Thursday, March 26, 2015

seed cake


I don't remember when I learned about seed cake, but I do know that it was years before I actually tasted it. It sounded so interesting, but no one in my circle had ever heard of it. I've been making it for years now, and I've never tired of its simple but intriguing taste. It's basically just a very rich biscuit dough flavored with caraway seed. I generally add orange or lemon zest to the dough. A newly made one has a half life of about a day here.

Tetramerous snowdrop flowers




Typical snowdrop flowers are built in threes: three large outer petals and three smaller inner ones. Every once in a while a flower appears which is in four parts - it's tetramerous. Here are two which appeared this year. As far as I know they do not keep this structure from year to year. Too bad: the snowdrop game is such a freak show that a permanently tetramerous form would probably fetch a pretty penny from some crazed galanthomane. 

Lilium canadense and Maryland



The image in the middle of the plate shown here is the image of Lilium canadense in Parkinson's Paradisus. The Paradisus was published in 1629. Parkinson says the English got it from the French, and the French got it from the French colonies in Canada (and saying it that way makes it sound like a social disease). This name Lilium canadense antedates Linnaeus by well over a century, and it is the name we still use today.
But here's something fascinating to think about: the first permanent English settlements in Maryland were in 1634. So Lilium canadense got to England before permanent settlements of English people got to Maryland.

Crocus reticulatus



If it's possible to have a least-favorite-crocus, then for me,  this one, Crocus reticulatus,  is it. The flowers always look dirty and dull. I acquired this one in 2005, so it's one which takes pretty good care of itself. If someone wants to try to convince me that this crocus is really C. versicolor, that someone might find that easy to do.

This has been such a cold, late year that we are only now at the peak of the late-winter, early-spring crocuses. The big Dutch crocuses have yet to bloom for me - maybe the first will open tomorrow.
The signs seem to point in the direction of a year in which a lot of early bloomers will arrive all at once. While walking Biscuit this morning, I noticed that the flower buds of our local flowering dogwoods, Cornus florida are already opening a bit.

Merendera sobolifera and Colchicum hungaricum 'Velebet Star'




These two interesting and related plants are blooming today. I took advantage of this and cross pollinated them. Merendera sobolifera is sometimes called Colchicum soboliferum, so this effort is not so far-fetched as it  might seem.

They are both tiny little things with anthers which are about two millimeters long; the styles and their stigmas are in the same size range. I had to lie on the ground to get to them. While I was pollinating the Merendera, a neighbor who happened to be walking her dog nearby saw me on the ground and began to run towards me excitedly calling “Are you alright? Are you alright?” When I realized what was happening, I was a little embarrassed. “Just gardening” I told her, but I don’t think she believed me. Maybe “Just crazy” would have been more like it.


The form of Colchicum hungaricum used was ‘Vebelet Star’. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bread-eating Buteo



It's not a great picture to be sure, but the story behind it perhaps makes up for it.
The hawk shown here moved into the neighborhood a month or two ago - it's then that I would occasionally hear it and see it lording over the local woodlands. It often roosts at the edge of the woodland in back of the house. It's big: when seen near crows, it's conspicuously bigger. Is it a nearly mature red shouldered hawk?
It's hard to get close to this bird: when I see it roosting at the edge of the woods, it generally flies when I come into view. But recently I've gotten to within five or ten feet of it. How can that be? It happens when the hawk comes down onto our deck to eat, get this, chunks of donuts I throw out for the other birds. Times must be tough when these top predators are reduced to eating donuts!
Now might be the time to put up a  platform for feeding hawks.
The photo was taken with my Canon SX700HS with the zoom lens maxed out. The hawk was maybe seventy feet away at the time. I took the photo from inside the house through a less than pristine glass door. When I went out onto the deck to get another picture, the bird flew immediately. It's been back several times since. I guess I'd better buy more donuts. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Primula obconica



Although I’ve known about Primula obconica for most of my gardening life, this is the first time I’ve had one in the house. It was purchased at one of the big box stores two weeks ago. These are not garden plants here. Although  primroses as a group are generally very cold adapted and most species flourish in areas with extremely cold winters,  Primula obconica is generally treated as a greenhouse or house plant in areas with freezing winter temperatures. I’m uncertain about just how much cold it will actually tolerate: as a wild plant it almost certainly occasionally experiences freezing temperatures. This one has already been moved to one of the cold frames: temperatures down into the 20s F are predicted for tonight, and later this week typical winter weather will return. After closing the cold frames later today I’ll make the additional concession of covering them with a tarp. But other than that the primroses and cyclamen now blooming in the frames will be on their own.

