Giant corpse flower

A_titanum
Amorphophallus titanum ‘Peter Grande’

This week, a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum) bloomed at Plant Delights nursery in Raleigh.  Conveniently, blooming coincided with the nursery’s summer open-house.

Just a few years ago, the blooming of a corpse flower at a botanical garden would have been recorded by CNN or the national newspapers. Artificial propagation has made the species reasonably widespread in cultivation, but blooming is still an exciting horticultural event.  I had never before been privileged to see an A. titanum inflorescence.  It was impressively large, and although the stench was not as strong and pervasive as I expected, it definitely smelled like old road-kill.  The smaller Amorphophallus konjac in my garden have a hint of sewer in their fragrance, but this was pure carrion.

After paying our respects to ‘Peter Grande,” we did a little shopping.  The rain was coming down in sheets, so we cut short our browsing and came away with only a Penstemon murrayanus and a Hemerocallis altissima.  The baby A. titanum seedlings were tempting, but I managed to resist.  Maybe next time.

A_titanum2
A. titanum seedlings for sale at Plant Delights

For more details on ‘Peter Grande’, see Plant Delights’ Titan Page.

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Houston: Mercer Botanical Gardens (Six on Saturday #32)

Mercer Botanical Gardens are located north of downtown Houston, very close to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  I had visited the gardens once before, about seventeen years ago, but remembered very little, so during our recent trip to Houston, I took the opportunity to renew my acquaintance.

I had forgotten about Hurricane Harvey.  During the flooding last year, the gardens were submerged under eight feet of muddy, polluted water.  Clearly the floods did a lot of damage, and just as clearly the gardens employees and volunteers have been working very hard to repair the damage. This article from the Houston Chronicle describes the devastation, and a google image search will show you what the gardens once were.  These six pictures will give you a little taste of what the gardens are now, and a hint of what they will be again.

1.  Dead palm tree

dead_palm

Some of the garden grounds were still closed off, and in the open areas damaged plants were still visible.  After the flooding, last winter included an unusually prolonged cold spell in the Houston area, which probably did not help the tender palms.  Virtually all of those that were still alive had damaged fronds, but that damage is temporary.  I’m not sure if this palm tree was left in the ground because the staff had been overwhelmed, or if they were waiting to see if it might resprout.

2.  Zephyranthes (rain lilies)

zephyranthes1

Many of the plants that seemed to be in the best conditions were tropical bulbs and rhizomes, particularly those that tolerate wet soil (crinum, gingers, etc).  Presumably, these plants resisted being washed away by the flood, and any top damage was easily replaced.  I saw an enormous clump of Hymenocallis caribaea, unfortunately not blooming, that was in prime condition, but the best flowers were on these unlabeled Zephyranthes.  They were blooming all by themselves in a rock garden area that appeared to have been recently renovated but not yet replanted.

3-5. Tropical shrubs and trees

Erythrina_crista-galli
Erythrina crista-galli, one of the parents of Erythrina x. bidwillii

Although many of the beds are thus far, still fairly barren, splashes of color from vigrous perennials and fast growing tropical trees and shrubs hint at how spectacular the gardens will be again in a few years.

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Huge, hot-pink flowers of Lagerstroemia speciosa
Stachytarpheta
Stachytarpheta mutabilis (coral porterweed)

6.  Anolis sagrei (brown anole)

Anolis_sagrei

The gardens were swarming with little brown anoles.  A. sagrei is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, and it is an invasive species in the southeastern U.S.  where it often replaces the native Anolis carolinensis (green anole).  My parents’ garden south of Houston still has green anoles, but I didn’t see a single native lizard at Mercer.

So, that’s Six on Saturday and a very brief look at Mercer as it is now.  For more Six on Saturday, head over to the blog of The Propagator, who started this weekly exercise and collects links from other participants.

Six on Saturday #31, June 16, 2018

This week has been a mixed bag in the garden–some things were good, some not so good.  Let’s start with the not-so-good.

1. Fallen sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum)

fallen_sourwood

A storm on Tuesday brought down a fairly large sourwood tree.  It skimmed a bluebird feeder but landed across our row of thornless blackberries.  The blackberries were supported by two strands of wire strung between to 4×4″ posts.  The wire held.  One of the posts snapped.  This afternoon, I’ll haul out the chain saw and cut up the trunk for firewood, but it’s going to be a pain in the neck digging out the snapped post to replace it.

Update:  the tree fell, because the center of its trunk was rotten and inhabited by an enormous nest of enormous carpenter ants who were not thrilled to have a chainsaw bisecting their home.  Run away!  Run Away!

2.  Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) on pink banana (Musa velutina)

Japanese_beetles

The Japanese beetles have started their annual rampage through the soft-leaved plants in the garden.  Spraying with insecticides is contraindicated when the beetles are eating flowers that attract other insects or are on plants that we want to eat, so we wander around the garden knocking them off into a bucket of soapy water.  I’m not sure if it does much to control their population, but it satisfies the need for revenge.

3.  Tigridia pavonia

Tigridia_pavonia-red

Finally, I have a Tigridia pavonia that blooms red.  Tigridia corms are readily available in the spring, but only in packs of mixed colors.  For the last couple of years, my plants have all bloomed in shades of yellow, but this year, I got a batch that contained at least one red-flowering plant.  I had expected to treat Tigridias as annuals, but it turns out that they are fully hardy in my garden, despite cold, wet winter and heavy clay soil.

