April 29, 2007

Corydalis solida seedlings

This cluster of Corydalis solida has lost it label, but perhap is is a mixture of "George Baker' seedlings. Still, nice as ever. It's is amazing to watch these Corydalis set seed, grow to small giants, and then disapear all in the matter of five weeks or so. Still, they are the crown jewels of our spring garden, and I can't get enough of them.

Look for ant-sown seedlings eavery spring, and be certain not to cover with mulch. Can you see the Corydalis seedling here? Of course, the large-cotyledons of the jewel-weed will need to be pulled quicly before it ovrcomes the precious corydalis seedling. If you don't mulch with wood chips, you coudl be blessed with a crop of your own corydalis solida seedling, and since they are ephemeral just like thier parents, expect for them to dissapear by July, where thier tiny bulb will sit safe underground until next spring. Naturally, this means, keeping the soil weeded, and that you will need to be careful digging during the summer.

Fergus helps dig, and find more corydalis seedlings.
Well, that's what Irish Terriers do, I guess, at least ours.

Maybe berfus was looking for Margaret, since she is currently in 'heat' and locked in the house. This pink Corydalis soliday hybrid is also called 'Margaret". bred by Janus Ruksans in Latvia, and available in the late summer in his catalog. It is a very pure pink. THis stem is tiny, only because this come from a set of bulbs that we
're forced last winter for the National Rock Garden Society Winter STudy Weekend Plant Show, in NYC. I would normally toss the bulbs, but since these are a little rare and costly, I brought it into the greenhouse all winter, and let it go dormant last spring, where it sat dry in a pot in the alpine house until last autumn, when I found the pots, and thought that I may have lost them all.....truth be told, the bulbs we're small, since they never recieved the right nutrients, but I planted them carefully in October 2006, and behold, a couple flowers. Next year, they should recover nicely. Same goes for the tiny weak stem of Corydalis solida 'Purple Splendor' below.

April 25, 2007

Corydalis solida

Corydalis vittae

Janus Ruksans amazing catalog, is a must-have for any rare bulb connoisseur which you can obtain by writing him directly (he doesn;t have a web site) at: Ruksans Bulb Nursery, Rozula, Cesis District, LV-4150, Latvia. You may try emailing his nursery first, to see if the cost of $5.00 per catalog has risen, or insert a $5.00 US bill in the envelope. It is worth the investment for Corydalisphiles alone. Besides Corydalis solida forms, of which, Ruksans offers, like thirty or so, there are other bulbous species worth collecting. And since they reseed, if you don;t; mulch, then they are worth the investment,(and, they are an investment $$$$, as may rarer plants are). That said, everyone who visits our garden in March, exclaims 'My God...what are THOSE?". These are ephemerals with an attitude, yet understated enough to appear natural.

If you are not familiar with Corydalis, the genus is quitfascinating, closely related to the common bleeding-heart, but these memebers are smaller, and althrough the trend through the 1990's was tpward collecting the newly introduced blue forms, plant geeks are starting to focus on the bulbous species, particularly Corydalis solida and related species. In the USA and Uk, the named form of C. solida 'George Baker', may be the only handshake a home gardener may have with this genus, since it is often the only cultivar available in the trade, and by 'trade, I mean in the US bulb catalogs. These are not plants that one will find at garden centers. They are ephemeral - a quick pop-up in the early spring, a blast of color, off to seed, then they dissappear for the rest of the year, where thier nut-like bulb stays protected in hopefully, dryish, soil conditions. Similar to crocus.
So, if C.solida 'George Baker' is nice enough, and certainly worth seeking, although don't count on getting the authentic "George Baker' unless you are assured that it is a clone, since this is a genus notorious for cross pollenating, although any pink form is generally nice enough in this gem of a genus, the real 'GB" is extraordinary in it's color expression. Most catalogs in the US< if you find one, carry forms that are pinkish-grey, or mauve. Still,nice. The real GB is coral, and stockier, see the below photo. The real GB (from Ruksans) is on the left, the taller, mustyer one is a GB from a US source. Corydaliss-ness
Will the real George Baker please stand up?

Plan of ordering bulbous corydalis in July through September, in the fall bulb catalogs, and plant them in October.

In the glass house, the last of the winter blooming South African bulbs are blooming, remember most of these are grown from seed imported, since the bulbs are unavalilable. These orange Tritonia crocata are brilliantly colored, but like many S.A. bulbs, they bloom as the foliage passes, so overall, I may not keep these. sad, since they took 5 years to reach blooming size!

The Primula season is starting due to a little glitch with global warming, or cooling, whatever...., and here we are, just less then two weeks before the New England Primula Show (May 5,6,7 at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, ), and our Primula are just starting to bloom, here, a lesser known species, in the Auriculacastrum group, is Primula hirsuta, a species that is a little challenging to grow for most people, since it blooms at high elevations, at snowmelt, near melting glaciers. A species which we most likely will not see on our trek through the Engadine Alps next month, this jewel is liking our trough near the greenhouse, where Fergus, our Irish Terrier pee's, apparently not unlike an alpine Swiss Glacier.

April 16, 2007


This Yew hedge is 100 feet long, 9 feet high and 12 feet wide. A freight train and taxus, and with two driveways passing through it, it was becoming a risky venture. So after nearly a hundred years of growth, this weekend, my brother Bruce, his son Taylor and Joe and I, removed it, in prep for a new fence which will hopefully go in this summer.

But if you think this hedge is big, you should see the hedge as it rund in the other direction.

Look far beyond the yew, and you can see the 16 foot tall hemlock hedge, which runs along the funn 218 feet of the property.

