October 10, 2015


I've been growing some rare species of Cobaea (the cup and saucer vine) this summer, and most bloom near frost so seed from this species seems unlikely. This blossom of  C. campanulata (not certain, as I can only find one image on Google images)  is typically keyed out with a white perianth, but the stamens extend, and the calyx seems right.

One would think that with an entire week off from work, that I would be able to post at least three times during this past week, ( and full disclosure - it's now been 2 weeks!), but somehow, I never made it to the computer - not a bad thing,  maybe it's best if I just share some random happenings in the garden these few weeks. That's OK, right? NOTE - the images won't match up with the text, since what I am writing about has not yet made it into the garden! The images? They are what are in bloom right now, or represent what is happening here this week.

One interesting habit of this Cobaea campanulata  that it turns violet as it ages, much like its more common relative,  C. scandens which we can find in any seed catalog. Maybe we could just call this species with the common name  the "cup vine', since it has no saucer? I wish I could get some seed from this one, I may try to move the window box in which it grows into the greenhouse, but the vine is so long, I doubt that it will survive.

Last Sunday, after I had just came back from a double lecture and house party at the home of nurserywoman Ellen Hornig honoring the Swedish botanist and nurseryman Peter Korn, ( an excellent speaker I should mention --  and some of you will be able to catch the last of his talks at the Tri-State NARGS meeting on at the New York Botanical Garden next week), he is on his last stops on this amazing North American Rock Garden Society speakers tour sponsored by the Berkshire Chapter (Massachusetts) of NARGS - I learned so much from his talk, and even though I didn't have a note pad handy, I was inspired to do the following (which you might be interested in trying, as well). I thought that I would share these interesting plants and ideas with you. A little random as well, but hey - it's a post, right?

Speaking of annual vines, this Mina lobata is looking mighty fine this fall.

Peter Korn's garden just outside Gothenburg in Sweden looks incredible. Some fine images can be seen on the Prarie Break blog written by the great and powerful Panayoti Kelaidis of the Denver Botanic Garden.  This was where I was first introduced to Peter's work.  He showed us how he move tons (yes, tons) of soil off of a mountain hillside over the past decade, to expose the rocks below, and then how he brought in tons of sand (of a large size so that drainage for his plants would be excellent - his tip today? Buy sand that will fall apart even if squeezed in ones fist while damp. Many mountain alpines and even woodland plants and bulbs (as well as Onco Iris) will thrive in such a medium. The more I hear about sand and pumice used as soil, the more I am convinced to truck more in.

It is cyclamen season under glass. I've had this white Cyclamen hederifolium for ten years now, it's getting quite large. Plant collectors continue to be obsessed with these hardy cyclamen, which also do well outdoors in my zone 5 garden, but for some reason, they never show up at garden centers and rarely in the mass trade. You will have to look for them in specialty catalogs and nurseries.  Great as a cold greenhouse plant, but also terrific out it in the garden, blooming through the autumn leaves.

Planting Ideas from Peter Korn

1. Plant thousands of Triteleia laxa (or as many as you can afford) (some catalogs will list the genus as Brodiaea)- Apparently, they've been lumped together by taxonomists along with Dichelostemma and Bloomeria.

Triteleia laxa are purported to be hardy (or so, I've been told by Peter - to USDA zone 5), and although they may not be new to you Californian or West coast gardeners, for us in the East, they are not something one sees. I was so surprised to see how many  Peter planted in his gardens, in sand beds, the alpine gardens and even in his rooftop plantings. He said to order a 1000 bulbs at a time (I may start with 500), as they are inexpensive. True, perhaps in Sweden, but here, one can get 500 bulbs for around $35. That's more affordable.

The chickens are maturing. All egg-layers, I can't wait until spring when he days begin to lengthen and they start laying for the first time.

The choicest variety is one called 'Queen Fabiola', but I think any of the named selections will be precious. Be sure to plant in drifts, for 6 or 8 bulbs will not deliver the look one wants. I am adding them to my more natural planting in the front of our house.

