Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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Blog Home : November 2006

- Flower Colors

I'm thinking about flower pigments. I've been trying to make some sense of the many comments in the Clivia-enthusiast list on yellow and peach flower colors in Clivia miniata. I've posted these in several pages, probably best accessed through the Info section of my garden web site. Then click the link to "Yellow Clivia Genes."

The orange, red, and purple colors in most flowers are due to pigments called anthocyanins. These are water-soluble, and often formed only in the upper-most layer of cells in the petals of the flowers.

The yellow and some orange colors are due to carotene pigments. These are oil-soluble substances and are usually found in the deeper layers of cells withing the petals.

The questions are, what specific pigments are responsible for the so-called "peach" color in peach Clivia? Anthocyanins? Carotenoids? Something else?

I'm listed some of my thoughts in the web pages noted above, but we don't really know what is going on with the peach Clivia flowers. There are some good observations out there, especially those of Wessel Lötter of Pretoria, South Africa. His conclusions look pretty solid to me, especially given the nature of the data available.

To get definitive answers, we will need to have some lab work done on these plants and their flowers. Analytical work on the flowers to determine which pigments are actually present in the various colored flowers. Some DNA work to identify the mutated genes responsible for each color type.

It's been at least 15 years since I had access to a lab that could do some of this project. Do you know of any chemists or biologists who need a little lab project? I would undertake to provide or obtain the necessary flowers at Clivia bloom time (March-April in the Northern Hemisphere).

- More Flower Colors

I probably put the cart before the horse a bit last time. I want to comment this time on the simpler notion of what colors we see in Clivia flowers and where they come from.

There are three sets of pigments in flowers: reds, oranges, and pinks are generally due to anthocyanin pigments. They are phenolic compounds that are connected to one or more sugar molecules. They include pelargonidin, cyanidin, and delphinidin. the sugar is usually one molecule of glucose, and it is usually connected at the number 3 position on the anthocyanin molecule.

The yellows are usually due to carotenoid pigments. Beta-carotene is one of these that is likely to be familiar to health food enthusiasts. Another is lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. I don't know whether there is ever any lycopene in Clivia flowers or not, but I'd guess that there is not.

Finally, the green color in flowers is due to chlorophyl. We don't think of flowers having chlorophyl, but most have at least a little green here or there.

Red flowers have high concentrations of anthocyanins and often also of carotenoids.

Orange flowers have a bit less anthocyanin, but still have the carotenoids.

Yellow flowers have no anthocyanins, but at least a little carotenoid.

Bronze flowers have chlorophyl which is overlaid with anthocyanin and/or carotenoids.

Green throats in flowers have chlorophyl in the throat but none of the usual carotenoids there.

Peach flowers, it turns out, have almost as much carotenoid as light yellow flowers, but they also have traces of anthocyanins. Peach is just yellow from carotene with a tiny bit of red or orange anthocyanin added.

White flowers, if we ever get those in Clivia, will have little or no carotenoid and no anthocyanin. Pink flowers will have traces of anthocyanins but virtually no carotenoids. I would put the "Appleblossom" group of Clivia in the white to pink category, pending actual chemical analysis of their flowers for pigments.

Dr. Keith Hammett of Aukland, New Zealand, analyzed a series of Clivia types for the pigments in their flower petals. I take the information for this from his article in CLIVIA 8 (published by the Clivia Society in South Africa, 2006), entitled "Pigment Surprise" (pages 39-49).

There is also a nice article in the same issue by Prof. Johan Spies, entitled "Genetic Aspects of Clivia Breeding," CLIVIA 8, pp. 31-38 (2006). I recommend both articles to anyone interested in this topic. You can find the Clivia Society (South Africa) on the web.

- Dividing Bulbs

This is a dormant time of year for bulbs around here. But I think it is the wrong part of the dormant time to divide bulbs. It is however the right time to take dormant bulbs into the lab or kitchen and make more bulbs from them.

