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: