Escallonia in NC

One of the nice surprises after our 11 degree F freeze was how well our Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ fared. Few people on the US East Coast are familiar with these South American woody members of the Escalloniaceae family.

Escallonia ‘Iveyi’ is actually a hybrid that originated at the UK’s Caerhays Castle, where it was discovered as a seedling between Escallonia rosea and Escallonia rubra. Our plant should mature at 10′ x 10′. In mid summer, this amazing selection is smothered in fragrant white flowers.

All the literature we’d been able to find, indicates it is only hardy to 14 degrees, but that’s another reason we don’t let our plants read gardening books or browse the Internet. Our plant was grown from cuttings from an old specimen at the SC Botanical Garden in Clemson.

Image of Escallonia 'Iveyi'
Escallonia ‘Iveyi’

Anchors Away

I’m going to go out and a limb and guess that few people grow Colletia paradoxa…commonly known as anchor plant. Colletia was named to honor French botanist Philibert Collet (1643-1718). I’m not quite sure what we find so fascinating about this botanical oddity, but something causes us to be drawn to a plant with large spines, no leaves and a terrible form. Perhaps it’s the lightly fragrant winter flowers that are just beginning.

Colletia paradoxa hails from scrubby dry hillsides in Southern Brazil and Uruguary, which have yielded so many amazing, well-performing plants for our Zone 7b climate. Bright sun and a baking dry site are the keys to success. Instead of producing leaves, Colletia is clothed with triangular cladodes, similar to plants in the genus Ruscus. Colletia is not related to Ruscus, however, but instead is a member of the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae. Because colletia is native to nutritionally poor soils, it evolved to fix nitrogen, which is more common in the legume family.

Colletia paradoxa produces triangular shaped cladodes rather than true leaves.
Colletia paradoxa
Colletia in flower in the winter garden. The white flowers are lightly fragrant.
Colletia paradoxa

Bifid Rhodophiala

The genus rhodophiala is in a state of flux. Some taxonomists believe the genus actually doesn’t exist and should be merged with rain lilies, while others consider it a perfectly valid genus with 27 species. Oh, the joys of taxonomy. To most gardeners, the genus rhodophiala are simply dwarf hippeastrum (horticultural amaryllis), the most commonly grown of which is the South American Rhodophiala bifida, which ranges natively from Southern Brazil into adjacent Argentina.

Rhodophiala bifida starts flowering for us in mid-August, alongside the emerging foliage. Most Rhodophiala on the market are the clonal Rhodophiala bifida ‘Hill Country Red’, brought to the US by German born Texan botanist, Peter Henry Oberwetter circa 1890. This clone is virtually sterile when grown alone, but will produce viable seed when grown adjacent to another clone.

Below is the clone ‘Hill Country Red’, followed by some of our selected seedlings, all photographed here at JLBG over the last couple of weeks. The best conditions are full sun to light filtered shade, and average moisture to dry soil.

A flowering clump of Rhodophiala bifida 'Hill Country Red'
Rhodophiala bifida ‘Hill Country Red’

Rhodophiala bifida ‘Harry Hay’ seems to be the only named clonal selection grown in the UK. We imported this during our 2020 UK trip.

Close up of Rhodophiala bifida 'Harry Hay'
Rhodophiala bifida ‘Harry Hay’

Rhodophiala bifida ‘Carmencita’ is our first named introduction, released in 2017.

Rhodophiala bifida 'Carmencita' in our crevice garden
Rhodophiala bifida ‘Carmencita’

Rhodophiala ‘Red Waves’ is our 2nd named selection, not yet introduced

Close up pic of Rhodophiala bifida 'Red Waves'
Rhodophiala bifida ‘Red Waves’

The rest of the clones below are our selected seedlings still under evaluation

Rhodophiala bifida JLBG-018 in the trial gardens
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG-018
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG-017 in the trial gardens
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG-017
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-14 in the JLBG/PDN trial garden
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-14
Close up of Rhodophiala bifida JLBG20-07 in the trial garden
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG20-07
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-003 in trial garden
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-003
Close up of Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-06
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-06
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG19-02
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG19-02
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-08
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG13-08
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-04
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-04
Close up of Rhodophiala bifida var. granatifolia
Rhodophiala bifida var. granatifolia
Close up of Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-16
Rhodophiala bifida JLBG21-16

Below are two fascinating plants from our breeding. The first is a cross of Rhodophiala bifida x Lycoris longituba. In theory, this bi-generic cross shouldn’t work, but the flower arrangement sure resembles a lycoris more than a rhodophiala.

Rhodophiala bifida x Lycoris longituba
Rhodophiala bifida x Lycoris longituba

This cross is of Rhodophiala bifida x Sprekelia formosissima is another impossible bi-generic cross. Notice the three petals are one size, and the other three petals are larger. We’ve never heard of this happening in rhodophiala, so perhaps we’re on to something.

Rhodophiala bifida x Sprekelia formosissima
Rhodophiala bifida x Sprekelia formosissima

The only other Rhodophiala species, which we’ve had any luck with is the Chilean Rhodophiala chilense. Below are two forms, both of which flowered this spring.

Rhodophiala chilense
Rhodophiala chilense
Rhodophiala chilense in the crevice garden
Rhodophiala chilense

Nectar tubes

We always look forward to late June with the patches of Sinningia tubiflora burst into flower. This rhizomatous perennial, first cousin to African Violets’, is rock hardy to 0 degrees F. This South American native (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) forms a dense deciduous groundcover, topped with these long-tubbed, honeysuckle-fragranced flowers that attract nocturnal moths with a really long proboscis.

Rolfing in the Garden

Starting in late winter, the amazing blue-flowered South American Ipheion ‘Rolf Fiedler’ begins its stunning floral show in the garden. This rare native, which has only been found on the top of two hills in Uruguay, has yet to be formally assigned a confirmed species name, although some botanist believe it to be Ipheion peregrinans. Growing much lower to the ground than it’s South American cousin, Ipheion uniflorum, this un-named species spreads nicely in dry soils, either in full or part sun.

If you’re taxonomically inclined, the entire Genus ipheion has been bounced back and forth between a series of other genera for the last century, so we’re waiting for the taxonomic dust to settle before changing tags. Ipheion has previously been included in a number of other genera including Beauverdia, Brodiaea, Hookera, Leucocoryne, Milla, Nothoscordum, Tristagma, and Triteleia. Not only is the genus in question, but ipheion has now been moved from the onion family (Alliaceae), where it resided for a century to the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae).

For now, we’re just enjoying “rolfing” in the garden.

Goin tubing in the garden

We’ve got a different take on going tubing. For us, tubing is something we do, starting in mid-June each summer, when we sit and enjoy our patch of Sinningia tubiflora. This amazing South American (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) gesneriad (African violet cousin) forms masses of underground potato-like tubers, which produce these amazing stalks of sweetly fragrant flowers for months each summer. These are reportedly pollinated by sphinx months. Sinningia tubiflora is insanely drought resistant and so easy to grow if given enough sun. Since it forms a large mass, don’t plant it near smaller, less-aggressive neighbors.