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

April 3, 2008

Comparing Clivia Blossoms

Various Cyrtanthiflora group blossoms
A decade ago, a yellow Clivia or a variegated Clivia, often topped the list of the most wanted, if not the most expensive plant, on plant collectors lists. Today, yellow Clivia can be found in most any rare plant catalog, and even main stream catalogs retailing for around $20 - $100.

I have been collecting Clivia since the late 80's, and growing them since high school in the 70's ( I still have my original plant), but it wasn't until the late 1990's that I began to connect and trade with enthusiasts on-line, that my collection really began to grow. By 2001, the greenhouse was full of seedlings recieved from friends made on various clivia user groups and boards, as well as from exchanges with many other collectors, as a mini-trend for the plants in combination with the wider and deeper reach of the internet, connected like-minds.

Also in 2001, we first visited Japan, where we wer'e invited to visit Mr. Nakamura's home and Clivia collections, which we're pretty cool, and incredibly inspiring. Clivia are just one of those plants, that are relatively easy to grow, impressive when they decide to bloom ( please don;t write me and ask me how to get yours to bloom!), and they are quite addictive.

Here are just some photos of the first seedlings from 2001 collections, which are beginning to blossom in our greenhouse.

BLOOMING TROUBLE? I am no expert, but I can say that if you are having difficulty getting your Clivia to bloom, here is what happened with me. I always had some plants blooming in the house in March, normal blooming time here, in the North Eastern part of the USA. But there we're years that they never bloomed on time, sometimes waiting for the summer, and other times, waiting until fall.

Once the plants were moved into the greenhouse, they all bloomed at the same time. But some years it would be February, other years, April ( like this year). They are kept quite wet year round, since most are under the benches. Since my greenhouse is kept quite cold in the winter, I would deduce that day-length in combination with temperature is the key, not keeping them dry for the winter, etc. Although, that said, be certain not to keep them too wet, for rot will kill them.

As for being pot bound, either way, I would say it doesn't make a difference in my experience. It appears that a Clivia will completely fill ANY pot with thier thick fleshy roots in no time.

Soil, many collectors swear on using compsted bark, others, orchid mix only. I use whatever I have, since my Clivia are very much like Daylillies, some have even spent a year out of thier potson the floor on the greenhouse, and are still blooming.

NOTE: THe interspecific, or Cyrtanthiflora group types which are those which are crosses between the species, all tend to bloom either in the fall or winter, whereas the Clivia miniata, the large Clivia we all know and love, generally blooms in March in the Northern Hemisphere.

Aren't these blossoms great? It really isn't until you take them off the plant, and place them side by side, that one gets to make comparisons about color and form.

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.

November 14, 2007

Early South African Bulbs

Bench of the larger South African Bulbs
I am trying som elarger pots for some of thebigger, and more challenging S.A. bulbs, and this winter growing season, I am dedicating a raised plunge bench for some of them, pictured here, so that they can recieve the maximum amount of sunshine. Primarily winter growers in the southern hemisphere, I probobly should add some merciry lighting to lengthen the day, but I don't know of anyone else who has done that, and besides, the additional light would undoubtedly throw off the other day length-sensitive plants. For now, these Cyrtanthus, Velithimia, Boophane, Brunvigia and Nerine species will have to settle on our weak and meager offering of sunshine in New England, as winter begins.

Oxalis flava
I am trying a few new species of Oxalis flava, there are so many forms available, this one still only produces a few single blossoms in the palest of pink, and I have yet to be able to distinguish between many of them - they all look like lupine-leaves to me!

Oxalis luteola
I am annually impressed with the blooming capacity of Oxalis luteola, one of the first bulbous Oxalis species that I acquired six years ago. It seems to like repotting, although, this year, I skipped repotting, and I am finding the there are indeed, fewer blooms. I like to repot most of my Oxalis in August, when they are dormant, and then retrive 'hidden- back-up" bulbs which the plants like to stuff, near the bottom of the pot. Presumable they act as a back-up to Baboons or other creatures who might dig the first layer, to eat. I then repot them densly, neck to neck, in the center of a bulb pan.

View of early November blooms

Some oxalis species together in a raised plunge bench, along with some late Nerine sarniensis. I love watching the oxals open on a sunny day, (closed on overcast days). They can open in 10 minutes, and one can watch them as the morning sun heats the air up.

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!

