August 22, 2010

Rainy day chores in the greenhouse

 Finally, a rainy day. I don't think that we've had a rainy day since June, so not only was this a welcome event for the garden, it provided some guilt-free time for me to work inside the greenhouse, where in less than a month, things will start getting busy as autumn arrives.
 One chore I've been over due on is replacing the sand in the raised plunge beds which I use for the many South African bulbs, and Cylamen species. As you can see, some Cyclamen are starting to bloom early, even before they are watered around Labor day ( Sept 1) which initiates their autumnal growth. As cooler mornings of late summer start to occur, many of the autumn growing bulbs which have been dormant all summer, are starting to grow, moisture or not. With the fresh, damp sand, I pull anything that seems to be starting into growth, and move it to the front of the greenhouse where the sun is stronger, and where I can provide a little bit of moisture with hand watering. Too much moisture this early may rot these plants since daytime temperatures are still hot, and the air, still humid.
The biggest chore this weekend was repotting and organizing the Nerine sarniensis hybrids which have been semi dormant, and semi dry all summer long.

This is how the bulbs looked this morning, not very pretty, they spent the summer on a high bench under a sheet of bubble wrap and shade cloth. The bubblewrap was an accident, it fell off of the glass while we were in Switzerland, but I left it there since Nerine prefer a little moisture to prevent them from shriveling up in the 100 degree plus, heat of the summer under glass. Usually I splash a little water on the potted bulbs, just enough to keep their fleshy roots happy, but this year I didn't, so we'll see if I have any blossoms.
The pots of Nerine sarniensis before cleaning up, which consists of removing the spent foliage and flower stems, and I peel a few of the layers of the bulb tunic off too, which cleans up their appearance.

 A pile of old Nerine foliage in one of the raised beds.
The papery tunics have many layers, and they have a strange fiber, not unlike stretchy spider webs. I always remove a couple layers, which makes the bulbs look healthy and shiny. Only for aesthetics, but also, I can tell if the bulbs shrunk too much over the summer dry bake.
 The cleaned bulbs are then relocated in their pots to the front of the greenhouse in  prep for their first full watering next weekend. I also removed some smaller bulbs to share with friends, and to repot separately.

I love the old names of the varieties of Nerine sarniensis, here, 'King Leopold'

 Another Nerine, here, a Nerine masoniorum ( I think-lost the tag), a summer grower, is starting to show a significant number of flower buds. I have struggled to get this small bulb to bloom in the past, but after some research I found out that this evergreen variety will bloom in autumn, if it gets a dry period in early summer, and then gets moved outside again for lots of moisture. Last summer, the ducks ate all of the flower buds off, so this year it is in a secret location in case the ducks are reading this. There are about 24 stems coming up.
Also this weekend, I removed all of the Amaranth that we planted infront of the greenhouse. It was nearly 6 feet tall, and just too messy. With a bare bed in August, I thought for a moment that I might plant mums, but instead, or for now, I decided to relocate some container plants there. Here is how it looks right now. I let a few self seeded Nicotiana langsdorfii remain, and a few Saliva species for fall color. Not sure yet what I will plant here for the fall, I still may plant a bunch of mums if I can find the perfect color that will match well with the fall blooming Camellias that I like to move here before they get moved back into the greenhouse.
The green lanterns of a self-seeded Nicotiana langsdorfii, wave in the breeze.


  1. Why not try using Coir pots? It would look great, environmentally sustainable, would added benefits... ?

  2. Coir pots would be too porous, since success with Nerine and other Amaryllids comes from moisture retention during their hot, summer dormancy, even clay would not work in New England, unless I kept the pots on a sand bed. Plastic works best since it helps keep the fleshy, roots turgid. Are you aware of any sodium issues with coir? I have friends who have lost significant collections of winter growing Narcissus species and Cyclamen species when repotting in coir a a soil since the coir was prepared by a salt method? I have used coir with some orchid species, and with Clivia with success.

  3. How timely, I have already had some Nerine starting to put out foliage so I watered a bit. I hope I did not do the wrong thing! I have to read your article again from your mag which you did last year.

    When you take off the layers from the bulbs are you removing them from the soil and potting up in fresh soil or are you just pulling off some of the old layers from the bulbs?


Oh yes, do leave me a comment!