Six on Saturday #47 (August 24, 2019)

The first two plants in this Six on Saturday post bloomed in early August, after S.O.S #46, but I thought they were worth including even though they aren’t flowering today.  The remaining four plants are currently in bloom.

1. Rhododendron prunifolium (plum-leaf azalea)

Rhodo_prunifolium

Rhododendron prunifolium is one of the latest-blooming of the North American deciduous azaleas. With its flowers tucked in among leaves, I think it looks more subdued and elegant than the flamboyant species that bloom on bare branches early in the spring.  Very rare in the wild, it is native only to a small region of Alabama and Georgia along the Chattahoochee River.

2. Lycoris x rosea ‘Neon Nights’

Lycoris_rosea

This cross of Lycoris radiata and L. sprengeri blooms at about the same time as my L. radiata var. pumila plants.  The photo doesn’t exaggerate the intensity of its color.

3. Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Asclepias incarnata-2

Despite its common name, Asclepias incarnata grows reasonably well in regular garden soil.  It doesn’t seem to be as long-lived as Asclepias tuberosa, though.  This is probably a third-generation seedling, and the first generation of plants that I grew are all long dead.

4. Gentiana andrewsii (closed bottle gentian)

Gentiana_andrewsii

Gentiana andrewsii is one of the more bizarre flowers in my garden.  It is native to the northeastern and midwestern states and Canada but seems to do reasonably well in the NC piedmont.  The flower never opens and is pollinated by bees that are strong enough to force their way inside.  If I don’t do some weeding soon, these plants will be choked out by invasive Duchesnea indica (mock strawberry) that are invading the flower bed from a nearby lawn*

*lawn, meaning green weeds that can survive being mowed.

5. Barnadia japonica (Japanese squill)

Scilla_scilloides

I really don’t remember planting this little bulb among the cactus and agaves that surround our wellhead.  I do have a small clump of bulbs elsewhere in the garden, so I wonder if a squirrel transplanted this one.

6. Calanthe reflexa

Calanthe_reflexa

Well, this was a disappointment.  Calanthe reflexa has miniscule flowers, and the color of this clone is an insipid pale violet. About the only thing that makes it worthy of growing is its blooming season–months after all the other hardy Calanthe species and hybrids have finished flowering.

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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Six on Saturday #46 (August 3, 2019)

It has been more than two months since I managed to get a Six on Saturday post together, so this is a catch-up post:  six plants that have bloomed since S.O.S. #45.

1. Bletilla Yokohama ‘Kate’  (Flowered in late May)

Bletilla_Yokohama

As I previously posted, Bletilla species and hybrids are among the easiest of terrestrial orchids to grow.  B. Yokohama is a hybrid of B. striata and B. formosana, and it blooms about a month after B. striata in my garden.  The habitat of B. formosana in Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands is subtropical, probably trending towards tropical, but B. Yokohama is fully hardy in my garden during the winter.  The new growth is tender, like that of B. striata, and must be protected from late frosts in spring.  The flowers have better form than those of B. striata, and the inflorescences are daintier.

2. Gardenia jasminoides (Hardy gardenia; flowered in early to mid June)

Gardenia

This evergreen shrub, with its fantastic fragrance, is a perennial favorite in southern gardens.  I have two different single-flowered clones which are efficiently cross-pollinated, presumably by moths, and produce lots of attractive red fruit in autumn.  Birds spread the seeds around, and I have started to find volunteer seedlings–a nice bonus that you won’t get if you grow the sterile double-flowered clones.

My plants were badly damaged by cold during the winter of 2017/2018, but they sprouted vigorously from their trimmed stumps, and it is hard now to see where they were cut.

2. Hippeastrum ‘Mead Strain’ (Garden Amaryllis; flowered in early June)

Hippeastrum Meads_strain

This Hippeastrum hybrid is the product of crosses made by Theodore Mead about 100 years ago.  Its background appears to include a large percentage of genes of the Bolivian species Hippeastrum vittatum, and similar hybrids often masquerade as that species in cultivation.  Bulbs of the Mead Strain are common heirloom plants in southern gardens, and a very similar clone is passed around by gardeners in my parent’s neighborhood in Texas.

4.  Lobelia laxiflora subsp. laxiflora ‘Candy Corn’ (Flowers intermittently all summer)

Lobelia Candy_Corng2
This Mexican Lobelia species is much more drought tolerant than our native L. cardinalis, so I grow it in a hot,sandy bed beside the driveway.  Its bloom season overlaps with that of L. cardinalis (see photo #3 here), and both species are visited by hummingbirds, but I haven’t found any volunteer hybrids yet.  I live in hope.

