San Diego (Six on Saturday #37, November 10, 2018)

Botanical1
The Botanical Building in Balboa Park

This week, I traveled to San Diego, California for a scientific conference.  It was my first trip to San Diego–my first trip to anywhere in California, actually–so it was exciting to see a new part of the country.  Even the flower beds around my hotel and the convention center were full of new and interesting things.

The meeting didn’t leave much time for sightseeing, but I managed to slip away one morning and take a bus up to Balboa Park, which houses the San Diego Zoo and a variety of gardens.  I considered just wandering around the free areas of the park but eventually decided that I couldn’t miss the world famous zoo.  That turned out to be the correct choice.  In addition to being an amazing collection of endangered species (the zoo is famous for its captive breeding successes), the grounds are also a very fine botanical garden.  The weather was cool, so the animals were active, and there were hardly any visitors.  I had a good long visit with the pandas (red and giant), koalas, Tasmanian devils, komodo dragon, giant tortoises, okapis, elephants, jaguars, and many other animals, but I took more pictures of the plants.

Today being Saturday, here are six things that caught my eye in San Diego–garden related, of course.

1.  Flowering trees.

November is clearly not the best time of year for blooming trees, but nevertheless, I saw some beautiful tropical and subtropical flowers.

Ceiba1
Ceiba speciosa (silk floss tree) in Balboa Park
Ceiba2
Ceiba speciosa flower
Spathodea
Spathodea campanulata (African tulip tree) in Balboa Park
Bauhinia
Bauhinia x blakeana (Hong Kong orchid tree) at the San Diego Zoo

2. Bird of Paradise flowers

Strelitzia1
Roadside Strelitzia reginae

Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) and Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise) were growing (and blooming) all over town.  S. reginae is my wife’s favorite flower, so when we were first married I tried growing some from seed.  After fifteen years, I managed to get a only single flower from an enormous clump that took up a lot of real estate in the greenhouse, so I gave up.  Clearly, flowering is not a problem when they are grown outside in San Diego.

Strelitzia2
Strelitzia nicolae on the patio of the convention center

3.  The Botanical Building

Botanical2

The Botanical Building is a Balboa Park landmark that was originally built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition.  Before seeing it, I had assumed it was some sort of greenhouse or conservatory, but there is no glass involved.  Instead, the Botanical Building is a giant lathe house, built of wooden strips that provide the perfect amount of shade and wind protection for palms, tree ferns, and other tropical/subtropical understory plants.

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Inside the Botanical Building
Deppea_splendens
Deppea splendens flowering in the Botanical Building.  Oh, how I wish this species would survive a North Carolina summer
Ficus_sycomorus
An enormous Ficus sycomorus growing behind the Botanical House.  A photo can’t do justice to the scale of its massive buttress roots.  According to the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus the tax collector climbed one of these trees so that he could see Jesus.

4.  Australian plants

Callistemon ‘Woodlanders Hardy’ and one or two eucalyptus are the only Australian plants I know of that can be grown in North Carolina, and even those are marginal outside of the coastal plain.  The climate of southern California is more similar to parts of Australia, so I wasn’t surprised to see a wider variety of plants from Down Under.

Anigozanthos
Anigozanthos (Kangaroo paw) in a flower bed at the convention center.  I wonder if one of these could be grown in a pot in North Carolina, if protected from rain?
Brachychiton
A little grove of Brachychiton rupestris (Queensland bottle trees) at the zoo

Australian_plant
I assume this is Australian, because it was growing in the koala habitat at the zoo.  Australian readers, help me out. Is this some sort of Grevillea?  It was growing as a tall shrub, or small tree. [Update:  This appears to be Alloxylon flammeum.  Thanks to Jim Stephens for the suggested identification.]
5. African and Malagasy plants

The zoo has a really impressive collection of succulents from Madagascar and southern Africa.

Alluadia
Alluadia procera (Madagascar) outside the Elephant Care Center
Cyphostemma
Cyphostemma juttae (southern Africa)
Pachy_and_Moringa
Pachypodium lamerei and Moringa drouhardii (bottle tree, smooth trunk on left), both from Madagascar
Euphorbia spectabilis
Euphorbia spectabilis (Tanzania)
Uncarina
Uncarina sp. (Madagascar)

6. Hawaiian plants

I suppose the climate of Hawaii, particularly on the drier leeward side of the islands, must be not entirely unlike that of coastal San Diego County.

Brighamia
Brighamia insignis (Ōlulu, Cabbage-on-a-stick) growing among other Hawaiian plants at the zoo.  Despite the whimsical common name, this is a member of the Campanulaceae, not a cabbage relative.
Prichardia
Pritchardia hillebrandii (loulu lelo palm) in the Botanical Building

For more Six on Saturday, click over to The Propagator, where you will find his Six and links to other participants.

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Six on Saturday #27, May 5, 2018

Here we go again.  Six more plants blooming on a Saturday.  When you are finished here, get on over to The Propagator’s site for more Six on Saturday.

