Paintbrush lily

Inflorescence of Scadoxus puniceus

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.

Reference

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

Six on Saturday #64 (March 13, 2021)

What a difference a few weeks makes. This week has been brightly sunny, and the high temperature was about 80 F (26.5 C). The spring bulbs and hellebores are nearing their peak, the garden is perfumed by Edgeworthia chrysantha, Lonicera fragrantissima, and Osmanthus fragrans, and the fence lizards are skittering about in the leaf litter.

1. Cypripedium formosanum (Formosan lady’s slipper orchid)

Cyp_formosanum

After three years, my C. formosanum is still going strong. I think this year’s flower is the nicest so far. The plant is in an 8-inch diameter pot with a mix of composted wood chips, peat, and stalite. It lives outside under shade cloth in summer and spends the winter on the floor of the greenhouse, near the cold draught from the imperfectly sealed swamp cooler.

2. Hellebore flowers

Hellebore flowers floating in a dish

The pure white flowers at center left and 5 o’clock are Helleborus niger. The large reddish flower at 10 o’clock is Helleborus x iburgensis ‘Anna’s Red’. The others are all seed-grown Helleborus x hybridus.

3. Narcissus ‘Odoratus’

Narcissus_odoratus

This is a dwarf tazetta Narcissus. According to various web sources, it was discovered somewhere on the Isles of Scilly by the horticulturalist Alec Gray. To my nose it is only faintly fragrant, despite the cultivar name.

4. Narcissus x odorus (Campernelle)

Campernelle

Narcissus x odorus is a centuries-old hybrid of N. jonquilla x N. pseudonarcissus. It has been grown in North Carolina since the colonial period. The blue-green foliage in the foreground is Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha (see photo 2 here).

5. Cackleberries

eggses

The tiny dinosaurs have started laying, and between the five of them, we are averaging about four eggs a day! The very pale blue-gray eggses are from Hühnchen and Kuritsa. Dark brown with darker speckles is from Pollo, large brown from Kylling, and small, light brown from Frango.

6. Vegetable seedlings

A picture of Cypripedium formosanum

I handle the ornamental perennials, but vegetables are my wife’s domain–she’ll have more than a dozen different varieties of Asian greens and kale, along with tomatoes, malabar spinach, spigariello, lettuce, and a few annual flowers ready to plant out next month. The glow from her new LED grow lights makes our house look like something out of “The Amityville Horror” at night, but the seedlings seem to love it.

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.

Giant Peruvian daffodil

Paramongaia1
Paramongaia weberbaueri

eBay can be a wonderful source for rare and unusual plants, but there’s always a chance you won’t get what you expect. I bought this plant in 2014, and it arrived as a small dormant bulb with no distinguishing characteristics. It could have been almost anything, and I had to wait 6 1/2 years to find out if I got an excellent deal on a very rare bulb, or paid way too much for a mislabeled Narcissus. In this case, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because the plant was as advertised.

Paramongaia weberbaueri is, despite its common name, not a daffodil. It is in the same family as daffodils, the Amaryllidaceae,, but while daffodils are native to the Mediterranean region, Paramongaia is from South America–specifically western Peru, where it grows in the rain shadow of the Andes. There are apparently two forms of the species, a high altitude form which grows and flowers in summer, and a winter-growing lowland form. My plant is obviously the winter-growing form. I keep it in a bright spot in the greenhouse year-round (minimum winter temperature 60 F, 15 C; summer maximum 93 F, 34 C). During winter I water at least once a week, or more frequently if the soil dries out. Then I leave it completely dry, no watering whatsoever, all summer long. Presumably, the humidity in the greenhouse is sufficient to keep the bulb from desiccating while dormant.

The flower bud developed relatively slowly for an Amaryllid and lasted just under a week in good condition. The fragrance was wonderful.

So far, my plant has shown no tendency to produce offsets. The anthers failed to produce pollen–or dried up prematurely, I’m not sure which. In any case, I was unable to self-pollinate the flower.

Paramongaia2
Paramongaia weberbaueri, whole plant with juvenile Homo sapiens to show scale.

Six on Saturday #56 (May 23, 2020)

oxalis-articulata-2
Oxalis articulata

File under things that are counterintuitive:  the Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina area, which I perceive as being fairly sunny year-round,  receives more than twice the annual rainfall of notoriously damp London, England.  Part of the answer to this apparent conundrum is that London has more drizzly days (RDU has 109 days with some precipitation vs London’s 164).  Furthermore, we tend to have tropical-like afternoon thunderstorms during the summer, so many of those 109 rainy days are mostly sunny with thirty or forty minutes of heavy rain around the evening rush hour.

But sometimes we do have prolonged wet periods.  The freeze warning two weeks ago proved to be a false alarm, but this week has also been cooler than normal.  It was the cool of clouds and heavy rain, though, not the chill of dry Canadian air driven south.  Between Monday night and Friday morning, we received 6 inches (~15 cm) of rain.  The garden is looking particularly lush, but some plants are a bit floppy after growing like crazy for a week under heavy cloud cover.

