A posy of pansies

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Modern pansy hybrids (Viola x wittrockiana) often lack the fragrance of older seed strains, which gardeners in earlier eras enjoyed and picked for tussie-mussie or nosegays. These strains have delicate brush-like markings that appeared obliterated into indistinguishable blobs in modern strains. Some have attractive ruffling that recall the edge of crinoline skirts, giving the flowers a certain graceful femininity. Last spring, I grew some plants from seed, and took the liberty of picking a few to enjoy and smell indoors. Their scent was delicate, like that of a first June rose precociously welcoming summer.  ~ Eric

Floral Wizardry of Riz Reyes

A familiar face in the Pacific Northwest horticultural scene, horticulturist Riz Reyes increasingly concentrates on his floral art outside of his full-time job as the garden manager for McMenamins Anderson, Bothell, Washington State. Reyes employs flowers and foliage locally as much as possible, and his adroit skills in creating sumptuous floral arrangements can be witnessed in his top ten favorites. He offers the following three tenets of his design philosophy:

1.) Cut flowers are a gateway to the art and science of horticulture celebrating the diversity of botanical wonder all around us.

2.) Whether it be texture, scent, or serendipitous movement as the bouquet is being held, floral designers always possess a natural element inspired by nature so anyone can fully engage with the composition.

3.) Acknowledge the hard work it takes to plant, nurture, and harvest the bounty available to floral designers by letting very little go to waste and allow what’s not used to come back to earth to nurture the following season’s growth.

Those who reside in the Seattle metro region are fortunate to have Riz’s talents at your tip of the hat as he is available for floral commissions. Riz can be reached by email at riz@rhrhorticulture.com.

Thank you, Riz!    ~ Eric

Left: Rosa hybrid unknown Clematis 'Etoile de Violette' Achemilla mollis seed heads Cornus elliptica, Lathyrus odoratus vine Phlox paniculata 'Nicky' Astrantia hybrid Allium 'Summer Beauty'; Right: Brunia albiflora Asclepsia curassavica, Schinus molle Akebia quinata 'Alba' Echinacea Supreme(TM) Elegance Fatsia polycarpa 'Needham's Lace' Celosia hybrid

Left: Rosa hybrid unknown, Clematis ‘Etoile de Violette’, Achemilla mollis seed heads, Cornus elliptica, Lathyrus odoratus vine, Phlox paniculata ‘Nicky’, Astrantia hybrid, Allium ‘Summer Beauty’; Right: Brunia albiflora
Asclepsia curassavica, Schinus molle, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, Echinacea Supreme(TM) Elegance, Fatsia polycarpa ‘Needham’s Lace’, Celosia hybrid

Rosa 'Auspastor' PATIENCE, Rosa 'Helga Piaget' Zantedeschia hybrid, Agonis 'After Dark' foliage, Blechnum spicant foliage, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Papaver somniferum pods, Scabiosa stellata pods Tillandsia xerographica

Rosa ‘Auspastor’ PATIENCE, Rosa ‘Helga Piaget’, Zantedeschia hybrid, Agonis ‘After Dark’ foliage, Blechnum spicant foliage, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Papaver somniferum pods, Scabiosa stellata pods, Tillandsia xerographica

Left: Leucodendron 'Inca Gold' Hyacinthus orientalis 'Blue Jacket' Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' Eucalyptus sp. Grevillea 'Ivanhoe' Brunia albiflora Tillandsia xerographica; Right: Dahlia 'Versa' Nelumbo hybrid pods Schinus molle Sorbus forrestii fruit Sorbus caulescens fruit Jacobaea hybrid foliage Euonymous fortunei 'Emerald 'N Gold' Hedera hibernica Eucalyptus sp. Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' Tillandsia abdita

Left: Leucodendron ‘Inca Gold’, Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, Eucalyptus sp., Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’, Brunia albiflora, Tillandsia xerographica; Right: Dahlia ‘Versa’, Nelumbo hybrid pods, Schinus molle, Sorbus forrestii fruit, Sorbus caulescens fruit, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Euonymous fortunei ‘Emerald ‘N Gold’,
Hedera hibernica, Eucalyptus sp., Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’, Tillandsia abdita

