Six on Saturday #42 (April 13, 2019)

This week, daytime temperatures have consistently reached the 70s to low 80s (~22-27 C), and spring is proceeding at full force. The dominant color in my garden is moving from yellow to red as the Narcissus wind down and wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and azaleas take over. As the soil warms, new growth is emerging from subtropical bulbs like Crinum, Hippeastrum, and Scadoxus. Overhead, dogwoods are covered with white flowers, and delicate green leaves are emerging on the deciduous forest trees.

1.  Pollen

Pollen1
Clouds of pine pollen made North Carolina look like something out of a Wilfred Owen poem this week.

With all this new growth comes pollen, and this year’s pine and oak pollen storm has been particularly intense. Photos of the “pollenpocalypse” taken on Monday made it into the New York Times and CNN, but the pollen count actually peaked on Wednesday. That morning, I drove to work through murky yellow haze as clouds of pollen billowed out of the pine trees, and cars on the highway were followed by swirling trails of yellow dust. It was like a desert sandstorm composed entirely of allergenic protein. I am so thankful for Cetirizine.

Pollen2

Pollen3
Pollen floating on the lake beside my workplace.  This much pollen must add a significant nitrogen spike to the water when it rots.  I wonder what it contributes to my flowerbeds

In the garden, the grass was greenish yellow. The mulched flowerbeds were greenish yellow. The paths were greenish yellow. The sunlight was greenish yellow. It was like living in a dirty aquarium. Luckily, thunderstorms throughout the week temporarily cleared the air and allowed me to photograph flowers without a dusty yellow shroud.

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My car’s windshield when I left work on Wednesday

2. Tulipa clusiana var chrysantha

Tulipa_chrysantha

Tulipa_chrysantha2

This species was featured in Six on Saturday #25 (Picture 4). A year later, the individual bulbs that I planted in autumn 2017 have multiplied into small clumps, and every stem is topped with a flower. After two years it is still early days, but I am becoming increasingly confident that these little tulips will successfully naturalize and become permanent fixtures in my garden.

3. Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary)

Fritillaria_meleagris

Fritillaria meleagris has been less successful than T. clusiana. Over the past five years, the plants have been slowly disappearing, although those that remain still flower reliably. I think my mistake was planting them in a bed that is hot and dry in summer. I have since learned that these bulbs like to grow in cool, moist meadows. They aren’t expensive, so this autumn it might be time to buy some more and plant them where they’ll have more water.

4. Narcissus ‘Golden Bells’

Narcissus_Golden-Bells

This is almost the last of the Narcissus. Only N. poeticus still remains to flower this year, and those will be blooming in just a few days. N. ‘Golden Bells’ is a very vigorous cultivar, or possibly a hybrid, of N. bulbocodium, the hoop-petticoat Narcissus. It produces its wiry foliage in late winter and then waits so long to produce buds that every year I think that I have somehow missed the flowers.

5. Kerria japonica

Kerria_japonica

Having said that the dominant color is moving towards red, I see that I still have a lot of yellow-flowered plants in this week’s six. Kerria japonica is most often seen in its double-flowered ‘Pleniflora’ form with blooms that look like little yellow pom-poms. I much prefer this wild type with flowers that clearly show its membership in the rose family.

6. Arisaema sikokianum and Arisaema thunburgii subsp. urushima

sikokianum
Arisaema sikokianum
Arisaema_thunbergii
Arisaema thunbergii subsp. urushima

Two Asian jack-in-the-pulpits (or should that be jacks-in-the-pulpit?) are already blooming as our native Arisaema triphyllum are just breaking the surface of the soil. With the spadix modified into a club (A. sikokianum) or a whip-like tendril (A. thunbergii urushima), these species give you a some idea of the diversity in the genus.

There is so much going on in the garden this week, that I can’t resist one more photo.

Second 6. Maggots? Pupae?

Seemannia-rhizome

Actually, these are the dormant rhizomes of Seemannia nematanthodes (see #5). They’re just a tiny fraction of the number that I have exhumed from the bone-dry soil of pots stored in the crawl space of our house all winter. A few will go back into a pot with fresh soil, while the rest will be planted out in various flowerbeds.

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.

Six on Saturday #41 (April 6, 2019)

A brief return to winter this week kept me busy covering the tender new growth of terrestrial orchids every evening to protect them from frost.  Then, of course, I had to uncover them before going to work in the morning.  It looks as though we may have seen the last freeze, though, and the temperature is forecast to be 80 F (26.6 C) on Monday.