February 25, 2007

Romulea season

Romulea bulbocodium ssp. leichtliniana

The Genus Romulea is relatively unknown by most, since one rarely finds the corms available in the trade, and thus, they must be grown grown from seed, an easier venture than you may imagine. Seed is often found in plant society seed exchanges, and most people skip over these, opting for the trendier Arisaema and Paris. These tender, crocus-like corms are grow mainly in South African, but also in the Medeterranian area. This is a good hint, that tells us that they can be grown outdoors in North America in California, and in the UK, or anywhere where winter moisture occurs with summer dryness, and the ground doesn't freeze.

Romulea requienii

The three species shown here are quite similar, and I am glad they they bloomed together so that I can see thier differences, as well as thier similarities. I am also glad that it was sunny this weekend, for in the cold greenhouse, they only open when the sun is brilliant, and the air becomes warm. Poor bees, they can't reach them, so the pollen falls on the petals, at least ensuring that I get seed again, to grow more corms, which I need, since Romulea need a crowded pot to give a decent display.

Romulea bulbocodium Knight Shades Shay's Form

My collection was a gift from a local plant collector, he purchased the seed from plant society seed exchanges, either the Scottish Rock Garden Society, the Alpine Garden Society or NARGS, but he told me that he decided to order one of each packet, to see if they would grow. We split the corms a few years ago, and we each have about a dozen species. A few bloomed last year, but this year, the pots are becoming more full, and February is starting to become Romulea season, as well as Lachenalia season and Narcissus season in the Greenhouse. Spring doesn't seem that far away, when one can spend a Saturday in the hot sun of an 80 degree greenhouse, even though the temperatures outside near zero F. the sun is stronger, and one can feel it as well as the plants. One of the greatest benefits of having a greenhouse in New England, I have found, is that by February, the hot bright sun, combined with the fact that one can be elbows deep in soil, and amid fragrant blossoms while the snow still sits on the ground, makes winter so much more bearable. At the end of the day, your pants are wet from the hose dripping water on them, your boots are muddy, ytour face is red from the heat of the sun, and your nails are filled with soil - summer may be four months away, but teh gardening season has certainly turned a corner.

A trio of similar looking Romulea show how taxonomists often find slight similarities when keying out species.

December 31, 2006

New Years Eve Clivia

Our first seedlings are blooming that are crosses between Clivia miniata and Clivia gardenii. Many of these are F2 crosses from seeds that we brought back from our first trip to Mr. Nakamura in Japan six years ago. As you can see, many of these are similar, but a few are quite different. Clivia gardenii has a dangling blossom, so the characteristic in these crosses is certainly this feature.

It is hard to choose which is nicer, althogh I tend to like either the green tipped blossoms, or a few of ours that get quite dark pigmentation on the outside of the blossom as it ages. More shots later on those. Regardless, they are all lovely, and I admit, I feel a little luxurious to be able to run to the greenhouse on a cold December day and pick a dozen of the rare crosses, since they are virtually unknown in the trade, unless you belong to one of the Clivia fan groups.

Within the groups, these crosses are sometimes refered to as Cyrtanthiflora types, or more accurately, Clivia cyrtanthiflora group. This comes from the fact that the blossom looks a bit like a Cyrtanthus, another member of the amaryllis family that grows in South Africa.

Wishing all readers the happiest of new years! Post to you in 2007!

November 4, 2006

Peak Nerine sarniensis bloom

A selection of Nerine sarniensis crosses, most from the United Kingdom's National Collection, kept by Ken Hall at Springbank Nursery on the Isle of White. As is still alot of taxonomic uncertainty, please use these representatives loosly, since I have duplicate clones that are, well, different. Regardless, all are still beautiful, and I can't imagine autumn without these relatives of the Amaryllis in bloom.

Here are a selection of named varieties which mostly are from the U.K. and a few unnamed varieties. Known commonly as the Guersey lily, Nerine sarniensis are relatively unknown in the U.S., if one does find Nerine available at a garden center or catalog, most likely it will be the other autumn flowering Nerine, N. bowdenii. N. sarniensis reportedly are known as Guernsey Lilies because of a ledgend about a ship bound from South Africa, sunk off the shore of Guernsey, and hundreds of bulbs washed ashore, where they are now naturalized.

