As we approach the end of the year, here are a few photos from the garden and greenhouse in 2022 that inexplicably failed to make it into other blog posts.
I found this red eft when I was repotting my meyer lemon tree. It was tucked in at the bottom of the root ball and must have entered the pot through a drainage hole while the tree was outside for the summer.
If its stems weren’t so viciously spiny, the interesting flowers of Carolina horsenettle might make it a valued wildflower instead of a dreaded weed.
The spring flowers of Asarum splendens (Chinese wild ginger) are easy to miss in the leaf litter.
Eucomis bicolor is the last of the pineapple lilies to flower in my garden. It blooms in mid-September, about a month after the other species and hybrids
And in the greenhouse/summer shadehouse…
E. bicolor is smaller than E. mirabilis, E. aurantiaca, and E. eucrosioides, and its thinner leaves suggest that it is less adapted to arid environments. Unlike the larger species, E. bicolor bulbs multiply rapidly and soon fill a pot.
S. puniceus ‘Magnificus’ is a large, spectacular clone of the South African paintbrush lily. I’m not sure if it would be as cold hardy as the typical variety, and I have been hesitant to risk my only plant. Its dormancy is quite short, and I have learned not to try storing it in the crawl space of our house along with other summer-growing tropical bulbs. Inevitably, I discover that it has sprouted sometime in the winter and produced a ghost-white etiolated stem in the darkness.
P.tranlienianum is one of the smallest slipper orchid species. It is endemic to Vietnam and was described in 1998
While western Europe has been experiencing historically high temperatures, and the western US is in extreme drought, we have had a more-or-less normal summer. Much of June and early July was dry and hot and humid, but not unusually so; the high temperature recorded on our screened porch this summer was 95.5 F (35.3 C), in-range for the region and time of the year. The dry spell was broken by a brief storm this week which dropped three inches of rain in about half an hour. The garden is currently at its most lush and overgrown point in its annual cycle, and with 80 F (26.7 C) and 94% relative humidity this morning, it feels like we are in the tropics. In keeping with that impression, today’s six plants have a subtropical feeling to them.
1. Platanthera ciliaris (yellow fringed orchid)
Platanthera ciliaris is an orchid that looks as though it should grow in the tropics, but it actually has a native range extending from Florida north to Michigan and New England. In North Carolina, it grows in the mountains, piedmont, and coastal plain. Its distribution in the piedmont seems to be spotty, and although I have seen it growing wild along country roads near the coast, I have never seen it here in central NC. This one is growing in one of my mini-bog planters, a large pot filled with peat, sand, and perlite which sits in a shallow tray of water. P. ciliaris seems relatively easy to grow in costantly damp, acidic soil as long as it is not over-fertilized.
2. Lychnis senno ‘Once in a Vermillion’
I wasn’t sure if this Japanese species would thrive in my garden, but in its second year it has more than doubled in size. It is growing on a dry, sandy slope made drier by the roots of a rapidly growing fig tree.
3. Crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’
This classic Crinum hybrid is looking particularly good with six inflorescences this year.
4. Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
Another plant that looks as though it should be tropical, D. muscipula is actually native to a small region of coastal North and South Carolina centered around Wilmington, NC. These seed-grown plants in my mini-bogs are doing their best to increase their numbers by dropping seeds all over the place.
5. Eucomis ‘Glow Sticks’
Eucomis ‘Glow Sticks’ is noted for its foliage which emerges golden yellow and matures to bright green. Its pale flowers attract our local bees.
6. Chlosyne necteis (silvery checkerspot) on Iris domestica
I haven’t seen many butterflies this year. Even our usual crop of pipevine swallowtail caterpillars is absent from the Aristolochia fimbriata, and there aren’t any black swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel. I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with our neighbors’ habit of outdoor spraying against mosquitoes.
Perhaps this little checkerspot is a sign of better things to come. In a few weeks the big clump of Silphium perfoliatum (photo 6) will be flowering, and it usually attracts large numbers of tiger swallowtails whose caterpillars feed on the surrounding trees.
The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.
Just as the Cyrtanthus falcatus inflorescence was fading, I noticed that another tropical bulb was in bud for the first time. Eucrosia eucrosiodes is from arid scrubland in southwestern Ecuador and northern Peru. In its flower structure, leaf shape, and cultural requirements, it resembles its close relatives Eucrosia mirabilis and Eucrosia aurantiaca. I grow E. eucrosioides almost exactly the same way I grow those two species, with plenty of heat, water, and sun in summer and a warm dry rest in winter. Like its relatives, E. eucrosioides is strongly hysteranthous–that is, it flowers at the end of the dry dormant period, before new leaves are produced, so a naked inflorescence sprouts from what appears to be an empty pot.
