Six on Saturday #21, February 17, 2018

After a frigid start to the year, we seem to have entered a warmer weather pattern.  Temperatures on Thursday and Friday reached the mid to upper 70s (~25 C).  Today is 46 (8 C), but the next week will be back in the 60s and 70s.  Early spring bulbs and a few perennials have suddenly started to flower, but I’m sure that we haven’t seen the last cold weather for this winter.

1.  Ligularia japonica ‘Chinese Dragon’

Ligularia_japonica

A relic of last summer.

2. Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)

hellebore

Perfectly timed for the beginning of Lent, the first Helleborus x hybridus flowers have opened.  This plant was part of a mixed batch of seedlings given to us by one of my wife’s colleagues who has them naturalized in her woods.  Most of the others have white flowers and are still in bud.

3.  Dwarf Iris

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A small Iris whose name has been lost in the mists of time.  The scattered corms bloom reliably every year, but the flowers have an unfortunate tendency to flop over.

4.  Yellow daffodils (Narcissus hybrid)

daffodils

Cheap and cheerful.  These are growing through the remains of last year’s Conoclinium coelestinum stems that I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up.

5.  Scilla sibirica (Siberian squill)

Scilla_sibirica

Despite the name, this species is native to the Caucasus and Turkey, not Siberia.

6.  Trichocentrum splendidum

Trichocentrum_splendidum

In the greenhouse, a large Oncidium relative from Guatemala is flowering.  T. splendidum has rigid, succulent leaves often compared to mule ears.  In late winter, as the intensity of the sunlight increases, they become suffused with dark red pigment, and shortly thereafter a 4′ (1.2 m) inflorescence rapidly grows straight up.  The flowers are each about 3″ across and last two to three weeks.

For more ‘Six On Saturday,’ get thee to The Propagator.  After enjoying his post, check out the comments for links to other participants.

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Six on Saturday #15

Another Saturday, another six things from the garden.  Autumn has not been particularly impressive thus far.  I think the very dry weather in August and September has caused some trees to drop their leaves prematurely , while others are still green.  Only one plant out in the garden has started blooming this week, so I’ll begin with it:

1. Salvia regla (Mountain Sage)

Salvia_regla

Salvia regla is primarily a Mexican species, although its range extends just north of the Rio Grande into west Texas.  In my garden it is marginally hardy, dying to the ground each winter and sprouting new growth fairly late in the spring.  Perhaps that’s why it starts flowering exceptionally late in the year.  The orange-red flowers are quite large (for a sage), but they come too late to attract hummingbirds which have already flown south for the winter.

2-6.  Autumn trees

The remaining photos this week are trees in their autumn finery.  I chose to photograph only trees that are growing naturally on our property.  Perhaps the foliage of  trees and shrubs that I have planted can be a subject for another day.

hickory and vulture
Carya sp. (hickory).

I think these are Carya glabra, pignut hickory, but I’m not very good at identifying hickories other than the shagbarks.  Can you spot the turkey vulture soaring high above?

sweetgum
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
sourwood
Oxydendrum arboreum (sourwood)
dogwood
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
red maple
Acer rubrum (red maple)

That’s all for this Saturday.  As always, head over to the Propagator’s blog to see his Six and check the comments there for links to other participants.

Six on Saturday #14

We haven’t had any cold weather yet, so the plants currently flowering are a mix of autumn stalwarts (Conoclinium, Symphiotrichum, Solidago), tropicals that will continue blooming until frost (Canna, Musa velutina, Abutilon), and a few confused spring bloomers or reblooming plants (Aquilegia, Rhododendron, Hydrangea).  For this Six on Saturday, I have selected things that I haven’t shown you before.

1. Phallus ravenelii (Ravenel’s stinkhorn)

stinkhorn

The past week has been dampish and warm.  We didn’t get enough rain to really soak the soil, but it was sufficient to wake up a stinkhorn.  These rude fellows appear in spring and autumn, and they smell as bad as their common name suggests.  This one seems to have been munched by a slug or snail during the night, so you can see the honeycomb structure of the stalk.

