Amaryllids In A Southern Garden, continued

By Elizabeth Lawrence
Raleigh, NC


Zepyranthes, Cooperia, Habranthus, and Cyrtanthus. In this part of the country, everyone is familiar from childhood with the milk-white Atamasco Lilies that bloom in April in low-lying meadows. Although this is the only species native to North Carolina, a number of zephyranthes flourish in my garden. The most prolific and floriferous of these are the handsome pink Z. grandiflora, and the little white-flowered Z. candida. Z. citrina (from the Amaryllis Society) usually blooms once a month from July to October, but the bulbs do not increase. This is the best yellow-flowered species. Z. pulchella (also from the Society) is similar to Z. citrina, but not so adaptable to garden conditions. It bloomed only once, early in September. The other yellow-flowered Texas species, Z. longifolia (from Mr. Ainsley), lived for several years but never bloomed. Afterward I learned from Mr. Cory that it will bloom only in a highly calcareous soil, but I could not find it listed again. I doubt that the gardener would find the flower very different from that of Habranthus texanus, but once you have set your heart on seeing a little bulb in bloom it haunts you until you have been able to secure it, and at least proved that it will not bloom for you.

Z. Simpsonii, another of the species that the Society sent to members, is similar to Z. Treatiae, but neither as handsome nor as lasting. Z. Treatiae, said to be difficult of culture, is well established with me. However, it does not increase.

The Zephyr Lilies that have not lived through a winter, or bloomed even once, are Z. bifolia and Z. macrosyphon. Z. tubispatha came up for one or two springs before disappearing for good. Z. rosea, which I have planted many times and which is my favorite, sometimes lives through the winter, but it does not persist many seasons. It bloomed once at the end of the summer, and the little deep rose-colored lilies are the most exquisite little flowers that ever appeared in a garden. I am still trying to find the sheltered place and the proper soil to allow it to become established.

The hybrid, Z. Ajax, is not very robust here. I have had it longer than I can remember, but it increases little, and rarely produces more than one of its delicate pale flowers during a season. It blooms in the late summer or fall and is capricious, coming any time from August to October.

Of the three species of Habranthus available, H. robustus and H. texanus havae long bloomed in my garden, and H. brachyandrus bloomed there last summer for the first time. I have read that H. texanus is difficult in culture, but it is most amenable with me. It blooms freely at intervals from early June to late September, and increases well. The flowers of H. brachyandrus are larger than those of any habranthus or zephyranthes that I have seen, and of such tropical beauty that I could not believe they would endure any amount of cold. But the new leaves began to put out very early in the spring after a very trying winter. Whether it will bloom the second season is another question.

Cooperias, like zephyranthes, flower at rainy intervals of spring and summer. Only Z. pedunculata blooms. Z. Drummondii has never been anything but a few slender rust-like (sic) leaves. According to descriptions this is small loss, but you would always like to see for yourself. I keep wondering why it does not bloom, and what I could do to make it bloom.

Cyrtanthus is a genus that does not thrive in these parts, and I am not surprised, for the species come from South Africa. The bulbs seem to be fairly hardy, but they do not become established well enough to bloom with any satisfaction. C. lutescens (C. ochroleucus) was planted without blooming at all. C. parviflorus, planted in October, skipped a season but bloomed the second spring. That was the last of C. parviflorus, and C. Mackenii and C. angustifolius never bloomed. These were all planted in a low place in clay soil with a mulch of cow manure. I put them there because that is the place where the Zephyr Lilies thrive, but it may be that in this climate they need more drainage.

Snowdrops and Snowflakes. I started growing Snowdrops on the theory that the species from Asia Minor would be better adapted than those from Europe to conditions in the South. But of those that I have grown, Galanthus nivalis var. Schorlokii has been by far the most satisfactory over a period of years. G. Elwesii persists, but does not bloom as well and does not bloom any earlier. G. byzantinus bloomed in mid-winter, but that effort was too much for it, I suppose, as it was never seen again. G. latifolius did nothing.

As to Snowflakes, as near as I can tell all of those in the trade as Leucojum aestivum are L. aesticum, and all of those in the trade as L. vernum are L. aestivum. I have never got L. vernum under its own name or any other, if it is, as described, a solitary flower. If this species is to be had in this country, I would like to know about it. Being particularly eager for fall flowers I also tried L. autumnale. So far it has not bloomed in the fall, or at any other time. In general I have not found bulbs from the Mediterranean satisfactory in North Carolina.

The Allieae In this tribe I have made attempts at growing many brodiaeas, many more alliums Milla biflora, Pharium elegans (syn. Bessera elegans), and Leucocoryne ixioides, the last three without success.

Mr. James doubts (Herbertia, 1936) whether the two Mexican bulbs will stand many degrees of frost, and thinks they should be dug, except in the milder climates. I suppose the climates in which they need not be dug are milder than this, for here they were not satisfactory even as summer bulbs. The milla was planted twice, once in the fall and again in the spring. The spring-planted bulb bloomed, but poorly. The pharium was planted in spring, but it did not bloom. Neither the milla nor the pharium lived through a winter, but I am trying them again this year in a more protected place.

Leucocoryne ixioides var. odorata fared no better, which was only to be expected as I set the bulb out in winter. I mean to give it another trial, though that is scarcely worth while for it is said to require the same culture as freesias, and they are too tender for us.

The alliums are too numerous to take up in detail. Most of them do well (some only too well), but there are a few that I have not been able to grow. The beautiful azure Allium caeruleum did not persist. The somewhat tender A. neapolitanum seems to be hardy, but blooms so early that the flower buds are nearly always caught by the cold, and even when they are not caught they are inferior to those of other species. A. karataviense lives, but that is all. A. Rosenbachianum did nothing. A. validum was tried in vain a number of times. I cannot get enough moisture for it. A. Moly, which is the most attractive one that I have seen, with large bunches of daffodil-yellow flowers, refuses to grow at all. This I cannot understand, and I mean to keep trying.

