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- Clivia in Bud

First, the Weather!

We probably got 6 to 7 inches of snow yesterday and last night, but it's very hard to be sure. The winds have blown many open areas almost clear, down to only 1 or 2 inches deep. Around buildings and beyond groups of trees, the drifts are nearly a foot deep.

We always get drifts across the drive just in front of the garage door. I hope our driveway will be plowed by tonight, because I like to go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings.

They tell us that another snowstorm is coming Monday evening. Oh, joy!

Clivia Getting Ready to Bloom

One Clivia robusta from Kranskop in South Africa is in bloom. I think this is slightly late for robusta to be blooming; but then I have two Clivia caulescens that are just finishing flowering, and this very early for caulescens to be in bloom.

In the Clivia House on Thursday, I saw that there are buds appearing on some of the other Clivia plants. Many of the 'Victorian Peach' plants have buds starting to show down in the necks of the plants.

Several yellow clivia are also in bud. These are older, larger plants. There is a first-ever bud showing on one of the Pen Henry White seedlings. I'm eagerly awaiting that flower!

Then there is the oldest Clivia I have, my Belgian #303.A, from somewhere around 1990. No. 303.A has buds showing down in the hearts of two fans. The number 303's are larger and redder than the most recent Belgian hybrids I have seen.

Hippeastrum, too

Finally, two pots of Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] are in bloom! I need to take pictures of those, since this is the first time they have flowered. There are buds on the H. petiolatum as well. Let's see what else blooms this spring.

A bigger surprise hasa been that my old Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum has set seeds. I've had one plant (numerous bulbs) of H. aulicum stenopetalum for about 30 years. I got it from the late Dr. Tom Whitaker, who got it from the front yard of a lady somewhere in Brazil. It blooms for me from time to time, depending probably on whether I give it any particular care or not. Before I got it, Tom had grown it in his own front yard in La Jolla, Calif., for many years.

It bloomed in the big greenhouse in December, and I took note of the bloom but otherwise left it alone. In 30 years, it has never set any seed, no matter how assiduously I pollinated it. This year, both flowers in the umbel set seed pods. I assume they are "x self," but it is possible that a plant of H. mandonii bloomed at about the same time. In any case, I definitely did not pollinate it myself. Let me stress that it has never, ever, set a seed before while in my possession, whether hand-pollinated or not. Rather curious.

Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum aulicum stenopetalum

Both seed pods had healthy-looking seed in them, and I planted most of the seeds yesterday. I want to see 1) whether they germinate or not; and 2) eventually, if they someday bloom, whether they are true to their maternal genes or are they hybrids.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Winter Pastime

Birds at the Feeders

With so much snow on the ground, and since Smokey, our last outdoors cat, passed away last summer, we decided it was time to put up some bird feeders again after at least a twenty-year absence. We put up a finch feeder, a small general seed feeder, and one for suet. The suet lasted about two weeks, the finch feeder holds enough for several days, but the general feeder could be refilled several times a day if we felt like it.

The most obvious visitors are the Starlings, immigrants from Europe. They come in gangs and the bully the other birds and each other as well. I'd just as soon see them go hungry, but that's only my personal sentiment towards Starlings. I'm sure they would disagree with that. Still, if they were rare, we would be admiting their intricately speckeled black coat of feathers. As it is, we resent them rather than admire them.

A few English Sparrows also show up, which are not sparrows actually. I think they are better described as "house finches." They don't constitute a threat to the other birds, as far as I have noticed.

The native birds include an abundance of Goldfinches in their drab winter uniforms. The so-called "Purple Finch" is also common, but the color on its head and chest (in the males anyway) is orange, not purple. We also have numerous Juncos visiting the feeders. We also have visits from several types of native sparrows, none of which I can identify so far. There was a time, maybe sixty years ago, when I could identify all the common native bird species here in Indiana.

Two Cardinals, a male and a female, also hang around our place and come to the feeder from time to time.

One lone Bluejay occasionally shows up around the feeder, but it is shy and generally is pushed away by the starlings. Bluejays are in the crow family, which has been hit very hard in North America by the West Nile Virus. When I was a kid, Bluejays were common and tended to be the bullies that Starlings are today. Things have changed.

