November 28, 2006

Final Nerines


French Parma Violets

I wrote earlier (like in April) about the lost art of growing French scented violets, or Parma Violets, and now, as promised, I found some heirloom varieties from southern France, where they still grow these for the perfume industry, and I am attempting to cultivate some in the method of the late nineteenth century growers, here in America. the first blossoms appear in November, and right on target, here they are.


And, the last of the Nerine sarniensis blooms are fading, the last two varieties to bloom are....

Nerine sarniensis 'Kola'


Nerine sarniensis 'Bagdad'


Now, tell me I am crazy, bu I have decided to publish a magazine, at least to provide it for free, as a PDF through this blog which you can print from your home printer. let me know what design you like, I am starting with this one.

November 24, 2006

Giving thanks for foliage


English Oak -Quercus rober

This collumnular english Oak not only produces beautiful slender acorns, it also displays this curios color of chartruse yellow in the autumn, if frosts are gentle, as they have been this year. Most of out naitive oaks here in New England turn brown or beige, and a few turn a dark burgundy red. But this English Oak at the corner of our home is the favorite, especially for cutting since it's foliage is so small and looks great even cut in a vase.


Enkiathus campanulatus var. sikokianus

Native to Honshu, in Japan, this Enkianthus is different than many other Enkianthis species available since it has dark red flowers, and always draws attention during spring garden tours here. I think that the foliage is even finer in color than the other Enkianthus species that I have, and since this variety has been hard to track down lately, it relinds me that I should propagate it since now that Heronswood Nursery is gone (closed by Burpees after they found it non profitable), I don't knwo where else to find this particular species unless I feel like heading over to Honshu again!. Hey, it's an excuse!
which is a treadure which I puchased from the first Heronswood Nursery catalog that I ever had in 1996, and which never seemed to carry it again, and now that the nursery had been purchased and thus closed by Burpee Seed Company,...blah, blah, blah....don't get me going, but you know what? It's all business at the end of the day, and Dan Hinkley will surely move beyond all of this,( as if it was his fault) and he will soar higer with a new vision since the development part of any venture is certainly more invigorating than maintaing expectations to a customer base. If I was he, I would find the exploration and discovery part of the process most stimulating, since it's all about invention and tweaking that curious part of the brain...isn't that why we are so fscinated with nature and plants that are authentic and real? This Enkianthus reminds me everything will be new and better and he will do something even more brilliant in the future, I am sure. And until then, only those who have it, have it! (Of course, now as I think about it, maybe I bought it at Gossler Farms?!) Whatever.


A Acer japonicum which lost it's label, but it was a choice one.

Yes. Even I loose labels. But this Japanese maple was planted from seed in 1996 which I brough back from Japan, and without a key handy, It's still quite nice with it's foliage that progresses the spectrum from light saffron to persimmon all on the same branch.


Sasa vietchii

Speaking of Japan. OF all of the hardy bamboo that we can grow here in NEw England, this relatively manageable groundcover is annually spectacular, especially in the fall and winter, since the foliage dies just on the edges, producing this bicolor variegated effect. Also native to Japan, this is perhaps the nicesest of the Sasa bamboos, yet we grow another Sasa, Sasa japonica with is taller than the 2 foot dense growth of this species, but it does tend to run a bit more, yet hardly a pest. ....really.

Other bamboos?.......that's another story.
More and bamboos on another post. If you ever see Sasa vietchii, get it.


OK, Bloodgood is everywhere. It's arguably the most common japanese maple variety, available at any home center, and shouldn't even be allowed on this blog which is dedicated to rare and unusual plants. But I am talking abotu foliage here, and not rareness....so....presenting, an exceptionally nice year for Acer japonicum "Bloodgood". Go home Dept.


Lastly, a lone primula in bloom in the woodland garden. It's not uncommon at all for many spring blooming primula to show a few blossoms in the late fall. This P. aucaulis will be one of the first primroses in bloom in the late winter or spring, blooming along with snowdrops, even while the snow is still falling. Since it is almost December, I can now say that we can have flowered out doors year round, here in USDA zone 5.

November 15, 2006

More Fall Mums


Seizan is a yellow, small flowered Mum known as a cascade type, the plants are planted in June as cuttings, and then trained along horizontal bamboo poles until September, when I start to lower the poles to become verticle. The final effect is a waterfall of Chrysanthemum blooms, that reach down nearly five feet.


Seatons Ruby is a lovely Anemone flowers mum.

Purple Thistle



Satin Ribbon is an apt cultivar name for this loose recurve mum.
The plants are almost six feet tall, and bloom late, so they are grown in containers outside, and moved into the greenhouse for late autumn display.

November 11, 2006

Fancy Chrysanthemums


Like so many traditions, the art of fine Chrysanthemum growing is long forgotten in most of the world, replaced with growth-retardent hyper-pinched and fertilized monster-mums displayed in bushel baskets and then tossed into the trash like any disposable holiday decorations, the chrysanthemum has gone the way of fine English carnations, to even become lower-class supermarket plants with a status that often has no other plant lower.