The paragraph above was written a few days ago and is now ready for an update The temperature this morning was about 10 degrees F (that's about minus 12 degrees Celsius!). Late in the afternoon I went out and removed the tarp to allow the sun to warm things up a bit inside the frame. I did not open the frame. But I could see that all looks well inside the frame: this raises hopes that it might be possible to establish Primula obconica in the frame - or at least to enjoy it for much longer than if it had been kept inside a warm house.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ruscus aculeatus ‘Christmas Berry’



Ruscus aculeatus, the butcher’s broom of old books, is nothing new in this garden: it’s been here for decades. The original form grown here is the one distributed by Woodlanders as ‘Wheeler’s’.  There are ten plants, and not a one of them has ever been particularly reliable about fruiting. ‘Elizabeth Lawrence’ and ‘Christmas Berry’ were acquired a few years ago: these fruit heavily and can be very ornamental. That's 'Christmas Berry' in the image above. 

These are definitely not plants to cuddle up to: they are unpleasantly spiny, the dried pieces sold for Christmas decoration being especially so.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Helleborus niger and bees: a delightful prelude to things to come





Yesterday afternoon, after things finally warmed up a bit, I went out to check on what was happening in the cold frames. The Algerian iris is blooming, and the primroses purchased a while back are in fine form and very colorful. But what really caught my eye were the two Helleborus niger. These are in full bloom, and the flowers are particularly handsome now because the cold frame provides such good protection. In our climate they certainly don't need cold frame protection, but the cold frames mimic a good snow cover, and that's what these plants are adapted to. Blooms which mature in the open garden generally show signs of the battle against the elements; those which mature in the cold frame are lush in comparison.

As I was admiring the hellebores, I remembered something which needed attention inside the house and left to take care of that. When I returned a few minutes later, I had a nice surprise: bees had already found the hellebore flowers. It's so good to see bees again: for years we seemed to have none. I made a five minute video of the bees visiting the hellebore flowers. A brief snippet of this can be seen below. Be sure the volume is up: you will then be able to hear the buzzing of the bees.







Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Spring in Washington



This morning at 6:52 A.M. I was awakened by the call of a male northern cardinal; it was not prolonged and it sounded as if he was warming up - but it was a trial run of a sound which will soon become very frequent in the garden.
In his  Spring in Washington, published nearly seventy years ago, Louis J. Halle records the January 22nd day he left his home at daybreak and was greeted by the sound of a cardinal calling in a tree across the street. He wrote
"The mathematicians reckon that spring begins March 21, but the mathematicians are a month behind the season the year around. For those who observe the first signs, spring comes earlier than others know. Before the end of January, while the scenery remains desolate and the sun leaves no warmth, the first sparks are already being enkindled in the breasts of songbirds. As I left my home at daybreak January 22, under a cloud rack becoming visible, in a dead tree across the street a cardinal was singing cue-cue-cue-cue-cue-cue, rapidly, all on one pitch and without variation. "
The wonderful book has been my generous companion for decades: who would have guessed that decades of pleasure could be bought in a used book store for 50 cents?

Later in the morning Biscuit wanted to go out, and as I opened the front door I got a real surprise: the front lawn was spangled with starlings and robins. A flicker flew out of a nearby tree, and I could hear a blue jay calling from the back yard: the birds are on the move!

