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Showing posts with label Plant Collections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Plant Collections. Show all posts

July 10, 2012

Heirloom Cottage Annuals circa 1898

CURATING A THOUGHTFUL BLEND OF TRULY OLD-FASHIONED ANNUALS TAKES MORE THAN RESEARCH, PATIENCE AND CAREFUL CULTURAL STEWARDSHIP,  IT TAKES A DARN GOOD DOSE OF LUCK.
HERE ARE A FEW LUCKY TREASURES BLOOMING IN MY GARDEN TODAY

I found this cut-glass basket vase in the cellar store room today, it must have been my grand mothers, since it was hidden behind some of the old pickle crocks that I think have never been moved in 60 years! I thought that it deserved an appropriate bouquet of some turn-of-the-century annuals, many of which we rarely see in gardens today. 

I am more than a little frustrated with the annuals from the garden centers near me, for they have hardly grown at all since I planted them two months ago. Obviously, they've been drenched in growth retardant and have been selected to bloom early, as well as at a short height, which makes them sell ( hey, even I fell for it!) but once planted in the ground, they sulk and do nothing. This includes the marigolds, all which had large blossoms on them when I bought them, and I should have known better, and some nicotiana and snapdragons, which are no taller than 8 inches.


  1. Stock - Mathiola incana
  2. Ruby Chalice Clarkia - Clarkia rubicuna 
  3. Godetia - Clarkia amoena ssp. Whitneyi
  4. Coral Shirley Poppy - Papaver
  5. Pincushion Flower - Knautia macedonica
  6. Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
  7. Convolvulus 'Blue Ensign'
  8. Shirley Poppy - ' Sir Cedric Morris'
  9. Painted Tongue - Salpiglossis sinuata
  10. (hidden) Cabbage Rose ' Rosa species' garden origin
  11. Flax - Linum grandiflorum

As for my crop of Bell of Ireland, I failed :(  . Only two are alive, and barely, at that). Other projects this year, include my crop of Lathyrus, which so far, are doing very well, forming buds, but they are starting to get some rippled foliage - not sure if that is a virus, or, just the heat. I will provide an update on those, soon.

March 27, 2012

Clivia, Oh Clivia - Some New Seedlings Bloom

A BROAD-LEAVED WIDE-EYED YELLOW CLIVIA MINIATA SEEDLING FROM OUR JAPAN COLLECTION
March is traditionally clivia season, at least in New England where these potted South African natives appear in spring flower shows, in parlors of old homes, and in plant windows  hopefully in bloom if you are handy with these notoriously shy bloomers - yes, Clivia can be challenging for many to coax into bloom, at least indoors,  but once grown in the greenhouse, they seem bloom on schedule every year, never missing a beat - proving that the trick is not withholding water, but actually is the blend of seasonal climate change - cold nights, lengthening daylight and a temperature shift is the magical recipe.

We happen to grow a few hundred clivia, most leftover from a load of seed we brought back from Japan in 2001 when we were in the depths of our clivia mania. The results from that one, fateful trip to Mr. Nakamura's tiny, simple home - deep in a quiet bamboo forest with nothing but the sound of nightingales and the breeze in rural Chiba prefecture north of Tokyo. We returned with dozens of plants, and a large mesh bag of seeds which we promptly planted, and the last are just coming into bloom. I thought that I might share a few.

SOMETIME, ORANGE CLIVIAS CAN BE ALMOST RED. THIS ONE STANDS OUT FROM THE TWO DOZEN THAT ARE IN BLOOM NOW AS THE DARKEST ONE.

I AM GUESSING THAT THIS ONE, WHICH GETS A SLIGHT BURGUNDY TINT TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE PETALS, HAS SOME INTERSPECIFIC GENES IN THE MIX. THIS IS THE FOURTH YEAR THAT IT HAS BLOOMED, AND IT REMAINS A FAVORITE BECAUSE THE FLOWERS ARE LARGE, AND THE FORM OVERALL IS SOLID.

