Showing posts with label Bulbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bulbs. Show all posts

July 8, 2008

Summer Lilies

The week after Independence Day is the traditional weekend for Lily Show's in the North East. When I was a kid, I would grow true lilies for exhibition at our local Horticultural Society - The Worcester County Horticultural Society, now relocated from it's more austere location from Horticultural Hall in the City, to what is now, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, Massachusetts. Many new comers to gardening confuse Daylilies, which are Hemerocallis and which have their own show in two weeks when most Daylilies peak, with true lilys ( those plants which grow from bulbs, and have Lilium as their genus).

Lilies are classified into many categories by growers, and this is the time to order your bulbs, since they are shipped in the late autumn. A local Lily show is one of the best places to see these stunning flowers, since most garden centers focus on selling older varieties, or shorter, more manageable Asiatics, which are more prone to a recently introduced pest, the Lily Beetle.

When we think of lilies, we may think of Daylilies(Hemerocallis), or Tiger Lilies ( Lilium tigrinum), or even florist types such as the Easter Lily ( Lilium longiflorum) or the fragrant Casa Blanca Lily ( Lilium auratum hybrids). But there are so many more.
I like to arrange a single variety ( here, the species form of Lilium regale, native to Shichuan,China. These are young seedlings planted out last autumn. I prefer to never pull the pollen sacks of, as many people like to do. Sure, it can cause staining on linens, but in July, who uses linens? One only risks a stained nose if one is not careful. The fragrance is intoxicating, a strange a beautiful mixture of heavy cream and toothpaste, I think! I love it - it brings me back to my high school years, when I worked as a gardener at the estate of Helen Stoddard in Worcester, MA - a Fletcher Steele garden, where Lilium regale where planted in drifts, and I would pedal home on my bicycle with the 6 foot long stems, since the Stoddards would undoubtedly be at their summer home in New Brunswick, Canada for the month, and I felt bad that there was no one there to enjoy them!

The down facing Asiatics are plagued by Lily Beetle, but this year we have bee rather lucky, and have also been studious at hand-picking them off every morning.

Last autumn, after seeing how well the trumpet lilies have matured in the new rock garden our front, I decided to invest in a few dozen bulbs of each variety. With stems over 6 feet tall, I think I found my Lilium sweet spot. This year, one of the trumpets is nearly 8 feet tall. The old stem is still next to it, and I can see that it is two feet higher, and still growing. Last year, there was 7 blossoms, this year, nearly 15. Next year.....?

February 22, 2008

Lesser winter bulbs

Asphodelus acaulis

This small, winter blooming bulb is the perfect candidate for a potted alpine bulb collection for an alpine house, or a plunge bed. Somewhat hard to come by, this plant comes from Morocco and it produces these pure cotton candy pink flowers which grow on a very short stem. I have had this plant for three years and it is starting to create a nice, multi-crowned plant. The foliage is lax, and somewhat protrate, if not alpinesque in appearance, although, not actually an alpine. This is also not technically a bulb, but rally only rarely available from those few retailers who sell extraordinarily rare or unusual bulbs,suc as Paul Christian in London. This is more or an geophyte with strange, fleshy storage roots, which allow the plant to go dormant during the hot, dry, moroccan summer. Not unline an Eremurus, actually, but much smaller. The Asphodelus flowers open on sunny days in the winter, around late January or February, and given the high production of bud, we will be enjoying it's pink lily-like flower until true spring.

