November 5, 2011

My Own Little Wisley

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.

November 2, 2011

Vallota Angina

Be still my beating heart - a rare Cyrtanthus elatus cross ( AKA Vallota Lily) , a bulb from a private breeders collection which I acquired from a rare bulb auction sponsored by the International Bulb Society ( IBS) at the Huntington Botanical Garden way back in 2000 has bloomed for me every year except the past two. It had not bloomed for the past two years, since I had divided the pot which had become crowded with bulbs and offsets. This autumn, all of my three pots are blooming. I don't understand why this is the only Cyrtanthus in my collection which I can bring into bloom, but it is a consistent and repeat bloomer for me, if only I could get one of my other species to perform as well.

If you are not familiar with the genus Cyrtanthus ( and let's face it, unless you are a plant or bulb collector, you probably have not heard of them), they are a bulb plant, a close relative of the Amaryllis and a native to the cape area of southern Africa where there are more than 60 species. Cytanthus generally bloom only after a fire has burned their habitat, hence their common name of Fire Lily, and since many have red flowers, the name seems pretty appropriate. The genus has been grown horticulturally for nearly 200 years, but today it is rarely found in most collections.

In the 1960's, Cyrtanthis elatus was a common offering in many plant and seed catalogs, commonly sold as Vallota Lily, a name no longer used by botanists, the bulb could be had for a few dollars from even the most discount of catalogs.

November 1, 2011

Daily Awesome - Narcissus viridiflorus

An enormous burst of flowers this year from this rare narcissus may be attributed to some fertilizer that I am testing, a slow-release brand from John and Bob's. More about them later, but I think I have good things to report, at least with their products that I have used on bulbs.   All autumn blooming narcissus are choice, but perhaps none if more precious than the startling green flowered Narcissus viridiflorus. I show this one a lot on this blog, but in all of the years that I have photographed these few bulbs that I have, never have I had as many flowers as I had this year. Now I have nice stems emerging from this single pot. Native to mediterranean sites from Southern Spain to Morocco and Turkey. This is one of those summer-dry/winter wet species, only growable under cold glass or in protected areas in southern California.