Showing posts with label Daily Awesomes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daily Awesomes. Show all posts

April 5, 2011

A Giant Australian Orchid Blooms

Dendrobium speciosum, an impressive specimen plant even with one spike in bloom.

This magnificent orchid plant, a true giant in the broad genus of Dendrobium, is native to Australia where is grows on protected cliffs in New South Wales. Indeed, it is one of the largest in the genus Dendrobium which limits who can grow it, for this is a plant that needs room, cold temperatures and muscles, if you ever plan to move it. Dendrobium is a genus which many of us are far too familiar with ( think - hardware store orchids in poly bags), but this species is hardly common,  for it is a giant wild form which is rather uncommon in the trade and thusy, in collections for many reasons, one of which is its massive size. A mature specimen plant can be 5 feet in diameter or more when in bloom, barely small enough to fit through a door. Match that with 3 inch thick pseudobulbs and the weight alone limits who can grow it.

I first saw this species while on a research trip to Japan two years ago, while there, I visited the Tokyo Grand Prix Orchid Show in February where I saw a huge specimen of this Dendrobium, and once back in my hotel room, I immediately started looking for a source, which was more difficult than I thought it would be ( I finally found this plant above, at the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate). I quickly ordered a plant via their website, without thinking about the size. When the UPS man delivered a four foot tall box, I started to realize what I was in for. Inside, the 5 gallon pot held a nearly mature specimen, but one that still needed a year or two under careful culture before it would bloom.

Detail of the floral spike

Dendrobium speciosum is considered a cool-grower, and it will do find in a greenhouse like ours, where winter temperatures are maintained around 40 degrees F. This plant spends the summer outdoors, where it receives fresh rainwater which is essential for most orchids, as well as a light dose of liquid fertilizer every two weeks. The plant lives in a large terra cotta pot in a wood bark mix ( Aussie Gold) which is refreshed annually. As many of you know, I am not an orchid grower, and the few plants that I do keep are sturdy, and not considered fussy by any means. What they do share in common is limited to the temperature range, for the cool to cold climate of my greenhouse limits what orchids I can grow well.

April 4, 2011

Daily Awesome - Gladiolus virescens

Gladiolus virescens

 These transitional months, those between the grand season of summer and winter, or summer and winter, mainly, spring and autumn, are times of significant bloom for many plants either bloom in the beginning of their growing season ( quite common with many orchids, which is why orchid shows are held either in the spring, or the autumn).  Such plants bloom very early in the growing season, or near the end because they either require certain pollinators, demand a long season of growth in which to mature, or they simply require strong sunshine or moisture to mature a new annual growth.

 The reasons why some plants wait until the end of their growth season may seem odd, but if you think about it a little more, many of these plants grow in areas where there are harsh conditions, a hot dry winter, for example, and so it is with many of the species Gladiolus which grow in the winter rainfall areas of the western cape of South Africa. A land, where many gladiolus species come from, and where many of the species in my collection come from. Today, I share a new one for me, the lovely olive and gold flowered Gladiolus virsecens.

A photo rarely shows the scale of a flower, but these flowers are about the size of a quarter.

In the sunshine, when I brought the plant outdoors to shoot it in better light, the color became more intense than those that were shot under the shade cloth.

April 2, 2011

The lone bulb species, Melasphaerula ramosa

Melasphaerula ramosa

Here is a rarely seen bulb plant from South Africa which happens to be the only species in the genus Melasphaerula; meet Melasphaerula ramosa, a bulb plant, (well, actually a corm) from a genus that finds itself currently placed within the Iris Family. Melaspharula, or 'Fairy Bells' is easy to grow in a cold glasshouse, but it is hard to find, there is only one source that I know of for the corms. It therefore  remains an uncommon plant, seen only in the most well stocked alpine houses of the geekiest of plant collectors. ( ahem).

March 29, 2011

Iris attica - Daily Awesome

Iris attica blooming in a bonsai pot, I keep this marginally hardy rare species in the cold greenhouse. This is the first year it has bloomed, and I have had the plant for four years.

I love surprises, especially when they are something like this rare Iris attica ( and I almost missed it). I got home from work and it was nearly dark ( although it's hard to tell in these photos, because the light was low and I had to use a long exposure and a tripod), but I knew that I had to capture this as an image tonight, since it would be all done tomorrow. Say hello to Iris attica ( a blue one!), a genus which is typically yellow, there are some purple forms even in the wild where it grows in Turkey and Greece.