THIS YELLOW FORM LOOKS WHITE, BUT IT'S JUST A POOR PHOTO. THE PETAL SHAPE IS WHAT INTERESTS ME. ALMOST SPIDER LIKE.

A WIDE PETALED PALE YELLOW SEEDLING.

THIS SEEDLING HAS A DEEPER YELLOW CENTER, AND NEARLY PERFECT FLORAL FORM.

March 25, 2012

Rare or Rarely Seen Narcissus

Narcissus moscatus is one of the loveliest but increasingly scarce, Narcissus species. Closely related to N. alpestris,  this bulb takes  a few years to get established, but once it does, it divides nicely. Nodding, milk white trumpets hang their heads downward.

Rarely seen in this country are collections of potted rare bulbs, especially miniature narcissus which require either an alpine house ( a cold greenhouse which never freezes or cold frames, where pots of bulbs can remain quiet and unfrozen until ready to grow and bloom).  In the UK, there are some enthusiasts who continue to collect and exhibit potted bulb collections, but in the US, they are difficult to keep well, as our summers are too hot, and our winters too cold.  I am fascinated by such collections those of rare bulbs in pots from another time, so I try to keep a few around, either potted in the coldest corners of my greenhouse, or, under benches where the frost nearly reaches them. A few too, I keep in the raise alpine beds which surround the foundation of the greenhouse, were the bulbs are kept unfrozen, and provide some color and delight in early spring.
A gorgeous species for the garden, closely related to the fabledalpestris and considered by some to be the same plant (not us!).
Lovely milk white trumpets hang their heads towards the ground in March-April. One of the loveliest but increasingly scarce now.


NARCISSUS TRIANDRUS ssp. TRIANDRUS

 The crosses from Narcissus triandrus ssp. triandus  are always choice, and the finest have always been rather tender, needing dry summers and protection from deep frosts, so bulb collectors often keep them in pots. This pot has grown from three bulbs planted ten years ago ( it's double potted for two reasons - so that I will remember that this is an important bulb when it goes dormant, and two - because I feel that the extra gravel keeps the temperature and moisture more consistent. This species like fast drainage, and a bone-dry summer, so the pot may come out in March to bloom, but they go back into the greenhouse for the summer, where the pots can bake in the hot sun.

NARCISSUS 'LITTLE GEM' IS NOT RARE, BUT AS YOU CAN SEE, IT FOOLS THE EYE. IT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A LARGE DAFFODIL, BUT ABOUT 20 TIMES SMALLER! NARCISSUS ARE THE BEST VALUE FOR GARDENERS, BECAUSE THEY ARE AMONGST THE MOST LONG-LIVED OF BULBS.

NARCISSUS IN POTS CAN HANDLE THE COLD WEATHER WITH NARY A NOD, IT'S THE HEAT THAT THEY CANNOT STAND. WITH TEMPS FALLING INTO THE HIGH TWENTIES TOMORROW NIGHT, THESE BULBS WILL REMAIN OUTSIDE.

THE HOOP NARCISSUS, OR BULBOCODIUM TYPES PERFORM BETTER IN POTS FOR ME, THAN IN THE GARDEN. I ALWAYS KEEP POTS FULL WHICH BLOOM MOST OF THE WINTER IN THE COLD GREENHOUSE. THIS YELLOW SPECIES IS THE LAST ONE OF THE YEAR, OFTEN BLOOMING IN MARCH OR APRIL.

February 26, 2012

South African Bulbs - Peak Week

Gladiolus splendens, is a tall, red-blooming species that looks nothing like the hybrid summer-blooming forms most people are familiar with.

Late February and Early March marks an important time of transition in the the plant collectors greenhouse. It's the start of autumn in the southern hemisphere, and spring, in the north, and plants react to the lengthening day light, and the brighter sun. We, as humans working cubicles and under florescent lights sometimes miss this subtle seasonal shifts, but there is nothing subtle about how the plants react. This is the season of orchids, since many bloom now ( as they do in the autumn) than in any other time of the year, and, this is the season for many bulbs which naturally want to grow with the lengthening daylight, ( which is why spring flower shows are scheduled for this time of year).