Rosa 'Ausdrawn' The Generous Gardener Lathyrus odoratus hybrid, Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost', Astilbe hybrid, Dryopteris felix-mas 'Cristata', Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

Rosa ‘Ausdrawn’ The Generous Gardener, Lathyrus odoratus hybrid, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, Astilbe hybrid, Dryopteris felix-mas ‘Cristata’, Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’

Actaea 'Black Negligee' foliage, Clematis 'Etoile de Violette', Lilium 'Dimension', Allium hybrid seedhead, Astrantia hybrids, Jacobaea hybrid flower buds, Lonicera japonica 'Halliana', Alchemilla mollis seedheads, Lathyrus odoratus tendrils

Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ foliage, Clematis ‘Etoile de Violette’, Lilium ‘Dimension’, Allium hybrid seedhead, Astrantia hybrids, Jacobaea hybrid flower buds, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, Alchemilla mollis seedheads, Lathyrus odoratus tendrils

Rosa hybrid unknown Equisetum hyemale Cornus elliptica Papaver somniferum pods Jacobaea hybrid flowering buds Echeveria sp. Sorbus forrestii fruit Polystichum setiferum 'Plumoso-Multilobum' Blechnum spicant

Rosa hybrid unknown, Equisetum hyemale, Cornus elliptica, Papaver somniferum pods, Jacobaea hybrid flowering buds, Echeveria sp., Sorbus forrestii fruit, Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumoso-Multilobum’, Blechnum spicant

Left: Vitis cognetiae branch with lichen Zantedeschia hybrid Jacobaea hybrid foliage Brunia albiflora Aeonium arboreum hyrbid Akebia quinata 'Alba' Eucomis comosa Tillandsia xerographica x brachyculous Right: Tillandsia xerographica Aeonium arboreum Eucalyptus sp. Leucodendron hybrid Cymbidium hybrid Cornus sericea

Left: Vitis cognetiae branch with lichen, Zantedeschia hybrid, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Brunia albiflora
Aeonium arboreum hyrbid, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, Eucomis comosa, Tillandsia xerographica x brachyculous Right: Tillandsia xerographica, Aeonium arboreum, Eucalyptus sp., Leucodendron hybrid, Cymbidium hybrid, Cornus sericea

Floral Friday

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An arrangement for Floral Friday was the challenge for me today, restricted to using only materials that I was able to find on my terrace.  At first I was frustrated, due to lack of flowers and foliage but find creativity comes easier to me when faced with limited resources.  I started filling my teal colored Chinese pot with Salvia officinalis (sage), then some large headed Tagetes (from seed collected at Gravetye Manor), orange and peachy Zinnias and then I felt I had something but wasn’t finished yet. Layering more colors in with Artemisia foliage, a few small soft pinkish Dahlia blooms (unknown cultivar from DeWiersse), some Jasmine foliage and then filled out the rest with the sun faded blooms of Allium sphaerocephalon. Challenge met and pleased. – James


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Floral Fridays: Sweet Peas at Bi-Rite Market, San Francisco

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Sweet peas never fail to make one smile and smell them as they are seen here in the storefront of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market and Creamery.

Floral Friday- Sweet Portugal Mix

Floral FridaysSome flowers stand well enough on their own to make a statement, without the addition of other foliage and flowers. These Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus, enhance the simple but beautifully adorned Portuguese pottery. Taking the same flower and just mixing with other varieties of itself proves successful.  Hope you have enjoyed this Floral Friday…- James

île de jonquilles

Dear Jimmy,
Your post on daffodils reminded me how late spring has been this year in eastern U.S. Winter has been behaving like a dinner guest whose welcome has gone beyond stale, hence our ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and ‘Ice Follies’ have not flowered as they usually do at this time. The daffodils are only emerging, buds intact and tightly sheathed against the elements. However, their resilience has always reassure that winter has relinquished its grip, ushering in spring without delay. I long for warm days, with snow having lost its novelty.  My friends’ photographs in the Pacific Northwest already show Corylopsis, rhododendrons, and various spring ephemerals in full glory.
Narcissus 'Ice Follies' flowering early April in the Orchard at Chanticleer - these bulbs are only beginning to emerge now, and their late appearance indicates how late spring has been.

