}

August 21, 2011

Five Rare Bulbs for Winter Bloom for Windows, Plant lights, or for the Greenhouse Bench.

Petronymphe decora

These are some of the rarest plants on earth, for you will never find these at nurseries, or in bulb catalogs, in fact, just about the only way you can can obtain one of these rarities is though a membership in a bulb society where members exchange seed and bulbs, or from a handful of mail-order sources from specialist growers. What is it about us plant collectors? It seems that the rarer it is, the more we want it ( as long as the plants are responsibly propagated, not collected in the wild).

I like to think of it in a different way - the idea of 'rare' in todays mass-market world, instantly raises the desire level on anything, for  with mass production and mega brands, there is little left beyond nature, where you can find 'rare'. And it is there, in nature, where they obtain such rarities often gets even the most decent plant hunter in trouble, since  like many collectors, the hunt can push one to extremes, even as far as using unsavory methods in order to obtain an illegal plant.

Thankfully, government rules are changing, and it seems that finally some sensible and informed agents are being hired to review import laws for seed, plants and other plant material. Some of you may call it bif government, but this is essential if we are ever going to control illegal plant collecting, and to promote legal collections of endangered species.

On todays post I am going to share with you some of the bulbs that are on my wish list, but ones that I am not growing yet. There are many reasons: they may be too expensive, or they might be to difficult to find, or, the most common excuse - they are sold out.
The first bulb is Petronymphe decora. You may notice that many of these bulbs do not have common names, (except in their native countries, where the common name may be a tribal name, or in Afrikans, etc.). Petronymphe  is unique in the plant world, it is one of those rare genus where there is only one species know ( remember botanical Latin 101 = The first name is the Genus, and the second name is the species). Petronymphe ( genus) decora ( species) is the only known species within the genus Petronymphe ( there's one for the office tomorrow).

This rare Mexican native dark stems that can reach 20 inch tall, topped off with these amazing loose dangling green and yellow flowers which are produced in umbels ( think umbrellas). Yes, you can have one of these, just order them from Telos Rare Bulbs, my go-to source for Southern Hemisphere tender bulbs. Grow it in a deep container, preferably in the protection of a cold greenhouse  that is frost free. Available from Telos Rare Bulbs for $25.00 ea. while supplies last. Hey, they are not easy, nor for the beginner, nor hardy in the north, so truly, know what you are getting into first, very little cultural advice is available, which only makes them more desirable.

Bessera elegans purple form


We plant collectors are familiar with the red form of Bessera, (Hell, sometimes you can find them in the spring at Home Depot!) but this purple form makes all the difference. It is much more beautiful. It also is available from Telos Rare Bulbs (sorry - it's sold out for now!). It also comes from Mexico.


Rauhia multiflora

New to me, and on my wish list, this Peruvian rare bulb is rarely seen in cultivation, with green tubular flowers produced in late winter with short, elliptical leaves. Another one of those rare bulb plants that demands fast drainage, and a dry dormancy. Telos Rare Bulbs, arround $20.00. Sold out, but they do have R. staminosa, which is similar. But don't order one until I do!


Phaedranassa glauciflora

Also available from Telos is this fine specimen, Phaedranassa glaciflora, a South African native from Ecuador - (thanks MIke Huben for the correction!) - rarely seen in cultivation. I have yet to try this genus, but it too is on my ever growing wish list.


Eucrosia bicolor

Eucrosia and Eustephia species

Another small genus native mostly to Peru and Ecuador, Eucrosia are highly collectable and extremely rare ( I can only find one source on-line for these bulbs, and that is in the entire world). Eucrosia and its close relative Eustephia are reportedly not hard to grow but I think that I have steered by them due to the fact that they require warmer winter temperatures than I can provide in my greenhouse. They do prefer cool winters, so I may be in luck. All are available from Telos Rare Bulbs, ranging from $14.00 to $65.00

August 19, 2011

My Greenhouse Melon Experiment


French Heirloom Melons in the greenhouse! - It's an idea I found in an 1802 gardening book about how early New Englanders raised table grapes, melons and 'Pine Apples' under glass. With a 33' glasshouse that sits dormant all summer, I thought "Why not use this wasted summer space?"
So far, it is working well, with daily watering and weekly fertilizing, and six varieties of heirloom melons, it seemed my biggest problem was going to be pollination - since the only way a bee can enter the greenhouse is through the roof vents, but, they have found their way in so melons are on their way!
It's a war, between the melons, and cacti. I think I know who will win, but the melons are being pruned significantly to reduce runners and side shoots. If I was good quality melons, I will need to reduce the number of fruit per plant, and the number of stems.
A fuzzy baby melon starts to form.

