I've had my first case of it already. Wandering around outside and seeing the new growth poking thru the cold soil despite the weather around them above, I was struck by the thought that I've never visited the nursery I just recently discovered during the slower, winter hours. So I snapped the dawgs up and we climbed into the brown Chrysler I named "Francis" for the Aunt who it originally belonged to. Which is ironic and fitting somehow because she was my favorite aunt who grew her vegetables and fruit's on trees and such and was quite the character. (no tangent!)
Out the driveway,I slow down to take in the winter's colors and textures. I never just head out. I take notice of how things are around me. It seems to make me appreciate the simpler things. The car was comfy, and it felt good to be back in her after the long bout of ignoring her parked underneath the apple trees that produce inedible fruits that I want so desperately to cut down, but I love the blossoms sooooo much! I think that this spring will be their last one.
I sat atop the ridge, gazing southwards, watching the clouds dancing along the dark trees like gray waifs searching thru the branches for what, only they knew. Heading eastwards. The dawgs sat patiently as I sat there, gazing from atop the ridge. The pastures were various shades of tans and beiges, with hazes of reddish from spent switch grass and other unidentifiable grasses. Time had slowed down for a brief moment. The window was down enough to let in the intoxicating smells of damp earth and molding leaves and grasses. A slight wonderful whiff of cow manure composting teased my nostrils..... The sounds of the birds calling back and forth, catching up on the local avarian gossip. It was still and quiet enough that I could hear the rushing sounds of the cars thru the trees on the interstate a couple of miles behind me as they greasily slid thru the branches and twigs and reached my ears.
Snapping out of my revere, I spoke to Sméagol, who had slipped into the front seat next to me. "Let's go!" and I slid into drive and we were off for the day. Music was decent, the day wasn't too drab, and I had a couple of errands to run first, with some of my own mixed into the whole. As I shot thru the stop sign that lies at the bottom of the dead end at the corner of my neighbor's yard (he's the one who cut back the ancient Forsythia's), I went up the steep curving road that cuts thru more woods and opens up top of yet another ridge and hilltop. I had things to return and had mapped out my route to where I'd wind up going into town from the first stop.
Once I took care of the returns, my day was my own. I desperately needed this. I looked at Sugar who had now replaced the boy, and told her "we're up to no good now!" and headed from the east end of Knoxville around the interstate towards a little seed and nursery provider at the edge of town as you enter the outskirts of town. I was on a mission.
Once I got to Knox Seed, I parked in front of the bricko block building that's been there for decades, and looked in the rear view mirror to see what was in the greenhouse behind me on the rise. Bright, colorful ornamental Kale in gallon pots was all I saw. Nice specimen's though they were, I had business inside. Crack the window's and tell the dawgs to "watch my car" I got out and pushed the easily opened swing door open and the smells greeting me was like coming home. Old linoleum that is waxed and buffed and worn down from thousands of feet, but not thru to the concrete floor underneath.
The earthy smells of an old-fashioned hardware store was what greeted me as I pushed the free swinging door to enter. In the past, there was an ancient angel wings begonia who was residing in a great 25 gallon pot. Her knobby, arthritic branches tipped with a few huge "wings" spotted on green and backed by burgundy. The plant was from a cutting done decades ago and was well over six foot even in the pot. I didn't see it at the moment, and hoped it was somewhere else.........
I went to the aisle where I knew the brass shut off valve was located and snapped up two of them. Next to the small cardboard box, I located the smaller aluminum rose heads to screw onto a wand, and began looking on the shelves and found three kinds of wands. A shepherds hooked one, for watering baskets of plants above you, I passed but thought it a great idea. I liked watering the baskets of plants and getting wet. It's all part of the magic and enjoyment I find doing the basic things. Long, slightly curved ones, and what I was really looking for, a shorty. Rubbery plastic coated handle of a 16" Dramm watering wand. Just the right length for me as I drag my extensive hoses throughout the dog-run and pathways.