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ flowering early April in the Orchard at Chanticleer – these bulbs are only beginning to emerge now, and their late appearance indicates how late spring has been.

Islands seem to be flush with daffodils – the Isles of Scilly off the southwest coast of Cornwall, UK, and Tasmania. Warm sunny summers and cold moist winters on the islands create optimal conditions for growing bulbs. The mild climate in the Isles of Scilly allowed the islanders the bragging rights to the first daffodils of the UK, as well as a head start on the cut flower industry; large quantities of cut daffodils were dispatched by boat and then transported on the rail from Penzance to London. In fact, cut flowers formed the cornerstone of the Scillionian economy for over 130 years. The majority, if not all daffodils grown are tazetta-types, which produce up to 15 highly scented flowers per stem. Tazettas need dry warm summers during dormancy for successful flowering, and the long season of Isles of Scilly from May to August, combined with sandy soils, makes a significant difference. Another crucial factor in the industry’s success was the use of windbreaks, an absolute necessity on the gale-exposed islands. Growers depended on two salt-tolerant and wind-resistant New Zealand shrubs, Pittosporum crassifolium and Olearia traversii
A daffodil farm and garden at Isles of Scilly Photo Credit: The Cornwall Coast by Arthur L. Salmon (1910)

A daffodil farm and garden at Isles of Scilly Photo Credit: The Cornwall Coast by Arthur L. Salmon (1910)

Daffodils are popular in Tasmania where the Tasmanian Daffodil Council promotes them.  You can expect at least three months of daffodils if varieties selected for different bloom periods are planted, and the cold nights certainly enhance flower longevity. The nucleus of Tasmania’s daffodil industry began in the 1920s when several enthusiasts imported bulbs from England and started breeding programs themselves. Their work was exhibited at the Hobart Horticultural Society’s annual daffodil show. Dr. Tim Jackson, one of the early enthusiasts, eventually started a business still going strong today. Evidently his passion rubbed off on the second generation, and one of the Jacksons who fought in the World World II even kept a pot on the British naval warship HMS Wanderer. A cousin, a warplane navigator, was once invited to a country estate near his airfield where the owner boasted a new daffodil, exclaiming: “You’ll have never seen anything like this before”. One only can imagine the owner’s surprise when the cousin recognized the hybrid and credited its origin to his grandfather.
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On a blustery gray day, my friends and I drove out a hour away for an open day hosted by Jackson Daffodils near the Southwest National Park, a scenic area. Their bulbs can be bought from an Oregon firm who sells them for a princely sum. They are not the ‘bulk bag’ types one can purchase inexpensively at the local home improvement center. The fields were resplendent with varieties in whites, yellows, oranges, and pinks, and the gusts played up the flowers’ robust gaiety. Even my friend’s dog was excited, recharged by the new scents of the landscape. Who knew how much glee these flowers imparted? Forgetting the dull skies, we left smiling from the simple pleasure of seeing them.
Daffodil fields at Jackson Daffodils, Surges Bay, Tasmania, Australia

Daffodil fields at Jackson Daffodils, Surges Bay, Tasmania, Australia

Across from my friends’ coastal property used to be a commercial bulb farm that exported bulbs and cut flowers to the mainland. Although the majority of the bulbs were dug up and sold before the operation ceased, surviving remnants still sprout defiantly each spring. I learned from my friend that flowering bulbs can be dug up and transplanted without problems, taking out the problematic guesswork that accompanies dying or dormant bulbs. The bulbs need to be planted deep. After obtaining permission, he was able to replicate those naturalistic groups of daffodils without that hodgepodge effect. At first I was skeptical, only to be convinced the following spring when the same bulbs returned to flower. They look terrific under the vibrant green drapery of silver birches.
Tazettas have been 'rescued', collected in a wheelbarrow, and wait to be transplanted.

Tazettas have been ‘rescued’, collected in a wheelbarrow, and wait to be transplanted.