4. Fasciated Lilium formosanum

Lilium_formosanum-crest

Fasciation, or cresting, is a rare developmental abnormality resulting from overgrowth of meristem tissue.  In this Lilium formosanum, the normally cylindrical stem has turned into a flattened plate with many more (though smaller) leaves than usual.

Lilium_formosanum-crest2

Most sources say that fasciation in lilies is usually a one-time event, with the bulb producing normal growth the next year.  This bulb was also fasciated last year, although the effect was less extreme.  It will be interesting to see if this is a permanent, stable condition.

Also, note the stems of the ubiquitous, weedy creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula).

5. Lilium ‘African Queen’

Lilium_African-Queen1

First bloom for a bulb that I planted last autumn.  Flowers are nice, but the stem is floppy.  Hopefully the plant is still getting established and will improve in future years.

6.  African baobab (Adansonia digitata) seedlings

Baobab_seedlings

I ran across some baobab seeds that I had forgotten about on a high shelf for the past fifteen years.  I guess they’re still viable.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with tropical trees that have the potential to grow to the diameter of a small house and live for thousands of years, but the internet suggests they are reasonable candidates for tropical bonsai.

That’s all for this Saturday.  For more Six on Saturday contributions from garden bloggers around the world, head on over to the Propagator.

Crinum macowanii

With a range extending from South Africa northwards to Eritrea [1], Crinum macowanii is one of the most widespread Crinum species in Africa.  The plants in my collection were bred from specimens originating in Zambia.

Crinum_macowanii3

The slightly glaucous leaves of this Zambian form have attractive undulate margins, and although the inflorescence is relatively short, it emerges from the side of the bulb and is not obscured by the foliage.  The flowers are short-lived, like those of most crinums, but powerfully fragrant.  My large bulb produces several inflorescences in succession, usually in June.

Crinum_macowanii1

I planted the bulb about eight inches deep and cover it with several inches of mulch after the foliage freezes off.  That seems to be all the winter protection it needs, even though it is planted in soil that remains quite wet in winter.  The bulb does not seem to offset, but flowers are self-fertile.  Seedlings have grown well, retaining some green leaves through much of the winter in the greenhouse.  My largest seedlings are currently about two years old, and I’d guess they’re about two more years from blooming.

In areas too cold for growing it in the ground, this is probably a reasonable candidate for cultivation in a large pot or tub.  When I purchased my first bulb, it bloomed in an 8-inch diameter pot and survived the winter completely dry, stored in the crawl space.  However,  the leaves have been much larger and inflorescences more numerous since I planted it out in a flower bed.

Crinum_macowanii2

Reference

1. Duncan, G., Jeppe, B., and Voight, L. (2016)  The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa, Umdaus Press, Pretoria, South Africa.

Six on Saturday #30, June 9, 2018

This will be a quick Six on Saturday, as I’m running late.  Weather is typical for June:  currently 84 F (28.9 C), 70% humidity.  Expecting a high around 90 F (32 C).

1.  Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ with creeping cucumber

Mondarda_didyma

‘Jacob Cline’ is reputedly one of the best clones of our native scarlet beebalm.  As advertised, it seems to be very resistant to powdery mildew, but what I had not anticipated is how vigorously it spreads through moist soil.   From a single 8-inch pot, the plants have spread into a 10×20-foot clump constrained mainly by mowed paths surrounding the bed.  “Hummingbirdbalm” would be a better common name.

Even M. didyma can’t compete with the invasiveness of creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula), an annoying weed that crawls over everything and makes the flowerbed look even more overgrown and messy than it would otherwise.  The tiny cucumber-like fruits are edible when green, but they’re reported to be a powerful laxative when black and fully ripe.

2.  Gladiolus ‘Boone’

Gladiolus_Boone

Gladiolus ‘Boone’ is one of the old glads that have survived for many years around southern homesteads.  This clone was found at an abandoned site near Boone, North Carolina and is now well established in the horticultural trade.  I got mine from Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill.  It is roughly on the same scale as the yellow Gladiolus that I suspect is G. ‘Carolina Primrose,’ and is significantly smaller than my Gladiolus ‘Eno Orange.’

3. Zea mays (sweet corn)

Zea_mays

Youngest offspring brought home a single kernal of sweet corn from a “farm-to-table” field trip at school.  We didn’t have a good bed to grow it in, so I stuck it in a large pot along with some tomato seedlings.  So far, so good.

4.  Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’

Flaming_Kabobs_again

Here’s one that I have featured before.  You get to see it again, because it is my favorite canna and is the first to bloom this year.  I was worried that it might not survive last winter, but it came through with flying colors when several other cannas succumbed to the cold and snow.

5. Verbascum chaixii (nettle-leaved mullein)

Verbascum_chaixii_yellow

Another repeat, but it isn’t easy coming up with six new plants for every Six on Saturday.   I wish my V. chaixii plants would seed around a bit, but so far I haven’t found any volunteer seedlings.

6.  Turtles!

Are we getting bored of box turtle pictures yet?  Never!  Here’s a juvenile that I almost stepped on.

Another_box_turtle

And last, but not least, turtle butt!

Turtle-butt

This lady (I assume) was trying unsuccessfully to hide under some Stokesia laevis (Stokes’ aster) in the garden area at my workplace when I went outside to eat lunch on Friday.  So, it’s in a garden, just not my garden.

I think she is a river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) looking for somewhere to dig a nest.

For more Six on Saturday, head over to The Propagator, the host of this weekly exercise.