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Friday, March 30, 2012

Where the wild things are

So I had the great fortune of starting my career for a little known but wonderful botanical garden nestled in the hills of South West Portland. The garden is gone now, but certainly not forgotten.

It's been a miserable rainy, windy last couple of days. The creeks around Salem are going to flood so I have to go to work tomorrow, but I'm not complaining, it pays time and half and if we can do something to help some people from suffering property damage then all the better.

Anyway, I haven't had time to do much picture taking in the greenhouse so I thought I would just throw up some pictures from "the glory days", when said botanical garden paid me to travel the state collecting seed of our native wildflowers.....some are bulbs and some are not, but they are all treasures.

Cyprepedium californicum
Kalmiopsis Wilderness

Western Rattlesnake
one of the hazards of seed collecting in the
Calochortus macrocarpus
John Day Fossil Beds-Painted Hills Unit
Calochortus tolmei
Mt. Adams Wilderness

Paeonia brownii
Mt. Adams Wilderness
This picture was taken in 2001, I came back later and got seed of this specimen I have it growing in a rasied frame at the nursery, it hasn't increased much in 11 years, but I noticed this year it's sending up two seperate shoots.....could this be the year it finally flowers?

Cyprepedium montanum
East Slope Mt. Hood

Lilium bolanderi
Kalmiopsis Wilderness
this photo was taken before digital cameras!!! Kinda makes me feel old, I'm sure a few of the readers remember the day's of adjusting f-stops and buying slide film?

Phlox and Iris inominata
Illinois River, Oregon

Corydalis caseana var. cusickii
So a little while ago I posted that I didn't much care for Corydalis, but this one is something special. Also, I have kind of been reconsidering the genus after my recent visit to Jane's place. I only have Beth Evans and another one I can't remember right now, Jane had a whole bunch of them blooming that were actually quite spectacular and I guess I will have to look into the genus a bit more.

So here it is in it's habitat, That's the Imnaha River in the background a tributary of the great Snake river that drains out of the Eastern flank of the Wallowa Mts. I was actually fly fishing this great river known for it's steelhead and salmon that travel a thousand river miles upstream to spawn when I found this plant. It can get 6' tall and seemed out of place, like someone had introduced a garden specimen into the wilderness. I consider this species one of the "ungrowables" the roots reach 6' deep into sandy, glacial till, the roots constantly saturated with 42 deg. F. snowmelt runoff water. Perhaps someone has cultivated this species? I would love to hear from you and how you did it. Oh ya and if you live on the banks of the Imnaha, Grand Ronde or one of the creeks clowing out of Eagle Cap then you are cheating!

Aconitum columbianum var. columbianum
This was a pretty cool color form I found in a boggy meadow on the trip up to the summit of Cusick Mt. in the Wallow Mts.

So you always have to give credit where credit is due....Jack Poff (RIP teacher) the gray haired gentleman in the foreground is the one who showed me most of these wonderful plants, or told me where to find them. That's Bird Creek Meadows with Mt. Adams in the background, one of Jacks favorite botanizing locations. The "Hippy" in the middle used to be a caretaker at the Leach botanical garden in Portland, which if you have ever heard of Kalmiopsis leachiana that garden should need no introduction, anyway he was an expert in carnivorous plants of the US. and in the bog behind us he found Utricularia and Drosera. The grey beard, is Dave Peterson, formerly of Squirrel Heights Gardens, one of the greatest little nurseries and gardens I had the pleasure of pulling weeds in. Dave is a fern expert par excellance! One of my greates memories is when the four of us spent a day exploring the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to unlock it's botanical secrets.

Douglasia laevigata var. laevigata
Mitchell Point, Columbia River Gorge

Tonight I have 5 chances to win 600 million dollars.
Oh, the botanical dreams that would be realized if those numbers match up! Just stop and think about it for a minute, what would be your horticultural endevours if money were no object? I could go on for days just telling you about the gardens I would build, the bulbs I would find, the nursery I would build.......Well here is to a 5 in 175 million chance that I will get to do it some day!

