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- Haemanthus Developments

While in New Zealand for the Kiwi Clivia 2008 shows and bus tour, I had a chance to chat with legendary nurseryman Terry Hatch. Terry has been making the cross Haemanthus [albiflos X coccineus] and has many blooming hybrids. Terry tells me that the colors of the flowers vary from one seedling to the next, including white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. This sounds like a cross worth repeating! Terry has also recently made the cross Haemanthus [humilis hirsutus x coccineus], but his have not bloomed yet. For mine, see: [October 2007].

Aart van Forst in The Netherlands has been working on converting Haemanthus to tetraploids by treating the germinating seeds with an agent such as Surflan or colchicine. Several years ago, I sent him what I thought were seeds of a hybrid between albiflos and another species. Aart treated the seeds, and one has bloomed now; it is pure albiflos, but now tetraploid. Since Aart had already treated albiflos and produced a tetraploid, he was able to cross the two clones and get pure tetraploid Haemanthus albiflos seeds!

Aart has a terrific breeding program for tetraploid and triploid Haemanthus. He has to use sophisticated methodology to the seeds of some of the complex crosses he is creating. Maybe we will start to see his creations in the Dutch bulb catalogs in a few years.

I'm sure there are other bulb lovers in the world who are hybridizing Haemanthus besides Terry, Aart, and me. Eventually I'll find them. If you are one of them, drop me a line.


- The Future of Plant Societies

For the past week or two, there has been a continuing discussion in Alpine-L, via the Surfnet.NL listserver, of the future of plant societies as we have known them traditionally.

The traditional plant societies are at best holding their own, while most are steadily losing overall membership. The average ages of the members seem to be steadily increasing.

The traditional plant society has had a printed journal and newsletter, has met once a year for a general meeting of officers and members, and held a plant show at the same time and place. Several of them operate seed exchanges at nominal costs to members. Large and successful plant societies have also spawned local chapters, which in turn hold local plant shows as well as have local meetings during the year with slide programs given by visiting speakers.

There have been many suggestions offered as to why plant societies are shrinking: There are many more opportunities for entertainment now. People lead much busier lives now, especially where both adults in most families work outside the home.

I think that all plant societies are going to have to broaden their coverage - interactive web sites with information in depth about the field the society covers; on-line forums to continuously engage the members; members from anywhere and everywhere in the world. These points are in addition to encouraging local chapters where people can meet face to face. Societies still have to distribute printed material to remind straying members to come back to the fold. I would even say that societies need to have telephone committees who phone society members who are in arrears for dues. Personal contact is a critical ingredient in maintaining any kind of community.

On-line sales and auctions of plants are better ways to raise money than are sales of publications and collection of dues. This means cultivating support from commercial growers and hobbyists with big collections, so that they donate plants of interest to the members.

Societies that have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status can offer contributors receipts that allow donations to be deducted from taxable income (in the USA). Societies that do not have this classification should look into getting it. If you generate enough income from plant sales, you cam make you publications and web site available to the general public for free. If your society has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, be sure you send written receipts for all donations, so that donors will repeat their acts of generosity in the future. Remembering your society on income tax filing will help people remember to participate in renew memberships as well.

Matt Mattus (Massachusetts, USA) makes some cogent observations on Alpine-L, article at https://listserv.surfnet.nl/scripts/wa.cgi?A2=ind0811&L=alpine-l&F=&S=&P=8966.

Good gardening,


- Comments on Nerines from John Weagle

We just had our first hard frost this week in Halifax, then Friday night we got clipped by a nor'easter that dumped 30-cm of snow. Hopefully it will be gone in a week but you never know. It certainly put an end to the Nerine bowdenii in bloom against the house as the temperature fell to -4c before the snow started. This bowdenii is the sole survivor of a dozen bulbs I planted maybe 20 years ago. It only started bloom a few years when the city limbed up an old linden street-side.

Nerine in bloom (c) copyright 2008 by John Weagle. Reproduced by permission.
This may be Pink Triumph but I'm not certain.

A kind fellow in Sweden is sending me seed of var. wellsii which is said to be much hardier, he grows it in the open garden away from the warmth of the house foundation. I'm wondering if you have found var. wellsii significantly hardier than the bowdenii of the trade or, any other Nerine species for that matter? N. krigei is said to be hardy but I know of no one who has it let alone growing outside.

In 1996 I got seed of about 20 hand-pollinated crosses from Sir Peter, some interesting colours have come from the seed. Presently I have about 30 pots of bulbs from those crosses. I dearly wanted to decipher some of the parents listed only by code number in their complex parentages. I emailed Dr. Paul Chapman in the UK and he kindly sent me Sir Peter's spreadsheets listing all the Nerine crosses he had done as well as another file cross-referencing the crosses with his final selections. When I opened the excel file I was shocked me to see that Sir Peter had recorded the male parent first. Now I have to decide if I have to reverse all the crosses in my files, an onerous task requiring great care as these are very complex crosses! I wrote to Nicholas de Rothschild at Exbury Gardens, the repository of Sir Peter's many hybrids. Nicholas thought the whole exercise useless and he may very well be right. It occurred to me we would probably trace everything back to old Nerine cultivars and the original Exbury plants that Sir Peter used, sadly to my knowledge we do not know the parentages of these old hybrids either. So back to square one. One wonders just how many species are involved in these crosses anyway - just sarniensis? - and if so where did the colour range come from? Is there such variation in the wild? Any thoughts?

Attached is a shot of some of the seedling pots as I was cleaning the greenhouse for winter several weeks ago. If I were to plant each bulb separately I would need an acre under glass.

Nerine Seedlings (c) copyright 2008 by John Weagle.  Reproduced by permission.
John Weagle's Nerine Seedlings Blooming

I am just back from eastern Newfoundland where they have had Crocosmia aurea in their gardens for years. C. paniculata survived for 10 years here in Halifax against a greenhouse wall but recently disappeared when the ground froze deeply. Only Lucifer survives in Halifax, mainly in others' gardens as I cannot winter it at all. Friends here say it can skip a year after a hard winter and then mysteriously grow back and flower the same year. In extreme southern NS it is very vigorous. I wonder which ones might be hardy for you, realizing, of course, that your soil does not freeze as deeply as it can here on occasion.

I have just given my Crocosmias to a friend in the south of NS and they have now been planted out in 9 long trenches. It will be interesting to see how they fare.

One last question. I have had several large pots of Lycoris radiata since 1976 and have never seen a flower. Perhaps we simply do not have enough summer heat to set buds. Do you think there are any of the Chinese species hardy outside or reliable bloomers?

Best regards,
John Weagle
Halifax, NS

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