Like E. mirabilis and E. aurantiaca bulbs, E. eucrosioides bulbs show no inclination to offset and must be grown from seed. E. mirabilis can be self-pollinated and produces viable seed, but E. aurantiaca seems to be self-sterile. I’m not sure yet whether E. eucrosioides will be self-fertile, but I have a second clone which has not yet flowered. If I can manage to flower both at the same time, perhaps an outcross will be a possibility sometime in the future.
The genus name of this plant makes perfect sense–Eucrosia means “beautiful fringe”, referring to the elongated stamens–but its species name is a little odd. In botanical Latin, the suffix -oides means “like” or “resembling”, so Eucrosia eucrosioides would be “the Eucrosia that resembles a Eucrosia.”
Cyrtanthus falcatus is a large amaryllid from South Africa. Its species name comes from its sickle-shaped leaves which recall the falcata sword favored by ancient Iberian tribes (think of a Gurkha kukri for a modern equivalent). Its flowers and its bulbs, which grow exposed at the surface, are roughly the same size and shape as those of C. obliquus which I have previously discussed, but I have found it much more difficult to flower than the latter species. After first flowering in 2017, my C. obliquus has continued to bloom every year, but this is the first inflorescence on a mature C. falcatus that I have been growing since 2014. The difference is probably due to C. obliquus being better suited to spending the winter in my heated greenhouse. C. obliquus is a lowland species, found from sea level to 1300 m in the eastern Cape northwards to KwaZulu-Natal. C. falcatus, while it also grows in KwaZulu-Natal, is a highland species found from 1100-1900 m on the Drakensberg escarpment . Consequently, C. falcatus probably requires colder winter temperatures to initiate spring flowering.
I grow both plants outside in full sun during the summer and move them to the greenhouse in autumn. I bring the C. obliquus into the greenhouse before nights drop much below 50 F (10 C), but I leave the C. falcatus outside until the first frost is forecast. Although C. obliquus spends the winter on a greenhouse bench among tropical plants, I put the pot of C. falcatus on the floor where it is cooler. Usually, the plant has already dropped all its leaves and is dormant before it goes into the greenhouse. The pot remains dry all winter, and I start to water again only when I see new leaves sprouting, usually in March. The pot goes back outside in April, as soon as possible after the last frost. This winter, I put the pot right beside the greenhouse door to give it the coolest (but still above freezing) temperatures possible. That may be what finally induced flowering.
The large tubular flowers and sturdy inflorescence of C. falcatus probably indicate that it, like C. obliquus, is pollinated by sunbirds. Since birds generally prefer flowers in shades of orange and red, I was surprised by the green flowers of my plant. Most photos online do show orange flowers, but the species is apparently quite variable and green flowers are within the range of color reported for the species . Since I already have C. obliquus and several smaller Cyrtanthus species that are orange, I am quite pleased with the unusual color of my C. falcatus.
Duncan, G., Jeppe, B., and Voight, L. (2016) The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa, Umdaus Press, Pretoria, South Africa.
This is exciting! After about six years in the ground, my Scadoxus puniceus has finally decided to flower. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get it to see it in full bloom: The day after I noticed a bud emerging from the mulch, the temperature dropped to 28 F (-2.2 C), so I surrounded it with bubble-wrap and covered it with a large plastic pot. That seemed to be sufficient insulation, because a couple of weeks later I have this beautiful orange inflorescence. The many small flowers are surrounded by petal-like spathes, giving it the appearance of a large single bloom.
Scadoxus puniceus is an African member of the Amaryllidaceae, the daffodil family, so it is not a true lily. Its range in the wild extends from Western Cape Province in South Africa northwards to Tanzania, with disjunct populations in Ethiopia [1}. Given its tropical and subtropical native habitat, it is somewhat surprising that it has done so well in my garden. It has survived temperatures as low as 5.5 F (-14.7 C) when buried under a thick layer of mulch, and despite its reported preference for a dry winter dormancy, it grows in clay that stays wet all winter long.
I suspect it took so long to flower because it is heavily shaded in summer by a large American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana). Last year, I planted a couple of young plants in sunnier spots. They survived the winter but are still too small to flower. Maybe next year.
1. Duncan, G., Jeppe, B., and Voight, L. (2016) The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa, Umdaus Press, Pretoria, South Africa.