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

Six on Saturday #43 (April 27, 2019

This week, Six on Saturday is a doubleheader.  In addition to this miscellaneous S.O.S., I also have a post describing six woodland orchids.

The storms last Friday evening (April 19) were a reminder of how local–and how unfair–our weather can be, particularly during the warmer months.  A strong band of storms moved through in the late afternoon, and I was anxious about the possibility of hail and tree-destroying wind.  In the end, we had about half an inch of rain, no hail, and no wind damage. It was a different story just five miles away, where an EF2 tornado touched down.  A member of the local orchid society lives in its path.  He lost many mature hardwood trees, including  a massive hickory that came down on his orchid greenhouse and another that punched a hole in a 1000-gallon propane tank.  With so many old trees down, his woods won’t fully recover in our lifetimes.

I am grateful that I still have a garden to photograph:

1. Rhododendron species

Rhododendron_sp
These flowers aren’t looking their best after heavy rain

I have lost the tag for this plant and can’t remember if it is R. canescens (piedmont azalea) or R. periclymenoides (pinxter flower).  Both are native to North Carolina, but R. periclymenoides is widespread in the piedmont forest, while R. canescens is found only in a few coastal plain counties (despite its common name).

Does anyone know how to tell the two species apart?

2. Rhododendron flammeum ‘Red Inferno’ (Oconee azalea)

Rhodo_flammeum

The common name for this species should be flame azalea, but that name gets applied to Rhodonendron calendulaceum instead .  The cultivar name doesn’t lie, though.  R. flammeum is one of those species that nurseries sell as “native,” even though its actual native range consists of a few counties in Georgia and South Carolina, hundreds of miles from North Carolina.

3. Emerging leaf of Ligularia japonica ‘Chinese Dragon’

Ligularia-leaf1

I did a double-take when I saw this bizarre structure.  Somehow, I have never before noticed how odd the leaves of ‘Chinese Dragon’ look before they spread open.

Ligularia-leaf2

I love everything about this plant and have previously featured it in Six on Saturday #2 and #21.  I am pleased that it has produced a few volunteer seedlings which have inherited the deeply cut foliage.

4. Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon’s seal)

Polygonatum_biflorum

Our little native Solomon’s seal grows wild in scattered locations around our property, usually in dry soil under deciduous trees. The best colonies seem to be under hickory trees. Hickories produce toxic juglone, albeit in smaller quantities than the infamous black walnut, so perhaps the Solomon’s seal have less competition from other plants in those locations. If you are trying to find juglone-resistant plants to grow under a black walnut, Polygonatum species might be worth trying.

5. Polygonatum humile (dwarf Solomon’s seal)

Polygonatum_humile

Polygonatum humile, a species from east Asia (China, Korea, Japan) grows well in our climate. These are under a dogwood tree. They stand only 5 inches (13 cm) tall and have none of the arching grace of the larger species. They’re cute, though.

6. Fritillaria imperialis (crown imperial)

Fritillaria_imperialis

This plant, framed by a huge old patch of Lycoris squamigera, was blooming in my mother-in-law’s garden in Pennsylvania on Easter Sunday.  I have tried growing F. imperialis several times without success.  Occasionally, the bulbs produce some sickly, stunted foliage for a year or two, but they never flower.  Perhaps we have the wrong soil or climate.

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.

The fragrance of spring…in winter

Edgeworthia1
Pendant inflorescences of Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha, the paperbush, seems to be making the transition from rare collectors’ item to a garden staple that can regularly be found in garden centers.  That’s all to the good, because it is a wonderful plant for piedmont gardens.  It is one of the four best shrubs to grow for winter fragrance–the others being Osmanthus fragrans (tea olive), Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle), and Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet)–and for architectural interest, it beats those other three species hollow.

Edgeworthia2
The buds open around the outside edge of the inflorescence first.

