December 26, 2008

Unusual Greenhouse Christmas Bulbs

It was a rather mild Christmas day, and finally, the sun came out, enough to raise the temperatures in the greenhouse to near 70 degrees F, opening the vents. This is not unusual for New England, and looking back at other late December photos, I can see my honey bees taking advantage of a warm-ish 40 degree heat wave. This short jaunts are fine for them, as long as they can return back to the hive in time, before the automatic greenhouse vents close.
Every Christmas day, I like to take note of what is in bloom in the greenhouse. It's interesting to see what plants bloom exactly on schedule, and which ones take a year off. Certainly there are many reasons, daylength is critical, but then, so is temperature. How many cloudy days, vs. how many sunny days also factors in. With the greenhouse, one thing is for certain, WInter never feels dead to me, in fact, it is quite alive and vibrant under the glass.

The newest addition to the greenhouse bulb collection this year, is the Calochortus species I purchased. I've avoided collecting these bulbs for no reason, other than to save something which I could collect when I am older! Sad, but true. Alas, I could not wait, and although I certainly am 'older'. ( turning 50 in 2 weeks), I am still learning when it comes to plants. Calochortus is a genus native to North America and the new world, with near 70 species. I saw my first Calochortus, not in the wilds of Colorado or northern California, but in the alpine house at Kew, in England, growing in pots. That one June visit, convinced me that I must grow this amazing genus, but the rare bulb nurseries carried so many species, and they were a little pricy, that I would end up making wish lists in the fall, but then never getting around to ordering them, becuase I could not make up my mind once I realized the cost involved. Not that they are expensive, but when added to my Oxalis, and other South African bulbs on my wish lists ( which you can imagine are quite wishy), I simply had to edit, and the Calochortus were the first to go.

Calochortus uniflora

This year I finally started with 5 species, and the first bloomed on Christmas day. I know that I made one mistake already, I potted my bulbs in small pots ( 6-8 inch clay pots in sandy, fast draining soil). I read later that they prefer larger pots, but since they are plunged in a sand bed, maybe they will be alright. The first species is this lovely lavender species Calochortus uniflora. The stamens are vivid powder blue, which is so different. I think I will order some seed of other species and try growing some from seed, since I am told that that is not that difficult.

Some Velthiemia are in bloom also. I received this plant as a gift from a friend who told me that it was the one species of Velthimia which I did not have Velthiemia capensis, but I believe that it appears that the plant is simply the still beautiful, V. bracteata, which is more common, but still nice, although I have ten of them. Still, it bloomed early, at Christmas, so I brought it into the plant window for a little South African cheer.

Velthiemia bracteata

Narcissus romiuxii are still blooming, with many more on the way.

Clivia caulescens

Also in bloom, Camellia, Cymbidium orchids, Clivia species, Oxalis species, Vireya Rhododendron, Haworthia, and in bud are many more plants, like the tree aloe that froze last year, a massive green flowered Cymbidum orchid that I recieved as a gift from a supermarket ( Whole Foods) last year, and this year it has 11 spikes! We are all convincing ourselves that winter is almost over, and imagining that the days are already getting longer.


  1. I have been enjoying your blog since finding it.

    I wish I had bought some Velthiemia bulbs last fall, I'll have to remember them. Yours are very nice.

  2. Anonymous12:10 AM

    Thank you for such a wonderful blog! Your pictures are stunning and I enjoy your writing. I plan to read my way from the earliest entries to the present. Happy new year to you! - Daisy

  3. The Velthimia is pretty awesome. I saw one in an old book on bulbs but have never seen one in person. Thanks for posting the pic.


Oh yes, do leave me a comment!