Ornithogalum fimbriatum var. Oreadra
This year I was fortunate to acquire three names forms of Ornithogalum fimbriatum, and this is the first to bloom. Unlike the more Wal-Mart-y Ornithogalums, this baby is less trailer park, and more Kew. I will get a better shot on a sunny day, when the flowers all open like white waterlillies, but on a snowy day like today, one can also enjoy the apple green outside markings on the petals. All kidding aside, I am smitten with all of the Ornithogalum speces, trashy or not. But these 'fimbriated' forms, ( see the serated outlines on the leaf?) are terrific alpine subjects for a collection in a cold greenhouse.
I grabed a quick shot of some of the interspecific Clivia which are now blooming. I leave for Japan this Wednesday, and these remind me of the seeds I brought back a few years ago, since, these are them. First time blooming, from Mr. Nakamura's Breeding Plantation. Mr Nakamura and Shige are great hosts, when I visited, and the hundreds of Clivia seeds which we brought back are all starting to bloom, I am so excited. Although, I may miss many of them due to this trip back.Perhaps a few will make it into the New England Spring Flower Show this year, if they hold off.

Nerine undulata

Some Nerine species are still blooming, and this dainty species with undulating petals is proof of the name. ( syn. N. alta). It is much more graceful than it's showier cousins, the N. bowdenii and N. sarniensis that bloomed in the autumn. Of course, there are a few much showier relatives that I hope will bloom soon, but maybe next year.

Margaret takes a nap, recovering from her throat surgery last week at Tufts University Hospital. Poor Muggles, has a serious Larynx problem. But, for now, the laser surgery went well, and at least she can breath a little easier, at least for a while, but we still can' t leave her alone.

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.

January 27, 2008

Bargain Excellence and Authenticity =TUBEROU$ BEGONIA$

Blackmore & Langdon's Tuberous Begonias at Chelsea Flower Show, London
Just as with so many other things which are evaluated, judged and valued; plants have their top-of-the-line, highest quality varieties-simply said, the best. And so I start my journey in search of Tuberous Begonias, the best-of-the-best. Which brings me to the United Kingdom's, Blackmore & Langdon, a grower with over a century of experience and expertise breeding and exhibiting award winning Tuberous Begonias, as well as other plants, most notably, Delphiniums.

B&L are hardly new to me, I really can't remember when I first became familiar with the company, but I know that I was very young, either my parents grew some plants, since I completely remember their wood crates, with Blackmore & Langdon London burned into them.

And,Tuberous Begonias are not rare, nor even hard to find. Any home center, garden shop or nursery carry dozens of varieties right now, since February and March are the time to start growing these tuberous plants indoors, so that they can get a start before being moved outside to shaded decks or to a conservatory. Tuberous Begonia are just forgotten - not seen that much growing in our modern world. Sadly, the reason have more to do with money, than availability. Oh, and education, for young gardeners never really see them available, except in bright commercial netted bags that don't look very promising, at home centers.

Nurserymen don't bother with them anymore, they don't sell in spring, because they don't bloom until August, and the growers greenhouse benches are too valuable for non-flowering young plants. So, consumers never get to see them growing, nor in bloom. If they did, they would fly out faster than a blue hydrangea on Mothers Day. Too bad we can't make the days longer in spring! We miss out on so many of the best, the best petunias, the best snapdragons, the best vegetables, for one simple reason - commercial plant breeders breed for what looks good or blooms early in the 6 pack. Just read any commercial seed catalog - quality is defined by what come into bloom early, not by what performs well later, when planted. We are constantly sacrificing quality in the garden for fast-selling good-looking 6 packs. Ugh. (remove soapbox)

Now, do not confuse these begonias with others that look the same, there are seed grown forms, which never grow with quite the gusto of the classic, tuber grows forms, and then there are look-alike, either hybrid German grown pot-flowers for Easter or Mothers Day, these are not the same. Tuberous Begonias are rarely found, anymore, so I have selected them as my "re-discover plant' for 2008 (just as I did last year with Achemines), this year, I am on a mission to fill my greenhouse for the summer, with a massive display of Tuberous Begonias, and so, my mission begins, now. In late January, since this is the time to order tubers.

