nothern greenhouse collections don't seem to include proteas very often, which is a shame. They're not overly difficult in cultivation, and this King Protea flowers every year in Connecticut. I use a nutrient-poor, acidic soil (5 peat moss : 2 perlite : 1 horticultural charcoal), and keep the plants in a very sunny spot in a cool greenhouse. Members of the family Proteaceae are said to be sensitive to excess phosphorous, so it's probably best to fertilize cautiously, using a high-nitrogen formulation.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Marsh Botanic Gardens Hosts the CCSS

Last weekend, the Connecticut Cactus and Succulent Society held their monthly meeting at Yale's Marsh Botanic Gardens. The weather was about as good as it gets in early March, with lots of sun and jacket-free temperatures, and at least 40 people showed up. I was really impressed by the new greenhouses at Marsh, which just opened up last month. The desert plant room wasn't completely finished, but what was there looked great. I'm looking forward to returning sometime to see how they have progressed in filling up all that new space.

The cactus club inspects the new desert collection.

Curator Dave G. also let us tour the old Lord and Burnham greenhouses at Marsh B.G., which are much more cramped than the new facility, as well as being prone to flooding in rainy weather.