Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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Blog Home : August 2008

- Late Summer Blooms

Center for Plant Conservation

A week ago, I visited the Center for Plant Conservation, on the grounds of the Missouri Botanic Garden in St. Louis. We had a nice chat with the director, Dr. Kathryn Kennedy. The Center acts as a stimulus and a coordinator to encourage botanical gardens around the country to actively propagate and reintroduce into nature some of the very rare species of native North American plants.

Reintroductions have had a bad reputation in the past because they have had a strong tendency to fail, quickly. Through the CPC efforts, it has been found that reintroductions have a much higher chance of succeeding if the reintroduced plants are give some care during their first year or two in the wild. If they are occasionally watered and occasionally weeded those first two seasons, they are much more likely to make it in the long run.

Blooming around Here

We have had a few plants bloom during the past two weeks, mainly in containers. A couple of Clivia miniata bloomed in the greenhouse. Chubb's Pretty Pink and one of the big 'Victorian Peach' plants both bloomed. The Pretty Pink was in the big greenhouse, where it was pretty warm; its blooms lasted only a few days before fading.

Clivia Chubb's Pretty Pink (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia miniata "Chubb's Pretty Pink"
Photo by Stephanie Zaleski

The 'Victorian Peach' was in our living room, and its flowers have lasted over two weeks. Our home is air conditioned and much cooler than the outdoor temperatures have been.

Two Clivia macowanii seedlings bloomed this past week. They were grown froms eed distributed by the International Bulb Society; one plant's parents were from Namibia, and the others were from Zambia. Both have the typical flower of macowanii.

One bulb of Crinum graminicola has a scape up and buds about ready to open. We have to grow graminicola in pots, because they are not winter hardy here. A few seedlings of C. [bulbispermum x graminicola] have survived a couple winters outdoors in the ground; but they have not bloomed yet. I think maybe I should dig them up this autumn, pot them, and grow them in containers if I want to see them bloom.

Crinum graminicola (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum graminicola

Crinum variabile, which is pretty hardy here, is also blooming. These bulbs are in the ground in a bed on the south side of the big greenhouse.

Crinum variabile (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum variabile

A pot of Crinum lugardiae from Namibia is ready to bloom. This differs from what is nominally the same species from KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. The KZN form is a bit larger, blooms in very early summer when the Crinum bulbispermum start to bloom, and has many flowers in its umbel. The Namibia form is smaller, has an umbel with only 2 or 3 flowers, and blooms now, in late summer. The Namibian form survied one winter outdoors in the ground here, while the KZN form has never survived even one winter outdoors. I think we should look to Namibian bulbs for cold-resistant parental stock when we try to breed winter hardy varieties of South African bulbs.

I missed taking pictures, but two pots of Proiphys amboinensis bloomed last week. They look quite alot like Eucharis, but are from Australia. I think these are called "Cardwell Lily." These I have must be all one clone, because cross-pollinating them has not produced seeds for me so far. I should have a few offsets of this species avaialble next spring. A close relative, Proiphys cunninghamii, is called the "Brisbane Lily." I have two young seedlings of this one coming along.

Good gardening,


- Haemanthus Waking Up

In the African Bulb greenhouse, the Haemanthus barkerae and H. coccineus are waking up. I spent some time yesterday and again today, moving pots from under the benches to the benchtops, sorting, and even some repotting. One batch of Haemanthus barkerae have scapes up several inches. These are all the #368's, which I have decided are of the southern form. This species is native to the Bokkeveld mountains of South Africa, from near Nieuwoudtville in the west to Calvinia in the east, and from Loeriesfontein in the north to the Tanqua Karoo in the south. These plants have leaves that are more elliptical and broader than the linear leaves of the form in the north of the range. Three of the four clones are in bud. One pot of my barkerae #259 is also showing a bud; I think #259 is from the northern end of the species' range, because of the narrower, more linear leaves.

One pot of Haemanthus coccineus also is showing a scape starting. This bulb grew from seed collected by the Saunders in the Richterveld of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. I have coccineus from Bainskloof and Gifberg, as well as a new bulb from the Bokkeveld Mountains and a couple bulbs from the Bredasdorp/Caledon area of the Western Cape.