OK, I admit, I had a love/hate relationship with White Flower Farm,but as many of you know, as I rediscover them, and learn even more, I like where they are positioning themselves, at least from a quality perspective. Sure there are specialist growers, and I always go to them first, but sometimes, believe it or not, the premium place, is the only place to go. Value can be found in the mass market catalog, and in the black and white photocopied plant list, too, but you must know what you are buying. Many of WWF's material is pricey, but much of is is exclusive, and not available elsewhere. That's worth something. Before you buy, be certain that you inform yourself first. I know they are expensive, but there often is a reason. A yellow Clivia may not be worth their $60.00, since Logees may sell one for $19.95, but perhaps the size is difference, or cultivar. A rare division of a named form, like Sir John Thouron may, indeed be worth the $995.00.,to a collector, since there are only a dozen available world wide. So before you run around complaining that "I can't believe that they are selling a yellow clivia for $1000. buck when I can get one for $20.00 bucks!" Just make sure that it is justifiable. Is Sir John Thouron worth it? Who can really answer that, part of this is collecting and rarity, and part of this is about authenticity and quality. Either way, the market for rare, will only become greater as we move on in our culture of sameness.

Now, back to Begonias, I imagine that there are many who will look at the WWF catalog, see Tuberous begonias inside, then see the prices, $39.00 per tuber - ! $60.00 per tuber.........$125.00 per tuber!!! and, well, react. Yikes, I can get those for a buck at my garden center. But wait......can you? Are these BEGONIAS really so special to justify $100. a tuber?

In a way, they are.They are Blackmore and Langdon varieties. What are Blackmore and Langdon varieties anyway, and are they really all that great? First, we can say that no one else carry's them in the USA. Blackmore and Landgon only sells in the US, through White Flower Farm, they even have two plow horses named Blackmore and Landon. So if you want your shaded porch to look like the Exhibition Hall at Chelsea Flower Show, with B&L Begonias, in 12 inch clay pots, and their 6 inch brilliant flowers stopping traffic in August, then White Flower Farm, is your only choice.

But.......why not order from Blackmore and Langdon in the UK yourself? They ship to the USA,and If you have a Paypal account, the same variety at White Flower Farm can be obtained for about a third of the cost. It's a little late though, since B&L sell out of most varieties by mid January, but they allow you to pre-order for next year. They are still pricey, but $15.00 a tuber is still better, and, they offer all of the varieties (although, there are some exclusive WWF varieties). Un ndammed form are even less, I just placed another order, and some are still in-stock.

Are there other choices? Sure, America has their own Begonia growers, and most people will never know the difference that provenance brings, try Antonelli Brothers , in California, a 70 year old Begonia nursery in Watsonville, CA. Tubers here, are reportedly HUGE, and I have been told that they provide equally impressive results. I am trying them for the first time, so stay tuned.

My point is, regardless how you feel about brands and brand names, there is a real difference between authenticity and brands, why settle for store-bought ordinary bulbs, or pre-packaged tubers, all which come from a handful of Dutch distributors, with a handful of varieties. The same 12 varieties carried by most mass-market nurseries, garden centers and home stores. Why not go directly to the real growers, the real breeders, those who exhibit, edit, breed, and who are proud of what they grow. Go to the specialists, if you are going to invest all that time and money watering, fertilizing, then enjoying, why not do it right? Try one of these premium growers, and see what results you get.

January 14, 2008

Narcissus Romieuxii

This is the latest that my Narcissis romieuxii have bloomed, but with all of the snow days and over-cast days, the three week lag is not a surprise. (plus, the big freeze I had!) Still, the fragrance yesterday from these tiny Narcissus from the Atlas mountains of Morrocco was intense and sweet. Not unlike Paperwhites, these are some of the winter blooming narcissi, and are easy enough given that one has a cool and bright place to grow them. This is my fifth year growing them, and the seeds from my first winter sowing them in 2004 are already budding up! (See below). These will be repotted next year into a larger hand made pot one I get going on the wheel again.