An occasional Chickadee also flits by, but they seem to be extremely shy and next stay at the feeder when we are around.

I've tried to take pictures of some of these birds at the feeders, but my expensive little Canon point-and-shoot digital never gets the focus on the birds themselves. My expensive Nikon D-70 SLR is having age problems, and I may need to get a new camera body to replace it. At least the Nikon's lenses should work with the next Nikon camera body I buy as a replacement.

If this snowy winter weather persists much longer, I'm going to have to dig out some of my old bird books and see who some of our feathered visitors really are.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Hippeastrum

Hippeastrum Starting to Bloom

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.A

The hybrid [papilio x mandonii] came from one of my bulbs of papilio in bloom in March, 2002. I had stored pollen from mandonii when it had blooms some months before, and used that to pollinate the papilio. The seeds took two months to ripen; then I floated them on water till they were nice seedlings with a leaf at least an inch long. They were planted in a community pot. After a few years, they were repotted into individual 1-gal. pots. All the seedlings from that batch have my serial number 1455. Several of them have bloomed or are getting ready to bloom. That makes 8 years from pollination to first flowers.

Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum [papilio x mandonii] #1455.B

One of my papilio bulbs has a scape starting.

Hippeastrum petiolatum are also in bloom. These grow quickly; and once they start to bloom, this strain at least produces two scape every year.

Hippeastrum p[etiolatum (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.
Hippeastrum petiolatum

These flowers are 70 mm, less than three inches, across. There are 4 or 5 flowers per umbel, at least this time. Both bulbs have a second scape starting as the first scapes are in full bloom.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Feeding Plants

Fertilizers and Bulbs

I'm sure I have covered this previously in this blog, but I failed to index it then and I can't find it now. So, for the record, I am going to discuss my approach to feeding my bulbs.

For all practical purposes, plants can only absorb inorganic compounds from their environments. Adding organic composts will require that these materials be completely digested by microorganisms in the soil before the nutrients in them become available to the plants. In growing plants in pots, it is hard to keep a good balance of beneficial soil microorganisms growing. Rather, you are more likely to be encouraging growth of disease-causing microorgnaisms by adding organic composts to plants in pots.

There are two overall groups of required nutrients for plants, the so-called macronutrients and the micronutrients. Both are equally important; only the quantities needed are different.


The three components of most commercial fertilizers are macronutrients: nitrogen (symbol N); phosphorus (symbol P), almost always as phosphate; and potassium (symbol K) sometimes erroneously referred to as "potash." In fertilizers the contents of these three nutrients are expressed as the N - P - K values. A value of 20-10-15 would indicate the fertilizer contained 20% by weight of elemental nitrogen in any of several forms. It would contain 10% of phosphorus, expressed as P2O5 and therefore somewhat less of the element P than indicated. It would contain 15% potassium, expressed as K2O, so again slightly less K than the label shows. I've no idea why, in the 21st century, the US government uses such archaic labeling.

Other macronutrients needed by plants in substantial amounts include calcium (symbol Ca), commonly found in limestone as calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a highly insoluble and therefore very gentle alkaline substance used for neutralizing acidic soils. Sulfur (symbol S) is the final macronutrient. It is found in nature as elemental sulfur, but is usually supplied to plants as sulfate (SO4). Sulfate is the form in which plants absorb and metabolize sulfur.


Micronutrients are just as essential to plants as the macronutrients, but are needed in much smaller amounts. They are the elements boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), and zinc (Zn). Because they are needed in such small amounts, they are also referred to as the "trace elements."

Forms of Nitrogen

Nitrogen in fertilizers is found in two chemical forms: as ammonia (NH3) and derivatives of ammonia; and as nitrate (NO3). The best form for plants is nitrate, since plants can absorb and metabolize nitrate directly. Ammonium compounds are much less easily absorbed by plants. In fact, ammonium compounds are most readily metabolized by bacteria and fungi in the soil.

Continuous Liquid Feeding

I recommend feeding your plants with a dilute solution of soluble plant food every time you water them. We use 100 p.p.m. of nitrogen from a soluble plant food, 20-10-20 with micronutrients. To get about 100 p.p.m., add about 1/3 of a level teaspoonful of the crystals per U.S. gallon of water. If you speak Metric, we want 100 mg. of nitrogen per liter of water; since the N is 20%, that is 500 mg (0.5 gram) of solid fertilizer crystals per liter.

