Spring lady’s slippers (Six on Saturday #55, May 9, 2020)

The weather has turned unseasonably cold, to the point that the National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for most of central North Carolina tonight.  If it does freeze, this will be the latest frost in more than 20 years, a full month after the average last freeze for this area.  Consequently, the tropical plants that I have been moving outside over the past few weeks will need to be moved back into the greenhouse or living room this afternoon, probably to stay there until Wednesday at least.  There’s not much to be done about subtropical plants out in the garden which are already well into their spring growth; hopefully the fresh canopy of deciduous leaves on the trees will provide some protection from radiative cooling.

For this week’s Six on Saturday, I am focusing on a single group of greenhouse plants:  tropical lady’s slipper orchids of genus Paphiopedilum.  A google search will turn up reams of information on cultivating paphs, so I’ll only say that I use a potting mix of Orchiata bark, large perlite, and stalite in roughly equal proportions.  To this mix, which is suitable for a wide range of orchids, I add a small amount of crushed oyster shell to provide calcium for the paphs that grow on limestone.

Although different species and hybrids flower throughout the year, there is a peak of blooming in spring.  Here are six that are flowering now.

1. Paphiopedilum philippinense varieties.

Paph philippinense-1

No prize for guessing the home range of this species.  P. philippinense is fairly widespread in the Philippine archipelago and consequently exhibits significant morphological diversity.  The plant on the left is a dwarf specimen that I have been growing since 1997.  Its relatively short petals would probably define it as P. philippinense var. laevigatum, a variety that is relatively uncommon in cultivation.  The taller plant, with its long twisted petals, fits the description of P. philippinense var. roebelenii and is more typical of the specimens that are favored by orchid growers.

Paph philippinense-2

2. Paphiopedilum QF Ikaika

Paph_hybrid

This is a new hybrid registered in 2019.  Its parentage is Paphiopedilum (rothschildianum x anitum) x philippinense, and I’m going to rate it a solid meh.  I assume the breeder was going for large size (from P. rothschildianum), dark color (from P. anitum), and twisted petals (from P. philippinense).  Instead, the plant inherited mediocre color, moderate size, petals with hardly any twist, and a small, squat pouch.  I’ll give it a few more years to mature, but if it doesn’t improve, it is destined for an orchid society raffle table.

3. Paphiopedilum venustum

Paph_venustum

According to Hennessy and Hedge [1], this species from the southeastern foothills of the Himalayas was the first tropical lady’s slipper introduced into cultivation (collected 1816, flowered in England 1819).  It has been popular ever since for its veined pouch and distinctively mottled foliage.  It definitely comes down on the bizarre/grotesque end of the scale, rather than pretty/elegant.  I like it.

4. Paphiopedilum callosum var. sublaeve

Paph_callosum-sublaeve

A dwarf variety of P callosum that seems to be somewhat intermediate between that species and P. barbatum.  This is a first-bloom seedling that I got as a free bonus in an orchid order about a year ago.

5. Paphiopedilum lowii

Paph_lowii2

Compared to the P. lowii that I blogged about last year, this clone has a darker pouch, more brown pigment in the dorsal sepal, and more horizontal petals.  I particularly like the horizontal stance of the petals–

6. Paphiopedilum appletonianum with deformed flowers

Paph_appletonianum

This is the second time this plant has bloomed, and the flowers were deformed last year, too.  I’ll give it one more chance to produce a normal flower before I toss it in the compost bin.

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.

Reference:

1. Hennessy, E.F. and Hedge, T.A. (1989) The Slipper Orchids, Acorn Books, Randburg, R.S.A.

Six on Saturday #54 (May 2, 2020)

The last ten days or so have been warm enough at night that I have finally felt confident to start moving tropical plants out to their summer quarters. The hummingbirds also arrived about ten days ago, and I have seen the year’s first aerial dogfights around the feeders.  Horticulturally, we have entered the “great green interlude,” the period after the peak of spring bulb and azalea flowering, but before the blooming of the summer perennials.  Although the first roses are opening, and there are still a smattering of bulbs and orchids flowering, the predominant color in my garden is the green of fresh new leaves.

