Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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Blog Home : August 2007

- Oporanthous Bulbs

After a hiatus of almost six weeks, we're back again. I'll discuss city flowers in Switzerland eventually, once I have worked through the pictures I took while there. Today, I'm borrowing the topic from the Pacific Bulb Society discussion list. Jim McKenney of that list took the botanical Latin term and anglicized it. It means a plant that starts is annual cycle with flowering late in summer -- August and September, approximately, in the Northern Hemisphere. It's a good word, and one we gardeners should have had in English a long time ago! Thanks to Jim McK. for giving it to us.

The Lycoris started blooming while we were on vacation the last week in July and the first week in August. During this current summer, we had very little rain, from early May until mid-August. The Lycoris produced very few scapes during that period of time. I fear that we weren't going to see much this year.

Then about a week ago, we had 3 inches of rain over a 48-hour period, and a few days ago we had an additional 1¼ inch of rain. Within a couple days, new scapes started to come up, and we now have a new flush of Lycoris flowers. This went very quickly, taking no more than a week from heavy rain to first blooms.

The Hymenocallis occidentalis had also showed no signs of blooming, until the rains came. Bloom is still going to be sparse, but at least there are three scapes visible on the Hymenocallis now, with flowers open on one. I'm not sure that Hymenocallis occidentalis is truly oporanthous, since it produces it leaves in late spring and it is still holding them at this time.

Yesterday, I notice a little color in one bed where some Colchicum cilicicum are planted. That is always a welcome sight.

I think you can call Haemanthus "oporanthous," as they tend to flower in late summer and then leaf out. Some like Haemanthus albiflos are evergreen, but their make their new flush of leaves during winter after flowering in late summer or early autumn.

A couple of pots of Haemanthous barkerae were ready to flower when we returned from vacation, and have now finished. Other pots of this species are showing a bit of pink color of new scapes, but have not yet started shooting them up out of the bulbs.

This is the time of year when I re-pot any Haemanthus that need it. They are just now about ready to start growing again, so they will not be set back by the transplanting. I'm starting with a pot of 3-year old seedlings of Haemanthus lanceifolius. These have been a fairly fast growing variety for me, as Haemanthus go. Seedling of some other Haemanthus species would be much to small yet to dare disturb at 3 years old.

I lost a small batch of seedlings of H. nortieri; I'm not sure whether the summer storage was too hot or the humidities were too high, or what the problem actually was. I like to grow rare species, but I do not like to kill them. I don't think I would try to grow H. nortieri from seed again myself. If my lone mature bulb of nortieri ever blooms, I'll certainly try to self-pollinate it, but I'll send any seed I get on to someone else to try to grow. H. nortieri takes forever to bloom from seed, according to Graham Duncan at Kirstenbosch.

A couple of H. crispus bulbs are showing pink tips of new scapes, so I will try to pollinate them to get seeds. H. cruspus does not seem to be either rare or hard to grow, but I'm sure someone would welcome a chance to try it from seed.

My bulbs of H. namaquensis are getting large enough to bloom, but I'm not sure how to get them to actually flower. I think they may need fire to trigger actual production of flowers. They are high on my list of things to try to produce seed from.

I'm storing a bit of Haemanthus pollen, using the usual techniques: Collect anthers just after anthesis, when the pollen looks ripe; dry them in a drying box over Drierite® (anhydrous calcium sulfate drying agent); and store sealed in small plastic vials in the freezer. To use, remove one vial from the freezer and let come to room temperature. Then use a very fine camels hair brush (fine, soft artists' brush) to apply the pollen to the stigmas. For Haemanthus, use the finest brushes you can obtain for this. Between uses of the brushes, sterilize them in alcolhol, rinse in sterile water, and dry before using again.

This is the time of year when we look forward to seeing our oporanthous garden plants providing much of the color of the season. Besides Lycoris, Colchicum, and Haemanthus, what others are there? I think maybe Sternbergia might just qualify.

Good gardening,






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