Here are some of the robins:






Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Fastigiata'





This is the upright form of the conifer Cephalotaxus harringtonia, sold as C. harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’. In its youth if forms a narrow upright column. The plant in the image was planted about fifty years ago, and like the person who planted it now grows sideways rather than upright. It’s now a relatively massive plant, and more than one visitor has mentioned that “that’s the biggest yew I’ve ever seen”. It’s not a yew, at least not in the sense of being a member of the genus Taxus: it’s a plum yew, a yew relative. Because this fastigiate form has its foliage in whorls, it does not really look like the typical wild forms of C. harringtonia. I know I’ve got a live one when a visitor, seriously contemplating this plant in an attempt to place it, avoids the obvious mistake of calling it a yew and instead asks “Is it some kind of Podocarpus?” That’s the kind of visitor I like!
Years ago the local mall had a group of the typical form planted at the major entrance to the mall. Once the plants settled in, they began to bloom and produce fruit. That was the end of it for them: the last time I saw them they were surrounded by sidewalks and streets spattered with the juicy, staining fruits.
Of course it’s not a rock garden plant, although you might be tempted to plant one to enjoy the distinctive foliage and growth form of the young plant. But it is the sort of plant some rock gardeners like: one which will catch the visitor’s eye and provoke conversation.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Rohdea japonica


This handsome plant was grown as a houseplant long before most of us realized that it had great potential as a garden plant. It certainly does not look as if it would be hardy; but hardy it is, and it seems to thrive in local gardens. The flowers are creamy white and are placed in a thick cluster which superficially suggests the bloom of some parasitic plant such as Orobanche or Conopholis. The evergreen foliage remains handsome throughout the winter and rarely shows cold damage here.
The colorful infructescence is about the size of a hen's egg, and the individual, bright red fruits are about a quarter of an inch in diameter.
The plant is easily if slowly raised from the large seeds.
Watch the spelling of the genus name: so many plants have names beginning with the letter combination rh- (the traditional transliteration of the Greek letter ρ – rho – into Latin) that the name of this plant is sometimes misspelled Rhodea, The pronunciation is tricky, too: the English eponym's name was Rohde  and was almost certainly pronounced the same way as "rode" (past tense of the verb to ride).  Thus, Rhode + a = rode-a. But one almost invariable hears rode-e-a.












Friday, January 2, 2015

Biscuit gets a big gold star



Wayne and I were in Bridgewater last weekend to visit with his mom and other family members. We took Biscuit with us and she behaved very well indeed. We stayed overnight in a pet-friendly motel, and the rest of the time we were in the nursing home. Biscuit was one of three dogs in our party, and they all behaved well.
Here's a funny Biscuit story. Biscuit is very good with children: she seems to enjoy it when children come up to pet her, and she usually rolls over onto her back to let them pet her tummy. Biscuit got plenty of tummy pats during this trip, but one I don't think I'll forget. Three young brothers, the oldest perhaps seven or eight, the next younger maybe five and the youngest maybe four gathered around Biscuit to pet her. The oldest took the lead, and the younger brothers stood back to watch. Biscuit rolled over for him almost immediately. The other two brothers then became very interested: the middle brother moved in closer and reached out, then suddenly pulled back his hand  - he did this several times until he got up the courage to actually touch Biscuit. His older brother was petting Biscuit's chest, so the middle brother began to pet her tummy. Meanwhile, the youngest brother was nervously getting closer and closer. Finally he reached out and began to pet Biscuit's back end. The oldest brother quickly called out "Not there, not there". I had a good laugh over this.
In the image above you see Biscuit at home waiting for her meal to defrost in the microwave oven. She will stand there and watch until the alarm goes off, then she will come and get me.   

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Primula vulgaris



One thing which sets this blog apart from most other gardening blogs is my determination to keep it confined to plants I have grown here in my gardens (the home garden and my community garden plots). Almost every image which appears on this blog is of a plant growing in this garden. Almost every image, but not all. There are views of the local woodlands and some other images obviously not taken here, but overall I take a certain pride in the fact that what you see here is almost entirely my own.

Today I'm swallowing my pride: I didn't grow these primulas. They came from one of the local grocery stores where they were sold for the give-away price of three for five dollars. These primulas at that price are great value for the money: with care, they can bloom for week after week, as long as they are kept cold, cold as in above freezing but below 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other than that, the only challenge in their culture is keeping them watered. That lush succulent foliage and those bright blooms require a lot of water. Once they go into the cold frames (maybe tomorrow if the temperature gets above freezing by early afternoon) their water requirement lessens, but since they are in pots they are still very vulnerable to drying out. The smart thing to do is to remove them from the pots and plant them into the soil of the cold frame - that done, they practically take care of themselves as long as they remain cool.