South African bulbs are the stars in the greenhouse this cold February Sunday. After missing a snowstorm by a mere 50 miles this weekend, ( it did snow in upstate New York, yet we only enjoyed the beauty of blinding snow squalls and fierce winds). 

The brilliant carmine-red of Gladiolus splendens can be seen from across the garden. Native to the Roggeveld Escarpment in South Africa, where it grows near streams, these winter-blooming gladiolus make excellent cold greenhouse flowers, but the plants themselves are rarely attractive. The wiry-stemed gladiolus are weak, since they are designed to grow through scrub growth and grasses. A little creative staking is often needed.

Pink Velthiemia make cheerful potted winter-blooming bulbs, but the pale-yellow form of Velthiemia bracteata is less common. Here, V. bracteata 'Lemon Flame' begins its season - the flowers are almost open.

A Velthiemia bracteata 'Lemon Flame' blooming in a Guy Wolff long-tom pot.

Even less common, Velthiemia bracteata 'Rose-Alba', has ivory and salmon blossoms, along with wavy, bluish leaves.

Lachenalia aloides var. peasonii, a selection of Lachenalia aloides with only two colors in the blossom, instead of the four colors typically seed in L. aloides var. quadricolor. The term 'aloides' means that this species has blossoms that are reminiscent of the aloe, another South African native.

I am sparing most of you the boring photos of Romulea, the many species of this crocus-formed South African that also bloom in tiny pots around the greenhouse. This one is blooming in a pot of seedlings labeled Romulea hartwegii ( I never know if these are the true species or not, without properly keying out. For now, I will leave it as R. hartwegii since I doubt many of you will actually care. I love the tiny Romulea species, for the always surprise me with they flowers on sunny winter days.


A few more Clivia that are blooming right now. This cross, again, another C. miniata x C. gardenii has darker trumpet shaped blossoms.

This variegated-leaved Clivia has wide leaves, and wide blossoms that have a broad, yellow center , very much like many of the early 20th century French forms. It was raised from seed that we brought back from Japan. SO many clivia are blooming now that it's hard to keep track.

February 5, 2012

Camellia Bowl XLVII

In this month, when it seems we are forced to endure the dreary (thy grumpy Ground Hog, a dead President or two, dirty snow, the impending doom of mud season, and yeah, bowl games), we are reminded that we must remember the hottie ( St. Valentines Day, chocolate, hot cherry pie). But really, there is another reason why we secretly adore Saint Valentines Day, and it has nothing to do with jewelry. We more visual people love it because it is so perfectly pretty - just check out the seasonal candy isle at your local Walmart.  Businesses know that February needs a PR team - plus some designers picking out the perfect tint of periwinkle, magenta, coral and pink - combined with cerise and red - all trying to make this ugliest month (since November), somehow more survivable.  But I am reminded that before there were sweet tarts and chocolate covered cherries, and Jared, there was --- camellias.


Camellias are for old ladies. At least, that's what I used to believe. In the olden times ( like, fifty years ago) camellias were only seen as corsages for church, corsages for Gramma at a wedding, and for, I don't know - sweet tea parties in the south? . But these Chinese trees were once the most cherished if not rarest plants ever grown in containers and in gardens. At one time, they were only grown in the Imperial Palaces of Japan and China, where they were one of the first plants ever cultivated in pots by man, some dating back to the 10th century. Today, they are still not as common as one may think outside of California and the deep south in the US, or in southern Italy and France in Europe.

Here in the north, the camellia is a rare site, for they make horrible house plants, and they are not hardy for outdoor culture. To have any success with camellias, one must have a cold, sunny room with moist air - something that was more common a hundred years ago, but with modern heating systems, an indoor location rarely found in homes today.
CAMELLIA 'LIPSTICK' HAS AN UNUSUAL FORM, CALLED ANEMONE FLOWERED TYPE.

