25 March 2008

Just in time


As I get ready to leave town, a flurry of activity, of course, including the first bloom of my Leucospermum 'scarlet ribbons'. It hasn't really opened yet, and I was going to wait to photograph it, but I just couldn't resist because it is so AWESOME. The plant is literally covered in flowers.

Don't worry, I've got some more treats in reserve that will probably open when I'm gone.

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14 March 2008

Further excitement

At this point, Clivias, or at least Clivia miniata cultivars like this, don't seem particularly exotic to me. Even growing by the sidewalk. But I grew up with a Clivia (eventually many, many Clivias) that my mother babied for years and years before blooming. So it's not something that I take for granted, even now. Especially since this bloom is on a potted specimen I just bought last year, not the plant in the ground.

The first Freesias opened recently, I'm not sure exactly when because I've been so preoccupied with the Calochortus that I didn't notice, until I was out hunting snails by flashlight, suddenly blinded by the reflection off these (those LED lights are bright!). F. alba seems to be very happy, as these are a lot bigger than last year.


But the most exciting news of the day is the reopening of Pacific Rim Nursery whose demise I lamented only a year ago. Now, if only I hadn't pauperized myself (and the dollar hadn't shit the bed) in the intervening year!

Seriously, though:
Paeonia cambessedesii or Paeonia mascula subsp. arietina?

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09 March 2008

Sweet box

Spring is in the air in Nor-Cal, most deliciously in the scent of Pittosporum undulatum, an otherwise nice but nondescript tree that smells divine this time of year. The common name, I think, is wavy-leafed box, but I have been calling it sweet box since I figured out what it was, in honor of its wonderful spring smell. There is, needless to say, nothing particularly boxy about it.

This seemingly precocious spring has induced my first flower of Calochortus umbellatus. The Oakland star tulip is the flower that started it all -- if by "it" you mean my madness. I read about this lovely little bulb and decided that I should plant some, mostly because of the name: it is the only plant I know named after my town. Although apparently even the holotype is from somewhere else. There is no there here. At least part of my reasoning was that it would probably grow well here, being native and all.

But it was not easy to come by, oh no, and thus began my odyssey into the world of rare bulbs and mail order seed and various other obsessions, until I finally obtained some bulbs last fall (Thanks Telos and Far West!). And now my first diminutive and truly beautiful flower has opened.

It is much more subtle than the things that usually appeal to me. Also, admittedly, kind of purple: the petals are flushed a -- delicate! -- mauve purple, and the wonderfully contrasting anthers can at best be called blueish. Nevertheless, I will call them "blue steel". Oakland Star Tulip

This first bloom is a mutant: 8 tepals, but the normal 6 stamens. I wish I wasn't an idiot as a child and had learned something about science, because the genetics of the MADS box genes that control these things would be very interesting if I understood it.

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06 March 2008


Some very exciting things are about to happen in my yard, which I will dutifully document for you in good time, but I wanted to alert everyone to this. Ellen Hornig of Seneca Hill Perennials just got back from two weeks in the eastern Cape and Lesotho, and wrote it up on her website, one of the best things I have read in a long time. Illustrated with spectacular pictures, including John Manning and Brunsvigia grandiflora in habitat. Still, I think her earlier shot of B. radulosa might be my favorite ever: stalking the wild Brunsvigia

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04 March 2008


I have learned that two recent developments about which I was perhaps a little blasé are more exciting than I realized. The Bulbinella latifolia ssp. doleritica you see to the right at the end of its run (at the start it looks like a giant mutant ratibia) is apparently quite difficult to flower. My secret? Do nothing. It is in a raised bed with better drainage than the rest of the yard, but that is all.

I have also managed to germinate Lilium bolanderi. I did at least know that this would be hard, so when I got the seed last winter I stratified half of it for about 8 weeks, and kept the other half in the freezer until I sowed it in October. Leaves appeared for the first time in each pot last week (at the same time as some L. pardalinum I treated the same as the first batch).

Conclusion: let nature take its course. I did probably get lucky with nature this year, as we've had 831 chilling hours so far this year, nearly twice what I take to be average. L. bolanderi lives higher and further north from me and so is probably accustomed to much more winter chill, not to mention snow cover.

Now to try not to kill it this summer.

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