Six on Saturday #70 (April 23, 2022)

Now that spring is well under way, it is a little easier to find interesting pictures for a Six on Saturday post. Here are five from the outdoor garden and one from the greenhouse.

1. Trillium grandiflorum (great white trillium)

photo of Trillium grandiflorum

Trilliums are, notoriously, very slow to grow from seed or from rhizome divisions. It seems that someone must have mastered the procedure on a commercial scale, though, because mass produced rhizomes have started showing up in garden centers beside the spring bulbs. The packages come from the Netherlands, which probably precludes the possibility that they are wild-collected. I have tried boxes from Durham Garden Center and Costco which both claimed to contain Trillium grandiflorum (white) and Trillium erectum (red). The packages from Costco actually contained Trillium luteum and a red-flowered sessile species, but the box from Durham Garden Center seems to be correct.

2. Trillum luteum (yellow trillium)

photo of Trillium luteum

I planted this species in 2010 or 2011 and featured it once before in 2018. In rich soil, it would probably be a large clump by now. In very poor dry soil under pine and oak trees, it only has two stems, but they return faithfully every spring. Since it spends much of the year hidden under ground, I have left a small eastern red cedar seedling to help mark its location.

3. Clematis ochroleuca (curlyheads)

photo of Clematis ochroleuca

I could have sworn that I had already shown this native plant, but I can’t find it in a search of the blog. In any case, C. ochroleuca, is somewhat unusual for a Clematis, growing as a clump of short, upright stems rather than as a vine. The small flowers and fuzzy stems have a certain understated elegance, but it is the seeds, which look like heads of curly golden hair, that are the main reason for giving it space in the perennial border. I’ll have to remember to photograph them later this year.

4. Taraxacum pseudoroseum (pink dandelion)

photo of Taraxacum pseudoroseum

I wanted to grow some dandelions intentionally for chicken treats and occasional salad greens , and I thought that this would be more interesting than the standard yellow flowers that pop up in the lawn. So far, the pink color has been very faint, most noticeable when the flower first opens, but I think the overall effect is very attractive. My wife has included a second species, Taraxacum albidum (Japanese white dandelion) in her seed trays this year, and the first two seedlings were visible this morning.

5. Tulipa linifolia

photo of Tulipa linifolia flower

After several years of testing, I am convinced that a number of the smaller tulip species (Tulipa clusiana, T. whittalii, T. sylvestris, and T. linifolia) grow well in our climate. Unfortunately, rodents love to eat the bulbs, and this year about 90% of my tulips vanished. There was a concomitant increase in the number of pine vole tunnels in the flowerbeds, so I am fairly sure who the culprits are. The survivors, like this T. linifolia, are the ones that were planted in soil amended with permatill or in naturally gravelly soil.

6. Columnea schiedeana

photo of Columnea schiedeana flowers

Columnea schiedeana is an epiphytic gesneriad from Mexico. The hummingbird-pollinated flowers have fairly standard shape for a Columnea, but the color is amazing–each one looks hand-painted.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #69 (February 12, 2022)

Rabbit_damage
Winter foliage of Scilla peruviana eaten to the ground by an eastern cottontail.

I’m taking a break from the Encyclia series for a quick Six on Saturday post. The North Carolina Random Winter Weather Generator has given us sun with a predicted high of 71 F (21.7 C) for today. But don’t worry, a mix of cold rain and snow is forecast for tomorrow.

January has been quite cold, so there isn’t much going on in the outdoor garden yet apart a few Cyclamen and Helleborus flowers. A quick walk around revealed that a rabbit has squeezed under the fence and is mowing down all the fresh young foliage of spring bulbs that aren’t completely toxic. Unfortunately (for the rabbit), I haven’t had much luck with box traps, so if I can’t locate the hole and block it when the rabbit is outside the fence, the solution to the problem may involve firearms…

Moving on…since most of the blooming action is still in the greenhouse, that’s where we’ll be for this week’s Six:

1. Calanthe hybrid

Calanthe_hybrid
An unlabeled tropical Calanthe hybrid

The very first cultivated orchid hybrid, registered in 1858, was Calanthe Dominii, a cross of two tropical Calanthe species. More recently, this type of Calanthe seems to have gone out of fashion, and plants are surprisingly hard to find. I bought this plant out-of-bloom when the Orchid Trail Nursery was shutting down, so I am quite pleased to see it has very dark, wine-red flowers. I have previously featured some of the hardy Calanthe species and hybrids which have underground pseudobulbs and are more-or-less evergreen, but the tropical varieties like this one have large above-ground pseudobulbs and are deciduous, flowering when leafless at the end of a completely dry winter dormancy.

