Monday, April 13, 2009

Cloudy Spring Potpourri

We've definitely been pretty sun starved the past several days and yesterday (Easter) and today were no exceptions ... but still, I had to try to get out for a little while yesterday, as the temperature dropped and the winds whipped up, just to try my hand at getting a few shots of what was valiantly blooming. Some of the Giant Crocus are now done and gone, thanks in no small part to the gusty winds ... but others are rising to the occasion to replace them, as are our other early spring bloomers, such as this Chionodoxa forbessi ('Glory of the Snow') that I showed a glimpse of in my previous Crocus post from last week.

It may be the 'Glory of the Snow,' but for the amateur flower photographer, it might as well be nicknamed Le désespoir des photographes ('Photographer's Despair') because of its stubborn refusal to be captured accurately (color wise) by the camera in most situations! As I mentioned in my previous post, for some reason I have a terrible time getting the right shade of true blue from this gorgeous little ephemeral that graces the front boulder bed every spring. Of course, yesterday was insufferably cloudy and it was late afternoon before we got home and I could get out with the camera, but still ... to my eye, it was its usual glorious blue! So I said what the heck, these won't be the best photos I'll get, but I need to get things chronicled one way or another, so here's one of the shots I got of the several colonies we have established out in the front boulder bed. As you can see, it looks a little bleached out and more lavender than blue, but this was in natural light with no flash (which would have made them look even worse!) ... so go figure. I'll try again later this week when the sun is supposed to return at least briefly and maybe I'll inadvertently discover the holy grail....

I'll just mention one more time that this is a great early spring bulb -- gorgeous, inexpensive, very hardy (Zones 3-6), and a great naturalizer that multiplies very quickly. (These were planted in clumps of 5-6 back in 2005 and at this point have almost tripled in number.) If you don't have this little beauty in your garden currently, you'd do well to consider a few mass plantings with your spring bulbs ... they're small, about the size of snow crocus, don't have to go down too deep and you can plant a good number in a short amount of time. I've been thinking about getting 50-60 more of these in the Fall and doing a couple of big plantings with assorted crocuses, since finding a real blue in crocus is a challenge ... think how lovely a 2-3 foot space filled with all of these would be ... a real spirit booster after a long winter!

Here we have another one of our very favorite early spring ephemerals, Scilla siberica 'Spring Beauty,' commonly known as Siberian Squill. It's another of the truly blue spring bulbs you can plant, with lots of great features: it's incredibly hardy (Zones 3-9), it naturalizes freely over time (though not as fast as we would like) and is just a joy to behold for the brief time it is on the stage. This particular clump was not intentionally planted here amongst the tulips ... well, I mean we didn't purchase these bulbs and put them there deliberately, though I suspect that Fernymoss had a hand in this particular planting. (I think he plucked some mature bulblets from other plants and tossed them over here a few years ago ... à la Fernymoss Squilly Bulb.) You see, Scilla siberica has a great naturalizing strategy ... after the blooms have faded, they turn into litlle "bulblets" that eventually weigh down the stem and fall to the ground and work their way into the soil (well, usually we give them a bit of an assist by digging a little hole for them) where they can advance out from the parent plant.and come up the following year. That's how you sometimes see, in fortunate gardeners' yards and gardens, huge drifts of blue appear when they bloom. That's what we have been aspiring to since we first planted them, and at present, we do have a pretty good colony going out in the front parking. Right now, they are just starting to bloom, but I'll feature them soon when they are a bit more prominent ... but we've had to be patient, because the soil in the parking is very poor and hard, so I think it has slowed them down a bit. They're an outstanding spring bulb to introduce to your garden if you don't already have some planted ... we also have over 100 of their larger cousins Hyacinthoides hispanica (formerly known as Scilla Hispanica or 'Spanish Bluebells') planted around the garden and they are starting to come up in droves right now, though they probably won't bloom until early May. I spotted some substantial clumps coming up yesterday and was thrilled to see that they have yet again multiplied their numbers over those we had last year, so you'll be seeing those when they burst into bloom....

Finally, here's another planting of Crocus 'Pickwick' (which I've featured previously), which though obviously not happy with yesterday's weather, was hanging in there despite the cold and wind. I think this clump was planted about 2-3 years ago, due to its placement and the number that have come up this year ... we're seeing more and more of the crocus on the northern exposures blooming now (where it stays colder and less sunny than elsewhere in the front), so the season's show is far from over at this point! Consider this post just a snapshot from some very cloudy days, looking forward to more sunshine that will bring the rest of our spring friends into bloom ... I guess we're just having to be ultra patient this year, given Winter's stubborness about leaving. Patience is just one of those traits that the gardener has to cultivate, otherwise we just set ourselves up for infinite frustrations!

And speaking of patience on another front ... I finally (after a 1 month+ wait) got my new glasses late last week (first pair in 10 years) and I'm having to really be patient adjusting to them. I had to get bifocals (my first pair since 2nd grade) again and though it's great to see clearly at distances again, the up close work has been challenging so far, but give me a few weeks to adjust and I hope I'll be back to as good as I can be (with my complicated prescription). I know one thing: it's going to be less of a crap shoot when I take pictures now! I'm looking forward to that....

