Saturday, April 12, 2008

More Lovely Flowers

The bloomfest continues. Man, I love flowers. I especially love rugged old favorites that surprise you with their generosity of bloom and lack of fuss. And I love mystery/legacy plants that startle you with their sterling qualities out of the blue.

The Bulb Report
Such as, for example, this thriving hardy red amaryllis (Hippeastrum × johnsonii). It was here when we moved in, planted in the shade garden by the study--not really the best place for most amaryllis. We didn't recognize it, either--I think we both assumed it was a spider lily. Instead, it's this incredibly robust amaryllis (and spider lilies are nice, but I'd prefer an amaryllis any day), looking gorgeous and vibrant. And the hardy red is an heirloom bulb, so we're particularly pleased to have it.

Because Elgin is a small town, where change happens more slowly, there are still scads of hardy reds in gardens all over town, which delights me. It's a terrific spring-flowering bulb for zones 8+, but it isn't terribly common at garden centers, and it's often correspondingly pricey. These folks, for example, (who incidentally have pretty much the exact job I would have wanted, if I'd stayed in horticulture. Except that the poor sods have to live somewhere up by Dallas. Ew. But otherwise it seems like an enviable existence) want $23 per bulb.

Hardy Red Amaryllis (Hippeastrum × johnsonii)

And speaking of heirloom bulbs, I think I've finally got a lock on those so-lovely narcissus that bloomed earlier this spring: Chinese Sacred Lilies. Also a traditional southern bulb. There's something so endearingly tidy about their trim little flowers with bright yellow cups and orange anthers.

Now that I know what they are, I can drizzle the yard with them come fall so we can have cheery little surprises all over the place next spring.

In other bulb-related news, my super-nifty 'Charisma' is blooming. The standard Dutch amaryllis don't excite me as much as the new cybisters ('Appleblossom'? YAWN), but there are some color combinations that are pretty darn captivating. 'Charisma,' for example, has that coral-red piping around the edges of the petals along with a flush of red in the center. Neat. It looks like a picnic-on-a-stem.

Hippeastrum 'Charisma'

And to wrap up the bulb report, one of our many mystery crinums (sheesh, don't we label anything?!) is about to bloom. I'm fond of crinum buds, especially these--they're all snaky and sinister, but in an appealing way--they would bite you if they could, but it wouldn't kill you; it would just make you all trippy and possibly a little nauseated for a while.

An unknown crinum, in bud

And on to the Roses

Here's a new blossom on our one remaining 'Belinda's Dream.' (We lost its sister rose to the Great Fungus.) 'Belinda's Dream' is one of the modern exceptions at the Antique Rose Emporium. It was bred locally in College Station by an A&M professor who crossed the hybrid tea 'Tiffany' with 'Jersey Beauty,' an antique from 1899. 'Tiffany' is one of the better hybrid teas for our hot, humid, and fungus-ridden environment--it's straight limbed, vase-shaped (when properly pruned) and disease resistant. So 'BD' has a fairly stout nature from both its parents, along with the more fulsome bloom type of a hybrid tea. The picture turned out well, no?

Modern shrub rose 'Belinda's Dream'

Also, one of the buds on the mystery stripy rose, one of our legacy plants, is just about to bloom. In case I miss it in bloom, here it is as a bud. It's a modern (or so I believe), with all the awkwardness of form of a hybrid tea, but I do love stripy flowers. If you've ever seen/read The Winter's Tale, you know that the heroine, a pure and high-born castaway, delivers a little screed against hybridized plants, with particular disdain for multi-colored flowers. With the best will in the world, I cannot get behind her on this one. Her little phillipic is below (all the ellipses are the places where Polixenes, the king, stands up for gillyflowers and other pied bastards. Go Polixenes!)
...the fairest flowers o' the season
Are our carnations and streak'd gillyvors,
Which some call nature's bastards: of that kind
Our rustic garden's barren; and I care not
To get slips of them...
For I have heard it said
There is an art which, in their piedness, shares
With great creating nature.
...I'll not put
The dibble in earth to set one slip of them...
One can only imagine how she'd feel about genetically modified produce. But as I'm not a princess in exile and have no reputation for purity to maintain, I'm free to relish nature's bastards, precisely for their freakish and eccentric perversity.

This is definitely too many quotations--I apologize--but I particularly love this poem, and I think it represents an enlightened perspective that is especially relevant to our age of machine-straight lines and smooth surfaces and homogenized components. Take that, Perdita.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
Praise him.

One of nature's bastards--came with the house, but we're happy to claim it

And here is the especially mysterious mystery rose I mentioned in my last post:

Mystery hybrid perpetual bourbon rose

I thought it was a hybrid perpetual, but Matt is quite certain that it smells and looks like a bourbon. I yield to his superior knowledge in this area--henceforth, it's our mystery bourbon. It does smell fantastic, though not quite as ravishing as our 'Autumn Damask,' also just now starting to bloom.

And here is a true hybrid perpetual, 'Reine des Violettes.' I love big, cabbagey, quartered blooms like this one. Sorry it came out a bit blurry. Sometimes my camera and I disagree on what's important in a picture. In this case, it chose the leaves. I'd a have preferred the flower.

'Reine des Violettes' hybrid perpetual

Last rose: the china, 'Comtesse du Cayla.' It has loose, careless flowers with a pretty flush of peachy gold near the center. I'm not always nuts about the disheveled look in roses (Oh no, I hear you say. Not another anti-'Knockout' rant... Oh, all right then.), but I think 'Comtesse' pulls it off nicely, partly because the color combination is so pretty. And then, too, as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat a china rose. There are other roses I particularly love (the tea rose 'Madame Joseph Schwartz,' the bourbon 'Souvenir de la Malmaison,' the hybrid musk 'Buff Beauty') but if I had to choose one class of roses to survive some plague/asteroid striking the earth/alien invasion/nuclear holocaust, it would definitely be the chinas. Of course, they would probably survive anyway without any help from me, which is precisely one of the things I love about them. Rugged, pretty, informal, free-blooming, natural and bush-like in form--they're just a superb class of plants.

The china rose 'Comtesse du Cayla'

The next two pictures are for record-keeping, not because they're terrific pictures of particularly nice specimens (they're neither). But hang in there--the third picture down is kind of neat. Top left is our little snippet of an Eve's Necklace (Sophora affinis). Someday, it'll look like the picture on the right. Limestone bluff and all. If we don't kill it first (we left in its pot a little too long, unfortunately.)

Eve's Necklace (Sophora affinis)

And here is our pistache--I think it's chinensis, not texensis. Pistaches look charmingly like popsicles on sticks sometimes, though it's hard to imagine that will be the fate our scruffy little twig. But on the whole I like pistaches, so I'll forgive it its imperfections if it's willing to overlook our negligence.

Pistacia chinensis (I think)

And finally, the nifty bit: we just planted a Purple Robe Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) by the pond. Matt has promised me a tree-full of deep plum-colored wisteria blossoms next spring. I adore-- passionately--wisteria blossoms, so let's hope we can see this fellow through the summer to the safety of next autumn.

Purple Robe Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Next time: update on the shade patio


Anonymous said...

Mel, your blog was a trip through another life... Very lovely...

I miss being in horticulture, every spring. My collection of patio pots falls short, I dream of having a lovely little garden like yours.



Anonymous said...

Mel, your blog was a trip through another life, very lovely...

Every year when it starts to feel like spring, I miss being in horticulture. My collection of patio pots falls short. I dream of having a lovely little garden like yours.



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