2. Columnea microcalyx (syn. C. gloriosa)

Columnea_microcalyx2
Columnea microcalyx flowers are starting to droop and fade, but new buds are still growing on new stems higher up.

The Columnea plant that I illustrated on December 21 is still flowering and probably will continue for at least a few more weeks. Of the various Columnea species and hybrids that I have tried growing, this is definitely the most vigorous and the most tolerant of summer heat.

3. Sinningia macrostachya

Sinningia macrostachya

Another of the Brazilian Sinningia species, this one grown from a cutting rather than seed. It has bright flowers at the beginning of the growing period, neat and tidy foliage, and a large tuber growing at the soil surface. What’s not to like? Grow it like a tropical succulent: full sun, warm temperatures, and a dry winter dormancy.

4. Dendrobium antennatum (green antelope orchid)

Dendrobium_antennatum

Dendrobium antennatum is from sea level in New Guinea, so it wants constantly warm growing conditions. When happy, it rewards the grower with interesting flowers that are long-lasting (>6 weeks) and have a honey-like fragrance. When I started growing orchids almost 30 years ago, this was one of the first species I tried. It thrived under lights in the living room of my apartment and flowered year-round, but eventually I gave it away when it grew too large. This more recent purchase isn’t doing quite so well in a cooler greenhouse, but it still flowers for most of the year. The plant (not shown here) has lime-green foliage on 1-2′ tall cane-like pseudobulbs. The inflorescences grow horizontally from leaf axils near the top of previous years’ pseudobulbs.

5. Paphiopedilum (Lippewunder x Acclamation)

Paph_hybrid

Paphiopedilum hybrids of this type are called “bulldogs”, because the most famous is Paphiopedilum Winston Churchill, or “toads”, because they are often ugly. This one isn’t too bad looking in my opinion, but it lacks the very broad petals that usually give bulldog flowers the saucer-like appearance beloved of orchid judges.

6. Sphyrospermum buxifolium

Sphyrospermum

S. buxifolium is one of neotropical epiphytic “blueberries”. It’s flowers aren’t as spectacular as some of its relatives (see here and photo #4 here), but the reddish new leaves have their own understated beauty.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #68 (December 4, 2021)

It has been almost six months, more than a full season of change, since my last Six on Saturday post! Our first freeze was on November 14, so despite the fact that it is 70 F (21 C) outside this afternoon, the garden is in its winter form.

1-5. memento mori and the promise of rebirth

Magnolia-macrophylla_autumn

Fallen leaves of Magnolia macrophylla (bigleaf magnolia). The oak leaf at center gives a sense of scale.

Musa-velutina_freeze

The stems and fruit of Musa velutina (pink banana) do not tolerate any frost, but the rhizomes will sleep peacefully under the soil until next year.

Vernonia_seeds

The fluffy seed heads of Vernonia glauca (broadleaf ironweed; see picture #3 here) are why this plant is close to becoming a weed in my garden..

Iris-domestica_seeds

At this time of year, it’s easy to see why Iris domestica has the common name “blackberry lily”. See #6 here for flowers.

Allium-tuberosum seeds

Allium tuberosum (garlic chives) is ready to take over the vegetable garden.

6. Winter greens in the vegetable bins

winter-greens

Not everything in the garden is dead.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #67 (June 26, 2021)

The weather has been quite mild this summer, with relatively few days topping 90 F (32 C), but the color in the garden is certainly heating up. Our big patch of Canna ‘Flaming Kabobs’ is almost blinding in the sun, but it has a lot of competition. Here are some of the hot flowers in the garden this week.

1. Canna indica “Musifolia” (Indian Shot)

Flowers of Canna indica "Musifolia"

I grew this from seed received as Canna musifolia, but Kew says that name is a later synonym of the widespread and variable species C. indica. The mother plant was >8 feet tall, but this seedling is blooming at barely 3 feet tall. I only recently transplanted it out of a pot, so I am hoping that it will grow bigger in the ground. Many of the modern Canna hybrids have flowers that are big, shapeless blobs of color, so I really like the small, orchid-like flowers on this plant. The red-edged foliage is also lovely, but unfortunately Japanese beetles like it too. The common name of this species comes from the resemblance of its hard, round seeds to shotgun pellets or musket balls.

2. Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican Sunflower)

Flower of Tithonia rotundifolia

We don’t grow many annuals, but who can resist this color? We started a batch of these guys from seed under lights and planted them out about a month ago.

