Late fall in Maryland

Jim McKenney
Sun, 13 Dec 2009 10:48:07 PST
Fall 2009 is turning out to be unusually rainy and dull, and the flowers of
many autumn crocus exposed to the weather turned to mush before they
bloomed. But there are a few bright spots. In the protected cold frame
Narcissus albidus foliosus is blooming now and is cheering my up nicely. The
first snowdrops and already come and gone. 


I notice that I have another somewhat similar Narcissus under the name
Narcissus cantabricus foliosus. The two are sometimes said to be
distinguished by the extent to which the style does or does not project
beyond the corona (cup) of the flower. 


Oddly (to me anyway) the rules of nomenclature do not prohibit the use of
the same word below the rank species more than once within the same genus.
The rules recommend against this practice, but evidently do not prohibit it.


Several other hoop-petticoat daffodils are in advanced bud, and perhaps some
will bloom before the end of the year. 


The big excitement here this winter is a trial of some of the Chilean
Tropaeolum. These were planted in the autumn of 2008; none sprouted the
first year. I checked the corms a few months ago, and all seemed well. But
this year only one has sprouted, and it is quickly  making a tangle of
growth. I’m so tempted to check what’s going on underground with the other
two, but for now I’ll be patient. 


Bulb fly nearly exterminated my stock of Sternbergia greuteriana two years
ago. I’m happy to see that the surviving bits are putting up good if small


Iridaceous foliage of some sort is appearing here and there in the protected
cold frame; most of these are single sprouts, but there are also a few
clumps. I have a hunch that these represent the first stage in the
infestation of my cold frame by Freesia viridis. 


The cold frame isn’t used just for bulbs. Rosemary isn’t reliably hardy
here, so I keep one in the cold frame. Throughout the winter it gets cropped
for various culinary uses. And since there is not room in the frame for a
full sized rosemary, it gets cropped severely. This week I used some of it
to make rosemary-walnut biscotti: yummy!


Last week the weather people were predicting the imminent arrival of
horrific weather conditions – severe wind and temperatures plunging well
below freezing. I went to bed expecting the worst – but not before stumbling
around in the dark trying to protect a few more plants. The next morning
when I got up at 6:30 A.M. the first thing I did was to check the outside
thermometer. Still waking up, I was momentarily confused to read 40 degrees
F. I opened a door, and sure enough, the air was, compared to what I was
expecting, balmy. The weather front never came through: we’ve escaped for
another week or so. 


I know that the Mid-West got battered last week, but that’s usual in that
area. But my thoughts all week have been with those of you in the West
Coast: the Internet is full of postings relating to the awful weather out
there – and not just on garden-related sites. 


Thirty years ago we here in the Middle Atlantic States experienced a winter
we old timers will never forget: that winter took almost every big, blooming
camellia down to the ground, and most never recovered. Now decades later
there are again big camellias flourishing out in the open. In fact, local
gardens are stuffed with nominally zone 8 plants. I can’t look at them
without thinking that they are tempting the malicious weather gods. Sooner
or later it will happen again. 


 Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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