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.

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Better late than never

Brugmansia-white
Brugmansia ‘Betty Marshall’

In 2015, I bought a Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ in a 3″ pot.  Brugmansias are only marginally hardy in zone 7, so I planted it on the sheltered east side of the house.  Unfortunately, the soil there is very lean and dry, so although the plant survived the winter, it only grew about a foot tall and shed all its leaves by mid-summer.

This spring, I dug it up and moved it to a a flower bed with richer soil that catches much of the rain that runs off the lawn.  Once its roots were established, it responded by sprouting up to about 5′ tall.  I have been expecting flowers since midsummer, and the plant has finally decided to oblige.

Surprise!  It isn’t Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ after all. The flowers are white, not yellow, so this must be Brugmansia ‘Betty Marshall’, which is also sold by the same nursery.  I’m surprised, because the nursery in question is usually pretty good about correctly labeling their plants.  Possibly a customer pulled a tag and then put it back in the wrong pot.

The average date of first frost around here is October 23*, so hopefully I’ll have a couple more weeks of flowers.  There are certainly plenty of buds.  The stems will surely freeze back to the ground this winter, but if I mulch the roots well, I’m cautiously optimistic that the plant will grow faster next year and start blooming earlier.

*That’s the historic average for 1951-1980.  My impression is that during the past decade, we have usually been frost-free until after Hallowe’en.

Six on Saturday #10

This week has felt distinctly autumnal, with a couple of days barely getting into the 70s (21-24 C), and the rest of the week in the low to mid 80s (27-29 C).  The number of hummingbirds fighting over the feeders has decreased sharply, and I am starting to notice the first hints of color in the forest trees.  The tulip poplars and black tupelo, always the first to show the change of season, are dropping their leaves all over the driveway and paths, but peak color is probably another six weeks away.

In the garden, there are fewer flowers, but more seeds and berries.  Several plants whose flowers featured in earlier blog posts are back again this week.

As always, navigate over to The Propagator to see his six and those of other garden bloggers.

1.  Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’

canna_flaming-kabobs

I love the spiky seed capsules of Canna species and hybrids.  This plant was blooming for “Six on Saturday #4” on July 15 and shows no signs of stopping.  Has anyone ever tried germinating Canna seeds?

2. Gloriosa superba (flame lily)

Gloriosa-seeds

My G. superba plants have produced seed capsules that are now starting to split.  The ripe seeds, like the rest of the plant, are highly poisonous.

Gloriosa-seeds 2
an unripe seed capsule

3. Aesculus sylvatica (painted buckeye)

Ausculus_sylvatica

I showed the flowers of this species back in April.  It is one of the first woodland species to leaf out in spring, and it’s also one of the first to drop its leaves in autumn.  In a dry year, leaves will start yellowing in August. Unlike their relative the horse chestnut, North American Aesculus have smooth capsules.  The seeds also seem to be softer than horse chestnut seeds.  I don’t think they’d be very good for conkers.

4.  Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

callicarpa_americana

C. americana, with a native range extending from southern Maryland to eastern Texas, is one of the most beautiful of our native shrubs.  Birds adore the berries, so it is a great species to grow if you want to attract wildlife.  Despite the beauty of the native species, I notice that its Asian relatives are frequently used by landscapers.  The native is larger in every way than the Asian species, so perhaps they’re better suited to smaller gardens.  If you have the space, I think C. americana is superior, and you can cut it back to the ground in early spring to keep it under control. It blooms on new growth, so you’ll still have a good crop of berries in autumn.

Because it grows fast and spreads wide (my largest is about 8′ (2.4 m) tall and 10′ (3 m) wide), it’s useful as a quick source of shade for woodland perennials.

4b.  Callicarpa americana var. lactea

IMG_2079

A recent purchase still in its nursery pot.  I have wanted a white beautyberry for a while but only saw Asian plants at nurseries.  Finally found this one at the Raleigh farmers market last week. I haven’t decided where to put it yet, but I think the white berries will brighten up a shady spot.

