Posts Tagged 'naming'

Pelargonium sidoides (Hort.)

Pelargonium sidoides in my garden

Certainly a love-hate thing we’ve got going on with this plant right now. Growing endlessly and never ceasing to be in flower, it is almost boring in its consistency and certainly thuggish in its habit.  This South African native’s gray-green, leathery leaves with well-defined scalloped edges are attractive in their own right, but its the unusually dark colored flowers that seem to catch people’s attention – not actually ‘black’, but close enough for many who find the black flower mystique irresistible.

This plant makes a nice showing in our garden when it is not overwhelming anything surrounding it! It is approximately 4ft (1.3m) across right now (if only we weren’t also interesting in growing plants other than this one!). My standard procedure is the cut out the farthest reaching stems which tend to originate from underneath the shorter stems on top.  By cutting them as near to the center of the plant as possible, the cut stems are hidden by the shorter stems and foliage. Other than being a little untidy, the finished product looks remarkably normal.  It also is good to cut out some of the ‘bloomed out’ spikes, which continue to elongate as flower open and are spent, until they can’t seem to produce any more.

Sean Hogan, of Cistus Nursery in Oregon, who was once in charge of the South Africa section of the Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley, has always maintained that the plant we grow in our gardens under this name is actually a hybrid of P. sidoides and the closely related P. reniforme. The unceasing vigor of this garden plant would certainly seem to bear this out, but in spite of Sean’s insistence, I’ve never seen this hybrid documented.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe my eponymous friend is correct in his assertion of the hybrid status of this garden plant. But without any other authority to back this up, it is hard to convince others who are not as observant of the traits just discussed.

Other types of P. sidoides have been offered in our local trade at times, often with a much darker flower (typical of the true species), but they are never as vigorous as this guy. P. reniforme has a more pink flower, sometimes with darker markings – it is also occasionally offered (I’ve grown for a time and then suddenly died for no apparent reason).

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A tough, dependable fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia, Southern Sword Fern, at the De Young Museum in San FranciscoTough and dependable might seem unusual adjectives to use when describing a fern, but this guy’s adaptability is almost legendary. Because it can take such a large amount of abuse, it is often subjected to same, looking worse for wear by hanging on none-the-less.

Given half a chance, Nephrolepis cordifolia, Erect Sword Fern, will reward you with its handsome, 2-3ft (60-90cm) foliage and ask for little in return.

The upright nature of the fronds also makes a nice compliment with modern architecture (here it is against the wall of the new De Young Museum in San Francisco). I’ve often planted them en masse in rectilinear beds bordered by a patio or an impenetrable edging, which they fill over time.

There is a handsome cultivar called ‘Lemon Buttons’, whose leaflets are very short and almost round. Its overall height is shorter, reaching about 1ft (30cm). ‘Duffy’ is another dwarf cultivar.

An occasional topdressing of compost and trimming of older, untidy fronds will keep a patch of fernyness going strong year after year.

Curiously, the actual origin of this species is uncertain, and is considered ‘pantropical.’ This species is occasionally listed as invasive in wetter, more humid climates (but not recorded as invasive in summer dry mediterranean regions). In the US, it is specifically causing a problem in Hawaii, Florida, and southern counties of Georgia and Alabama, which is spreads rapidly, becoming intertwined or even displacing other understory plants. It is confused with the Florida native species, Nephrolepis exaltata, which it greatly resembles. Identification by laymen is easily made by examining the rhizomes – N. cordifolia has small, round tubers and its Floridian cousin does not.

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Cineraria maritima var. fairbairnianum

An illustration of this now extinct cultivar from New and Rare Beautiful Leaved Plants While doing some research on a group of gray leafed plants, I came upon this very old plate and text about an unusual (and now lost) cultivar of one of our most common garden plants. The title of this entry is the archaic name of this plant, which might be more familiar if given the genus/species of Senecio cineraria, but if this form had survived to today, it would now be more properly known as Jacobaea maritima ‘Fairbairnianum’.

New and Rare Beautiful Leaved Plants, by Shirley Hibberd, 1869, in which the above plate originally appeared, states:

    The “silver-frosted plant” of English gardens had but little celebrity in spite of its intrinsic beauty . . . Like many other hardy plants that are treated with contumely [abuse] because they happen to be cheap . . . The variety figured was raised by Mr. G. Fairbairn, head gardener to His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, Sion House. . . Its peculiarity is its clear golden yellow variegation – a most unusual occurrence in a plant of this kind.