A pot of my own seedling Narcissus romieuxii showing their first flower buds, now in their fourth year. Id some one told me that I would be pollenating and cross-breeding my own narcissus, I would have said that they we're crazy! But it's SO easy, and thanks to Scottish Rock Garden Society Blog keeper Ian Young's guidance, I am about to enjoy my first pots of bloom. Beside, since these flower bulb in this clan are outrageously expensive, ranging from $8 to $35 US dollars a bulb, and one needs a pot full, side by side, to do well since they like company, I can't think of any other way to obtain 20 bulbs, unless one takes a personal loan. Seeds can be found on many of the collector seed groups like NARGS, but just like many of these rare plants...."easy" only means easy, if you plant the seeds fresh.

The ol mystey Cyrtanthus continues to send up flowers, even after a killing frost in the greenhouse, and some holiday neglect. Hey, the way I see it...if a fire can't kill these in the veld, than they are pretty tough.

November 4, 2007


A line-up of Achimenes showing the variety and diversity between various species and named varietites available.

Isn't it funny how even though one may be obsessive about collecting so many plants, there are still species out there that one can discover? Although not "new" to me, since I remember seeing these African Violet relatives in the old 1960's Park seed company catalogs, often listed as Hot Water Plants (?), I never mustered up courage to try them.

Achimenes blossoms in an egg cup.

I suppose, they just seemed a little too unrealistic, I mean, come-on...."they'll cover themselves with flowers, and bloom till frost?"Rrrright. In those early years, as a kid, I preferred to invest in breeding the first white marigold!

Achimenes 'Rose Dream'

Achimenes 'Donna'
Very nice.
So, here I am, in my late forties, and finally growing these 'Achimenes'. Perhaps it is best that I waited. There surely is an argument for saving more challenging plants to try, until one is matured. Hence, why most plant geeks mature-out with Alpines, or Gesneriads. Just as others begin with Hosta or Daylillies. There must be some demographic studies out there.

Achimenes display in the autumn greenhouse.

Achimenes 'Tiny Blue'
(it's tiny, and blue)
Not that Achimenes are difficult, although, they really don't 'cover themselves with blossoms, either". That said, they are easy enough to grow, and perhaps perfect for a covered porch or protected spot in the garden. I ordered my rhizome in April from Kartuz Greenhouses, one must order them in early spring, while they are dormant. Shipping exists from February for those in the south, through to April in the north.
On arrival, my 35 varieties and species all packaged neatly in paper bags with shavings, looked like tiny white maggots. Each rhizomes was planted in a 4" pot, and watered well.

Achimenes 'Queen of Sheba'

Achimenes 'Summer Sunset'
an novelty cross, very species-like in habit, it's exciting to breeders because it is a yellow and red color, but weak and virtually unknowticable.
Easy enough to grow, the only hint I was given my friends, was to never let them dry out, or they risk going dormant again. Still, since these are fuzzy leaved African violet relatives, I knew that I needed to be careful about water on the foliage. Although they can be grown outside, where of course, water will fall on the foliage, it will also air-dry off quickly. For me, I decided to keep them in the greenhouse, since although the water risked marking the foliage in the still atmosphere, I could at least travel, and know that they we're under shade cloth and watered well. The cost of a few marked leaves, was worth the flowers.

Achimenes 'India'

Achimenes 'Jennier Goode'
Nice. A better name would be Jennier Best!
This is my first year really exploring gesneriads, all of the African violet relatives, and although not hooked yet, I have to admit that these Achimenes we're the least exciting of the lot, so far. Most of the summer growing Gesneriads reach a peak bloom around autumn, and so it is with the Achimenes. Still, they are easy enough for me to dry off the pots , as I am now, for the winter, and perhaps when I repot and water them for a new season of bloom, the show might be better. For that, I shall wait until next year, refocusing my Gesneriad addiction to Streptocarpus leaves on eBay.

Achimenes 'Cornell Favorite'
Although, not mine. Nice foliage though.

Achemines flava
A rare yellow species, it's a species, so I like this. But friends may call it a weed. A novelty, but nice to balance the context of a collection.

A nice pot of early blooming white form, with a lost tag.

August 27, 2007

Summer Bulbs in Containers

Surely not very exciting to most growers unless you are a collector, I share with you a collection of summer-growing South African bulbs.