 Iris attica is somewhat rare, and technically it is a bearded iris, which means that it's structure is similar to the more popular German Bearded Iris, or the Border Iris we all are familar with They have distinct beards ( blue, in this case) and have flowering stems that are simple or branched, which extend from Rhzomes and the typical fan of leaves. The most significant different with this species is that it is much smaller, the flower stems are about 6 inches tall.

 According to the Species Iris Group of North America, or SIGNA, this species is hard to find, and a little challenging to grow since it requires bone dry summers, and prefers to grow in zone 8 -10 ( although one source lists it as a zone 5 plant if a dry summer cover is provided. Native to Greece, western Turkey, Serbia, and Croatia, this Iris's status is currently unknown in the wild as of 2004 (D.Kramb). Sometimes seed can be found in seed exchanges from the Iris Society. This is a species that demands well drained, rocky soil and is rather tender. I keep it in the cold greenhouse, where it is essentially ever green, going partially dormant in the summer, and resumes growth in mid winter. It sits high on a window ledge in the greenhouse, where it recieves full sun year round.

March 27, 2011

Daily Awesome - Geissorhiza or Hesperantha

OK, to be honest, this is another one of those lost tag seedling pots, which I know is at the very least, an Irid, in the Iris Family, and most likely a Geissorhiza species, since I knew that I had a few pots of seedling in that fateful tray. But I also had Hesperantha species, so you bulb experts out there....help! Until then, this is a nice plant, the strongest stems of the season in my greenhouse bulb bed, and it is scented, but not in a good way.

March 24, 2011

Daily Awesome - Fritillaria meleagris

A pot of forced Fritillaria meleagris, or Snakes Head Lilies is neither a lily nor the 'snakey head' form of F, meleagris,for  without the checkering, this all white form looks purer and stands out in the garden more. Forced in the greenhouse, these pots are easy and a refreshing change from the typical tulips and narcissus on the same bench. These also don't seem to mind the snow that is falling today.

Common? Sure, but I like the combination of these along with the rarer and the more common tulips, crocus and every-day Dutch bulbs, for all pots are delivering an early spring on the forcing bench. These bulbs were on sale last autumn, and not only planted a few pots to place into the cold frame, I also potted some bulbs even later in December once the ground was frozen, into flats which are still chilling. Those, I will plant into the garden in a few weeks. I adore drifts of F. meleagris planted amongst the woodland, and in just a few weeks, I am certain that the warm sun will bring up the bulbs planted in the ephemeral garden along with the Trillium, Anemones and Corydalis. Come on spring, bring it on!

March 19, 2011

Gladiolus watsonius, I presume?

Gladiolus watsonius

We rarely get to see wild Gladiolus here in North America, but the species forms from South Africa which must be grown in a cold greenhouse here in New England, are beginning to bloom ( after all, it is nearly autumn in South Africa). So I share Gladiolus watsonius, a new plant for me, which is blooming this week in March, lovely in the late, winter sunshine. Spring is shifting in quickly here, with snow melting and crocus blooming, suddenly, it's time to rake, plant seeds and sweep the walks which we have not seen since December. We are all anticipating spring, and all I can say is that I wish we had spring peepers here in Worcester, for I would love to hear them while laying in bed with the windows open in the spring, but at least, we can open the windows for the first time this year, if only to air the house out!

February 27, 2011

My Own, Private, Spring Flower Show

It's a little self indulgent, ( um....a little?), but I just can't help myself. I mean, how could I not post these images that I took today of some of the many flowering bulbs and plants in the greenhouse. Especially when the sun came out after a snow storm hit outdoors.

Winter trudges along with 5 inches today, and with 4 feet still on the ground in the shade, it seems spring  may never come. But as we gardeners know, in six weeks, we know that the ephemeral wild flowers will be in bloom, and the maples, magnolias and native trees will burst into bloom. So bring it on, man, bring it on.

Ho hum ( yawn), just more pretty spring flowers photographed against a snow covered woodland. What ever.

