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’

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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…

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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.

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Greenhouse volunteers

In horticulture, a volunteer is a plant that sprouts and grows without any action by the gardener.  The implication is that volunteers are desirable plants, which distinguishes them from undesirable weeds.  There’s sometimes a fine line between the two.  In my outdoor garden, Vernonia glauca (broadlead ironweed), Poncirus trifoliata (trifoliate orange), and Callicarpa americana are a little too enthusiastic about seeding around.  When another gardener wants to trade for the seedlings, they’re volunteers.  When I have to dig them out of the wrong flower bed, they’re weeds.

In my greenhouse, several species have established themselves as volunteers.  They can pop up almost anywhere, but they never choke out the rightful inhabitant of the pot and are very interesting in their own right.

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Dorstenia foetida (Lav. 20542).  This seedling has volunteered in the pot of a Hydnophytum formicarum.

Dorstenia is a genus of the Moraceae, the fig family, with very interesting anatomy.  Its inflorescences are basically equivalent to an open, flattened fig (or a fig is a Dorstenia inflorescence folded in on itself). The almost microscopic flowers grow in a fleshy structure that is often surrounded by finger-like extensions. After pollination, a seed is produced in a little vesicle and, when ripe, shoots out with considerable force, often landing in pots several feet away.  Over the years, I have grown half a dozen different Dorstenia species, but the most frequent volunteers are D. foetida and D. barnimiana.  Both species are from east Africa and Arabia.  D. foetida grows thick, upright stems with star-shaped inflorescences produced throughout the year.  D. barnimiana is a geophyte with a biscuit-shaped underground tuber and deciduous leaves that lie flat on the soil surface.  Its inflorescences are more elongated and have fewer extensions than those of D. foetida.

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Dorstenia barnimiana tubers exposed by dumping off the top-dressing of gravel.  During the winter dormancy, the tubers are leafless and easy to overlook when they grow completely below the soil surface.
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Dorstenia barnimiana leaves at the base of Hydnophytum formicarum.
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Dorstenia barnimiana inflorescence.  Multiple vesicles, each containing a ripening seed, are visible.

The habit of shooting ripe seeds around the greenhouse is shared by Euphorbia platyclada, a truly bizarre plant from Madagascar.  E. platyclada is completely leafless, and its jointed stems look half dead at the best of times.  Depending on much light they receive E. platyclada stems can be mottled green, brown, or bright pink.  Stems of the latter color resembles coral more than a plant.  E. platyclada isn’t as prolific as the Dorstenia species, and I have been very pleased to find a few volunteers.

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Euphorbia platyclada volunteering in the pot of Pachypodium decaryi, another native of Madagascar.

Instead of shooting seeds, Psilotum nudum (whisk fern) produces tiny spores which drift on the breeze of the greenhouse fans.  This is the only greenhouse volunteer that I didn’t originally purchase.  The first plant arrived as a stowaway in the pot of a Vachellia cornigera (bullhorn acacia) from a local botanical garden.  It has since appeared in several other locations around the greenhouse, but it is so interesting that I don’t begrudge it the space.  Psilotum is a genus of primitive fern-like plants that lack true leaves and roots and have a fascinating life-history similar to that of ferns.  The sporophyte of P. nudum has a creeping underground rhizome that sprouts green stems tipped with yellowish spore-producing synangia.  The spores hatch into a subterranean gametophyte which, when mature, releases eggs and sperm cells.  Union of egg and sperm results in a new photosythetic sporophyte.

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Volunteer Psilotum nudum growing at the base of Vachellia cornigera

P. nudum (Matsubaran) has been cultivated in Japan for hundreds of years.  See the Primitive Ferns blog for further details on the many cultivars.

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

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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

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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)

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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

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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.

First Narcissus

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Even in the dead of winter, a North Carolina garden isn’t completely dormant.  Birds are busy visiting the feeders during the day, and at night we can hear the barred owls calling to each other.  The local coyotes have also been noisy lately, and a couple of nights ago eldest offspring heard a harsh screaming that didn’t sound like a fox.  We are reasonably sure that it was a bobcat.  Among the flower beds, Camellia x vernalis ‘Yuletide’ is still blooming, and the buds of Edgeworthia chrysantha are swelling.  The green foliage of winter growing bulbs like Lycoris radiata and Scilla peruviana add a little color to otherwise barren mulch, and today, the first Narcissus of the year is blooming.

Narcissus cantabricus is a miniature “hoop petticoat” narcissus native to southern Spain, Morocco, and Algeria.  As with most bulbs purchased from big bulb vendors, I can’t be certain that this plant doesn’t have some hybrid genes, but it generally matches the description of the species and blooms very early as expected.  The plant is tiny–certainly not a spectacular specimen that draws the eye across the garden–but it is a promise of good things to come.  The garden should have various Narcissus species and hybrids blooming most weeks from now until the last Narcissus poeticus fades in late April or early May.

Veltheimia capensis

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The larger of my two Veltheimia capensis bulbs

Happy holidays to all of this blog’s readers and, more specifically, Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate tomorrow.

Blooming in my greenhouse, just in time to decorate a table in somewhat nontraditional fashion, are two bulbs of Veltheimia capensis, the sand lily.   Veltheimia is a genus in the Hyacinthaceae (hyacinth family) consisting of two species native to South Africa. V. capensis grows in arid habitat from the southern and southwestern Cape northwards to Namibia.  The second species, V. bracteata (forest lily) grows in the eastern cape.

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My smaller bulb has more yellow at the flower tips.

V. capensis has a large bulb that often grows partially exposed.  In my greenhouse, the plants do well in terracotta pots with the neck and about 1/4 of the bulb above the surface of a well-drained mix of sand, stalite, and a little commercial potting soil.  The grey-green glaucous leaves frequently have undulate or crisped margins, adding to their beauty, but in common with some other winter-growing South African bulbs, the foliage has a tendency to wilt in hot sun.  V. capensis doesn’t want to grow in shade, though, so the trick is to give it as much light as possible while keeping the foliage cool.  During the summer, after the foliage dies back, I keep the bulbs bone dry.

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Veltheimia bracteata

While V. capensis has glaucous foliage, presumably for protection in direct sunlight, V. bracteata has shiny green foliage.  The leaves of both species often have undulate or crisped margins. Compared to its sister species, V. bracteata seems to be more tolerant of shade and moisture during the summer.

The flowers of both species are variable, and hybrids have also been produced in cultivation, adding to the range of colors.  The extensive yellow color at the tips of the flowers on my smaller V. capensis makes me wonder if it is of hybrid origin.