May flowers

I love bright red flowers.  Hummingbirds also love red flowers, and I love having hummingbirds in the garden.  Therefore, I plant a lot of red flowers.  Here are a few that are blooming now:

Spigelia marilandica (Woodland Pinkroot)

Spigelia marilandica flowers
Spigelia marilandica

Spigelia marilandica is one of the most beautiful North American wildflowers, and I am trying to spread it around the garden wherever I have the morning sun/afternoon shade that it likes.  Seed is difficult to collect, because the seed capsules explode when ripe, propelling the seed some distance from the mother plant.  I carefully dig up the resulting volunteer seedlings and move them to new spots.  The flowers have the classic “red tube” appearance of hummingbird pollinated plants, and the flaring petals can be yellow or green.  S. marilandica is native to the southeastern U.S., including extreme southwestern North Carolina (Cherokee and Macon County) [1].

Silene virginica ‘Jackson Valentine’ (Fire Pink)

IMG_7917
Silene virginica

Silene virginica is native to the NC piedmont, although this particular clone comes from Alabama.  S. virginica is usually short lived and needs to be frequently propagated from seed, but the nursery that sells ‘Jackson Valentine’ claims it will survive for several years.  This is year two, so we shall see.

Hippeastrum ‘Red Rascal’

IMG_7940
Hippeastrum ‘Red Rascal,’ blowing out the sensor on my iPhone camera

Many people know Hippeastrum, because they are the “Amaryllis” bulbs sold around Christmas time, but in Zone 7 and southwards, they’re worth trying in the garden.  Hippeastrum x Johnsonii and the ‘Mead Strain’ of H. vittatum hybrids are the best known hardy varieties of Hippeastrum, and I have planted both.  However, this spring the best show was put on by this little Sonatini hybrid that I planted last year.  Supposedly, ‘Red Rascal’ has been bred for cold tolerance, so it will be interesting to see how it does long term.  I won’t be surprised it it thrives.  A surprising number of South American bulbs do well in North Carolina, as long as the bulbs are planted six or eight inches deep and well mulched.

Sprekelia formosissima (Jacobean Lily)

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Sprekelia formosissima

A native of Mexico, Sprekelia formosissima is a close relative of Hippeastrum. It  is supposedly hardy in eastern North Carolina, but I haven’t had the courage to risk my plants yet.  Instead, I grow a clump of bulbs in a 10″ diameter pot and over-winter them in the greenhouse with my other tropical amaryllids.

Stenomesson miniatum

Stenomesson miniatum flower
Stenomesson miniatum, another South American amaryllid

Stenomesson miniatum is from Peru, so I don’t think there’s any chance it would survive a winter out in the garden.  Like Sprekelia formosissima, it stays dry and warm in the greenhouse during the winter and goes outside when the danger of frost is past.  The little flowers are orange, but I like orange flowers just as well as red.  The bell shape is a clear indicator of hummingbird pollination.

Reference

[1] Weakley, A.S. (2015) Flora of the Southern and Mid Atlantic States.  University of North Carolina Herbarium, Chapel Hill, NC.  http://www.herbarium.unc.edu/flora.htm

 

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