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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall marches on

Crocus kotschyanus
Some go so far as to call this species weedy, and I suppose if you take the proverbial definition of a weed as "any plant that isn't where it belongs", it might be true. But if you happen to catch it as that long autumn sunset backlights it and gives it that glow it's hard to cast it in with such ruffians as Japanese Knotweed and Armenian Blackberry.

I'm wondering if it's the fist frost tonight? The mercury has dropped precipitousely in the last few hours and is inching towards the upper 30's and it's not even 10pm yet. We will see what the hours of dawn bring.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another season in the books!

Thank you to all the wonderful folks who ordered bulbs this year!
I wish you the best of luck and many happy returns with your flowers.


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Crinite Mariposa Lily

Calochortus coxii
Welcome to one of the rarest mariposa's you are likely to ever see. Hailing from one 30 mile long ridge complex in southern Oregon near Myrtle Creek and Roseburg. It grows there and only there. A serpentine dweller it has been suggested that adding epsom salt will help satisfy it's insatiable craving for large amounts of Magnesium. Although I haven't tried this and mine has grown and bloomed.

I'm going to start harvesting in the next few weeks, so the catalog should be out a little bit earlier this year than the previous. Just a reminder if you didn't get the catalog as an email attachement and would like to send me your address soon. I will post the list up here the same day it goes out.

Enjoying the weather as summer has finally come to the Willamette Valley.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Where the sea breaks it's back

Georg Steller was a man whose name has immortalized some of the rarest creatures of flora and fauna on earth. He was also the first white man to ever set foot on Alaskan soil. Whether or not that is a good thing is beyond debate, but he was a top notch naturalist and botanist and without him some now extinct creatures may never have even been known to man. Stellars sea cow being the prime example.

Fritillaria camschatencsis
The Black Sarana Lily
Turnagain Pass, Alaska

I am just back from 10 days in Alaska, having covered some 1200 miles in a rented car, spent 10 hours in a boat traverssing the Prince William Sound all the way to the Gulf of Alaska. Enjoyed wildlife, scenery and majestic beauty, lovely time with family and subsequently becoming annoyed with family. All in all a fantastic trip that will never be forgotten.

I did manage to see some plants along the way as well, like the meadows covered with the chocoloate covered Frits and spotted blue and white with Lupines.
Onchorynchus nerka
Kenai river Sockey salmon
Georg Steller gave this species it's name as well as the other 4 species of Pacific Salmon. With this trip I came one species closer to a goal of having caught all five of those species with my angling prowess. Only the lowely chum salmon, not often sought by sportfisherman, remains. The Fall rains of November and Oregons Trask river will solve that problem.

I kept wanting to call this a Hymenoxys but I think it's actually an Arnica,
Polychrome Pass, Denali National Park.

Georg Steller's story is at times fantastic, deeply saddenning and frustrating. If you read only one book this year, you really should read:
"Where the sea breaks it's back"
The epic story of early naturalist Georg Stellar and the Russian Exploration of Alaska
by Corey Ford

The trip up to Denali offers stunning alpine landscapes in spots.

Jack Poff taught me to appreciate what's in a name, he would often tell stories of Alice Eastwood and William Cusick and there plant explorations. After reading of his exploits one can hardly look the same at the Stellers Jay as it rumbles about the cherry trees in my orchard looking for the plumb ripe ones.

Either way you look at it, Georg Steller is deeply linked with Alaska and Alaska is truly "Where the sea breaks it's back"

If only some humans possesed such a will to survive and endure in such hard places as some plants do.
Georg Stellar certainly did, read his story and be amazed at a humans will to survive and what it takes to finally dry up the well of will power.

I may post some more of Alaska, since I have more pictures, in the mean time you should be on your way to the bookstore.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Clay Mariposa

Calichortus argillosus

Come on, how ridiculous is this flower, It's like a very talented artist decided to muck about with a paintbrush inside a cup.
from Contra Costa (I love that name, I think it's a bastard of Indian and Spanish)and San Benito county, said to grow in compacted, heavy clays. This species hasn't increased well for me, so I might give it a heavier soil next year....seems my general bulb mix might not be suitable as a clay substitute.

Beautiful evening for the last day of the kiddo's softball season and now she is on Summer break....Oh Ya and since "Public works so you don't have too"....It's also public works day and I'm a public worker.



Monday, June 11, 2012

Crocus kosaninii

Crocus kosaninii

I've been reading a lot of Ruksans writings on bulbs lately and really enjoying it, so even though this is a spring bloomer and not in season I thought I would share it with you.