In the meantime, I'm going to bed early because I will be cleaning stream grates and placing sandbags tomorrow. Pray it stops raining and the sun comes out!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stink Bells

Lets take make this post an in depth look at Fritillaria agrestis, with all the resources I have at my disposal.

Fully open, all of the pictures I'm going to post are from the same potted plant, this is the first to open and all the pictures were taken on the same day, so I'm guessing, although I'm certainly no expert that the disparity you see is from the time line of opening, pehaps related to planting depth of the bulbs.

Lets go through the literature:

My very old and falling apart 1925 edition of Willis Linn Jepsons "A manual of the flowering plants of California". Certainly very dated, but when one reaches for a first description one should always try to find the first one written and the  standard by which all others are measured, besides, since evolution moves at such a slow pace, I doubt that any newer treatment is going to offer much more than this. Besides, Botanists must have had so much more time to actually look at and inspect plants before the distractions of computers, I-pods, Wi-Fi, Jet Airliners, vulcanized rubber, Hi definition Television, LED lights, Neon, tupperware, hairspray.....geez the list could go on and on.

Anyway, Willis Linn Jepson wrote this description in 1925, but just to give you a sense of time and place these other things happened in 1925:

)The Great Gatsby is published(
)Adolph Hitler writes Mein Kamf(
)Calvin Coolidge becomes the fist president to broadcast a speech by radio(
)the worlds first motel is opened in California(
)A major diptheria outbreak occurs in Alaska(
)Margaret Thatcher and Johnny Carson are born(
)the Chrysler Corporation is formed(

Again the list could go on and on, However, in  1925 Willis Linn Jepson, Professor of Botany at the University of California, Berkely took a long hard look at Fritillaria agrestis........did I mention that at the ripe old age of 25 he walked into an attorney's office alongside  John Muir and formed the Sierra Club?.......BAD ASS....in my opinion.

Fritillaria agrestis. Stink Bells. stem from a very deep-seated bulb 12-20 in. high. leafy on the lower half; leaves 8-12, oblong-oblanceolate to linear-lanceolate, alternate or the lower somewhat whorled......"I'm not going to write out the whole description so you'll just have to track down a copy of my aged manual"........so Jepson continues; style cleft to about the middle.-Grain fields, region of the lower San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, Odor very obnoxious.

Theodore Neihaus, who unfortately the internet doesn't have much to say about, wrote one of my favorite field guides of all time, "A field guide to pacific states wildflowers, field marks of species found in Washington, Oregon, California and adjacent areas. A visual approach arranged by color, form and detail."
If you are interested at all in the showy wildflowers of the Pacific states and can appeciate illustrations over photographs you must take this book with you when you go into looking for wildflowers in this region.
Fritillaria agrestis: The 5-12 linear leaves are crowded on the lower half of the waxy blue stem. The nodding 1-5 bell like flowers are greenish-white outside and purple brown inside. Strong bad odor. 1-2 feet tall. Grasslands. Central Valley of California, California Coast ranges.
The final treatment I will offer comes from the 3 volume set Hardy Bulbs by Charles Hervey Grey published by E.P. Dutton and Co. 1938.

I won't go into what happend in 1938 but if you know your history and can extract a bit from what I offered happened in 1925.....well the rest is history.

Fritillaria agrestis: Found in the valleys of the inner coast ranges from Contra Costa to San Benito and Monterey Counties, California. the bulb is medium-sized ovoid, with several large fleshy scales; the leaves cauline, eight to twelve, crowded near the base of the stem, petiolate, oblanceolate, fleshy, three to four inches long; the stem erect, rigid, eight to twelve inches in length; the raceme two to five flowered; the flowers widely campanulate, segments ovate, acute, imbricate, flushed green and purple at the base, about an inch long; the stamens about three quarters of an inch in length; the anthers creamy white,; the style trifid above, overtopping the stamens. It flowers in May. It is easily grown and would be a very attactive  plant were it not for it's abominable smell, like that of rotten meat. it outrivals, I think, the most eveil-smelling arum.

