Fig tree seeking spring

Late afternoon sunshine streams through the front windows during winter and into early spring, making the front windows the best spot for the fig tree seeking spring.

My five-foot tall fig refused to remain dormant in the cool basement. Lengthening daylight spurred its leaves to open, leaving me no option but to provide it as much sunlight as possible.

Opening the front door and moving the rapidly leafing-out Chicago Hardy Fig to soak in sun through the glass storm door highlighted the interesting fig leaf structure. So … what better to do than grab my camera.

Though snow still covers the ground and winter is being stubborn about releasing its grip on temperatures, the fig has decided it’s done with dormancy.

Fig tree soaking up winter sun

Fig tree soaking up winter sun

Once outdoor spring gardening becomes possible I’ll have little time to relish the beauty of fig leaves.

fig leaves against a snow-covered background.

fig leaves against a snow-covered background.

Late afternoon sunlight helps highlight their graceful veining and harsh texture …

The veining and structure of fig leaves against a dark background.

The veining and structure of fig leaves against a dark background.

… and graceful beauty.

Fig leaves in late afternoon sunlight.

Fig leaves in late afternoon sunlight.

 

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Monitoring snow melt

With just five days since our last snow fall it’s been great to be able to watch mounds of snow melt away. The sand crane statue is perfect for monitoring snow melt … much more interesting than a common yardstick.

The last snowstorm, March 5th – hoping it really is our last – added another 7″ of snow on top of the drifts and piles built up this winter. Overall, the 67″ of snow that’s fallen during the winter of 2014-2015 on my south-central Connecticut gardens is not an unusual amount. During the 2013-2014 winter our snowfall total was about 66″. These two more recent winters brought much less than the 82″ of snowfall measured during the 2012-2013 winter.

I much prefer a snowy winter to one that’s just cold and gray. Snow gives the landscape a totally different look and brings such interesting highlights to shrubs and tree forms. Still, this winter the snow seems so much deeper. The bulk of it fell in about one month’s time and it’s been remarkably cold. February 2015 was the coldest on record in Connecticut, which prevented snow melt and allowed snow piles and drifts to grow and grow.

Snow piles and drifts were so deep by March 5 that my sand crane statue was nearly buried.

Sand crane statue barely showing above the snow.

Sand crane statue barely showing above the snow.

Now, five days later, its neck is completely exposed and its river rock body is showing enough to capture more of March’s warming sun.

snow finally melting around the snow crane statue

snow finally melting around the snow crane statue

Each day we get a bit closer to seeing bare ground. I suspect crocus and other spring-blooming bulbs are perched just below the surface ready to pounce into bloom as soon as the snow blanket melts away. Before long … just a few months from now … the same sand crane will be surrounded by greenery, blossoms, and buzzing insects.

Sand crane statue with balloon flowers

Sand crane statue with balloon flowers

And everything in my garden – myself included – will sigh, “Ahhhhh!”

 

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A bonsai discovery

Visiting public gardens – both local and in other regions – is one of my favorite past-times. It’s not unusual to pick up a design idea, gain insight into plants growing in different regions, or discover something unexpected. Wandering among garden beds and greenhouses with camera in hand helps capture these visits, one of which I share here … a bonsai discovery.

Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce, Florida

Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce, Florida

During a recent brief escape to Florida I visited Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce. The weather was chilly for Florida, very windy, and not conducive to sitting on the beach to soak in February sunshine … but just fine for wandering through gardens.

Heathcote Botanical Gardens main entrance

Heathcote Botanical Gardens main entrance

The entrance to this five-acre garden welcomes with colorful tropical plants under mature palms and leads to a gift shop where you pay the $6 adult entry fee, pick up a map to guide your visit, and learn a bit about the garden displays and structures.

One of the main gardens is the Bonsai Gallery. This form of garden art never necessarily intrigued me, not because I don’t appreciate it as an art form, but because my focus and interest has always been with full-size gardening. But, wandering through the meandering paths of this Bonsai Gallery where most trees can be viewed from all sides and angles, gave me new-found respect for the knowledge, patience, and care that goes into creating bonsai.

Bonsai Ficus retusa, in training since 1989

Bonsai Ficus retusa, in training since 1989

The Bonsai Gallery features over 100 trees on permanent display such as this ficus. Each specimen is labeled with its botanical name and how long it has been “in training” as a bonsai … in the case of this ficus, since 1989.

Though I’ve cared for many plants, some houseplants that have been with me for decades, the wonder of training a plant into a beautiful, balanced miniature tree is fascinating.

The collection in the Bonsai Gallery was created by James J. Smith who, according to information in Heathcotes’ brochures and website, is a bonsai master.

I don’t begin to suggest knowing anything about the process of training bonsai, but do want to share some of the specimen in this garden.

Though not able to see all 100 – during the visit garden caretakers were in the process of securing frost protection over most of the trees and moving more tender bonsai to shelter – studying just a few shows the nature of this art form.

Green Island Ficus (Ficus macrocarpa) in training since 1979

Green Island Ficus (Ficus macrocarpa) in training since 1979

Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) in training since 2003

Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) in training since 2003

Neea buxifolia in training since 1990

Neea buxifolia in training since 1990

Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) in training since 1978

Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) in training since 1978

Jaboticaba (Eugenia cauliflora) in training since 1973

Jaboticaba (Eugenia cauliflora) in training since 1973

This view of one of the paths with bonsai tented in frost protection gives an idea of how much work the Bonsai Gallery staff faced on the day of this visit. All 100 trees needed protection.

Bonsai Gallery being protected from frost

Bonsai Gallery being protected from frost

The rest of Heathcote Botanical Gardens is filled with peaceful paths,

A path in the Palm & Cycad Walk at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

A path in the Palm & Cycad Walk at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

colorful plantings,

Plant bed at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

Plant bed at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

and wonderful palms.

A trio of Areca palms at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

A trio of Areca palms at Heathcote Botanical Gardens

The visit was a soothing, refreshing, and educational way for a northern gardener to spend a couple of hours and become intrigued by the bonsai art form. It just may be something to learn if my aging body ever prevents me from continuing full-size gardening.

 

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