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

July 23, 2006

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp. Katherinae

This Scadoxus was once known as Haemanthus

Once classified by taxonomists as Haemanthus katernae, the re-classified Scadoxus multiflorus subspecies Katherinae is more commonly known as the Blood Lily. The fact that taxonomists separated the two make sense when one considers that Haemanthus have more succulent leaves, and are more like 'true' bulbs, than Scadoxus, which is just 'somewhat' bulbous. Scadoxus have rizomes attached to the bulb plate and behave more 'geophyte-like' than 'true bulb-like'. I know, not making sense, but let's say that the Scadoxus don't produce the dry, papery-skinned dormant type of bulb which we think of as 'bulb', although they die to the ground, certainly these are all geophyes, it's just that whole onion-and-Leeks-are-both-bulbs-but-are-different-thing.

This is a bulbous plant which may be uncommon to those who live in colder areas, but one which Californian and tropical or Zone 10 and higher may be familiar with as a l ong lived garden plant.

As an indoor house plant, we have grown these for years in the house, and they behave much like Clivia. Fussy to bloom and a little challenging. We have had better luck in the cool greenhouse where they get tossed under a bench for the winter in thier pots, and forgotton, go dryish and stay cold. In spring, the pots are brought outside and they bloom every July. This been the pattern for five years now. Below, you can see that all of the summer growing South African bulbs are placed out doors, where they can get the benefits of rain and the bright light of the sun. These plants are from seed which we started in 2000. They are potted up in a fast draing bulb mix that I use for most of the South African bulbs, a mix containg equal parts of commercial peat based Pro Mix, perlite, pumice, sharp sand and and gravel.

March 30, 2006

Lachenalia aloides var. vanzyliae

Lachenalia aloides var. vanzyliae
Cape Hyacinth's are rare enough, but the teal colored Lachenalia aloides var. vanzyliae is perhaps the most choice form, for collectors. 

Lachenalia aloides are by far the most popular of the genus Lachenalia, the easy to grow winter blooming South African bulb related to the Hyacinth, and found in some specialy bulb catalogs in the fall. I have a few varieties of Lachenalia aloides in bloom right now (see blog from last weekend). The most beutiful is L. aloides quadricolor, with four colors in its blossom, and then there are two all yellow varieties in blooom now, L. aloides var. aurea, and L. aloides 'Nelsonii'.

The one I am showing you now, is a much rarer variety, and one which I have been trying to find for a long time. L. aloides var. vanzyliae is not common at all, yet it was introduced to Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in 1927. It is the most unusually colored form, with conspicuous white bracts and pendulous flowers with green segmenets, that fade into pale blue at the base. It is a highly desirable variety which I have never seen available anywhere. It seems to like full sun, and since it is one of the last Lachenalia to bloom, I find it interesting the the Lachenalia season begins with a green species, in December (L. viridiflora) and closes with this green variety of L. aloides.

Lachenalia aloides

The foliage is beautiful too, with dark maroon spots, and bluish green leaves. I should note that I still ahve one more species to bloom, which I saw well budded in the greenhouse sand bed, and that is a pot of L. matthewsii, which we're started from seed four years ago.

March 18, 2006

Clivia Giant Yellow X

OMG! - When this monster bloomed this week, it made that trip to Japan (to hand-pick seed from Mr. Nakamura's collection) worth the pain of being squeezed in a middle seat (in coach, mind you), for 16 hours SO very worth it. As of today, this plant is by far the best in our collection. Most yellows available today are jsut average, hardley ever really as robust as the classic ornage C. miniata we all know and love. However, one can clearly see the difference when a gene pool that is twenty or thirty years deep is added from Japan. (Mr. Nakamura inherited his collection from another prestigious plant breeder).

Also, be careful this spring while atending sping flower shows, don't get caught-up in Yellow Clivia frenzy. There are many week crosses out there, and I wouldn't spend mroe than $20.00 for an un pedigree yellow Clivia. For instance, a typical yellow Clivia miniata which purchased from a reputable high-end mail-order nursery years ago for a let's say a week's worth of salary (come on, we've all done that!), has a blossom which is 1/4 the size of this, and one can't even compare the quality and the form. This yellow is Supreme. (Hey, maybe I'll call it Custard Supreme?) It's so delicately fragrant, not strong, but it's sweetness does travel. One could smell it while doing dishes, from it's pearch in our plant window above the kitchen sink.