Camellias are best grown in a cool, if not cold greenhouse, with buoyant air flow, a day and night shift in temperatures, and with bright winter light. An understory tree in its native eastern Asia ( the mountainous areas of Korea, China and Japan), this smallish tree did have its heyday in North America in the 18th and 19th century, for it was perfectly appointed for the estate conservatory which had wood or coal heat during the day, and chilly nights, or, it was often found in grand, Victorian parlours and homes which had unheated rooms. Camellias thrive in cold, if not near freezing temperatures, able to take frosts down near 15 - 20 degrees F for some time, so they are common landscape plants in areas where winters are more mild ( Oregon, Georgia, southern Europe, England and Japan), but elsewhere, they cannot live.


Camellia societies shows are terrific places to discover the perfect forms to grow. This show, at the Descanso Gardens in California, is held annually near Pasadena. Tables are laid about with small containers, each with a different selection often grouped in threes, fives, or singly. I made my wish list at two of these shows held in February a few few years ago, and then took my list to the nearby Camellia nursery - Nuccio's, where I had a crate packed and sent home on the plane with me. Trying to find camellia's in New England is practically impossible today, while a hundred a fifty years ago, most every greenhouse and florist from New York to Boston, had many trees growing for winter blooms to supply weddings, funerals and corsage work. Camellias are indeed, living heirlooms today, for one can hardly find a blossom anywhere - even in the poshest of New York City florists.


A selection of February camellias, picked today in my greenhouse showing the various forms available.

January 6, 2012

Uncommon Home Grown Citrus

MANY CITRUS MAKE EXCELLENT WINDOWSILL PLANTS, IN MY GREENHOUSE, I KEEP ABOUT TEN TYPES, HERE ARE A FEW.
As a teenager, I was a bit of a nerd ( which I've been thinking about lately - see end of post). Not really into competitive sports, nor other typical teenagy stuff like comic books, music or pop stars; I was the sort of kid who instead of asking for a motorbike, begged my parents for money to buy a lime tree from the Park's Seed catalog ( circa 1972?). The idea that one could grow citrus indoors fascinated me for all it delivers - fragrant flowers, yummy fruit and a cool houseplant. Like many things, this was not always true. A popular book at the time had step-by-step methods for growing your own citrus from seed, ( something that I see even today suggested on other blogs), but although a great way to get children interested in plants, the truth is, most, if not all citrus from seed will not bloom and bear fruit for many years. So unless you child plants to take her citrus to college, and then to her first home, the reality of real fruit from a seed-raised plant is unrealistic.

December 11, 2011

The Twelve Cyclamen of Christmas

Cyclamen species, (the 'wild' cyclamen or Europe and the Mediterranean)  all have beautifully patterned winter foliage
Here are twelve different leaf forms found in wild cyclamen species, While watering the greenhouse today, I was struck by the diversity and beauty that the entire collects presents as a display. Since I never take these plants into the house, no one sees them, so I will share a dozen forms here. All are from my collection growing in a sand plunge bed in the greenhouse. I find that winter cyclamen foliage display is something that I look forward to every year, even the seedlings are fun to evaluate every winter, selecting ones with more patterned leaves, especially with the Cyclamen hederifolium seedlings, variety can mean getting some leaves long a slender, like arrowheads,while others form a strong, Christmas tree pattern. A few emerge with the choicest of all leave patterns - none, rather they are completely silver, like pewter or silver - cyclamen species are perhaps the most Christmassy of plants.

November 27, 2011

My 'Earlier than Normal', Camellia Season

THE EARLIEST CAMELLIAS TO BLOOM IN THE AUTUMN ARE THE SASANQUA TYPE, THE GROUP WHICH INCLUDES GREEN TEA. THIS PINK SINGLE SASANQUA IS A JAPANESE CULTIVAR CALLED 'OMIGOROMO'

Camellias in New England? The Camellia has a long history as a container plant in New England glasshouses, they were some of the first plants ever grown in greenhouses in the 17th and 18 Century in and around the Boston area. Estates often kept large tubs of Camellias which arrived on ships from China, Japan and Europe where it was a popular cut flower. A Camellia blossom often was one of the few flowers available during the cold winter months, where short day length plants that could withstand cold temperatures included scented violets, forced bulbs and citrus. 

'CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'OMIGOROMO'
Many think of camellia's as out-dated corsage plants best saved for old ladies and some foundation plantings in southern California or the south, sadly, the generation who did remember the Camellia as a corsage flower is gone, leaving this fine cold weather bloomer prime for re-discovery by a new generation who will need to learn how to grow it. If you live in New England as I do, camellias do best in cold greenhouses, or perhaps an unheated room, if you live in an old house. There was a time when a every Victorian mansion had a chilly, unheated room, or even a conservatory where camellia trees thrived in large terra cotta pots. 

CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'MINE NO YUKU', OR SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN, HAS NOW BEEN RENAMED BY  MONROVIA NURSERIES, AND MARKETED UNDER THE REGISTERED NAME OF 'WHITE DOVES'. 
 Today, the camellia suffers from modern heating systems and dry air - two things which they hate. Outdoor culture in the northeast has not yet been perfected. There is much excitement about new, hardier species coming into the market from northern Korea and from high elevation sites in China and Japan, but most seem to be reliable hardy to Pennsylvania and zone 7. A few are surviving in Zones 5 and 6, but only in special sites.

This autumn, my camellias are blooming very early, most of my tubs were in bloom in February as I posted earlier this year in a camellia round-up, but even some later types are starting to bloom. Camellias are grouped into specific groups, representing either their flower shape, they heritage or their type. There are sasanqua's, which mostly bloom in the autumn, and then there are camellia japonica's, species, and many more. My sasanqua types always bloom in November, but this season even has some japonica's blooming. In January, many of these same plants were in bloom.
'MINE-NO-YUKI' MAKES AN IMPRESSIVE TUBBED SPECIMEN FOR FALL GARDENS, WHERE IT CAN REMAIN OUTDOORS UNTIL TEMPERATURES FALL BELOW 26 DEGREES F. I MOVE MINE IN AND OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE, AS THE WEATHER SHIFTS. THIS AUTUMN HAS BEEN REMARKABLY MILD, SO THE SASANQUA'S ARE OUTSIDE AGAIN.

November 5, 2011

My Own Little Wisley

A SAND PLUNGE BED, SET AS A DISPLAY BED WITH SEASONAL AUTUMN BULBS AND ALPINES
When I built my greenhouse ten years ago, I was inspired by the raised sand beds at Wisley. What is Wisley you ask? Wisley is The Royal Horticultural Society garden and greenhouses in the United kingdom, famous for many horticultural delights, but mainly for their alpine house displays - special greenhouses designed with raised sand plunge beds, ( beds of sand, where clay pots are plunged to their rims so that they are kept at a perfect temperature and moisture wicking). These sand beds hold seasonal displays of alpine plants and bulb plants which are rotated through from other growing areas

Potted plants at Wisley are kept in alpine houses and cold frames, but when they are in peak bloom, they are pulled from the other houses, and placed in a sand plunge bed, in a display house. Look at a sample of their displays this week here. My house is no Wisley, but it does provide a sample of what they can grow ( and I have a staff of one).

A Massonia jasminiflora bulb, which I have had for three years, is almost ready to bloom (finally). This South African native is a rarer form of the Massonia genus, than the one most collectors, collect. I know, most of you have not heard of Massonia, but they are more familiar to those who grow South African bulbs and sometimes those who collect succulents. More on this species in a week or two, once it blooms.

I always admired the Wisley alpine house displays in photos ( I have yet to visit), and I am one of those crazy people who if I won megabucks, I would not go to Vegas or Hawaii, I would travel the world and collect more unusual plants and build a custom designed glass house to keep them in. When I built my current greenhouse, I found these metal sand plunge beds in England, so I ordered them and I use them regularly for my own little indulgent displays. ( I know, even more crazy, but hey, I admit that I am more than a little obsessive about such things ).

