With September temperatures reaching 100 degrees F in Raleigh, is it any wonder we’re thinking about snow? Looking lovely after a recent rain is the rain lily, Zephyranthes ‘Summer Snow’. We grow a huge number of rain lilies, but none out flower our 2014 introduction of a hybrid between Zephyranthes candida and Zephyranthes citrina. This started its life as 5 original bulbs.
Flowering now in the garden is one of our favorite crinum lily species, the South African native, Crinum buphanoides. The name comes from its resemblance to another South African member of the Amaryllid family, the less winter hardy, Boophane.
Despite a few folks who tell us they’ve had trouble growing this, our experience is quite the opposite. We have it growing in many locations (since 2005) around the property and all are thriving. We grow ours in sandy loam that’s been heavily amended with compost. Hardiness is Zone 7b-9a, at least.
On my very short commute home, we’ve designed beds along the way that help relieve the stresses of the day. One of my favorite beds in summer is this combination of Allium ‘Millenium’, Sinningia tubiflora (white), Verbena bonariensis, and Pervoskia atriplicifolia. Both the sinningia and the verbena can be a bit aggressive in some areas of the garden, but not here, where they’ve all reached a happy equilibrium. Not only are they visually attractive, but this bed is awash with pollinators, despite none of these plants being southeast US natives.
The Taiwan endemic, Lilium formosanum is just wrapping up its summer floral show in the garden. I’d be hard pressed to imagine a garden without this garden showstopper. The cluster of huge fragrant flowers top the 6-7′ tall, sturdy stalks, starting in early August. We allow a few seed to drop each year, which results in patches scattered around the garden. The fragrance is as sweet as any honeysuckle you can imagine. Soon, you’ll have enough to also fill your home with cut arrangements. Hardiness Zone 6a-10b.
After the flowers fade, the seed pods turn upward, making a classy candelabra that dries atop the stalk for a great winter ornament in the garden or they can also be used in dried arrangements.
Our 8 year-old clump of Amorphophallus bulbifer ‘Old Warty’ is looking lovely in the garden this week. We love the palm-like form in the summer garden, but selected this clone because it produces more leaf bulbils than any other clone we’ve ever seen. The bulbils, which resemble giant warts, form in late summer in the leaf axils on the top of the leaf. A typical clone of Amorphophallus bulbifer may have from 3-8 bulbils, while A. ‘Old Warty’ usually produces dozens per leaf.
Each bulbil, which is a clone of the original, can be planted after it detaches from the leaf, and will begin growing the following spring. We had so many bulbils one fall, that we gave them out to trick-or-treaters one Halloween, but strangely, those recipients never again returned for more treats- obviously, they weren’t horticulturally inclined. We did tell them not so consume them…honest.
The spring pink flowers have no discernable fragrance, unlike many of the other species of amorphophallus. These have been winter hardy here in Zone 7b for at least three decades, where they thrive in well-drained woodland soils. We will have these available again next year.
More lycoris continue to open every day. Their flowering season coincides quite close with the hurricane season. These amazing amaryllids pop up almost overnight, sans foliage. If you’re curious to take a deep dive into the genus, check out our lycoris study gallery
Lycoris chinensis is a spring-leaf species from China.
Lycoris longituba is the tallest species with the largest flower. It is typically white, but can come in yellow and pink. Anything other than white is quite rare.
Lycoris x incarnata ‘Peppermint’ is a hybrid of Lycoris longituba x Lycoris sprengeri. This is an exceptional plant as you can see below.
Lycoris x longitosea is a hybrid of Lycoris x incarnata and Lycoris radiata. This is an extraordinarily rare hybrid.
Lycoris x sprengensis is a group of hybrids between Lycoris sprengeri and Lycoris chinensis, both spring-leaf species. This is an old, but impossible to find hybrid from the late Sam Caldwell.
Lycoris ‘Summer Moon’ is a yet to be introduced hybrid from lycoris breeder Phil Adams of the same cross above.
Lycoris ‘Matsuribune’ is a hybrid from the late Mr. Komoriya of Japan, who crossed Lycoris sanguinea and Lycoris sprengeri. We can’t really grow the orange flowered L. sanguinea due to our summer heat, but this hybrid excels.
