Archive for the ‘Plant Societies’ Category

A quick reminder to all compulsive collectors of seeds……keep on doing it and now is the time!! (Am I really just talking to myself here?)


The Primula sieboldii are doing a great job producing fat seed pods this year.


So right now I have been checking on the Primula seed production and it’s looking pretty good. The polyanthus aren’t pulling their weight but I haven’t checked on all the plants yet.



This P. polyanthus is showing a lovely and fat seed pod! But it’s the only one on the whole plant.

The P. kisoana ‘Alba’ is actually setting seed this year. With the cool and moist spring we’ve had this plant has grown quite a bit more than in past years.




P. kisoana ‘Alba’ with some nice seed pods too.


And of course the P. japonica have set copious amounts of seed as they always do. I planted some new P. bulleesiana this year and I’m not expecting much seed from them, but you never know.


The P. japonica doing what they do along the stream.


For those who didn’t know, I’m the seed exchange manager for the American Primrose Society, and I highly recommend joining so you can take part in the seed exchange every winter. Most of the seed you have seen in these photos and from other plants not yet setting seed will be donated to APS and other exchanges.

Please take some time to harvest your seed from any of your plants, they will be cheerfully accepted and grown by many other enthusiastic gardeners around the world.

Find out more about the APS seed exchange here.


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I know, I know….I’ve been neglecting this blog and you my readers! I had all good intentions over the winter to keep up with posts but I guess I got lazy and I was doing lots of posting on facebook….so does that count as an excuse??? I thought not. So now that the spring season is really, really here…at least it is here in Vermont, I will try my very best to add posts every now & then. This first of the season is about the latest primrose show that our New England chapter of the American Primrose Society hosted on the first weekend of May at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston, Mass. What follows are a few photos I took during my few moments of free time when I wasn’t vending plants, attending meetings and slides shows and doing lots of visiting with old friends and making new ones.

All the photos are of plants that were entered into the show. I never took the time to get any photos of people!


All the best in division winners and the best in show went to Joe Philip for the large pot of yellow hose-in-hose polyanthus.




This mixed container was entered by Matt Mattus in the five different plants in one container class….it’s a winner!



These are P. denticulata and the white one is mine…no ribbon, I just couldn’t get it to open more flowers. That was a problem for everyone this year.



An auricula benched by Judy Sellers of New York who always has the most beautiful plants and usually wins many of the ribbons. You can just see the blue ribbon and the best in division ribbon this plant won.



This is one of my P. rosea and it won a first! I entered another one that took a second. These primroses always open first and are the brightest pink. Some of my plants still have flowers on them and that never happens in a normal spring….but what’s normal anymore?



Another winning auricula!


Here is a P. vulgaris with a silver edging entered by Susan Schnare from New Hampshire. She grew this one from seed and it was highly coveted. Bruce Lockhart got to take it home in trade for some other primroses that Susan wanted from his garden….plant people are always looking to trade and no offer will go unconsidered.


Another one of my plants. This is a polyanthus primrose that I bought a few years ago at Pine Knot Farms in Virginia. Every spring they hold a few open houses where some other growers set up tables to vend their plants and this one caught my eye.




This plant was the talk of the show! It was benched by Debby Wheeler from Massachusetts and she got it from a cousin in Virginia. It’s not available for sale in the US yet. And we’re not sure of its hardiness but it sure is pretty!


One other thing!! There is now a facebook page dedicated just to all things Primula! It’s called The Primula Group click the link and you’ll be taken right to it where you can post your photos of primroses.

So there you have it…..now that I have made a new start I will promise (sort of) to get posts out more often.

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A new season of sowing seeds, watching, waiting and becoming so excited at every seed that sprouts even though I’ve been doing this for over 30 years!! I’m like a child again, checking under the clear humidity domes for any sign of life. Going back multiple times a day sure that NOW there will be some hints of green. And today…..there it is!!

Arisaema flavens from seed I ordered through the NARGS seed-ex last year.

