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.

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