Most of the ecotypes of coccineus that I have look pretty much alike. The exception is the batch from Gifberg, which have distincly narrower leaves than the others do. The umbels on the Gifberg plants also seem to be smaller.

One of the offsets of Haemanthus [albiflos x coccineus] I got years ago from Mike Salmon in the UK is sending up a scape too. This is only the second or third time this has bloomed in the many years I've had it. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing something right with it.

The Haemanthus humilis humilis, which bloomed several weeks ago,have a few fruits forming on the scapes I made it a point to bruch my hands over when they were in full flower. The leaves have still not fully expanded, so I should try to keep them green and growing in the greenhouse as long into the Autumn as I can. Haemanthus carneus, a near relative of humilis, show no sign of leafing out yet. None of my few remaining carneus is anywhere near large enough to bloom yet. I find this a difficult species to grow. Haemanthus humilis hirsutus is not much easier than carneus, and has only bloomed twice for me over the years.

It's a shame that more plant lovers do not know and grow the Haemanthus. Haemanthus coccineus in particular is a fine plant in leaf, and has a nice inflorescence as well. They come from a Mediterranean climate, and probably do very well outdoors in most of Southern California and well up along the Coast.

Pictures of many of the Haemanthus in bloom can be found at: http://www.shieldsgardens.com/amaryllids/haemanthus.html

It is still to early in the season to start Lachenalia or the Nerine sarniensis hybrids going. Water them too soon, and they are likely to just rot. Androcymbium might take well to starting early, at least I am not so careful about when I start them growing at the end of summer. Since they are much less colorful than Haemanthus, Nerine, and Lachenalia, I am not so concerned about the details of their care.

My South African greenhouse is getting very crowded. I will have to continue my efforts to streamline my South African winter bulb collection. That means a few more donations to the Pacific Bulb Society's Bulb Exchange, in all probablilty.

Outdoors, in the ground, one clump of Galtonia viridescens is in bloom. In this one spot, the Galtonia have survived and prospered, but nowhere else that I have tried them.

Lycoris squamigera continue to increase in bloom. Otherwise, only a scattered few Lycoris longituba and L. chinensis are in bloom so far. None of the L. sprengeri are up far enough to be in bloom yet. If some of the Chinese hybrids come up, I'm going to risk moving a few to other spots. Otherwise, I'm afraid I'm going to start losing them. They have charming names, like "Sky Over Sky," "Temple Bells Ringing," and "Hill Beyond Hill."

Good gardening,


- Crinum Breeding

I'm seeing a variety of Crinum macowanii seedlings reach bloom size now. This is clarifying something that I had previously found confusing. Namely, how are hybrids between bulbispermum and macowanii different from either parent?

The problem arose when I received three bulbs labeled "Crinum macowanii" from a South African nursery. One of the bulbs looked to me more like regular bulbispermum than it did like what I thought macowanii looked like. All three of these bulbs bloomed in June, shortly after my regular bulbispermum plants started blooming.

Then some seedlings grown from seed obtained from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa as macowanii reached bloom size, and they started blooming only in August. Furthermore, the flowers were generally flared funnels rather than the tulip shaped cups of macowanii.

Now, a new set of known [bulbispermum x macowanii] hybrids have bloomed, and two batches of seedlings from IBS (therefore probably from David Lehmiller) are blooming: one from Namibia and one from Zambia. Both bloomed early in August and both had the tulip cup shaped flowers. One that bloomed a little later had the funnel shaped flowers instead of the cupped form.

The picture below shows the essential points: The flower has some of the tulip or cupped shape, best seen viewed from the side or rear of the flower; and the anthers, underneath the cream colored pollen, are black.

Crinum (bulbispermum X macowanii) (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum (bulbispermum X macowanii)

Most macowanii and its hybrids have the older leaves with undulate margins. The leaves may or may not be glaucous (dull grey green or dull blue green).

Not all macowanii have the cupped flower form. C. macowanii #334 have the funnel shaped flowers, similar to the blooms on C. variabile, for instance. But the #334 all have black anthers and their older leaves have the typical undulate margins. Besides, the #334 bloom in August, when my Zambian and my Namibian macowanii bloom.