1. Gladiolus x byzantinus

Gladiolus-byzantinus

A welcome splash of bright magenta comes from half a dozen Gladiolus x byzantinus bulbs that I received in a trade with a gardener in Texas last year.  This plant from southern Europe has been considered a synonym of G. communis, but Kew currently has it listed as a natural hybrid, G. dubius x G. italicus.  An old heirloom bulb in southern U.S. gardens, G. x byzantinus starts growing during the winter and blooms in spring, long before the hybrids derived from African species like G. dalenii.

2. Philadelphis inodorus (Appalachian mock orange, scentless mock orange) with unusual flowers

Philadelphus-6-petals
P. inodorus flowers with six petals

P. inodorus flowers typically have four petals, but this year I have a stem covered with six-petaled flowers.  The shrub originated as five or six seedlings that I grew in a single pot, so it is possible that the unusual flowers are produced by one of the seedlings, rather than by a single branch that has sported.  However, the plants are now inextricably tangled together, so the only way I’ll be able to propagate this weirdo (assuming it is stable) will be to root a cutting.

Philadelphus-4-petals
Typical P. inodorus flowers

3. Bletilla striata var. albescens

Bletilla-striata-alba

I purchased this orchid as Bletilla striata var. alba, but the flowers exhibit very faint lavendar coloration on the labellum.  Therefore, it would seem to be var. albescens, rather than var. alba which should have pure white flowers.  It does not seem to be as vigorous as the typical colored variety, but I think it has its own delicate charm.

4. Phlox nivalis (trailing phlox, pine phlox)

Phlox-nivalis

Moss phlox, P. subulata, is often sold by local nurseries as a native plant, but it is primarily a species of the northeast and midwest.  In North Carolina, P. subulata is found only in a couple of counties in the mountainous west of the state.  The superficially similar Phlox that grows throughout the piedmont is P. nivalis. I grew this one from a small cutting collected in Durham County.

5.  A couple of sages

Salvia-officinalis

Above, Salvia officinalis (culinary sage) in our herb garden.  Below, Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage), a common spring wildflower/weed.  Unlike S. officinalis, which grows as a semi-woody shrub, S. lyrata has a rosette of soft leaves that look vaguely like a dandelion.  I find S. lyrata particularly difficult to photograph, because its flowers stick out in all directions.

Salvia-lyrata

6. New plant bench

plant-bench-1

Last weekend, I built a wooden bench to house my pachypodiums and some of my tropical bulbs during the summer.  The bench is 7′ long x 4′ wide x 2′ high (2.1 x 1.2 x 0.6 m) and is constructed from pressure-treated pine.  It occupies the space formerly used for growing tomatoes, necessitating a search for a new place to grow that crop, but it should reduce spilled gravel and water damage on our wooden deck.

plant-bench-2

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.

Six on Saturday #53 (April 18, 2020)

This week started with the screech of a tornado warning emanating from every iphone in the house. We scrambled out of bed, turned on the TV, and saw that the putative tornado was a few miles southwest of us, tracking northeast.  Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, we got the kids up and took shelter with the spiders in the crawl space.   Luckily, the storm broke apart before reaching us, so after a few minutes we were able to go back in for breakfast, a little soggy from the rain but otherwise unscathed.  Strong winds the rest of the day stripped most of the remaining flowers off the dogwoods but did no other damage to the garden.

After the storm on Monday, the rest of the week has been sunny and dry, though cool–we flirted with frost on Wednesday and Thursday morning, but even the volunteer tomato seedlings that are sprouting in the vegetable beds were unaffected.

