Sunday, July 16, 2017

Smilax laurifolia

Smilax laurifolia 


The light green growths you see in this image are this year’s new growth on Smilax laurifolia. It’s making lots of strong new growth this year, and as you can see in the image it’s having its way with the crepe myrtle. The area caught in this image is at about the 12'-15' level. Were you to look at the top of the crepe myrtle, you would see the topmost strands of the vine waving in the breeze. It has just about reached the size where I’ll be comfortable cutting it for house decoration.  

Huernia keniensis


Huernia keniensis


My track record as a champion house plant killer notwithstanding, this little plant has survived here for over a half century. Another plant of this species was among the first items I photographed with my then new Kodak Retina Reflex camera. Those slides were processed in January 1964. Other images in that box include several of Scrapper, the family dog, a mata-mata turtle, Vipera ammodytes, and two Christmas scenes. I'll try to scan those slides and add them to this post later. 

The Huernia blooms now and then, and every few years I break it up and repot the pieces.

Huernia look like cactuses, but they are asclepiads,  related to the milkweeds. As the specific epithet suggests, this species is from Kenya in Africa. 

Gloriosa modesta

Gloriosa modesta

Gloriosa modesta


Long known as Littonia modesta, this little charmer from southern Africa at first glance hardly resembles the other members of its genus. For comparison, look here to see its more flamboyant relative, the gloriosa lily: http://mcwort.blogspot.com/2016/09/gloriosa-superba.html
Once included in the lily family, they are now in the Colchicaceae.
The flowers of this little orange one did not prove to be very enduring - they lasted only three days. The flowers of the big showy gloriosa lilies last much longer than that.
This is a new plant for me: it came from the bulb exchange of the Pacific Bulb Society; thanks, MSI!

Rosa 'Maréchal Niel'

Rosa  'Maréchal Niel'
Finally, I think I’ve got it right. Decades ago I grew this rose true to name. But that plant, after blooming and proving its identity, developed canker and was removed. Two successive acquisitions proved to be false – and although ordered eight years apart from the same supplier proved to be the same false plant. The one you see above arrived only a few weeks ago and has already produced a small flower. It’s the real thing.
Helen Van Pelt Wilson, in her book Climbing Roses, mentions that the blooms of this rose are very lasting. We had a good demonstration of that this week: the flower has come through several days with temperatures over 90 degrees F. and still seems presentable. Nor has the color faded much.
I think it’s fair to say that this is one of the most famous roses of all time. Its name appears in the pedigree of many other famous roses, although given the likelihood that hybridizers of the past and present don’t always tell the whole truth in these matters, perhaps such claims need to be taken with a grain of salt. But of its fame there is no doubt.
In the literature it’s generally described as golden yellow. I doubt that anyone who actually saw the rose would call the color golden. It’s more the color of butter. In the famous painting by Childe Hassam, it’s as yellow as a sunflower. Take a look here:
I’ve read that in the nineteenth century so highly was it esteemed that greenhouses were built specifically to house this plant. It’s not really a garden plant in our climate. Mrs. Wilson says bluntly that it is not hardy at Philadelphia. And Mrs. Keays, in her Old Garden Roses,  did not find it in her searches of southern Maryland gardens. Here in the greater Washington D.C. area plants have been known to survive for a few years, only to break the gardener’s heart when we have one of those winters which gets the global warming deniers braying “I told you so”.

But if you’re my kind of rosarian, you’ll at least want to try it once. Somewhere I read of an early twentieth-century gardener in West Virginia who grew it by taking it down in the winter and erecting a cold frame around it for winter protection. A green house is out of the question for me, but a cold frame is not.

Rosa moschata "Graham Stewart Thomas"

Rosa moschata "Graham Stewart Thomas" 

Rosa moschata “Graham Stewart Thomas”: note the formatting of the name. This is not a formally named cultivar, thus the use of double quotes rather than single quotes. 
This, the least prepossessing rose in the garden, has the most impressive provenance of any rose I have ever grown. 
Canon Henry Nicholson Ellacombe (1822-1916) Rector of Bitton,  Gloucestershire, late nineteenth-century author of garden books and mentor of Edward Augustus Bowles,   grew this rose at his home Bitton in Gloucestershire. Bowles acquired a piece of it from Ellacombe and grew it at Myddelton House. Graham Stewart Thomas found the Myddelton House plant in its senescence and rescued a piece. The plant I have in my garden now over a century later is a piece of the plant Graham Stewart Thomas distributed, the plant grown by Bowles and Ellacombe before him.

They don’t come any better connected than that!

Here’s another Bowles connection: here you see a flower of this rose on a page from the Elizabethan, 1597,  edition of Gerard’s Herball. This volume was once owned by Bowles, as is shown by marginalia in his hand seen elsewhere in the book. 

