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To Orchard B, that design with the bricks sounds very interesting, would love to see a diagram if you ever stumble across a picture? I love to study the old designs, it seems to me often enough that we left behind some great innovations in the past. 

To CG100, I think 5' would be ideal here as well, but high groundwater where I'm at makes that an impossibility, fortunately enough we never get that cold here and from some studies I read from Oregon State University the soil remains fairly stable here once you get below 3'. One of the best studies I read, reported that as shallow as 12" had a temperature lag of  3 months behind the current. As mentioned above most of the American research into these ground source air geo thermal is done in the Midwest where they talk of depths of 6-9' to get below frost lines and into stable temps. 

It's an experiment for sure, hope to get the greenhouse up in the next couple of months and we will monitor over the next few years to see how it does. 

General Discussion / Re: Ferraria - Rust?
January 04, 2024, 09:14:11 AM
I have been growing Ferraria in Western Oregon's damp, cool winters for some years now and noticed something similar to what you describe. The growing tips of the first leaves to emerge almost always get hit with some sort of a fungal blight. It does look like rust, but also black mold and botrytis as well,  I have yet to send a sample in for a lab diagnosis. I do have a theory since it's always the first leaves to emerge, which for me here is often in October, followed shortly by Novembers wet and cold. I don't heat the bulb house at all so the South African collection is growing very much at the margins of cold survivability. I think the tips of the newest leaves are getting dieback and then getting a host of fungal pathogens decomposing them, rust, botrytis, etc. Often times they will grow out of it, and the older foliage is not affected as much as the tips. I have tried several different fungicides, even spraying as the new leaves emerge in the October to be pre-emtive about it and it seems to have no effect. Which leads me to believe it's actually a tip die back of the leaves that is then succumbing to a fungal pathogen and not the fungal pathogen as the root cause. Have a look at the picture attached and let me know if yours look similar?

I think the only "cure" would be a warmer, more controlled environment to harden the foliage off a bit better, when trying to grow Ferraria in cold, damp winter conditions. For now I cut the tips off after and live with some raggedly looking plants in hopes that I will get flowers. What is interesting is that I have only ever seen this on Ferraria and Watsonia,Gladiolus, Moraea, Babiana, Freesia and other marginally hardy South African winter growers in the same house and conditions are unaffected. I can't find much research on Ferraria pathogens, must not be an economically viable area of study.

General Plants and Gardening / Re: Greenhouse heating
December 30, 2023, 05:34:15 PM
Quote from: Robert_Parks on December 30, 2023, 11:02:05 AM
Quote from: illahe on December 30, 2023, 08:20:23 AMHi Peter,

Have you looked into these phase change tiles? They seem to offer a higher btu benefit than passive solar capture like water barrels in in a much smaller footprint. You could line a greenhouse bench or insulate a sun gathering wall with them. I'm hoping to give them a try in my new high efficiency climate battery greenhouse design i'm working on. link here: phase change tiles
Interesting! A quick browse shows relatively high temperature phase change, do they come in lower temperature ones for keeping a greenhouse over freezing? And what is the approximate price per 2'x2' panel?

It looks like they have a range of temperatures available, so maybe a lower temp pcm than the 72 degree they offer is available. I come up with around $19.44 for a 24" tile. I would love to see other brands/options, but it looks to be a pretty novel new concept being marketed for greenhouses. 

Hi Ron, 

I will definitely post up the the updates and the review when it's completed and in operation. 

General Plants and Gardening / Re: Greenhouse heating
December 30, 2023, 08:20:23 AM
Hi Peter, 

Have you looked into these phase change tiles? They seem to offer a higher btu benefit than passive solar capture like water barrels in in a much smaller footprint. You could line a greenhouse bench or insulate a sun gathering wall with them. I'm hoping to give them a try in my new high efficiency climate battery greenhouse design i'm working on. link here: phase change tiles

I have a few small kerosene heaters that can burn diesel and employ those if the temps look extreme enough. Considering a propane heater as well, but with the cost of propane it's going to be rough if we get a tough winter. Fortunately for the plants, this winter has been very mild so far with temps about 9 degrees above average for December. Unfortunately, it also means no snow in the mountains. 

 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.


Yes! I have for years harvested C. thomasii and C. cartwrightianus stigmas! Now I have some large production beds of C. sativus. I wrote a blog entry about C. cartwrightianus the other day: Wild Saffron

The drying is not as tricky as the online literature makes it seem. It is definitely time consuming, but well worth it in my opinion. I put a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet and set the oven to the lowest temp (mine will go to 170 deg) put the stigmas on the parchment, best if they aren't touching each other or piled up. Pin the door open and set the timer for 18 minutes. I check them after 10 minutes and give a little shake to turn them over. after they start to get a bit crunchy, I take them out and let them cool. They dry very quickly.  Then store in sealed jar and make Paella or lately, the most wonderful Portuguese fish stew called Caldeirada with saffron and our locally caught seabass, lingcod or halibut!

Pics attached of C. cartwrightianus ready to harvest, and a drying tray of stigmas ready to go into the oven. 