5. Hymenocallis occidentalis

Hymenocallis-seeds

Here is some self-pollinated seed from the plant that bloomed in early August.  I’m not quite sure what to do with these seeds.  Most tropical Hymenocallis and Crinum seed germinates soon after it ripens, whether or not it has been planted, but H. occidentalis comes from regions that have a distinct winter.  Do its seeds need a cold stratification before sprouting?

I have planted about half the seeds and will keep them warm in the greenhouse over the winter.  These remaining seeds I will probably store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for six weeks before planting.

Big fleshy amaryllid seed like this usually does best if you just press it into the surface of the soil rather than burying it.  When it germinates, it produces a single sprout that grows down into the soil and swells into a tiny bulb.  Only later does the little bulb produce a leaf.

6.  Rudbeckia species

Rudbekia sp

And finally, some flowers.  I wish I could remember what Rudbeckia species this is.  I got the seed some years back from the NC Botanical Garden, but I forgot about the pot. The seedlings rooted into the ground through the pot’s  drainage holes, flowered, and produced a second generation in the ground at the back of  my shade house.  Now I have several clumps of volunteer plants growing in less light than is ideal.  Perhaps this winter I’ll move them to a sunnier spot.  If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll uncover a label in the leaf litter.

Six on Saturday #9

As of last Saturday, I thought that I’d be reduced to doing a “Six on Saturday” focused on weeds this weekend.  But during the week some very interesting surprise lilies (Lycoris) lived up to their name, and I noticed some other flowers that I had overlooked in the garden and greenhouse.  I still think a post on weeds isn’t a bad idea, but I can’t resist showing you these flowers today.

(As always, visit Six on Saturday’s host The Propagator to see his Six and links to those of other participants.)

1. Lycoris radiata var. radiata (hurricane lily, red spider lily)

L_radiata-radiata2
Lycoris radiata var radiata

A question for the photo geeks out there:  what is it about red flowers that makes them so difficult to photograph?  Other colors are fine, but with red flowers I frequently end up with an oversaturated blur unless the lighting is just right.  To get this image, I had to manually set the camera to decrease contrast and saturation, but now it looks a little more pink and washed out than it really should.

Anyway, L. radiata var radiata is the sterile triploid form that has been kicking around southern gardens since the 1840s.  I can’t really tell any difference between this and the fertile diploid L. radiata var. pumila, except that var. pumila will set seed and blooms about three weeks earlier.

2.  Lycoris aurea (golden spider lily)

L_aurea
Lycoris aurea

Lycoris aurea is a tropical/subtropical species native to southern China and Indochina [1], so its winter-growing foliage will not tolerate more than a few degrees below freezing.  I grow it in a 5 gallon (19 liter) plastic nursery pot, outdoors until first frost and then in a cool corner of the greenhouse.  When it goes dormant in spring, I leave it in the greenhouse so it experiences consistently warm, humid conditions, and I give it an occasional splash of water so that it doesn’t get too dry.  This year, I put it back outside right around September 1, and it produced this inflorescence after a good soaking rain.

For temperate climates, the closely related [2] but much hardier L. chinensis is a better choice if you want a yellow Lycoris.  I have two in the garden, but they haven’t bloomed yet.

3.  Lycoris x albiflora…A white Lycoris hybrid

L_albiflora1
Who am I, really?

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Until a few days ago, I was perfectly happy calling this plant Lycoris x albiflora, the label it carried from an online bulb vendor several years ago.  Then I read a 2014 paper by Shude Shi and colleagues [2] that digs into the phylogeny and evolution of Lycoris species.  Based on their DNA sequencing, they conclude that L. x albiflora is a natural hybrid of L. sprengeri x L. chinensis.  That’s fine, except that those two species both produce their leaves in early spring.  My plant produces its leaves in winter, like L. radiata.  Its flowers also look like a pale version of L. radiata, so I wonder if it might actually be L. straminea (L. chinensis x L. radiata var. pumila according to Shi et al.).

