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)
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)
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
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)
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
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.
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.
6. Paphiopedilum delenatii var. vinicolor
And finally, a first-bloom seedling of Paphiopedilum delenatii var vinicolor, a recent addition to my slipper orchid collection.
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