Arisaema flavens from seed I ordered through the NARGS seed-ex last year.

I sowed this seed on the 6th of this month and finally it has sprouted. I had a feeling these would be the first up and sure enough they were! This pot is surrounded by Primula, Dodecatheon, Anemone, Lilium, Rhododendron and Asarum. All seed obtained last year. I aways sow the older seed first because I can’t stand to throw any out.

My lightstand getting very full and will be overflowing soon!

My lightstand getting very full and will be overflowing soon!

My light stand is already almost full and I am still waiting on this years NARGS seed order which will have 30 packets! So this means that some of the already sown pots will be heading out side to endure the below freezing temps we are getting through the end of this month. Here’s a shot of my back yard this morning where the temperature is now at 0*f  up from minus 8!

The back yard overlooking Beebe Pond. Just below this window is where the seed tray will go once I have run out of room under the lights.

The back yard overlooking Beebe Pond. Just below this window is where the seed trays will go once I have run out of room under the lights.

Spring will arrive before we know it, but until then I will be keeping you up to date on my seed sprouting adventures!

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It’s fall, and that means many Cyclamen start blooming or sending up their beautifully patterned leaves! I have become somewhat obsessed with growing Cyclamen either from seed or purchasing them from a few good growers. In the past few weeks they are all showing some sort of new leafy growth or popping up their delicate looking flowers. I have read many times that most ‘hardy’ Cyclamen won’t grow here, but I can tell you they grow just fine here in zone 4-5 Vermont!

The following have all been grown outside in my gardens for at least one year. Some are from seed I obtained through the seed-ex of the North American Rock Garden Society, the American Primrose Society or from John Lonsdale and Plant Delights Nursery.

IMG_3374 IMG_3378 IMG_3375 IMG_3382 IMG_3386 IMG_3390 IMG_3381


Give them a well drained soil with a little bit of sun and they are happy! Plant the corms about 1″ deep and cover with a gritty soil mix so the corm stays dry over winter. They are glorious almost all year sending up fabulous new leaves late summer & fall. C. hederifolium bloom now, while the C. coum blooms in early spring. The all silvered leaf plant above is C. purpurescens which blooms in mid-summer.

Most will self sow when happy and you can see in the second to last photo that C. coum is very happy! I have seedlings coming up all over that bed!

There are also a few non-hardy types for the sunny windowsill. While the common C. persicum can be found almost everywhere now you should give a few of the rarer ones a try. Most need to be started from seed which can be found on many of the specialist plant society seed exchanges or purchased from a few specialty growers such as Arrowhead Alpines you can see they even use a cyclamen leaf in the title of the nursery!

Here are a few of the plants I have started from seed or bought in already potted. The first is C. graecum a lovely thing I got from John Lonsdale with fantastic leaves. The second is the same but one I grew from seed. The third is C. rohfsianum that I picked up at a chapter meeting of NARGS a couple of years ago grown by a friend who says his has over 75 flowers on it this year! Mine hasn’t flowered for the past two years!! Don’t know what I’m doing wrong here but the leaves are lovely to look at anyway. The last is a C. pseudibericum also from John. It has the one flower on it this year and will be sending up beautifully marked leaves very soon. I have them all in a sunny east facing window. During the summer they are pretty much in a dormant state outside with no watering except what nature gives them. I repot them every 2 years or so and topdress them with a pretty gravel mix.

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Please gives these beauties a try. They are so rewarding!

Thanks for stopping by…..please leave me a comment and let me know about your adventures with the fabulous Cyclamen!

