Thursday, August 13, 2015

Haliaeetus leucocephalus The suburban ornithoscopist, no. 1: bald eagle


The suburban ornithoscopist No. 1: video: Wayne Crist, text: Jim McKenney

Under the title given above I’ll be posting some of the interesting, brief natural history videos Wayne has made. Most of these will be videos of birds. These posts will be numbered and marked “video: W. Crist;  text: J. McKenney”.

Video No. 1 was made on July 5, 2014 while we were visiting friends on the Northern Neck of Virginia. We were standing at the edge of a field, absentmindedly looking around. One of our party looked up and saw an osprey circling high in the sky. As we watched the osprey, a bald eagle flew into our field of vision at a much lower altitude. No sooner had the eagle appeared than a big buteo attacked the eagle and chased it off. You won’t see the buteo in the video – you’ll just have to take our word for it that it was there. You’ll see the osprey circling high in the sky, and you won’t mistake the bald eagle. 

Lycoris: prima donna of the oporanthous garden

Bobbie Lively-Diebold talks about her lycorises. 

The feast continues: this is the third post I’ve done this month relating to lycorises in our gardens. If the first one was a sort of hors d’oeuvre, and the second one a soup course, then this one, with over thirty images, must be the main course and dessert both. That I was able to be there and photograph these is mostly due to pure luck and serendipitous timing.  Some of the images could be better – they were shot at about 7:30 P.M as we moved quickly through the garden. Names might follow later as the planting charts are consulted, and as they become available I’ll update this post.
Our queen of the lycoris measures her domain in tens of acres and has been collecting them for tens of years. Where most of us get a sprout or two here and there in the garden, her plants sprout in thick clumps, like handfuls of bird seed dropped on damp ground. This week the turgid, buxom, sapid (but don’t eat them) scapes are pushing up like elegant asparagus throughout her garden. They  cluster tightly together like patricians surrounded by the unwashed, as if they feared being touched and contaminated by the coarseness around them.
Bobbie and I have been friends for decades, but she moved to a new place about two hours away, and I don’t get out to her place often. Years ago I had seen her lycorises late in their season, and it was a memorable experience.  What I saw yesterday was amazing. 

Lycoris chinensis 

More getting started.

A promise of things to come...

Another clump just beginning

This next group of four are either Lycoris sprengeri or hybrids with that species in their background.

Lycoris longituba 

Sorry about the names, but these images will give you an idea of the wonderful effect these plants can produce in the garden.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lycoris in the hands of our lycoris king

Jim Dronenburg with some of his lycorises; photo Anne Mazaitis

Lycorises: the ones with broad, unruffled  tepals and pale yellow color might be hybrids of L. longituba and L. chinensis; photo Anne Mazaitis  

Lycorises: the big white one is Lycoris longituba, the one in the middle with the blue streak is L. sprengeri; photo Anne Mazaitis

Last weekend our local chapter, the Potomac Valley Chapter, of the North American Rock Garden Society held a meeting to give members a chance to show slides. I was out of town for a family reunion, but the images here will show what I missed. Thanks to Anne Mazaitis for having the presence of mind to get some pictures.  Chapter president Jim Dronenburg arrived with a stunning show and tell: in the first image above, that's Jim with a selection of the lycorises blooming in his garden now. If you look carefully, you can see Lycoris longituba (big white), L. sanguinea (orange, small), L. chinensis (yellow), L. sprengeri (pink with a conspicuous blue flash), L. × squamigera, maybe a longituba-chinensis hybrid (light yellow with broad, un-ruffled tepals). Have I named them all?
Jim has been collecting lycorises for years and has written about lycorises for Washington Gardener Magazine. 
We have two members who have been collecting lycorises avidly for years. Jim is the king of our chapter lycoris growers. I'll try to have something about the queen later this week.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lycoris chinensis

