Six on Saturday #44 (May 11, 2019)

Another Saturday, another six plants in the garden or greenhouse.

1. Vaccinium sp.

Vaccineum-sp2

This native species grows mainly under the deciduous trees at the north end of our property. I think it may be Vaccineum stamineum (deerberry), but V. stamineum reportedly grows 3-6 feet (1-2 m) tall. These plants form low, slowly spreading clumps no more than 1 foot tall (~30 cm) and usually less.

A second dwarf Vaccineum species, perhaps V. tenellum (narrowleaf blueberry) grows interspersed with the putative deerberry (see the first image here).

2. Tradescantia x Andersoniana cultivars (hybrid spiderworts).

Tradescantia x Andersoniana plants are hybrids of several North American spiderwort species. Given sufficient moisture, they grow well in partial shade to full sun and bloom beautifully from early May until well into June. The flowers are some of the best reasons for an early morning walk through the garden when it is still cool and wet with dew. Individual flowers are very short lived and usually collapse by early afternoon–or before noon on hot sunny days–but more flowers are open the next morning.  Bees and hoverflies love them.

aTradescantia_Sweet-Kate
Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’, with its striking chartreuse foliage, is probably the most commonly available cultivar. The leaves of my plant seem to become more green later in the year–perhaps a response to increasing night temperatures?

aTradescantia_Concord-Grape
Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape’?

Last year, a local nursery received a large shipment of Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape’ plants which showed some variability in flower color. I picked one with the brightest magenta flowers for maximum contrast with the blue-green foliage.

I find these plants to be very difficult to photograph satisfactorily with a digital camera.  The flowers are usually over-saturated, and the color balance is often subtly wrong.

3. Amsonia tabernaemontana (eastern bluestar)

Amsonia_tabernaemontana

This member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) is a true piedmont native.  I grew it from seed obtained from the NC Botanical Garden seed distribution program.  The flowers are a very pale blue.

4. Calanthe tricarinata (monkey orchid)

Calanthe_tricarinata1

C. tricarinata finally bloomed, so now I can add it as an update to the Woodland Orchids post.  The flower of this species supposedly resembles a monkey.  I can’t see it.

5. Paphiopedilum niveum

Paph_niveum

In the greenhouse, a miniature slipper orchid.  Paphiopedilum niveum grows on limestone in Thailand and peninsular Malaysia.  It is the easiest of the Brachypetalum paphs to grow, being much less susceptible to rot than its relatives like P. bellatulum or P. godefroyae.  My plant was purchased as a young seedling from the old Oak Hill Gardens nursery in Chicago, and it has been producing its cute little flowers every May or June since 2003.

6. Encyclia fowliei

Encyclia-fowlei

Encyclia fowliei is a pretty little epiphytic orchid from Bahia, Brazil which was described as recently as 1989.  I have two plants: one purchased for beaucoup d’argent when the species was difficult to find in cultivation, and a second purchased for pocket change a few years later when H & R Nurseries in Hawaii started selling vast quantities of seedlings.

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.

Advertisements

Woodland orchids

At the south end of my garden is a roughly rectangular flowerbed, approximately 15 x 22 ft (4.5 x 6.7 m), shaded by a mature dogwood tree (Cornus florida). The dogwood bed catches rainwater running off the lawn, so unlike most of the shaded areas in the garden, the soil is fairly moist. It has also been enriched with organic material, the legacy my past attempts to grow vegetables there (hint: veggies don’t grow well in shade). About four years ago, I started turning the dogwood bed into a shade garden planted primarily with woodland perennials from North America and those regions of Asia that have a climate similar to the piedmont. Pride of place in my somewhat haphazard planting scheme goes to orchids, most of which bloom in spring.

Calanthe

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese members of the genus Calanthe are some of the best orchids for shady piedmont gardens. They have beautiful flowers, tolerate transplanting well, and although they prefer moist, well drained soil, they are remarkably drought resistant when necessary. Their new growth is somewhat tender, but they do not seem to be as badly damaged by late frost as some other Asian orchids such as Bletilla striata.

Hardy Calanthe species and hybrids are rarely offered by specialist orchid nurseries, but they are sometimes sold by nurseries specializing in woodland perennials. I have planted four species (C. striata, C. tricarinata, C. discolor, and C. reflexa) and two hybrids (C. Takane and C. ‘Kojima Red’). C. tricarinata is currently in bud, and C. reflexa blooms later in the summer. The other plants are all flowering now.

