Slowly (really slowly!) begins the time of early bulbs. I already put some bulbs to work, though I did not want to. But they had their shoots above the ground so I watered them a week ago, and then came the frost. I was afraid to loose the bulbs so I put the pot inside a cool room as I mentioned in my last post. Consequently the flowers began to develop. It was delightful to see these miniature, scented flowers in today's sunshine.

There are: 3 Crocus angustifolius, 5 Iris danfordiae, 2 Crocus sp. (maybe chrysanthus? – I will see later) and two Tulipa sp. The Irises are sweetly scented, a smell that simply reminds me of SPRING.
I will write about these and other bulbous species in next posts.

Now I would like to mention one of my bad experiences with bulbs, maybe it could be useful for somebody.
I find growing bulbs in pots without a greenhouse very difficult. Especially our Hungarian winters make the gardener's life hard, but also the watering has to be learned through many losses... One must to be extremely careful with the watering can. Overwatering is fatal, but if the plants don't get enough water during spring, the result is like this:

This Crocus has dried out, the roots died, the flowers did not open and the leaves also remained undeveloped. The bulb itself is not dead, but if it gets water continuously, it rots rapidly. Ian Young has many interesting and instructive posts about this.
You must make a very well drained, sandy potting compost, and then water absolutely regularly, with much water. If the excess water can go out, then nothing is too much for these little bulbs in spring.
My problem is also our hot springs, when the pots must be protected from the heat, and feeding the bulbs is another task which I have yet to learn to obtain better results.


Winter is Lasting Forever...

Frost is persisting, the temperature does not increase above zero even at midday. It has been very cold for some days, just after I watered the alpines and early bulbs. I used to water them firstly around 17th February every year and this has been a good method until now. There used to be many buds and offsets by this time of year and they cry for water. But now this persisting frost is awful, I wonder whether my "good method" will prove a fiasco this time... We will see.

The beautiful buds of Hepatica nobilis look quite sad, the soil is frozen.

I took one pot with bulbs and one with Cyclamen coum and Eranthis inside in a cool room because I don't want to loose them.
According to the forecast, weather will not change next two weeks, only the day temperatures will be above zero to a hair.
Oh, Spring, where are you???


Buds and offsets-2

Because it's winter again, here are some " indoor plants' " buds.

Veltheimia bracteata
I will write about it when in flower.

Cyclamen pseudibericum (the same as last time, more colourful clothed) 
However, I think it will not too long remain a bud:

These pictures were made in rather dark room (cloudy outside), without flash, with large aperture, sorry for the quality. It is fascinating for me how the flower opens, so I thought I must show it to the "whole world" anyway.

Here is the plant:


Buds and offsets-1

The watering had a fantastic effect, a lot of beautiful buds appeared. And hopefully more and more will come from now on, so I start a topic with this subject. It's a real joy to photograph them.
Here are a few:

I have shown the flowers of this Colchicum in autumn. Now the leaves are coming:
Colchicum arenarium

Eranthis hyemalis
The same, two days later:

Eranthis with Cyclamen coum
The same, two days later:

Hepatica nobilis

The same, from the back:
Hepatica nobilis
and from close (yes, it fascinates me):

Hepatica nobilis from close
Saxifraga x elisabethae '(had no label)'
and from close:

Daphne sericea
And finally a not hardy Cyclamen:

Cyclamen pseudibericum


The First Harbinger in Our "Garden"

I have a lot to tell but at this time of year let's begin with the most important – at least for me: the first Eranthis hyemalis flower opened yesterday on our balcony. I realized the little yellow spot only after some lingering around that pot!

So I decided to cut down the dried leaves of the Campanula raddeana. They were left for winter to protect the sleeping buds of Hepatica nobilis (and also of different bulbs resting in that pot):

Buds of Hepatica nobilis
Here is after the haircut (picture taken yesterday afternoon with flash):

The long ribbons are the leaves of autumn flowering Sternbergia lutea.

Today was sunny and warm (14°C), so the Eranthis flower opened. It is obvious from the following picture how much it resembles to the hellebore flower.

Both have the petals transformed to nectaries, and the sepals taking the role of the petals. Both have many anthers, of the same shape. But the hellebores have 5 sepals which remain on the flower after flowering, the Winter Aconite (Eranthis) has more sepals which fall down after pollination. And the Eranthis has those pretty bracts looking like collars around the flower.
Both belong to the Helleboraceae family. As I know they were the same genus (Helleborus) some time ago. Winter Aconite is also called Winter Hellebore.

I observed in the sunshine that the Caryopteris has already little new leaves:

Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Heavenly Blue'
I got it last autumn and I wondered if it would be hardy in a pot. It seems like it was. I have to cut it down soon, and also to put it in a larger pot.


Seed sowing

Yesterday I sowed the seeds got from the SRGC. I got the packet in middle January but I simply did not feel like to sow them (it happens sometimes to me!). So I put them in moist vermiculite in zip lock bags, than in paper bags and put outside on the frosty balcony.

I like vermiculite for seed storing and layering. I've heard that it was good also for the ephemeral seeds to preserve germinating capacity.
I used to pour it dry in the bag, then put the seeds, mix it, and then spray into the bag 3 times with water, the mix to be just moist. Then lock the bag and put it in the fridge or outside.
When sowing, I pour all the contents of the bag on the moist composts' surface, than cover it with some grit.
Here is yesterdays' sowing:

They go to the garden to be subjected to the whimsy weather. (Don't forget: these are alpine plants' seeds, not tropicals or vegetables!)

There are also some bulbous plants' seeds, like Crocus banaticus, Scilla greilhuberi, Merendera montana, Fritillaria sp. and Allium sp. collected in Asia, which are in water now to soak. They will be sown tomorrow.


Bulb blue

I have to turn again to the recently shown forced bulbs. There was a narcissus bulb which has very few roots. Well, it made only one flower and the leaves remained small. Now the tips of the leaves are yellow/brown:

I learned from Ian Young that this meant the bulb was beginning to rot.
I pulled it out easily from the compost because those few roots are almost all gone:

Cutting the bulb in two, can be seen the spots where the rot begun:

It's fantastic that you can see this on the leaves!

The forecast says that winter comes back by the end of February, but today I gave some water to our miniature alpine gardens. If the alpines feel that winter is over, they begin to assimilate and need water for that. If the weather is not favourable, they just stop growing but don't die, because the sap is already moving in their body, and the new season's life is irreversible.
Welcome, new season's life!