No matter how many bulbs we dug up, there were always more. The sandy loam soil made it easier to retrieve the entire plants, bulb and all, easily from the ground. Occasionally we did accidentally cleave a bulb, but once you gained experience, you were able to gauge how deep and what angle your spade went in, teasing out the plants out without much damage.
Glowing under the clear Tasmanian skies, daffodils, remnants of a bulb farm, still return despite the ground being plowed.

Glowing under the clear Tasmanian skies, daffodils, remnants of a bulb farm, still return despite the ground being plowed.

The Iberian peninsula (Portugal and Spain) is considered the centre of diversity for Narcissus. Several years ago, I remember seeing wild white daffodils growing in wild scrub near the Spanish border – we never disembarked from the car to identify the species. Perhaps one of the days you will have a chance to drive to northern Spain and bear witness to fields of wild daffodils.  Sad as Narcissus and Echo’s fates were in Greek mythology, a love affair with daffodils is hardly narcissistic.
A bouquet of various daffodils connect with the bright yellows and blues of the abstract painting in a private home.

A bouquet of various daffodils connect with the bright yellows and blues of the abstract painting in a private home.

~Eric

a tête-à-tête

Narcissus at Madrid Botanical Garden

Narcissus at Madrid Botanical Garden

 Mr. Eric,

As I sit at my desk and write this to you, the Narcissus ‘Tete-a-tete’ that I have planted on my terrace are now fiercely glowing silhouettes, brightly backlit by the sun that is also shining warmly on my face.  The smiling sun is a nice change from the cooler temperatures and gray days and from this late winter flu I have been entertaining these days.  Spring is almost here, I can almost smell it hence this cold, but the last day of winter is officially March 19th, so we are just about out of the woods.  From the windows, I can see the leaf buds of Platanus x hispanica swelling up and pulling away from the branches, just about ready to open.

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I haven’t been outside much the past few days but besides getting enough rest and drinking plenty of teas I have surrounded myself with multiple vases of these little striking yellow blooms to make myself feel better, a little extra sunshine inside. Who wouldn’t smile because of that?! Most everybody loves the Narcissus, for their own reasons, but for many it heralds the triumphant return of spring and an end to the long, cold months of winter.  But why else do we love it and what is it about them? Is it the piercing yellow color that demands the attention of our eyes in an otherwise still drab landscape? The color alone,  reminiscent of the sun,  invokes an uplifting feeling of happiness  and cheerfulness. Is it maybe because the rest of bloom parade is not far behind in the marching procession of blossoms known as spring? So while admiring them from my reclined position, the stories and symbolism of Narcissus started playing out in my medicated head….

Narcissus 'Fortune'

 

The Narcissus has been a subject for writers and artists for more than 20 centuries, often-symbolizing rebirth, new beginnings and  representing luck and prosperity. Could that be the reference in the cultivar Narcissus ‘Fortune’ as seen above? Giving daffodils as a bouquet  is said to ensure happiness to the receiver but remember to  always present them in a bunch  because though the cheerful flower is associated with good fortune it might forebode misfortune if given as a single boom.  Could this be why they are sold in florist shops in bunches rather than single blooms as other flowers?

Naturalized Narcissus at Great Dixter

Naturalized Narcissus at Great Dixter

There is one story about Narcissus and Echo that I love. I owe my introduction and love for Greek Mythology to  Edith Hamilton, when I purchased her book, Mythology, while doing research for a school report as a young kid.  I still have that same book packed away in New York, and escaped through all of the images those stories painted in my mind. But, yes, the story back to the story….

 Narcissus was a young man of immense beauty who broke the hearts of many lovers along the way, lastly in his mortal life was the wood nymph Echo. Narcissus not paying attention to anyone else and constantly looking at his own reflection in a pool of water, falls in love with himself, thinking of no one else. This is how he spends his time, leaning continuously over the pool and gazing, until he discovered he could not embrace his reflection and soon enough he fell into the water and drowned, with the gods immortalizing him as the narcissus. The story of Narcissus in Greek mythology, is a sad one where the flower symbolizes self-esteem and vanity.