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It’s now coming close to show season in the plant world. While there are loads of garden shows now open all over the country,  what I am most interested in are the specific plant society shows where you’ll find alpines of all sorts, Primula, Narcissus, etc. grown to perfection by meticulous and sometimes not so meticulous growers.  The next show that I will be attending this year is the American Primrose Society National Show being held in Potland, OR.  I’m so excited to be attending this show as the Pacific Northwest is the Primrose growers ideal climate and the concentration of nurseries that grow Primula and all sorts of woodland treasures is fantastic!! I have compiled a large list of nurseries & gardens  to visit….here’s a small sampling of them…Wild Ginger Farm, Fraser’s Thimble Farms & The Bloedel Reserve . And that’s just a small selection! I’m going to bring a fairly empty suitcase so I’ll have lots of room to bring plants home….I may even mail some plants home! The show is going to be at the same time as the Oregon Hardy Plant Society and in the same venue so I’ll have access to many fine growers at the show. More info on that here.

I so enjoy entering plants in these shows just to see how my plants stack up against others more experienced at this sort of thing than I am.  And every year I learn some new tidbit of information to help me along on that road to perfection. In the very first Primrose show I ever went to I entered a Primula polyanthus ‘Garnet Cowichan’ and won a first place ribbon! How excited and proud I was to have achieved that!! But then came the heartbreak of losing the plant that same season. The plants that I dig up and pot for these shows always suffer quite a bit from their rude treatment. But I’ve found with more careful attention to their needs I can keep them going after replanting into the garden.

I grew this plant from seed-exchange seed a few years back.

I really love the form of these hose-in-hose...flower in a flower plants.

Isn’t it a beauty? After I replanted this into the garden it reduced in size over the season, but it has grown back to a decent size with some coddling.

I’m now very busy with the APS seed exchange as I’m the seedex manager and the orders have been arriving all winter. It’s a fun way to get through the long winter and it’s also interesting to see what sorts of seeds members order. Some folks are all about the species and don’t order any crosses or named varieties, some folks that’s all they want and then there are mostly the growers who sample a bit of everything. That’s pretty much where I am. I’ve been sowing pots & pots of seed over the winter and having a blast watching the little sprouts emerging through the soil under the grow lights. Here’s a photo of what my kitchen table looks like when I’m filling seed orders.

APS Seed-exchange Bits & Pieces

Setting up to fill orders takes a little time, but it's interesting & fun to do.

Seedlings are sprouting now from seed sown earlier in the year. Some come up in droves while others come up very sparsely. Why is that I wonder? Condition of the seed when collected, storing of the seed after collection, temperature of the seed pot after sowing…lots of variables to consider.

P. florindae seedlings. Seed from the APS seedex this year.

This seed was sown in Feb. and has been germinating for the past few days.

Also under the growlights are a few pots of P. auricula that I overwintered on the porch and have brought indoors to see if I can get them to flower in time for either the show in Oregon or our chapter show in May. I did get one to bloom last year but the timing was off. That is such a tricky thing, forcing plants into bloom out of their natural bloom cycle. It’s all about temperature. So we’ll see how things go in the next few weeks.

An auricula seedling that hasn't bloomed yet for me.

Trying to force these auricula into bloom for the show.

There’s usually something to keep me busy during the winter that’s plant related….now if I only had a greenhouse then I’d really keep my hands in the soil all year!!

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Now that it’s coming on to winter I’ll be playing catch-up with my posts. I’ve got lots of pictures of places I visited through the growing season that I’ll be posting in the days to come. And now that I am layed off from work for the winter I’ll have lots of time to do this!
So here goes……….
I want to tell you about a very special place created by a couple of very special people on their patch of paradise in Branford, CT. This is the home of Nick Nicou and Carol Hanby, two very generous, talented and all around nice garden nuts!

When driving down the towards the house you pass magnificent specimens of huge Mt. Laurels, Variegated Dogwoods, large swaths of perennials and the most beautiful Rhododendrons.

Nick & Carol are members of the New England chapter of APS and generously offered to host a meeting/garden tour at their home in Branford, CT last June. This was very exciting for me as Nick is one of the most respected experts on Rhododendrons in the US, and a tour through his & Carol’s gardens is a huge treat!
These gardens have been developed and grown for over 50 years so you can imagine the size of some of these shrubs and trees.

This is the larges variegated Pagoda Dogwood I've ever seen! And it just lit up the shade.

