Six on Saturday #25, April 14, 2018

Spring has really gathered steam over the past week, and for the first time in a couple of months, I had to select from among a wide array of flowers for this Six on Saturday.

This week, I’ll start in the greenhouse and then move outside.

1.  Phalaenopsis mannii

Phal_mannii

The range of this small Phalaenopsis species extends from Assam to Vietnam and southern China.  In common with some other Phal species, you should never cut the inflorescences when the spring/summer flowering season is finished.  The old inflorescences will remain green through the winter and will produce new flower buds the next year.  At the same time, new inflorescences will sprout, so as the plant gets older you’ll have more and more flowers each year.

2.  Vireya hybrids (two for one)

Vireyas are a group of Rhododendron species from the old-world tropics, with the greatest diversity New Guinea, Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and the Philippines.  The majority of species are from high elevation, so they prefer mild temperatures and do not appreciate the warm summer nights in North Carolina.  In the USA, most vireya growers are on the west coast and Hawaii.

I have had long-term success with a few heat-tolerant vireyas whose ancestors come from lower elevations They do not tolerate frost, so in North Carolina they are definitely greenhouse plants.  I’ve been growing these two plants since 2004.

vireya2
Rhododendron jasminiflorum x (viriosum x jasminiflorum).  The pink color is a mix of the white R. jasminiflorum and red R. viriosum, but the long, tubular flower shape is all R. jasminiflorum.  This plant came from the late Bill Moyles, a well known vireya grower and hybridizer from Oakland, CA.
vireya1
This  complex hybrid with peachy flowers is another Bill Moyles cross. It is Rhododendron (Felinda x (aurigeranum x Dr. Hermann Sleumer)) x javanicum.   R. Felinda is ((phaeopeplum x viriosum) x leucogigas), and R. Dr. Hermann Sleumer is (phaeopeplum x zoelleri).

3. Ornithogalum dubium

ornithogalum-dubium

Ornithogalum dubium is commonly sold by supermarkets and hardware stores as a throw-away flowering plant in late winter.  Most people will probably treat them like cut flowers and toss the pot when the foliage starts to yellow.  To keep the plants for another year, store the dormant bulbs dry and warm (or even hot) over the summer.  Occasionally, bulbs will fail to sprout in autumn.  As long as they remain firm, give them occasional water through the winter and then another hot dry summer.  Often, they will sprout after the second dormancy.  I have maintained these for five years, so there’s definitely no need to buy a new pot full every year.

And now, outside for the remaining three plants this week…

4.  Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha

clusiana-chrysantha1

Tulipa clusiana is reputed to be the best perennial tulip for the southeast.  I first saw them blooming in Coker Arboretum at the University of North Carolina and was thrilled to find that they are very inexpensive from internet bulb vendors.

T. clusiana var. chrysantha flowers open in mid-morning and close back into tight buds in late afternoon.  Although they have been flowering all week, I have seen only the orange buds when leaving the house and returning from work.  Today was the first time I saw the bright yellow open flowers.

clusiana-chrysantha2

5.  Saruma henryi 

IMG_4929 crop

The fuzzy stems of Saruma henryi are just starting to emerge from the mulch, and the first flower is still wrinkled.  S. henryi is related to Asarum, hence its genus name.   Saruma is an anagram of Asarum.  Those crazy botanists…

6.  Scilla peruviana

Scilla-peruviana

Despite the name, Scilla peruviana is from the Mediterranean–Portugal, Spain, and southern Italy–not South America.  The large bulbs produce their leaves in autumn, remain green all winter, and flower in spring.  When I planted the bulbs last autumn, I wasn’t sure if they would survive outside, but they tolerated 3.2 F (-16 C) with only minor damage to the leaf tips.

To see what’s growing in gardens all around the world, head to The Propagator for his Six on Saturday and links to those of other garden bloggers.

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Six on Saturday #24, April 7, 2018

We’re now in that liminal time when every frost could be the last, but we won’t know for sure until several more weeks have passed.  Yesterday was about 75 F (24 C), but snow is possible tonight.

In the woods, native redbuds (Cercis canadensis) and invasive Wisteria sinensis are in full bloom, and the dogwoods (Cornus florida) are just getting started.  In the garden, the first azalea flowers are opening, but most color still comes from spring bulbs.

Here’s what was going on in the garden and greenhouse this week.

1. Tulipa sylvestris (Woodland tulip)

T_sylvestris

Last autumn, I planted some bulbs of Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha and Tulipa sylvestrisT. clusiana is supposed to be one of the best tulips for naturalizing in this climate, but I’m not sure how T. sylvestris will do long-term.  It’s possible that this floral show will be a one-time event if T. sylvestris doesn’t tolerate heat and humidity.