But imagine this specimen, four-inch custard-colored blossoms, that are flat and wide, and sweetly fragrant to boot. I'm so impressed. Next year, when it blooms with a bigger flower-head, it will give us a better impression but this first flowering from such a promising seedling still knocks me over. A couple of the blossoms dangle also, which adds a curious lily-like aesthetic to the plant. On this cold March Saturday, this display is so powerful that it could potentially attract a few South African sunbirds to drink it's nectar. I need to think of a name for this cross, which we will keep just for ourselves, until a decent naming convention can be agreed upon by the Clivia Societies.

March 16, 2006

Cyrtanthiflora Clivia Cross

Todays Clivia picture is another cross of our own. Not sure if it is worth moving ahead breeding with, but I admit that I do find interest in the these less showy greenish forms, and this blossom shows lots of green at the tips. Also, it is quite large for a Cyrtanthiflora group Clivia.

I crossed it this week with another first-time bloomer, an impressively large-flowered yellow Clivia miniata from our Nakamura seed from Japan trip five years ago. I will photograph that one Saturday, and then post it to share. In the greenhouse, some Hime Daruma dwarfs and a Chinese plant are opening thier buds, as well as a cross of 'Red Flame' x C. gardenii we recieved from Harold Koopowitz, author of the first book on the genus, CLIVIAS Timber Press). Since it is still dark when I arrive home from work, I haven't had a chance to see it yet.

March 15, 2006

Interspecific Clivia

I am, and shall remain, an amateur plant breeder. So,it is with a dabble of pollen here, and a paintbrush there, that occaisonally I attempt to make some informed crosses between a few favorite Clivia, frantically executing the proceedure far too early in the morning between a mug of coffee, blurry-eyed and certainly in a bit of a frenzy before commuting to work.

The above clivia is a cross that Joe actually made while simply playing-with-pollen, it demonstrates that results are often nice surprises,especially when combining two species to create, what is essentially an Interspecific cross, or more botanically correct, a Clivia that now belongs to the Cyrtanthiflora Group of crosses.

This cross between the more common Clivia miniata (a typical orange Flowered form) and the more uncommon species, Clivia caulescens, shows how easy it is to get nice results from at-home plant breeding. It will just take a few years to get blossoms.

March 14, 2006

Clivia Season Begins

Clivia Daydream

If your idea of a Clivia is the bright orange Clivia miniata, then bookmark this blog, since the first of a collection of a thousand or so seedlings from my trip to Japan five years ago are starting to bloom this month, and expectaions are high.

In 2001,we were invited to visit some gardening friends in Japan, and had the fortunate honor of being a guest of Mr. Yoshikazu Nakamura, perhaps undeniably, the worlds premier Clivia breeder. It was there that I was able to acquire a large selection of his crosses via seed. After a day at his strangely secret Clivia Breeding Plantation, nestled at the end of a muddy road deep in a bamboo forest in Chiba prefecture, I left with not only a few pounds of seed, but many presumably choice Clivia seedlings which he so generously shared as gifts.

So this March they are all blooming for the first time. So far the highlight has been this incredible Clivia, Clivia[Cyrtanthiflora Group]'Daydream' x 'green throat'. This delightfully tinted cross is one of five seedling Clivia that are decendents from Mr. Yoshikazu Nakamura's famous "Daydream", a celebrated breakthrough peach colored Interspecific cross between two Clivia species,( C. miniata and C. gardenii). In an effort to simplify nomenclature, these crosses are more properly known as the Cyrtanthiflora Group, (because thier blossoms are more trumpet shaped, and dangle from the inflorescence like thier South African cousins, the genus Cyrtanthus.

Although Clivia are easy from seed, the pods need to ripen for nearly a year on the plant, then they are slow growers producing two leaves a year and reach blooming size after five or six years. They do not come true to seed, so be wary of expensive seed that is named. These have a reduced chance of coming true to type. Such seed should properly be labed as the cross such as "vico yello x vico gold".

I encourage all to try Clivia. They are long-lived, sturdy plants that can handle neglect and bloom annually. I will write later on Clivia culture and share hints on how to get them to bloom, since this is the question I am most asked. Stay tuned for more March Clivia, as the collection is well budded, and new surprises await every morning as I check the greenhouse.