I moved the Cyclamen out of the sand bed in the rear of the greenhouse, so that I could arrange my own little flowershow which sadly, no one will see except me ( which is a little wierd when you really think about it, for, 'why' do I grow these anyway?). Maybe I can call this my digital flower show?

February 22, 2011

The Last 'Scented Violet'

A pot of scented violets currently in bloom in my greenhouse. The powerful scent is all you can smell, when you first enter.

A Violet grower in Hudson Valley New York, circa 1898

 As a cut-flower, scented violets were as essential as orchids or camellia blossoms.

Viola odorata - the classic 'scented violet'

 If this blog was scratch 'n sniff, you would know what the greenhouse smells like this morning. The scent of violet is one which few people experience, but one hundred years ago, it was a common scent as well as flavoring for chewing gum, perfume and for pastry. Today, it is a rare and beguiling scent. Here, a the uncommon true scented violet, Viola odorata looks exactly like the garden violets we have growing in the garden in spring, but these are indeed different. Hard-to-find today, look for them at specialty catalogs like Logee's and others for the ultimate authenticity in 'old-fashioned', heirloom arrangements and gardens.

Viola odorata, when grown under cold glass, blooms in February in cold pit houses and greenhouses where winters are cold. New York State's Hudson Valley was once the United States' epicenter for scented violets where they were grown for the New York City market until the 1920's. A posh winter wedding or a trip to the opera required a proper nosegay of violets, but today, they are grown by no commercial nursery, and are lost forever as a cut-flowers. Winter weddings are no longer the same.


February 20, 2011

A Winter Garden of Bulbs in Pots

A collection of potted of small bulbs brings winter interest to a cold greenhouse, as the snow begins to fall outside.

There are so many pots of small alpine bulbs and South African bulbs blooming in the greenhouse right now, that I assembled some of them into a 'group shot', and it's amazing to see how much color there really is, just a 1/8th inch of glass away from the freezing temperatures and snow outside. The scent is incredible, especially from the Viola odorata and the Hyacinthella. The species crocus continue to bloom, as well as some of the Oxalis species. As you can see, the Cyclamen coum, the tiny bright pink Cyclamen you can see above, is just starting its season. Almost hardy enough for culture outdoors here in Zone 5, I dare try it, as I prefer to enjoy them under glass.

 Above, you can see Nerine undulata, the tall pink nerine in the upper left, there are two Cyclamen species, in the rear, a wild form of C. persicum, and in the front, the bright pink of C. coum. Some Lachenalia species and hybrids are just beginning to open, by next week there will be posts on Lachenalia. Add old fashioned scented violets ( lower right), so brilliant orange and yellow Oxalis obtusa ( center) and pots and pots of species crocus, and my winter garden begins to take shape.

February 13, 2011

Stenomesson pearcei, my long wait has paid off.


High in the Andes, on mountain slopes from Peru to Bolivia comes todays rare bulb which is blooming in the greenhouse as it is snowing outside. It's so reassuring that during this record breaking cold and snowy winter, that such miracles can occur. For I've tried everything to get this stubborn bulb to bloom, almost tossing it last year. Now, my precious pot of Stenomesson pearcei that I have had for ten years, has finally come into bloom with a single spike and a half dozen of bright yellow and green bells, each providing some hope that not only can I bloom something rare in the coldest and snowiest winter in history,  but that maybe this is a sign that spring will come soon. No, wait... I'm supposed to like winter, right?

As the light snow falls today, I can't even image the colonies of Stenomesson pearcei that grow and bloom in the summer, in the high in the protected alpine meadows where its bulbs can form offsets protected from animals,deep in the quick-draining alpine soils amongst the grass. Stenomesson pearcei grows at a very high elevation, between 9,000 and 13,000 feet and although there are rarer bulbs, this one is still quite uncommon in collections, even among those who collect rare bulbs.

This little bulb has caused some big controversy in the bulb world lately, since most of the species within this genus have recently been transferred to the genus Clinanthus, thanks to the hard work of one Dr. Alan Meerow, an expert on New World Amaryllidaceae (the Amaryllis Family). I met Dr. Meerow at an International Bulb Society conference in 2000, and his expertise inspired to to collect more endagered bulbs that have been rescued.  Kew has accepted the reclassification and all species have now been moved except this one single species, which remains ( for now) as Stenomesson pearcei, ( if you care about such things).