Update February 13, 2015: they are still blooming freely. These were purchased at the end of December, so they have so far given a month and a half of bloom. And most of them show no sign of slowing down. They have taken well to cold frame life.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Smilax laurifolia




Of all of my accomplishments as a gardener, this is one of which I am most proud. And it took a lot of patience to get even this far: I collected the seed in either 1991 at Virginia Beach or in 1994 at Zuni, Virginia; Wayne and I used to take occasional birding trips to those areas back then. Smilax are very slow from seed: not only does the seed sometimes take years to germinate, but once germinated the resulting seedlings can be very slow growing. The plant in the photos above took years before it began to put on any size at all, but now it annually produces multiple ten to fifteen foot canes.

So far it has not ever shown winter damage, and it now blooms annually. In fact, it set seed last year  and the resulting seeds survived the winter. I collected some of these early this year, and one has already germinated and put up a sprout.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Iris cretensis



Here's a nice Christmas Day surprise from the garden: Iris cretensis. This is only the second time this species has bloomed here, but I don't expect it to be a problem plant at all. Like its larger relatives, it can take its time becoming established in the garden. Here it grows in a cold frame.  Numerous published reports suggest that it does not require that protection to survive, but the cold frame does protect the flowers.
It's bigger relative Iris unguicularis is also in bloom today - it has produced a cluster of four or five flowers. It's hard to believe such big colorful blooms come from the garden at this time of year - but that's what a well managed cold frame can do.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Schlumbergera Buckleyi Group








I'm pretty sure this is the plant I knew as a youngster as Christmas cactus. The hanging red flowers and the rounded edges of the leaf-like stems are characteristics I remember. Years later, when I began to collect and buy plants, this plant seemed to have disappeared from commerce: it was replaced by related types with pointed stem edges.

I'm pretty sure it was one of the plants which grew on Mrs  Koch's front porch plant shelves. Have I mentioned Mrs. Koch in these posts yet? The Kochs lived two houses away on our street,  Eton Road. When I look at old garden magazines from the mid 1950s and see those "grow orchids on your windowsill" advertisements, I think of her. She had a tangle of epiphytic orchids around her kitchen window: I think she had more faith in their ability to thrive than I did. On her front porch were wooden shelves with a collection of house plants, a collection very much of the times: wax plant (Hoya carnosa), crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii), star fish flower (Stapelia), some begonias, spider plant (Chlorophytum), strawberry begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera), African violets and others, among them the Christmas cactus.

Last August Wayne and I were visiting one of his cousins who lives in the Virginia countryside. How country is country? Country enough to have bears and rattlesnakes wander through occasionally. His cousin had two huge Christmas cactus plants, and when I expressed admiration for them, she didn't miss a beat and invited me to take one home with me. The plant forms an oval about eighteen inches by about thirty six inches: huge in comparison to the ones I knew as a kid. Somewhere in one of my early twentieth century garden books there is a photo of a big Christmas cactus in a pot placed on a narrow round table in what seems to be a bay window.The cactus just about fills the space.

I've never forgotten that photo. Now I've got a cactus of handsome dimensions: should I start to wish for a bay window?

I took good care of it for the rest of the summer, and now I'm getting my reward: it's loaded with buds and blooms.

These plants ( there are many cultivated forms now) are hybrids of plants which grow wild in Brazil. The first hybrids were made in the mid-nineteenth century (the wikipedia entry cites 1852).  If this plant were the original clone (there is no way of knowing now) it could be called Schlumbergera × buckleyi ‘Buckley’, or in more modern horticultural  taxonomy, Schlumbergera Buckleyi Group. It was also known as Zygocactus,  a name which appeared in some of the garden books I read as a child.

This term "Group" deserves some explanation. It has no taxonomic status. There is no implication that the members of a Group are in fact related. The term Group is used by horticulturists when they are dealing with a group (lower case g, in the sense of aggregation) of plants which appear to be similar or identical but about which doubts with regard to their relationship exist.