Naturalized Narcissus in the garden of William Robinson at Gravetye Manor

Naturalized Narcissus in the garden of William Robinson at Gravetye Manor

There is a wonderful poem to read of this story, written by the American poet Fred Chappell

Narcissus and Echo, a poem

by Fred Chappell

Shall the water not remember  Ember
my hand’s slow gesture, tracing above  of
its mirror my half-imaginary  airy
portrait? My only belonging  longing;
is my beauty, which I take  ache
away and then return, as love  of
teasing playfully the one being  unbeing.
whose gratitude I treasure  Is your
moves me. I live apart  heart
from myself, yet cannot  not
live apart. In the water’s tone,  stone?
that brilliant silence, a flower  Hour,
whispers my name with such slight  light:
moment, it seems filament of air,  fare
the world becomes cloudswell.  well.

bouquet sketcbouquet sketch in oil pastel and pencil, and mixed bouquet against vintage textile,bouquet sketch in oil pastel and pencil, and mixed bouquet against vintage textile, both by J.McGrath

bouquet sketch in oil pastel and pencil, and mixed bouquet against vintage textile, both by J.McGrath

The meaning and symbolism behind this flower has inspired many writers to artists and will continue to do so for a long time to come.  In Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers –  it is listed twice, once by the common name daffodil where it means regard and in its latin form Narcissus we see it listed as egotism. You choose.   Salvador Dali, Caravaggio, John William Waterhouse, and Poussin, among countless others have been inspired when putting brush to canvas,  using the the subject and the stories behind it as their muse.

display beds at Madrid Botanical Gardens

display beds at Madrid Botanical Gardens

The blooms are out in full force here in Madrid, and hope they are not too far behind for you in Pennsylvania, spring will be banging on your front door    soon enough.   By the way, did you know that ‘tete-a-tete’ means a face-to-face meeting, or a private conversation between two people?  It’s been nice chatting with you and I hope  these images and stories find you well and smiling……      -James

 

Voilà Viola

vaseSometimes it’s the flowers that set the idea in motion, and sometimes its the container, which happened to be the case for this.  I filled this bread-roll shaped ceramic container with water and then gathered as many blooms of Viola × wittrockiana as I could from my window box. Always seeing them outside, I wanted to bring them indoors and once completed, they gave a light fragrance once they adjusted to the warm room.  But there was something about it that made me laugh…

ViolaArrangementMaybe it started with this weeks quote about missing all the fun, maybe it was a slight aversion to writing something about love today, maybe it has to do with the winter and causing me to think of warmer temperatures, maybe it started from thinking about the Winter Olympics, I don’t know where it came from, but inspiration comes from interesting places sometimes.  And I hope it makes you chuckle like it did to me, we could all use it sometime… Enjoy your weekend my friend. – James

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Honeyworts and Scillas

Scilla Cerinthe Close Up LQ

For years, I always admired the honeyworts (Cerinthe major var. purpurascens), but never had the opportunity to cut it for floral arrangements until self-sown colonies in an Australian friend’s garden avail themselves for this purpose. Flowering in a nearby bed was another vigorous, nearly aggressive clump of the Portuguese squill (Scilla peruviana). Both flowers had the same moody dark purple colors, and the blue green honeywort leaves lightened what could have been an oppressive combination. I added several stems of the Portuguese squill to the bucket of honeyworts. Because a close friend had asked me to do flowers for her New York wedding next year, and I decided to hone my bouquet-making skills with these two flowers. From a distance, the bouquet looks rather ordinary until you realize how unique the flowers are on close examination. I was surprised at the bouquet’s longevity – the unopened buds of the Portuguese squill continue to open, and the honeyworts retained their color.

Nocturne - Frantisek Kupka, 1910

Nocturne –  František Kupka, 1910

Recently I was looking through art books and found this painting entitled ‘Nocturne’ by the Czech artist  František Kupka. Having an interest in color theory, Kupka created abstract representations of color for impact since the colors, once disassociated with specific objects, acquired more figurative significance. Dabs of blues, blacks, and purples create a strong impression of darkness in ‘Nocturne’.  Unconsciously, I had echoed these spectral colors in the bouquet of honeyworts and scillas.

Scilla Cerinthe Profile LQ