Lycoris chinensis

Lycoris chinensis 
Lycoris chinensis 

Lycoris chinensis 

The first cold-hardy, yellow –flowered Lycoris seem to have arrived here in the US back in the 1930s. That plant (or those plants, I’m not sure if they were clonal or not) was never widely distributed. I’ve heard that it eventually grew in the local garden of Bethesda lawyer Frederick Lee, chairman of the Advisory Council of the U.S. National Arboretum back then, although by the time I learned that, the garden had passed into new hands.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, a hardy, yellow-flowered Lycoris was one of the grails of  East Coast bulb collectors. We knew they existed but we didn't know how to acquire them.
When China began to open up again about twenty-five years ago, yellow-flowered Lycoris began to trickle in again  - and, they proved to be hardy. My plants came from Jim Waddick in 2008, and some of them answer to Lycoris chinensis. Some are L. longituba, and some are intermediate in their characteristics.
After this post was originally published, I've come back to add more images: the flower color has intensified each day and is now a strong chrome yellow. When I first noticed the inflorescence, I was not sure what color the flowers would have. The early buds were white at first, then a very vague flush of pale yellow appeared. You can see in the images above what finally happened.

Throughout the twentieth century there was (and still is) a plant in commerce which is a very bright yellow flowered Lycoris; but it is not hardy. This is Lycoris aurea, and you can read more about it here:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A gift from the garden

This gladiolus popped up in my community garden plots this year. It's not like anything I've ever planted. I'm assuming that it's a self-sown seedling. In any case, it's a keeper. Glads are known to be quick and easy from seed - just what I need, another seed hobby! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow' and Hemerocallis citrina

Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow' and Hemerocallis citrina

What a happy, summery combination this one is - and it was utterly unplanned.
When I first saw 'Prairie Glow' a few years ago, it was love at first sight. I had bought the plants on the basis of the picture on the price tag. When they came into bloom I had one of those "where have you been all my life" experiences. The next year, there was a disappointment: the plants apparently die after they bloom. So I bought a few more the next year. After those died, I forgot about the plant for a while. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said there are none in the garden now.
In the image above you can see just how wrong I was: they were there all along, building up strength to bloom.
All of the 'Prairie Glow' plants you see there are self-sown. I did not place them beside the Hemerocallis citrina. They compliment each other very well, don't they? This is the sort of serendipity which never occurs in the neat, meticulously weeded garden.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Welwitschia mirabilis : I'm back in the game!

Welwitschia germinating: something's happening!

Welwitschia germinating: the cotyledons appear. 

Welwitschia germinating: the  cotyledons seen from another angle.

Welwitschia germinating: the cotyledons arise. 
Welwitschia cotyledons beginning to spread

Welwitschia: another plant with cotyledons beginning to spread; there are now four plants with cotyledons.
Welwitschia: Look carefully and you can make out the developing true leaves between the cotyledons.

Welwitschia: the true leaves are growing out nicely. 
Welwitschia mirabilis twenty-five days after the image above was made; growing out slowly. 

Welwitschia mirabilis: what's left of the fifteen year old plant. 

Back in 1992 I obtained a yearling plant of Welwitschia mirabilis at one of the Green Spring sales. That plant is mentioned in several earlier blog entries.
After fifteen years in my care, that plant died. That's what you see in the image of the dead plant.
In 2008 I ordered seeds from Silverhill but did not plant them: they went into the refrigerator, where most of them have been since. On July 27, 2015 I took out six seeds to give them a try. On July 30, 2015 two of those seeds showed signs of germination. During the next few days the radical on these plants extended down into the ground. By July 3, 2015, three of the seeds showed signs of germination. By July 5, the first cotyledons began to appear. By July 6, 2015, those first cotyledons are upright but un-expanded. By July 9, they began to expand and separate.
This is so exciting! But I might be counting my chickens as they hatch: a review of the current literature suggests that germination is the easy part: keeping the seedlings alive during the first few months, when they are said to be very vulnerable to fungal attacks, can be a challenge. We'll see. But in any case, I'm back in the game.