April 30, 2008

Instant Alpines, and Corydalisness

Arenaria montana
OK....sure, this could be a Farrer Medal winning plant from any well-known potted alpine plant exhibit in the UK, but it's not.....it's from Lowes Home Centers. Which proves, that sometimes, one can cheat a bit....especially when the plant only costs $3.99. It's true, this plant, and the one below w're all part of a lot, purchased at a big-box garden retailer, but I', not that upset...they we're reasonable, are growing well, and I have to give credit to the buyer at Lowes, since it is a little refreshing to see such plants for sale. Of course, they probably had no idea what they we're buying, since the plants most likely came in a mass shipment, and certainly, at my local Lowes, the most they could tell me was that these wer'e like petunia, but come on.....they we're also selling frost nipped geraniums and marigolds, in early April!

But these look great plopped in any ol container, especially if gravel chips are spread around them......voila! (viola!) An instant alpine garden!

Another Lowes find...just to add some color to a tired trough for the spring.

Corydalis solida - mixed seedlings
Last fall I purchased some inexpensive Corydalis solida bulbs, packaged only by the seller ( Odyssey Bulbs) as Red seedlings, and Blue seedlings. Supposedly, these we're all excellent outcasts from a breeder of Corydalis, of plants that bloomed either red or blue, but we're inferior to the more expensive cultivars so hot right now with plant collectors, such as the good-old C. solida George Baker (below) or any of the fine forms available from Janis Ruksans catalog in Latvia ( many of which I have, also). As you can see, these are quite nice....and I can barely tell the difference from the better forms, except for a few. Next year they should look better.

Corydalis solida 'George Baker'


This, from a more informed reader proves that brief, on-line research can bite you in the butt! SInce I cannot do strike through's on a Mac....
Please read the comments below..... Thanks! Matt ( 5-1-08)

April 27, 2008

Some Rare-ish Pelargoniums

Pelargonium bowkeri

Of the 230+ species of Pelargoinum, 185 are concentrated in the winter rainfal area of the south esters tip of South Africa. Pelargonium, or, what many of us know and love or loath, as "geraniums' are mostly native to South Africa, with ony a handful of species found elsewhere in the world, ( 8 in Australia, 2 on Madagascar, 2 in the near East, for instance). This odd but lovely tiny species is a native of Transkei (East South Africa) and was names by H. Bowker and documented in Curtis' Botanical Magazine in 1864, where it can be found illustrated in color.

This 'Pachycaul' type of Pelargonium ( stores water in a thickened stem), is relatively easy to grow, but perhaps impossible to find sold. I started this from seed, collected in South Africa by the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, who has sent me some seeds upon request. But here is what is different about this wild species form of Pelargonium - P. bowkeri is not a winter rainfall species, but a summer rainfall species. And, it hails not from the south western part of the cape, where most of the Pelargonium clan call home, but it instead is native to the summer rainfall areas of the northeastern Cape.

The root system is complex, composed of tuber-like swollen roots,which some growers may wish to raise out of the soil, to show off ( something that caudex growers really get into). I may try this when this four-year old seedling goes dormant again, to propagate it later this summer, but for now, we are enjoying it's rather pretty, fringed petals ( only two other species of Pelargonium have fringed petals), this was a bit of a surprise for me, since I simply purchased the seed in a lot, and never researched what it actually looked like! Surprises, can be nice! Pelargonium bowkeri makes a great addition to any collection of caudex plants ( caudiciforms) or those who collect species Pelargoniums. ( I'm sure there are plenty of both of you, right?). Ugh...I'm so wierd!

Pelargonium mollicomum

Apparently, P. mollicomum is the wild, species form of a plant which many of you know and love as the scented geranium. However, this wild form, has hardly any scent, for some reason. The scented forms known as pineapple-scented, are also sometimes listed as P. mollicomum, but the grey-green lacy foliage of this species looks nothing like a typical 'sceneted geranium', That said, you may notice that many scented geraniums have similar blossoms. I happed to like these less-thab-showy forms, and this species is a fine example of how subtle yet interesting this genus can be.