Lycoris ‘Yoimachi’ is another cross with the same parentage above, also from the late Mr. Komoriya.
Lycoris ‘Gennen’ is an exceptional Komoriya hybrid, resulting from a cross of Lycoris radiata x Lycoris chinensis.
Many gardeners grow hardy aroids in their garden, ranging from the tiny arisarum to the giant amorphophallus, but few folks have tried members of the genus, Taccarum (tacky-arum). Taccarum is a small genus of only six species, all native to South America. As a nice addition, the flowers have no detectable fragrance.
In our trials, the star of the genus is Taccarum caudatum, a native to Bolivia, Peru, and Northern Brazil. From that region, there should be little possibility of winter hardiness here in Zone 7b, yet after more than a decade in the ground, they don’t just survive—they multiply and thrive.
In most locations we’ve planted them, they top out at 3′ tall, but several clumps we planted at the base of a large pine have now reached 6′ in height. We’ve named the hardy clone we grow, Taccarum caudatum ‘Eruption’.
Through the years, we’ve trialed 27 different clones of Amorphophallus krausei in the garden for winter hardiness, but only two have consistently survived. The largest is a 2005 Alan Galloway collection from from Son La, Vietnam. Here it is in the garden this week with the 5′ tall flower spikes. The spikes are followed by 7′ tall leaf petioles, making this the tallest winter hardy amorphophallus we’ve encountered. We working to get this amazing giant propagated.
It’s that time of year, when the surprise lilies, Lycoris, that we have scattered throughout the garden begin to pop. Actually, due to our early summer rains, they began popping in early July this year, 2-3 weeks ahead of normal.
Surprise lilies are divided into two groups, based on when their leaves emerge….fall (October) or late winter to early spring (March). Those with fall emerging foliage are generally not winter hardy north of Zone 7a, while those with late winter to early spring emerging foliage can usually tolerate temperatures of Zone 4/5.
Here are a few recent images from the garden from our world-renown collection of 1,090 different selected clones. The spring-foliaged hybrid, Lycoris x squamigera is the most popular clone, and be seen in gardens from Minnesota south.
Lycoris x incarnata ‘Blue Queen’ is another spring-foliaged hybrid that’s yet to hit the market.
Lycoris x straminea ‘Caldwell’s Original’ is a hybrid of the late Sam Caldwell, who is one of the first breeders who devoted his life to understanding the genus Lycoris. This is a fall-foliage emerging hybrid.
We’ve been fascinated with the African genus of bulbs, Ledebouria for many years, and one of our best successes has been the South African Ledebouria ovalifolia, which has thrived outdoors in our garden
In 2015, we spotted a single streak of variegation on one leaf. After eight years of work, we have isolated that original streak into a stable edged pattern as you can see below in our newly named, Ledebouria ovalifolia ‘Rainbow’s End’. Since it’s only managed three divisions in eight years, we’ll be experimenting with some other propagation techniques.
For baseball fans, you know the Say Hey Kid as the great Willy Mays, but in horticutlure, we have a Say Hey Kid also, Arisaema sahyadricum (say-hey-dricum). This little grown, Jack-in-the-Pulpit hails from India, where it was just discovered in 1993. Compared to most jacks that flower in the spring, this is a summer flowering species. Our plant has thrived in open, dry shade since 2014.
Through the years, we’ve trialed over 130 different agapanthus species and cultivars. One we currently have on trial that has us in love is Agapanthus ‘Quink Drops’. Not only are the buds near black and the flowers dark blue, but the sturdy flower stalks have reached 5′ tall. This is unquestionably the tallest agapanthus we’ve ever grown–a welcome contrast to all the overly short new introductions. This English selection from nurseryman Graham Gough, is named after a cough drop. Later this year, we’ll be chopping up our only clump to start the propagation process.
In July 2018, we flowered our first Titan Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus titanum. Our plant was # 594 to flower in its entire history of cultivation. Since that time, another 141 have flowered worldwide, bringing the total number to 735. If you’d like to see who else has flowered these amazing giants, here is our complete list, along with some great corpse flower trivia.
