Saturday, January 29, 2011


Common nameautumn crocus
Life cycleperennial bulb
Flowerswhite (October)

This one was part of a colchicum assortment I bought one year, and didn't bloom for a year or two. In fact, I thought it was all gone, when I noticed it in late October, after a few weeks of near-continuous rain had kept me out of the garden. Obviously, it was weathered and sad by then, but at least it's still alive, and may choose to bloom at a more opportune time next year.
Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum'


Synonym(s)Caltha polypetala
Common namemarsh marigold, kingcup
Life cycleperennial (Z3)
Lightsun-part shade
Cultural notesmarginal aquatic (water to 6" deep), likes acid soil

In the bog plant package that came with our new pond, there are two calthas - one was labeled Caltha palustris (marsh marigold), the other Caltha polypetala (giant marsh marigold). According to GRIN, the species are synonymous - we'll see if the plants behave the same when they do their thing next year

Caltha palustris


Common namehardy begonia
Life cycleperennial (Z6-9)
Flowerssoft pink, white (September)
Lightpart shade
Cultural notesordinary garden soil (not too dry)
From seed germinate at room temperature (do not cover)
detailed seed-starting info below

We grew our first from seed, labeled as subspecies evansiana. So tiny and delicate as seedlings, I was surprised they survived - but they did, and by mid-summer, it was showing off its lovely foliage; by late summer, the first soft pink flower appeared. In the years following, I thought several times that the plants were lost, but in fact they are just very late to emerge: late May or early June in our garden. Somewhere along the line we picked up a few new plants, probably not of the subspecies - these are the white ones above, making for an appealing contrast in foliage and flower with the Daphne retusa behind it

Begonia grandis ssp. evansiana


Common nameDutchman's pipe
Life cyclewoody vine
Flowerscream yellow (spring)
Lightsun-part shade
Cultural notesordinary garden soil

One of the odder plants in our garden. Of course as a Dutchman, I had to grow this (although I haven't managed to grow my breeches yet), even though the "pipes" are mostly hidden behind the big leaves. It's worth a peak every once in a while, though, for the sheer curiousness of flower. For the rest of the year, it's a useful green vine, whose large mid-green leaves have a calming effect on the garden. It's getting too big for the home-made copper trellis we grow it on, and has extended itself into the nearby weeping cherry...

Aristolochia tomentosa


Common namejack in the pulpit
Life cycleperennial (Z4-9)
Flowerspurple/green (late spring)
Lightpart-full shade
Cultural notesmoist soil
Seed ripensearly October

I've tried several jacks from seed over the years, but this common jack-in-the-pulpit is the only one to thrive so far. This year is its best yet, with good healthy foliage and a strong flower. Fighting for room in the crowded space that is our shade garden, it seems to be holding its own just fine. The leaves unfurl from alienesque burgundy-patterned spear-shaped sheaths. Odd is good.

Arisaema triphyllum


Common nameamaranth
Life cycleannual
From seed germinate at room temperature (or slightly warmer)
detailed seed-starting info below

'Opopeo' has upright purple spikes; our seedlings have slightly different forms, some more uniformly colored than others. 'Hopi Red Dye' (A. cruentus x powellii) has burgundy foliage with scarlet plumes. A new favorite this past year was 'Oeschberg', which sports the most brilliant burgundy plumes, arranged almost spirally when young; it also held its foliage and flower color longer than other similarly colored varieties.
Amaranthus hybrids


GAVECommon namehardy century plant
Life cycleperennial
Cultural noteswell-drained soil

Most sources list this agave as hardy only in zones 9-10; Plant Delights Nursery extends it to Z7-10; and there are reports of hardiness in zone 6 (see links below). I picked up a tiny 2nd-year plant at the HPS/MAG plant sale, and set it in our rock garden to see if it survives.

Agave lophantha


Common nameflowering okra
Life cycleannual
Flowersyellow/black (late summer)
Cultural notesordinary garden soil
From seed Germinate at room temperature (bottom heat helpful). Occasionally self-seeds in our garden. Sometimes requires hard nicking to germinate.
detailed seed-starting info below

Striking, large lemon-yellow hibiscus-like flowers, deeply cut foliage. Upright plant habit. We grow it just about every year.

Abelmoschus manihot


Ategmic ovule
Naked magasporangium
Terminal inflorescence
Complete root parasite
Scale leaves