Bulbs analyze for 16% nitrogen, a little less than that for potassium, and less still for phosphorus. There is usually no reason to increase the ratio of any one of them versus the other two. I suggest using a completely soluble fertilizer, with as much of the N as nitrate as possible, and N-P-K of about 20-5-15.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia Crosses

Types of Crosses

We made two principal types of Clivia crosses last year: 1) Using peach parents; and 2) Using red parents. "Peach" encompasses pink and pastel, as well as real peaches like 'Victoria Peach'. "Red" is anything red, light red, red-orange, or even occasionally deep orange. So far, we have seen light to medium reds and red-oranges, but no real red colors on Clivia flowers here in our greenhouse. In Indiana, and in the Northeastern USA in general, there is simply not enough sunshine in winter to bring the real red coloration to the plants growing here.

Fertility of Crosses

We started planting the seeds from our Spring 2009 Clivia crosses in December. We are approaching the two-month mark after planting, so it's time to take a look at the initial germination results. I'm looking for two separate things: 1) The percentage of germination at this point in time; and 2) The red pigmentation or lack of it in the leaf base and the epicotyl and hypocotyl of the germinated seeds.

Cross #2536: [Solomone Watercolor Pink #2005 x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.K]. This is a "peach cross," or at least I had hoped so. Of 36 seeds planted 14 December 2009, none (0%) have germinated. 'Victorian Peach' #2194.K is a very pale peach color.

Cross #2550: [Conway's 'Mary Helen' x Solomone Pink #2011]. This is a "peach cross," or at least pastel, I hope; I'm not so sure what will come out of it. There have been 7 germinations (44%) in the 16 seeds planted 31 Dec. 2009. One seedling has a green stem; the other 6 have pigmented shoots (hypocotyl + epicotyl).

Cross #2538: [Solomone Pink #2011 x 'Cameron Peach' #2201]. Of the 36 seeds planted around 16 Dec. 2009, only 3 (8%) have germinated so far. All 3 seedlings have the red pigmentation.

Cross #2545: ['Victorian Peach' #2194.D x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.E]. Clearly I expect to get peach clivias from this cross. Out of 33 seeds planted on 26 Dec. 2009, only 7 (21%) have germinated so far. All have green (i.e., unpigmented) stems. Both parents are what I classify as "dark peach."

Cross #2544: ['Cameron Peach #2201 x Solomone Pink #2010]. There have been 19 germinations (53%) among the 36 seeds planted on 27 Dec. 2009. Of these, 1 is green while the other 18 have pigmented stems.

Not numbered: ['Victorian Peach' #2194.I x 'Cameron Peach' #2201] produced no seeds at all.

Cross #2548: [Pen Henry Red #1414.B x #1664.B=(Miné x Bing Wiese Green Throat)]. Red flowered plants are expected. Out of 36 seeds planted on 24 December 2009, 18 (50%) have germinated to date. All 18 seedlings have the red pigmentation.

Cross #2523: [Conway's 'Elizabeth' x Solomone Red]. So far, 16 seeds (44%) have germinated of the 36 planted on 15 Nov. 2009. All are pigmented. 'Elizabeth' is a medium red or red-orange, on a larger than average flower.

Past Years' Seedlings

One plant of ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa'] is in bud. It looks like it will be peach colored. All the seedlings from this cross had green stems. 'Sunrise Sunset' is a good yellow color with scattered Type 2 Yellow-like orange edges to the petals.

Two plants of ['Abigail' x 'Doris'] are in scape. Blooming plants of the same parents were seen at Maris Andersen's in Santa Barbara years ago, and they had the brightest red color I had seen on a Clivia up to that time.

Preliminary Conclusions from 2009

First, it is now obvious to me that I made far too few crosses among my more interesting Clivia last February and March. One cross that yielded plenty of healthy-looking seeds has produced no germinations so far. I'll have to examine the fertilities of the two parental clones involved very carefully this year, if either of them flowers.