I was hoping that I had a Phaedranassa viridiflora, but alas, my label must be rewritten ( me and my labels!). Still, my Stenomesson pearcei is not something common enough to sneer at. 

The entire plant on the sand plunge bed set against the snowy exterior garden. As you can see, it is rather tall at about 3 feet.

I have pollinated the stigma, so I am hopeful that I may get some seed.

January 8, 2011

Camellia's on a Snowy Day

It's a very snowy weekend here in New England, and we are expected to have almost constant snowfall from Friday night, until Sunday night.  Accumulation is expected to be less than 5 inches, because it is a very light snow. Very cold and pretty outside, in the greenhouse, it feels more like a cloudy day in Tokyo. Here are some new camellia images, with some new varieties blooming for the first time today.
Camellia japonica 'Margaret Davis', a lovely bicolored blossom with a striped edge. The pink color is almost florescent.
Camellia 'Lipstick', this odd blossom is referred to as an anemone-form.

The Japanese are currently in love with this crested floral form, which they call BOKUHAN, most growers refer to this floral form as 'anemone form'.  This variety, 'Lipstick' is a new addition to my collection, and this is its first blossom of the year. It's a very young plant from a cutting.
Camellia 'Silver Tower', a form that the Japanese call HAGOROMO. Hagoromo means 'feathered robe' or 'celestial robe'.

Camellia lutchuensis, a fragrant species in its pure form, collected in China. This blossom is less than an inch long.

Hardy Japanese forest bamboo, Sasa vietchii holds the snow well. With only a few inches expected today, the snow remains on the flexible leaves. This bamboo looks best in the garden in early winter.
A Higo-type camellia, with its huge boss of stamens seems to be waiting for the winter sunshine before it decides to open on this chilly, snowy, day.

A Camellia bud opens on a larger shrub, planted in the ground in the greenhouse. I've found that the camellia's that are planted into the soil, do better than the potted ones; they grow faster, and stronger. Many Nineteenth Century heated greenhouses in New England had large camellias planted in the soil for use as winter corsage material for winter weddings and for the local florist trade.

December 21, 2010

Candy Cane Oxalis

OXALIS VERSICOLOR - the Candy Cane Oxalis

A rather common ( in plant collector terms) Oxalis species in bloom during the Holiday season is Oxalis versicolor, commonly known as the Candycane Oxalis, for obvious reasons. One of the 'bulbous' South African Oxalis species, this is an easy to grow choice for many, and it is also one of the easiest to obtain, often being carried by the larger Dutch bulb sites in the autumn.

The flower petals are edged in red, which does not show when the blossom is open, unless you look at the back of the blossom, but when the buds are closed in the evening, or in cool weather, they show a swirled pattern of red and white which is very attractive. When cultivated as a summer grower in warmer climates, or under lights, the foliage will from  nice, tight mound, but in weaker winter light, northern grown winter blooming specimens will be more lax in habit.

This is bulb that should be planted thickly, for buying one or three will not produce a nice effect. The best results come from dozens of bulbs, planted shoulder to shoulder in a pot ( which can break your bank account at $8.00 a bulb, but don't worry, they will help you- start with five or six bulbs, and let them divide; you will end up with  hundred bulbs in a couple of years).

I have found that this is one of those Oxalis species that love moisture when in growth, and although many experts may advise against it, I let my pots sit in water for a few weeks at a time just before blooming, I then get hundreds of flowers. Naturally, one cannot keep plants in foot-bath of water, because the roots can rot without enough air, so I allow my plants to dry out ever few weeks, too. I assume the these plants may bloom in seeps or stream sides in the wild, since many Oxalis that are bulbous in winter rainfall areas are able to survive if not thrive in temporarily flooded conditions that they experience in nature. Just be sure to provide them with a dry period for the summer, where no water at all is applied, I place my pots on a high bench in the dry summer greenhouse when they go dormant in June. Watering starts again in September, when the first cool nights begin to trigger growth, around Labor day, or September 1st.

December 4, 2010

More Early Winter Camellia


In the greenhouse, the Camellias continue to bloom, with the larger cultivars of Japanese varieties not blooming. There are three types of Camellias that I love, the single Japanese varieties, fragrant species in their wild form, and standard rose form. These three are all single.