On weekends, I like to walk through my greenhouse, and pull the best looking plants to set in my display beds. It's a little sad, because no one sees them but me, but since I only get a few hours a week in my greenhouse, I try to enjoy every moment. Hey......I make up my own rules.

A pot of Crocus medius blooms in the sunshine. This autumn blooming crocus looks like it has a virus, which is not uncommon from stock grown in the Netherlands.

This is one of the rarest plants that I have, a bulb, also from South Africa. Strumaria unguiculata. When it is mature, it will have magnificent while umbels of flowers. I am growing it in pure sand, and have been cultivating it for 6 years.

Lydia enjoying some cabbage stems as I clean the garden after our snow storm last week. Looks like a pipe.

August 29, 2011

Bored with everyday Nasturtium? Hello Rare Tropaeolum species.


NOW THAT THE HURRICANE IS OVER, HOW APPROPRIATE THAT THIS TROPAEOLIUM NOW BLOOMS - A FLAMING PHOENIX RISING, WITH ITS BRILLIANT YET SMALL SOUTH AMERICAN NATIVE, TROPAEOLUM SMITHII, IS A RARELY GROWN SPECIES WITH A BRIGHT FLOWER.  IT IS 'GROWABLE' AS AN ANNUAL FOR THE SUMMER GARDEN OR IN CONTAINERS, IF YOU CAN FIND THE SEED. ( TRY CHILTERN SEEDS IN THE UK).

 Last February I wrote a post about plants that are on my 'wish list', various rare or rarely seen genus or species, a list that included some rare nasturtiums (Tropaeolum species), particularly Tropaeolum moritzianum. I never found a source for that particular species, but I did receive a gift from the botanical site specializing on the genus Tropaeolum that I referenced in that post,  site  so thanks to John McFarlane I have these species blooming today, after the Hurricane. Meet Tropaeolum smithii and T. argentinum, both rarely found in collections. He shared some cultural information that challenged me, since he stated that both of these species are difficult to germinate, which of course, only made me more up to the challenge.
TROPAEOLUM ARGENTINUM, A BIT MORE REFINED AND DARE I SAY, A LITTLE ORCHID-ISH? THIS AIN'T YOU"RE AVERAGE CANARY VINE
 We are all familiar with the more common Nasturtium majus, yes, those bright orange and yellow flowers found in edible flower packets and the annual with large seeds and tiny water-lily shaped leaves that are also edible and peppery flavored, often grown by children and new gardeners due to their high performance level. Easy, attractive and a long blooming season makes these annuals some of the best for filling annual borders, but these species forms are a bit more precious - they will do best if grown in containers and allowed to scramble over low shrubs, as they grow in the wild.
EARLIER THIS SUMMER, YOU CAN SEE HOW SIMILAR THE FOLIAGE ON THIS T. SMITHII LOOKS TO THE GEOPHYTIC SPECIES, THE ONES THAT GROW FROM TUBERS THAT YOU CAN SEE IN MANY OF MY WINTER POSTS. THESE APPEAR TO BE A BIT MORE STURDIER, BUT JUST AS CHALLENGING TO GERMINATE, THE TRICK, IF ANY, APPEARS TO BE HOW TO KEEP JUST ENOUGH MOISTURE AROUND THE SEED WITHOUT CAUSING ROT. 

T. SMITHII GREW ON A SMALL TRELLIS IN A CONTAINER THAT I SET NEAR THE GREENHOUSE DOOR, IN A LARGE BAY LAUREL TUB.  IT  OUT-GREW THIS POT, CHOOSING TO REACH OVER TO A NEARBY SHRUB WHERE IT COULD TUMBLE AND GROW OVER.

T.SMITHII SEEMS MORE NATURAL AND IN CHARACTER ONCE IT ESCAPES ITS POT. THE TINY 3/4 INCH BLOSSOMS ARE ATTRACTIVE AND BRIGHT, LIKE ELF CAPS, BUT COLORED AS IF THEY ARE ON FIRE, A TONE DIFFICULT TO CAPTURE ON A DIGITAL CAMERA.

