February 10, 2008

Rare South African Lachenalia from Seed

Rare species, such as this green-flowering variant of the more common, L. aloides, Lachenalia aloides var.Vanzyliae can only be obtained by seed.

Now that a big part of my design book is finished, I can finally refocus on the greenhouse. Last Sunday was one of those fabulously sunny, yet cold, winter New England days, which, even by early February, can make the glass greenhouse feel like summer. The sun is already beginning too feel stronger, and as many of us gardeners note, subtle and not-so-subtle changes are ocuring in nature, signifying that winter is waning. I love this time of winter, February and March. I know, you might think I am crazy, but underglass, it's not mud season, really.
The plants which one can grow in a cool greenhouse are generally those Mediterrainan types one sees in the south of France, southern Italy, or California - shrubs and bulbs which respond in February to the increase in light levels. I was telling visitors yesterday, that March, is the season of full bloom in my greenhouse- how could I ever hate March? There is nothing, like sitting in a sunny hot greehouse, with three feet of snow outside, wearing nothing by shorts and sneakers, potting up seeds in the hot sun.
You can hear the birds outside, and when focusing on what you are doing, you could swear that you can hear lawn mowers and smell cut greass and charcoal grills maybe! but actually, that's the nicest part! you can't!
It's just you, the woodpeckers on the feeders, a hark getting cracnkiny high in the hemlocks about the pigeons in the coop, and you hear nothing else..., no kids screaming, no lawnmowers and no weedwackers.. nothing. Not even cars going by in the distance (of course, the Patriots were playing in the Superbowl, so maybe that had a little to do with it!). I'm sort-of not ia sports fan!

Usually, one must purchase and plant seed for South African bulbs which are winter-growing, in the autumn. A sowing in September or October, would guarantee a winter of growth, before thier inevitable summer rest of dry dormancy.
This year, I am taking a chance, and planting a collection of selected seeds in mid-season winter, these are seeds which I purchased on line, from Silverhill Seeds (a respected collector of rare, South African bulb seed, of wild collected species which are not available anywhere else. Although late, it is not impossible to get a years worth of growth on these plants, which are quite easy to germinate and grow, given that one has a cool greenhouse, or a protected area outdoors if you live in a mild climate ( like California).

All I need is a few months of strong growth, which I will get here in the northeastern part of the US during February to June. I have found that since December to January provides weak sun, I can usually "catch-up" many species in this later part of the season, and c an even continue thier growth until mid July, before drying off the pots, to provide a couple months of dry "winter", then restarting them a bit later than the other established bulbs - let's say, October.

This year, I am focusing of Lachenalia species, with 38 new species being added to my collection, and then, a few Moraea, Ornithogalum and single species which have captured my attention. The process for all, is the same, with the exception of a species or two of Lachenalia which demand pure fast-draining sand. I mix one large batch of fast-draining soil, which isn't too fussy, just Pro-Mix, a commercial peat-soil-less blend, sand, gravel and large perlite. The seeds are surface sown, then covered with gravel chips. It's large gravel, but it's all I have, so time will tell if this even makes a difference. The gravel helps keep moss and weeds from growing on the surface, since these bulb seeds will stay in the same pots for at least three years, before repotting.
Lachenalia species, wild collected rare species, planted three years ago.

Most of these species will bloom in 4 to 5 years, the Lachenalia flat, may have a few early bloomers in two years, and many in three.

1 comment :

  1. I love New England and Lachenalia. Looks like a fun project and I also love this time of year, especially when you are living in a part of the world with distinct seasons.


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