Here are six plants whose flowers didn’t mind the cold (or were protected in the greenhouse)

1. Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’ (lesser celandine)

Ficaria-verna_Brazen-Hussey

Purchasing this plant a year ago may have been a mistake.  It was labeled Ranunculus ficaria at the nursery, and I didn’t realize that the little spring ephemeral with dark purple foliage was actually a cultivar of Ficaria verna,  the invasive pest with green leaves that I have seen covering river banks in Pennsylvania.  However, ‘Brazen Hussy’ has thus far shown no inclination to self-pollinate, and the flowerbed in my garden lacks the moving water that helps F. verna spread so aggressively on floodplains.  If it manifests any invasive inclinations, it will go straight to the landfill (won’t risk the compost heap), but until them I’m reluctant to do away with it.  The shiny, almost metallic flowers go so well with the dark foliage of this cultivar.

2. Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss)

Brunnera

I most commonly see the variegated clone ‘Jack Frost’ for sale around here, but this seed grown plant has plain green leaves.  My wife loves blue flowers, so plain leaves or not, this is an obvious plant to include in the garden.

3. Tulipa whittallii

Tulipa-whittalliiTulipa-whittallii2

For the last couple of years, I have been experimenting with species tulips that may prove to be more heat tolerant than most of the hybrids.  Tulipa clusiana var chrysantha was recommended for our climate, and it looks as though it will do well–the bulbs I planted in 2017 have multiplied and will be flowering in a week or two.  It’s still too early to know how Tulipa whittallii will do. On the strength of one bulb catalog that said this is one of the most heat tolerant species, I planted a dozen bulbs last autumn.  The flowers are certainly eye catching. They close up tight each evening and only open up for a few hours in the afternoon (which doesn’t seem a very good way to attract pollinators), but the intense orange color makes the wait worthwhile.  I hope they stick around for a good many years.

4.  Narcissus Quail (and an enormous pile of mulch)

Quail

Narcissus ‘Quail’ is a jonquilla hybrid that produces two or three flowers per inflorescence.  I’m not sure if I like it.  The flowers are a somewhat squashed together, so their shape is lost in a large blob of yellow.

The mulch is 16 cubic yards of ground hardwood (with a generous proportion of eastern red cedar, judging by the smell).  A couple of inches of mulch spread on the flowerbeds every other year suppresses weeds, adds organic material, and most importantly, reduces the need to water.  Although I irrigate new plants until their roots are established, my goal is to have the garden survive on rain alone.

5. Euphorbia horombensis

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In the greenhouse, this is the season for Euphorbia horombensis to produce its brick red cyathophylls, but its spiny armament is impressive all year round.  E. horombensis is listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, primarily due to habitat degradation and over-collection, but artificially propagated seedlings are reasonably common (and reasonably priced) from a few nurseries that specialize in propagating succulent plants.

Euphorbia-horombensis2

The inflorescences of E. horombensis are covered with sticky sap which traps small insects (in this case, a flying ant).  I’m not sure what purpose the sap serves, but it seems odd that a plant would trap potential pollinators.

Euphorbia-horombensis3

6. Paphiopedilum delenatii var. vinicolor

delenatii-vinicolorAnd finally, a first-bloom seedling of Paphiopedilum delenatii var vinicolor, a recent addition to my slipper orchid collection.

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.

Six on Saturday #40 (March 16, 2019)

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Naturalized daffodils (Narcissus) beside the old chimney

Compared to the last few years, this winter has been wet but very mild.  The winter storms that brought record cold to the Midwest didn’t make it this far south, and our low temperature was 17-18 F (-8 C), a full 10-15 degrees warmer than the lows during the past three or four winters.  There is still the possibility of frost, or even another hard freeze, but spring seems well under way.

1-3.  Various Narcissus

At this time of year, the dominant color is the bright yellow of Narcissus.  The old heirloom bulbs that are naturalized throughout the woods at the sites of old cabins or farmhouses have almost finished flowering, but beside the old chimney a few of the plants are still in decent shape.  These classic daffodils have a bright yellow corona and paler yellow petals that are slightly twisted like propellers.

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In my garden, I have some that came from a friend who lives in a century-old farmhouse.  They appear identical to the plants beside the old chimney, and I suspect they are all a form of Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Narcissus are one of the few plants that I can grow outside the deer fence, so I have been attempting to naturalize several varieties along our side of the lane.  Rabbits and deer won’t touch them, not even to experimentally nip off the flower buds as they do to so many other supposedly noxious flowers.

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The swept-back petals of Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ come from its parent N. cyclamineus. I planted these bulbs last autumn.
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Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ is another dwarf N. cyclamineus hybrid.  It often has two or three flowers per inflorescence.
trumpet
I planted about fifty of these large trumpets several years ago, but only half a dozen remain.  The survivors are in lean soil that dries well during the summer, while the dead ones were in rich organic soil where a mulch pile had rotted down. Similar clones do very well elsewhere in the garden, but usually in heavy clay with minimal organic matter.

Update:  Yes, that’s four Narcissus, not three.  I never claimed to be good at mathematics.

