Showing posts with label Greenhouse Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenhouse Culture. Show all posts

November 3, 2006

Nerine sarniensis 1

Finally, I am home after traveling for work all month. Hopefully, November will be a little less hectic, although, I do have a book due to the publisher, and new projects are work.

Upon arriving home, I was shocked at what was in bloom in the greenhouse. So over the next few days, I will be updating daily to catch everyone up. There are so many things happening under the glass, that it will take many postings to catch up.

Here is a shot of a group of Nerine sarniensis, which I took while home for one day last week. Many of these are now past, but many more have come out.

Besides blooming, other greenhouse drama's have occured. The gas heater exploded, so that had to be fixed last week. Well, not exploded, but flames shot out and burned wires, and the bottom of the heater blew off. I hate those things anyway. Even though the glass was all repaired two weeks ago, three large panes 30 inches each slid off last night and smashed into a million shards into the raised rock bed, Weeding will be fun next year!

March 19, 2006

March Alpine House


In the Alpine House, a number of the last bulbocodium type Narcissus are blooming (above). Narcissus tenuifolius, with foliage low to the ground, and N. filifolious, with more grassy, taller foliage are both good examples of this tiny tender alpine bulb rarely seen grown successfully in American gardens. Here, in New England, our winters are too cold to keep bulbs outdoors without protection, but also, the humid, rainy summers are too damp, to provide them the summer dryness and baking that they get in thier native mountains of Turkey and Morocco.

In my attempt to create an active and successful alpine house in New England, I've had to manage my own expectations, since I realized that there is a real reason for why there are no, or very few alpine houses in America. But I don't give up easily. First, for those of you new to the concept of growing alpine plants; in the United Kingdom, there is a long and rich history of competitive alpine plant culture, both those grown in the rock garden, as well as in pots for exhibitions. In fact, there are very competitive alpine societies in the UK.

Alpine houses are traditionally a frost free, rain free cool and buoyant atmosphere, which closely mimics the conditions found at high alpine elevation, where these alpine plants grow into their classic dense buns, tuft's and mounds. Plants can be carefully watered, fussed over and the environment can kept cool and cold, and fresh. Our hot and humid summers are difficult challenges to overcome, but I believe that if carefully sited, one can provide, a decent environment for some alpines.

In the UK, precious alpines like Draba, and Dionysia as well as small bulbs like these Narcissus, are grown under the protection of glass year round, but thier cool summers, and mild winters provide a more stable alpine house environment. Here in the Boston area, zone 5, we have to deal with extreme winter weather (below zero deg. F) and summer temps that can reach 100 deg. F. with humidity. So it is more challenging to recreate high alpine conditions than it would be in Seattle or Vancouver.

Some plants can handle the winter extremes, and remain in the raised sandbed plunges in the Alpine house all winter,(Primula, Androsace and Saxifraga all thrive with this treatment), frozen solid with the roof vents and door open to all but he most extreme blizzards. I can achieve some success with the more tender alpines, like marginally hardy bulbs, Fritillaria, tender Narcissus, Cyclamen by bouncing them back and forth between environments simply responding to seasons and to weather conditions. Creative use of an outdoor sand bed plunge, where hardy bulbs can be nestled down deep under the protection of a foot or more or sand, and the use of the cold glass greenhouse where winter temperatures can't drop below 45 deg. F. so plants never freeze, is the trick for successs like these bulbocodium, which are winter growers and need to perform thier growth cycle between September and April. They just want the same conditions that they recieve in their native lands, frost free, cool rainy winters, and a ho,t bone dry summer.

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.