THE TROPAEOLUM ARGENTINUM  SEEDLING WAS PLANTED, AS AN EXPERIMENT SINCE I FOUND VERY LITTLE CULTURAL INFORMATION FOR IT) IN AN ALPINE TROUGH, SINCE IT WAS FAST DRAINING. IN JUNE, THE SEEDLING HAD ONLY A THIN, WIREY STEM WITH A COUPLE OF SAD LEAVES. THE BLOSSOMS ALMOST BECOME LOST IN THE SLIGHTLY YELLOWING FOLIAGE. UP CLOSE? VERY PRETTY.

I DON"T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING PLANTING THIS IN A TROUGH, BUT IN LATE JULY, THIS SPECIES TOO, TOOK OFF, ALMOST CONSUMING THE ROUND TROUGH. IF I GET SEED, I WILL FIND A BETTER PLACE TO GROW THIS. FOR NOW, I ALLOWED IT TO TUMBLE OVER SOME TWIGS FROM A NEARBY CRAMBE CORDIFOLIA SEED STALK, WHICH I PROVIDED AS A TEMPORARY TRELLIS.

For information on other Tropaeolum species that I have grown over the past year, check out these posts from the winter, since this is the month when you can order and plant the tubers of these other South American species. I suggest Tropaeolum tricolor

Tropaeolum tricolor, a tuberous species that can be grown as a winter-flowering plant for a cold windowsill or cold greenhouse. It grows from a small, potato-like tuber - order them now from finer bulb sources.


Tropaeolum azureum is more challenging to grow, but I did have spectacular luck with the tuber three years ago - patience is required, as the tuber can be fussy, often sitting dormant for many years before deciding to grow. It's been sitting dormant again in the dry, hot protection of the greenhouse for two years now....maybe this winter?
TROPAEOLUM X TENUIROSTRE  is even more rare, a cross which is naturally occuring in Chile. Another tuberous Tropaeolum worth growing if you are thinking about collecting this enticing genus, which few seem to collect. Here is a story about this species blooming in my greenhouse this past spring. Another wirey vine, the branch is a piece of a Japanese Maple that I cut and used as a support branch.

June 7, 2011

Siberian Iris extravaganza

NEW SIBERIAN IRIS CULTIVARS SUCH AS THIS ONE NAMED 'HERE BE DRAGONS'  HAVE EXTRAORDINARY COLORS LIKE THESE MUSTARD GOLD AND GREY TONES.

Of all the Iris that I grow, my favorites are still the June flowering Siberian Iris. Siberian Iris are easier to grow than most any other iris, only requiring dividing every few years, which will provide you with enough plants to share, and they are simple to grow compared to the giant German Bearded Iris, or smaller species. Siberians can be divided in early spring with nothing more than a garden spade, they never require staking, they are sturdy in the rain, and they are rather disease free. Best of all, they only get better every year. The greatest problem I know is that they are hard to find, I think because either buyers associate them with old fashioned granny plants ( since they are classic hand-me-downs) so customers associate them with the ugly blueish purple skinny petaled forms that many of us grew up with ( remember the crispy split seed pods in the fall and the tall foliage that looks like cattails?).

New varieties are greater than ever, but only a few sources carry them today. I highly recommend Joe Pye Weed Garden for mail order, that's where I bought mine.
'ECHO THE WIND' A TALL BI COLORED BLUE

'MR. PEACOCK' HAS NAVY BLUE FLOWERS WITH AN AMAZING DARK TINT AND LACY VEINING


If you think that this looks like a wild Iris versicolor, it is, but a special one which was selected after being collected in a roadside ditch in Maine. It is about three times the size of the typical species.




Iris pseudacorus is a lovely wild species here in North America, often found growing along ponds and streams, it can grow very tall, and I love it for is tall 6 foot foliage. This one above is a selection that has larger blossoms. I grow it in the border, where it doesn't grow as tall as ones planted in water do.