4. Anemone coronaria ‘The Governor’

The_Governor-closedThe_Governor-open

Last autumn I planted ten Anemone coronaria tubers, and they have been growing slowly through the winter.  Most are still in bud, but one precocious plant has been blooming for several weeks.  That is, a single flower has been opening and closing, depending on the temperature and sunlight, for several weeks.  I am really impressed by the longevity of the flower, but it remains to be seen whether the plants will persist over the summer and how they will do during colder winters.

5. Hippeastrum ‘Ruby Star’

Ruby-star

In the greenhouse, the enormous, but short-lived, flowers of Hippeastrum ‘Ruby Star’ were open this week.  H. ‘Ruby Star’ is a hybrid of H. papilio x (H. vittatum x H. cybister) which seems to be a natural winter grower.  When not recovering from shipping, it flowers after the foliage has matured and goes dormant by mid summer.

6.  Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum buds.  A long wait…

Paph-hirsutissimum
One half-open flower and one bud with the petals just starting to emerge.

Some orchid flowers seem to appear suddenly out of nowhere, but others really make you wait.  There seems to be a definite correlation between the amount of time that a flower takes to develop and its longevity, .  The south Asian slipper orchids, Paphiopedilum, are some of the slowest.  It can take months for an inflorescence to emerge from among the leaves and slowly elongate, and then the buds open over the course of a week or more.  When these P. hirsutissimum buds are completely open, I can reasonably expect the flowers to remain in good shape for six to eight weeks, perhaps longer.

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.

Six on Saturday #39, February 23, 2019

It’s hard to believe that it has been three months since I last managed to get a Six on Saturday post together. The past week has been gloomy and wet outside, so here are six plants that are currently flowering in my greenhouse.

1. Paphiopedilum Fanaticum

fanaticum1

Paphiopedilum x fanaticum is the natural hybrid of Paphiopedilum malipoense and P. micranthum.  When the same cross is produced in cultivation, the plants are designated Paphiopedilum Fanaticum.  This isn’t the greatest photo–light levels were low, and the flower is still opening–but I think you can see that the plant is aptly named.  Anyone who is subject to orchidelirium will likely be a fanatic for Paph. Fanaticum.

2. Epidendrum cf. schlechterianum

Epi_schlechterianum

E. schlechterianum is miniature orchid found from Costa Rica to northern South America (Peru, Colombia, Brazil).  Alternatively, E. schlechterianum grows only in Panama, and a group of closely related species–E. congestum, E. congestioides, E. oxynanodes, E. schizoclinandrium, E. serruliferum, and E. uleinanodes–are found elsewhere.  It all depends on which botanist you believe.  In any case, this is a bizarre little plant with flowers that are almost the same color and texture as the semi-succulent leaves that cover its creeping stems.  It grows well mounted on a chunk of treefern fiber and watered once or twice a week.

3. Dendrobium speciosum var. pedunculatum

Dendrobium1Dendrobium2

Some forms of the Australian Dendrobium speciosum grow so large that a forklift is required to move them, but D. speciosum var. pedunculatum is a dwarf variety.  My plant has been growing happily in a 4-inch (10 cm) diameter terracotta pot for the past five years, and its pseudobulbs are only slightly larger than my thumb.  In summer, it lives outside in almost full sun.  In winter, I keep it in the brightest end of the greenhouse and reduce watering to once every two or three weeks.

4. Utricularia sandersonii (Sanderson’s bladderwort)

Utricularia_sandersonii

Although its flowers look vaguely orchid-like, Utricularia sandersonii is a terrestrial bladderwort, a carnivorous member of the family Lentibulariaceae native to South Africa.  It grows in saturated soils, where its underground bladder traps can capture and digest protists or rotifers that are small enough to swim between the soil grains.  The leaves of U. sandersonii are a couple of millimeters long, and the flower, which looks a bit like a long-tailed rabbit (or maybe a bilby), is about 1 cm from top to bottom.

I grow U. sandersonii in a small pot sitting in water almost up to the surface of the soil (a mix of peat and silica sand).  After a few years, it forms a thick tangle of stolons and starts to deteriorate, perhaps because the supply of protists or trace elements in the soil has been exhausted.  At that point, propagation is simply a matter of tearing off a chunk of soil/stolons and using it to inoculate a new pot of soil.

5.  Hippeastrum striatum

Hippeastrum_striatum

H. striatum is a smallish species from southern Brazil.  Its bulbs, leaves, and flowers are all much smaller than the big hybrid hippeastrums that are sold as “Amaryllis” at Christmas time, and I think it is better suited to cultivation in pots.

6. Cyrtanthus (species?  hybrid?)

Cyrtanthus

This plant grew from seed that I purchased as Cyrtanthus stenanthus, but it appears to have been mislabeled.  It seems to want grow in winter/spring and goes dormant in hot weather.

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator.  Head over there to see his Six for this week and to find links to the blogs of other participants.