Calanthe discolor

Calanthe discolor2
Calanthe discolor

Calanthe discolor is generally considered one of the hardiest Calanthe species. Its natural range includes Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese prefecture, and it is often rated for growing in USDA zone 6. It’s not a particularly colorful orchid, but it has a neat and tidy appearance. My plant, purchased from Montrose Garden, has pale green sepals and petals, but dark brown clones perhaps offer better contrast with the white lip. When dumped out of its pot, the plant fell apart into several divisions. I planted them separately, and they are multiplying rapidly, with each division producing several new pseudobulbs.

I really like the Japanese name for C. discolor: ebine, “shrimp root.”

Calanthe_striata3
Calanthe striata

I previously featured C. striata under its synonym C. sieboldii. C. kawakamii is also considered a synonym for this species, although the Taiwanese plants with that label may prove to be less hardy than the Japanese plants labeled C. sieboldii.

C. striata is a significantly larger plant than C. discolor, with many-flowered inflorescences standing ~22 inches (56 cm) high. It has proven very vigorous in my garden; the plant had two inflorescences in spring 2017 and six this year.

Calanthe_Takane

Calathe_Takane2
Calanthe Takane

Calanthe Takane, the hybrid of C. discolor and C. striata occurs naturally in Japan and has also been produced in cultivation. It is intermediate in size between its two parents and variable in color. I really like this clone with its yellow lip from C. striata and its sepals and petals darkened to orange by the influence of C. discolor. C. Takane supposedly benefits from hybrid vigor, but my plant produces a single new growth each year and shows no inclination to multiply like its parent species.

Calanthe_Kojima-Red
Calanthe ‘Kojima Red’

‘Kojima Red’ seems to be an informal name, not a registered grex. Its parentage includes Calanthe discolor, C. striata, C. tricarinata, and C. aristulifera. Although richly colored, the flowers are barely the size of C. discolor.  I think I prefer the species and C. Takane.

Update, May 11, 2019:

Calanthe_tricarinata1
Calanthe tricarinata

In flower and plant size, Calanthe tricarinata is roughly equivalent to C. discolor and ‘Kojima Red’.  The flowers nod, so a viewer mostly sees their backs.   I have to tilt them up to get a good look at the lip.  The flower supposedly resembles a monkey’s face.  I can’t see it..

Cypripedium

North Carolina is home to about 70 orchid species and natural hybrids, but most of the really attractive plants grow in sunny habitat in the mountains or coastal plain. The majority of orchids in the piedmont woods have little whitish or greenish flowers that would only appeal to a confirmed orchidoholic. The exceptions are our two native lady’s slipper orchids, Cypripedium acaule (pink lady’s slipper, moccasin flower) and Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens (large yellow lady’s slipper). I have previously discussed the wild populations of these species that grow nearby.

C. acaule is notoriously difficult to transplant and grow in the garden long-term, but C. parviflorum var. pubescens is generally considered to be one of the easiest lady’s slippers to cultivate. For years, I have itched to add one of the latter to my garden. Last autumn I splurged and bought a blooming-size plant.

Cyp_pubescens
Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens

Cyp_pubescens1

I expected to get a single-growth division that might give me one flower this year. Instead, the plant has produced five flowers on four new growths. I’m not sure if I’ll be able keep it going long term–a potential complication is that although the species is native to the NC piedmont, most of the plants in cultivation probably originate from more northern populations–but the size and vigor of this particular plant surely gives me a head start.

Cyppubescens2
Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens

This actually isn’t my first attempt to grow C. parviflorum. Long, long ago, when I lived in Michigan, I kept a seedling of Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin in a pot on my windowsill. This northern variety did remarkably well in the relatively cool climate of Ann Arbor, steadily increasing in size and reliably producing small but highly fragrant flowers.  Unfortunately, it really did not appreciate the move from Michigan to North Carolina. One hot summer it went dormant early and never sprouted the next spring.

cyp_parviflorum1
My late, lamented Cypripedium parviflorum var makasin in 2001.  I loved the dark, corkscrew petals, and it was ideal for growing in a small pot. The flower’s pouch was only about the size of my thumbnail.

About fifteen years later, I’m trying another Cypripedium species in a pot:  the Taiwanese Cypripedium formosanum.

Cyp_formosanum1
Cypripedium formosanum

I originally planned to plant this C. formosanum in the dogwood bed, but several sources suggested that it has a tendency to start growing in late winter and is badly damaged by frost. I decided it would be safest to grow it in a pot, at least until it is large enough to divide, even though it may be tricky to keep the roots cool in mid-summer.

Six on Saturday #41 (April 6, 2019)

A brief return to winter this week kept me busy covering the tender new growth of terrestrial orchids every evening to protect them from frost.  Then, of course, I had to uncover them before going to work in the morning.  It looks as though we may have seen the last freeze, though, and the temperature is forecast to be 80 F (26.6 C) on Monday.

