Jim Shields' Garden Notes
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- Retiring

Business Closing

Starting more or less right now, we're discontinuing mail order sales. The greenhouses and garden will still be here, and you can call for an appointment to come by (tel. 1-317-867-3344, for now at least). We have already stopped exporting plants or bulbs. We will phase out domestic mail order sales in the U.S.A. over the next couple of months. After thirty years at this, we are just plain tired of hunting for plants, cleaning them, and making packages. I'll still be glad for people to come past the greenhouse and buy a potted bulb or plant occasionally. You can find us on these maps ([ click here for regional map] and [ click here for local map.]). Be sure to phone a day ahead to be sure someone will be here when you arrive. We are in Westfield, Indiana, which is a suburb on the far north side of Indianapolis.

What Are We Going to Do?

We will keep the greenhouses going, but I intend to thin out the plants and bulbs that we grow. We will continue to grow a few daylilies, but we will have gotten rid of most of them by the end of this coming summer (2011). We stopped hybridizing daylilies at least four or five years ago.

Daylily sales probably reached their maximum in the early 1990s, perhaps around 1993. They have declined steadily since then, until they are no more than 10 to 20 percent of what they were in the peak years. This made growing large nursery beds of daylilies horribly expensive -- I never did like to weed, and even high school kids need to be paid minimum wages to work out in the sun, heat, and humidity.

I'm really sorry to see boutique daylilies losing their appeal, but I have to say that the days of really exciting innovations in daylily flower forms and colors seem to have passed. The catalogs I've seen recently are full of beautiful flowers, but they don't strike me as much different from those introduced five years ago. Am I missing something?

The Clivia will still be here as well, but I need to thin the plants out. We went through a period of planting every single Clivia seed we could get our hands on. Now there is scarcely room to walk through the greenhouse, and most of the plants are unexceptional.

The Clivia House also holds the Hippeastrum species bulbs. I want to improve my collection of Hippeastrum wild species, since they were my first love forty-some years ago. Their rarity and cost make them fairly inaccessible, so I don't expect rare Hippeastrum species to take up much more room in the greenhouse.

I intend to keep my collections of Nerine species as well as Haemanthus and Scadoxus. One area of hybridizing that I am still interested in is Haemanthus interspecific hybrids. Haemanthus seems to me to be a genus with more horticultural potential than has been realized. Only a few people are activley working at this, but one of those folks is Terry Hatch in New Zealand. If anyone can bring the horticultural value of Haemanthus to the fore, it will be Terry.

I have let my search for hardy forms and hybrids of tender bulb genera lag. We found Crinum variabile to be hardy here, and some hybrids of Crinum bulbispermum with other species, including lugardiae, macowanii, and variabile. But then I let this drop. I have not worked to find more hardy Fritillaria species in the last ten years; that search needs to be started again. We have backed away from trying to get hardy hybrids of South African Gladiolus species. We had some Gladiolus oppositiflorus salmoneus that survived for years in the garden, but they did dwindle gradually and I finally moved them into pots. Gladiolus saundersii is another possibly hardy candidate, and a hybrid between these two species ought to be spectacular and potentially hardy here.

I intend to continue working with the Trillium species of Eastern North America. Eventually I hope to get a collaborator who can do DNA sequencing, so we can do more to sort out the species in the Southeastern States in particular. They grow too slowly from seed for me to have any hopes of studying their interspecific fertility. The nature of the Trillium erectum-T. simile complex is particularly fascinating.

There are still plenty of things to be done. I hope to do more swapping of plants, seeds, and bulbs in the future, even if that means making an occasional package to be mailed. For the record, I'm looking for seeds or bulbs of the following:

  • Haemanthus canaliculatus
  • Haemanthus graniticus
  • Haemanthus pubescens arenicola
  • Haemanthus tristis
  • Hippeastrum bukasovii
  • Hippeastrum lapacense
  • Hippeastrum nelsonii
  • Hippeastrum neoleopoldii
And I'm sure there are others I would like to get, but they don't occur to me just now!

I will probably discontinue my CliviaAlert e-mail newsletter, but the BulbAlert may go on for the foreseeable future. BulbAlert will cover Clivia as needed and will only partially overlap this blog in its content. To contact us, besides the telephone number given at the beginning, you can also e-mail us at jshields at indy dot net.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. I.


We have Trillium starting to bloom in the woodland garden. The first to come up were some of the Trillium cuneatum (from North Carolina) and the T. sessile (from Southern Indiana).

Trillium cuneatum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium cuneatum
From North Carolina

One Trillium luteum (from Gatlinburg, Tennessee) is in bloom already, and others are following along. While these Southern plants survive here in Indiana, they have not seemed to ever get quite as large as they do on their home turf.

Trillium luteum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Trillium luteum
From Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Also flowering are the native Erythronium, E. americanum, which is almost finished, and E. albidum. Most years, these do no flower abundantly. They are both tetraploid species, as I recall, and reproduce vegetatively quite readily. These were transplanted locally into my woodland.

Erythronium albidum (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Erythronium albidum
Native to Indiana

One of the first to flower each spring is what used to be called Anemonella thalictroides, the Rue Anemone. The botanical name now may be Thalictrum thalictroides (see: "Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers" by Kay Yatskievych, Indiana University Press, 2000.)

Anemonella thalictroides (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Anemonella thalictroides
Native to Indiana

There are other flowers in bloom this week, but I'll leave the rest for another day.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. II.


Two things are evident in bloom on the rock garden: Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica and Narcissus calcicola. Coming up but not in bloom, there are a couple species of Brodiaea, some Sempervivum, and the big Yucca filamentosa.

Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica
Number 1501

These Fritillaria crassifolia kurdica were received originally as small bulblets from Jane McGary, but now they are self-seedling nicely. They grow in the sandy, limey riverbottom soil of a raised bed. I've scattered the seed in other areas, but they have not spread much beyond the crest of this raised bed. These are 3 to 4 inches (8 - 10 cm) tall.

Narcissus calcicola (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Narcissus calcicola
Number 1911

The Narcissus calcicola are another treasure from Jane McGary. These have increased from just two bulbs. I assume they like the limey sand of this riverbottem soil, also in the raised rock garden bed. These are only 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) tall.


Fritillaria pallidiflora and F. thunbergii seem to be the only surviving fritillarias in the woodland garden. The F. thunbergii rarely blooms, but pallidiflora will in many years. Still, it is slowly dwindling away. I think this one is about 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm) tall.

Fritillaria pallidiflora (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Fritillaria pallidiflora
Number 1077

I showed you a typical white trout lily, Erythronium albidum, last time. Now here is a strange one in the same patch of albidum, a yellow hybrid or else a yellow mutant. I'm not aware that E. americanum, the locally native yellow trout lily, hybridizes with albidum. So, is this a hybrid or a rare yellow mutation of albidum?

Erythronium albidum yellow form (c) copyright James E. Shields.  All rights reserved.
Erythronium albidum
Yellow form

Other woodlanders in bloom are Claytonia virginica, Dicentra cucullaria, and D. canadensis. As it happens, they are not blooming very much in my bit of woods this Spring. I've seen them along the Monon Trail here in Westfield, Indiana, along with the Erythronium americanum and E. albidum blooming in much greater abundance than I'm used to seeing here. I definitely don't recall seeing so many Erythronium in bloom along the Trail last spring.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

- Spring Flowers. III.

Woodland Garden

The Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells, are blooming. The native ones that were on my property gradually disappeared over the years. These came from Mike Broz in Southern Indiana. Somewhere I picked up some exotic, possibly Siberian, Claytonia which apparently hybridized with our native Claytonia virginica in my garden; and now the hybrids are thriving. The flowers are larger and the plants stouter than either of the parents; and if it ever stops raining for a day or two, I'll get some pictures of them.

Sometime in the past week it did stop raining for two days. I got pictures of Trillium recurvatum and T. sessile, both native to Indiana and both blooming in my garden just now.

Trillium recurvatum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Trillium recurvatum

Trillium recurvatum is instantly recognizable by the sepals hanging straight down when the flower is in bloom. The leaves also have a pseudopetiole, being gradually narrowed towards the base. Of course, strictly speaking, trilliums do not have leaves; they have three large bracts on the flowering stem, just below the flower itself. T. recurvatum is native to Indiana and to much of the Great Lakes area and south along the Mississippi River, according to Flora of North America, vol. 26, pp. 114-115 (2002). Another petiolated trillium is T. petiolatum from the Western U.S.A., which also has downward pointing sepals.

Trillium sessile (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Trillium sessile
From Southern Indiana

Trillium sessile is native to Indiana, but whereas T. recurvatum grows right in my neighborhood, sessile is not around here. These came from Southern Indiana, again courtesy of Mike Broz. Note the sepals on these sessile: held horizontally from the base of the petals. Also, the leaves (well, OK, "bracts") are broadly rounded and full at the base, lacking the pseudopetioles of recurvatum. T. sessile is native to a broad swath of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania, again according to FoNA. Sessile is a small plant, compared to things like simile, luteum, and particularly cuneatum. It is even smaller than recurvatum, at least in my garden.

The genus Arisaema is in the Araceae, the Aroid Family. Two species of Arisaema are native to my area, Arisaema triphyllum and A. dracontium. These are not in bloom yet, but Arisaema engleri, native to China, is blooming in the woodland garden. I got three large tubers of this from the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Garden last year. Two came up and are in bloom this spring.

Arisaema engleri (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Arisaema engleri (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Arisaema engleri
From China

I'm very pleased to have these, and I hope they turn out to be hardy in my garden. These particular tubers came labeled as A. sazensoo, which is native to Japan and was in my garden for years before eventually dying off. I'm always looking for hardy Arisaema for my garden. A. heterophyllum is quite hardy here, and blooms in a semi-sunny spot; it is just now starting to come up.

The genus Erythronium, in the Liliaceae (Lily Family) is found around the world in the Northern Hemisphere. The flowers are variously know by common names like Dog-tooth Violet and Trout Lily. The most well-known in gardens are probably varieties and forms of the species native to Europe, Erythronium dens-canis.

The native Erythronium here in Indiana, E. americanum and E. albidum, do well enough in my garden. Exotic erythroniums do not do so well here. All that I have tried so far have gradually died off except for one species: Erythronium macroscapideum (also written "multiscapoideum").

Erythronium multiscapideum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Erythronium multiscapideum (c) copyright 2011 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.
Erythronium multiscapideum
From California

It has been raining here for days, but the heaviest rains have bypassed us here in Westfield and gone through Southern Indiana. Most of the tornados have also been in Southern Indiana, although one did some damage to farms outside Thorntown, about 15 miles northwest of here. I love Springtime, but the weather can get a bit trying sometimes. So far, I have only had to pick up dead twigs and small branches as a result of the winds, all pretty normal for an average winter here in central Indiana.

Good gardening, from here in central Indiana


Look up technical terms in the Glossary of Plant Biology

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Last revised on: 24 April 2011
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