This is ashame, for in Japan and China, the Chrysanthemum continues to to be an important part of the culture, with spectacular displays that continue today. In America and Europe, the lowly 'mum' has suffered a fate the few can ever pull out from. Until the twentieth Century World Wars, the Exhibition Chrysanthemum was grown for display and cut flower, and many private estates based thier entire autumn display season around these late blooming plants. The American Chrysanthemum Society, classifies Mums in categories that still reflect thier heyday, yet only one mail order supply house still carries the classic varieties (Kings Mums). Why not consider growing a ledgend, and bring back the Chrysanthemum. We did it with English Sweet Peas, but many other classic heirloom plants need to be resurected before they are gone to the compost pile forever. This includes many plants found on this blog - Scented Parma Violets, English Auricula Primroses, Japanese Chrysanthemums - one of the first plants ever cultivated by humans in China.

Following are some photos of what exhibition mums are blooming for me right now in the greenhouse.


A new green-flowered 'Quill' type -'Revert'

An rare 'brush form' from Japan 'Saga nishiki'

Classic spider mum 'Coral Reef' has dinner plate sized blooms on 5 foot stems.

tiny Nerine rehmannii


Nerine rehmanii

This tiny Nerine, is very small, the flowers reach barly four inches high. Nerine rehmannii is native to Swaziland in South Africa, and I just wanted to show you one of the species since I have been focusing on the fancier NErine sarniensis hybrids so much. Although not truly rare, this is a bulb which is very hard to find but look while ordering your unusual bulbs in the summer catalogs, ( again, look at Paul Christians rare plant site in the UK, and Odyssey and Telos here in the states, I have only seen this sold once), since it is shipped then while it is dormant. Not difficult to grow, it should fill a pot in a few years, we shall see.


I have seen nice pots of this species on some collector sites, so hopefully it will grow and thrive for me. As you can see, it seems quite precious since the flower umbel is no larger than my fingernail, and the foliage is thread-like.

November 4, 2006

Peak Nerine sarniensis bloom


A selection of Nerine sarniensis crosses, most from the United Kingdom's National Collection, kept by Ken Hall at Springbank Nursery on the Isle of White. As is still alot of taxonomic uncertainty, please use these representatives loosly, since I have duplicate clones that are, well, different. Regardless, all are still beautiful, and I can't imagine autumn without these relatives of the Amaryllis in bloom.

Here are a selection of named varieties which mostly are from the U.K. and a few unnamed varieties. Known commonly as the Guersey lily, Nerine sarniensis are relatively unknown in the U.S., if one does find Nerine available at a garden center or catalog, most likely it will be the other autumn flowering Nerine, N. bowdenii. N. sarniensis reportedly are known as Guernsey Lilies because of a ledgend about a ship bound from South Africa, sunk off the shore of Guernsey, and hundreds of bulbs washed ashore, where they are now naturalized.

Nerine sarniensis are noted for another strange phenomenon, they sparkle when sunlight refracts or reflects off of them, something Victorian growers in England called Gold (on some red varieties like Wolsey) or silver Dusting. See some of the photos below to see how spectacular this sparkling can be. Also, some varieties have wavy petals, an effect that many breeders try to target while breeding. In my own breeding efforts, just getting seed to take has been enough to ask for! But since I have had some luck getting these normally 'challenging-to-bloom' species to over perform this year, hopefully, I can now start to attempt a bit of a breeding program.


Nerine sarniensis 'Wolsey'

This Nerine sarniensis hybrid is a seedling selection bred by Harry Dalton, and acquired from Ken Hall's National Collection in the U.K.


Nerine sarniensis 'Rushmere Star'
One of the few N. sarniensis hybrids available from a couple of rare bulb dealers in the U.S.


I lost the name tag on this Nerine sarniensis Hyb, but it may be November Cheer. Any ideas?


Nerine sarniensis var. curvifolia f. fothergillii 'Major'

Taxonomy aside, this bulb had the largest flower in my collection. yet the name is questionable. I am simply using the Royal Horticultural Society's name for now, please send me your comments regarding taxonomy and cultivar, this genus is still pretty confusing.


Nerine sarniensis 'Lyndhurst Salmon'


Nerine sarniensis 'Hanley Castle'


Nerine sarniensis 'Cynthia Chance'


Nerine sarniensis ' Berlioz'


Nerine sarniensis 'Blanchefleur'

November 3, 2006

Nerine sarniensis 1



Finally, I am home after traveling for work all month. Hopefully, November will be a little less hectic, although, I do have a book due to the publisher, and new projects are work.

Upon arriving home, I was shocked at what was in bloom in the greenhouse. So over the next few days, I will be updating daily to catch everyone up. There are so many things happening under the glass, that it will take many postings to catch up.

Here is a shot of a group of Nerine sarniensis, which I took while home for one day last week. Many of these are now past, but many more have come out.

Besides blooming, other greenhouse drama's have occured. The gas heater exploded, so that had to be fixed last week. Well, not exploded, but flames shot out and burned wires, and the bottom of the heater blew off. I hate those things anyway. Even though the glass was all repaired two weeks ago, three large panes 30 inches each slid off last night and smashed into a million shards into the raised rock bed, Weeding will be fun next year!

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