Relatively rare, or at least, hard to obtain, these are bulbs that grow during our northern hemisphere summer, enjoying the frequent thunderstorms and heavy rains, as well as the bright, hot sunshine, which is essential along with fast drainage in an almost ridicoulously gravelly soil mix which makes the pots very heavy, but ensures little root rot.

From the left, a tiny pot of the tiny Nerine rehmannii, which look like grass, this is set into a larger pot of Boophane disticha, with it's fan of wavy leaves. I though I lost this precious bulb earlier in the year, since the bub was soft, and reduced in size, but then it surprized me with some growth. I am sure I will loose it this year, mostly because it is the most expensive bulb in this collection!.

Next to that is a bit of a mystery, lost lables are a nasty problem, thanks to the squirrels. This is perhaps Stenomesson piercii or ?? Regardless, that's what I am stiicking with for now....I am treating them as Stenomesson, and thusly, planting the bulbs deep, at the bottom of the pot and providing winter dryness, even though it is reportedly a winter grower. This seems to emerge and go dormant randomly, so I have decided to relax, and just stuck to pot outdoors for the summer, to see what would happen.

Afer this, a large, deep pot for the rare the summer growing Nerine, N. falcata, still a young bulb, but one of these years it will reward me with a blossom at the end of summer. More challenging than most Nerine, this bulb does not want to be disturbed, and needs hot summer temps and fast drainage to thrive.

This larger pot is Tulbaghia simmleri, a winter greenhouse blooming Tulbaghia not unlike T. violacea, but sweetly fragrant, not skunky like T. violacea, which I grow in pots too, because I actually like the scent of this 'Society Garlic". Skunky is good, and it reportedly keeps snakes away.

Lastly, ( I know, these all look the same!) are the pots of Cyrtanthus alatus x hybrids, that bloom for me every autumn with pendant, vermillion blooms that we love so much around the garden here at Greenwood. ( We are thinking of naming our garden, not to be pretentious, but simply Britishy, and, well, it seems like it is going to need a name, since it is growing most every day. So far, Greenwood is the name I am thinking of......Greenwood Street is the streeet at the end of our road, which is Spofford. But Greenwood provides a better garden name, and it is the main street leading to the city.

August 15, 2007

High Summer, hello autumn?

The tropicals front of the greenhouse continue to mature in the late summer heat of last week. I think Fergus can smell the brugmansia.

Although the heat and humidity of high-summer in New England peaks around the middle of August, the first cold fronts from Canada are also introducing cooler nights after violent thunderstorms. These cool temps might mean the end of summer for most gardeners, but for me, it simply signals a shift in plant material, for as summer-blooming plants begin to mature or go dormant with the temperature shift, and day-length shift, an entire series of collections are beginning to stir into activity, being triggered by the same environmenta changes.

Cyclamen species in the greenhouse are even beginning to boom earlier than normal. Here, a sand plunge, where I keep a collection of many Cyclamen species, shows that even one C. hederifolium has even thown out a blossom a bit early.
Last year, I had a disasterous result from repotting by Cyclamen collection in July, losing many of my species since I made the mistake of treating them like my other summer-dormant bulbs, and letting them go dry. But not unlike some of the Amaryllis relatives from South Africa, the Nerine, which I used to let go bone-dry and 'bake' in the summer on high benches in the greenhouse, I now keep a little moisture available via some damp sand below, or with a spritz of water once or twice during the summer months.

