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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Six on Saturday #13: Montrose Garden

Montrose Garden is a beautiful private garden, the life’s work of Nancy Goodwin, in Hillsborough North Carolina (see also this old New York Times story).  Once or twice a year, Nancy opens the garden and has a plant sale.  The open house was today, so the kids and I were there just after the gate opened at 10:00.

Our first stop was, of course, the sales area.  The children helped to pick out plants, and we came away with Calanthe discolor, Kniphophia ‘Lola’, Orostachys erubescens, Orostachys japonica, and a couple of white-flowered Cyclamen hederifolium. Then, we went to see the gardens.

Last year at the open house, the flowerbeds were filled with colchicum flowers.  We didn’t see many today, and I wonder if the lack of rain over the past six weeks has delayed their flowering.  The soil seemed very hard and dry in the flowerbeds, but there was still plenty of color from drought tolerant plants.

1. In the Metasequoia Garden

Metasequoia garden

During the 1980s, Nancy Goodwin ran a mail-order nursery out of Montrose.  The Montrose Nursery was known for its garden propagated hardy cyclamens at a time when many nurseries were still selling wild-collected tubers, and Nancy has planted huge drifts of Cyclamen hederifolium and other species on the wooded slopes leading down to the Eno River.  Sadly, the woods were closed today, but there were still plenty of cyclamens to be seen elsewhere in the garden.  Here, they are flowering with Sterbergia lutea (autumn daffodil) under two large Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwoods).

2. Looking towards the lath house

IMG_2368

On the right, Eldest Offspring is trying to photograph a monarch butterfly.

3.  Monarch butterfly on red Dahlia (photo by Eldest Offspring)

monarch

4.  Incarvillea arguta (Himalayan gloxinia)

Incarvillea

5.  Cuphea llavea (Bat-faced cuphea)

cuphea

I suspect this one is moved into the greenhouse in cold weather.  I don’t think it would survive our winter in the ground.

6. Magnolia macrophylla (big leaf magnolia)

Magnolia

With its perfectly domed shape, this is one of the best M. macrophylla I have ever seen

While I go outside and try to decide where this morning’s purchases should be planted (and whether I’ll need a pickaxe to get through the desiccated clay), why don’t you visit some other garden blogs participating in “Six on Saturday.”  Check out The Propagator for his six and for links to other blogs.

(Hoping for rain this week)

Six on Saturday #12: Nepenthes

While watering plants in my greenhouse today, I noticed that my Nepenthes burbidgeae x platychila has produced its first upper pitcher.  I snapped a picture and then decided I’d stick to a single theme for today’s Six on Saturday.  This isn’t the best time of year for Nepenthes, but I was able to find five more pitchers in reasonable shape.

For those who are unfamiliar with the genus, Nepenthes are carnivorous plants, large scrambling vines native to a broad region extending from Madagascar to Australia.  The greatest diversity of species is in southeast Asia: the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  Nepenthes leaves are modified into ornate pitcher traps that capture and digest insects (and occasionally small vertebrates).  This prey provides nitrogen that is lacking in the nutrient-poor soil in which Nepenthes grow.

With the exception of a few finicky, species, most Nepenthes are reasonably easy to grow in well-drained, acidic potting mixes that are low in nitrogen.  Most growers use combinations of long-fiber sphagnum moss, peat, perlite, and fir bark.  I also include stalite in my mix, because most of the perlite available in local garden centers is contaminated with slow-release fertilizer (WHY do manufacturers insist on adding fertilizer to a product whose main selling point is that it adds aeration without affecting other soil parameters???!!!???).

To pitcher well, Nepenthes need high humidity, so they are usually grown in greenhouses or large terrariums.  However, I successfully grew Nepenthes graciliflora and Nepenthes x Ventrata on a windowsill in my student apartment twenty years ago.  Temperature requirements vary depending on the altitude at which the plants originate.  Most of my plants originate from moderate altitudes and look best in spring, when the greenhouse is around 86-88 F (30 C) during the day and 60 F (15.5 C) at night.  Lowlanders suffer in winter unless I hang them high in the greenhouse, and highlanders tend to die after a couple of summers.

In the greenhouse, the plants catch their own prey, primarily cockroaches, wasps, and ants, that I supplement with crushed snails.  I learned from sad experience that slugs can glide right out of the pitchers and settle down in the pot.  I never fertilize the roots, although some growers swear by cold coffee.

Anyway, here are six Nepenthes.  For more of Six on Saturday, see the Propagator’s blog.

1.  Nepenthes burbidgeae x platychila (upper pitcher)

playchila x burbidgeae

This is a primary hybrid of two species renowned for their colorful peristomes (the slippery collar around the mouth of the pitcher).  Most Nepenthes produce two types of pitchers.  Squat lower pitchers sit on or near the ground and often have wings that crawling insects can climb.  Upper pitchers, as seen here, are usually more funnel shaped and hang high in the branches to catch flying insects.

One of the odd quirks of Nepenthes is that male and female flowers appear on different plants, and at least in cultivation, males outnumber females.  Consequently, it is difficult to propagate species by seed, and many artificially propagated plants are hybrids.  Species are usually propagated by tissue culture, and some species are represented in cultivation by only a handful of clones.

2. Nepenthes maxima, Gunung Lumut, Sulawesi (lower pitcher)

maxima-large form

N. maxima is a very variable species.  I have one clone that produces pitchers about the length of my index finger, but this one has lower pitchers almost a foot long.