March 13, 2006

Lovin' the Lachenalia

These easy of easiest bulbs still impress me, not only because of their ease, but because they perform so nicely in the cold greenhouse year after year. Natives of South Africa, there are just dozens of species that do well in a cool conservatory or greenhouse, and many more species that can be obtained from seed (More about that in another entry). Long known to bulb collectors and plant enthusiasts for three centuries, Lachenalia are virtually unknown to most people in the united States. But expect to see more of these precious bulb flowers appearing here since recently, both the Dutch and the South Africans are investing in the Lachenalia's future as a commercial pot plant. Already available in European bulb markets as an ornamental potted plant, a hybrid series known as the African Beauty® series bred for it's slightly more robust characteristics, is starting to become available to North American growers.

This relative of the Hyacinth family (Hyacinthaceae) doesn't carry the intense fragrance of it's cousin (although some yellow hybrids have a mild nutmeg-like scent), but it is just as easy to grow as long as you remember where they come from. Order bulbs in the late summer, for winter bloom (remember, as withmostt winter blooming South African Bulbs, our winter is summer in the Southern Hemisphere).

Order Lachenalia in late July and early August, I pot all of my Lachenalia, in August so that they can be plunged into a dry sand bed in the greenhouse to await their first watering around the first week in September when the temperature breaks and starts to get cool here in New England. Most of the winter blooming South African bulbs like Velthiemia, Watsonia, Nerine sarniensis and Romulea all stay dry in the summer under glass. Only the Nerine get a spritz of water now and then to keeptheirr bulbs firm.

The best Lachenalia to abeginnerr to try is Lachenaliaaloidess ssp. quadracolor, or one of the many other L.aloidess forms available from the few sources that carry them. L.aloidess quadracolor (pictured above) offers foliage that is sometimes handsomely marked with reticulation as well as striking flowers that blend from lime green to magenta which creates four colors, hence, quad-ra-color. If you can find the African Beauty series, they perform nicely too.

Recently, the African Beauty Series has become available for planting in the spring, terrific for containers and window boxes for a early summer blast of color for a few weeks. Last year, I potted a few pots up in March, and had blooms in the Alpine House until late June. Unfortunately they didn't seem to last as long in the summer heat as they do in the winter, but I am growing more again, having just placed a order for more from BRENT and BECKY'S BULBS.

Hybrids aside for a moment, with over 110 species in the genus, most all are viable for pot culture. Only a handful of species are available from a few growers, but starting a collection from seed is easier than one would think. The larger South African Seed catalogs such as Silverhill Seeds, offers many species. Potted in a loose gravelly fast draining soil, again, in September, kept well watered, you could expect flowers in three to four years. Since some species may cost $12.00 a bulb, and a full pot of a dozen or two bulbs are needed for a decent display, a packet of a hundred seeds for $3.00 is quite reasonable.

If you grow from either seeds or bulbs, all of my Lachenalia get their first water in early September, and once growth is visible by October, are kept in a plunge bed of damp yet fas tdraining sand all winter long, in full sun in a cold greenhouse (kept at 45 deg F at night, and perhaps 65 in the day (and I will only speak from my own experience here). I fertilize with a tomato fertilizer once a week, and never let the plant sit in water, although they do sit in a muddy sludge for a few hours after watering, in South Africa many grow in Fields that are sopping wet with run-off after heavy rains. Mine are actually kept quite wet but the soil is pure gravel and pumice, with large air spaces.

Species bloom at different times throughout the year, starting with the incredible teal-blue L. viridiflora around Christmas, and by spring, the last to bloom are the Hybrid African Beauty series as well as L. framesii and a rare green flowered form of L.aloidess 'vanzyliae'. Some species are more showy than others, but all offer something of interest to bulb collectors, since an interesting collection can be made, not only for flowers, but based on foliage as well since many species have curious features to their two leaves like spots, hairs or pustules that look like blisters.

sincee the last of myLachenaliaa are starting to bloom, I thought that I might share some photos of these rare plants, and to keep in yourmindd that now is a good time to start placing your orders for seed as well as some hybrids for spring delivery to color your deck or plant some pots to impress your neighbors. Just remember to buy as many as you can afford, and pot as many as you can in a pot for the best show.