1. Myrmecocattleya Memoria Louise Fuchs

M_mem_Louise_Fuchs

In the greenhouse, Myrmecocattleya Memoria Louise Fuchs is perfuming the air.  This orchid is a primary hybrid of Myrmecophila tibicinis, famous for its hollow pseudobulbs inhabited by ant colonies, and Cattleya bicolor, a very tall and spindly Brazilian biofoliate species.  This particular plant is actually the product of self-pollinating a first generation Myc. Memoria Louise Fuchs, but under the rules of orchid nomenclature, it retains the same grex name. Its pseudobulbs are relatively short and stout, like those of its Myrmecophila parent, while genes from C. bicolor have shortened the inflorescence.  Both species tend to have clustered flowers, but this plant has inherited fragrance and rich purple color from C. bicolor, and nicely crisped petals from M. tibicinis.  All in all, a good result of hybridizer’s efforts.

M_mem_Louise_Fuchs2

2. Rhododendron cf. periclymenoides

R_periclymenoides

I featured this deciduous azalea in a Six on Saturday last April, but the flowers then were not at their best.  I am almost sure that it is R. periclymenoides, the native pinxter flower.  I now have a second plant on the other side of the house–an R. alabamense that I purchased from a reputable source last autumn has also bloomed out as R. periclymenoides.

3. Rhododendron austrinum (Florida flame azalea)

R_austrinum1

Another North American deciduous azalea. This plant was in one of my earliest blog postings, but it is so lovely I couldn’t resist showing it again. The early butterflies love it.

R_austrinum 2

4. red azaleas

Wolfpack Red

Next up, two evergreen azalea hybrids.  Above is Rhododendron ‘Wolfpack Red’, one of the CarLa hybrids resulting from a collaboration between horticulture departments at North Carolina State University and Louisiana State University.  This clone is named for the NC State Wolfpack, whose colors are red, white, and black (but predominantly red).

Below is an unlabeled hybrid that I bought several years ago at Costco.  I really like the color of this plant–its red is at the orange end of the spectrum, unlike most red azaleas which have hints of pink or magenta.  I may try propagating it this year, but my success rate with Rhododendron cuttings is not high.  Maybe air layering would be better?

Red_Azalea

5. Narcissus ‘Thalia’

Narcissus_Thalia

Narcissus ‘Thalia’ is a century-old hybrid that was recommended by Scott Ogden in Garden Bulbs for the South (Timber Press).  This is my first year growing it, but I really like the gently nodding white flowers.  I hope it comes back next year.

6. Epimedium ‘Stoplights’

Epimedium_stoplights

I keep falling for pictures of spidery Epimediums in garden catalogs, and when they bloom I am always surprised by how tiny they are and how brief the flowering season is.  This one is no exception.

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.

Six on Saturday #52 (March 21, 2020)

For this week’s Six on Saturday, we are out of the garden and visiting the Eno River Confluence Natural Area.  The Eno River is one of the gems of this part of North Carolina.  A small river, little more than a large stream for much of its 40-mile course through Orange and Durham counties, it flows through the town of Hillsborough and city of Durham before merging with the Flat and Little Rivers to form the Neuse River.  The Eno is home to several rare species that are endemic to the Neuse River basin, and it has been aggressively protected since the late 1960s by the Eno River Association.  The Confluence Natural Area is a piece of protected land in Orange County that includes the spot where the East and West forks of the Eno flow together to form the Eno River proper.  It was opened to the public relatively recently, and this was our first visit.

When my family and I visited, we were the only people on the 200-acre preserve, so I guess that covered social distancing requirements.

1.  The Confluence

Confluence

This is the point at which east fork (left) and west fork (right) merge to form the Eno (center).

2.  Plethodon cylindraceus (white-spotted slimy salamander)

Plethodon

The kids couldn’t resist lifting a cover board that had probably been laid down for some herpetology classes.  They found a handsome pair of slimy salamanders.  To avoid crushing the salamanders, we gently moved them, laid the board back down, and then allowed the salamanders to climb underneath again.

3. Claytonia virginica (Virginia springbeauty)

Claytonia

A variety of spring ephemeral wildflowers were in bloom on the wooded slopes and rich bottomland along the riverbanks.  In North Carolina, C. virginica is a true piedmont native.  It is absent from most of the coastal plain and from the mountains, where it is replaced by Claytonia caroliniana.

