Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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Blog Home : March 2007

- Clivia Starting to Bud

Well, at last I see flower buds starting to poke up out of the centers of some of the Clivia plants. I set the temperature controls up to 65°F days and 55°F nights about a week ago. That clearly helped, as probably did starting the automatic irrigation system a week ago.

The sun is also getting warmer, and today it was shining. The Clivia House got up to a very nice 84°F this afternoon, while I was back there looking for new flower buds and hand-watering the pots not on the drip system. The added warmth of the sun ought to speed things up.

While buds are appearing, very few flowers are in evidence. One that is open is this cross between Clivia gardenii and C. 'Watkins Yellow', my #1869.

This year is the first for this plant to flower. I received it in 2004 as a young seedling from Willie le Roux in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The gardenii parent had yellow-pink flowers. 'Watkins Yellow' is a miniata yellow. This plant shows that the genetics of yellow in gardenii are different from the genetics of yellows in miniata. Note the paler, somewhat yellowish interior of the flowers, however.

Since no others are in bloom just now, I will have to pull some frozen pollen out of my freezer to pollinate it.

- Annoyed

I'm annoyed. I'm really very, very annoyed! Another inch of fresh snow fell yesterday. Granted, the sun is shining today, but the temperature is only 25°F out there in the sunshine. That is too cold for Spring, and March is supposed to bring springtime.

A couple of odd little Ornithogalum are flowering in the greenhouse, along with the latest Lachenalia. L. latifolia has nice purple-lavender spikes right now. Some more of the Scadoxus puniceus are floweering, even as the first puniceus fade. A few flowers are left on the spikes of Onixotis triqueta.

There are fresh spikes coming up on some of the hybrid Hippeastrum (so-called, "Dutch Amaryllis"). I'm glad they did not all bloom at one time. I'm partial to the hybrids from Hadeco Pty Ltd in South Africa, probably because I've met the Barhoorn family, who run it.

Harvesting Hippeastrum Bulbs at Hadeco in South Africa.
Harvesting Bulbs (c) copyright 2004 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved. They use a modified type of potato digger to turn the bulbs out of the ground, then the field crew cut the leaves back by hand and grade them by size on the spot. They want each bulb sent into commerce to have two scape buds in it at the time it's dug from the field. The size of the bulb gives them a good idea of how many scapes are inside.

Many commercial bulbs are propagated by chipping. The bulb is cleaned and then sliced vertically, like a pie, into wedge-shaped section. Each section is then sliced horizontally into chips. Each chip should have a bit of the basal plate with at least two bulb scales still attached. The clean and sterile chips are layered in trays full of vermiculite, the trays are covered with plastic or cloth; and they are then set aside for several weeks to a few months. Eventually small bulbs will form on the bits of basal plate. The little bulbs are collected and planted out in season to grow in the fields.

- More Small Bulbs in Bloom

Besides the Ornithogalum and Onixotis mentioned yesterday, I have several Ipheion cultivars in bloom in the greenhouse to: 'Charlotte Bishop', rose pink; 'Rolf Fiedler', bright blue; and 'Froyle Mill', maroon-blue. For some reason, I have lost all my Ipheion 'Wisley Blue'.

Ipheion 'Charlotte Bishop' has 1½-inch rose pink flowers in early spring.
The South American genus Ipheion is in the Onion Family (Alliaceae). Ipheion are nice spring bulbs to grow. Many of them are fairly hardy here in mid-zone 5, and I have several clumps of seedlings in a couple of the outdoor beds. Besides my lost 'Wisley Blue', there is a very nice white, 'Alberto Castello'. Lapierousia pyramidalis

Then there is Lapierousia pyramidalis var. pyramidalis. Lapierousia is a South African genus in the Iris Family (Iridaceae). This one turned up as an oddball in a batch of Androcymbium pulchrum seedlings. It's different, and does not seem to look much like pictures of other species in the genus Laspierousia. It's at any rate the only Lapierousia I've ever grown.
Lachenalia pustulata
A closer look at the blooming "Lachenalia latifolia" revealed that the purple splikes are from some volunteer L. pustulata growing in the pot of latifolia. The plants of Lachenalia latifolia are just barely starting to push their bloom spikes out.
Scadoxus puniceus

Last but not least, a quick pic of Scadoxus puniceus in bloom.
I pulled this pot out from under a bench for its portrait. Those already on the benches have already gone to seed, thanks to my hand brushing over each of them in turn.

- What is a Species?

I'm not a taxonomist but I actually started out ca. 60 years ago to become an entomologist. I eventually studied chemistry instead, to have some hope of being able one day to earn a living in science. I ended up a biochemist, watching the science of Molecular Biology being invented next door. So I'm in no way any sort of professional taxonomist! But I definitely know what a gene is.