17 comments:

Roses and Lilacs said...

I really like the Glory of Snow. I'll have to look for that. My camera has trouble with reds but does an ok job on blue.

My Dad has some Scilla siberica and I love that intense blue. They are so tiny it requires a big drift to be seen;)

I haven't had new glasses in a long while either. My eyes are tearing now from eye strain. I need to visit the doctor and talk to him about another pair. Hate that period of adjustment!
Marnie

FARfetched said...

Techie stuff!

Your color infidelity probably is related to the white balance. When shooting in auto-mode, and optionally in most of the semi-auto or manual modes, the camera automatically tries to adjust the white balance to get the best shot… but sometimes, as you're finding, it doesn't always get it right.

There are two ways to override white balance, on most cameras: use a preset ("outdoor," or maybe "sunny" or "cloudy," depending on the brand) or the best way, set it manually. To set it manually, you need a white card (a few bucks at a camera shop, or use a piece of clean printer paper). Put the card/paper next to the flower, tell the camera to set white balance manually, then zoom in so the paper fills the frame and take a shot. Then you can move the paper and shoot away. You might need to do it again if the clouds hide/reveal the sun.

It's easier done than said, really… the manual for your camera should explain what to do, and it's certainly a dang sight easier than trying to adjust a picture you've already taken (I'm getting much heartburn at work right now for just that reason).

Gail said...

Hi IVG, Not being able to see is not fun! I may need to move to trifocals!
But right now I have glasses that are prescribed for the computer...love them!

I love the little bulbs...miss them now that there time in the garden is past!

Hope all is well in Iowa! Nashville is chilly and dropping to 39 tonight...too cold for me! I am a weather wimp...in case you wondered;)

Gail

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I've decided I need to add Chionodoxa & Pushkinia to the Scilla in the front lawn (or at least under the Yellowwood). They are such cute little things. It's going to be many years, however, before the lawn is a sheet of blue. My husband keeps mowing them down before the foliage ripens.

boran2 said...

Hi IVG. I love seeing all this color. I really will have to get more/some crocus in my garden. Ours have not reappeared this year.

Good luck with the new glasses. I only started wearing reading glasses a few years ago. Age brings wisdom, and glasses.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
You really should incorporate some GOS into the garden with your other bulbs ... they're so easy! Van Bourgondien (use link in post at the plant name) always has them as a "Best $5 Buy" in their catalogue -- you get 18 in a bag, and a couple of bags would get you started in style. And at the rate they multiply you'll have a bunch in a few years.

Agree about the Scilla and drifts ... that's why we're impatient for ours to spread more, but it's getting there slowly! I don't understand why it's so much more expensive than other bulbs their size, otherwise we'd be planting it by the hundreds!

Thanks for the encouragement about the glasses ... Today was a challenging day with them, but I think I'm adjusting slowly. At least I can read better now!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR,
Thanks for the tips! For flower shots I usually use the special flower setting with a bit of macro thrown in. Maybe when I get some time I'll try your fix and see how that works. Hate to admit I'm a camera ninny and never adjust the settings manually (though I have the capability) ... the Fuji has so many built in settings I'm spoiled.

Yeah, I know ... I should just RTFM! :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
I remember trifocals back from 3rd to 5th grade! Those were fun *NOT!* Once I get adjusted to these new ones I think they'll make a world of difference in how much better I'll see ... it's just going to take time!

I can't believe your bulbs are almost done down there (I peeked in last night to see what you had going), whereas here they're just hitting their stride! Give us a couple of weeks and we'll have tulips (I hope!) ...

Iowa is warming up slowly, but our nights are still quite chilly once the sun goes down.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi MMD!
Did I sell you on Chionodoxa? I hope so ... they are such pretty and charming little flowers (they also come in pinks and whites if those interest you). We never mow where the Scilla is until they have put on their bulblets ... Fernymoss will mow around them and leave rather ratty looking patches until they have matured and we can either plant them there or toss them around elsewhere in the garden. It's worth it to endure a couple of weeks of ratty looking parking "grass."

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi B2,
Glad you like our color, and I hope you get some of your own very soon! I hope the squirrels didn't dig up and eat those crocus you put in ... I'd think they should have shown up by now, but maybe your zone is just that much harsher they're still waiting? Try some Chionodoxa as well with the next crocus you put in... I think they'd make a great combo!

Sweet Basil said...

Don't be envious of my tulips. I can't help it if my tulips are better than yours...just kidding. Tell you what, Your crocuses are suck a trooper! They look so beautiful, even in this unfortunate weather!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Sweet Basil,
Thanks for stopping by ... and glad you can appreciate the crocus even in cloudy weather. They've been a little slow getting going this year, but they're popping up all over now! (We have roughly 700-800 or so throughout the gardens.) Our first daffodils bloomed today, which was a great surprise to come home to after work!

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