3. Achillea “Paprika”

Flowers of Achillea Paprika

This is a very common perennial available from most garden centers in the summer, but it is well worth growing nevertheless. It has a tendency to flop over, but the stems soon start growing upwards again. It is often sold as a cultivar of Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) but is actually derived from the Galaxy series of hybrids which originate from crosses of A. millefolium and A. x Taygetea

4. Echinacea ‘Sombrero Sangrita’

Flowers of Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita

Some of the modern Echinacea hybrids are really impressive. This cultivar has intense red flowers on compact, upright stems, worlds away from the dusty purple and rangy stems of wild type E. purpurea.

5. Lilum ‘Forever Susan’

Flowers of Lilium 'Forever Susan'

This Asiatic Lily is a lot shorter than I expected; it’s less than 2 feet tall. We got a bag of bulbs this spring, and I’m glad I planted them at the front of the flowerbeds. They’d never be seen behind tall Cannas or Crinums.

6. Sinningia tubiflora

Flowers of Sinningia tubiflora

Do we need to cool off a little? Sinningia tubiflora–a gesneriad species from northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay–has surprisingly large white flowers. Their tubular shape and lemony fragrance in the evening surely point to pollination by moths. The underground tubers, like those of several other Sinningia species and hybrids, are winter hardy in the NC piedmont.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Six on Saturday #66 (May 22, 2021)

After one of the mildest and wettest winters on record, we have had one of the driest springs. This week, the switch flipped to “summer” and with the increasing heat and humidity, we can perhaps hope for a thunderstorm or two.

Here is some of what is growing and flowering in the greenhouse and garden this week.

1. Medinilla ‘Royal Intenz’

Medinilla_Royal-Intenz

Beautiful plant, silly name. This new cultivar is apparently a hybrid, but it’s not clear what species are in its background. Definitely Medinilla magnifica, because M. ‘Royal Intenz’ looks rather like a very intensely colored, compact M. magnifica. The abstract of the plant patent simply refers to its parents by ID number, not species or cultivar names, and there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to find out exactly what I am growing. It’s somewhat annoying.

In any event, M. magnifica and related species–and by extension M. ‘Royal Intenz’–are epiphytic shrubs from the Philippines which adapt well to cultivation in a warm greenhouse or bright, humid windowsill. Logee’s offered M. ‘Royal Intenz’ briefly last year, and I’m glad I got an order in before they sold out.

I’m starting to see some fungal spotting on the foliage, perhaps due to water dripping from overhead Nepenthes plants. I think it’s time to move it to a brighter and drier spot in the greenhouse, or perhaps outside for the summer.

2. Pearcea rhodotricha

Pearcea rhodotricha flowers

Pearcea rhodotricha is a gesneriad from Ecuador with flowers that are probably the closest that I have ever seen to true black. Adding to its overall bizarre appearance, the stems and undersides of the leaves are densely covered with red hairs (hence “rhodotricha”) not unlike those of a tarantula.

A picture of the stem of Pearcea rhodotricha

3. Corytoplectus cutucuensis

A picture of the berries and foliage of Corytoplectus cutucuensis

Another Ecuadorean gesneriad, Corytoplectus cutucuensis has insignificant yellowish flowers. It’s the shiny black berries, sitting within long-lasting red bracts, and the beautifully variegated foliage that make it worth growing. Both this species and the previous are easy to grow from cuttings and appreciate a shady humid environment.

4. Encyclia Gail Nakagaki

Flowers of Encylia Orchid Jungle

Encyclia Gail Nakagaki is Encyclia cordigera x Encyclia alata (see below), and you can clearly see its parentage in its flowers. E. cordigera var. rosea gives the beautiful purple color and hooked tepals while E. alata contributes the striped lip and pale tepal bases. The fragrance of this orchid hybrid is fantastic.

enc_alata1
An old photo of an Encyclia alata in my collection

5. Tradescantia ‘Osprey’ (hybrid spiderwort)

Flowers of Tradescantia 'Osprey'

I suppose I ought to have at least one outdoor flower in my Six. ‘Osprey’ is a Tradescantia x Andersonia cultivar, but its pastel flowers are much more restful than the hot color of ‘Sweet Kate’ or ‘Concord Grape’ (see photos 2 and 3 of Six on Saturday #44). For some reason, it isn’t readily available at local nurseries, and I had to mail order this plant. It has doubled its size in a year, so maybe it will be large enough to divide and spread around the garden this autumn.

6. Ipomoea batatis (sweet potato)

sweet_potatoes

Slips from some ‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes that we grew last year are almost ready for planting. Once the slips are about four inches long, I break them off the tuber and put them in a jar of water. They root in a few days. I only sprouted a couple of tubers for fun, but now I wish I had started more. For some reason, I haven’t been able to find slips in local garden centers yet this year.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.