This is critical for Cyclamen graecum, according to expert, and buddy John Lonsdale, who now lives and grows many rare plant collections in his Pennsylvania garden, Edgewood. (Visit his site, it is spectacular - I'd provide a link here, but having problems since I am on a Mac, and Mac's Safari browser doesn't work well with this Blogger software which also is my excuse for spelling errors!). John, whom I visited last fall just when his Cyclamen where in peak bloom, told be that C. graecum prefer to stay a little damp, especially thier 'feet' during the summer. So this year, I did not repot any Cyclamen, until last week, and at that, I just carefully slipped the rootballs into new pots, without disturbing the soil too much. I noticed that the graecum all had extensive roots systems than ran out of the drainage holes in the pots, and down into the damp sand, which remained damp because of the broken greenhouse glass from the summer, so rain fell on all the cyclamen in tiny amounts - probably perfect, since many I can see, are starting to send up new growth, and I only lost one through the summer. I will start watering deeping in a couple weeks, around September one, and we will see what happens then! I can tell already that the C. graecum have buds, as do the C. africanum, a more tender species from Persia.

Cyclamen graecum, the tuber showing not only new growth beneath the thick layer of grit I keep on top of the tuber, but it shows the size of the tuber, and that it is firmly rooted in the soil through-out the summer. Much like my Nerine sarniensis, although the bulb appears dormant through the summer, below soil, the roots are quite alive, and actually making substantial growth, in search of a little moisture perhaps, to make it through the summer heat.

The autumn and winter-blooming narcissus also have taken a year off from repotting, in an experiment to see if this will make a difference, and because I am too busy to do anything more than re-topdress with gravel, and to clean-up the pots and relable. I moved the collection into the Alpine house for the summer, so that they can really bake well, and because the broken glass in the greenhouse was allowing too much rain to fall on the pots.

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!

March 27, 2007

The Collectors Species Narcissus

Narcissus triandrus ssp. triandrus

A parent of many of the triadrus hybrids that one finds at garden centers like Thalia, this precious rare bulb is perhap the choicest Narcissus for growing in a cool to cold greenhouse or as part of a collection of miniature daffodils in a protected alpine house or alpine garden. Again, native to the Mediterranian, Spain, Portuagal, these species must go dry in the summer, and also can't handle the coldest of temperatures, such as what we here in New England can't avoid.

The triandrus narcissus are perhaps my favorite section, followed closely by the cyclamineus and the bulbocodiums. This particular sub species has twisting foliage and dangling bells of blossoms. I could onyl find two nurseries who still carried the bulb, and only one in the U.S., A little costly, I must admit, for such a tiny precious thing, but I think that my 3 bulb investment may succeed, I have pollenated it with a few other Narcissus species that are blooming now, and time will tell if any seed took. As I said earlier, Narcissus collecting, hace become a new passion. Od course, only the rarest will do! An here are the first to start blooming in the cold glass greenhouse, where they have spent thier winter, protected from frost, but still nestled up against the coldest glass in the corner.

Narcissus bulbocodium ssp. tenifolius

This pot jsut came back after a week at the New England Flower Show in Boston, where it won a cultural certificate from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Funny thing is, it is rare, but not nearly as rare and the triandrus species above, which, with nearly a $100 bulb, and five or six blossoms that somehow, magnificantly never rotted away before blooming, still only came in eith an honorable mention. Still, I am so pleased that they grew and blossomed, since they are a bit fussy, (they require fantasically fast drainage, and are planted almost in pure granite chips). The Bulbocodium isn't exactly common, anyway, especially this sub species, in fact, I bet only a handful of growers keep it well in the state, it's just perpective, I guess, since I keep a few pots of this species.

Funn thing is, this same pot won a gold medal and the National Garden Club Gold Medal last year, which surprised us, since it came with an engraved certificate which made my college degree look tatty, and this tiny plant one a silver tray engraved, from a prestigeus jeweler in Boston, yes... All that for a 4" pot of daffodils. A bit ironic, when one thinks that our Irish Terrier Margaret won the national Irish Terrier Specialty best of winners categary at our national specialty show in Montgomery, last year, and all she won, was a glass vase that someone bought at the mall. I'd have to admit that at the end of the day, the Dog show, cost perhaps over $10,000 to win, when one adds in the cost of a nationally rexognized dog handler, the flights across the country to the handler in Santa Barbara, the boarding, the training, ugh. It does't make sense, does it? No wonder the dogs pee on the daffs.