3. Nepenthes maxima x aristolochioides (lower pitcher)

aristolochiioides x maxima

One parent of this plant is the large N. maxima clone shown above.  The other parent is a dwarf highland species that requires cool temperatures.  The hybrid seems much more tolerant and has done well in my greenhouse for several years.

Here is an upper pitcher that I photographed last spring:

aristolochioides x maxima-upper

I have since pruned the vine, so it will be a year or so before I see more uppers.

4.  Nepenthes graciliflora

graciliflora

N. graciliflora is a very vigorous and easy to grow species from the Philippines.  This was one of the first Nepenthes that I grew, and it has traveled with me for about twenty years.  Every few years, it starts to get woody and overgrown, so I root a couple of fresh cuttings from the tip of the vine and establish a new plant.

5.  Nepenthes rafflesiana (lower pitcher)

rafflesiana

A large lowland species from Borneo, Sumatra, and penisular Malaysia.  As seen here, the squat lowers have wide wings.  Where the peristome rises to the lid, it has sharp teeth.  To keep my N. rafflesiana warm in winter, I hang it up near the roof, at the end closest to the heater.

6. Nepenthes ampullaria (red form)

ampullaria

N. ampullaria grows in the same habitat as N. rafflesiana, with which it produces the natural hybrid N. x hookeriana.  This species has squat little pitchers with small lids and wide open mouths.  Analysis of the “necromass” in N. ampullaria pitchers has shown that it is primarily plant debris, so this species may be vegetarian or “detritivorous” instead of carnivorous (see: Bohn and Federle (2004), Insect aquaplaning: Nepenthes pitcher plants capture prey with the peristome, a fully wettable water-lubricated anisotropic surface.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101: 14138-14143).

N. ampullaria rarely produces upper pitchers in cultivation, but in addition to the usual lower pitchers, it also produces rosettes of ground pitchers which appear directly from the soil surrounding the base of the vines.  My young plant has just started growing its first rosette, but the ground pitchers aren’t full size yet.

Six on Saturday #11 (in haste)

It is a fairly typical day for September in North Carolina:  Bright sun, 85 F (29.5 C), no significant rain last week, and no rain forecast for the next week.  The intensity of the sun made it difficult to get decent photos and doesn’t encourage hard work in the garden or in the greenhouse.

Nevertheless, here are six pictures from the garden today.  See the Propagator’s blog for his six and for links to other blogs who are participating in Six on Saturday.

1. Sternbergia lutea (autumn daffodil)

Sternbergia

I could have sworn that this little amaryllid was from South America, but when I looked it up just now, I learned that it is actually Eurasian, with a range extending from the western Mediterranean to Tajikistan.  Usually I get a nice little clump, but this year the bulbs have been sprouting and flowering one or two at a time. Perhaps in this dry weather they haven’t had the usual environmental signals that induce mass blooming.

2.  Lycoris radiata (hurricane lily, red spider lily)

Lycoris_radiata-leaves

Now that they have finished flowering, the L. radiata bulbs are starting to sprout leaves.

3. Hibiscus coccineus (red swamp mallow)

Hibiscus

It looks as though something drilled right through this flower when the petals were still folded together in a bud.  Native to the southeastern U.S., H. coccineus does very well in piedmont gardens and flowers for much of the summer.  In winter, the dried stems and seed capsules add interest to an otherwise barren flowerbed.  Despite its name, it grows well in regular garden soil, and its fat taproot helps it survive drought.

The palmate leaves of this species somewhat resemble a particular herb that is still illicit in North Carolina.  In the spring, before my plants start producing their dinner plate-sized flowers, I often think of this news story from 2004.

4. Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

concoclinium

The color balance of this photo seems to be off , but I’m not sure if it is my phone camera or monitor that’s to blame.  If you see a magenta flower, imagine that it is more a bluish lavender.  This species is native to the eastern U.S., from the Great Lakes to southern Texas, and although the flowers are beautiful at this time of year, I rather regret introducing it into the garden.  It spreads very aggressively, and the fluffy seeds drift all over the place.

5. Basella alba ‘Rubra’ (red malabar spinach)

malabar2

malabar3

Every spring, I start a pot of malabar spinach from seed collected the previous autumn.  The leaves really are quite tasty in soups or stews, but since we don’t cook a lot of stews in the summer, it primarily serves as an ornamental.  The seeds also survive the winter in the soil, and I’m starting to see more plants sprouting in flower beds where birds have dropped seeds or I have inadvertently raked them along with fallen leaves.  They look interesting and don’t seem to do any harm, so I just leave them alone.

6.  Cattleya labiata var rubra ‘Schuler’

Cattleya_labiata

In the greenhouse, the most famous of the unifoliate cattleyas is blooming.  C. labiata was the first of the large flowered cattleyas to be discovered, and it was one of the species responsible for the Victorian orchid craze.  It was first imported into the U.K. in 1818 and caused a sensation, but its origin wasn’t correctly reported.  Plant collectors scoured South America, discovering many other spectacular orchids in the process, but the Brazilian habitat of L. labiata wasn’t rediscovered until 1889.

Unfortunately, my greenhouse tends to be too bright and dry at this time of year, and the flowers don’t last long.  You can see that the dorsal and lateral sepals of some of these flowers have dried out prematurely.  I tend to do better with the unifoliate cattleyas that bloom in late winter.

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.