Edgeworthia forms a perfect dome of thick, flexible branches that are covered with large green leaves in summer. The leaves drop after the first freeze, around the time that the fuzzy flower buds begin to swell, so by late December the bare branches appear to be tipped by silvery Christmas ornaments.  The flowers open from mid February to mid March in central North Carolina and fill the garden with their fragrance.  Currently both Edgeworthia and Lonicera fragrantissima are blooming in my garden.  The Edgeworthia fragrance seems sweeter, and the Lonicera more lemony, but both are wonderful.  If we don’t have a hard freeze in the next ten days they should be joined by the apricot fragrance of Osmanthus fragrans.  My Chimonanthus is still too small to bloom, but in a few years February should smell amazing.

Edgeworthia6
A few days after the flowers open, their yellow petal tips fade to white, so an older inflorescence has yellow flowers at the center and white ones around the rim.

Edgeworthia seems to grow reasonably well in dry shade, but my best specimen grows where it receives rainwater channeled from the end of the driveway and is exposed to direct sun until mid afternoon.

Edgeworthia5
A small specimen growing in dry soil at the edge of the woods.
Edgeworthia3
My larger plant growing in constantly damp soil at the southwest corner of the house.
Edgeworthia4
The same plant in March 2011

Some websites suggest that Edgeworthia buds can be destroyed by temperatures in the low teens (Fahrenheit), but my plants of the common yellow-flowered variety have tolerated low single-digits with no damage to either buds or branch tips.  The orange-flowered form does seem to be more cold sensitive.  A small specimen that I planted was frozen to the ground several years in a row and failed to come back last spring.

edgeworthia

The common name, paperbush, apparently comes from its use as a source of fiber for Chinese and Japanese paper, although I can’t imagine how anyone could bear to grind up an Edgeworthia for anything so mundane as paper pulp.

Florist azalea

azalea

Last year, at Easter, my mother-in-law gave us a small potted azalea.  This type of azalea, commonly called a florist azalea or greenhouse azalea, was bred from non-hardy species like Rhododendron simsii for cultivation in in cool greenhouses.  They are commonly available in bloom from florists, garden centers and sometimes even supermarkets.  Some varieties may be marginally hardy in the NC piedmont, especially during mild winters like this one, but they are not as well suited to our gardens as the Kurume and Satsuki hybrids, or even the Southern Indicas which were also derived from R. simsii and related species.

This plant had no tag, and since I have no idea how hardy it might be, I decided not to risk it in the ground.  After it finished blooming, I put it outside in shade and kept the pot well watered through the summer.  As the weather cooled off in autumn, I moved it into brighter light and, eventually full sun.  I left it out until the first hard freeze was forecast, and when I brought it into the house, I put it close to a cool window.  It has rewarded me with these bright, semi-double flowers on a dark, cold, rainy winter day.

Clusia orthoneura, or The Plant That Ate the Greenhouse

C_orthoneura
Clusia orthoneura flower

Half the fun of trading or giving away plant cuttings and divisions is seeing what other people can do with the same plants that I grow.  For the past ten years, I have been growing Clusia orthoneura, a strange epiphytic shrub from South America.  My plant resides in a 14″ terracotta bulb pan and is a semi-bonsai.  Every year, I put it outside for the summer, where its branches sprout aerial roots that reach the ground and dig in by the end of the summer.  Each autumn, I cut back those roots and much of the new foliage, so it will fit back into my greenhouse.  As a result, it remains almost the same size from year to year.

About five years ago, I rooted a small cutting and gave it to John Stanton, owner of the Orchid Trail nursery in Morrisville, NC.  John put the cutting in an 8″ diameter pot, and sat it on one of his greenhouse benches.  In the large commercial greenhouse, it wasn’t moved every year, and roots that grew down through the bench weren’t disturbed.  Also, John is an exceptionally good grower.

Earlier this week I stopped by the Orchid Trail in search of a particular slipper orchid species, and John showed me his Clusia.

The plant rises about six feet above the greenhouse bench and is equally wide.

clusia1

Under the greenhouse bench, the roots resemble those of a mangrove or a strangler fig.

clusia3

The pot is still visible, but most of the plant’s bulk completely bypasses it.  At this point, the pot could be cut away without bothering the plant at all.

clusia2

It’s almost unrecognizable as the same species as the stunted little thing in my greenhouse.