There you have it, Fritillaria agrestis, the Californian Stink Bells. Be forewarned if you plan to cultivate this plant, what they say about the smell is true. It will attract flies to your greenhouse even in March when it is snowing outside. Many California bee keepers recommend it as an early seaon source of pollen for bees......can't imagine what they honey may taste like........carrion perhaps?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tulips are blooming

"All our discontents about what we want appear to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have." Daniel Dafoe.

Read his "A general history of the pyrates" if you want a good book. Among many other things, I study pirates quite intensely and have tried to find every book ever written on the subject. What does that have to do with bulbs  you ask......well, I like the quote, Mark Twain who I quote quite often said something remarkably similar many years later.

Mimuls rupicola-Photo from Cal Berkely
Today I am thankful for seed collectors. Some years ago I made a trip to the Death Valley area to find this plant and bring it to cultivation. I never did find it in the wild, and I have searched seed catalogs ever since looking for it. This  year Alplains offered it from a collection made outside of the National Park and it even ended up on the NARGS seed exchange.

It was a horticultural dream finally realized. I know this doesn't have much to do with bulbs, but I have always been a fan of the genus Mimulus, I've had a few papers on the subject published,  and bred my own selection of M. lewisii and M. cardinalis....Mimulus X "Illahe Sunset" of course.

Mimulus rupicola however is the holy grail of Western United States species for the Rock garden and now I have it.
Mimulus rupicola seedlings in my greenhouse.
I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Tulipa cretica
From the mountains of Crete, I really have always gravitated towards the "wild" things and I like how this species represents the wild side of the tulips...nothing like the huge hybrids of dutch origin, which have there place, just not in my garden.

Tulipa aff. montana stolonifera
This has a JJA collection number and I will try to track down the provenance when I get a chance.
Narcissus calcicola
Native to Portugal and said to be extremely rare in it's native habitat. Lime dwelling species with light, but delicous fragrance.

I was going to add a few more Jonquills here but the insert image button seems to have frozen up on me, so I will have to do that later.

Weather: Forcast is for mild temperatures but heavy rainfall later this week, some big wind fields may set up towards the end of this week so it's gonna get blustery. All in all, pretty seasonable for March, one of my workers said he heard low snow levels and cold temperatures forcasted for later this week but obviousely our respective weather men don't agree.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring has finally arrived! (in the vernal equinox sense anyways)

"It is the will of God that we must have critics and missionaries and congressmen and humorists, and we must bear the burden"......Mark Twain

March.....the month of spring, named for Mars the God of war, but also the agricultural guardian. The springing back to life of the dormant garden. The Easter bunny, chicks, spring brings so many new things.....mowing the lawn every week comes to mind as one of the unpleasantries.

Erythronium hendersonii

Thousands of Louis Hendersons botanical herbarium specimens now reside at my Alma Mater Oregon State University, He was a true botanical bad ass, and if you doubt that at all, he swam across the Columbia River near Hood River at the Age of 70.......I dare you to try that. His name sake Fawn Lily resides in the far Southwestern coner of the state, barely touching California and inhabiting the same range of the mysterious Darlingtonia or Cobra lily. Beauty among the genus especially if you fancy pink.

Erythronium helenae
Quite similar to the common E. oregonum which I used to pick by the score as a lad in the woodlands where I grew up. This is the California verson, the unopened picture probably doesn't do it justice, but it's here for variety.
Erythronium multiscapoideum
The Sierra Fawn Lily, of the Cascade Range and Sierran Nevada foothills of California, the Jepson California flora states it as a good candidate for the shade garden.
Fritillaria obliqua
Ahh the most sinister of flowers, if ever there was a grim reaper in the floral kingdom it would have to be this, the shiny black, cloak surely lost among the brightly colored tulips and daffodils yet ever is it there, waiting it's turn.
"Black Velvet with that slow southern style"
Hermodactylus tuberosus-Unusual color form
Literally this is black velvet, you have to see the falls on this in person to appreciate it because a camera doesn't really capture it, but is a furry, silky black, purply velvet. Endangered in it's Native Greece due to habitat loss.
?Fritillaria gracilis?
Someone help me out here, none of my references have this species.