Brodiaeas in North Carolina are not what they are in the West. (Mrs. Rowntree says this is because I do not cultivate deep enough) but they make charming and fragile bloom in the shady rock garden. B. ixioides, B. coccinea (Brevoortia Ida-Maria) and the white flowered B. Eastwoodii did not persist, but most of the species do. The blue-dicks and a run-of-the-mine hybrid have bloomed in one place for more than ten years. The pale lavender-flowered B. Bridgesii is one of the prettiest, though the precocious flowers are often nipped by frost. B. lactea and B. coronaria, the harvest brodiaea, are the dependable sorts.

Other Amaryllids and Alstroemerias. After many years of trial I have given up hope of establishing alstroemerias, especially after discovering that they are susceptible to the bacterial wilt that is the curse of Southern gardens. I have had A. aurantiaca, and its variety lutea, and A. chilensis. Only A. aurantiaca bloomed. It bloomed in late June after having been planted in October, and when all of the gorgeous flowers were open, the whole plant turned yellow and died.

Ixiolirion tataricum, the one time I bloomed it, was a poor thing. Perhaps it should have been in a richer soil, or perhaps the bulbs were poor to begin with. At any rate I was not sorry when they disappeared, but I should like to try again with bulbs from another source.

I have had the delicate lily, Chlidanthus fragrans, many times and from many sources, and have planted it in various parts of the garden. Leaves appear season after season, but no blooms. It is said to be a satisfactory garden plant when taken up and dried off, but with me even large spring-planted bulbs fail to flower.

Sternbergia lutea has been in Southern gardens since the days of the Colonists. In mine, for some reason, it is chary of bloom, though I have had it for long years and the clumps are well established. Late in August or early in September there are always a few of the buttercup-yellow flowers, but never many. I cannot but think that the Amaryllis Family as a whole is somewhat temperamental.

Agapanthus africanus var. Mooreanus grew in a low border for a number of years and bloomed once, at the end of June, but not before it was well established. Later it disappeared. The flowers were a dull blue, and I hope that when I try it again I shall get a better form. A. orientalis (A. umbellatus) has not bloomed, but has come back after its third winter. It is said to bloom out of doors in Raleigh. I have a root from Mr. Hayward, and one from a garden in California.

Sprekelia formosissima is perfectly hardy with us, but capricious as to bloom. At least it is capricious with me. But a friend who saw it one of the two times it did flower said, "Oh, those little red lilies used to bloom every spring in our old garden in Petersburg." I doubt whether she knew much about flowers, but I do not think that anyone could mistake the Jacobean-Lily.

Vallota speciosa (in the trade as V. purpurea) was planted one September at the foot of a retaining wall, and was never seen again. I should have planted it in the spring, and on top of the wall, and mixed sand with the heavy soil. If I can get hold of it again (it took me a number of years to procure the first bulb), I shall treat it better. Colonel Grey says that it is hardy with a little protection in the south and west of Great Britain, so long as it is not water-logged in winter.

Daffodils (Narcissus) and daylilies (Hemerocallis) flourish in the South, but these, of course, flourish everywhere. I would like to try more of the tender daffodils particularly of the tazetta and triandrus groups. Of daylilies I have had mostly the standard sorts, but I have been interested in several of Mr. Hayward's, particularly one with a small dark red flower.

Amaryllids in England and the United States. It is interesting to compare one's own results in growing amaryllids with those of gardeners in other places. I noted particularly Major Pam's remarks in Herbertia (1940, p. 41) on the hardiness of amaryllids in his English garden where the winters are more severe than those in Piedmont, North Carolina: "The past winter has been very cold indeed for this country, and record frosts have been recorded in many parts. In my gardens the lowest temperature was 2 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in the open, and it hovered around zero for several weeks. Yet the amaryllids grown in the open did not suffer, and I have had but few losses. It seems as if established plants can stand very much more cold than we had expected, and I think it may be worth while for some lovers of this family who live in the more northern States of the U.S.A. to try to grow in their gardens some species which were reputed to be tender. Among the plants which not only survived here but have flowered this year as freely as ever are, - Amaryllis (syn. Hippeastrum) pratensis, Sprekelia formosissima; Amaryllis (syn. Hippeastrum) Ackermanni; Crinum Powellii, C. Moorei and C. longifolium; Alstroemeria Ligtu, A. aurantiaca, A. chilensis; Pancratium illyricum, in addition of course to all the species generally considered hardy. The following are untouched by frost and will certainly flower freely in their proper season: Callicore rosea (syn. Amaryllis belladonna), Nerine Bowdeni major, Hymenocallis festalis (Mr. Worsley's hybrid), Lycoris spp., and several other alstroemerias such as A. braziliensis.

Note: Gordon Ainsley was a charter member of the International Bulb Society (The American Amaryllis Society) when it originated in 1933, and he was a Vice President of the Society from 1933-35 as well as a member of various committees. He resided in Campbell, California near San Jose. Although he was born in 1896, by 1935 he was in poor health and unable to continue with Society activities other than as a figurehead. His short obituary in the 1943 Herbertia Vol. 10 (died in 1942) indicated that he was physically handicapped from childhood and was unable to conduct strenuous activities. He was noted for operating a commercial nursery where many rare and exotic amaryllids could be found. He apparently also conducted breeding activities, but he never published in Herbertia, and his obituary does not mention any specific breeding accomplishments other than interest in Tigridias and Amaryllis. [We wish to thank Dr. Dave Lehmiller for access to the above information.]