Thursday, October 20, 2011

Variegated Fritillary Euptoieta claudia Silver and gold

While working in the garden the other day I spotted this little gem. It brought to mind some metal smith working in molten silver and gold: as he worked, drops of silver and gold dropped from his workbench and clumped on the floor.

In fact it's the elegant wrapping around a gem of a different sort: there is a pupa of a fritillary inside that chrysalis. It's the Variegated Fritillary   Euptoieta claudia, a species whose host plants include passion flower. The chrysalis was found not far from a rampageous tangle of Passiflora incarnata in the garden. To see Passiflora incarnata, look here:

Canna × ‘Ehemannii’


Although I’ve known about this plant – or thought I knew about this plant – for a long time, it’s blooming in my garden this year for the first time. And this is the first time I’ve actually seen it. It’s over a century old: it appeared in the late nineteenth century. It looks a lot like Canna iridiflora, and from the beginning there seems to have been uncertainty about whether ‘Ehemannii’ is a form of that species or a hybrid.

It’s unique among the garden cannas I know. The drooping flowers (some accounts say the entire inflorescence droops) give the plant a very graceful quality, and graceful is rarely the first thing which comes to mind when discussing cannas. It’s a puzzle to me why more hybrid cannas have not been produced with this style of inflorescence. In fact, it’s a big puzzle because Canna iridiflora itself appears in the stated genealogy of many hybrid canna strains.  

This plant can be tall, and drooping flowers on a tall plant are an advantage in that the viewer looks up into the flower instead of looking up and seeing the underside of the bloom.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Scilla lingulata ssp. ciliolata

Gardeners have long cherished bulbs which bloom in the fall, and when those bulbs are of sorts which typically bloom in late winter or spring, there is the added pleasure of having the illusion of getting a jump on the seasons.

The little plant shown above, Scilla lingulata ssp ciliolata, is not the only late-summer or fall blooming squill, but it’s certainly a distinctive one. It has the sorts of poise and charm which make for a great pot plant on the show bench. The words used to make the name of this species, lingulata and ciliolata, refer to the tongue-shaped leaves which have tiny hairs along their margins. If the light is just right one can easily see this.  
I have not tried this plant in the open garden: it’s lived in a cold frame since it arrived in 2007.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tricyrtis macrantha

This is the plant widely distributed under the name Tricyrtis macrantha ssp. macranthopsis. It's been in this big pot for two years now, and it seems to be thriving, doesn't it? One advantage of the pot is that it keeps the plant well up off the ground where rabbits and slugs might easily find it. I'm getting such good growth and generous increase from this plant that I'm beginning to feel unambitious for not having used it more effectively in the garden.

Is the commercial stock of this plant clonal in nature? I wonder because my plants (two accessions from different sources)  do not set seed even when hand pollinated.

Kalimeris pinnatifida

The plant shown above is currently making the rounds under the name Kalimeris pinnatifida, although when it was introduced it was better known as Asteromoea mongolica.  I’ve known about it for years, but until I saw it in a garden context I had no idea what a great plant it is. Some neighbors whom I don’t know have a clump in their front garden which I’ve been watching for years. The clump gets better each year. I’ve never seen anyone working in the garden, so I’m assuming that this is an easy care plant.
This plant appeals to me because it seems to be healthy and pest free; it seems to grow freely without becoming weedy or aggressive; it occupies about the same mass each year – that’s important to me when giving consideration to how a plant should be placed. Once it starts to bloom it blooms and blooms for weeks. And it reminds me of Gypsophila paniculata.
It’s a keeper as far as I’m concerned.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Gardener

While walking Biscuit the other night one of my neighbors called me over and handed me a book which she said she thought I would enjoy. She had bought the book for her six year old daughter. One look at the title explained why she thought I might enjoy it: it was Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener, and that’s one of David Small’s illustrations from the book shown above.
The eponymous gardener is little Lydia Grace Finch who is growing up in the Great Depression. In a time of family crisis her family sends her off to live for a while with her Uncle Jim who runs a bakery a train ride away. Lydia Grace’s grandmother sends her off with packets of flower seeds: cosmos, zinnia and marigold.
Now that I’ve read the book I realize why my neighbor knew I would enjoy it. I’ve often told her how this Uncle Jim spent hours long decades ago with his niece sharing the joys of gardens, plants, insects and the outdoor life – and how those joyous days were never forgotten by her and are now being shared with her son. Not only can this Uncle Jim take some credit for his niece’s love of gardening, but he’s a baker, too.  
What my neighbor did not know is that my mom is a child of the depression, and she experienced something very like what Lydia Grace experienced: she was farmed out to care for her arthritic grandmother when she was about ten years old.
So for me the book was a sweetly nostalgic trip.
I returned the book tonight, but not before going up to my community garden plot and picking a little bouquet of cosmos, zinnias and marigolds for the little girl whose book I had borrowed.
By the way, and this is for those of you who know the book, this Uncle Jim smiles.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart,  illustrated delightfully by David Small,  published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

× Amarcrinum

The name × Amarcrinum is used for hybrids between Amaryllis belladonna and various Crinum. What looks like a little x before the name is actually a multiplication sign, and it indicates that the entity named is a nothogenus (from the Greek nothos meaning spurious, false, phony), a genus which does not exist in nature.  The symbol × is sometimes read as “times” as in Amaryllis belladonna × Crinum read as " Amaryllis belladonna times Crinum". This is an old cross, one originally made nearly a century ago in the early twentieth century; the original cross was Amaryllis belladonna × Crinum moorei

Crinums of various sorts are easily grown here, but they have several characteristics which make them a dubious choice for the small garden. For one thing, most of them are big, with 4’ sprawling leaves. Nor do they bloom freely: many I have grown bloom once a year, if that. And then there is this: the individual flowers of crinums are often literally ephemeral.

The other parent, Amaryllis belladonna, is also a problem child here. It’s a winter grower, yet its foliage generally does not survive exposure to a typical local winter. Even if the foliage is protected, it’s a very reluctant bloomer. A plant here has been growing in my most protected cold frame since 2005 – and it has yet to bloom. Each year it produces plenty of robust foliage, and the original bulb is now part of a clump. But so far it has not bloomed.

The  plant shown above was planted in 2007 and is blooming here for the first time. Ten more were added in 2008, so I expect the display to get better yearly now.

The flowers are fragrant: I think I detect more influence from the Crinum parent in that regard.