General Discussion / Re: Mychorrizae for bulb production
November 17, 2023, 07:44:08 AM
Very interesting! I will have to check out the Great White brand, that was exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping for. Just what has worked for people and what hasn't. I think it is easy to go down the snake oil route with so many different brands and products available. It's always nice to hear what has worked.

This week the temperatures are down in the 30's for lows and highs in the 50's, lot's of top growth is up on some of the winter growers and so I have been doing applications to the plants in growth. For what it is worth here is the description from the water soluble VAM that I use:
MycoApply® Ultrafine Endo/Ecto is a suspendable powder mycorrhizal inoculum consisting of 4 species of endomycorrhizal fungi and 7 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. Approximately 95% of the worlds plant species form symbiotic relationships with at least one of these types of symbiotic soil fungi. These beneficial fungi greatly increase the effective rooting area of plants, thereby enhancing plant growth, vigor, and tolerance of environmental extremes. MycoApply® Ultrafine Endo/Ecto is a concentrated, fine, suspendable material with a particle size less than 300 microns (will pass a #50 mesh screen) containing mycorrhizal propagules, which colonize roots and extend into the surrounding soil forming an essential link between plants and soil resources. Increasing the rooting area allows improved access to water and nutrients, promoting plant quality and crop performance.

I also grow in relatively small pots, which allows me to better control the drainage so I think it's even more important when the soil available nutrients are somewhat restricted. I especially like the statement that it helps with tolerance of environmental extremes, these last 5 years the environmental extremes have been getting more and more extreme! Hotter summers, colder/wetter winters.

Years ago I worked as a groundskeeper at the state run school for the blind, it was a 100 year old campus with many very old, and overgrown camellias and rhododendrons. Being a state school there was no budget for fertilizers or fungicides and many of the large shrubs had nutrient deficiencies and sooty mold. But I had a small tractor and tons of mature oak and ash leaves with which to make compost/leafmould. I convinced them to let me make a 50 gallon compost tea brewer. It was located in the back of the boiler room so had a nice warm temperature and I recirculated the water through a mesh bag filled with my homemade compost, suspended in a 5 gallon bucket at the top of the 50 gallon drum. After a day of running, I poured in a cup of unsulphured mollases and the next few days the brew became the most wonderful smelling blend of microbiology! I used an atv mounted sprayer to hose down the large camellia's and rhody's with the tea and in no time at all the sooty mold had disappeared and the shiny leaves, turned a nice dark green! It really does work but it takes some time to prepare.

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 / Re: Bulb sourcing
September 12, 2023, 05:14:47 PM
Hi Erin,

Not to be the bearer of more bad news, but in addition to the phytosanitary Jane mentioned, at least the Sternbergia mentioned is also CITES and subject to another whole slew of permits that are expensive and difficult to obtain.

I do ship bulbs to Canada with a phytosanitary if the aren't on the CITES list, but currently only have the Sternbergia in stock, which is CITES listed, check out the website at: illahe rare plants fall bulb list

You should also check out Oron Peri's wonderful list at:

All the best,

illahe rare plants
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 Peter, 

I recently added on to an existing raised bed to make a plunge, It's 3-2x12" tall.  I do second a few of the previous suggestions, mine is solid mostly because i'm in a frost pocket and a table would allow cold air underneath in the winter. The base soil is my old potting mix, which is mostly pumice and decomposed organic matter that drains very well and I haven't had any issues with a perched water table. The top 18" is sand. I've only had one drainage issue and that was following multiple days of hard freezing followed by heavy rains, until the frozen layer thawed out there was some standing water. This was in the late winter early spring season when everything in the frame seemed to appreciate it, but it did make me scratch my head for some ideas to solve the problem. I will be adding a cover to make this a true alpine frame before next winter. 

The design was very simple, butt joints with long lag screws and I also added some galvanized corner reinforcement, and 2x4's down the sides for reinforcement,  at the very bottom is a permeable ground cloth to keep rodents out. It's really just a big box.  Currently what they sell as pressure treated wood doesn't last very long at all, so I think your idea of a liner is a good one, but trapping water against an impermeable still could lead to rot. Lately I've been thinking about a simple plunge bed for putting into an existing alpine house and I think I would go buy one of those galvanized water feeder troughs they have at the farm stores, drill drainage holes and fill it with sand. 

MarkDryas octopetala-1.jpg
General Discussion / Re: Growth cycles of bulbs
June 29, 2023, 08:34:40 AM
Hi Paul, 

I can't really speak to the Tulips as I only grow a few of the species, but for your question on North American Fritillaria, I can recommend the book Bulbs of North America, published by the North American Rock Garden Society 2001. The chapter on Fritillaria discusses bulb offsetting of the American species. You may also find the chapter on Lilies useful. 

Hi Jan and Uli, 

Thanks! I was pretty excited by the success! I have tried the cut stump (style) method with some Fritillaria before when I was making a bunch of crosses as I have read it helps with incompatibility as well. I actually got the GA to use for seed germinating and in the research I ran across some papers on how it can help overcome self infertility. Of course everclear only comes in a big bottle, so I have several lifetimes worth with the dilution factor. I have read that some people pressure cook the GA to help it dissolve in water but for some reason to me that seemed like it might denature it. I'm curious about sowing it right away or waiting until I normally sow in the fall?

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