From Janis Ruksans "Crocuses a complete guide to the Genus":
Crocus kosaninii (2n=14) is a newer species named in honor of the famous Yugoslavian botanist Nedeljko Kosanin who described C. pelistericus and C. scardicus. It grows in lowland oak forest and mixed scrub within a limited area in Southern Serbia"

The description of it's type habitat makes me think it would be a great naturalizer in Oregon. After all the Willamette valley is pretty much lowland Oak forest.....or it used to be.

I make my living restoring native habitats in the valley and Oak Savannha is a pretty rare thing these days owing to the lack of forest fires that burned out the shrub and kept the Douglas Fir forests restricted to the foothills.

Speaking of disappearing habitats, I've been working on a project to restore a native wet prairie, this is the rarest of the wetland ecotypes in the Willamette Valley. It's been a fun project, but I would really like to do a controlled burn on the parcel, unfortunately Salem Fire Department says no dice....It's on the final approach to McNary Field and they are worried the smoke could be dangerous for small planes. Talk about a challenge to restore a dissapearing ecosystem without the tools necessary.

Anyway that's my rant for today, The weather has been lovely, 75 degrees and sunny, although as I type this a marine layer is pushing inland.


Mark Akimoff

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Calochortus longebarbatus

Calochortus longebarbatus

To again quote the very informative NARGS "Bulbs of North America":

"This is a plant of high mountain meadows from 5000 to 8330 feet (elevation) which seeks out a perfect hydrological regime. Grazing and erosion have severely reduced its populations on many sites; it is a kind of ecological barometer or miner's canary for alpine meadows. The extensive range of the species has many gaps, indicating loss of habitat. It occurs in eastern and south central Washington, down to Oregon's Hood River Valley; after a large gap in Klamath and Jackson counties of Southern Oregon; after another hiatus, in Shasta County, California. Like many plants of cold, semi-arid steppes, it is difficult to cultivate in most gardens, the bulbs appear to need a clay soil with some moisture over most of the year"

It is certainly a bit more challenging than some of the others I have grown, but the moisture year around is not hard to provide even in pot culture, just make sure you use a humus rich potting soil, with Lot's of grit or pumice to both drain well and hold moisture.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Calochortus superbus

Calochortus superbus

You probably can't be a half bad looking flower if your common name is the
Superb Mariposa Lily.

From the must have NARGS Pulication "Bulbs of North America":

"This species has a disjunct northern outpost in Siskiyou County, California northwest of Mud Lake, where it grows in juniper-sagebrush woodland along with C. macrocarpus. More generally it is found from Shasta county south to Kern County and through the North Coast Ranges to Lake and Sonoma counties, at 670 to 5700 feet elevation. It does remarkably well in cultivation. the plants reach 50 centimeters and have basal bulblets."

It does do very well in cultivation, the specimen in this photo having no less than 13 flowers and it's in a one gallon pot.

The late mix.
Late bloomers always succeed in life, otherwise they never would have blossomed at some point...right?

I'm gonna design a flower bed with the above mix and it's going to look spectacular at the end of May and beginning of June.

More Calochortus tomorrow.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Peonia rockii

Peonia rockii

From Gansu and the adjoining provinces of the midwestern Mts. of China come this most spectacular tree peony.
The fragrance is incredible and the deep purple blotches set on alabaster petals are really quite a show.

Joseph Rock was one of the intrepid early botanists to venture into the war torn regions of china in the 1920's-40's.  His work resulted in the introduction of no less than 493 species of Rhododendrons. He was employed by Mssr. Sargent of the Arnold Aboretum for some of his collection expeditions.

Quite some time ago, Jane had given me three Peonies in 4" pots that she had started from seed. The P. rockii pictured was from a Halda collection in China. I not knowing much about peonies sandwiched them between the fence and some raised beds that hold alpines and bulbs. One of them is now a 6' tall tree, and between it and a Japanese maple gifted to me by an overzealous (but exceedingly generous) neighbor, lies this beauty. I really hadn't thought about it much until a week or so ago, I saw a white flower buried under the draping branches of the maple. Low and behold this wonderful specimen was lurking in the shadow all along.

I promised some Calochortus pictures and they are coming soon I promise....In the mean time I'm gonna be propagating Rocks Peony because a dozen of these beauties around the property still wouldn't be enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

For whom the bells toll?

The bells toll for the potatoes this past week.

Good weather makes for bad blogs, unpredictable weather makes for no blogs!