Hardy bulbs like tulips (genus Tulipa) and true lilies (genus Lilium) can still be planted. In fact this is probably the best time of year to move Lilium and plant new ones. This is as close to really dormant as Lilium get. If Tulipa are moved from dry, warm summer dormancy to warm and wet, they will try to shoot leaves without having made any roots. They need the cold weather to produce roots. If you want fancy hybrid Tulipa to come back and bloom again for you in future years, you would need to dig them as soon as the leaves yellow off in summer and store them dry till now.

Summer-dormant bulbs like Colchicum and Lycoris should have been dug, divided and replanted in June and July. Winter-growing Nerine like the Sarniensis hybrids should also have been repotted and divided as necessary in June or July. Unfortunately, I tend to neglect my Sarniensis Nerine bulbs, so they rarely bloom, and many have died off for me.

Hardy Narcissus should have been dug, divided, and replanted in July and August. They will make their new roots in summer and early autumn, so they should go into the ground in early to mid summer. Planting them in September is still OK, but October and November are really too late in the season for best results.

Haemanthus should also have been repotted in July or August. Growing any of these but H. albiflos, the White Paintbrush, can be tricky. Not only that, most of them take forever to grow large enough from seed to flower. Some of mine have taken as little as 5 years to go from seed to first flower, but most are pushing 9 years old without having bloomed yet. Growing Haemanthus from seed is a separate topic and I will come back to it someday.

Haemanthus are bulbs that should not be forced to lose their roots. They can take a long time to grown them back again.

Potted summer growing bulbs like Crinum, Hymenocallis, Nerine, and Scadoxus species can be repotted now, but I prefer to do it in February or March. Scadoxus puniceus blooms in February, however, so it should be repotted now, in November or December.

Making more bulbs by bulb chipping can be done now for some bulbs, especially Lycoris, seem to work well when cut into chips or twin scales about now. L. squamigera is probably the most easily propagated by bulb chipping, with L. sprengeri close behind. L. chinensis and L. longituba are much harder to do, and I don't recommend you try bulb chipping on them outside a tissue culture lab.

I have some things on bulb chipping elsewhere on my web site. See: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/amaryllids/Propagation/LycorisChipping.html

- Personal Note

last monday, i had a long-standing problem with my right hand fixed surgically. the bones at the base of the right thumb were pretty well shot, so dr. hill hastings, at the hand center of indiana, went in and fiddled some tendons around to repair some of the damage. my right hand and wrist are now in a cast. hence, the paucity of capital letters; it's just too much work to make caps for the time being.

the cast comes off on nov. 28th. then i will wear some sort of brace on that hand for a month or two, while doing some physical therapy to limber up the tendons. capital letters should reappear here once the cast is off. eventually i should be able to pick up full a 2-gallon pot with just that hand again.

miscellaneous plant notes.

the only flowers blooming right now are the nerine bowdenii "koen's hardy" that i got from aad koen several years ago.

Nerine bowdenii 'Koen's Hardy' (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. The flowers are large for a nerine, and the petals are relatively wide. the color is a bright pink.


the bloom on my hybrid Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x H. coccineus] never opened completely. (see october 23rd entry.) inside were a few very small florets which look like they might have produced a bit of pollen. this bulb is barely 5 years old; that is almost too young for a haemanthus to bloom. maybe it will look a little better in a couple years -- or maybe not.

shipping plants in winter

i'm not myself preping or packing plant orders right now, of course. my daughter, andrea, and son-in-law, randy, get that privilege entirely for now. actually, they always get drafted to help out. andrea's is the cool voice on the phone when i messed up your credit card number and we have to call you to get it sorted out.

we ship orders in batches. this week we will be shipping another batch. besides the usa orders, this lot also has plants or bulbs going to canada, to switzerland (if we can get the credit card number sorted out), to malta, and to bahrain.

In the past few years, i've received thousands of dollars worth of clivia plants that had been frozen in transit. we have found that insulating the boxes with styrofoam insulation board makes a huge difference in the condition of the plants on arrival. we use the 3/4 inch / 18 mm thick board, which we cut to fit the shipping boxes.

we also use shredded newspaper to fill the empty spaces, at least in winter. tests showed that styrofoam peanuts did not insulate as well as newspaper. the insulation matters a lot more in winter, so we may not use any insulation in summer shipments.

we hope the insulation helps, because it is a lot of extra work. if you receive plants from us that look in poor condition on arrival, we want to know about it.