As promised the side by side of Tecophiliea cyanocrocus and Gentiana acaulis to duke it out for bluest of the blue......in the Gentian's defense it's in a pot on my front porch and the sunlight makes photography a bit trickier than the subtle, diffuse lighting under the poly roof of the greenhouse. Oh and also in the Gentians defense, that white blob in the background is snow.....
Here is a shot of my dog making snow angels and the kiddo poking sticks into a snow pile.... This is pure craziness for an Oregon Spring....I'm happy to say goodbye to winter, although the weather man says we could get another shot of snow later this week.....Glad to have a California vacation coming up soon and ready for some sun!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March Madness

There is a foot of snow outside right now and it shows no sign of letting up. For the few blog followers from the Rocky Mountains or Midwest I know this is nothing to raise hackles about. However you should realize that in our wonderfully moderate, Meditteranean Willamette Valley climate this is something to write home about. Apparently an all time record for the most snowfall this late in the season was set in Eugene this morning, and I wouldn't doubt it if the record falls in Salem as well.
Iris aucheri trying to keep it's head above the snow.
It has been an overly snowy year for sure, If I do my math right we have had over a foot in the last two weeks alone, and while snow in Feburary is almost a sure thing here, In all 30 years I have lived in the valley I don't remember this much snow so close to spring break.
Fritillaria nigra showing it's strong stems

Bellevalia pycnantha
Martyn &Rix: Native of eastern Turkey, North-West Iran and Soviet Armenia.Growing in meadows and marshy fields.
 My Ukranian grandparents escaped the tightening grips of Red Army and Stalins purges by packing up everything they owned and walking south through Central Asia, into Mongolia, (My dad was born in a tiny village in the Gobi desert) and into and across China where they made it to a refugee camp in the Phillipines and eventually immigrated to San Francisco, California. I can just picture them picking there way through meadows filled with Bellevalia's and Juno Iris' on the way out.

Fritillaria crassifolia ssp. kurdica
This is an awesome plant, a glaucus bloom covers the flowers and they have a surreal glow as they reflect the changing wavelengths of twilight. As a reference the JJA collection frits I showed pictures of in a former post are probably F. crassifolia and look nothing like this exceptional subpecies.
Fritillaria latakiensis
native to Southern Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Martyn and Rix state that it is easy to grow in the bulb frame and possibly outside, although I have yet to try it outside.

You may notice that I quote Martyn and Rix a lot as this is pretty much the only comprehensive reference I have for most of these bulbs. Hopefully I don't get lazy and not site the reference, but since I wouldn't put it past myself, I totally acknowledge that the authors Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix have provided much of the locality information in this blog and should be duly credited

Off to shovel some snow off the greenhouse! Believe me I have seen what can happen if you let it pile up on a poly covered hoop house, if your bows don't crease and collapse, your plastic may break and crush plants. Since I am pushing for 7 years out of a 5 year rated poly, I'm not taking any chances and keeping it clean as the snow piles up......

Can't believe I was questioning if spring had arrived yet a month and a half ago, it most certainly has not!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patricks Day 2012

Just back from a great weekend getaway to Portland. Stopped in to see Jane's new bulb house, it's quite impressive. Apart from the structure, which will be still standing following the apocalypse, the bulbs were putting on quite a show. It's been a few years since I was last by her place, she had just purchased it at the time and it was mostly vast swaths of lawn. Her garden beds are coming along quite nicely and the rock garden along the edge of her driveway is amazing.
Fritillaria hermonis
Phillips and Rix state that the subspecies amana is variable, with specimens from Turkey having green leaves and specimens from Lebanon having glaucous leaves. I'm not sure the provenance but this one has green leaves. Grows in rocks and screes in Pine and Cedar forests.

Fritillaria caucasica
I think I have a picture of this in a former post, but this particular bloom was much larger than the rest.