Adding to my confusion, there are apparently other studies (which I haven’t yet tracked down) suggesting that L. x albiflora is actually L. radiata x L. aurea.  That’s more plausible.  It would be consistent with the growth habit of my plant, and L. x elsiae, a hybrid of these same two parents, looks a lot like my plant.  Confirmation of my plant’s ID would probably require DNA analysis, so I suppose it will remain “white Lycoris hybrid.”

Regardless of its true identity, its pale color points to some interesting genetic interactions.  All of its putative parents are brightly colored:  red (L. radiata), yellow (L. chinensis or L. aurea), or pink (L. sprengeri).  I would assume that genes from one parent species are capable of suppressing the primary pigment in the other parent.  Something similar occurs among lady slipper orchids, where crossing the pink Paphiopedilum delenatii with bright yellow P. armeniacum produces P. Armeni White.

4.  Rhodophiala bifida ‘Hill Country Red’ (oxblood lily)

Rhodophiala1

Another poor quality photo of a gorgeous red flower.  The tag tells you most of what you need to know about this little amaryllid.  R. bifida ‘Hill Country Red’ is an heirloom bulb introduced into Texas by Peter Henry Oberwetter of Austin sometime after the U.S. Civil War [3].  Like Lycoris radiata, it produces its grassy foliage after flowering in autumn and goes dormant in spring.

5. Abutilon ‘Orange Hot Lava’

Abutilon
Abutilon ‘Orange Hot Lava’

I wouldn’t have believed that an Abutilon would be hardy in our climate, but a couple of years ago, I saw the Brazilian species Abutilon megapotamicum growing outdoors at J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh.  With that encouragement, I planted one in my garden last year, and it came through the winter’s snow and cold with flying colors.  This year, I am trying a couple of  A. megapotamicum hybrids, of which ‘Orange Hot Lava’ is my favorite.  ‘Orange Hot Lava’ has a more upright growth habit than A. megapotamicum, and I love the darker veining on the flowers (which it has been producing non-stop since early spring).  Hopefully it will prove to be as hardy as its parent.

6.  Trichoglottis atropurpurea

T_atropurpurea
Trichoglottis atropurpurea

And finally, to round out the six for this week, an orchid from the greenhouse.  T. atropurpurea (syn. T. brachiata) is an epiphyte from the Philippines which sprouts thick roots and long-lasting flowers at random intervals among its short, leathery leaves.  I grow my plant in an empty clay pot with a wire pot hanger helping to support the slowly vining stems. Check out the amazing white fur on the hot pink lip!

References

1.  Flora of China in eFloras (2008):  http://www.efloras.org/

2.  Shi, S., Sun, Y., Wei, L., Lei, X., Cameron, K.M., Fu, C. (2014) Plastid DNA sequence data help to clarify phylogenetic relationships and reticulate evolution in Lycoris (Amaryllidaceae).  Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 176: 115-126.

3.  Ogden, S. (2007). Garden Bulbs for the South, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Smells like autumn (and winter…and early spring)

Today, the high temperature was about 75 F (24 C), and the humidity was lower than it has been in weeks, if not months.  It feels like autumn, so when I got home from work, I wasn’t entirely surprised to find the entire garden filled with a sweet perfume reminiscent of apricots.  My tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) is blooming.

IMG_1833
The tiny yellowish flowers of Osmanthus fragrans

O. fragrans blooms in the autumn, during warm spells in winter, and in spring.  In fact, about the only time that it is unlikely to flower is during the middle of summer.  Although the flowers aren’t much to look at, a single shrub can perfume a huge area.

I bought an inexpensive little O. fragrans in a 4″ pot about fifteen years ago.  For the first five or six years, I grew it in a succession of pots and tubs, keeping it in the greenhouse during the winter so that I could enjoy its fragrance.  Eventually, it grew too large to haul around easily, so I planted it on the east side of the house where it is protected from the cold west winds that blow in winter.  It is now about eight feet tall.  Flower buds and young leaves are occasionally frozen by very cold weather, but once the new growth has hardened off, it is untroubled by our winters.  The plant has never been bothered by insects, fungus, or bacterial diseases, even in the hottest, most humid weather.