Nerine sarniensis are noted for another strange phenomenon, they sparkle when sunlight refracts or reflects off of them, something Victorian growers in England called Gold (on some red varieties like Wolsey) or silver Dusting. See some of the photos below to see how spectacular this sparkling can be. Also, some varieties have wavy petals, an effect that many breeders try to target while breeding. In my own breeding efforts, just getting seed to take has been enough to ask for! But since I have had some luck getting these normally 'challenging-to-bloom' species to over perform this year, hopefully, I can now start to attempt a bit of a breeding program.

Nerine sarniensis 'Wolsey'

This Nerine sarniensis hybrid is a seedling selection bred by Harry Dalton, and acquired from Ken Hall's National Collection in the U.K.

Nerine sarniensis 'Rushmere Star'
One of the few N. sarniensis hybrids available from a couple of rare bulb dealers in the U.S.

I lost the name tag on this Nerine sarniensis Hyb, but it may be November Cheer. Any ideas?

Nerine sarniensis var. curvifolia f. fothergillii 'Major'

Taxonomy aside, this bulb had the largest flower in my collection. yet the name is questionable. I am simply using the Royal Horticultural Society's name for now, please send me your comments regarding taxonomy and cultivar, this genus is still pretty confusing.

Nerine sarniensis 'Lyndhurst Salmon'

Nerine sarniensis 'Hanley Castle'

Nerine sarniensis 'Cynthia Chance'

Nerine sarniensis ' Berlioz'

Nerine sarniensis 'Blanchefleur'

October 22, 2006

Bulbous South Afrifan Oxalis

A sandbed filled with blooming Oxalils species

The bloom season is peaking for the bulbous Oxalis, and both the species from South Africa and South America are reaching peak bloom. I am traveling for work much of this month, and only have today, Sunday, to photograph them and to enjoy them, before flying off Tuesday again, only to return on Halloween. I hope that it stays cool and not sunny, so that I woun't miss the peak of both these and of the Nerine sarniensis, which are just begining to open.

This Oxalis species lost its tag, so it is nice but unknown for now

A Sternbergia lutea blooms in a pot, kept out on the stone walk in front of the greenhouse. This crocus like blossom is one of the last of the outdoor bulbs to bloom for the season.
Here in New Engand, the foliage is reaching it's peak color. Since we have not recieved a hard killing frost yet, the colors have not been as intense as in past years. This weekends chores included planting Narcissus out in the raised bed, for exhibitions- cyclamineous types as well as triandrus were planted in the new bed today. Hopefully I can keep it not too wet, since the sand I recieved was builders sand and was too mud-like last year. This time I added compost, gravel and peat to it. I may have to cover the bed with a panel of twin wall if the snow adds to the moisture this winter. Snow will fall on the glass of the greenhouse, and slide down onto the raised bed, it may become too water logged, but the granite chips may aid in the draining of the bed. We shall see.

October 17, 2006

The first bulbous Oxalis of the season

Oxalis zeekoviensis
Over the next month, the collection of Oxalis species that are native to South Africa and which grow from various tiny bulbs, will be reaching peak bloom in the cold greenhouse. OXALIA you may say! Theyare just weeds. Sure, some of the worlds most knoxous weeds are Oxalis, but it is a large family, and I assure you that the rare bulbous oxalis are not weedy, and perfect collectable for the cold greenhouse or medeteranian climate like southern California. Again, winter growers, they love moisture but require a hot dry dormant rest in the summer.

I am just plain addicted to these jewels, and don't understand why others don't grow them, although this may be due to thier scarcity, and that only one or two rare bulb company's carry them, on and off, and that they cannot be grown from seed.

If you cringe at the thought of Oxalis as a collectable, don't confuse these bulbous species with the weedy pests that make oxalis a dirty word. (I have that one too!) If only we codl e so lucky that these we're weedy. Some bulbs barely increase, while a couple bulbous species do increase enough that one can pot up a second pot.
generally, these South African bulb Oxalis are slow to increase since they rarely if ever can produce seed.

Oxalis lobata with finger for scale

Here is abother photo of an Oxalis lobata, a new speices for me this year. I wanted to show you how small it actually is in this shot. Not only is it brilliant in the sun, it has the nice habit of sending up it's blossoms before the foliage, and it is fragrant too.

Oxalis virginea

I recieved these bulbs last year and they increased nicely, something which is nice since I started with six bulbs last year, and they divided into about 15.

