Always wanted to fall for a princess

We are in love with the winter hardy princess lilies, and have been for quite a while. They have been in peak bloom for several weeks now, with no sign of slowing down. Here’s our oldest clump of Alstroemeria ‘Princess Fabiana’ this week. Shockingly, these have also been winter hardy for years in Western Michigan Zone 5b/6a. We think if more people knew how great these are in the garden, everyone would have them. Half day sun is best, although they will also be fine with slightly more or slightly less.

Alstroemeria ‘Princess Fabiana’

My ginger…your foliage is…wrong

I grew up as a child spending most of my time botanizing the woods from a ridiculously early age. One of the native plants I’ve known since my earliest adventures is Asarum arifolium, which was the most common wild ginger in our region. Over the last 60 years, I’ve undoubtedly seen tens of thousands of this species.

Asarum arifolium typical form in flower

I was fascinated by the variability in the amount of silver in the leaves, the contrast in the leaf pigmentation, the propensity to clump tightly or run, along with some slight variations in flower color and size. Below is a form that makes a particularly tight clump with good contrasting leaf markings. Despite the occasional solid green leaf forms, the one constant has always been the green leaf veins in between the silver blotching….until…

Asarum arifolium nice form of typical pattern

untill I found the oddball below in the woods north of Mobile, Alabama. In the middle of a patch of normal plants was one single individual with reversed leaf patterns…the leaves have a green base with silver veins. I certainly know the pattern, which is typical of several other native asarum species (minus, heterophyllum, lewisii, harperi, shuttleworthii, etc.), but this pattern simply isn’t allowed in Asarum arifolium. We watched impatiently as our plant first flowered, thinking it must be some odd hybrid, but the flowers told a different story…pure Asarum arifolium. We even grew a crop from seed to discover that 50% of the offspring had this same reverse pattern. As we chatted with other botanists about our find, we’ve discovered two other folks who have also found similar individuals, so these “off the bell curve” forms are out there, albeit quite rare.

Asarum arifolium ‘Stained Glass’ (abi-normal form)

Striptease in the Succulents

Agave x striphantha ‘Striptease’ is a JLBG creation from a 2013 cross of Agave striata and Agave lophantha. Both parents are 30 year survivors here in the garden, so we wanted to see what a combination of genes looked like. Also, Agave striata is the only hardy agave species, whose main crown doesn’t die after flowering. So far, this gem is 3′ wide, and like the Agave striata parent, it offsets from the crown and doesn’t sucker like Agave lophantha. It’s looking like a flower spike may be imminent, so perhaps we’ll have our flowering question answered soon.

Bruce and his conifers

We recently visited conifer collector Bruce Appeldoorn at his nursery in the tiny town of Bostic, west of Charlotte, NC. Not only are the gardens amazing, but Bruce has transitioned from his career in landscape design/installation, to an amazing dwarf conifer nursery. He now sits atop the throne, having what is almost certainly the top conifer nursery in the Southeast US. Most everything is propagated here from either cuttings or grafting. He is part of a small contingent of regional broom hunters, who seek out and graft dwarf witches broom mutations from area pine trees. You can find out more about how to visit or order here.

Another Giant Monster

A few years ago, we introduced one of our Japanese painted fern sporlings of particularly giant proportions as Athyrium ‘Godzilla’. Recently, we found ourselves in search of another giant monster name for our new hybrid of Osmunda regalis (US) and Osmunda japonica (Japan). We settled on Osmunda x japalis ‘King Kong’ for this 7′ tall giant that we hope to one day share with gardeners around the world. For now, however, it remains a single, rather impressive clump in the gardens here at JLBG.

Swamp Thing

We just snapped this photo of our 2006 Hosta introduction, H. ‘Swamp Thing’, looking quite divine. Sadly, this was one of those plants that just didn’t sell well, which is a shame, since we think it’s one of our best hosta introductions in terms of both vigor, and visual interest. We named it after the Creature from the Black Lagoon, since the foliage is so shiny, it looks like it just emerged from being under water. Hard to figure out the buying public sometimes.

Keeping up the Spirit

In 2009, we first planted the Tom Ranney (NC State) introduction of Hydrangea ‘Spirit’..his creation of a pink-flowered selection of the usually white-flowered NC native Hydrangea arborescens. Here it is today, twelve years later and still looking superb in the gardens at JLBG. Over $1 million dollars from the sale of this plant has been donated to breast cancer research. What a lovely plant and lovely story!

Flaming Buckeye

We saw this amazingly colored buckeye (Aesculus pavia) on a recent visit to the NC Arboretum in Asheville. I’ve seen countless individuals of this species, both in the wild and in gardens and have never seen a color like this. We have encouraged them to get this grafted and introduced.

Ammocharis…the neglected amaryllid

Since we don’t have an open house in June, I wanted to share photos of Ammocharis corranica in flower now. This easy-to-grow amaryllid has thrived in the gardens at JLBG since 2004. First cousin to the better known genera like amaryllis, crinum, and lycoris, the South African ammocharis makes a very short, but incredibly showy bulb for a sunny garden spot.

Michaux and Michauxia

Most keen botanist are familiar with the late French botanist, Andre’ Michaux (1746-1802). Michaux was a pioneer in botanizing North America, but how many people have actually grown the plant genus named in his honor. Michauxia is a genus of seven species, sister to campanulas, that hail from the Mediterranean though much of the Middle-East. We are fortunate to have his namesake, Michauxia campanuloides in flower this week for the first time, where it is thriving in the crevice garden.