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Topics - illahe

 I'm posting up a project that may be of interest to those that have been participating in the Greenhouse Heating discussions. 

I recently began construction on a Climate Battery Design to heat a greenhouse that will be used mostly for propagation, but if all works well to help overwinter a collection of tender bulbs as well. You can read a lot more about the project and see pictures of the project underway at the blog: illahe climate battery greenhouse construction

I'll summarize the design here, often called 'Poor Mans Geothermal' the concept relies on buried pipes to move air into the relatively stable soil temperatures underneath the greenhouse. Then to recirculate the air into the greenhouse to either cool or heat it depending on the ambient air temperature. These designs have been widely researched and implemented in the American mid-west where they are often used to grow vegetables year around despite often frigid winter temperatures. I can't find much on the construction or use in the Pacific Northwest, but if anyone on here has any first hand experience I would love to hear it, I may be breaking new ground (no pun intended). 

The initial cost is in the cost of the pipe and the installation equipment involving a lot of digging, but the yearly operating costs are just the electricity to run the fans and thermostats that recirculate the air. I have seen some equations relating this cost of operation to that of the yearly cost to operate a household refrigerator. With the rising costs of gas heating for winter and the water scarcity issues that plague the often used evaporative cooling for summer, climate batteries may provide an eco-friendly and cost effective solution.

In the initial digging phase of this project, the original design was to place the lateral pipes (4" perforated ADS running between 12" ADS manifolds with riser pipes at either end of the greenhouse) down about 4' but we ran into groundwater so had to raise them up to just above it at around 3.5' deep. Measurements showed the soil temperature to be 51 degrees at that depth despite the air temps in the high 20's to low 30's. Some research showed that in Western Oregon, the soil temps usually lag about 3 months behind the air temps. So the soil temps of late December are reflective of the warmer temps of Autumn. Pumping this 20 degree temperature difference through the greenhouse has the potential to raise the temperature significantly. Most of the bulbs I grow are quite hardy and the goal is not to grow vegetables year around but maintain a greenhouse just above freezing if possible with as little energy inputs as possible. The benefit in the summer is the cooler soil temperatures can then be used to cool the greenhouse and since I grow a lot of alpine plants as well as bulbs I'm hoping this offset to be particularly useful. 

Climate batteries are probably not the easiest design to retrofit into an existing greenhouse, but if you are building a new one it's a design to consider if your soil/conditions allow for it. I'm also doing a lot of research into the new modern phase change liquids and tiles that are coming onto the market, Hoping to implement these in addition to the climate battery design.  PCM tiles allow the ability to store massive amounts of a days heat in the greenhouse and then release it back slowly into the greenhouse as temperatures cool at night. You can read about those here: Phase Change tiles for greenhouse heating/cooling

Attached are a couple of pics, but in addition to the blog mentioned above where you can follow this project, i'm also posting updates on the instagram at illahe_rare_plants.


General Discussion / Mychorrizae for bulb production
September 12, 2023, 05:28:52 PM
Hello bulb growers, 

Some months ago I posted about finding a source for water soluble mychorrizae after reading some articles on how it greatly increased bulb offsetting and flower production in Crocus sativus. 

Well, here is a bit of an update, since I was able to locate what I think is a great product. I started using this on all the bulbs: Mycoapply soluble maxx mychorrhizae

I have a few results to report, This year during harvest I found that the roots of some species, especially Fritillaria were massive compared to previous years. Normally as the bulbs senesce the seasonal roots do the same and I'm left with really very little matter to deal with and the bulbs normally pot right out of the flats or pots that I grow them in. This year, despite being dried down thoroughly, the roots were thick and still very much present. I would say that is easily 10-20 times the root growth I normally see on Fritillaria at harvest time. 

It's still anecdotal at this point, but I would say that observationally, the increased root growth did correlate to larger bulbs. Given this, I'm hoping to set up some real experiments, taking some before and after measurements, bulb weights and such with a control group. 

I do think it's worth playing around with and if you wonder why not just get some of the soil additive mychorrhizae that are very common. Since I repot in mid-late summer and the root growth doesn't always begin immediately the water soluble product allows me to inoculate when the roots are actively growing. Trust me i'm not a paid spokesperson, but I do like to share things that work and this has been a great product. There are probably others available, but for a commercial grower, I have found this to be a great value. I use it on the rock garden and alpine plants I grow as well. 

Salem, Oregon

General Discussion / New Erythronium Introductions
August 09, 2023, 09:00:34 AM
Hi All, 

I'm excited to let everyone know about two new Erythronium introductions that Diana Reeck has made available this year! The Illahe Rare Plants catalog should be out next week featuring these, but they are available in very limited quantities. I'm not sure how to add them to the PBS website but I think these two new offerings should be there as well as the her previous introductions of Erythronium 'Inner Glow', E. 'Pacific Sunset Strain' and E. 'Best in Show'

Here is a description and some pictures of these new introductions:

Erythronium 'Pacific Crest'
This hybrid has white petals with a bright yellow base and brownish red markings, similar to Erythronium 'Inner Glow', but on a much more compact plant. The stigma and the anthers are white on this one. The multiple flowers are smaller, on shorter, dark stems. The mid-green leaves have a very light brownish veining to them, and a nice wavy edge. There is a crispness to this plant that is hard to explain.  It is also a prolific increaser. 

