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.

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Abomination

While visiting a local home improvement store today, I took a look at the garden section to see what grotesqueries the plant wholesalers have cooked up lately.  They did not disappoint.  I am, by now, inured to things like paper flowers glued to cacti or Phalaenopsis orchids with dyed blooms–If you desperately need a cheap grafted cactus, you can pick off the fake flowers, and when the garish dye fades, you’ll have a reasonably nice white-flowered Phal hybrid.

But today’s offerings…Shudder.

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How about a Hippeastrum bulb dipped in wax?  Judging by the label, the flower is a big red tetraploid, probably ‘Red Lion,’ and someone has obviously thought, “Hmm, that’s a very striking flower, how can we make it look worse?”  The answer was to dip the bulb in wax even more brightly colored than the flower, so that the inflorescence will emerge from something the right size and color to choke Snow White.  And speaking of snow, what goes better with a subtropical flower than a coating of fake snow?

According to the label, the wax means that you don’t have to water the bulb at all.  It also means that the bulb won’t be able to grow roots, and is doomed to the trash can as soon as the flowers fade.

What’s that you say?  “A waxed bulb the color of Rudolph’s nose is pretty bad, but this is the land of inflatable snowmen and nativity scenes with Santa Claus adoring the baby Jesus.  A certain lack of taste is expected during the holidays.  Don’t you have anything worse?”

I do:

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I actually picked up a couple of these to see if they were made of plastic.  Nope, they’re real.  Someone has dipped a variety of cacti and some Gasteraloe hybrids in paint.  You can choose fluorescent red, blue, or a particularly nasty shade of blue-green.  The painted leaf tips of the Gasteraloes are already shriveling, but the plants might eventually recover as new leaves emerge. The cacti are surely doomed.  They’ve been completely covered, and I’m reminded of that scene in Goldfinger where Bond’s latest amour dies after being coated with gold paint.

Why?  Why would anyone do this?  Who would buy it?

Montrose Garden again (Six on Saturday #35, October 13, 2018)

Most of the pictures this week are really Six on (last) Saturday, because they were taken a week ago at the autumn open-house of Montrose, Nancy Goodwin’s garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina.  See here for my pictures from last autumn.

The final picture was taken yesterday, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Michael.

1. Costus species

Costus

Costus are related to ginger but have been separated out of the Zingiberaceae into their own family, Costaceae.  I made a beeline for this plant the past couple of times I visited Montrose, because I have never seen one growing in the NC piedmont before.  This time, Nancy let me in on the secret:  She digs it up every autumn and stores the rhizome in her house, so it isn’t as hardy as I hoped.  Still, our summers are clearly long enough and the soil warm enough for it to get established and flower.  Might be worth trying one of these days.

2.  Double-flowered Colchicum

Colchicum

This might be Colchicum ‘Waterlily’, but without a tag I can’t be sure.  Montrose is famous for its bulb plantings, and two of the three plants that I picked up at the sales table were also bulbs (in the broad sense):  a huge Hymenocallis that might be H. ‘Tropical Giant’ and a seedling Cyclamen mirabile.  The third plant I bought was Primula sieboldii.

3.  Abelmoschus species

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A beautiful Hibiscus relative with fuzzy buds.  I wish the plants in Montrose Garden were labeled.  I suspect this is Abelmoschus manihot, but don’t quote me on that.

4. Brugmansia (angel’s trumpet)

Brugmansia

South American Brugmansia are surprisingly hardy in the piedmont.  My plant of Brugmansia ‘Betty Marshall’ has survived three or four years outdoors and is currently about seven feet tall.  This yellow flowered clone, perhaps ‘Charles Grimaldi’, has been growing below a couple of large eastern red cedars at Montrose for longer than that.

5.  Salvia oxyphora (fuzzy Bolivian sage)

Salvia Oxyphora

I hesitated to post this photo, because it is another bright pink/red flower that blows out the sensor of my iPhone camera and is almost always overexposed.  But S. oxyphora is so fantastic and furry that I couldn’t resist.  My sole attempt to grow this species failed, but perhaps I haven’t found the correct spot for a plant that must surely be right at the edge of its hardiness zone in the piedmont.

6.  Fallen oak (Quercus species).

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Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle like a bomb.  By the time it crossed our area, it was downgraded to a weak tropical storm, but it still did plenty of damage to trees sitting in soil saturated by the remnants of Hurricane Florence just a few weeks ago.  This beautiful oak on our neighbors’ property was uprooted and dropped across our lane, blocking access.  By the time I got home from work, the neighborhood chain saw gang was hard at work clearing the road.

For more Six on Saturday, head on over to the Propagator’s blog.  Take a look at his Six and then see the comments section for links to other blogs.

Griffinia liboniana

Griffinia

This cute minature amaryllid comes from the sadly fragmented Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) in southern Brazil.  According to Kew, there are twenty-two Griffinia species, but G liboniana is easily distinguished by the white spots on its foliage.

The plant is on roughly the same scale as Eithea blumenavia, and half a dozen bulbs will grow comfortably in a 6″ (15 cm) pot.  I grow G. liboniana in a cool, shady spot in my greenhouse, but it would probably do just as well on a windowsill.

A genetic oddity

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Chimeric flowers of Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’, also known as Canna ‘Cleopatra’

After a week of feverish preparation, Hurricane Florence has arrived in North Carolina.  Initial forecasts suggested that the storm would pass right over my garden, but according to the current track, it will follow a wide arc around our area, reserving its full fury for the coastal plain and North Carolina/South Carolina border.  So far, we’ve had nothing more than than some blustery wind and about 2 inches of rain, and the only damage has been a couple of stems of Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ that blew over.

Which gives me a segue into a post I have been meaning to complete for most of the summer…

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Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ is one of the more unusual plants in my garden, a genetic oddity that is widely available from commercial nurseries (often under the later synonym, Canna ‘Cleopatra’).  This heirloom Canna was first described in the late 1920s as a sport of Canna ‘Roi Humbert’, a bronze-leaved clone with large red flowers.  The sport was described as having green leaves with yellow flowers spotted with red/orange.

It’s not clear to me if the original Canna ‘Yellow King Humbert’ sport was a chimera, a plant containing cells with two distinct genotypes, but chimerism seems to be its major selling point today.  The plants are a mixture of  cells of ‘Yellow King Humbert’ and cells corresponding to the original ‘Roi Humbert.’  The foliage is split into sectors of green and bronze in varying proportions.

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Each bronze leaf sector is connected to the rhizome by a strip of pigmented tissue that has grown from the chimeric meristem.  When the bronze cells extend into the inflorescence, red flowers are produced.  Green cells produce the yellow flowers.  The same inflorescence can produce both red and yellow flowers, or individual flowers can be split between the two colors.

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Red and yellow flowers on separate branches of the same inflorescence

To grow your own chimeric Canna, search for ‘Yellow King Humbert’ or ‘Cleopatra,’ but beware that Canna ‘Cleopatre’ is a completely different clone.  Also be aware that some of the ‘Yellow King Humbert’ for sale seem to be the stabilized yellow form, or a different but similar clone.  Most of the plants sold as Canna ‘Cleopatra’ do seem to be the chimera, but it is probably worth confirming before buying.  The nursery from which I obtained my plant recommends pulling up and discarding any all-green stems to retain the chimeric traits.  I’m not sure if that’s necessary, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

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