Kniphofia adaptability again
Sat, 07 Feb 2004 16:17:43 PST
Jane, perhaps I didn't make myself clear - or perhaps I didn't address the
question directly.  With our winters, winter wet per se is not a
likelihood, as it's too cold for water to be liquid, and everything is
blanketed for 2 or 3 months with snow.  Our springs, however, are typically
cold and wet, and the kniphofias freeze and thaw in muddy soil for weeks on
end.  And they seem to thrive on that.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of hosting Rod and Rachel Saunders
when they did their NARGS speaking tour.  I mentioned to them that I was
surprised at how the K. caulescens tolerated freezing and thawing in the
at-that-season extremely wet ground, and Rod said something to the effect
that "it probably feels right at home - that's very like conditions in the
Drakensberg". And the more I've read (Codd's monograph, Pooley, etc), the
clearer it's become to me that these are plants of damp to wet soils, and
that those soils can indeed still be damp when temperatures fall below
freezing at night, even if they're much drier in winter than summer.

I keep hoping Rachel Saunders will jump into this discussion and straighten
us all out.  Rachel?

Ellen Hornig

Original Message:
From: Jane McGary
Date: Sat, 07 Feb 2004 10:54:53 -0800
Subject: [pbs] Kniphofia adaptability again

Ellen Hornig notes that Kniphofia species may be more susceptible to wet 
cold than to plain cold, and I think this is right to some extent. However, 
I also grow a number of species in this genus here in northwestern Oregon 
in the foothills of the Cascades, where winters are very wet indeed and 
also cold (near or below freezing most nights between mid-November and 
April). Even K. northiae, a peculiar species that resembles an Agave in 
foliage form and has a huge but rather unattractive flower, has persisted 
here for a long time in rather poor soil on a hillside.

On the other hand, I have not found some of the named hybrids from England 
to tolerate winters here, especially the widely sold small light yellow 
whose name escapes me at the moment. To get tolerant border kniphofias, I 
started with a packet of "dwarf hybrid" seeds about 16 years ago. I took 
seed from plants that survived the famous Pacific deep freeze of 1990-91 
and grew on a lot of seedlings from them. From these I selected one 
moderate-sized plant with bronze stems, narrow evergreen foliage, and clear 
yellow flowers. I have a planting of it in the garden now that does well 
every year, and have given divisions to a few people; I think one nursery 
was selling it for a while. It's not necessarily a better plant than other 
selections, but it's better for this particular climate. Anyone who has 
room to trial a batch of seedlings can perform the same experiment, and I 
did not find it difficult to get rid of the clones I didn't want (though 
it's pretty strenuous to dig up a full-grown kniphofia).

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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