Erythronium 'Madame Butterfly'
This one is an Erythronium hendersonii hybrid. The flowers are large, nicely spaced on dark stems. Long creamy white petals tinged lavender, over a yellow flash.  Traces of this coloration show through on the back of the flower.  The stigma and ovary are purple, and the pollen matures to brownish orange on long dangling anthers. The mid-green leaves have silver veining. It is the first to bloom here, with up to 4 flowers on tall stems.  It is a good increaser, producing multiple bulbs as it matures.  A mesmerizing show to start the Fawn Lily season!

You can read more about them at the Illahe Rare plants website:

If anyone can show me how to add them to the PBS site that would be great, these are some exciting new selections!

Hi All, 

I thought I would post this follow up to a winters post where I discussed attempts to get an apparently self infertile Asphodelus acaulis clone to set seed. Here is what I did:

1. Mixed 200 ppm solution Gibberellic acid (90%) dissolving the powder in a 1/4 oz of Everclear grain spirits. adding that to a water bottle with tap water (on a well, so no chlorine). I got the GA from an online source called Power Grown and followed the formula for 200ppm on the sheet they provide. 

2. I squirted all the flowers down with the solution and then used a soft bristled artist paint brush No. 2 size to dab pollen and GA solution. I think I talked about the fact that the anthers never seem to dehisce on my clone, so I really seemed to be just swabbing around GA solution at this point. 

3. I came back a few days later and noticed that the tepals of a lot of the flowers were twisting up really tight, so I unfurled a few of them and found seemingly very ripe pollen now available, so I squirted the flowers down again with GA and dabbed the now very obvious pollen grains on all the available stigmas. 

A few weeks later I saw actual seed pods developing at the end of the pedicels that curl down toward the soil like they want to plant them. Today I saw the pedicels starting to wither so I picked off a few of the pods (I got about 6 total seed pods from probably 28 flowers that I treated with between 1 and 6 seeds per pod). 

Attached are a picture of the flowers, a picture of the developing seed pods and if you look closely you can see a lot of the vacant pedicels that it normally produced and finally the pics of a few of the seeds, after removal from the fruit and I excised one and to be sure they have solid endosperm and look viable (although this remains to be seen).  

I thought some folks dealing with clones that won't set seed might find this interesting, research wasn't scientific enough to say if the gibberelic acid played a part in allowing fertilization or just caused the pollen to actually ripen perhaps, but I can say that I got seeds on a plant I have had for some years now that has never set seed so I'm calling it a success!

If anyone has germination tips on Asphodelus acaulis seed I would love to hear them!

Illahe Rare Plants
General Discussion / Bulb Soil Mixes and Fertility
March 06, 2023, 01:07:24 PM
Hi All,

I've been enjoying the discussion on the forum on Fertilization of bulbs in cool soils on the thread and forum. I thought I might put this little ditty up up on Soil Fertility as it might augment the discussion.

For years for my commercial bulb production mix I have used a mix of:
1 part Pumice
1 part composted cow manure (a local product sold in bulk called Moo Doo, from local dairy use)

I usually get these in separate parts and mix them together blending a bit more pumice for very dry loving species and a bit more composted cow manure for anything that wants to hold a bit more moisture. Nothing scientific about the additions, just based on some years of growing different species and seeing the response.

With some increasingly hot and dry summer weather, as well as a longer dry spell between rainfall here in the Northwest, a few years ago I started to add in a sandy loam topsoil to hold a bit more moisture (mostly for the dry season) so the mix is now generally:

1 part Pumice
1 part Composted Cow Manure (CCM)
1 part sandy loam topsoil

I have liked the results of this mix and I apply the same logic above with blending a bit more pumice for some things and a bit more CCM and sandy loam topsoil for a bit better moisture retention when necessary.

A few years ago I was working a day job at our County level Soil and Water Conservation District and was advising farmers on the importance of soil testing to better manage fertilizer applications to avoid excess nitrogen runoff into local streams. It occurred to me that I hadn't had my revised mix tested and had been following my general fertilizer regime of using a bloom based Cal/Mag water soluble fertilizer. So I actually bucked the old adage "Do as I say not as I do" and had my bulb mix tested.

Here are the results:

[url=";attach=3096;type=preview;file"]bulb mix soil test.pdf[/url]

I have been having good results with this mix and the test results were a bit eye opening when I actually had it looked at by a lab. I had always assumed I had a pretty high nitrogen source with the composted cow manure and that wasn't actually the case. The pH is maybe a bit high, but honestly the Calcium level was great and most of the macro and minors are in good numbers for most bulbs. I've always thought the sodium level was going to be a problem, but I had already been using this mix for several growing seasons by the time I decided to have it tested and have never seen any issues with salt toxicity.