As I lay the items of my intention down on the high counter, I connected with a little white haired lady who was busy wrecking havoc on an old adding machine. We smiled and I nodded towards the garden basket aisle and told her I was searching for longer basket hook wires. Once found, I made mental note to bring the shorter ones back later in exchange for the nicer lengthy ones that I needed worse.
In front of the high counter beside the door were cardboard display boxes of colorful tulips, a few narcissus and some hyacinths. All these were loose in the box, with individual prices and pads of identifiable information sent stapled inside each box for the customer to pull off to remind them what they were buying. I broke down and asked for a paper towel to handle the hyacinth bulb with, remembering the incident with the itching. And as I laughed, the older lady behind the tall front desks informed me that another customer had had a more serious encounter with those hyacinths a couple of weeks back. Had swelled up "something fierce, turned red, started gasping for breath and had to be taken to the hospital and given Benadril". I told her it might be something dusted on the bulbs, and that I only itched. No worries with me on that one.
She passed me a brown paper towel to pick the yellow hyacinth bulb out of the box with, and she bagged it separately for me. I also picked out six of the fattest Kaufmannia tulip bulbs I could that were just straining to be planted soon, soon, soon!! You could almost hear the dry pleadings from the bins as the bulbs were desperately wanting to just touch their bases into the damp, cold soil and send down late roots. I felt badly for them, but not crazy enough to get more than I could plant. And tulips for me are special. I don't get just ordinary ones. I get ones that I know will return, or at least wow me when they bloom their first year.
Pay the woman, and load up, the dogs were waiting for me in anticipation, and we pulled out of the parking lot and up to the main road (this seed and nursery sits in a hollow just off a main highway and if you don't know where it lies, you'll drive right past it as it sits several feet below the road). Onwards and outwards to other deeds and endeavors. he he he he............
I knew exactly where I was going. I wanted to visit Stanley's Greenhouses and Nurseries. With all the wonderful tropical/cacti/succulent/orchid/ornamental tree and shrub capabilities they have, including an impressive collection of clay pots and urns and planters and what not, I wanted to just visit while it was the off season and see what was to be had or not. I knew I was in trouble when I drove up to the main low building and saw the huge wreath stuffed with sphagnum mosses and planted with sedums and pansies that were cranking out textures and colors in the drab day hung on the outside wall of the perennial alcove. The perennial alcove is open, and has a frosted greenhouse roof, with walls that rise about four foot. Support posts with hooks that hold great pots of wonderful seasonal plantings on chains dangle from every post. Two double doors can be unlocked so that carts of plants and what-not can be brought inside, and the tables were mostly bare as I peered just past the plantings along the outer portion of the room.
I once again told the dogs to watch my car, and I lowered the windows enough to give them a nice breeze, but not enough to allow Sugar to misbehave when she spotted the nursery dog who wandered around freely. I knew she'd eventually show her rear end and didn't want her able to get out and act out.
The air was damp and cool, but warmer than you'd have expected it on an ending January day, and I walked thru the sliding doors and greeted the ladies who were busy unboxing new shipments of things for the gardens. The owner's wife smiled a huge smile for me and I told her I was in serious garden mode, and got a two tiered cart they have just for their greenhouse and nursery, and proceeded to inspect the cacti and succulent table. Huge euphorbia's, cactus, hawortia's, some pencil cactus that were gigantic and whose crusted old pots had a sign in them saying "NOT for sale!!". there were several of these specimens, I was greatly impressed, and looked for the odd, tough old geezer of a succulent and changed my mind about the time I glanced into the perennial room.