1.  Philadelphus inodorus (scentless mock orange)

Philadelphus_inodorus

I grew this pretty native shrub from seed obtained from the NC Botanical Garden’s annual members’ seed list.  It seems to be primarily a species of the Appalachians, but the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has records for Orange and Randolph Counties in the NC piedmont.

2.  Melittis melissophyllum ‘Royal Velvet Distinction’ (bastard balm)

Melittis

I bought this European perennial partly for its pretty flowers, but mostly for its common name.  It’s Latin name suggests that it is popular with bees, but I haven’t been able to track down the origin of “bastard balm”.  For the first two years, it produced a fairly sad little flowerless rosette, and I wondered if it didn’t like our climate or soil.  But, this year it has grown three flowering stems that are about a foot tall.

3.  Iris tectorum (Japanese roof iris)

Iris_tectorum

As with many other Japanese species, Iris tectorum loves our climate.   After the flowers fade, the foliage remains neat and tidy throughout the summer and autumn, dying back only in midwinter.  I started with a single plant ten years ago , but I scatter seed every autumn.  Now there are scattered clumps and large drifts throughout the garden.  Some of the older clumps suffer from iris borers in late summer, but there are always enough seedlings to replace them.  I think it might be nice to get a few of the white form to intersperse among the typical lavender flowers, but the whites have suddenly become hard to find at local nurseries.

4.  Arisaema triphyllum (jack in the pulpit) 

Arisaema_triphyllum

This is another plant that is slowly spreading through the garden.  I started my garden population from seed of local wild plants, but at this point I’m on the third or fourth generation of cultivated plants.  A. triphyllum isn’t as bizarre as some of the Asian Arisaema species, but I like our little native.

5.  Amorphophallus konjac (konjaku, voodoo lily)

Amorphophallus1

Hey, who planted this stinking aroid so close to the house?  And right next to the beautifully fragrant Persian musk rose, too.  Oh, yeah, it was me.

There are three flowering this year.  The burying beetles and blow flies are so pleased

6.  Sarracenia flava (yellow pitcher plant)

Sarracenia_flava

Fresh young pitchers of one of our native carnivorous plants emerging from my bog garden which is in desperate need of a renovation.

Six on Saturday #25, April 14, 2018

Spring has really gathered steam over the past week, and for the first time in a couple of months, I had to select from among a wide array of flowers for this Six on Saturday.

This week, I’ll start in the greenhouse and then move outside.

1.  Phalaenopsis mannii

Phal_mannii

The range of this small Phalaenopsis species extends from Assam to Vietnam and southern China.  In common with some other Phal species, you should never cut the inflorescences when the spring/summer flowering season is finished.  The old inflorescences will remain green through the winter and will produce new flower buds the next year.  At the same time, new inflorescences will sprout, so as the plant gets older you’ll have more and more flowers each year.

2.  Vireya hybrids (two for one)

Vireyas are a group of Rhododendron species from the old-world tropics, with the greatest diversity New Guinea, Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and the Philippines.  The majority of species are from high elevation, so they prefer mild temperatures and do not appreciate the warm summer nights in North Carolina.  In the USA, most vireya growers are on the west coast and Hawaii.

I have had long-term success with a few heat-tolerant vireyas whose ancestors come from lower elevations They do not tolerate frost, so in North Carolina they are definitely greenhouse plants.  I’ve been growing these two plants since 2004.

vireya2
Rhododendron jasminiflorum x (viriosum x jasminiflorum).  The pink color is a mix of the white R. jasminiflorum and red R. viriosum, but the long, tubular flower shape is all R. jasminiflorum.  This plant came from the late Bill Moyles, a well known vireya grower and hybridizer from Oakland, CA.
vireya1
This  complex hybrid with peachy flowers is another Bill Moyles cross. It is Rhododendron (Felinda x (aurigeranum x Dr. Hermann Sleumer)) x javanicum.   R. Felinda is ((phaeopeplum x viriosum) x leucogigas), and R. Dr. Hermann Sleumer is (phaeopeplum x zoelleri).

3. Ornithogalum dubium

ornithogalum-dubium

Ornithogalum dubium is commonly sold by supermarkets and hardware stores as a throw-away flowering plant in late winter.  Most people will probably treat them like cut flowers and toss the pot when the foliage starts to yellow.  To keep the plants for another year, store the dormant bulbs dry and warm (or even hot) over the summer.  Occasionally, bulbs will fail to sprout in autumn.  As long as they remain firm, give them occasional water through the winter and then another hot dry summer.  Often, they will sprout after the second dormancy.  I have maintained these for five years, so there’s definitely no need to buy a new pot full every year.

And now, outside for the remaining three plants this week…

4.  Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha

clusiana-chrysantha1

Tulipa clusiana is reputed to be the best perennial tulip for the southeast.  I first saw them blooming in Coker Arboretum at the University of North Carolina and was thrilled to find that they are very inexpensive from internet bulb vendors.