Here's something interesting, especially given its provenance: some pieces which animals broke off the main plant were overlooked when the main plant was brought inside in anticipation of the first hard frost. Early the next morning, the temperature dropped below freezing for several hours. I noticed one of these detached pieces out on the deck and went out to take a look. It was frozen hard. It was brought in and allowed to defrost. And when it did thaw, it was fine. There was no sign of freeze damage and the buds later continued to develop normally. Note: after writing the above, I went back and read the rest of the wikipedia entry for Schlumbergera. It contains a description of the conditions under which these plants grow in the wild (the Atlantic coast of Brazil, near Rio), conditions which are characterized by occasional overnight drops below freezing in the nearby mountains!

The blooms shown above are among the first ones to open this season. There are plenty of buds left, some of them just beginning to poke out of the ends of the branches. So I'm pretty sure that this Christmas cactus will, in fact, be blooming at Christmas.

Update, December 26, 2014: the plant is still in bloom but past its best.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cardiocrinum cordatum naturalized in a Maryland woodland







For more about this, see the September Quarterly Bulletin of the North American Lily Society. Two pictures were published there; the videos published here supplement those. There are several other short videos on hand; these might be published later. The bird heard in the background of one of the videos is a red tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxF6kPIbEvPiNGoydXAwM1RNVkU/view?usp=sharing

https://www.dropbox.com/s/j1yng4nl33j1d9x/MVI_1241red%20tail%20hawk%20calling.MP4?dl=0


Cardiocrinum cordatum
and C. cathayanum (if indeed these two are distinct species) are alike in the unusual way their leaves are arrayed. They appear in late winter at ground level and resemble developing rosettes of skunk cabbage. As the plants develop more, the entire rosette of leaves is raised until it about a foot or more above ground. At this point, it looks like a hosta on a stick. At first glance the foliage appears to form a whorl, but if you look closely you can see that the points of insertion of the foliage are not planar - the seeming whorl is a false whorl. You can see this in this photo:

.

And here's what the seed pods look like:









Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mini Cyclamen





There was a time when Cyclamen persicum was the only cyclamen grown in this country, and it was grown for the house plant trade. The plants in question were selected in the "bigger is better" tradition, and somewhere along the line the delicious fragrance of the wild forms seems to have been replaced by a mild but  disagreeably pungent reek. House plant books from the early twentieth century generally mention these plants, often with the caveat that American homes are too hot for them to thrive. And some taunt us by mentioning plants in European homes which are kept from year to year, getting bigger as they go.

Much smaller, more compact forms of these cyclamen have been appearing regularly in the shops for years now. These small forms sometimes retain the sweet fragrance of the wild forms, and it's well worthwhile sniffing among them in the shop to get a good one.

Late last week I stopped by one of the big box stores for some hardware and spotted a full tray of some very compact cyclamen being sold as "mini cyclamen".  They were a very uniform group. After dipping in close I detected the great scent. The flower color and the leaves reminded me of Cyclamen cyprium, although the blooms were much more substantial. So two came home with me. I went back yesterday to buy one more, and all had been sold.

Modern marketing: when I got home I examined the plants and had a surprise: the pot they were actually rooted in was tiny, and it was supported by an ingenious little device with a long wick. Old books often contain warnings about the dangers of watering cyclamen from above, and anyone who has grown one has probably seen one flop when it did not get enough water.

There is a thread on the Pacific Bulb Society forum this week which discusses some of these little cyclamen. Those are from the Metis Pom Pom series: Are the ones shown above the same as the ones being discussed on-line?

These seem to have been grown in Canada, and are being sold for all of $3 each!

Update February 13, 2015: these are still in bloom! As of a few days ago they have been in one of the cold frames where they will spend the rest of the year.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sedum spectabile 'Neon'



The intense, saturated color of this one really surprised me. Most of the big sedums have a dusty quality to their color, but this one really glows. Shortly before this picture was taken, the plant was much bigger and promised to be a major butterfly center. But a deer visited one night and ate most of the flower buds. So this is all I got this year. 

Thunbergia 'Sunny Orange Wonder'



Years ago I occasionally grew Thunbergia alata, the black-eyed Susan vine or clock vine. It's a reliable hot weather vine that slowly climbs to about four feet high.  It's reliable in the senses that it grows without trouble and eventually blooms freely, but it's too short to be used as most vines are.