Since this hedge is suffering from the dreaded wooly algied, we are having a fence installed along it in four weeks. and then even this hedge will have to be removed Likely a task fro the tree folks, but I am dreading the cost!.

In Dan Hinkley's book entitled The Explorers Garden. he mentions that Cardamine heptaphylla can only be dug a divided via root scales during the month of March or in late winter. Yesterday, I remembered this task, and ran out back to dig up where the label was. Not sure if this was it, especially since these root sections really don;t look like 'scales on a rhyzome' but whatever it was, I separated it. There we;re two questionable plants, which I divided, so clearly, April is the month to divide what ever needs dividing! Stay tuned to see what this was, if in fact it wasn;t Cardamine heptaphylla. ID not, I will have to wait another year to divide it!

Am I finally succeeding with Plieone orchids? These terrestrial orchids grow from bulbs that are traditionally planted in shallow bulb pans, in a fast draining bark type mix. After six years of killing many species, I think I have the trick. I pat the bulbs in a mixture of snipped tree fern bark, along with hornbeam leaves that have been composted, some gravel, and a little pro mix.l Then I fertilize with half strength 10 10 10 all summer long, where the plants are placed ont he shady side of the greenhouse, and kept moist. These four bulbs went dormant right on schedule in the autumn, and we're then kept cold, near freezing, on the foundation wall in the greenhouse near the glass. Not only is this the first time that I have been able to rebloom these tiny bulbs, they divided and where last year I had three blossoms, this year I have 11. Wow.
Now, I wish I could find more to try, but they are so hard to find in the USA. A Canadian firm sells them, Frasiers Thimble Farms, and they have a wide selection, but even though I never had any problems ordering from them, they are just too difficult to get alhold of since they only check thier email once or twice a week, and don;t take orders or anser quesions through email or on line. IT is too late I think to bother writing them, and they won't accept phone calls. Too bad, since thier selection is so nice.

April 3, 2007

late season Lachenalia

Lachenalia aloides var. anzyliae

If you grow Lachenalia, most likely you grow one of the new Lacehalia aloides clan. This species is by far the most common of Lachenalia, oftne being the only species sold through mail order catalogs, which either feature the hybrid crosses known as teh African beauty series, or one of the subspecies of L. aloides such as L. aloides quadricolor,. Howeverm this subspecies is quite rare, and choice and is rarely, if ever available even in the underground, plant-geek trade, L. aloides var. vanzyliae. It greenish teal flowers are similar to the other green flowered Lachenalia, L. viridiflora, but this species closes out the season, by blooming not in the early winter as L. viridiflora does, but in April, just as many of the other Lachenalia species are going dormant for the summer. THe blossoms are beautiful, and become darker green as they age, or if they recieve enough sunlight, but the real beauty comes fromt he folliage, which can be so heavily freckled that they appear almost black. this is by far my favorite Lachenalia, and I msut try to propagate some.

An even rarer Lachenalia, L. latimerae

Started from seed two years ago, this rare species of Lachenalia is already blooming, still in it's seed flat with 24 other Lachenalia species. These were all started from seed collected in South African, and are representative of species not available in the trade. According to Duncans, THE LACHENALIA HANDBOOK, Lachenalia latimerae "...is still unknown in culivation, but will have potential as a pot plant subject when material becomes available.". I must admit that it is cute, and even though not as showy as the L/ aloides clan, it holds it own, and has a sturdy short species look, which appeals to me. Next yer, will be the real test. As I continue to fertilize this tray of seedlings this year with a half strength solution of 0-10-10,. more may bloom as the bulbs become larger, At this time I can evaluate these lesser-known species, as to thier pot-worthyness.

Lachenalia palida

This pot is another example of a speices form of Lachenalia, but one which is quite uninteresting as a pot subject, since like many lach's it';s foliage starts to fade, just as it begins to bloom. Perhaps one of the most common species in South African in the wild, I think that it may not earn it's keep in my greenhouse.

Lachenalia aloides ssp. aurea from leaf cuttings last year.

Lachenalia leaf cuttings are the best way to clone a favorite species, especially aloides forms. I have yet to cut a leaf off on my L. aloides vanzylia, since each bulb only produces two leaves, to a sacrafice of a leaf affects the aestheic of the pot, and may affect a bulb from blooming. But then, a single leaf, cut into thirds, may produce a dozen small bulbils, so perhaps I will take a cutting this late from one and see what I get. These L. aloides aurea cuttings are two years old, and look at the show. Look at my past blog from last year, on taking cuttings from lachenalia.

Many Lachenalia, I keep in pans like this, full of water throughout the winter. I know many books advise fast draining soil, no fertilization. I have found that if I use a very loose gravely soil, with sand and pumice, and yet keep thier 'feet-wet', I get larger bulbs and better bloom. Many of these species grow in seeps, and my water treatment seems to work for me. The same goes for my Nerine sarniensis (wet sand plunge, not water at thier feet, but constant moisture), rolulea, tritonia, rhodohypoxis, oxalis, all get this treatment. I rotate they in the water-filled pans all winter long, with no sign of rot. Understand though, that my greenhouse does get full bright winter sun, through single pane glass, and I rarely keep them in cold water during dreary, grey, weeks. Only during sunny periods.

Crocus reticulatus 'Janus Ruksan's is a favorite crocus, and I could only afford one to be mailed to me from Latvia. It was open in the warm sun on Saturday, so I rushed in to get my camera so that I could capture it's trademark brown petals, but look what happened....Joe was dragging the shade cloth up over the greenhouse so that the Clivia would not burn in the increasingly hot sun, and he dragged it over the crocus, shredding it. Maybe another bud will come out this season!