I had long read brief references to the prior existence of this plant in various horticultural references, but this was the first time I’d ever seen a drawing of the variegation. It is interesting that the variegation was visible at all – most of the time, these leaves are covered with short, dense hairs, obscuring the color of the leaf itself. Some forms are more green on their surface (still white-tomentose on their undersides, as seems to the case in this rendering), especially on older leaves, so perhaps the variegation was only noticeable as a particular leaf became fully mature (I imagine that the center leaf of this print is more mature than the lower and smaller two on each side). The character of this unusual mutation is certainly very Victorian in character, so it no doubt made a stir during its lifetime. Very likely, when the reaction to Victorian excess cleared away its various stylistic flights of fancy, this unusual cultivar suffered the same fate.
Senecio cineraria by diemmarig on Flickr
But recently, I came across the following photo on Flickr. I’d never before seen a modern specimen of this plant mutate to a variegated form (this one became albino completely). Perhaps there is a chance that a variegated form of this common plant could again be found.

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The arrival of Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna)


Amaryllis belladonnas, August 2002, originally uploaded to flickr by amarguy.

These pink divas always seem to always arrive earlier than we thought they did in years past – perhaps because they always catch us unaware! And their incongruously candy pink color and sweet fragrance belie their tenacious toughness. Personally, I love how they signal the coming arrival of our mediterranean fall – what seems the start of the gardening year to me, when things ‘come back to life’ after our summer dormant period (the warmest and driest months of the year). Excitement builds as the skies tease at releasing some long awaited rainfall, and many plants seem to know of this impending arrival of a change in weather, starting to put on new buds, leaves, flowers. Fall/winter is certainly our growing season, and many species are rushing to get their seeds produced just in time for the start of the rainy seasons.

It’s all so exciting!

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Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Many years ago, I first happened upon Sedum rupestre growing happily in the garden of a bed & breakfast where my wife and I were staying. When I commented on how interesting the arched flower spikes were, the garden owner, who did not know the species name, encourage me to take a few pieces home.

At the time, I was growing Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’, a cultivar that looks very similar, so I was careful to plant this new introduction some distance from the other. Out of flower they are very hard to tell apart, and both have yellow flowers. It is the flower spikes themselves that makes identity easy (S. reflexum flower spikes are upright from start to finish).

Subsequently, we came to plant this golden form on S. rupestre in the raised planter you see here, topped with a rusty iron grate, the golden-green color making a nice contrast to the dark iron as well as the darker foliage all around. You can see the normal gray form of the species in the foreground. I was pleased to see the flowering this spring – a means to verify that ‘Angelina’ is indeed a cultivar of S. rupestre (it is sometimes listed erroneously as another species).

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‘Gilva’ vs. ‘Gilva’

'Gilva' and 'Gilva'The main succulent in this photo should be familiar to those of you who have seen my garden. It is a hybrid Echeveria I’ve grown for many years under the name ‘Gilva’ (discovered and described by Eric Walther in 1935 and presumed to be a E. agavoides × E. elegans cross). The plant habit is very similar to E. elegans, offsetting freely and quickly making a nice ground cover. The arching (like E. elegans) flower spikes branch dicotomously (into two equal parts – unlike E. elegans but like E. agavoides).

Notice the potted plant in the left foreground. This is being distributed currently by Succulent Gardens as E. ‘Gilva’. The rosettes are strikingly similar, perhaps larger, seemingly slower to offset, and decidedly flushed pink at their tips (the plant above NEVER flushes pink – instead turning yellow when stressed). it also produces many more flower stems per rosette, which are un-branched and whose flowers are a bit larger, with a more distinct yellow tip to the petals.
Echeveria 'Gilva'I’ve been growing these side by side for some time now and while it is sometimes hard to tell them apart, when they reach this stage it is clear they are different plants. I still prefer the original (to me) ‘Gilva’ as it makes a much more effective ground cover and there are always lots of offsets to start new colonies or give away. The pinker ‘Gilva’ is certainly a good pot specimen, perhaps better than the former which quickly outgrows any pot.

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A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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