Now fast forward a few decades. The modern black-eyed Susan vines have the potential to put on a real show. The one I grew this year, 'Sunny Orange Wonder', grew freely throughout the summer and bloomed now and then. But it wasn't until things began to cool off a bit that it started to bloom freely. No doubt it will be at its best just before the first good freeze. 

Helianthus salicifolius


You'll need some room for this one, but it's worth it. It's tall, broad and beautiful - it really lights up the October garden. It also self-seeds, but not invasively. I've long felt that the perennial sunflowers have a lot to offer gardens, but I don't see them in other gardens often. Wouldn't it be nice to have a big border given over to nothing but late season composites!  The nectar seekers would certainly appreciate it.

Elaeagnus pungens 'Fruitlandii'



This is the time of year when neighborhood fireplaces are apt to be burning now and then.The scent of wood smoke moves me deeply - as does the scent of burning leaves. And if one of the big autumn blooming shrubs is in full bloom the garden becomes a place of real enchantment. Favorites here for their scent are the autumn camellias,  Osmanthus × fortunei and this shrub, the Fruitland autumn olive. Both the autumn olive and the osmanthus have tiny flowers, but they are powerfully scented. In order to appreciate the scent of the camellias, you'll have to move in closely.

The flowers of the autumn olive are not conspicuous and are hidden by the foliage. In the image above, a branch has been turned over to show the blooms.

Sauromatum venosum



I grew this plant for years, digging the corns yearly, and not realizing that it would thrive in the garden as a hardy perennial. Once I let it go in the garden, I eventually had another surprise.It not only survives from year to year and blooms yearly, but it also sets fruit. The fruit clusters are up now: they remind me of pomegranates, but there is also a fungal quality in the way they pop up fully formed.  Something tells me that they probably don't taste like pomegranates.

The inflorescence of this plant is so unbearably malodorous that you might wonder why anyone would grow it. But the inflorescence is so striking when it is fresh: the raw beef and mustard colors of the interior of the spathe are surprisingly vivid and have a velvety quality. And the sprightly upward and outward arc of the spadix is very eye-catching, especially when they are seen in a group.But that odor....

Aconitum carmichaelii



I'm happy to say that this plant has been in the garden here for a long time; it's the only Aconitum which really seems to thrive here. Even the Maryland native Aconitum uncinatum does not do as well. Yes, I would be happier if it multiplied more freely, but at least it returns yearly and blooms. And what a color...

For more about this plant, see here:

http://mcwort.blogspot.com/2009/10/aconitum-carmichaelii.html

Roses from my birthday week


It's a real pleasure to be able to pick roses from the late October garden: even if the colors and fragrances are not really better than they were earlier in the year, it certainly seems so.  The plants themselves bear only scattered bloom now, but with many plants to choose from a nice little bouquet can be put together. Above you see 'Mutabilis', 'Casino', 'Bayse's Purple', 'Awakening', 'New Dawn', 'Stanwell Perpetual', 'White Pet', 'Alba Meidiland',  'Moonlight' and 'Aviateur Bleriot' (or is it 'Ghislaine di Feligonde'?)
Mixed in among the roses are blooms or foliage of Phygelius 'Cherry Ripe', Artemisia absinthium, Salvia farinacea, Buddleja 'Buzz Magenta'.

Rosa 'Stanwell Perpetual'



With so many roses in cultivation, I'm intrigued by the way some roses have of maintaining a loyal following over the years - or in the case of this rose, over the centuries. It will have its bicentennial in 2038: if I'm still here, I'll be 95. This is not a rose for which superlatives are appropriate: its growth is low, its color is quiet and in spite of its name it's hardly perpetual. The flowers are a bit over three inches in diameter. But it does stand out for its fragrance: this sweet little rose caries one of the great rose fragrances, and it has a way of winning our hearts.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hemerocallis in early September



Late blooming day lilies are nothing new: two of the three mentioned here have been in gardens for a half century, and the oldest of the trio was introduced almost seventy-five years ago. These late-blooming day lilies are an unexpected treat: they bring the freshness of early summer right to the edge of early autumn. One would think that that alone would make them valuable to gardeners, yet I rarely see any of them in local gardens. In the top image you see two old hybrids: 'Autumn Prince' on the left and  'Autumn King' on the right.  If you look very carefully you might be able to pick out a flower or two of 'Autumn Minaret', the tallest of the trio. 'Autumn Prince' was registered by Arlow Stout two years before I was born, so we have matured together.  He registered 'Autumn Minaret' and  'Autumn King' in the 1950s.


