Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First time phenomenon

Some of the best days are those in which a new seedling, species, etc. flowers, fruits, or does something unique for the first time.  This has been happening quite a bit in my orchid collection over the past year, but now something new and different makes an appearance for the first time.

I received seed of Iris atropurpurea x Iris haynei from SIGNA (Species Iris Group of North America) in early 2009.  Only 2 of 5 seeds germinated and the seedlings are polar opposites.  This pictured specimen is large and grows vigorously, while the other is more diminutive, slower growing, and yet to flower.

Here are pictures taken in in more overcast conditions.  This seems to highlight the somber coloring of the flowers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Many plants are extolled for their ability to grow and flower during the darkest days of the year; Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), Lenten Rose (Helleborus), and Cyclamen are only a few.  There is no denying the mood-lifting prowess of those species, but I'm gonna be unconventional here and cast my vote for the sessile trilliums as the most uplifting of winter growers.  Hardly any plant announces the beginning of spring in a more regal way than the trilliums.  Most of these sessile species hail from the gulf coast, and being from such a mild climate, begin growth during the bleak days of early January.  While the flowers may not open until February or march, the slow progression of the foliage is what excites me.  There is nothing else quite like it.

Detail of Trillium underwoodii from Florida.  When we have a mild autumn, these plants will often begin growing around Christmas.  

Another view of Trillium underwoodii from Florida; albeit with a little bit of slug damage.  A friend sent these to me and at one point I have a yellow flowered plant. 

Here is Trillium decipiens from the northern part of the species range in Alabama.  This is my favorite of all the trilliums.   The range of variation in foliage patterns and flower colors appears to have reached it's zenith in this species.

Above and below are plants of Trillium decipiens from the same area in Alabama as above

Below are a couple of plants of Trillium decipiens from the western part of the species range in Alabama.  These plants differ from the above in foliage coloration and mottling pattern and also flower color.  Plants from this area have flowers that begin a light maroon color and rapidly fade to bronzy-green.

Below are a couple of forms of Trillium maculatum, another of my favorite species.  

The above form of Trillium maculatum is particularly robust and much larger than other forms of the species I grow.  Trillium maculatum var. simulans remains the plant I most want to acquire!

Above is Trillium foetidissimum from Louisiana.  While not as showy as the species mentioned above, it is a good increaser.  These plants were found growing in a trashy woods in the middle of a small city.  The number of invasive species in that small woodlot was astounding.  When I asked permission to collect a few, the property owner just laughed and asked why I was so interested in the local "weeds".

This is Trillium lancifolium from the southernmost populations not far from Tallahassee.  These plants are very early and have flowers that are bronzy-red in color.  Apparently populations of T. lancifolium from below the fall line are going to be described as a new species.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Budding Enthusiasm

Sometimes the only thing better than a flower itself is the developing bud that preceded it.  Flower buds carry an innate sense of excitement, and in the case of first time flowers on hybrids or some rare species, perhaps a bit of the unknown.  The pictures below represent the best of both worlds.

Rhododendron x'Saint Valentine' is a vireya hybrid with the most sumptuously colorful and textural red flowers that are exceptional even among the many red rhodies.  This makes a choice, albeit somewhat leggy specimen in the greenhouse.  The leaves are exceptionally thick and lustrous.

Note the small, circular scales on the flowers and the leaves.  Their waxy nature only adds to the complexity of the display.  

The dangling flowers of 'Saint Valentine' have a special charm and can last for couple of weeks in the.greenhouse due to their thick, waxy texture.  

'Saint Valentine' is a primary hybrid; I have seen the parents listed as R. lochiae x R. gracilentum or R. viriosum x R. gracilentum.  Rhododendron virisosum was once included within R. lochiae, so it may be a moot point, but it is worth mentioning that R. lochiae and R. viriosum represent the only two species of endemic to Australia.  The diminutive R. gracilentum is in endemic to high elevations on Papua New Guinea.  It is a charming winter flowering species that should be sought out.

I am fortunate to grow a form of Vanilla planifolia that regularly flowers in winter, even though the plant is rather small (compared to the height at which they flower in the wild and on vanilla farms.  This plant will flower until the beginning of summer.

This is one to get excited about.  I obtained this from SIGNA a few years ago as Iris atropurpurea x Iris haynei. A rare primary hybrid between two Israeli irises. Two of 5 seeds germinated and the resultant seedlings could not be more different; one is tall, robust, and about to flower (seen here).  The other is small, slow growing and shows no signs of flowering -- yet.  The picture above was taken 4 weeks ago.

The flower buds have developing at an excruciatingly slow pace, but are now showing signs of color.  The picture above taken two weeks ago.

Here is what the flower buds look today.  I would expect the flowers to pop during the next string of sunny days and mild temperatures.  More one this one to come!