February 25, 2007

Romulea season

Romulea bulbocodium ssp. leichtliniana

The Genus Romulea is relatively unknown by most, since one rarely finds the corms available in the trade, and thus, they must be grown grown from seed, an easier venture than you may imagine. Seed is often found in plant society seed exchanges, and most people skip over these, opting for the trendier Arisaema and Paris. These tender, crocus-like corms are grow mainly in South African, but also in the Medeterranian area. This is a good hint, that tells us that they can be grown outdoors in North America in California, and in the UK, or anywhere where winter moisture occurs with summer dryness, and the ground doesn't freeze.

Romulea requienii

The three species shown here are quite similar, and I am glad they they bloomed together so that I can see thier differences, as well as thier similarities. I am also glad that it was sunny this weekend, for in the cold greenhouse, they only open when the sun is brilliant, and the air becomes warm. Poor bees, they can't reach them, so the pollen falls on the petals, at least ensuring that I get seed again, to grow more corms, which I need, since Romulea need a crowded pot to give a decent display.

Romulea bulbocodium Knight Shades Shay's Form

My collection was a gift from a local plant collector, he purchased the seed from plant society seed exchanges, either the Scottish Rock Garden Society, the Alpine Garden Society or NARGS, but he told me that he decided to order one of each packet, to see if they would grow. We split the corms a few years ago, and we each have about a dozen species. A few bloomed last year, but this year, the pots are becoming more full, and February is starting to become Romulea season, as well as Lachenalia season and Narcissus season in the Greenhouse. Spring doesn't seem that far away, when one can spend a Saturday in the hot sun of an 80 degree greenhouse, even though the temperatures outside near zero F. the sun is stronger, and one can feel it as well as the plants. One of the greatest benefits of having a greenhouse in New England, I have found, is that by February, the hot bright sun, combined with the fact that one can be elbows deep in soil, and amid fragrant blossoms while the snow still sits on the ground, makes winter so much more bearable. At the end of the day, your pants are wet from the hose dripping water on them, your boots are muddy, ytour face is red from the heat of the sun, and your nails are filled with soil - summer may be four months away, but teh gardening season has certainly turned a corner.

A trio of similar looking Romulea show how taxonomists often find slight similarities when keying out species.

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