If the weather forecast holds true, much of our snow will be gone in a week. (We will get more.) In a few days, I will be able to open the cold frame and uncover the plants, buried under dry leaves inside. After a few more days, the alpine pan and the trays of last year’s seedlings will be revealed. Today I am looking at pictures from last fall to remind myself what to look for this spring.
This Cyclamen hederifolium is pictured in September with one half-deteriorated leaf from the previous year, one new leaf open and another new leaf rising. The half-gone leaf survived the winter, but the plant, an autumn-flowering species, did not start putting out new growth until the end of summer. (The purpose of the pink pot was to mark the spot, in case there was no sign of the plant in spring, so that I wouldn’t dig there.)
Here is another plant in early November, formerly a neighbour of the one above, now relocated to a shady bed that gets a lot of snow shovelled onto it. It is in active growth, new leaves open and newer ones emerging from the soil. The toughest Cyclamen species are rated hardy to zone 5. Here at the warmer end of zone 3, I have lost a lot of them, but as long as a few survive, I keep trying. They are easy from seed and can be overwintered indoors in a basement window, so losses to outdoor experiments are not costly to replace.
I replanted the alpine pan in early October. (Click pictures to enlarge.) After three years, it was overcrowded with self-sown Primulas and Lewisias, and the centrepiece Primula marginata needed dividing. (Pictured here, last spring.) I kept the Lewisia cotyledon (centre left) and the Saxifraga paniculata (top centre) and the crocuses (buried), and added a couple of Cyclamen hederifolium (centre right and bottom centre), a Dodecatheon pulchellum (bottom left), a Pulsatilla vulgaris (top right), and some Primulas: vialii (bottom right), scotica (SE of the Lewisia), juliae (top left), and rusbyi (a little left centre, second photo). (A tag marks a Veronica bellidiodes, but it disappeared soon after transplanting.) All except the old Lewisia are my own seedlings.
Three weeks later, before going to bed under a pile of leaves…
As is evident, I treat the alpine pan as a small playground. If I had six of them, I might put some thought into design, instead of cramming in as many plants and as much junk as will fit.
Some new seedlings next. The first tray is Gentiana acaulis, a trumpet gentian. Seeds were collected from my own plants the previous year, sown, and left out over winter. After this picture was taken, I transplanted the little seedlings, three or four to a pot. I am overwintering them in the cold frame, in the garage, and in the house, to see where they do best.
These are Pulsatilla vulgaris, from fresh seed sown right after it was collected. I could have saved the seed, sown it in the fall, and it would have germinated in the spring. It will be interesting to see whether these little ones can survive the winter in the cold frame. Pulsatillas (like the Gentiana above) can take two or three growing seasons to reach flowering size, and an early start might mean earlier flowers.
These are Dodecatheon meadia, pictured at the end of their second growing season as they are entering dormancy. They should flower this spring. Again, the seed is collected from the garden. There are self-sown seedlings in the wet-shade bed, a little bigger than the container-grown plants.
Finally, some Primulas and a few evergreen alpine plants looking bulked up and ready for winter.
Garden auricula seedlings (Primula auricula hybrids) may flower in the fall if they were too small to flower in the spring. And an odd plant (the ‘Chehalis Blue’ here) will flower in the fall even if it did already flower in the spring.
Three robust-looking young Saxifragas and a Gentiana verna in late October:
Garden auriculas showing fresh autumn growth, ready to flower in early spring:
And a tray of promising-looking show auriculas (fancy Primula auricula hybrids).