Sunday, March 25, 2012

Anyone ever seen a Trillium like this?

This is a bizarre, variegated specimen of Trillium sessile found just down the street from my house.  There are many plants (thousands) in this population and this is the only one displaying this pattern.  If you look closely, you can see that the sepals also display green and yellow tissue, corresponding to similarly colored portions in the leaves.  There is little information out about variegated Trilliums, and I am not convinced this is the phytoplasm that infects Trillium grandiflorum.  Any thoughts out there?

The variegated Trillium sessile

A clump of typical Trillium sessile

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not-Quite-Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Despite the unseasonably warm and balmy outdoor conditions in central Ohio this year, it is technically still winter. Usually the March weather is much more winter-like and the tender bulbs blooming in the greenhouse provide a welcome retreat from the typically wet and raw weather of the season.  Although spring has come exceedingly early this year, this has only expedited and condensed the flowering season of the tender bulbs in the greenhouse.  Many of the finest are only now producing flowers after producing foliage through the late fall and winter.

The highly sought after Geissorhiza radians, or wine cup.  Under my conditions, plants must be hand-pollinated and regenerated from seed on a regular basis.  Individual plants mature and flower relatively quickly from seed and are short-lived.  

The reverse of Geissorhiza radians

Looking very similar to G. radians is Babiana rubrocyanea.  A case if convergent evolution? Affinity for similar pollinators?  Whatever the case, the similarity between two distantly related species is startling.

Switching gears, but staying within the Iridaceae, we have Ferraria crispa with its bizarre, sea-creature-esque flowers that are intensively fragrant and reminiscent of vanilla.

I especially like this orange-flowered Ixia curta that was given to me by a friend and long-time grower of South African bulbs.  This plant consistently flowers in March on tall, wispy scapes.  The contrast between the bright orange of the petals and charcoal-green central blotch is eye-catching from a distance.

This plant was given to me as Moraea tuhlbagensis x M. villosa, but it very closely resembles the plant called M. villosa ssp. elandsmontana, a very rare species of the western cape. Whatever it's name may be, represents another unique and indescribable color combination.The likes of which seem to come only from South Africa.  

A few of the earlier, hardier bulbs have started to flower.  Crocus sieberi ssp. sublimis 'Tricolor' should really called 'Quadricolor'.  This is a very richly colored plant that I like quite well.  

Iris reticulata 'Halkis'.  In our climate, I. reticulata and related species do very well outside in normal garden soil, and should not be tortured in containers.  When I try to grow them in containers, they only shrink in size.  I put this picture here to remind myself of that.  This is a beautiful from Janis Ruksans that was collected by Norman Stevens on Halkis Dag in Batman province, Turkey in 1990 (per Janis' catalog).   

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spring is for Trilliums

Trilliums are among my favorite of all plants.  There are few plants that lend such a strong sense of place to both the wild settings where they naturally grow and to the gardens of the discerning.  Their simplistic, elegant form lends a dignified air to woodland and shaded gardens and they have few rivals among the rich spring flora of the eastern U.S. and beyond.   I have been studying Trillium in the wild and under garden conditions for the last fifteen years, and one of my life goals is to see all of the species in the wild (hopefully numerous times).  Only by visiting numerous populations of a given species can one truly appreciate the extreme variation to be found.

Although there is  no such thing as a bad Trillium,  my personal favorite Trillium species are the sessile species, and particularly those of the Southern U.S.  Not only do these species have some of the most beautifully mottled and highly colored foliage in the genus, but they are also early risers, and if you have the conditions to suit them, they bring some spring cheer starting in late January-early February and last well into spring.  Trillium decipiens is the first species to start into growth, and with this years mild winter, growth was evident the second week of January.

Trillium decipiens from the Eastern part of the species range

Trillium decipiens from the western portion of the species distribution

This is either T. decipiens or T. underwoodii from Alabama.  The stems continue to slowly elongate, so I am inclined to think it is the former.  It will be easier to tell when the flowers open.

Trillium decumbens is one of the most distinctive species.  After flowering, the leaves rapidly mature and senesce, leaving only the developing berries (the Trillium fruit is a true berry).  The seeds are large compared to other Trilliums.  This species is relatively easy to grow from seed.

The pattern of the mottling is distinct among trilliums and adds to the unique beauty of this species.  There is a yellow flowered for of this species which I would love to grow.  

This is Trillium ludovicianum from central Louisiana.  I have yet to see this species in flower and eagerly await the first flowers to open on these plants.  This species is closely related to, and suspected to hybridize with Trillium cuneatum.

Perhaps the least well-known sessile Trillium is T. gracile.  This species occurs in Louisiana and extreme east Texas.  The pictured form is from Newton County, Texas.  This species emerges very early, but flowers rather late.  These pictures were taken on April 21, 2011.  

Trillium gracile.  Photo taken April 21, 2011

Close-up of Trillium gracile.  Photo taken April 21, 2011

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Favorite Plant This Week: Paphiopedilum vietnamense

One of the most recent Paphiopedilum introductions from Vietnam.  This relative of P. delenatii has only recently (within the past few years) become legal to own and grow.  This specimen came from Piping Rock Orchids (  and is now blooming for the first time about two years after I purchased it.  This plant seems as easy to grow and flower as P. delenatii.  There are already some choice primary hybrids on the market, but I have not grown any of these.

Whenever one of my Parvisepalum Paphiopedilum species flowers, I feel like I should hold a press conference because it could be years before it flowers again.  Hopefully this species will be a more reliable bloomer than related species like P. micranthum and P. emersonii (which for me have an average flowering rate of once per decade).  In my opinion, this is one of the truly beautiful members of this genus and it grows quite easily under my conditions.

Paphiopedilum vietnamense 

The flowers are 7-10 cm in diameter

Another view

The foliage of this species is exceptional.  The sharp contrast of the mottling pattern a lustrous leaf surface stand out among other Parvisepalum Paphs in my small collection.