October 22, 2006

Bulbous South Afrifan Oxalis

A sandbed filled with blooming Oxalils species

The bloom season is peaking for the bulbous Oxalis, and both the species from South Africa and South America are reaching peak bloom. I am traveling for work much of this month, and only have today, Sunday, to photograph them and to enjoy them, before flying off Tuesday again, only to return on Halloween. I hope that it stays cool and not sunny, so that I woun't miss the peak of both these and of the Nerine sarniensis, which are just begining to open.

This Oxalis species lost its tag, so it is nice but unknown for now

A Sternbergia lutea blooms in a pot, kept out on the stone walk in front of the greenhouse. This crocus like blossom is one of the last of the outdoor bulbs to bloom for the season.
Here in New Engand, the foliage is reaching it's peak color. Since we have not recieved a hard killing frost yet, the colors have not been as intense as in past years. This weekends chores included planting Narcissus out in the raised bed, for exhibitions- cyclamineous types as well as triandrus were planted in the new bed today. Hopefully I can keep it not too wet, since the sand I recieved was builders sand and was too mud-like last year. This time I added compost, gravel and peat to it. I may have to cover the bed with a panel of twin wall if the snow adds to the moisture this winter. Snow will fall on the glass of the greenhouse, and slide down onto the raised bed, it may become too water logged, but the granite chips may aid in the draining of the bed. We shall see.

October 17, 2006

The first bulbous Oxalis of the season

Oxalis zeekoviensis
Over the next month, the collection of Oxalis species that are native to South Africa and which grow from various tiny bulbs, will be reaching peak bloom in the cold greenhouse. OXALIA you may say! Theyare just weeds. Sure, some of the worlds most knoxous weeds are Oxalis, but it is a large family, and I assure you that the rare bulbous oxalis are not weedy, and perfect collectable for the cold greenhouse or medeteranian climate like southern California. Again, winter growers, they love moisture but require a hot dry dormant rest in the summer.

I am just plain addicted to these jewels, and don't understand why others don't grow them, although this may be due to thier scarcity, and that only one or two rare bulb company's carry them, on and off, and that they cannot be grown from seed.

If you cringe at the thought of Oxalis as a collectable, don't confuse these bulbous species with the weedy pests that make oxalis a dirty word. (I have that one too!) If only we codl e so lucky that these we're weedy. Some bulbs barely increase, while a couple bulbous species do increase enough that one can pot up a second pot.
generally, these South African bulb Oxalis are slow to increase since they rarely if ever can produce seed.

Oxalis lobata with finger for scale

Here is abother photo of an Oxalis lobata, a new speices for me this year. I wanted to show you how small it actually is in this shot. Not only is it brilliant in the sun, it has the nice habit of sending up it's blossoms before the foliage, and it is fragrant too.

Oxalis virginea

I recieved these bulbs last year and they increased nicely, something which is nice since I started with six bulbs last year, and they divided into about 15.

October 14, 2006

Nearing peak bloom in the fall greenhouse

oxalis lobata, a rare South African bulbous oxalis species

Now that I am back from traveling, a busy week at work was finalized by a rush to get home Friday with enough time to pull the plants into the greenhouse. Not an easy task with large tubs and many heavy clay pots from around the property. I actually enjoy this day, one of the tent post days of the gardeners year. First frost signals both the end and the start of different gardening seasons.

The summer dormant, fall and winter blooming bulbs from South Africa, particularly the bulbous Oxalis are reaching thier prime season. As well as the Nerine sarniensis, Nerine hybrids and the Cyclamen species. The Oxalis species which I grow are coming into bloom now lead by Oxalis lobata, a new favorite, with small, half inch bright yellow flowers which came up before the foliage, and are fragrant and dense, expecially since this year I kept many of the pots out on the stone walk in front of the greenhouse to gather as much of the direct sun as possible before frost. This has worked amazingly well, and now I have oxalis plants that are more in character to what one would find in thier native habitat of sunny South Africa, and not etoliated as one can easily find in a northern hemisphere greenhouse. This increased light intensity is really noticable with the species, O. heptaphylla, which is just starting to produce it's pink, petunia-like blossoms set agains thread like almost succulent foliage. This year, my plants have dense mounds of foliage instead of looser tufts. It's amazing what a difference there is between single pane glass, and pure, unadultered sunlight.

While traveling last week, I stopped by and visited with plantsman, John Lonsdale in Pennsylvania. We exhanged some plants, and I was very impressed with his naturalized Cyclamen in the woods behind his home. I may try that here in Massachusetts. For now, my cyclamen collection will probobly remain in the glass house, where they is protected from frost.

Potted collection of Cyclamen species in the sand plunge

Back in the greenhouse, the Cyclamen collection is recovering from this past summers disaster where I lost about half of the collection due to missmanagement. I still need to master the cultivation of these wild forms of Cyclamen, perfecting which species need some summer moisture during thier dormancy, and which species need complete dryness. At least, as you will see shortly in a posting in a week or two, I am starting to achieve some success with the Nerine sarniensis collection. With the new larger pot size, and fertilization program, twelve of the seventeen pots which I am testing are blooming, which for me, breaks a record since ususally I achieve about one third of that.

Speaking of frost, last night it reached 29 degrees here in central Massachusetts. The plants which I left out of doors only suffered minor damage, although the bananas and morning glories took a good hit from mother nature and are transparent, and basically done for the season. The bright and colorful Leonitis is still blooming in front of the Greenhouse, and on this brilliant autumn day, it's persimmon colored flowers challenges any fall foliage motif on a Vermont Life calander. Not quite New England, but horticulturally speaking it's visual candy.

October 2, 2006

late season brilliance

Leonotis leonurus, just starting to bloom
This orange member of the mint family struts its stuff in the ;autumn, jsut before frost. Thankfully, this year, we still have not had our first frost, so we can enjoy the bright bloom that this plant provides. Such a brilliant orange in a season of generally muddy colors. Here, it is planted in front of the greenhouse along with a lime green species form of nicotiana, Nicotiana langsdorfii, with its pendant lime colored blossoms complement the rich tangerine of the Leonotis. Also, a blue Salvia, the new standard for fall color, the form called 'Black and Blue' blooms among these trendy colors. Cuttings we're taken of all of these plants for wintering over in the greenhouse, the Nicotiana is annual, so it self seeds.

The brugmansias are in peak bloom, only a week or so left, and since they require daily watering, it will be nice to see them go. That said, they still are beautiful, and thier fragrance wafts over the garden in the warm autumn sunshine. The onyl downside, is that they tip over with every breeze, now that they are so top heavy.

Brugmansia at peak perfection, just before frost

I am traveling for work this week, so will not be able to update until Tuesday of next week. Enjoy these pics that I quicly posted! Below, the "yellow' campanula, Campanua thyrisoides, planed in the rock wall, are settling in nicely. I expect blooms next summer if they survive the winter here.

Seed grown rosettes of Campanua thyrisoides, the 'yellow' campanula, planted in the rock garden.