Fritillaria biflora x purdyi

I am going to do a whole write up on the series of hybrids pictured above. But for now I'm just going to bitch about the weather. It went from 80 Degrees F. to 30 Degrees F. in one day. A 50 degree weather swing is hard for most humans, but then again you can jump on a plane in Anchorage, Alaska and arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii in a few hours, and you can shed a coat or put on shorts.

Plants don't have that luxury. It was May 10th, and I had a really hard frost, so hard it even nipped the new growth on a big leaf Maple that is out on the back 40, now that's a tree that ranges well into Canada so you know that's a late frost when you see that. And, yes the bells tolled for my potato crop that was making nice one foot mounds of foliage, blackened instantly and mush now. My prized Davidia involucrata "Sonoma" that Dale Sullivan gave me for the birth of my Daughter finally bloomed this year....first time in the 9 years I've had it and then all the tips turned black from the cold.
 Fritillaria biflora grayana
Just another teaser to keep you interested.

So I was really lucky in that I happened to just catch the weather man saying, frost was likely in the outlying areas, but they were only forecasting 38 for Portland. Well apparently 38 in Portland means 28 at Illahe Nursery and gardens.So I got frost blankets on much of the garden, but there is only so much one can do. Then to add insult to injury, two days later it's 90 degrees and the plants are wilting like they have never seen the sunshine before!

Crazy indeed, well like the immortal lyrics of the grateful deads "Touch of Grey", "I will get by, I will survive"

Fritillaria purdyi x biflora
I think this one shows stronger characteristics of Grayana which might be in the mix.

So speaking of surviving.....I got seed potatoes of "Makah Ozette" this year and they, unlike the Russian banana fingerling's, have grown back substantially after the hard frost. I think this potato has a very cool story as far as plants go. The Makah Indians make there home on the north western tip of Washington's Olympic peninsula. Sometime in the 1700's the Spanish established a fort there. They brought with them some potatoes straight from Peru. They planted them in the forts garden, supposedly the only potatoes to come straight to North America without having first visited Europe. Well the Spanish didn't hang around and soon abandoned the fort, the Makah Indians came down and dug up the potatoes and starting cultivating them, adding much needed starch and carbohydrates to a diet built mostly on fish, fowl and gathered seafood. Several hundred years later those potatoes have proven to be a hardy addition to my garden......I'll let you know how they taste come late July.
Tulipa dideri

So with late frosts, then oppressive heat, I have been busy in the vegetable garden, got the irrigation system all fixed and ready for a scorcher of a summer since it's hit the 90's and it's not even the middle of May. The last few years have seen dreary, cold springs, this one is shaping up like a whole different monster



Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rock Midgets and Arroyo's part III

Desert Gold and White Tidy Tips
This is what most people came to see when Death Valley got over 6" of rain in the winter of 2005. Averaging under 2" of rain per year, the deluge unlocked the masses of annuals stored in the seed banks of the sandy washes almost right down to the salt flats. Miles and miles of gold and white covered the valley floor that year.

Argemone munita
The Desert Prickly poppy
This is on the wall of Hanupah Canyon where I spent the day looking for my rock midget.

Encelia farinosa
I've always had a thing for silvery leaved plants. This one ranks among the best of them. I did get cuttings to root but unfortunately this one is not adapted to a life at the 45th parallel.

Cheilanthes parryi
I have a thing for silver leaved plants and even more of a thing for silver leaved ferns. This is by far the most silvery one I have ever encountered and I spent a good deal of time trying to find one to best it. I had this species growing in a greenhouse for many years after this trip, but I lost it in the shuffle of moving. Dave Peterson, the excellent Portland fern grower kept one alive for longer and may still have it.

Monoptilon belliodes
Mohave Desert Daisy
I absolutely love Townsendia's and this is Death Valley's version.

Spheralcea ambigua
Desert Mallow
I'm rarely a harsh critic of any plant, but there is something just god awful about the color of this flower. It's leaves are very silvery though so it does get points for that. The var. rosea is said to range from violet to rose to carmine, although I only ever encountered the straight species with it's weird orange-persimmon colored flowers.

End Part III

I may have one more part to this saga to peice together so stay tuned but I do promise there will be more bulbs coming soon.