Rosa moschata on woodcut in Gerard, The Herball, 1597
For more about Ellacombe, see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Nicholson_Ellacombe
For more about Thomas, see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Stuart_Thomas
For more about this rose, see the Help Me Find entry here http://www.helpmefind.com/rose/l.php?l=2.16943

Hibiscus syriacus 'Azurri Blue' and 'Blueberry Smoothie'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Azurri Blue'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Azurri Blue'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Azurri Blue'

Hibiscus syriacus 'Blueberry Smoothie'

Hibisicus syriacus, the rose of Sharon, was regarded as a weed tree where I grew up. Every flower seems to set seed, and every seed seems to germinate – if not immediately, sometime during the next century. Decades ago I planted one of the standard  cultivars, ‘Blue Bird’. This one sets seed prolifically, and I eventually ripped it and its teeming progeny out. Or I thought I did: I’m still pulling them.  Also, the flowers of these plants are ephemeral, and the accumulation of fallen flowers beneath the bushes can make a mess.  
In an earlier post (see here: http://mcwort.blogspot.com/2009/08/hibiscus-syriacus-blue-satin.html  ) I mentioned that when the National Arboretum introduced its handsome seed-free cultivars, that group did not include a blue-flowered form. I’ve been waiting patiently for a seed-free blue to appear, and we now have a readily available one: ‘Azurri Blue’. These blue-flowered forms are best viewed in the early morning: midday bright sun brings out the pink tones. 
Evidently there is a lot going on among hybridizers with Hibiscus syriacus. It’s a group I’ve largely ignored for a long time, so when I began to Google the group, I discovered that a lot has happened. One which caught my eye is ‘Blueberry Smoothie’. The images on line flatter it a bit I think, a point of view confirmed when I saw the plants in a nursery. But those plants were pot grown, and I have a hunch that more water will bring better flowers.

My ‘Azurri Blue’ came from Proven Winners, and the little tags which came with it gave me something to think about. These tags give information in both English and Spanish. On one tag the Spanish language version of the name was given as “la rosa de Siria”; on another it was given as “la rosa de Sarón" . “Sarón”, a misprint for “Sharon”, right? No, it’s “Sarón” and I think I know why: it’s “Sarón” for the same reason that the late Shimon Peres was Shimon and not Simon Peres. The name Simon came into European languages from translations of Hebrew texts, and those earliest translations were from Hebrew into Koine Greek. Neither Greek nor Latin in their classical periods had a way of writing the “sh” sound, and it presumably did not exist in the spoken languages. So a Hebrew name such as Shimon was transliterated as Simon. And so the Hebrew Sharon, the name of a plain west of Jerusalem, became Saron in those western languages which got the word early on from Greek and Latin texts.  

Lilium 'Fusion'

Lilium 'Fusion'

Here’s something new and exciting for our gardens. Lilium ‘Fusion’ is said to be a hybrid of Lilium longiflorum and one of the lilies native to the west coast of North America, probably Lilium pardalinum.   During the first half of the twentieth century, as long as Carl Purdy and his native American collectors continued to supply wild collected bulbs, these western American lilies were evidently common in eastern American and British gardens. Competing with these wild-collected bulbs were the imposing Bellingham hybrids raised, and distributed, by the thousands by David Griffiths. Do any of these survive today?
The flowers of ‘Fusion’ are zygomorphic, something seen in some lilies of the martagon group and in some Cardiocrinum. The foliage is scattered on the stem, not whorled. Let’s hope it turns out to be a good garden plant in our area.


Cleome ‘Señorita Rosalita’

 Cleome ‘Señorita Rosalita’

Two or three years ago, while visiting his mother in Bridgewater, Virginia, Wayne and I saw a group of what seemed to be dwarf cleome in a local garden. A seed grown strain of dwarf cleome had just been introduced under the name ‘Sparkler’, and that might have been what those plants were. ‘Sparkler’ seed is expensive, and I’ve been waiting for the price to come down.

While plant shopping early this year I spotted plants from Proven Winners under the name ‘Señorita Rosalita’ and decided to give them a try. They were planted in big tubs in mid-May, and by now they have formed very handsome bushel basket sized masses of bloom. If they keep this up all summer, they’ll get my vote as one of the really important new annuals for our gardens. And they don’t  form seeds so there will not be a cleome invasion to deal with next year. 

Euphorbia decaryi

Euphorbia decaryi

Euphorbia decaryi

This little plant comes from southeast Madagascar and is another long term survivor here. Decades ago I briefly belonged to the local cactus and succulent club. At one of their plant exchanges I selected this plant. It had been contributed by none other than Harry Dewey, one of my much admired predecessors as editor of the local rock garden bulletin.

Is this the first time it has bloomed here? I’m not sure, but if it bloomed in the past I did not notice.