And yes, the genus name means exactly what you think it does.

2. Symphiotrichum oblongifolium ‘Fanny’ (Fanny’s aster)

Fanny_aster

Not much to say about Fanny’s aster.  It’s a very common autumn flower around here, because it is disease free, drought tolerant, and reliably floriferous.  The species is only just native to North Carolina, with records from one western county according to USDA.  Nancy Goodwin at Montrose Garden has mastered the art of pruning them at just the right time, so she gets perfect mounds of flowers.  My plants tend towards more of a sprawling mess.

3. Rosa ‘Nastarana’ (Persian musk rose)

Rosa_Nastarana

This climbing rose supposedly came from a garden in Iran, sometime during the late 1800s.  I bought it because I am attracted to any plant that reminds me of places where I lived as a child–though I seem to recall that most of the roses we saw in Iranian gardens, like those at the Tomb of Hafez, were red.

I keep it, because it has wonderful fragrance, blooms much of the year, and is resistant to the blackspot fungus that bedevils roses in this climate.

4. Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine)

Aquilegia

Well, this is odd.  Of the many hundreds of wild columbines that I have grown in the past fifteen years, I have never before had one bloom in the autumn.

5. Rhododendron stenopetalum ‘Linearifolium’ (spider azalea)

spider_azalea

This selected form of a Japanese species is not the most spectacular of azaleas, but its long thin leaves and matching flowers are certainly interesting.  It’s the sort of thing you walk past without really noticing, but then a few moments later, you think “what was that?” and turn around to have another look.

My plant blooms in spring and fairly often reblooms in autumn.

6. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’ (Endless Summer Hydrangea)

Endless summer

I much prefer lacecap hydrangeas, but this mophead stays in the garden because of its ability to bloom on new wood.  Even if a late freeze kills all the old wood, the new growths bloom in early summer and sometimes rebloom in autumn.

That’s it for this Saturday.  This afternoon’s project will be to haul all of my pachypodiums back into the greenhouse for the winter.  While I’m doing that you can head over to The Propagator’s blog for more Six on Saturday.  If you are interested in participating, see his guide.

Six on Saturday #13: Montrose Garden

Montrose Garden is a beautiful private garden, the life’s work of Nancy Goodwin, in Hillsborough North Carolina (see also this old New York Times story).  Once or twice a year, Nancy opens the garden and has a plant sale.  The open house was today, so the kids and I were there just after the gate opened at 10:00.

Our first stop was, of course, the sales area.  The children helped to pick out plants, and we came away with Calanthe discolor, Kniphophia ‘Lola’, Orostachys erubescens, Orostachys japonica, and a couple of white-flowered Cyclamen hederifolium. Then, we went to see the gardens.

Last year at the open house, the flowerbeds were filled with colchicum flowers.  We didn’t see many today, and I wonder if the lack of rain over the past six weeks has delayed their flowering.  The soil seemed very hard and dry in the flowerbeds, but there was still plenty of color from drought tolerant plants.

1. In the Metasequoia Garden

Metasequoia garden

During the 1980s, Nancy Goodwin ran a mail-order nursery out of Montrose.  The Montrose Nursery was known for its garden propagated hardy cyclamens at a time when many nurseries were still selling wild-collected tubers, and Nancy has planted huge drifts of Cyclamen hederifolium and other species on the wooded slopes leading down to the Eno River.  Sadly, the woods were closed today, but there were still plenty of cyclamens to be seen elsewhere in the garden.  Here, they are flowering with Sterbergia lutea (autumn daffodil) under two large Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwoods).

2. Looking towards the lath house

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On the right, Eldest Offspring is trying to photograph a monarch butterfly.

3.  Monarch butterfly on red Dahlia (photo by Eldest Offspring)

monarch

4.  Incarvillea arguta (Himalayan gloxinia)

Incarvillea

5.  Cuphea llavea (Bat-faced cuphea)

cuphea

I suspect this one is moved into the greenhouse in cold weather.  I don’t think it would survive our winter in the ground.