I also get the notion that taxonomy is first and foremost trying to reflect the most probable genetic and evolutionary history of the living organisms which it describes.

The criteria for taxonomic levels like species, subspecies, variety, and form are different between zoology/entomology and botany. Animals rarely form fertile interspecific hybrids; plants very often do, since humans easily break down the barriers that in nature prevent species from crossing: calendar barriers, physical barriers, pollinator barriers, geographic barriers. Many perfectly good plant species hybridize and produce fertile offspring because there were other barriers to keep them separate as they evolved in nature.

In addition, the populations we see in nature may be -- indeed, most certainly are -- in the process of evolving. A species is not necessarily a static thing.

I think there are even differences in how botanists view "species" depending on the genus or family they are studying. Certainly, the ideas vary within a plant group between individual taxonomists. "You pays your money and you takes your choice!" I tend to favor splitting, in the hope (as a biochemist) that we can recognize genetic variations within a species with names.

At the species, subspecies, and variety levels, the key criterion is the existence of a recognizable reproducing population. Again, we have to go back to what we can observe in nature, "in the wild" as it is sometimes described. What arises under human aegis is not something that taxonomists are eager to deal with, understandably.

That mess will someday have to be dealt with, of course, as it is likely that in a few centuries nothing will exist on this planet that humans have not messed with. That thought saddens me, but it also appears inevitable in any realistic projection from our current situation.

Also, as far as I can see, there is no consistent functional difference between "subspecies" and "variety." If there is, I would gladly have it explained to me.

The "forma" taxonomic level is appropriate for recognizing individual genetic variants that occur within such reproducing populations. The occasional yellow or white flowered individuals in a population that is largely red or orange flowered, for instance, would be a yellow or a white "form." Those contribute to diversity within a species and seem to me well worth recognizing. We can realistically expect that someday someone will provide a detailed molecular genetic description of the various forms and how they each differ from the typical form. The same distinctions could apply to differences from one individual to another individual in number or length of spines within a population or a species of cactus, too.

For instance, referring the the yellow-flowered type of Clivia miniata as a subspecies is not appropriate. Yellow clivias should be referred to as Clivia miniata, var. citrina, that is as a variety, not a subspecies. In C. miniata, the yellow flowers are do to a simple mutation in one gene, a mutation that exhibits simple Mendelian inheritance.

Finally, as a non-taxonomist I think that taxonomy should be useful and should provide us with the descriptive tools we need to understand and if need be to preserve various species.


Note: This is essentially material I posted to the [ToocoldforCactus] list on Yahoo Groups. See that list for David Ferguson's excellent discussion of what should be named, and what should not, in botanical taxonomy.

- Spring Blooms

Once the snow disappeared and the weather warmed, I went out looking for flowers. The snowdrops, mainly Galanthus nivalis forms, are up and in full bloom. They do not appear to have suffered from being buried in snow for a couple of weeks.

Also up and in bloom are the Reticulata irises. These flowers look like they might have tried to bloom under the snow, and some look a bit burned or frosted.

One single Eranthis is in bloom. They seem to migrate around the garden somewhat, alwyas in the same general area but never on exactly the same spot as last year. I assume these are volunteer seedlings gradually coming to flowering size, while the older plants either don't bloom every year, or gradually disappear. Something similar seems to happen with Galanthus, but in their case, I believe that squirrels dig up the occasional bulb and bury it several feet away. I'm sure the squirrels don't taste those bulbs before burying them, and I suspect that they don't transplant many Galanthus bulbs because as soon as they have actually tasted one, they thereafer leave them quite alone.

An occasional Trillium nivale is up, but then they were up before the blizzard hit us. They are still not in bloom. None of the other Trillium species in the woodland garden are up at all.

Daffodils are up several inches, but none in bloom yet. An occasional crocus is up and in bloom, but very few and very scattered. The Lycoris leaves are up several inches, many of them with yellow tips from being under the snow for a couple of weeks. None of the Lycoris will bloom until later in summer.

- Sunshine

I do love to be in the greenhouses when the sun is shining in early spring!

In little old Greenhouse #1, there is a bud on the Cyrtanthus falcatus. This makes a large bulb, for a Cyrtanthus. It has to grow on the surface of the ground, or potting medium. To bloom, the dormant bulb must be exposed to quite chilly temperatures, probably getting almost to freezing at times.

Cyrtanthus maakenii cooperi are in bloom -- small yellow tubular flowrs on scapes 4 to 8 inches tall. They are pretty reliable about blooming early each spring.

Some of the other Cyrtanthus may bloom this spring, but C. [elatus X montanus] and C. sanguineus flower mainly in summer. I'm not sure when C. montanus normally flowers; mine have not flowered long enough for me to be sure of their pattern.

