Mar 30, 2015

Counting the Winter Dead

Counting the Winter Dead

Chamaecyparis obtusa

Well, the statisticians have had their day and gathered, collated and examined recent weather data for the northwest part of the country and determined the winter here was milder than average. I would agree, based on the meteorological data we have recorded for the past twenty or thirty years. However, and this is a very big however, we have suffered the worst damage to trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials in our over forty year residence, and our neighbors, some who have lived here since fur trappers and snake oil salesmen were encountered daily, have experienced the same devastating damage. Many of our plants have shivered through below zero temperatures without complaint on more than one occasion - minus twenty something back in the late seventies. But this year it is wrack and ruin in every quarter. Almost all of the plants we grow are said to be hardy to zone four or five, well below zero, but these valuations do not take into account a great many factors. It’s obvious to me our undoing was the single digit [almost zero] temperatures we had for four or five days in late November. At that time few, if any, of the plants had even contemplated winter dormancy and were metabolizing their hearts out sending sugar down to the roots; life was coursing through their phloem. then the arctic axe fell, November 15th and 16th: 5.0F, November 17th: 2.1F, and November 18th: 2.4F, all without benefit of any snow cover. The week before our lows had ranged from 21.9F to 32.5F.

Pinus thunbergii

Pieris japonica
'Mountain Fire'

Chamaecyparis obtusa

Pinus densiflora
(tanyosho pine, 15-20 years old)

Will the trees and shrubs recover? Many, probably, given enough time. Grafted plants may grow back from their root stock and will not be the species or variety originally planted (why most of our plants, other than dwarf conifers, are raised from seed or cuttings). Others may recover but will look like ragged scarecrows for a few years, and even then may succumb due to stress. And, when you are in your seventies, the years it will take a plant to regrow into a semblance of what was lost are simply not available. At least there is now room for new acquisitions.

And of rhododendrons: Lost several younger ones, Saffron Silk, Misty Moonlight, a couple of Dauricums, and, a surprise, a large, fifteen year old Trilby. Worse than the loss (I have dozens and dozens of various species and hybrids I have raised from seed or cuttings) of plants is the loss of flower buds. Looks like this year there will be no mounds of bright red blooms on the four Vulcans, no bloom on Sappho, Calsap and others. Reduced bloom approaching zero on Scintillation and Fantastica, and on and on.

The garden still looks magnificent with drifts of narcissus, crocus, and other spring bulbs, plus many perennials, especially primrose and pulmonaria.

Primula kisoana

Mar 16, 2015

Some Notes Concerning the Germination of Semi-Dwarf Bearded Iris

Sleepy Time, I think

Last spring I purchased and planted three semi-dwarf bearded iris cultivars: Circus Clown, Bantam Prince, and Sleepy Time. I was somewhat amazed at the end of summer when all three plants carried large, ripe seedpods. Very rarely do the standard Bearded Iris I grow, and there are many, ever set seed. I propagate hundreds of different plants each year but have only grown bearded iris from seed once before, and that was an overwhelming success, although all of the resulting progeny produced nondescript pale violet blossoms. In December I planted the seeds collected from the three SDB Iris after the following treatment;

Circus Clown: 30 seeds divided into two groups. Group A soaked in water overnight and Group B in GA-3 at 1,000ppm.

Bantam Prince: 16 seeds divided into two groups. Group A soaked in water overnight and Group B in GA-3 at 1,000ppm.

Sleepy Time: 12 seeds divided into two groups. Group A soaked in water overnight and Group B in GA-3 at 1,000ppm.

All were planted in the same soil mix and placed on a heated germination pad under fluorescent lights.

As of today many have germinated and been ‘potted up’; most display vigorous growth.

Germination percentages thus far:

CC A = 54%
CC B = 87%

BP A = 50%
BP B = 25%

ST A = 67%
ST B = 50%

Such a small test group proves or disproves nothing, but it is curious that the GA-3 treatment of the Circus Clown seeds seemed to enhance germination while it was detrimental to Bantam Prince and Sleepy Time. If I get seeds again this year I will repeat the experiment, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

It even looks as if a few of the new seedlings may flower this year!