The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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It’s Piddling Season

St. Louis weather in February can best be described as variable. We have days that feel like a reprieve from winter–like today’s 70+ degree temps–and we have clear signals that it’s still winter–like last week’s soppy snow shower. So garden time is sporadic at best.

Snow on Grasses (768x1024)

The grasses plumes drape gracefully under the weight of a wet snow.

2016 budding rhodo

The rhododendron will bloom soon, a sure sign that spring is near.

Sunday’s warm weather was accompanied by gusty winds and the ground is very soggy still. I take advantage of these sorts of days to piddle. I rake up a couple of trash cans of sweet gum balls, cut back the tall ornamental grasses and generally enjoy a nice day. Tempting as it was, I resisted raking the leaves out of the beds. I thought about edging some of the beds but it’s too wet. This piddling around allows me to begin to stretch my back and take stock of what really needs to be done once the weather begins to warm in March.

How do you take advantage of a warm day in later winter?

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Travelogue: Autumn in The Netherlands

greenhouses Netherlands (1280x960)Am I the only gardener and tulip lover who travels to Holland in autumn? I asked myself that question as I packed to visit my daughter during her fall break in her study abroad program last semester. After all, if I were taking a proper gardener’s sojourn to this canal-filled country, it would be in peak bloom time (April/May) where I could pedal among the petals at the Keukenhof Gardens to enjoy the Dutch bulbfields.

That didn’t happen. In fact, the Keukenhof Gardens are closed in late October. But an autumn visit to this beautiful, small country didn’t disappoint. Poetry-filled walls in Leiden, the mastery of world-renown Dutch painters, a tree laden with global pleas for peace in Den Haag, bracing winds along the North Sea beach at Scheveningen, the Hortus botanicus, windmills, castles.and bicycles–lots and lots of bicycles–filled our days.

Bulb starter kits (1280x960)

Colorful flower starter canisters for sale in the bulb market in Amsterdam.Important to note, however, is the that USDA requires they carry an import stamp. If that’s missing, they may confiscate your bulbs in customs. I wonder how often that happens. Tulip kits at the airport are priced about three times higher but contain the all-important stamp.

The Holland Bulb Market in Amsterdam did not disappoint. The interesting tidbit to note here is that the tulip did not originate in Holland. It began in Constantinople back in 1593 by botanist Carolus Clusius. His neighbors, seeing a good thing, stole them from him and began what is now known as the Dutch bulb trade. Tulip bulbs are not the only thing sold at the markets. Buyers can purchase canisters of all sorts of starter kits, including cannabis. My heart beat an extra step when I saw the very reasonable prices, but I did not buy any because many did not have the required customs stamp.

 

Peace Tree (1280x960)

Visitors to the Peace Palace in Den Haag are encouraged to add their personal wishes for peace to this tree.

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Flower-filled hanging baskets adorn light poles surrounded by bicycles.

A leisurely afternoon visit to the Hortus Botanicus in the city center of Leiden provided hours of enjoyment and lots to look as we strolled along the garden’s paths and toured its tropical greenhouse. Founded in 1590 by the University of Leiden, the botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in the world. There is an observatory on the grounds but we did not venture in.

Bee habitat (960x1280)

Bee habitat set ups such as this one at Hortus Botanicus are common in the Netherlands.

Hortus display (1280x960)

An artful display lines the path at Hortus Botanicus. Note the palm trees in the bed in the background.

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Dahlias at Hortus botanicus in Leiden.

 

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A scooter decked out front to back with silk flowers.