Gosh darnit, I lost the label on this and Jane told me the name when we were looking at it in her bulb house but again the name escapes me. I think it's a Hyacinthella, it's pretty stunninng whatever it's name.

Fritillaria JJA 17255
Jane informed me that this is likely F. crassifolia, It was a Jim and Jenny Archibald collection from Turkey. They are quite variable and a number of the bulbs differ in the amount of yellow rimming. Anyone know where to find a copy of the Flora of Turkey so I can figure out if it's a subspecies?

The label clearly states F. fleischeriana, but this looks like F. aurea to me, and from the description of F. fliescheriana it simply cannot be. There is a comment box on the bottom of this post, if anyone knows the answer you will get 2 points.

Fritillaria JJA 17242
Another of the Archibalds collection from Turkey, Again probably F. crassifolia.

Fritillaria bucharica in all her March glory.

Fritillaria kittaniae
I really like this dwarf, yellow with tidy little flaring downturned trumptets. From Southern Turkey as near as I can tell.

Narcissus watery eyes, No it's actually N. watieri, but if I ever come up with a selection of it, I'm going to name it N. "Watery Eyes". Well, that is all the posting for this evenning. The weather has been somewhat finicky lately, Rain, Snow, Sun...Repeat. I've been sowing lots of seed for the vegetable garden and it's nice to take a break, go over and admire the bulbs and take some pictures, so there will be more coming soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Early March 2012

Ok, So this picture was taken in Alaska, but lately, and tonight especially this is how you want to be dressed if you go outside!

Narcissus assoanus
Who comes up with these names?  A botanist with such a sense of humor. This European lime dweller reminds me of a dainty N. wilkowii

I would like to think the reason I haven't been very good at updating the blog is because the screen on my labtop had about 20 good pixels left. It was stepped on by my 4 year old niece this summer when I was in Alaska. It's been getting worse and worse and it was getting hard to read what I had written. Well I now fancy myself somewhat of a computer technician because a few micro screw drivers, and $75 for a new screen later I can finally see!

Fritillaria bucharica
Don't go looking for this one in the wild anytime soon!  Native of NE Afghanistan on the Pamir Altai. Easy and tough in the cold greenhouse for me.

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus
Yes, the holy grail of all blue flowers in it's glory.
I have Gentiana acaulis in bloom now and I will post up a picture when I get around to it so you can draw your own conlcusions on the winner of the azure contest. I actually thought I had lost this in the great freeze that claimed my South African collection, but it appears to have hung on.

Fritillaria stenanthera
Another Fritillaria of the Pamir Altai and Tien Shan.

Fritillaria caucasica
From Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus. Martyn and Rix say that while it grows in peaty soil in teh wilde it can be difficult to cultivate satisfactorily. I haven't tried this outside, but I might give it a go in one of the raised open beds.

Corydalis 'Beth Evans'
I'm not going to lie, I'm not the biggest fan of  Corydalis, but if you want to see an impressive one google: Corydalis caseana var. cusickii, our native from the Wallowa mts. I'll post up a pick from the Imnaha River soon.

Crocus biflora ssp. pulchricolor

The weather: Well it's been interesting to say the least, I had 6" of snow on the ground on Thursday, then Sunday it was pushing 60 degrees. All in all it hasn't been that severe of a winter, I show 19 degrees as the low on the digital thermometer that tracks the greenhouse temperatures. Unfortunately it also shows that the high in the greenhouse was 88 degrees when I left it shut up on a cloudy, cold day and then the sun broke! This time of year I think managing a bulb collection in a greenhouse is a real challenge, trying to keep them as cool as possible, yet protecting the more tender species from hard frosts is not always easy. I am going to be installing some auto vents soon and I need to add more air circulation fans.

Fritillaria striata
One of my favorites, as most of the California species are. If you look really closely you will see some Aphid carcasses and the remains of some sooty mold. I had an early outbreak of Aphids on this species only in Feburary. I treated with a bio-neem spray that did a really good job on knocking down the aphids and some control on the mold. I also gave two applications of Actinovate SP as a soil drench and a foliar. This has done a good job on the mold.