Chanterais melons tumble over a raised bed in the greenhouse bulb bench which is sand filled. The melons are all planted in felt planter bags and they are being trained up and over a mesh trellis, which now runs along the roof near the glass.
A water-bottle gourd blossom, still open after an obviously busy night!
A bottle gourd forming in the garden. I planted one in the greenhouse too.


These melons are doubling in size every week, now that the dog days of summer are here. Hot, steamy August nights, and bright, sunny days.


August 15, 2011

Organic Harvest - High Summer

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, ALL IN A DAYS HARVEST IN AUGUST
 It's high summer, and although I cannot grow as many vegetables as I wish I could given work and time, the four raised beds still are delivering alot of produce. I have tried to use a French Intensive method for growing many of the veggies this year, which means, closely planted plants, and I used many trellises and growing towers, especially for pole beans. The crops are just starting to come in, and yes, the summer squash that I shared in a previous post, are still coming in. I am only trying to grow vegetables that I cannot buy at farm stands locally, or, growing varieties that are impossible to find.
IF YOU REMEMBER, I PLANTED THESE HEIRLOOM ITALIAN POLE BEANS IN JUNE, A VARIETY CALLED CORNET MERAVIGLIA DI VENEZIA, AND NOW, THE HARVEST IS HEAVY, WITH A PLATE PICKED FULL EACH DAY.
REMEMBER THAT BELGIAN ENDIVE CROP THAT I PLANTED IN MARCH? IT IS LOOKING SO GREAT. THIS IS A PLANT THAT WILL NEED TO GROW UN-STRESSED AND RATHER DRY  ALL SUMMER LONG, UNTIL I HARVEST THE ROOTS IN NOVEMBER TO POT UP FOR FORCING THROUGH OUT THE WINTER. ODDLY, THIS PLANT FORMS LARGER ROOTS IF WATER IS RESTRICTED, SO I TRY NOT TO WATER IT TOO MUCH. TECHNICALLY, IT IS A CHICORY, SO THINK - 'SIDEWALK WEED', AS YOU WATER.
It was a cold day when I planted the seed for these root vegetables in March, and the Belgian Endive crop is looking good. I only planted a single row, so this is more of an experiment than something that I can live off of, but mastering this crop has always been on my bucket list ( yes, I am a very boring person!), at least, I've wanted to try growing it since being a teenager. This is a crop that I will not be harvesting, or, more properly, digging up, until November, when I will plant the roots in clean soil in a large tub, which will go into the cellar covered up in black plastic to keep all light out. This will cause the roots to sprout, and then, the inevitable harvest of the pale yellow cornichons. A long season for a winter treat. That is, if it all works!
PICKLING CUKES ARE MY FAVORITE CUCUMBER AND, A FOND MEMORY OF MY CHILDHOOD WHEN WE WOULD PICK BUSHEL BASKETS FULL IN THE GARDEN SO THATS MY PARENTS COULD PICKLE THEM.  THIS VARIETY, CALLED 'ALIBI' IS A DISEASE RESISTANT FORM.

THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR THAT I HAVE GROWN PICKLING CUCUMBERS ON TRELLISES. THEY ARE WORKING VERY WELL, MAKING PICKING FRUIT EAST SINCE THE HANG THROUGH THE REAR OF THE LEAN-TO STRUCTURE. OUR HONEY BEES ENSURE LOTS OF POLLINATION.

A PICKLING CUKE  VARIETY CALLED 'LITTLE LEAF'

SWEET SUMMER CABBAGE IS MY FIRST CHOICE FOR SLAW AND RAW EATING. THIS VARIETY, 'CARAFLEX' A CONE SHAPED HEAD, IS BY FAR MY FAVORITE FOR SMALL GARDENS.