Second, there is some infertility between different clones both within lines (i.e., within Conway plants, within Solomone plants) as well as between lines. 'Cameron Peach' (or at least the clone I have, my #2201) may be a better mother than father. Unfortunately, while I have stored pollen of 'Cameron Peach' from last year, the plant itself is apparently not going to bloom this year. Regardless, I want to test its pollen on other plants that may bloom this spring.

Third, even 3 months may not be long enough to see all the possible germination of clivia seeds. Patience, patience, patience. Easier said than done.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Arisaema in February

Starting Seeds

This is the time to start Arisaema from seeds. The Arisaema Enthusiasts Group (AEG) is about to have its annual seed distribution. To participate, sign up for Arisaema-L and send your donation of $10 to $20 to AEG.

Arisaema seed are mostly warm germinators. Take the seed you have and soak it in water for a few days. Change the water daily. Then sow the seeds on the surface of your potting mix and cover with a half-inch (10-15 mm.) layer of sand or grit. I use "Granigrit" crushed granite chick starter grit for this covering layer. I then set the pot in a tub of water and let the potting mix soak up water till the surface is moist. Finally, the pot is placed in a saucer or tray and set under fluorescent lights. Water from below and don't let the seeds dry out. Germination may take from a week or two to a few months.

Once germination starts, keep the seedlings watered and growing as long as you can. Start to add soluble fertilizer to your waterings when most of the seeds seem to have germinated. I use N-P-K 20-10-20 at 100 ppm nitrogen. See my discussion of feeding plants on February 17, 2010 for details.

Hastening Maturity

It is quite feasible to speed the growth cycle of Arisaema. After 3 to 4 months of growth, let the pot go dry. Once it is dry and the leaves have yellowed off, place the pot, still dry, in the refrigerator (40°F, ca. 4°C) for three months. Then take it out, repot if necessary, and place the pot in a warm, well-lighted place and start watering and feeding again. This effectively crams two years of growth and development into one year, so it should cut the time from planting seed to first flowering in half.

The summer phase of growth can be outdoors. The plants need high or broken shade and plenty of moisture. Just don't let the pot sit in standing water. In cold weather, the growth phase can be in a heated greenhouse if you have one. Otherwise, a warm, sunny window will do just fine. I put my pots in the basement under fluorescent lights (about 6 inches above the leaves, on a timer set for 16 hrs per day). If they bloom under the lights, move them someplace where you can enjoy the flowers every day.

Hardy Arisaema

Arisaema triphyllum is native to much of the eastern United States. Arisaema dracontium is as well, and both are native here in Indiana where I live. Other species will grow and survive here as well.

My favorite is probably the showy A. sikokianum, which survived and bloomed in my woodland garden for several years. It disappeared a couple years ago, so I am replacing it this spring. At the moment, the new tubers are resting in the fridge until the ground warms up somewhat.

Arisaema sikokianum (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema sikokianum in the woodland garden

I've also had relatively good luck with A. ringens, although it too disappeared a year or so ago. I think we had a very bad winter for Arisaema around here. There is a nice fat tuber of A. ringens also waiting in the fridge for spring to come.

Very hardy and still going strong, in almost full sun, is Arisaema heterophyllum. It is not as showy as sikokianum or ringens, but it hangs on and makes its presence felt at the sunny edge of the patch of woods.

Others that survived and bloomed for more than one season include A. kishidae, A. sazensoo, A. thunbergii, and A. urushima

Arisaema kishidae (c) Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Arisaema kishidae in the woodland garden

Tender Arisaema in Pots

I grow Arisaema yunnanense aridum in pots, since I'm not sure it can survive our winters outdoors. I use the exact technigue described above for hastening growth to grow yunnanense permanently in pots. Last summer, outdoors in the lath house, I hand-pollinated yunnanense and harvested a nice batch of seeds. Some are germinating right now under lights in the basement. The rest I donated to the AEG seed exchange.

