Jane McGary
Fri, 25 Apr 2003 12:11:04 PDT
Mary Sue mentioned Tropaeolum azureum, T. brachyceras, T. tricolor, and T.

I saw T. azureum in the wild last fall growing up through tall shrubs in a
sheltered, deep canyon. In a couple of weeks I should be able to send
photos of it to the wiki, provided I can ever get all this new equipment
working together, since I've bought a scanner that can do slides. It was a
thrill to see this plant about which so much is written. I grew some
seedlings once from seed from the Scottish Rock Garden Club, but they
persisted only two years. That shows, however, that stored seed CAN germinate.

T. brachyceras is a favorite of mine. It is a small-scale species with
bright yellow flowers that start appearing here in January and are still
going. I have plants, grown from Watson's seed, in the bulb frame, where
they have no problems with winter temperatures down to 25 F/minus 4 C,
flowering right through the frosts.

Ernie O'Byrne mentioned David Hale's success growing T. incisum and T.
polyphyllum in half-barrels filled with a mixture of sand and coarse
pumice. David moves these into his garage for a few months in winter. A
photo he took of T. incisum in the wild appears in the current (Spring
2003) issue of the Rock Garden Quarterly. (Ernie and Marietta O'Byrne do
well with T. speciosum, a woodland species from moist regions.)

Regarding the habitat of T. incisum, it grows on open alpine slopes at mid
elevations (around 6-7000 feet) in the central Andes on both sides (Chile
and Argentina), getting some snow cover in winter but not very low
temperatures. It was just emerging when I was there last October. It does
get quite dry there in summer; I have seen the same place in January and
got some seed, but it did not germinate. I don't think it gets very hot
there, though. 

I saw T. tricolor in flower about 2000 feet lower down, and also in the
Coast Range. It tends to grow up through low shrubs and also on cacti --
which I suppose protect it from the ubiquitous goats. I grow it in my
frost-free solarium on a little trellis. It's the only one of these that is
widely available commercially.

I've also grown T. hookerianum, which has purple flowers, but it is not
doing well in the bulb frames; I think it's a bit too cold there for it,
though it has survived 4 years. 

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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