Only 3 of us showed up for the tour which was too bad for all who couldn’t make it as we knew we were in for something truly special and inspiring.
Carol & Nick welcomed us into their home for a pot-luck lunch & tour on a lovely late spring day. The Rhodies were going past their prime but there was so many other lovely shrubs, trees & perennials just coming into peak bloom!

This hardy pitcher plant was in full bloom in a simple bog garden Carol created from a mason's tough, which just a large plastic tub filled with sandy soil & peat moss.

The garden slopes down towards a marshy area and then to a pond that you can just barely see through the branches of huge Rhododendrons, Mt. Laurels, Magnolia, Dogwoods and many other choice & unusual woody plants. We took a leisurly stroll down the wandering paths stopping often for detailed descriptions of many of the lovely specimens. At the bottom of the garden was the shady marsh area filled with Primula japonica just going past it’s best…but still a lovely sight to behold!

Thousands of Japanese Primrose greeted us as we arrived at the bottom of the garden. These have been happily self sowing for years. Carol also adds new plants throughout the summer.

We then made our way through the ‘Rhododendron Dell’, most were past bloom but there was still a number hanging on to a few flowers. The size of the plants is what was astonishing to me. I never thought they could grow so large in New England. Loads were over 12 feet tall! I wish I could remember the species and names for you.

The rest of the tour was one big hortigasmic orgy! Running from one marvel of nature to the next!!

This is genus I am fascinated with. Those leaves look so alien and beautiful! I want to try growing these from seed.

I could keep adding photos all day there was so much to see, but I’ll end with a pic of the creators of this most amazing place that is so special and I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit and enjoy getting to know the owners a bit better.

Don’t forget you can click on every photos for a larger version.

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Entrance to the garden

Follow along as I meander through fellow Primula-nut Arlene’s large and well established garden on a hilltop in Vermont.

Friend Mary & I got together last weekend to tour the garden and take in a couple of nurseries along the way as long as the weather held up. Which lately wasn’t happening all that much. We’ve had the rainiest April & May on record so as you can imagine the lawns & gardens are soaking wet!

Using our faithful Tomtom GPS to get us there we arrived just after lunchtime pulling up to Arlene’s house with a gorgeous view of the mountain valley. Her house is at the end of a dirt road with no near neighbors so it was very quiet and still. Arlene was there in her garden to greet us and guide us through the wandering stone pathways, indicating which year a certain plant was grown and set out or where another plant was purchased and who the lovely apricot double primrose was named for.

Double Apricot Primrose 'Agnes'

Following the Paths Through the Garden

Woodland Wonders

After an intial walk-through I slowly made my way through again taking close-ups of the flowers that caught my attention…and there were so many! There are large patches of Trillium, Cypripedium, Solomon’s Seal, Double Bloodroot, Anemone nemerosa, and so many other treasures!

Trillium grandiflorum, Large White Trillium

The yellow Trillium luteum with Cypripedium parviflorum. (I think)

And of course there were Primulas galore!!

Primula sieboldii

Primula polyanthus deep maroon

Arlene’s primroses have been crossing and self-sowing here for many years that everywhere you look there are multitudes of variation. Every shade of the rainbow..almost, and every form of petal. The plants are grown in rich garden loam, amended with compost and all under the shade of very old apple trees. Arlene adds new beds each year as she grows so many from seed from the APS seed exchange. In fact she is always the first to send her seed in to the exchange and the first to order! It’s fun to see what she has grown from all the donations from around the world.

A lovely Primula elatior of a bright red color.

A glowing pink polyanthus, a chance seedling popping up.

Growing from seed is one of my most favorite things to do, and the variation you get always surprises.

After a little plant swapping time where I came away with the apricot double, a bright maroon sieboldii and the deep red polyanthus Mary & I made our way over to Marshfield and the nursery of friend George Africa to say hi and see what he and Gail have been up to. Their nursery Vermont Flower Farm is on Rte. 2 overlooking old farm pastures which George is busy turning into display gardens and growing fields for their Daylilies. The selection of Hosta was amazing as were the Epimedium which Mary loved and picked one to bring home.

