February 2, 2007

Beware Groundhogs...flowering begins

Corydalis wilsonii under glass
Two weeks aso, at the NARGS Eastern Study Weekend, Corydalis expert, Henrick Zetterlund told me that the best way to cultuvate Corydalis wilsonii is to grow in in chunk of pure tufa rock. So Joe and I loaded up the truck with tufa rock from a local dealer who was selling some of this precious (and pricey!) porous, limestone rock which only cut our hands a little, and drove it home the 300 miles to Massachusetts. Although my brand new Toyota FJ cuiser is now full of dusty white powder, I now have a good supply of tufa, well, at least a few dozen pieces! When my NARGS seed arrives from the annual seed distribultion, I will be planting some seedlings into tny drilled holes, and hopefully next year, can report of further success with this slightly fussy, tender Corydalis which seems to peak in bloom, here in my greenhouse around February. Henrick says when grown in tufa, it will stay more in character, low, dense and almost bun-like. I can't wait. This plant I currently cultivate in a gravelly, standard alpine mix. Seeds are sometimes avalailable from specialty lists (Ron Ratko, NARGS, Scottish Rock Garden Society), you can grow in zone 9, or under glass in a cool or cold greenhouse, with protection.

Lachenaia aloides are starting thier peak season

Anyone who knows me, knows that I specialize in a few genus, which I tend to collect more than others. A few years ago, I discovered Lachenalia, a South African relative of the Hyacinth family, easy enough from seeds, the bulbs bloom in three years, and for what ever reason, I have had luck with the genus. Although some species start blooming around Christmas (L. viridiflora, L. rubida) the peak season is just starting, and the stonger February sun (yes, stronger....ask anyone with a greenhouse!), coaxes the bub from deep withing the twin leaves of the easy to grow, but difficult to find, bulb. The above L. aloides forms are all collected from my own seed and leaf cuttings, they start their blooming season now, and will continue until late March. Definately something that brightens up the winter on snowy days. The experience of trudging through a dark snowstorm to the greenhouse, and then seeing all this color is an experience that I look forward to every year. On a sunny day, it is really extraordinary.

Speaking of color....

The rare Chilean Blue Crocus, Tecophilieae cyanocrocus is peaking also, the last flowers in fact are blooming this week, and hopefully, this year, I can get some seed from the few that I have. Ridicoulously expensive, for such a tiny corm, these are still a collector item, requiring some exact conditions such as coolness, moisture, fast drainage and a summer dormancy. But isn't it worth it? Blue is such a compelling color. One needs to remortgage and plant a dozen of these in a pot, or grow some from seed as I am trying. This is how they look best. Slow division is the second way that I am getting there. Last year four, this year six. hmmm....

Asphodelus acaulis
Most asphodelus send up tall stems with rather unimpressive white flowers, but this bulb, which I bought in England a couple of years ago, is, as the name hints, stemless. Grown in the UK as an alpine house specimen, here, it proves why. I never was able to see it in bloom, but now, I am thrilled that in its third year with me, is producing a lovely batch of flowers, and that they are pink and not white. We shall see in a few weeks, how nice it looks if they all open at once. If our sunlight was stonger, the foliage would be 'tighter" but even in this condition, the plant is setting itself up as a perfect alpine specimen from a genus noted for agressive robustness.


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