4. Cardamine concatenata (cutleaf toothwort; crow’s toes)

Cardamine

I just love the name “crow’s toes.”

5. Stellaria pubera (star chickweed)

Stellaria

In addition to these three wildflowers, we also saw Hepatica americana (round-lobed Hepatica), Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone), Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot), and Lindera benzoin (spicebush)  in bloom.  Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) leaves were up, but the buds aren’t yet open.

6. Tree “footprint”

tree footprint

The heavy piedmont clay holds together so well, that the imprint of a large tree, including tunnels left by its roots, is still clearly visible after all the wood has rotted away.  The “footprint” is slowly being covered by invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).

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.

Six on Saturday #51 (January 25, 2020)

There still isn’t a lot going on in either the garden or the greenhouse, but by carefully hoarding interesting sights, I have managed to scrape together the first Six on Saturday of the year.  1-3 are in the greenhouse, 4-6 outside.

1. Paphiopedilum liemianum (mottled leaf form).

Paph_liemianum1

Although I have four or five slipper orchids in bud, this is one of only two that are currently flowering.  It’s hardly surprising that  P. liemianum, from northern Sumatra, is flowering now, because it flowers almost constantly.  It’s one of the sequential flowering species of section Cochlopetalum, and it is a great choice if you have only a small orchid collection.  The inflorescences produce one flower after another, each one opening around the time that the old one drops.  By the time an inflorescence is exhausted, a new growth has usually matured and is ready to flower.

Typically, P. liemianum has plain green leaves, but this clone has an attractive mottled pattern.  Its flower is fairly small and poorly shaped compared to some of the line-bred forms that are available, making me suspect that the parent plant was selected for breeding primarily on the basis of its unusual foliage.

Paph_liemianum2

The other slipper currently in bloom is Paphiopedilum villosum, which I featured in November.  Paph flowers last a looooong time.

2.  Monolena primuliflora

Monolena1

Monolena2

This unusual plant grows as an epiphyte or terrestrial in rainforest from Costa Rica to southern Peru and adjacent Brazil.  The flowers, while pretty, last less than a day, but the seed capsules are almost as attractive as the flowers and are significantly longer lived.  The thickened rhizome suggests a plant that can tolerate some drought, but looks can be deceiving.  The plants wilt and shrivel rapidly if the soil dries out.

Monolena3

I have lost track of how old this plant is.  Maybe ten or twelve years? In theory, I grow M. primuliflora in pure sphagnum moss kept constantly moist, but I think the sphagnum has all rotted away and new rhizome is just rooting into old decayed rhizome.

3. Lachenalia sp. (L. aloides?)

Lachenalia1

I received these unlabeled bulbs as part of a trade about seven years ago.  They have been growing in a 3-inch pot for about the last five years, blooming reliably in midwinter and going dormant by late February or early March.  I think they are the South African Lachenalia aloides var aloides (cape cowslip).

4. Lentinula edodes (shiitake)

shiitake1

We have harvested and eaten the first few shiitake mushrooms from the log garden that I inoculated with mycelium fourteen months ago.  No sign of the lion’s mane mushrooms yet.

5.  Phoradendron leucarpum (oak mistletoe) growing on Carya sp. (hickory)

Phoradendron1

Although it looks a lot like European mistletoe (Viscum album), our native oak mistletoe is in a completely different genus.  I’m not sure if P. leucarpum can be substituted for European mistletoe in magic potion, but it seems to work just as well at Christmas time.  The only difficulty lies in harvesting it. This mistletoe is about 40 or 50 feet up in one of our taller hickory trees.

Phoradendron2

6. Fuligo septica (dog vomit slime mold)

Fuligo

Fuligo septica is the most common, or at least the most conspicuous, slime mold in our garden.  Its aethelia (fruiting bodies) commonly appear on the hardwood mulch that I spread on the flowerbeds.  Often they are an extremely lurid, almost fluorescent yellow color.  This aethelium is somewhat pale but quite large–63 cm diameter.

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.