Yunnanense is not a showy plant at all, even less so than heterophyllum. I keep it around as a curiosity. On the other hand, I'm going to attempt to grow A. fargesii as a pot plant, since it has survived the winters outdoors but never increased in size and definitely is not going to bloom for me here as an outdoor plant. A. fargesii should have a very nice bloom, when it blooms. I have a 10-inch azalea pot with 3 tubers of fargesii in full leaf under the lights in the basement right now. I repotted and started them up again just before Christmas, and I'll try to keep them growing for another month before I allow them to go dormant again and put them back in the fridge. I should have blooms in another year if things go well.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Clivia Hybrids

Breeding with Peaches

Five years ago, I pollinated David Conway's 'Sunrise Sunset' with pollen from his very fine peach 'Tessa'. The attached photo shows the first flower on the first seedling to bloom from that cross, ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa']. It's going to be a very nice peach, or so it looks to me. All the seedlings in that cross will have the number 2539. This particular plant is distinguished by adding the suffix "A" to the number. After more flowers open, I'll post another picture.

Clivia [Sunrise Sunset x Tessa] (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia ['Sunrise Sunset' x 'Tessa'] #2539.A

The Parents

Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset' is a nice yellow with orange edging and spotting of the petals wherever physically damaged. Conway's 'Tessa' is probably know to all: an outstanding peach Clivia. All the seedlings in the aforementioned cross were green (i.e., unpigmented leaf bases) when small. I suspect that when one crosses a peach or pink with another peach or pink, or even yellow as in this case, and the seedlings are plain green (no red pigment in the leaf bases), the offspring will flower in shades of peach. That's my guess from one flower blooming on one cross. How's that for generalizing?

Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset' (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Sunrise Sunset'

Clivia 'Tessa' (c) by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Clivia 'Tessa' with an unusual 5X5 multitepal blossom

Other crosses made with peaches in the past few years, as yet unbloomed, include the following:

#2397 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.D x 'Tessa'], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

#2396 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.A x 'Tessa'], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

#2402 ['Victorian Peach' #2194.K x 'Victorian Peach' #2194.D], all the seedlings had plain green leaves. From 2008.

It is not a wild extrapolation to expect all the plants from the three cross immediately above to produce peach flowers.

Red Parents

#2401 [Solomone Red #2293 x Kevin Akins Red #2292], all the seedlings had red pigmented bases on the leaves. From 2008.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Color Charts Anyone?


We've had snow longer this winter than I can recall before. I'm thoroughly sick of it! It's costing a fortune to heat the greenhoiuses in this cold weather -- every day it has been 10 to 15 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.

Color Charts

The Cape Clivia Club of Cape Town, South Africa, developed the first color chart specifically designed for flowers in the genus Clivia in 2003.

CCC Color Chart I, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Cape Clivia Club's First Color Chart

This chart was quite simple (but not simple to develop!) and marked a first step in the Clivia community trying to define colors to a standard. It was tailored to colors found in Clivia flowers, because existing color charts proved to be unsatisfactory when applied to Clivia.

The newest color chart I have is Color Chart II from the Cape Clivia Club in Cape Town. I think it is going to be very useful. It is still available from certain Clivia clubs around the world.

CCC Color Chart II, this image (c) coyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Cape Clivia Club's Color Chart II

The classic horticultural color chart is that from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK. I have the Third Edition, that cost me around $150 on special, 10 or 15 years ago. There is now a fourth version of it, more expensive. It can be obtained from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK.

The RHS Colour Chart Third Edition is comprised of four swatches containing about 50 cards each.

RHS Color Chart 3, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Each card contains four variations on a particular color.

RHS Color Chart 3, image (c) copyright by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

That gives you about 800 tints, shades, and blends of colors to choose from. It is still a real challenge to precisely define the colors in a flower, even with the best horticultural color charts available.

In the USA, you can get the Cape Clivia Club Color Chart II from the North American Clivia Society. Australians should check with the Aussie clivia society. Elsewhere in the world, contact the Cape Clivia Club in Cape Town.

I tried to photograph a few Clivia flowers with an apporpriate card from CCC Color Chart II.

Clivia Belgian Red with Color Chart (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

Note that the different reds in the card were not well differentiated by the digital image. The human eye does a better job of that.

Clivia Victorian Peach with Color Chart (c) copyright 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.

It works better with these peach blends, but I think one would have to take the individual petal off the flower to use the color chart most effectively. I didn't do that when I took these pictures because I'm not ready to start destroying blooms this early in the season!

The directions with the RHS color chart tell us to use "north light," which translates roughly to "get out of the direct sun and into some shade" to read the colors accurately.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

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Last revised on: 26 February 2010
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