Weather: Rain showers all day, some wicked wind fields moved through this afternoon, sun breaks this evening for the kiddo's softball game, a chilly 39 degrees outside now. Forecast is for every day this weekend to get warmer and drier!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

rock midgets and arroyo's part II

Cammisonia brevipes- desert evening primrose
This shot was taken above the Wildrose canyon campground where I spent one of the windiest nights of my life, every gust seeming to flatten the fiberglass pole reinforced dome tent. The next morning the sun was out, the wind was calm and the snow capped peaks of the Panamint mts. framed nicely in the distance.
This is the  mono lake tufa formations, man what would you giv to have that in your backyard to grow Androsace, and crusty Saxifrage on? So a little geology here: These deposits were formed when the water level in the lake was much higher and calcium rich springs seeped to the surface, the calcium formed deposits like these and they only became visible when Mono lake was tapped into as a water source for communities around LA and agricultural interests around the area.

Just an up close shot of the tufa with some crazy lichens making a foothold on the former spring water turned rock. As an aside, I saw my first Jack rabbit at this site and while I chased it around for the better part of a half hour I never did get a clear photograph....amazing creature though, bigger than my cat and twice as mean looking.
Echinocactus polycephalus
Botanizing the Death Valley region is only for the sure footed, one tumble onto this beast and you would regret ever having ventured out of the comfort of you own abode.
Opuntia basialaris
Of course tamer cacti do abound like this beaver tail specimen.

So the Fritillarias are starting to finish, the Allliums are just coming on and it will be a few weeks before the  Calochortus start to peak. So if  you are here strictly for bulbs......bugger off! I'm going to do a few more installments of my desert section, because I like diversity and I'm still figuring out what recessive alleles might have passed from purdyi to biflora and what dominant traits may have led Jane to believe the parentage should be marked as such.......I'm also stuyding backcrossing as I believe a breeding program is in order for this complex.....bear with me and I will enlighten you about my education in the coming weeks.....but for now, please enjoy the ongoing saga of death valleys 100 year bloom.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rock Midgets and Arroyo's part 1

We are going to have to take a brief respite from bulb blogging tonight. In the interest of me refreshing my memory on the intricacies of plant breeding and to sort out the complications of Jane's bee hybridized Fritillari purdyi and Fritillaria biflora crosses. I'm going to stop and gloat a bit about my greenhouse full of death valley monkeyflowers.

Mimulus rupicola
The Famed Death Valley Monkeyflower
At last, blooming in my greenhouse, among the rarest in the genera and found only in the Southern California region of Death Valley and the Sky Island mountains.  I looked for this plant for so long, through all the seed catalogs. I asked Ron Ratko if he could make a special trip. Then I made the trip myself to Death Valley to look for it, but it always eluded me. I searched Hanupah Canyon for a whole day, climbing from 300' in elevation to well over 3000'. Picking my way through barrel cactus and huge patches of the gleaming white Encelia farinosa. I never could find the preferred habitat of craggy limestone cliffs.
Death Valley is an old rift, once a giant lake, now split into the  Panamint Mountains and the Amargosa range.
This still goes down as one of the most magnificent campsites I've ever had, and I've camped a lot of places. All alone on the Hanupah alluvial fan, looking over the salt flats to watch the sunset on the Amargosa range.
I thought I was looking in the right habitat, but all I found was Salvia dorii and Echinocerus engelmanii....and a ton of other cool plants, but not the monkeflower I was looking for.

Astragalus coccineus
This picture was actually taken just north of Death Valley in the White Mountains outside of the town of Bishop, California.

Astragalus laynae or funereus.
I think you have to see the pod to be sure, this is in Death Valley proper.

A selection of must have reading material for any botanizing trip to Death Valley.
The Charcoal Kilns
So bizarre to drive all the way up Wildrose canyon, in one of the most inhospitable places on earth and come across these giant, beehive looking structures. They seem completely alien in the making. Built in the late 1800's  these structures were used to convert Juniper to charcoal to fire silver ore smelting operations in the valley below.

End of Part 1
I have so many pictures and reminiscing about this great trip and the rewards of now growing Mimulus rupicola is making me nostalgic so I'm going to continue this chapter tomorrow.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Summer must be coming?

Summer must be coming because the Gladiolus are starting to bloom!

Gladiolus tristis
The marsh Afrikaner

This is going to be a lame post, because I am super busy. If only it was as easy to clone myself as it is to clone plants! I would have four of me, one to tend the garden, one to fix the proverbially broken tractor, one to mow the lawn, and then I could just sit back and enjoy my daughters softball games!

Seriously stay tuned though, because I'm working on a riveting expose of the infamous Fritillaria biflora X purdyi complex that is not to be missed.

This weird bulbous geranium thing that ate the label also reminds me of summer. The pot is literally so crowded with bulbs I think it sucked the label down and devoured it.