The hybrid Hippeastrum continue to put up scapes. Most make only one scape a year, a few make two. I tried some crosses earlier with the cybister-type hybrids, but got no pods. Now I tried crossing 'Hermitage' pollen onto 'Gold Medal'. This one should set seeds.

The winter-growing Haemanthus are starting to yellow off their leaves and go dormant for the summer. It does not take many warm days in the greenhouse for these potted bulbs to head into dormancy. I had blooms on H. coccineus and H. barkerae this past autumn. I hope to see blooms on H. crispus next season.

Haemanthus montanus and H. humilis hirsutus are still dormant from winter. I very much want to see blooms on these two, which I would like to cross with each other. H. montanus flowers are white, while those of H. h. hirsutus may be either pink or white. Some of the bulbs of montanus ought to be large enough to bloom, but may not have been growing in my greenhouse long enough to flower. They came to me directly from South Africa a couple years ago.

Back in Greenhouse #4, some Hippeastrum species are flowering. I grew them from seed from Mauro Peixoto in Brazil. They are labelled "Hippeastrum striatum  but the flowers look more like H. petiolatum to me.

The color on this Hippeastrum is not really so deep as in the image. The shadecloth is extended, to protect the clivias in the same greenhouse. The resulting shade makes the colors look deeper than in reality. These flowers are only about 3½ inches across, much smaller than typical H. striatum.

Some yellow Clivia are in bloom in Greenhouse #4 too. Normally, the yellow miniata type flower after the red and orange miniata, but these were apparently placed to get more heat than most of the oranges. One of the nicer is a seedling from Silverhill Seeds seed, JES #322.2:

I think this batch of yellow Silverhill Clivia seeds must have had one Japanese parent. The flowers have a sort of a Nakamura look about them.

The Belgian hybrids I buy from ID'Flor are mostly pastels. Once in a while I see one that is really a nice color or an interesting flower. This one is more or less pink:

Last year I found a couple of very nice bronzes -- orange or red-orange with a lot of green in the throat. Like the pink above, I set those two aside for breeding here.


- More Spring Flowers

Well, the real harbinger of Spring was in bloom today: little white Trillium nivale, the Snow Trillium. In fact, it must have been in bloom yesterday, because it rained then; and the flowers are all a bit rain-spattered.

These little plants stand only about 3 to 4 inches tall when in flower. They are native to the upper Midwest, including Indiana.

Galanthus elwesii is the largest and earliest Snowdrop I grow here. This year, it was slowed down by cold weather and deep snows till it is blooming now with the Galanthus nivalis.

Another treat in early spring is Corydalis angustifolia 'Georgian White'. My stock originally came from Mr. Janis Ruksans, in Latvia. Ruksans has the premier hardy bulb nursery for Europe, with bulbs from Eastern Europe to Central Asia.

Corydalis angustifolia
ex 'Georgian White' (Ruksans)

I think the original bulbs had less yellow on the flowers. These are probably self-sowed seedlings from the originals. They are spreading slowly in the garden around the spot where the original bulbs from Ruksans were planted.

Janis Ruksans Bulb Nursery
Rozula, Cesis District
LV-4150 Latvia
E-mail: janis.bulb@hawk.lv
Phone: +371 - 941-84-40, +371 - 41-00-326

Some -- most --Iris reticulata are in bloom now. Some are fresh, while others were damaged by the weather during the last snow we had. This one had lost its label, so I'm not sure of its proper cultivar name.

Iris reticulata cultivar.

In the Clivia greenhouse a yellow seedling, from seed bred by Daryl "Dash" Geoghegan in Australia, is now blooming for the first time. It is a beauty! Look at the full flowers and the wide petals and sepals. It's a shame Dash went out of the bulb/plant business.

Dash's Australian Yellow Seedling

Here are a couple plants. The shorter scape is a Chubb Peach type of peach, while the taller scape is a regular type 1, Solomone Light Yellow. Can you see the difference in the picture? Even face to face, the peach tint is a little hard to pick up without a standard yellow for comparison. None the less, Chubb Peach is a definite genetic trait, behaving as a single locus gene that is dominant over the type 1 yellow gene.

Chubb Peach (lower left) vs. Solomone Yellow (center)


- Amaryllis as Cut Flowers

The following article is reproduced by permission from its author, Bill Warren.



Amaryllis [Hippeastrum] as a cut flower: The cut scape will usually last longer in a vase IFFF you cut the scape (stalk) with a sharp knife. and change the water every day.

What about using Cryselle, Floralife etc.? Well, when you put the stalk in water the plant juices come out of the stalk and turn the water into a growing medium for whatever bacteria, viruses, or molds are hitching a ride on the dust particles in the area sort of like in the culture dishes in a lab. The incubation period takes 3 to 4 days then the contaminations goes back up the hollow scapes and starts to rot them. It is then a race as to whether the scape will rot before the flower finishes. Just like the one recounted by Hamilton Traub in his book THE AMARYLLIS MANUAL concerning the breeding of the first Gracilis type Hippeastrum in Philadelphia back in the late 1940's. How easy it would have been to know that changing the water every day would take the scape and ovary (fruit) to seed maturity without rotting.