The weather held up as we wended our way back to Hubbardton over the Appalachian Gap and down past Rocky Dale Gardens. Now I need to find a spot in my gardens for the newest treasures!

Every photo is clickable for enlarging and more description!

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I’m very late in posting an update on the show….after in my last post I promised to keep you updated on the show happenings! But I’m feeling it’s better late than never…so here goes.

The weekend was very busy as you can imagine, I stopped on the way down to Hillside Nursery in Shelburne Falls, Mass. A wholesale grower of unusual woodland plants, some native to the US and lots from Asia and Europe. I had placed an order with Peter Joppe, the owner, a few months back in anticipation of the Primrose Show and most of his plants sold the first day! The plants of his that didn’t all sell such as Anemonopsis macrophylla and Cornus canadensis I’ll have for sale at the NARGS annual meeting later this month (see my calender of Events page). I would love to post pictures here but I didn’t remember to take any of my tables of plants until later and then realised my camera batteries were shot! But here’s a link to his website.

Friday included the garden tours to 3 private gardens in Petersham, Mass. The first was to Peter George’s garden which included lovely rock gardens that were bursting with all manner of choice alpines, peonies, Primula, Iris, Epimedium and so many other treasures! I mistakenly deleted the photos I took here so you’ll just have to imagine it! Sorry!

The next garden was to Abby Rorers’ wonderful shade gardens and small greenhouse which was full of her collections of Gasteria, Haworthia and mini Aloes! I used to collect many of these succulents too, but now that I live on a shady & wooded piece of heaven I had to give those plants away. Abby’s gardens were so sweet and full of perfect examples of shade loving Primula polyanthus, Epimedium, Arisaema, Anemone nemerosa and many others. Sorry but no pictures for here either.

Our next garden visit was to Bruce Lockhart’s woodland garden and new, still under-construction gardens. Here were large old clumps of Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ with their large yellow bells, and a huge patch of Podophyllum peltatum, the native Mayapple. There were massive stands of Epimedium and Primula vulgaris. You will be happy to know I did get a few photos of Bruce’s gardens…whew!!


Pophyllum peltatum

After the garden tour it was hurry up to Tower Hill to set up my tables of plants for sale! And to get my pots of entries onto the show benches. It takes time to make each plant look its best, you’ve got to look very closely at each leaf, flower, bud and the pot itself for any blemishes. You must decide which side of the plant will face out towards the judges discerning eyes, so you’ve got to arrange the flower stems & leaves just so. Clean the pot of any soil bits and debris that might be clinging to it set it in a saucer and place it on the bench in the correct category. Even after days of nurturing each plant and lovingly placing it among all the other contenders you just never know what will catch the judges eye and deem your plant either a winner or ….I can’t really say ‘loser’ but one that isn’t up to standard.

Here’s a photo of my ‘Best in Section’ P. polyanthus Cowichan Garnet, grown from seed I got in the APS seed exchange last year.

Best in Division Cowichan Garnet

Friday night brings us to the anticipated dinner at Matt & Joe’s house, gardens & greenhouse! We all look forward to this event every year and it is always delicious! Matt is a fantastic cook so we always know we’ll be well fed. This year was especially fun as there was a ‘theme’! Silly British Hats in honor of the royal wedding! There was pub food on the menu and hats did appear!

Mary & me modeling our hats. (I'm on the left)

We had such a fun time and greeted many new attendees for this years show. The greenhouse was full as always with so many unusual bulbs, tropicals, Clivia, Orchids and other oddities. Matt Mattus has a wonderful blog I follow on all things horticultural….check it out here.

The rest of the weekend was full of activities such as an awards dinner, a lecture by renowned British plant explorer Chris Chadwell on seed collecting in the Himalayas, selling loads of my plants and just plain fun with friends who are also crazy about Primula!