So, what makes these plants so amazing? The obvious answer is size and fragrance. Amorphophallus titanum is actually an endangered plant in the wilds of Sumatra. The tuber must grow quite large to have enough energy to flower, which is why flowerings are so rare. Also, it’s a bit oversized for most homes and apartments. While they aren’t hard to grow for keen gardeners, they are a bit exacting in growing requirements, so these should only be attempted by very keen gardeners..
If you aren’t familiar with the memorable fragrance of the Titan Arum, check out my favorite video on the subject.
In 2018, we pollinated ‘Peter Grande’, but as often happens, it died due to complications in childbirth. While many folks have tried to use other pollen to cross-breed using Amorphophallus titanum as the pod parent, most attempts were met with failure. A few people were able to set seed with pollen from another A. titanum, but most attempted crosses self-destruct. Reportedly, there is a hybrid of A. titanum x konjac from a 2017 cross, but we are still waiting to see it flower. That’s the same cross we attempted in 2018, with no luck.
The pollen from A. titanum does, however, work well when used on other species. The most famous of which is Amorphophallus ‘John Tan’, a cross of A. variabilis x titanum, which happened to have just flowered for us last week.
This years plant, Amorphophallus titanum ‘Homo Erectus’ is one we inherited with the passing of our dear friend, and amorphophallus guru, Alan Galloway. Alan’s plant is one that we originally grew here from seed.
This year, folks in the Triangle region of NC have a real treat in store as we have our first area Clash of the Titans – two Titan arums flowering; one at the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State, and the other here at JLBG. Based on our calculations, the Raulston plant, named ‘Wolfgang’ should open between June 21 and 22. Our JLBG plant has an expected opening date between June 30 and July 4.
Below is JCRA’s plant on June 12, 2023.
As of June 12, our Titan Corpse Flower is about 10 days behind the JCRA plant.
So far, JLBG owns the regional record for height at 77″, only a shy 1″ over the 2016 flowering of ‘Lupin’ at NC State. Let’s see if the title for the tallest inflorescence is broken in this epic Clash of the Titans.
As we get a bit closer to flowering time, we’ll announce when we will be open for the public to visit and get a whiff.
As we mentioned in a recent blog, we have a ridiculously large collection of Crinum lily cultivars and species. Despite this, we’re always making new crosses in our goal to improve the quality of plants available. Despite their being nearly 1,000 named crinums, there is still dramatic room for improvement. Below is one of our seedlings, which we named last year (Crinum ‘Americana’), erupting in a blaze of glory last week. Most crinum lilies flower for a period of 1-2 months with little to no care, so there’s good value for the space taken. Since the bulbs are so large, it will usually take years to produce and propagate enough of a new introduction to share with the public.
The US native (Maine south to Alabama) Lilium canadense is looking quite lovely in the sunny garden this week. This particular form is from Cabarrus County, NC. Hardiness Zone 3a-8b.
Here are a few of our favorite hardy Hippeastrums flowering in the garden this week. Many gardeners incorrectly know these South American bulbs as Amaryllis, which is an entirely different genus of two species of South African bulbs, which do not thrive here. Hardiness is Zone 7b-10b.
Flowering in the garden in late April were an array of amazing Alliums. The top image is Allium ‘Ambassador’, a hybrid of Allium stipitatum x giganteum. This sterile gem is a 2005 release from the breeders at Hollands’ Fa. A. Langedijk.
Below that is the smaller Allium drummondii, a native to the prairies from South Dakota to Texas.
The spring garden at JLBG has a number of phallic moments if you’re lucky enough to catch them. Here are a few of our favorites. Below is a color echo we created, using Pig’s Butt Arum (Helicodiceros muscivorus) and Salvia x nemorosa. We’re sure you’ll want to recommend this combination for everyone in your HOA.
It’s cousin, Dracunculus vulgaris has also been putting on a show recently. Although the typical red maroon-flowered forms won’t flower for another week or two, the rare white-flowered forms, native only to a small region of Crete, are stunning now.