I talked a bit about the fertilizer regime I now use on the email thread, but I think this is a good follow up to that discussion that it can be really beneficial to have your soil tested so you know what base levels you are starting with. The last few years the ag community has seen fertilizer prices double and even triple, so it can be quite beneficial to have your soil mix tested and tweak the fertilizer usage from there to save some money. I had my garden bed soils tested at the same time as the bulb mix and I think I paid less than $100 for both samples. You can often shop around and find cheaper options if you have multiple soil labs in your area. Collecting and sending a sample in is easy and they will give you instructions on exactly what to do.

Hopefully this may be helpful to someone,

All the best,

Mark Akimoff
General Discussion / Asphodelus acaulis pollen?
February 22, 2023, 01:55:14 PM

Does anyone grow Asphodelus acaulis that sets seed? I have a division that is flowering nicely originally from Jane McGary. It doesn't set seed, despite a few attempts at hand pollination, even resorting to a cut stump treatment of the style. The clone I have seems to dehisce very little pollen, as if it never matures. 

If anyone has a flowering specimen and is willing to send some pollen I have bulbs to trade!

Mark Akimoff
illahe rare plants
Salem, OregonIMG_9836[1].jpg
General Discussion / Mychorrizae for bulb production
January 30, 2023, 09:26:47 AM
Hi All, 

I have been on a multiple year mission to grow saffron here in Western Oregon. I ran across this article some research I was doing:  Mychorrizae effects on saffron production   it shows a lot of benefits to adding arbuscular mychorrizae fungi to saffron. One of the most interesting takeaways was how it increased bulb offsetting. 

I have been a longtime fan of mychorrizae in soil mixes and even did quite a bit of experimenting with substituting it for rooting hormone in some difficult alpine plants with good success. 

I'm wondering if any of the growers on here have results from using mychorrizae they would like to share, I'm particularly interested in water soluble applications, as I have mostly done soil granular incorporations at this point.

Any genera it worked on, or didn't work on as well? 

Brands of choice? 

Other scholarly articles related to mychorrhizae and bulb production worth sharing?

All the best, 

Mark Akimoff
General Discussion / Botanical Latin naming question?
January 15, 2023, 09:38:11 AM
Hello All, 

I have a dainty little bloom opening now in the bulb house for the first time, It was from Vlastimil Pilous seed sown in 2019. This is the description that the seed came as: Colchicum zangezurum (Zangezur Mts., Armenia), spring. fls., very rare, dwarf.

Internet doesn't turn up much on this species, but does have this to say under Colchcicum freynii:
    Homotypic Synonyms
    Heterotypic Synonyms

    Can anyone explain the difference between a Heterotypic synonym and a Homotypic synonym? The recently published Colchicum guide lists C. zangezurum as a synonym of C. freynii and what I'm really wondering is when you get wild collected seed from a reputable source do you use the name you got it under or revert to the newest names. I keep thinking that the floras of the local area which I assume the local collector used, may do a better job of guiding folks in the future versus constant revisioning. 


    Hi folks, 

    I was cleaning out the bulb bins after the sales season and I thought I would share this picture of Fritillaria striata. These have been stored in a paper bag in well pump house since the end of July. I've found the pump house to be an ideal storage area for summer lifted bulbs. The pressure tank in the well house is 180 gallons, and filled with water pumped out of the ground at 270' deep so the large tank of cool water keeps the building relatively cool. The humidity can be controlled by keeping a flat of moist potting soil in the shed and these bulbs were stored without barely moist vermiculite which I often do for bulbs that are more prone to drying out. 

    General Discussion / Summer availability
    August 11, 2022, 12:55:04 PM
    Hi All,

    Just a note to let folks know the summer bulb availability list is online now, we ship dormant bulbs all over the world. Some great new Erythronium introductions are available this year.  I have also expanded into alpine and rock garden plants for folks interested in those.

    You can see the catalog at


    Mark Akimoff
    PBS member
    Illahe Rare Plants
    Salem, Oregon
    Mystery Bulbs / Can anyone identify this?
    June 30, 2022, 08:56:30 AM
    Hello all, 

    I recently got a stock of plants form a nursery closing down, they had a long running relationship with a friend in Italy who would send them bulbs. This is one of those, I assume it's of Mediterranean origin. 

    It has both the flower look of an Albuca and an Ornithogalum to me, they are robust plants as you can see from the foliage pictures. Blooming in June in Portland, Oregon. 

    Any idea's to help me narrow the search?

    Thank you!

    Mark Akimoff
    Mystery Bulbs / What is this?
    May 02, 2022, 06:33:14 PM
    Hi All, 
    Excited to be using the new forum! I got this in an exchange a few years ago, it blooms off and on all summer, seems to be hardy, flowers last a few days at the most, it sets dark black seeds in profusion. I was thinking maybe a Zephyranthes of some sort as I was collecting a lot of those at the time, but it does seem to have thicker, more succulent leaves than a lot of the other species I have?

    Would love it if someone recognizes it!

    Thank you,