I can’t recommend this group more! Our next meeting will be in CT at the famous gardens of fellow members Nick Nicou & Carol Hanby. Their Rhododendron collection is famous and the gardens are extensive and full of Primula! If you would like more information about the meeting plans or just want to chat about primroses leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Don’t forget every photo is clickable for enlarging and added commentary.

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A few plants for the show bench

The National Show of The American Primrose Society is drawing near! And I am a vendor this year, so that means I have been very busy getting plants ready. This is a huge job which includes digging, dividing, potting, labeling, sorting the good from the not so good and worrying.

For the last few weeks I’ve been prowling around the gardens trying to decide which plants might be in bloom at the right time for the show benches and which would be good candidates for dividing & potting for the sale benches. I have dug many plants in hopes that they will be perfect for the show, but some are not panning out as planned and I’ll probably not take them. But then most are looking very good and I keep adding to the collection for the show benches.

My small 'nursery' of overwintered flats and plants for the APS show

My gardens are my nursery which means I don’t have a whole lot of room for all the plants I would like to grow, so the variety of plants won’t always be where I would like. I grow almost everything from seed or division and I’m learning new techniques all the time. I’ve been reading Bill Cullinas book ‘Wildflowers’ A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Wildflowers of North America. It has been such a great guide. I love Bill’s way of explaining all manner of growing methods in such an enjoyable way. I just learned that if you poke around the crown of Dodecatheon you can tease off a few easily separated crowns and pot or replant them. So I went out and put this knowledge to practice and he’s right! The plant does separate very easily and I left most undisturbed, while separating off 3 crowns for potting. Next I want to try my hand at root cuttings of Primula denticulata.

Primula denticulata in the garden

The above plant will grow into a large ball of purple flowers. These love a constantly moist soil in part shade and will self sow when happy. Each year the clump gets larger and can be dug & divided in early spring. They come in pink, white and all shades of purple to almost red. I’ve got lots of them all along my streamside,and they are one of the earliest flowers in the garden.

Preparations for the Primrose show will be ongoing this week up till the last minute when I leave friday morning, so I’ll try to keep posting as the week goes on and especially at the show! If you want to read more about the Primrose show or see photos of past shows click here.

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The gardens are ever so slowly waking up, where there was snow yesterday, there are flowers today! A small Cyclamen coum ssp. coum was buried under snow yesterday morning when I left for work. But as I pulled into the drive in the afternoon this is what greeted me! This little plant was much smaller last year and now there are loads of self-sown seedlngs all around it. I am becoming so in love with cyclamen nowadays! They are easy from seed as long as you soak them for a day in water with a drop of dish soap in it, then sow at 65 degrees.

Cyclamen coum ssp. coum

Plant seedlings out into a partly shady well drained soil. The corm should be just below soil surface and they like to go dry during the summer.

Cyclamen hederifolium Seedlings

 Sprinkle a little lime on them each spring as like a slightly elevated PH.

So of course I had to take a walk through the rest of the gardens, actually it was creeping on hands & knees,  to do a bit of exploring and feeling around for other buried treasures! This is the time when I do alot of loosening up of the winter mulch of shredded leaves & pine needles that I spread late last fall. It really packs down over the soil and I always feel it needs to be fluffed up now. But what I’m really doing is looking to see what is poking up through the soil and what will be blooming soon and what just didn’t make it through the winter.

Here’s another early spring blooming bulb that is so hardy here.

Iris histrioides 'Katherine Hodgekins'

These small Iris need a bit of sun to do their best, so in almost every pool of sunlight I’ve popped a few of these in. And up the pop a few more each spring.

Almost every day I dig up a clump of something to divide and pot up in preparation for the American Primrose Society National Show the last weekend of this month at Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, Mass. I’ll be there as an organizer and a vendor, so try to come and enjoy the show benches full of the most beautiful flowering Primula of all sorts, colors, forms and sizes. For more information go to www.americanprimrosesociety.org  See you there!

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