April 19, 2006

Troughs and trays

Last year, I hiked the alpine trails in the Italian Dolomites, there, the alpine meadows we're spotted with a number of species of Blue Gentians, including this species, G. acaulis. This plant, growing in a tiny trough, has been in bloom since January, even under two feet of snow.

Not all South African bulbs are winter bloomers. In the foreground of this photo taken infront of the greenhouse walk, is the tiny Rhodohypoxis baurii, growing in a bonsai pot. Rhodohypoxis are easy enough for children to grow. The tiny corms are planted in the early spring, and they bloom quickly, making a fast colorful addition for about four or five weeks to a deck or terrace. They grow throught the summer, and will produce sporadic flowers, but the main bloom comes in the begining of the season. I grow a number of named varieties of Rhodohypoxis baurii, as well as a few species. The clump up quickly, a fe bulbs will fill a shallow pan in a year or two, and then I just divide them in mid summer, and fertilize them weekly with a good tomato fertilizer.

The grassy foliage starts to yellow near the end of the summer, and the pots go dry, stored up high on a shelf in the greenhouse until I start to water them in March or so. AS long as they don;t freeze solid, and you provide a fast draining soil, they grow like crazy. Even though they require fast draining soil, much like the bulbous South African Oxalis, lately I've been experimenting with pumice and promix for soil, but I let them sit in water, in a pan. Others may not have luck with this, but In the wild, Rhodohypoxis grow in seeps, so I let them sit in a pan of water until water is gone, then fill it again, a half inch or so up the pot. This is the same treatment that my Oxalis, Lachenalia and Nerine sarniensis get, and I haven't lost one to rot yet. Still, I am careful to watch for any sign of it. I would be curious to hear from others who have experimented with this method.

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