2.  Narcissus willkommii

N_wilkommii

Another new addition to the garden.  N. willkommii is one of the smallest Narcissus species, so I have planted it more as a curiosity than as a major player in the spring flower beds.  I scattered the bulbs at the edge of a few beds and in dry soil under some hickory trees where they won’t be smothered by more robust plants.  The only other things growing around them are some Cyclamen hederifolium that will be going dormant soon.

3. Trillium luteum

Trillium_luteum

Along the woodland path, a single T. luteum has persisted for the past seven years in soil that is really too dry and infertile for most woodland wildflowers.  I have a tendency to forget about spring ephemerals during the large portion of the year when they are invisible, so the little red cedar seedling makes a convenient marker when the trillium is dormant.

4.  Rhyncholaelia digbyana

R_digbyana

In this season–when the sun is rising higher in the sky, but the deciduous trees are still leafless–the greenhouse sees the most intense light of the year.  Not surprisingly, this is the blooming season of Rhyncholaelia digbyana, a central American species that requires intense light and hot, dry conditions for best growth.  My two plants are grown at the brightest end of the greenhouse in small terracotta pots with chunks of scoria and aliflor as the growing medium.

R. digbyana is one of the basic genetic building blocks of cattleya hybrids, and its fantastic, deeply incised labellum is the source of the large, frilly lip beloved of hybridizers.  The flowers also have a pleasant lemony fragrance.  Unfortunately, R. digbyana usually produces only one short-lived flower per growth, and those traits are also inherited.

5.  Sarcoglottis sceptrodes

Sarcoglottis

A terrestrial orchid from central America.  I think the flowers look like the heads of sauropod dinosaurs.

6.  Enanthleya Bob Gasko

enanthleya

This hybrid is (Guarianthe aurantiaca x Encyclia incumbens) x (Cattleya harpophylla x Cattleya neokautskyi), so three of its four grandparents have bright orange flowers.  Vegetatively, it is intermediate between a Guarianthe and an Encylia, with cigar-shaped pseudobulbs that flush red in bright light and two stiff leaves on each pseudobulb.

For more Six on Saturday, navigate to The Propagator.  See his participant’s guide if you want to post your own.

Six on Saturday #23, March 17, 2018

After a couple of weeks away, I finally have some interesting material for Six on Saturday. Or, more accurately perhaps, I have one really interesting plant and some filler material to show you.  As always, visit The Propagator for his weekly six and for links to Six on Saturday posts by other garden bloggers.

1.  Eithea blumenavia

Eithea

This lovely little flower is a miniature amaryllid, related to Hippeastrum, from southern Brazil. Unlike most Hippeastrum species, you can grow a nice little clump of E. blumenavia in a pot as small as 4″ (10 cm diameter).  My plant blooms intermittently throughout the year, but mostly in spring and early summer.  E. blumenavia can be a little difficult to find for sale but is well worth growing if you can locate some bulbs or seed.  Unfortunately, my clone does not seem to be self-fertile.

2.  Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’

Annas_red

This is a relatively recent hybrid (2013?) which has become very popular. I think it is one of the best hellebores on the market today, both for its flowers and its slightly variegated foliage

3. Grape hyacinths (Muscari)

grape_hyacinth

This pretty, dark flowered grape hyacinth started as a volunteer seedling, origin unknown.  There are probably enough bulbs now to dig up and transplant around the garden.  Trouble is, that would require me to remember them after they have gone dormant and disappeared under the summer perennials.

4. Bicolored daffodil (Narcissus)

bicolored_daffodils

I really like the orange cup and later bloom time (relative to the early yellows) of this bicolored daffodil growing among some thornless blackberry stems. I wish there were daffodils that were this same orange color all over.  Also, I wish I could remember what clone these are.

5. Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea)

Hydrangea_quercifolia

The fuzzy-felted new leaves of Hydrangea quercifolia are completely unfazed by our erratic spring weather, which has been fluctuating between the uppers 20s and mid 70s (-3 to 24 C).  As someone once said, “North Carolina has two seasons:  hot and random.”

6.  Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’

frozen_hydrangea

Hydrangea ‘Blue Wave’ is an utterly gorgeous lacecap, but unfortunately it does not deal well with our spring weather.  When dormant, it is very hardy, easily tolerating the low of 3 F (-16 C) this winter, but warm weather in late winter encourages it to start growing early.  The emerging leaves are sensitive to the slightest frost, and if they are killed the plant won’t bloom.  New growth will sprout from the base, but the stems do not bloom until their second year.  Since we almost always have a prolonged frost-free period in January or February, followed by one or more late frosts, it has been six years since I got a good bloom off this shrub.

Later this spring, I think it will probably dig it up and replace it with something better suited to our climate.