July 29, 2006

Repotting dormant bulbs: Bulbous Oxalis

The rarer and slow growing Bulbous Oxalis species perform best when repotted in the summer while they are dormant.
The highly collectable bulbous Oxalis species that hail from the winter growing areas of South Africa and South America are a far cry from the weedy pest that plague our gardens and greenhouses. This is an enourmous genus and are truly sought after by plant collectors. Once you try a few of these winter growing and summer dormant species, you will be hooked and then the collecting begins. And that is not an easy thing to do, since the finest bulbous Oxalis species are only available suring a few weeks of the summer and only from a handful of catalogs, if that.

Carefully repotted summer dormant bulb species all lined up and waiting

My greatest mid-summer chore is repotting all of the bulbs which are now dormant in the summer. A great many of my collection does come from the southern hemisphere, and most of these transcend into a deep, summer rest, with some wanting to bake high on the sunner shelves of the greenhouse where they can remain bone dry, and others just want to get splashed occaisionally to keep their cell wall turgid, but not enough to ever signal that the fall rains have arrived. Late July is when I start repotting most of these winter bloomers, and this incudes collections of Cyclamen species, Narcissus from the Mediterranean and the bulbocodium type like N. romieuxii, N. cantabricus et al, Lachenalia, Romulea, and of course, the Bulbous Oxallis species, the jewels of the collection.

1. Carefully Remove dead foliage and topdressing.

Once Oxalis stop growth and whiter around May or June, allow the pots to go bone dry until you are ready to repot.Carefully remove old foliage and discard, being careful that no bulbs are attached to stems.

2. Dump compost carefully into sieve.
Be sure to selct a sieve with holes large enough to catch bulbs. Bulb size and shape differs greatly with species. I dump the entire pot into the sieve and then depending on the species, wither remove bulbs as I see them since many migrate to the bottom of the pot and are easier to remove before crushing the root ball, or with less robust species, carefully breaking the rootball to see if bulbs have divided at all.

Many Oxalis speces send bulblets down into the ground deep, so they line up against the bottom of the pot. One theory is that these bulbs remain dormant for years. Mother Natures back up system perhaps, in case a population burns or gets eaten by baboons I am guessing.

Removing these bulbs allows you to grow your collection, which is a good thing since on a whole, thes are not innexpensive bulbs since they sell for about $3.00 - $4.00 each and one must pot at least a dozen or more to get a nice display. You will want to propagate them this way since they do not produce viable seed.

3. Sift and clean.
Carefully pick out the bulbs, which is sometimes easy and at other times a challenge since some bulbs look exactly like rocks. This is also the fun part since you can see if you either lost a collection or grew is. Some species multiply well, while others remain about the same. It's a bit like digging for potatoes.

4. Store dry until repotting in early August.

Since I am repotting a day or two later, I am using platic zip-lock bags which I keep open, I would not suggest this, they we're just handy. Some may want to catalog or keep a spread sheet on bulb count, and I have done this for some species but not yet for Oxalis, I just don't have the time, but memory does tell me that some species that I ordered from Telos last year have multiplied well. I usually order 6 bulbs and all of last years pots have grown to about 30 bulbs, of various sizes. I save even the tiniest ones, so blooming size bulbs surely are at a minimum. I think I will repot some smaller bulbs in propagation pans so that they will have mroe room to grow and pick out the larger bulbs for show pots.

Uncommon South African bulbous Oxalis in bloom in the cold greenhouse in November

Watering for all of these dormant bulbs will commence with the first arctic cold front sometime in early September. The theory here is that not only do the fall rains trigger growing but also the temperature shift. I have watered as early as Labor Day, around Sept 1, and as late as Oct. 1.

Summer repotting will continue, starting here with Oxalis since they seem to send hair-like roots first, then Cyclamen species which have a very brief dormancy if at all. I then continue with the Narcissus, the followed by the balance of the minor South African bulbs with the ultilate goal of everything repotted dry and resting on the benches by the second week in August.

The Amaryllids like my collection of Nerine sarniensis are not repotted per say, just top dressed since thier roots do not go dormant, and the bulbs are, in fact, actually growing a bit during thier summer break of foliage. These also are getting an occaisional spritz of water.

Summer dormant Bulbs can only be shipped in August, so order now for winter bloom.
This is also the time to order bulbs that will bloom in the winter. If you have a cool greenhouse that remains frost free and cold, or anyplace that is bright, sunny and frost free, the winter growing bulbs from South Africa are some of the best performers and relatively easy once you master the cycle of winter wet and summer dry. For me, in the North East, this is easy with a glass greenhouse that is kept at 45 deg. F in the winter and allowed to get hot in the summer.