Dracunculus ‘Spring Bling’ is an Alan Galloway hybrid with a creamy spathe, with a blush purple flush, and black spadix.
Below is another of Alan’s crosses that we’ve named Dracunculus ‘White Tux’ with a stunning white spathe and contrasting black spadix.
Dracunculus ‘White Rhino’ is the most vigorous of all the white-flowered clones we grow. This is yet another Alan Galloway selection, rescued from Alan’s garden, after he passed away at the all too early age of 60 years.
A few years before Alan passed, we were chatting one day about crazy plant breeding projects, and Alan mentioned that he was going to try crossing Arum with Helicodiceros. I told him I suspected he might have better luck crossing Helicodiceros with Dracunculus, since they intuitively seemed to be a better match. He mentioned that both would be in flower in his garden shortly, so he’d be on the case.
Thanks to Alan’s meticulous breeding work, the cross was successful, and three seed eventually germinated. For several years, the foliage of the seedlings looked so similar to Helicodicerous, we both assumed that it was not actually a hybrid. Finally, the year prior to his death, the first of the three seedlings finally flowered, and indeed, he had been successful in creating a bi-generic hybrid, x Helicunculus gallowayii. The foliage, spadix surface appearance, and the flower orientation resembles Helicodiceros. The spathe and spadix are both much longer, the color is more intense and the spathe much more wavy and canoe-shaped, thanks to the Dracunculus parent.
All three seedlings were rescued, but so far, only the original clone has flowered. This week, as it opened, we are once again reminded of Alan’s amazing contributions to the horticultural world, with the flowering of his namesake.
Looking absolutely lovely this week is one of our patches of the late-flowering Narcissus ‘Hawera’. We love these narrow-foliage types which remain looking good after the flowers have faded. Unlike many narcissus we grow, this one also doesn’t require regular dividing to continue to flower well. Interestingly, this gem has been in commerce since at least 1928.
Flowering now in the garden is the stately Japanese jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema serratum var. mayebarae. This is one of many regional ecotypes of the large Arisaema serratum complex, which some authors designate at the species level. This 3′ tall specimen is always an eye-catcher. Hardiness is Zone 5b-8b.
Flowering for the last week in the garden is the lovely winter iris, Iris reticulata ‘Painted Lady’. Iris reticulata is unusual in that it has bulbs instead of rhizomes. In the wild, it calls home the dry regions from Turkey to Iran. These spring ephemeral iris go to sleep for the year by late spring/early summer. Hardiness is Zone 5a-8b, at least.
Galanthophila, an obsession with snowdrops of the genus Galanthus, is spreading almost as fast as COVID did through both Europe and North America. While we love and value galanthus for their flowering in the winter garden, we’ve yet to take the plunge into full-fledged galanthophilia, which results in people sacrificing meals to have the latest new name in snowdrops for their garden. For serious galanthophiles, it’s not unusual to pay from $100 to $10,000 to have the latest, greatest selections. Although there isn’t a cure, the 12-step program seems to be able to help some gardeners keep this addiction in remission.
Here are a couple of specimens that are looking quite nice in the garden this week. Galanthus ‘Viridapice’ has been around since the 1920s, while Galanthus ‘Beth Chatto’ dates from the 1960s. Despite their advanced age, these gems have stood the test of time. All galanthus will go dormant in late spring.
Flowering recently in our heated greenhouse was the little-known Paramongaia weberbaureri. This fascinating bulb, native to Coastal Chile at 10,000′ elevation, is a distantly evolved cousin of our native spider lilies, the genus Hymenocallis.
We typically don’t grow many non-hardy plants, but are interested to see if it will hybridize with our native Hymenocallis, since another Andean native, Ismene amancaes, has been successfully hybridized with Hymenocallis in the past. As this is a winter-flowering species, we have collected and refrigerated the pollen while we await Hymenocallis flowers.
11 degrees F was a bit more than our clump of Massonia depressa had hoped for. Although the cold temperatures burned a bit of one leaf, it not only survived, but is now in full flower. That’s pretty amazing for a South African bulb that Wikipedia authoritatively states “does not tolerate freezing temperatures”. Rock on!