T. clusiana var. chrysantha flowers open in mid-morning and close back into tight buds in late afternoon.  Although they have been flowering all week, I have seen only the orange buds when leaving the house and returning from work.  Today was the first time I saw the bright yellow open flowers.

clusiana-chrysantha2

5.  Saruma henryi 

IMG_4929 crop

The fuzzy stems of Saruma henryi are just starting to emerge from the mulch, and the first flower is still wrinkled.  S. henryi is related to Asarum, hence its genus name.   Saruma is an anagram of Asarum.  Those crazy botanists…

6.  Scilla peruviana

Scilla-peruviana

Despite the name, Scilla peruviana is from the Mediterranean–Portugal, Spain, and southern Italy–not South America.  The large bulbs produce their leaves in autumn, remain green all winter, and flower in spring.  When I planted the bulbs last autumn, I wasn’t sure if they would survive outside, but they tolerated 3.2 F (-16 C) with only minor damage to the leaf tips.

To see what’s growing in gardens all around the world, head to The Propagator for his Six on Saturday and links to those of other garden bloggers.

Six on Saturday #23, March 17, 2018

After a couple of weeks away, I finally have some interesting material for Six on Saturday. Or, more accurately perhaps, I have one really interesting plant and some filler material to show you.  As always, visit The Propagator for his weekly six and for links to Six on Saturday posts by other garden bloggers.

1.  Eithea blumenavia

Eithea

This lovely little flower is a miniature amaryllid, related to Hippeastrum, from southern Brazil. Unlike most Hippeastrum species, you can grow a nice little clump of E. blumenavia in a pot as small as 4″ (10 cm diameter).  My plant blooms intermittently throughout the year, but mostly in spring and early summer.  E. blumenavia can be a little difficult to find for sale but is well worth growing if you can locate some bulbs or seed.  Unfortunately, my clone does not seem to be self-fertile.

2.  Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’

Annas_red

This is a relatively recent hybrid (2013?) which has become very popular. I think it is one of the best hellebores on the market today, both for its flowers and its slightly variegated foliage

3. Grape hyacinths (Muscari)

grape_hyacinth

This pretty, dark flowered grape hyacinth started as a volunteer seedling, origin unknown.  There are probably enough bulbs now to dig up and transplant around the garden.  Trouble is, that would require me to remember them after they have gone dormant and disappeared under the summer perennials.

4. Bicolored daffodil (Narcissus)

bicolored_daffodils

I really like the orange cup and later bloom time (relative to the early yellows) of this bicolored daffodil growing among some thornless blackberry stems. I wish there were daffodils that were this same orange color all over.  Also, I wish I could remember what clone these are.

5. Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea)

Hydrangea_quercifolia

The fuzzy-felted new leaves of Hydrangea quercifolia are completely unfazed by our erratic spring weather, which has been fluctuating between the uppers 20s and mid 70s (-3 to 24 C).  As someone once said, “North Carolina has two seasons:  hot and random.”

6.  Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’

frozen_hydrangea

Hydrangea ‘Blue Wave’ is an utterly gorgeous lacecap, but unfortunately it does not deal well with our spring weather.  When dormant, it is very hardy, easily tolerating the low of 3 F (-16 C) this winter, but warm weather in late winter encourages it to start growing early.  The emerging leaves are sensitive to the slightest frost, and if they are killed the plant won’t bloom.  New growth will sprout from the base, but the stems do not bloom until their second year.  Since we almost always have a prolonged frost-free period in January or February, followed by one or more late frosts, it has been six years since I got a good bloom off this shrub.

Later this spring, I think it will probably dig it up and replace it with something better suited to our climate.

Don’t do this

Fothergilla

The landscapers groundskeepers at my workplace just finished pruning a hedge of witch alders, thus ruining their naturally elegant form and guaranteeing that they won’t bloom this year.

Witch alders (Fothergilla gardenii, Fothergilla major, Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’) are native shrubs that reward the gardener with licorice-scented flowers in spring, attractive foliage in summer, and bright color in autumn.  Blooming is their first act after winter dormancy, so the flowers are borne on the stems that grew the previous year.  By cutting the plants now, the groundskeepers have sheared off all of the flower buds that would have covered the plants with beautiful white flowers about two months from now.

Fothergilla also tend to branch after blooming, so the new growth emerging from these cuts will consist of straight stems with long internodes and few branches.  By the end of summer, these plants will probably have put on as much height, if not more, than they would have if left unpruned. Where they have been cut at the same level several years in a row, they are starting to develop unsightly knobby growths that are wider than the stems below.

In situations where limiting height is a requirement, try planting the dwarf F. gardenii, not the much taller F. major or their hybrid ‘Mt. Airy’.  And if you really must prune a witch alder, do it immediately after the the spring flowering.  It is probably best to carefully remove individual branches to maintain the informal appearance of the bush instead of just cutting straight across the top.  Really, apart from formal boxwood hedges, does anything look good when sheared square like the poor plants above?