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Adam’s notes from the garden
I’ve returned from several weeks immersed in the botanical riches of New Caledonia and want to thank the staff and volunteers for their dedication and hard work while I was away. It was tough adjusting to Texas again after enjoying the beautiful tropical winter weather in the southern hemisphere, but fortunately, after many weeks of intense heat combined with almost no rain, we have received several good soakings over the past week that helped cool things off a bit.
The sudden showers have coaxed the first notable flowering of the Zephyranthes and Habranthus selections this year. While inspecting the earliest risers, I noticed a white Zephyranthes sp. that stood out from the others with more petals than typical.
We will have to watch this one to see if this remains a stable trait, or simply a temporary fluke. Another bulbous plant growing on the rain lily berm has been in flower, though easy to miss. I must not have been paying enough attention last year, as I only spotted one plant of Alophia veracruziana in the north dry garden at that time, while this year volunteer Brenda Wilson pointed out a group of them on the rain lily berm.
The subtle flowers, similar to our native Alophia drummondii but smaller and paler, are nonetheless beautifully complex upon closer observation. Perhaps I didn’t focus on them prior as they are growing among a patch of Eleutherine bulbosa which shares the same strappy leaves that look very similar to that of a seedling palm. We will need to be cautious when thinning the weedy Eleutherine so we don’t accidentally remove the more desirable Alophia.
Various gingers are drawing visitors’ attention in the woodland garden, including some early flowering Hedychium hybrids, the peacock gingers (Kaempferia) and several Curcuma species. Similar in appearance but in a different family, Calathea burle-marxii is an interesting tropical that gets frozen back every winter but re-emerges vigorously with large paddle-shaped leaves under which is a cone-like inflorescence of an unusual soothing translucent blue which earned it the common name “Icee Blue Calathea.”
North of the creek, a curious yet more subdued relative of the common shrimp plant has been flowering away in the dry shade.
Callicarpa acuminata – the Mexican beautyberry, has among the showiest flowers in the genus. The resulting fruits will turn a jet black color in fall.Likely a Tetramerium species, this delicate shrubby perennial that John Fairey collected in Mexico has inflorescences with tubular pink flowers emerging from tiered scaly lime green bracts as in a shrimp plant.
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Amoreuxia wrightii (Wright’s Yellow-show) has emerged in John’s raised trial beds near his house, flowering and already producing a few fruits. Catching the large golden flowers with crimson brush strokes in the narrow window of time they are actually fully open (a few hours in the late morning) has proven to be frustrating, but making up for it is the discovery of a few additional individuals in one of the beds recently weeded by volunteers.
We never noticed them last year, but they have clearly been persisting since Yucca Do Nursery was still located at this site.
Though I may be focusing on the smaller items of interest, things also look great throughout the garden on a larger scale, with all the typical hard-to-miss summer flowering perennials and woody plants looking great.
Join us Saturday, July 15th at 5 p.m. to learn about Agaves, Yuccas, and relatives – The “Woody Lilies” of Peckerwood with Adam Black.
Tickets for the Evening at Peckerwood Lecture available here.
We recommend I-10 rather than HWY 290 for Houston visitors. see a map here: From Houston via Interstate 10
Yucca Do Nursery’s Final Days
By Adam Black
Last summer, we sadly reported that Yucca Do Nursery had announced its impending closure and was in the process of selling down their inventory. As of June 1st, online sales were ceased, and dwindling opportunities exist to visit the nursery by appointment to purchase some of the remaining inventory.
In case you aren’t familiar with this legendary, world-renowned collector nursery, Yucca Do Nursery started 29 years ago as a partnership between Carl Schoenfeld and Peckerwood founder John Fairey. Over the years, many amazing plants were introduced to horticulture through the nursery, most notably the results of John and Carl’s many expeditions to northeastern Mexico. The nursery was an exclusive source of key plant groups that included the woody lilies (Agave, Yucca and relatives), Mexican oaks, succulents, and geophytes. The nursery originally existed on the property adjacent to Peckerwood Garden, but later moved to its current location an hour west of Hempstead on long-time nursery manager Wade Roitsch’s ranch near Giddings.
I visited Wade the other day and purchased a few more choice specimens that we didn’t have represented at Peckerwood. Though inventory is very low, there are still a number of rare treasures to be had if you can arrange a visit before the doors close for good. Though sales cannot be placed online anymore, Wade and Carl are planning to keep the website active and update it with an illustrated listing of all plants introduced to cultivation over the course of the nursery’s heyday. This undertaking will serve as a valuable resource and testament to the nursery’s significant contributions to the horticultural world. Wade has indicated that he will continue to be involved in plant collecting on an independent and more relaxed basis.
- Sat, Jul 1, 2017, Ferns of Peckerwood Garden, Peckerwood Insider’s Tour, 10 am
- Sat, Jul 15, 2017, Monthly Training, 9 am – 11 pm
- Sat, Jul 15, 2017, Agaves, Yuccas, and relatives – The “Woody Lilies” of Peckerwood Evening at Peckerwood Garden Lecture, 5 pm
- Sat, Jul 22, 2017, Open Day, 10 am – 3 pm
- Sat, Aug 5, 2017, Cycads of Peckerwood Garden, Peckerwood Insider’s Tour, 10 am
- Sat, Aug 12, 2017, Monthly Training, 9 am – 11 pm
- Sat, Aug 19, 2017, From the Rockies to the Everglades – Unexpected US Natives for Texas Gardens Evening at Peckerwood Garden Lecture, 5 pm
- Sat, August 26, 2017, Open Day, 10 am – 3 pm
Plant of the month: Purple Jade Vine (Mucuna cyclocarpa)
By Adam Black
Purple jade vine has got to be one of the most requested plants in the garden. Growing on the trellis near the fountain courtyard, this vigorous vine dies back to the roots every winter but quickly covers the area over the gate with its dark green leaves composed of three leaflets in the arrangement familiar with many members of the pea family. In May it begins flowering with pendulous clusters of dark purple-brown flowers that enamors most observers and leaves them desiring one for their own garden. Originally received in a seed exchange with Shanghai Botanical Gardens, this vine from tropical southern China tends to be shy at producing seed pods and otherwise, cuttings are difficult to root, so this plant has remained rather difficult to acquire. Wade Roitsch, the manager of Yucca Do Nursery, mentioned that manually squeezing the individual flowers to open them up more and presumably facilitate pollination had slightly improved seed set. I will have to remember to do this on a regular basis so we can start satisfying the demand.
As beautiful as this vine is, it bears a deceptive annoyance. Tiny hairs on the leaf undersides can shed off and create an intense itching. The pods, should we finally produce some, are even more densely covered with these irritating hairs. In fact, a close relative, Mucuna pruriens, is the source of itching powder that was at one time marketed for practical jokers.
Stemming from our postings of photos on Facebook and Instagram of this plant, we have had many requests not just locally, but from all over the world for this plant. If we are successful this year at producing a good crop of seeds, it will be at least another year before we have plants to offer, but well worth the wait.
Peckerwood has many more acres to develop and grow, so I hope that as our volunteer group grows we can offer even more exciting tasks to undertake. If you are interested, please contact Bethany and we will get you involved!!!