Mr. Stanley was watering half heartedly (I wanted to tell him I'd do this willingly if he'd just hire me! <g>) and I exchanged pleasantries, and entered the perennnial room once he dragged the watering hose past me. It was almost barren. Almost. Over in the corner were Hellebore in gallon pots. I moved deliberately and looked thru them. Wiggling the stems just a bit to see if they were firm in their soil.....several weren't. I found a healthy one by the name of 'Betty Ranicar' who was a double white in the picture. The description on the back declared..."Extremely rich flowering plant with more than 100 flowers on a mature plant. the good sized fully double flowers open with a blush of green and turn pure white. Very early spring flowering." It was mine. Stuck to me hand and refused to release until I placed it in the cart.
Another Hellebore nearer the back of the table near where the huge wreath was hung on the outer wall revealed a tag that described it as 'Blue Lady' and having dark blue purple flowers. Stuck tightly to my hand and was mine, only did it release itself when I moved it over the cart. And it had a bud already formed and waiting for the right day to open. I moved down the table and looked at sedums, fitfully sleeping in the afternoon winter sun. Turkish stars all tight and ready for the warm breath of Mom's Nature to allow them to carefully creep along the tops of the pots. I resisted and moved past them and the Angelina sedums who had winter colors of orange and bright yellow and the others sleeping fitfully.
In the middle tables were slumbering perennials of a wide assortment. I spotted the winter colors of Heuchera, and one grabbed my eye. 'Purple Petticoats' and in the description, a Foamy Bells Heuchera that had frilly,ruffled, solid dark purple leaves spring to fall. Stuck. Dislodge it into the cart....... I put the silver leafed Brunneria back that tried to stick to me and headed over to the inner table against the outer wall of the inside greenhouse where the tender plants were at, and spotted a beautiful "Navajo Rose" salvia. It was georgous. It too stuck to my hand and joined the cart that was filling up. A four inch pot of Spigelia or Indian Pink. The pot was bursting with four little rosettes of plants. Mine...stuck to my hand like you wouldn't believe. Past some tired herbs to a Gaillardia labled Arizona sun in a little 4 inch pot. stuck tightly. Looking closely I saw that it had three little rosettes of plantlets packed tightly in the small space and promised them I'd bump them up come another warmer spring day where they could stretch their roots and grow larger for me.
I was done, I knew I'd reached the limits of plants, but I wanted to see what they had on the tropical tables. I should have veered left instead of down the center. I came upon the most magnificent table of Rex begonia's you ever laid eyes on. I went slightly insane. I couldn't tell you their names, as they were all labled Rex begonia's, but I got some of the most incredible five inch pots of them you would want. I THINK (I'm not quite sure, I'm using Logee's Greenhouse catalog as a source for names and descriptions) that I got 'Green Gold', 'Raspberry Swirl' which has silver, green at the heart and raspberry red with a sheen on the leaf that is striking and most obvious. A dark, dark one that comes close to the picture and description of 'Venetian Red' but I couldn't swear by it. The description says charcoal -black veins on soft almost shocking red leaves. But mine are so dark they look like velvet and so dark maroon that they are blood colored. A silvery one with dark central veins, not quite 'Looking Glass' but since they were all unnamed, this is the best I could do. I got four. One of each that stood out and moved towards the baskets and tables of unusual houseplants.
I came across a Swiss cheese philodendrum in a huge basket, it's tendrils laden with great hand sized leaves all full of holes draping and growing in huge tendrils towards the floor. I searched the metal pipes on wires above the tables and found a smaller pot and put it in the bottom rack of the cart and went over towards the racks of pots. I was intent on getting one good pot. I got two. One was a glazed pot that was four round little pots sealed together and glazed a mocha coffee color, each had it's own drain hole but they were all together. I decided the three smaller begonia's might reside there. I wasn't sure yet. And came across a most magnificent wide mouthed "strawberry jar" only more like what I would CONSIDER as a strawberry jar, or sedum or sempervivum jar. Wide topped main jar with huge "lips" and glazed a beautiful sky blue.