He suggests the named varieties, particularly Triteleia laxa ' Queen Fabiola', which one can find in any of the larger commercial Dutch bulb catalogs, but if you want more interesting species or selections, you may want to try some of the special catalogs - such as Telos Rare Bulbs.

So here is a rare Chinese tree that one doesn't see that often, at least in the New England landscape. Zanthoxylum simulans. Curious? OK, the thorns are nasty, but the foliage is beautiful, and I do like the thorns. You foodies may be more familiar with the reddish fruits on this tree - it's more commonly known as Szechuan pepper. The berries will ripen to a bright red in the autumn, but for now, this one is too young.

2. Try Ledbouria ovalifolia in the garden - particular one selection sold under the name 'Dowie Human' --I just have to find it! --  mark my words (well, Peter Korn's), Lednouria ovalifolia will be in every Dutch bulb catalog that fill your mailbox within 5 years (apparently they are propagating it with big hopes), and you will want it. Plant Delights once had it, but I can no longer find it anywhere, I may have to settle for an un-named selection from seed.

Yes, I said Zone 5.

The exhibition chrysanthemums have been moved into the greenhouse, to protect them from frost, and to prepare them for their last month of growth before the bloom in November. Now, I need to future out where all of my other plants are going to fit! These will be ut back to 'stools' after blooming, and one of each variety will be set under a bench to winter over, and used for fresh cuttings in late winter.

3. The best tulip trick ever which none of us do

Not buying tulips anymore because they only bloom for one or two years? Here is what you are doing wrong.

Tulips, many of which hail from the steppes of Turkey and the Caucasus require hot, dry summers. I never knew this, but you know all of those fields of colorful tulips grown in Holland? Those bulbs are planted late (November) and when they are done blooming, and after the foliage has died back, they don't stay dormant in their fields. The soil would be too cool with the short summer, and even too damp.

Some bud on these chrysanthemums are getting large, all have been pinched to a single bud to a single stem, which is how most exhibition mums are grown. Do not confuse these with the the dense, mounded mums you see now at the nursery or in plantings - these are the big, fancy mums which were once so popular in the 19th century.

Most if not all commercial growers of Tulips dig their bulbs and store them in warm and dry warehouses for the summer. The cooler and damp underground temperatures inhibit growth, and bulbs slowly deteriorate with each year.  They then  plant the cleaned bulbs out again with the arrival of each autumn. This technique is particualary important with the species tulips, many of which come from a higher elevation and demand a hot, dry dusty bake like the would received in  their hot and dry meadows in Afghanistan or Turkey.

I was grateful to be reminded of this habit, which my parents used to do each June when the foliage began to fade on the tulips. Now we need to be realistic, there is no such thing as a properly perennialized tulip, in many ways, they are temporary visitors in all of our gardens, but with careful treatment like this, one can have tulips for 5-10 years, but as I said, the best results will come from the species or wild forms which can last for years in pots (in a greenhoue or outside in a sand bed), if lifted and dried off every summer. Give them all a bit of the hot, dry steppe of Caucases, to keep them believing that they are still in the remote environment.

Here is a shrub that needs a good evangelist (or a marketer). I expect to see it used more often in gardens ( it puts Dahpne 'Carol Mackie' to shame ince it never stops!). Daphne x transatlantica is a cross between D. caucasica (female)  and D. collins (male). This one came as a gift in my suitcase after visiting with Panayoti Kelaidis from the Denver Botanic Gardens. If anyone knows what plants will do well in my garden it's Panayoti, and wow - this plant impresses me each year. It's now 2 feet tall, and it has two main flushes of bloom, in the spring and again in autumn, with some flowers in-between. Fragrant, gorgeous foliage - hardy--  come on nurserymen - grow it!