6. Magnolia macrophylla (big leaf magnolia)

Magnolia

With its perfectly domed shape, this is one of the best M. macrophylla I have ever seen

While I go outside and try to decide where this morning’s purchases should be planted (and whether I’ll need a pickaxe to get through the desiccated clay), why don’t you visit some other garden blogs participating in “Six on Saturday.”  Check out The Propagator for his six and for links to other blogs.

(Hoping for rain this week)

Six on Saturday #11 (in haste)

It is a fairly typical day for September in North Carolina:  Bright sun, 85 F (29.5 C), no significant rain last week, and no rain forecast for the next week.  The intensity of the sun made it difficult to get decent photos and doesn’t encourage hard work in the garden or in the greenhouse.

Nevertheless, here are six pictures from the garden today.  See the Propagator’s blog for his six and for links to other blogs who are participating in Six on Saturday.

1. Sternbergia lutea (autumn daffodil)

Sternbergia

I could have sworn that this little amaryllid was from South America, but when I looked it up just now, I learned that it is actually Eurasian, with a range extending from the western Mediterranean to Tajikistan.  Usually I get a nice little clump, but this year the bulbs have been sprouting and flowering one or two at a time. Perhaps in this dry weather they haven’t had the usual environmental signals that induce mass blooming.

2.  Lycoris radiata (hurricane lily, red spider lily)

Lycoris_radiata-leaves

Now that they have finished flowering, the L. radiata bulbs are starting to sprout leaves.

3. Hibiscus coccineus (red swamp mallow)

Hibiscus

It looks as though something drilled right through this flower when the petals were still folded together in a bud.  Native to the southeastern U.S., H. coccineus does very well in piedmont gardens and flowers for much of the summer.  In winter, the dried stems and seed capsules add interest to an otherwise barren flowerbed.  Despite its name, it grows well in regular garden soil, and its fat taproot helps it survive drought.

The palmate leaves of this species somewhat resemble a particular herb that is still illicit in North Carolina.  In the spring, before my plants start producing their dinner plate-sized flowers, I often think of this news story from 2004.

4. Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

concoclinium

The color balance of this photo seems to be off , but I’m not sure if it is my phone camera or monitor that’s to blame.  If you see a magenta flower, imagine that it is more a bluish lavender.  This species is native to the eastern U.S., from the Great Lakes to southern Texas, and although the flowers are beautiful at this time of year, I rather regret introducing it into the garden.  It spreads very aggressively, and the fluffy seeds drift all over the place.

5. Basella alba ‘Rubra’ (red malabar spinach)

malabar2

malabar3

Every spring, I start a pot of malabar spinach from seed collected the previous autumn.  The leaves really are quite tasty in soups or stews, but since we don’t cook a lot of stews in the summer, it primarily serves as an ornamental.  The seeds also survive the winter in the soil, and I’m starting to see more plants sprouting in flower beds where birds have dropped seeds or I have inadvertently raked them along with fallen leaves.  They look interesting and don’t seem to do any harm, so I just leave them alone.

6.  Cattleya labiata var rubra ‘Schuler’

Cattleya_labiata

In the greenhouse, the most famous of the unifoliate cattleyas is blooming.  C. labiata was the first of the large flowered cattleyas to be discovered, and it was one of the species responsible for the Victorian orchid craze.  It was first imported into the U.K. in 1818 and caused a sensation, but its origin wasn’t correctly reported.  Plant collectors scoured South America, discovering many other spectacular orchids in the process, but the Brazilian habitat of L. labiata wasn’t rediscovered until 1889.

Unfortunately, my greenhouse tends to be too bright and dry at this time of year, and the flowers don’t last long.  You can see that the dorsal and lateral sepals of some of these flowers have dried out prematurely.  I tend to do better with the unifoliate cattleyas that bloom in late winter.