April 15, 2011

Appreciated Selections

{Left to right} Muscari azureum, Bellevalia pycnantha, Muscari latifolium and Muscari 'Valerie Finnis'

Selections of Muscari showing differences in major cultivars that are available beyond the common blue form. Just some fun tonight, picking random bunches of various types of bulbs from around the garden before the sun sets. I think more than one 'type' of any genus makes gardening more interesting, since one can study the differences between similar species and hybrids.

Bulbous Corydalis solida ( which, if you are not growing yet, you must - for C. solida, which is still relatively unknown by most gardeners, is a great performer in the early spring garden, becoming more beautiful every year as the spread and self seed. Here, are six named crosses from Janis Ruksans in Latvia ( Google him and get his catalog - no web site).

Mini Narcissus, the N. cyclamineus in the front is 'Snipe', a little costly, but my 5 bulbs have spread into 5 dozen. One even bloomed with a green flares this year....not sure if it was the cold, or a seedling.

Chinodoxa cultivars, the pink form in the middle is starting to fade, but it is much taller than the blue strains, most of which are now self seeding everywhere. If your small bulbs are not self seeding, here is the trick - use NO mulch, hand weed, and allow the flowers to fade naturally and form seed pods.

April 14, 2011

Wild Narcissus triandrus or Angel's Tears

Narcissus triandrus ssp. triandrus 'alba' , a challenging wild form of Narcissus, as shown in a book by Alex Gray, MINIATURE DAFFODILS. I've tried, and had some success with this beautiful species. It's worth seeking out.

 I went through a miniature narcissus phase a few years back, after reading the book MINIATURE DAFFODILS (1955) by Alec Grey and the book THE NARCISSUS by E.A. Bowles ( 1934). There are many species and named forms of miniature narcissus, but like many plant, or specifically bulb enthusiasts, or, even to be more precise- many narcissus collectors- the most coveted bulbs are those which are most difficult to grow. A challenge, always amps up the desire. And so it is with the true species form of a daffodil we rarely see in northern gardens, Narcissus triandrus ssp. triandrus.

As a recap, daffodils are organized into 13 groups that are called divisions. When you buy daffodils or narcissus ( the same thing) from catalogs that follow such rules, you will see them organised as such, which is the proper thing to do. A daffodil society show, will also show their flowers separated into these Divisions. They are frequently listed, as  DIV. I, DIV.III, etc. Narcissus triandrus are DIV. V, TRIANDRUS, and these include some common named hybrids like "Thalia".  a large, orchid shaped white daffodil. But, this pot below, would be most properly placed in DIV 10 SPECIES and their varients, which simply ( or not so simply!) means that this is one of the wild forms of the genus Narcissus, and in this case, Narcissus triandrus, the pure species.

Best of all, which is difficult for me to remain humble about, is that for whatever reason, I've had luck growing this species, and these seed raised forms below are proof that success can be had, even with little care. Most of these collector books list this pure species as "difficult", and "growable- for a few years, then it will decline". Thankfully, mine have set seed, which I have sown back into the same pot. Now these are blooming, and I am quite pleased.

Narcissus triandrus blooming in a small pot, wintered over in a cold glass house.

Much smaller than the hybrid 'triandrus' types sold in Dutch catalogs, these small species are not only difficult to grow, they are hard to find in any catalog. I get mine from NARGS seed exchange lists, or from a handful of on-line sources such as Nancy Wilson's site for miniature narcissus, or from Paul Christian's site. Why the double pot? Not necessary, but it keeps the bulbs more protected from frost, since I keep this pot near the icy glass in the winter, and since this insists of fast drainage, the outer ring is gravel, and the inner pot a fast-draining mix. Any more soil, and it will hold more water, which raises the risk of bulb rot. Native to the high mountains of Spain, Portugal and south western France, this species is still worth growing if you can provide perfect drainage and a hot, dry summer.

Other miniature narcissus are slightly less fussy, and can be grown outdoors, as seen here in my raised alpine bed. "Wee Be" on the left, looks like a large narcissus, but this plant is only 4 inches tall, and the flowers are the same size as a nickle. N. cyclamineus in the back.

April 13, 2011

Repotting a giant Calla Lily

A large 14 inch giant clay pot had to be sacrificed, in order to repot a Calla Lily variety, which happens to be a tall growing strain from the Strybing Arboretum, in San Fransisco. Calla's are not hardy here in New England, so one must either winter the pots over in a cool cellar, a cold greenhouse ( as we did) or dig them up and allow them to become dormant, something this bulb plant doesn't like. Most Calla's available today are dwarf or small in stature, but this strain can grow 6 feet tall, if not taller, so I knew that I had to plant my plant in a large pot. Clearly, it was not large enough. So what can I do?
The inflorescence on this strain is very large, with some spathes measuring 11 inches across. It typically blooms in May for me, but this aggressive re potting event, may have damaged the inflorescences which are surely just beginning to form. The plant will still bloom this year, but most likely just a bit later. Once the giant rootball is repotted into a larger pot, it should fill that pot too. I thought about planting it in the ground of the greenhouse, but looking at the root system, I could only imagine how it might take off ( take over!), and digging out the plant in a few years would not be something that I would look forward to!

First, I had to destroy to pot, since the root mass was so dense with two years of growth, that it actually adhered to the sides of the pottery, so out came the sledge hammer, and Joe enjoyed smashing the pot. Now that it has been extracted, I need to decide whether I am going to slice and dice the mother plant up, or keep it intact, and pot it into a much larger container? One thing is for certain, this new container will be plastic, for this plant was the heaviest container in the greenhouse, due the the weight of the root ball, they hold a lot of water!