Lady Hooker and Mr. Stone

Paphiopedilum hookerae

Currently blooming in my greenhouse: two slipper orchids from Borneo whose specific epithets are closely tied to the world of Victorian botany and horticulture.

P. hookerae foliage

Paphiopedilum hookerae is noted for the striking beauty of its tessellated foliage and extremely long inflorescence bearing a single glossy flower in rich purple and cool green. Scientific names that end in “ae” often commemorate women, and in this case the woman was Maria Hooker (née Turner).  As far as I can tell, Lady Hooker was not noted for direct botanical contributions, but she was the daughter, wife, and mother of botanists.  Her husband, Sir William Jackson Hooker was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1841 until his death in 1865, two years after P. hookerae was described.  Her son, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, was a close friend of Charles Darwin.  He served on HMS Erebus during the Ross expedition to Antarctica, collected plants in the Himalayas and western United States, and succeeded his father as Director of RBG Kew in 1865.

Paphiopedilum stonei.  Sadly, by the time the third bud finished opening, these flowers had been disfigured by an infestation of aphids

Paphiopedilum stonei is a much larger species than P. hookerae.  It has unmarked leaves that can be up to 2 feet long, and an inflorescence bearing 3-5 large flowers with strap-like petals.  P. stonei is notoriously slow-growing and it is one of the Paphiopedilum species that never seem to show their best in photographs.  In life, the flowers are impressive and elegant, while in pictures they often appear awkward and a little grotesque.

P. stonei was described by William Jackson Hooker, and he named it in honor of a gardener–but not just any gardener.  Robert Stone was the gardener who maintained the collection of John Day, an orchid enthusiast most famous for his thousands of paintings illustrating orchid species.  John Day owned the first plants of P. stonei imported into England, and those plants, cared for by Robert Stone, served as the basis for the species description published by Hooker in 1862.

In addition to its own considerable horticultural merits, P. stonei is noteworthy as a parent of the beautiful hybrid Paphiopedilum Lady Isobel, whose name and history I have previously discussed.

Six on Saturday #58 (July 4, 2020)

Happy Independence Day to all readers from the U.S.A.  As befits the Fourth of July, today is forecast to be hot and humid, with the highest temperatures so far this year.  It seems we have finally left the prolonged period of cool, wet weather and have entered a more typical summer weather pattern with highs in the low to mid 90s (32-35 C) and occasional thunderstorms

1. Sinningia araneosa


Several of the Brazilian sinningias have proven winter hardy in my garden, but with only a single plant, I haven’t been willing to test this little beauty.  I currently grow it in a plastic pot, exposed to full sun outdoors in summer and with a dry winter dormancy in the greenhouse.

2. Sinningia ‘Towering Inferno’


And here is one of the hardy varieties that grow well in the open garden.  Sinningia ‘Towering Inferno’ is a complex hybrid that probably incorporates genes from S. aggregata, S. sulcata, S. tubiflora, and S. warmingii.  Hummingbirds love the flowers, for obvious reasons.

3.  Hemerocallis citrina


Hemerocallis citrina (syn. H. altissima) is a very tall daylily species, perhaps the tallest, with inflorescences about 6 feet (1.8 m) long.  The flowers open before sunset, are strongly fragrant all evening, and collapse before dawn.  Perhaps it should be called a nightlily?

4.  Hemerocallis ‘Free Wheelin’


H. ‘Free Wheelin’ is an interesting spider daylily hybrid with enormous flowers, 9-10 inches (~24 cm) wide even with the curled tepals.  I have never seen anything like it before.  My young plant had only one inflorescence this year, so only a single flower at a time.  Hopefully it will be bigger next year.

5.  Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’


‘Lucifer’ is an absolutely gorgeous plant when in bloom, but think hard about where you want to grow it.  The corms multiply rapidly underground and are almost impossible to remove completely, so once planted in a flower bed, it will be there forever.

6. Kniphofia ‘Lola’ (red hot poker)


Kniphofia flowers are more than a little bit garish, but this large form looks pretty good in a “hot colors” bed mixed with other bright red and orange flowers.  In their native South Africa, the large Kniphofia species are pollinated by sunbirds, so it isn’t surprising that in North Carolina they attract hummingbirds.  Some websites indicate that ‘Lola’ is a cultivar of K. uvaria.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

More frogs

Despite there being no standing water on our property, apart from a couple of trays holding bog plants, a surprising variety of amphibians call the garden home.  Here are a couple of recent sightings that add to my list of resident amphibians.

Pickerel frog–Lithobates (Rana) palustris

Pickerel frogs are found throughout North Carolina, with the exception of the Outer Banks and some tidal regions of the coastal plain. This one was out late one evening on our concrete driveway, usually the hunting territory of more terrestrial-adapted toads.  The night was dry, so I was surprised to see any amphibian, let alone a frog.

Green frog–Lithobates (Rana) clamitans rescued from a posthole.

I have been digging postholes for a new fence, and an inch or two of rainwater accumulated in the two-foot deep holes.  I’m glad I decided to fish around in the muddy water before dropping posts and concrete in the holes.  The extensive webbing on the feet of this species indicates that its preferred habitat is aquatic, so I’m not sure what inspired this one to leave the creek and cross an acre or two of dry oak-pine woodland to find a muddy little hole.

Scaphiophus 1
Eastern spadefoot (Scaphiophus holbrookii)

In another of the postholes, I found an eastern spadefoot, a terrestrial species that I have shown before but which is uncommon enough and interesting enough to warrant showing again.

Scaphiophus 2
Scaphiophus holbrookii wearing a jaunty hat of mud