Lovelia Candy_Corn

5. Eucomis cf. zambesiaca (Pineapple lily; flowered in July)

Eucomis_zambesiaca

All of the Eucomis species and hybrids from southern Africa seem to be hardy in North Carolina, but many of them scorch and wilt in hot sun.  They require bright light to grow well, so this heat sensitivity creates a cultural conundrum.  This small variety sold as Eucomis autumnalis by the big bulb vendors is the most resistant to wilting of all the Eucomis that I have grown.  It looks very little like a true E. autumnalis that I bought from a specialist nursery, and I am fairly sure that it is actually E. zambesiaca, possibly the clone ‘White Dwarf.’

6.  Iris domestica (Blackberry lily; Currently flowering)

Iris Hello_Yellow
Iris domestica ‘Hello Yellow’

Iris domestica (formerly Belamcanda chinensis) is an old garden favorite, but most of the nurseries around here sell the newer all-yellow clones like ‘Hello Yellow.’  I really wanted the old fashioned wild-type orange form, too, and about two years ago I found a few plants growing wild along a power line cut.  I collected seed, and the resulting seedlings started flowering this summer, about 18 months after germination.

Iris_domestica

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.

Six on Saturday #45 (May 18, 2019)

The forecast for today is 91 F (32.8 C), and if we reach that temperature it will be the first time we have broken 90 F this year. May 15 is the average date of the first 90 degree day, so we are right on schedule.

1. Herbertia lahue subsp. lahue

Herbertia1

Herbertia lahue has three subspecies–H. lahue lahue, H. lahue amoena, and H. lahue caerulea–and a really odd distribution pattern. The first two subspecies are native to Argentina and Chile, while H. lahue caerulea (prairie nymph) grows along the gulf coast of the United States. This odd disjunct range is shared by several other bulbs and may indicate very early introduction of South American plants to Spanish colonies in North America.

Herbertia2

The flowers of H. lahue, like those of many irids, are very short lived, and the small stature of the plant makes them easy to overlook. Last year, I found a few seed capsules but didn’t see any flowers. This year, I missed the first flush of flowers, as indicated by the green capsule in the foreground, but I happened to walk past the plant just in time for the second flush.

Similar to its larger relatives Cypella herbertii and Cypella coelestis, H. lahue is remarkably cold hardy for a South American plant. It produces its tiny iris-like leaves in winter and goes dormant in early summer.

2. Penstemon murrayanus (scarlet beardtongue)

Penstemon_murrayanus1

This fantastic Penstemon grows naturally in scattered localities in east Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. I like the bizarre perfoliate leaves almost as much as the bright orange-red flowers. It’s not difficult to guess the pollinator–hummingbirds, of course.

Penstemon_murrayanus2

I planted a seedling last May, so this is the first time it has flowered in my garden. Hopefully it will produce seed after self-pollination. Penstemon digitalis (photo 5 of SoS #29) is blooming on the other side to the house, so I suppose hybridization is possible. It’s probably unlikely, though. The white flowers of P. digitalis are pollinated by bees, not hummingbirds.

3. Borago officinalis (borage)

borage

I don’t usually grow annuals, but I’ll make an exception for borage with its fuzzy buds and beautiful blue flowers. It’s one of the traditional garnishes for a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup…and now I’m getting thirsty.

4. Ocimum kilimandscharicum x O. basilicum (African blue basil)

African_blue_basil

I picked this up at the Durham farmer’s market simply because we like to try different types of basil in the kitchen. I had no idea that it was such an interesting plant. African blue basil is a sterile hybrid of culinary basil (O. basilicum) and camphor basil (O. kilimandscharicum), If the second species epithet reminds you of “Kilimanjaro,” you’re not wrong. O. kilimandscharicum is native to east Africa. Unlike the the usual culinary basil varieties, which is easy to grow from seed, African blue basil must be propagated from cuttings. Apparently, it roots easily, flowers almost constantly, and is reliably perennial, though not frost hardy.

My wife thinks the African blue basil smells like regular sweet (Genovese) basil, but I detect a definite camphor fragrance that is presumably inherited from O.  kilimandscharicum.

5. Lonicera sempervirens forma sulphurea ‘John Clayton’

Lonicera_John-Clayton1

Lonicera_John-Clayton2

‘John Clayton’ is, as you can see, a yellow clone of our usually red-flowered native coral honeysuckle (see photo 2 of SoS #26). It was originally planted on this pergola together with red L. sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’, but the voles ate ‘Major Wheeler.’ Hummingbirds and this gardener agree that red clones of L. sempervirens are better, but ‘John Clayton’ is growing and blooming so vigorously that I haven’t the heart to remove it and start over..

6. Teucrium marum (cat thyme) and Felis catus (moggie)

Bly1

Bly the cat and his sister Neem both really enjoy visiting the Teucrium marum that is growing in dry sandy soil beside the gravel path leading to my greenhouse. These pictures also illustrate how we let Bly go out in the garden without endangering the local lizards and birds (and without Bly becoming a snack for the coyotes). He tolerates the harness well, as long as the human trails along behind him rather than trying to lead him.

Bly2

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.

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.

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.