Here are six plants whose flowers didn’t mind the cold (or were protected in the greenhouse)

1. Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’ (lesser celandine)

Ficaria-verna_Brazen-Hussey

Purchasing this plant a year ago may have been a mistake.  It was labeled Ranunculus ficaria at the nursery, and I didn’t realize that the little spring ephemeral with dark purple foliage was actually a cultivar of Ficaria verna,  the invasive pest with green leaves that I have seen covering river banks in Pennsylvania.  However, ‘Brazen Hussy’ has thus far shown no inclination to self-pollinate, and the flowerbed in my garden lacks the moving water that helps F. verna spread so aggressively on floodplains.  If it manifests any invasive inclinations, it will go straight to the landfill (won’t risk the compost heap), but until them I’m reluctant to do away with it.  The shiny, almost metallic flowers go so well with the dark foliage of this cultivar.

2. Brunnera macrophylla (Siberian bugloss)

Brunnera

I most commonly see the variegated clone ‘Jack Frost’ for sale around here, but this seed grown plant has plain green leaves.  My wife loves blue flowers, so plain leaves or not, this is an obvious plant to include in the garden.

3. Tulipa whittallii

Tulipa-whittalliiTulipa-whittallii2

For the last couple of years, I have been experimenting with species tulips that may prove to be more heat tolerant than most of the hybrids.  Tulipa clusiana var chrysantha was recommended for our climate, and it looks as though it will do well–the bulbs I planted in 2017 have multiplied and will be flowering in a week or two.  It’s still too early to know how Tulipa whittallii will do. On the strength of one bulb catalog that said this is one of the most heat tolerant species, I planted a dozen bulbs last autumn.  The flowers are certainly eye catching. They close up tight each evening and only open up for a few hours in the afternoon (which doesn’t seem a very good way to attract pollinators), but the intense orange color makes the wait worthwhile.  I hope they stick around for a good many years.

4.  Narcissus Quail (and an enormous pile of mulch)

Quail

Narcissus ‘Quail’ is a jonquilla hybrid that produces two or three flowers per inflorescence.  I’m not sure if I like it.  The flowers are a somewhat squashed together, so their shape is lost in a large blob of yellow.

The mulch is 16 cubic yards of ground hardwood (with a generous proportion of eastern red cedar, judging by the smell).  A couple of inches of mulch spread on the flowerbeds every other year suppresses weeds, adds organic material, and most importantly, reduces the need to water.  Although I irrigate new plants until their roots are established, my goal is to have the garden survive on rain alone.

5. Euphorbia horombensis

IMG_1348(1)

In the greenhouse, this is the season for Euphorbia horombensis to produce its brick red cyathophylls, but its spiny armament is impressive all year round.  E. horombensis is listed as endangered on the IUCN red list, primarily due to habitat degradation and over-collection, but artificially propagated seedlings are reasonably common (and reasonably priced) from a few nurseries that specialize in propagating succulent plants.

Euphorbia-horombensis2

The inflorescences of E. horombensis are covered with sticky sap which traps small insects (in this case, a flying ant).  I’m not sure what purpose the sap serves, but it seems odd that a plant would trap potential pollinators.

Euphorbia-horombensis3

6. Paphiopedilum delenatii var. vinicolor

delenatii-vinicolorAnd finally, a first-bloom seedling of Paphiopedilum delenatii var vinicolor, a recent addition to my slipper orchid collection.

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.

Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum

Paph_hirsutissimum1

The Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum buds that were slowly opening last week (see #6) are now fully fledged flowers.  I really like the crisping that has developed along the upper edge of the petals.  It’s a shame that the ends of petals have twisted, making them look narrower, but overall I’m really pleased with this plant.

P. hirsutissimum has a fairly broad range extending from northeastern India to southwestern China (See IOSPE for details).  Like most of the plants in cultivation, this is probably P. hirsutissimum var. esquirolei, which comes from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.  This variety is less hairy but has larger flowers and more upright influorescences than typical P. hirsutissimum var. hirsutissimum.

I can’t decide if the staminode looks like a grumpy face sticking out its lower lip…

Paph_hirsutissimum2

…or maybe a screaming face with a bristly crew-cut.

Paph_hirsutissimum3

Six on Saturday #40 (March 16, 2019)

pseudonarcissus1
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.

pseudonarcissus2

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.

jetfire
The swept-back petals of Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ come from its parent N. cyclamineus. I planted these bulbs last autumn.
tete-a-tete
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’

Ruby-star

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…

Paph-hirsutissimum
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.