The weather: It's been off and on, like a light switch. It's supposed to get down into the 30's for lows this week. But next week they are saying a high of 84! Try explaining that to the tomato seedlings.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Playing favorites

"Man-despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of top soil and the fact that it rains".....great quote from a seed catalog, author unknown

Fritillaria recurva
From A Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers:
Note the 1-5 widely separated nodding bells are orange-red with yellow spotting and a yellow interior. The 8-10 linear leaves are in 2-3 whorls near the stem center. 1-3'. Dry open woods. SW. OR., California North Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada.

What a beauty......I probably should mention I have a bit of a fetish for yellow-orange spotted flowers, Hence the fascination with Mimulus and Pardanthopsis and the like. I really like this plant, for one it's native to Oregon, which is of course the greatest state around. Plus it just stands out in a field of plum-brown-green flowered relatives.

Lewisia tweedyi
With a whole world of flowers out there, of course it's impossible to pick a favorite, but I have to say that the two species above certainly come near to the top of the list! This is a wonderful old L. tweedyi, I started it from seed about 9 years ago and it spent much of life in a long tom plunged in a sand bed. It eventually cracked the long tom to pieces and when I went to pull it out the 2" diameter root had made it's way through the geotextile groundcloth 2' below. I split it into 6 pieces and they have all come through the move, but this piece takes best in show.

Finally starting to feel like spring is here! Temperatures forecasted to be in the 70's this weekend. Started harvesting the first of the Asparagus I started from seed 3 years ago. The purple sprouting brocolli that overwintered was delicious for dinner and it was topped off with some sesame oil, oven roasted kale chips.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tax Day

Fritillaria whittallii
Mr. Charles Hervey Grey in the three volume Hardy Bulbs 1938 has this to say:
A native of Asia minor, collected by Whittall on the western Taurus Mountains..It flowers in March-April, and is in cultivation at Kew. It is obviousely very nearly allied to F. meleagris, and it seems to me doubtful whether Baker was justified in giving it specific rank on the strength of its orbicular nectaries.

Fritillaria persica
I really like this plant, maybe because it's different. But Mr. Grey sure bashes it:
A Native of Western Persia and Armenia....It flowers in April, and is a dissapointing plant. The great tuft of leaves and long stem appear to promise so much, but the flowers are lamentably small and insignificant. I have never known them to set seed, and, although the plant is easily grown in a well-drained gritty soil, I question whether it is worth growing in gardens...

I for one love it, it's different, but the flowers are beautiful and it's tough enough to grow outside with little care....I don't ask much more of a plant.

Fritillaria liliacea
Mr. Grey: found on grassy slopes from Sonoma to Santa Clara county California, It flowers in April and is very scarce in cultivation. It is a charming plant resembling F. agrestis. in everything but scent-on a smaller scale. It should be grown on a hot gritty slope.

Anemone apeninna 'Petrovac'
I got this when Jane and I split an order from Hoog. I don't really know much about it except that it does well in an open raised bed without much care.

Tax day has come, I personally get mine done in late January or as soon as I have all the documents in. If you are one of the ones waiting in line at the post office right now, well then you will have to read this tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Obscurity and a competence. That is the life that is best worth living" Mark Twain

Well, I suppose if there are no winners there a no losers. The trivia question is now closed, no takers to the challenge, no free bulbs to be given away. So be it.

Wonderful spring break get away to  Southern California, Disneyland with my daughter, sister, niece, nephew and mom and dad. Pretty great memory that will be. Drove the coast route almost all the way back with stops in Monterrey to see cannery row, Carmel, Half-moon bay, San Francisco. A nice sunny california break from the weather around here it was.

Fritillaria persica
This one has been growing out in this raised bed for the last 3 years. This is the first year it has bloomed for me. Rod Leeds, states in the "Plantfinders guide to Early Bulbs" that Frost does not kill this handsome plant, but leaves it bent and unsightly. I would say this is true as I noticed after the last late frost, that many of the leaves curled and twisted.

Fritillaria pontica
From the Balkans and Turkey, this species is said to grow in semi-shaded woodland habitat.

Fritillaria purdyi
For some reason this picture reminds me of a Nomacharis I saw in the Garden of Dr. David Hale of Portland.

Fritillaria collina?
This doesn't seem to match the martyin and rix description of collina at all? Anyone?

Fritillaria orientalis
From limestone gorges and rocky woods of the North Caucasus. This one doesn't want to bake dry all summer.

More coming very soon. I would say I'm nearing the peak bloom for this season, almost everything open with more on they way every day.