Six on Saturday #20, February 3, 2018

It’s already Sunday across the Atlantic where the host of “Six on Saturday” lives, but it’s still Saturday evening here.   I guess it isn’t too late to participate.  And regardless of whether it’s Saturday or Sunday where you live, you can still head over to The Propagator’s blog to see his Six and links to those of other participants.

It’s still well below freezing most nights, but there are tentative signs of life in the garden…

1. Cyclamen coum

cyclamen_coum1

cyclamen_coum2

Cyclamen coum isn’t as vigorous and well adapted to our climate as C. hederifolium, but a couple of tiny plants are hanging on under the pines.  Every year, they bloom in the dead of winter, and every year I almost step on them.

2.  Helleborus niger (Christmas rose)

Helleborus_niger

The foliage of Helleborus niger has been flattened by the snow and cold, but at least it isn’t hiding the flowers on their very short stems.  Some people trim off the old leaves of hellebores just before they bloom.  That would certainly make the flowers of this species more visible, but I worry that removing leaves from a slow-growing evergreen species would be detrimental.

3. Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle)

Lonicera_fragrantissima

The flowers of Lonicera fragrantissima certainly aren’t spectacular, but the fragrance is absolutely wonderful.  I planted a row of the shrubs at the top of our driveway, at the northwestern edge of our property, so the prevailing west winds of winter spread the perfume down towards our front door.  I’d be quite proud of myself if it wasn’t completely fortuitous.  The direction of winter breezes was the furthest thing from my mind when I was deciding where to plant them.

L. fragrantissima is frequently found on lists of invasive plants, but luckily I very rarely see any fruit and have never found a volunteer seedling.  All of my plants are a single clone, and I wonder if they are not very self-compatible.

4.  Epidendrum stamfordianum

Epi_stamfordianum

In my greenhouse, this pretty little central American orchid is blooming for the first time.  It is still a fairly small seedling, so I expect to see longer inflorescence with more flowers in subsequent years.

5. Rauhia decora

rauhia_decora

This is the first year that my Rauhia decora bulb has produced two leaves instead of just one, so I am cautiously optimistic that it may be approaching blooming size.  If it doesn’t bloom this year, then maybe in 2019.

6.  Pachypodium brevicaule

pachy_brevicaule

I can see inflorescences starting on several of the spring-blooming Pachypodiums, but P. brevicaule is always the first to flower.

First bloom: Hippeastrum calyptratum

calypratum1
Hippeastrum calyptratum

It’s frigid outside, but with a little help from LP gas (OK, a lot of help), it’s the tropics in my greenhouse.  This week, the star is a seed-grown Hippeastrum calyptratum bulb, flowering for the first time four years after germination.

H. calyptratum is a very unusual amaryllid from the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil, where it grows as an epiphyte on tree trunks. The pale green flowers are pollinated by bats and are often reported to produce a odor like burning plastic.  To my nose, they smell more like wet paint, but the fragrance is not very strong–at least not from this seedling.

calyptratum2

There are two (possibly three) other epiphytic Hippeastrum species.  I previously posted on H. aulicum when my plants bloomed in autumn.  The third epiphytic species, H. papilio is currently blooming a few feet away from the H. calyptratum, and a different clone bloomed earlier, at the same time as my H. aulicum.

IMG_3487
Hippeastrum papilio

The fourth epiphyte, H. arboricola, is rather mysterious.  It was apparently described from a single plant found growing on a fallen tree in a clear-cut forest and has not been seen since.  It is not clear if H. arboricola represents a distinct epiphytic species, possibly now extinct, or if it was a terrestrial species that was growing opportunistically on a tree.

H. aulicum and H. papilio are large, robust plants, very easy to grow in a mix of commercial potting soil and permatill (stalite).  When I tried that mix with H. calyptratum, the plants did well initially but later lost their roots.  In some cases, the entire basal plate rotted, destroying the bulb.  I now use a very open, wholly inorganic mix of scoria (red lava rock) and permatill in terracotta pots and have much better results. As befits an epiphyte, I plant the bulb high in the pot, with just a few large chunks of scoria holding it in place.  The roots are quite happy to wander around on the surface of the mix.

papilio-calyptratum
Hippeastrum calyptratum (left) and Hippeastrum papilio (right)

Assuming that my blooming plant is close to full size, the bulbs of H. calyptratum seem to be significantly smaller than those of H. aulicum and H. papilio, and the leaves are proportionally shorter and narrower.   H. calyptratum shares with its larger epiphytic cousins a growth cycle that is quite different than that of the Hippeastrum (“Amaryllis”) hybrids sold for forcing in winter.  H. calyptratum has a short dormancy in mid-summer, but it retains some of its leaves and does not want to be bone dry for long periods while dormant.  As temperatures cool in autumn, my plants begin growing again, and they continue producing new leaves intermittently through the winter.