Tropaeolum azureum et al.

Jim McKenney
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 10:29:32 PST
While working in the protected cold frame today I noticed an emerging sprout
on Tropaeolum azureum. Wow, am I HAPPY! This was planted in the fall of
2008, and this is the first appearance of the plant above ground since then.
The sprout is amazingly slender: it’s now about four or five inches long
above ground, seemingly black, and no thicker than sewing thread. Something
about it reminds me of the rachis of ferns of the genus Adiantum. 

The other Tropaeolum up now is T. brachyceras; this one is growing freely
and getting into everything nearby. So far the leaves of this one are tiny –
maybe a quarter of an inch across. 

Snails have discovered the Narcissus blooming in the frame and have ruined
the flowers of Narcissus (nominal) albidus foliosus.  This name albidus is
obviously wrong because the accepted usages of albidus refer to forms of
Narcissus pseudonarcissus or to the hybrid N. x incomparabilis according to
Kew World Checklist. The plant I’m writing about is one of the
white-flowered hoop petticoat sorts. The Kew list accepts Narcissus foliosus
(a Moroccan species) and N. cantabricus (southeastern Europe) but not N.
monophyllus; I have not yet figured out  which of these my plants represent
– and I have little confidence that I will ever really know with certainty.
But any little daffodil blooming in December is a pleasure. 

A white-flowered form of Narcissus tazetta is also blooming now: the scent
of these is wonderful. I've said it before and I'll say it again: until I
grew these in a cold frame, I was clueless about what wonderful plants they
are. Somewhere I read about (or maybe saw a picture) of a father and son
surrounded by blooming tazettas as they prayed in a mosque. Just a few of
these cut for the house can scent a still room. 

I’m installing a new cold frame today to hold the overflow of marginally
hardy plants. This cold frame will be beside my protected cold frame, but
because of limited space, it will not benefit so much from proximity to the
house wall and thus will not be so cozy. During the last several years I’ve
accumulated a number of borderline hardy winter growing aroids which need a
lot of space. Last year I planted a row of them (all small plants at the
time) in the protected frame. They are thriving mightily, and now take up
too much space. I won’t attempt to move these now, but next summer they will
probably move next door into the less well protected frame. There are also
lots of other Arum and Biarum in small pots which will go into this new
frame today.  

My friend Alice grows a nice assortment of Arum in the open garden in her
garden which is about fifteen miles due south of here (and lower in
elevation). This fall she had nice bloom on Arum pictum. My Arum pictum
(from Jane) is progressing nicely, but I don’t expect it to survive in the
open garden here. 

Narcissus serotinus set a nice capsule of seed. Wouldn’t you know it:
something nipped the capsule off as it was developing. I found it on the
ground weeks ago; lucky for me, it ripened lots of seemingly good seed (I
let it fall where the capsule opened) and now I’m curious to see when it

Oxalis ‘Ken Aslet’ and O. ‘Garnet’ still persist in the protected cold
frame: they are in the ground, not confined to pots. They have not wandered
much from their original sites. ‘Garnet’ emerges with olive green leaves
with a purple cast; they  do not color up until later (if then).  These
probably need more light that they get. 

Until this year I’ve grown Notholirion thomsonianum in a pot. This year it’s
in the ground (still in the protected cold frame), its roots free to wander.
It looks bigger and lustier this year – it would be nice to see it in bloom.

Moraea polyanthos is in lively growth in the protected frame, but there is
no sign of bloom. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where it might get up near 60 degrees F today. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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