All of this is kind of simple advice, loaded with common sense when you think about it. If there is one tip that I walked away with from Peter Korn's talk was that microclimates exist even in small gardens and plants will perform best if you first have travelled to where they grow in nature (Armenia, Patagonia, etc), so that you can site the plant at the most ideal spot. He had many examples of a gentiana or Lewisia which faltered one meter above on a slope, or rotted in too much moisture 2 meters lower, but which thrived and prospered in a 3 foot zone where everything seemed just right, and perfect. He knew from observing the plant in the wild, the the long roots may need to be dipping into an under group stream, but that the crown of the plants needed to be in hot, dry scree.

Yeah--this 'other' Daphne ( or just Daph, Daff, or Doodles) also looks pretty cute, as it starts to rain again. She may be the runt, but talk about personality! Goofy, crazy and lovable (most of the time, anyway!).

So many of us simply come home from a plant sale or a nursery, and just dig a hole with trowel, and dump the plant into regular 'ol garden soil in much the same why one might plant a petunia. A rare, Colorado lupine may appreciate the top, northside of a ledge, where there are cooling breezes, and where it can grow in coarse sand. A primula may apprreciate a crevice with an overlapping rock which acts like a roof to protect it from rain. So many things factors one can learn, when one observed planted in their native habitat or site.

No one really wants to bother with let's say a large, floppy parrot flame tulip which is slowly declining over a few years looking more like a mounting parrolet than it;s honky freshly plants Dutch grown bulbs which was forced to employ chastity for years ( snapping off the flower and dead heading afterwards), to build up strength and vigor.


  1. http://www.plantdelights.com/Ledebouria-ex-Dawie-Human-for-sale/

    1. Thanks Jean, I did find that URL earlier, but it was an old listing from them - maybe I will call and see if they still have it. Thanks!

    2. I took it to mean that if they had not deleted it from the catalog, it might be back when more bulbs were available.

  2. Interesting point about storing tulips in warm dry spot over the summer. Species tulips have been the ones I've had return as long as no irrigation system in the garden. Hybrids unreliable, although a CHanticleer gardener recently mentioned some that are now coming back for them (see A Way to Garden blog). You are right about Daphne x transatlantica -- it is tough and blooms for a long time. Put it in a client's garden and it has performed!

    1. I'm going to experiment with more tulip hybrids. I do have some which have returned for 12 years now, but they are near the foundation and in an area under an overhang which dries out hot and dry every summer. I don't think that I will ever dig and store bulbs for the summer, but for some select species, I am more likely to set them near large sunny rocks.

  3. I had been thinking about the Triteleia laxa earlier this summer... and then promptly forgot. Is the Szechuan pepper hardy?

    1. I've been told by my source (Russell From Odyssey Bulbs) that it is hardy here, in Zone 5. It's survived two years now - fingers crossed, and with no winter oil. Plus, it is not in a protected area at all.

  4. I'm probably not going to dig my tulips. I'm too lazy. Truth. Love your "cup" vine. Very cool. I've only grown it here once, and not that type--just the common one. It does bloom very, very late, but is so pretty. Matt, your greenhouse always makes my heart glad. You do such interesting things with plants. Love that you're exhibiting mums. You have so much room. I'm trying to figure out where I can put another large tropical plant. I want a variegated 'Pink Lemonade' lemon tree. My 'Republic of Texas' orange was amazing in spring, and I know have nice plump oranges maturing. Hugs.~~Dee

    1. Hey Dee, I know, right? Who's going to dig their tulips and store them. Still, the greenhouse makes it easier for those in pots. It's during this month when I discover posts of mystery bulbs which remained dry under glass all summer, suddenly emerging, and I have to guess what they were (laziness), since I lost the tags. You really should try mums, but they are a lot of work and they take up precious room. Of course, they are all done by Christmas, so I could (if I wanted to) shut the greenhouse down until mid February) which would save me tons of money, but then what would I do with the camellias and other plants? I will need to be done one of these years, but I suppose -- until then! So nice to hear from you again, too bad you are so far away. Yes…citrus are so addictive, right? Most perform so well, even indoors. The large citrons are beasts though, long thorns and top-heavy, but they add some historical charm to a collection, and kids love them.


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