So you try aspirin or Vit C or a few drops of bleach in the water to controll the micromonsters assaulting your amaryllis. Instead if you change the water every day, you will keep the water fresh and you don't need those chemicals. Why do I advise changing the water every day if it takes 3 to 4 days to incubate? Well I will forget a three day schedule quicker than I will a one day schedule(maybe some others will too).

O K So how does this help me breed amaryllis in the yard or Fadjar Marta in his wonderful rain lily beds in Indonesia ??? Well, if the scape is fertilized and put in a vase indoor (assuming you are not growing them in pots in a greenhouse), you can maore easily keep an eye on when you change the water. When you have decided to make that just right cross to get something new or make the flower larger, smaller, lighter, darker or take out some of the greenish flush; you don't want a hard rain or high winds to wash the pollen off that afternoon or damage the scape or flower so that it leaks sap and wilts. A whole season or year may be lost if this is your only chance to make this cross.

I am in Florida and get whipping winds in and out of thunderstorms sometimes and In Indonesia Fadjar Marta often gets one rainy day after another. I expect he will exceed me shortly in the use of this technique not only for protecting the breeding he is doing( I am still lusting after that dark red with the yellow center like a rich egg yolk), but also develope it as a regular tool for production of finished varieties he knows he wants to sell.

If you save pollen and have only one bulb of a particular variety or species of hippeastrum you could also use the Consecutive Blooming Technique to give you another chance to make the cross in 4 to 6 weeks.

Does the vase technique work for different kinds of amaryllis ? Yes. Any cross you could bring to seed on the bulb you can do in a vase.

Does it work for rain lilies ? Yes. At least on the zephyranthes and habranthus I tried.

Does it work on Crinum, Sprekelia, Haemanthus and other amaryllids ? I don't know. Try it.

Bill Warren
Amaryllis Study Group

P.S. If you are in North Central Florida on Sunday, Aril 1, 2007 We are having our Amaryllis Festival at the Marion County Agriculture Center at 2 PM in Ocala on Hwy. Old 301 N (Hwy 200A North) Its not like Arts & Crafts shows or or Botanical Gardens. We Amaryllis nuts are going to bring some of our plants and bulbs for bragging, appreciating, and trading. So what do you have to trade? Bring your friends (not for trading of course).


- Flowers and Premature Spring

I'm running behind on the blog. A few days ago, I had a couple nice blooms in the Clivia House. One of these is what Solomone calls a "peach." It is a peach-colored pastel, with some hints of watercolor wash to it. "Watercolor Washed" is what Solomones use for their equivalents of the Conway "Parti-Colored" flowers.

Solomone Peach (cat. no. 2153)

This example of the Solomone Peach looks to me like it has a little more anthocyanin in its flowers than the clone Solomones call 'Apricot'.

Another plant that is flowering is my San Marcos Yellow. This starts with a nice green throat, but that fades to light yellow fairly soon. The flowers are a little smaller than those of 'Lemon Chiffon' although the color looks pretty similar to me.

San Marcos Yellow

San Marcos Growers are located in Santa Barbara, California. Unfortunately, they do not do mail order sales.

Outdoors, more Corydalis were in bloom. The nice pink Corydalis solida 'Beth Evans' was in bloom.

Corydalis 'Beth Evans'

Also blooming were the Corydalis solida 'George P. Baker'. When you have two or more clones of Corydalis solida around, they will seed around. One of those seedlings is rather pretty, with a clearer, brighter color the either of the probable parents:

Corydalis solida, volunteer seedling

One the other side of the grove, Corydalis kuznetzovii was in bloom.

Corydalis kuznetzovii

This one blooms later than Corydalis angustifolia, and I have not so far noticed any apparent hybrid seedlings between kuznetzovii and angustifolia.

The Narcissus are starting to bloom, but most of them have some leaf damage. We had some very cold weather in February, after a very mild January. Narcissus 'Glenfarclas' shows very minor leaf damage,

Narcissus 'Glenfarclas' with little leaf damage

while Narcissus 'Monal' shows more damage:

Narcissus 'Monal' with more leaf-tip damage

Most of the Narcissus have not started to show color yet in their buds, and the slower ones seem to have less leaf damage. Still, I'm not going to complain about Spring!


- Forsythia and Magnolias

A few days ago, all the forsythia bushes in the area suddenly burst into flower literally overnight. That makes it an official Spring, as far as I'm concerned!

My two different white magnolias are also in bloom now.

The hardy cactus outdoors, the native eastern Opuntia humifusa humifusa from northern Indiana, have plumped up again and once more look like living cactus.


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