I almost made it past the outside door and I asked one of the workers if they had the reblooming lilac, 'Jocee'. She wasn't sure, and since it was now sunny and waning towards the afternoon (I'd only been there for an hour, but had arrived after 3) she came out with me and we walked the whole perimeter looking for the lilac's. Just before she went inside to ask where they were staged, I located them and had to have one......'Jocee' blooms twice and is a dwarf. Smaller apparently than 'Miss Kim', I knew I'd put her in her own pot to soak up the sunlight out front of the fairy gardens this spring and summer. As I turned, I spotted the most magnificent red twigged dogwood.......'Firey Blazes'. The pot was a three gallon one, and the plant was more a small tree form with thick, screaming deep red twigs rising like red fingers towards the sky. It stuck to my other hand as I shifted the lilac into the left one. That was it. I was done.
As I pushed the cart towards the counter, Lisa started laughing and remarked that I'd done a considerable bit of damage, and as they tallied up each plant, Lisa would tell the older lady at the register a different price. Less. Then she looked at all my foliages and remarked "you need some spring pots!! " and as she hastened off, to my protests, she replied, "no, no, I'm giving these to you, just plant the Te-te's in the ground and toss the tulips! and laughed as she came back with a pot full of pink tulips and another pot of waning Te-te- narcissus and three muscari that were just peeking open underneath the green leaves of the narcissus. I thanked her and she laughed again and said she knew I'd give them a good home and that I needed some winter color....
We spoke about the cuttings of Kolkwitzia I'm bringing her come truer Spring and she was all excited about that, and I remarked that I was tempted to take cuttings of a red-twigged variegated dogwood at a restaurant near where my son worked, and the older lady piped up "yep, those are beauties, shame they whack and butcher them the way they do, ain't it??" I also promised her cuttings of a spiderwort hanging plant I have (the name elludes me at the moment) and of another shrub I have that she'd like pieces of, and we parted after a brief hug.
On the way out, I turned into the music store parking lot and paid the kids a visit and had some well deserved smiles and hugs there, and picked up a cd I'd ordered awhile back, got a birthday bag they had made up for me (awwww <g>) and after visiting and looking thru the music bins, I left with intent on picking up some spicy chicken tenders for a snack. All in all it was a wonderful day and as we headed eastwards, the dogs were curled up, happy to be riding around with "ma" and I was happy with a trunk full of plants......and some beautiful pots to put deserving sempervivums into later on.
On the western horizon I saw thick, dark black clouds looming, and I called Squire to tell him I was headed home. I just barely beat the rains. Just had enough time to place the cardboard trays with the smaller plants inside the NSSG (Not So Secret Garden) against a cedar tree trunk that serves to shore up the raised sides, tossed some leaves on top of the plants and pots, and placed the red twig dogwood and the 'Jocee' lilac underneath the branches of the Sorbaria shrub. Quick, get the begonia's inside, and the hanging basket of Swiss cheese philodendrum, and the rains hit. Timing.......<gbseg>
Now we're having true Winter weather, and the plants are snuggled down in their makeshift beds of leaves and mulch until a warm day when I can tuck them into their respective places. The lilac will go into a huge nursery pot with rich soil to shine wherever I place her, and I'm thinking of planting the red twig next to the yellow twig down near the woods room (gotta go check on the yellow twig tomorrow to see how she's coming along) for contrasting effects.
Just in one week, my own Hellebore are sending up nodding heads of flowers in eager anticipation of showing off their spring frocks. I spotted some today all the way from the kitchen doorway where I stand and watch the antics of the Cardinals and assorted smaller birds as they tear thru the black sunflower feeders I keep filled up for them. When I go anywhere, I carefully drive out so as not to dispirse the standing puddles of water, as it's been drawing all of them to bathe and drink.
It's bursting all over around Fairy Holler, and soon I'll have tales of the early spring Fairy's doings..........for now, I'll leave you.
thank you for allowing me to share a moment or three with you.
madgardener, up on the cold ridge, back in Fairy Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36 where we have about half an inch of snow already! <g>