The [bulbispermum x macowanii] hybrids look just as much like C. macowanii as is possible, it seems to me. The main difference seems to be that they bloom between the seasons of bulbispermum (June) and macowanii (August). I have not yet tried to ascertain whether the [bulbispermum x macowanii] plants are fertile or not.

Crinum Lineare Bloom

Another clone of Crinum lineare bloomed last week. This one, #1297.A, bloomed just too late to be pollinated by #1297.C which bloomed a week ago.

Crinum lineare (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Crinum lineare #1297.A

I'm starting to dig up and pot some crinums that have been in the ground outdoors for at least two winters. They are not blooming yet, and they really should have started by now; so I'll grow them each in 5-gal. pots from now on. There are a couple bulbs of Crinum [bulbispermum x graminicola] and several of C. [variabile x bulbispermum]. They should certainly be hardy enough! I want to cross all of them back on their bulbispermum parents, in the hope that I get fully fertile F2 seedlings that can be crossed, e.g., F3 = {[bulbispermum x (bulbispermum x graminicola)] X [bulbispermum x (variabile x bulbispermum)]}. Of course, I may be so old by the time that cross is made that my grandkids will have to plant the seeds!

The paradox in growing crinums outdoors in the ground here in USDA cold zone 5 is that they tend to be set back each winter as the freezing ground temperatures damage the bulbs; but in summer, the unrestricted root run they have makes them grow much faster and larger than they ever do in pots.

I've found that, regardless of the species or cross, a Crinum bulb will not survive outdoors in the ground unless it is already a pretty good sized bulb. I guess that a small bulb will freeze all the way through, and that this will kill it. A larger bulb will have the core protected from freezing by the outer layers, and can thus survive. It is clearly a very close call for any Crinum when it survives one of our winters outdoors in the ground.

In any case, letting the bulbs spend a couple winters outdoors in the ground eliminates those plants that cannot tolerate cold ground temperatures. I hope to eventually get some fully cold-hardy crinum strains from this approach to breeding.

Good gardening,


- Lycoris

August is Lycoris time. This time of year, they are my favorite flowers. They are hardy here in mid-zone 5, or at least many of them are. Some of the winter growing species grown in the Southern States are not likely to survive the winters up here. The pity is that the only really hardy species or hybrid you can buy in the trade is Lycoris squamigera.

Not that there is anything wrong with squamigera. There's nothing nicer than spotting a border full of blooming squamigera under the shade of big old trees in a small Midwestern town. I just learned this year that squamigera flowers have an odor -- "fragrance" is probably not the right word!

The story my wife told me is that a client in her office reported taking a huge bouquet of squamigera flowers into their house. Later, they smelled gas, and called the local gas company. The gas company told them that they did not have a gas connection in their home, but they came out and checked the neighborhood anyway. No natural gas was detected anywhere. The odor was only in their living room, and it turned out to be the saqumigera flowers!

Among the other hardy species, L. longituba has white, pale yellow, or light pink trumpets; chinensis has somewhat spidery yellow flowers, sometimes a rich buttery yellow in color; sprengeri has pink flowers with electic blue thumbprints on the tips of the petals. Lycoris caldwellii, named for the late Sam Caldwell of Nashville, Tennessee, has somewhat spidery flowers of a very pale yellow to white coloration. It blooms after the others have finished, around September first.

Lycoris chinensis (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris chinensis

We have a few named Chinese hybrids growing here too. 'Sky Over Sky' is one that blooms reliably every year, at the end of August. Another nice one is 'Hill Beyond Hill'. We also have a variety named 'Night Bell Ringing', but I can't recall ever having seen that one bloom.

Lycoris [longituba x rosea] (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved
Lycoris [longituba X rosea]

Lycoris [longituba X rosea] is a charming pink with medium size wide open flowers. We also have Lycoris [sprengeri X chinensis], which has small flowers of a very light peach tint.

Lycoris [sprengeri x chinensis] (c) copyright 2008 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Lycoris [sprengeri X chinensis]

All these were imported by Jim Waddick about 7 to 10 years ago. They came from the Shanghai Botanical Garden, and Jim did this to help support the botanical garden. Eventually, the hassles and red tape got to be too much for Jim, and now I don't think anyone imports these unique Lycoris anymore.

Good gardening,


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