Despite several of this week’s Six on Saturday originating in South America, all are garden plants that grow outside in the ground year round.  Most of these photos were taken last Saturday, before the heavy rain.  They’d look a lot more bedraggled if I photographed them today.

1. Cypella herbertii subsp. brevicristata

herbertii-brevicristata
Cypella herbertii subsp. brevicristata

Cypella herbertii is a small iris-relative from Argentina and Uruguay.  I have previously written about C. herbertii subsp. herbertii, and everything I wrote about culture applies to this subspecies, too.  Technically, the two subspecies are distinguished by the length of the stigma lobes, but the two forms that I grow also differ in their color:  my T. h. brevicristata has flowers of a clear yellow, while those of my T. h. herbertii are more orange.  This is the first year that my T. h. brevicristata has flowered, so it will be interesting to see if I get a mixture of colors among the volunteer seedlings in future years.

herbertii-herbertii
For comparison, here is Cypella herbertii subsp. herbertii

2. Hippeastrum x johnsonii (St. Joseph’s lily)

Hippeastrum-johnsonii

I featured this hybrid in my very first blog post.  At that time, I was growing it in my greenhouse, but I have since transplanted it to several places in the garden.  The best clump grows in full sun beside the bird bath, in soil that stays damp year round. H. x johnsonii,  a cross of H. reginae (southern Brazil) and H. vittatum (Peru), was the first artificial Hippeastrum hybrid. Its name commemorates Arthur Johnson, an English watchmaker and horticultural enthusiast who first made the cross at the end of the 18th century.  Surprisingly, given the origins of the parent species, H. x johnsonii is reputed to be among the most cold-hardy and vigorous of all Hippeastrum hybrids.

3. Clematis ‘Rooguchi’ (?)

rooguchi

The first flower on a Clematis that I planted last autumn.  I’m not entirely sure that it is correctly labeled.  The flower looks right, but Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder says that C. ‘Rooguchi’ is a non-vining hybrid lacking the twining petioles that help the vining varieties climb.  My plant definitely has twining petioles and is enthusiastically climbing some deer fencing stapled to the pergola.  Some websites agree with MoBot, while others say ‘Rooguchi’ is a climber like my plant.  Perhaps there are several different clones of the same cross all going under the same cultivar name?

4. Foundation plantings

Rosa_and_Phlomis

A two-for-one entry.  Along the south-facing foundation of our house, I planted a row of Rosa ‘Home Run’ and a clump of Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage) which is slowly spreading to surround the roses.  The Home Run rose is single-flowered (which I like) but lacks fragrance (which I do not).  Most importantly, though, it is very resistant to blights and mildews during hot, humid weather.

Home-run

P. fruticosa is marginally hardy here, so planting along the south foundation gives it sun in winter and protection from cold north and east winds.  Even so, it doesn’t flower very well and is sometimes damaged by snow and ice sliding off the roof. I do like the foliage, though, and the contrast with the glossy rose leaves.

Phlomis-fruticosa

5. Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’

Oxalis-tetraphylla-1

O. tetraphylla is from central Mexico and is one of the Oxalis species that grow from little corms.  I received it as a freebie in a bulb order five or six years ago and decide to chance growing it in the ground.  So far, it has been well-behaved in the garden, tolerating freezing temperatures and showing no tendency to spread and become a weed like some Oxalis.

Oxalis-tetraphylla-2

6. Oxalis articulata (syn. O. crassipes)

oxalis-articulata

I found this plant growing on our property when we first moved into our newly built house.  O. articulata is a South American species with a long history in cultivation, so I suspect that like the Gladiolus ‘Eno Orange’ it may have been planted by previous owners of the land and survived the intervening years when the property was left fallow.  I have since dug it up and distributed the knobbly little rhizomes to several places in my garden.  O. articulata can apparently become mildly invasive in some climates, but my plant seems to be sterile, at least in the absence of another clone, and shows no inclination to spread on its own.

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.

Dobo lily

Cyrtanthus_brachyscyphus

I’m particularly fond of orange flowers and flowers with tubular or bell-like form, so the Dobo lily, Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus…well, how could anyone not like this little bulb?

C. brachyscyphus is from South Africa, and its native range in the Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal is bracketed by Port Elizabeth and Durban.  In nature, it is primarily a summer grower but may be evergreen if winters are mild [1].  In my greenhouse, it seems to prefer growing in the cooler late winter and early spring months–fresh new grass-like leaves are produced as soon as the days start getting longer in January, and it generally goes semi-dormant during the heat of summer.  This year, it has been flowering since early February, and new inflorescences are still appearing.   In common with other Cyrtanthus species, it seems to flower best when bulbs are crowded together in a pot, but overall it is much easier to grow and bloom than many of its congeners.  Although I grow it in my greenhouse, I suspect it would do equally well on a sunny windowsill.

Reference

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