- Thanksgiving and Flowers

It's Thanksgiving Day today. The kids will be over in early afternoon to eat Thanksgiving dinner. We are only a few, so Thanksgiving is not the major production it can be for larger families. Still, it's a good excuse to eat well, with some treats not otherwise enjoyed during the year.

There has been heavy frost on the ground the last few mornings; the remote thermometer showed lows of 22 to 26F. All the leaves are off the trees except for a few clinging stubbornly, as usual, to the red oaks. The John Deere dealer picked up the Gator and the riding mowers a couple days ago for winter servicing. No matter what the astronomical calendar says, this is the start of winter for me.

Some obscure bulbs in the genus Massonia grow and bloom in winter. I have several species in the greenhouse, and most are in bloom or starting to bloom right now.

In the greenhouses, the Haemanthus pauculifolius are starting to bloom, and the Lachenalia are not far behind. Actually, the Lachenalia rubida have already started, and I think the L. viridiflora will probably bloom next.

In the big greenhouse, one Clivia robusta seedling from Kranskop has a scape up. Otherwise, the only color showing among the clivias are the berries starting to turn red as the ripen. Conway's 'Hannah' has some open-pollinated berries on it, and they are developing a rosy pink color. 'Hannah' is a "peach" of some sort.

Clivia 'Hannah' (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Hannah' (David Conway)

Lachenalia are bulbs in the Hyacinth family, native to the winter-rainfall areas of South Africa. Many have interesting foliage as well as colorful flowers. Even in North America, they insist on growing only in winter. That means that they have to be grown under cover in most areas. Here in Indiana, we grow them in a cool greenhouse with other winter growing species. To keep them from getting leggy, they have to have very bright, direct sunlight. Lachenalia rubida is already in bloom, and L. viridiflora is in bud.

Lachenalia rubida rubrum (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia rubida rubrum
     Lachenalia viridiflora (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lachenalia viridiflora

Wintering the Clivia

Even though the weather here is still Indian Summer, dry and in the lower 60's each afternoon, by the end of this week we should be having real winter weather. In anticipation of this, I turned off the irrigation system in the big greenhouse and re-set the temperature controls for cooler temperatures inside the greenhouse.

Clivia need to be chilled for somewhere from three weeks to two months in order to make a bloom. I have set the greenhouse controller for daytime temperatures of about 55°F and the night time temperatures of 45°F. That is for the heaters. The coolers will cut in at 65°F in the day and at 60°F at night.

Because Clivia roots are not very happy when both cold and wet, we won't water them except as necessary until the temperatures are returned to warmer settings in February.

Clivia Seeds

Some of the clivia berries from our spring pollinations are starting to ripen. We've collected the first cluster, and Irma has already cleaned and planted them.

The cross was Victorian Peach pollen on a mislabeled Conway peach. The berries were rosy pink over cream and green. Unfortunately, I neglected to photograph them.

We start our Clivia seeds on a sandy mix. We use 2 parts of Premier Hort's Promix BX with Biofungicide to one part sand. The biofungicide allows us to keep the seeds and the young seedlings continuously damp without excessive loss to rot.

Clivia seeds tend to germinate erratically and over a prolonged period of time. In a give batch, some of the seedlngs grow quickly, while others grow very, very slowly. To allow the different seedlings to each develop at its own rate, we start each seed in its own individual pot, 3 inches square by 4 inches deep, black plastic.


We brought back some seeds of a couple species of Protea when we came back from South Africa. I have no great hopes that we will ever see a protrea bloom here, but I planted them anyway.

The seeds are rather large (maybe a half inch long) and covered with coarse black "fur" almost like bristles. I planted the seeds on our gritty potting mix and covered them with about a half inch of sand. The pots were set in large saucers and have been kept watered from below. They were planted on October first, and this past week, a few of them germinated!

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Last revised on: 28 November 2006
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