Hibiscus coccineus



According to its USDA Plants Profile, Hibiscus coccineus is native from Virginia south westerly to Texas and Arkansas. In the garden here it grows at the edge of a small pool; the crown of the plant is only a few inches above the water level. It grew here for years before blooming for the first time, but it blooms yearly now. The flowers are not as large as those of some of the hybrid hibiscus, but it hardly matters: a plant in bloom won't be overlooked!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Narcissius romieuxii mesatlanticus



I've never been comfortable with the nomenclature of these little North African hoop petticoat daffodils or that of their Spanish congeners. The name I've used here is the "as received" name.

Nomenclature aside, these little ones have a huge appeal. I'm not yet sure how to grow them. There is one local grower who apparently grows this one outside - it must be in a very protected place. I'm not sure what to do with mine (mine being a collection of about two dozen of these hoop petticoat daffodils).  For now I'm placing them in a cold frame for the winter. 

Lilium longiflorum 'White Heaven'



Lilium longiflorum is the wild lily from which the Easter lily of commerce was developed. The commercial forms tend to be very compact in growth and relatively short. The wild forms can be much bigger.

When I first saw 'White Heaven' blooming in my own garden, I assumed that it was a hybrid of some sort. It's bigger than the usual Easter lilies, and it has the tetraploid look. So much work has been done with hybridizing Lilium longiflorum in the recent past that a hybrid origin for this robust plant seemed reasonable.

Earlier this year I checked the lily registry to see what the story was with 'White Heaven'. Evidently it was raised from two forms of Lilium longiflorum, so it's not a hybrid between Lilium longiflorum and another species but rather an intraspecific hybrid.

Here's something else I discovered (and should have known). For show purposes, these plants are to be treated as Division V lilies.In all of the shows I've attended in the past,  Lilium longiflorum has been placed among the species. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Rosa 'Easlea's Golden Rambler'



This beautiful rose from the 1930s is noted not only for its lovely flowers but also for its distinct, bold and handsome foliage. It's not really a rambler rose as that category is currently defined, but it does produce long, supple canes.  When the time comes to whittle down the rose collection, this is one I'll try to keep. 

Iris 'Byzantine Ruby'


Although I don't remember the date, I do remember the first time I saw a photograph of this iris years ago. At the time I thought I would never actually see one, much less grow one. But grow one I did, and it seems to have settled down to life in my garden.

These arilate hybrid irises capture much of the beauty of their desert ancestors, but are much easier to keep under garden conditions. Their one nonnegotiable requirement is a dry summer. I keep them dry and well ventilated under some discarded sliding glass doors from the time the flowers fade until sometime in the early fall. So far, so good,...

Lilium canadense



I call these plants my red bell Lilium canadense. As you can see from the images, they are doing well. These are in their third year. It's at about this stage that the rats, rabbits, voles, woodchucks or deer find them and destroy them. But if they don't, next year's display should be really something to see.

The flowers of Lilium canadense are not large, but this species is often regarded as among the most graceful and beautiful in the genus. This year's plants bloomed too late for both the big Virginia show and our local show, but it would be nice to get a good stem to one of the shows one of these years.


Eremurus Spring Valley hybrids: fox-tail lilies








Eremurus or Fox-tail lilies are without a doubt attention getters. It's unusual to see them established in local gardens, but the reason is simple enough: they require very dry summer conditions. Other than that they are not difficult to grow.

Fifty years ago when I was in the army my mom sent me photos of the Eremurus elwesii I had planted just before leaving home for military service. The Polaroid prints are not too clear, but it's obvious that they were huge. My plants back then came from the John Scheepers company - in late summer they used to send out a brochure listing their Eremurus offerings. These brochures were addressed to Mr James A McKenney,  Esquire.

The plants shown in these images are the modern American-grown strain called Spring Valley hybrids. These are not as tall as the E. elwesii mentioned above, but they are tall enough: the tallest in the images topped six feet high.