Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Bulbine

(Can't you just hear her?  "Bulbine?  Bul-BEAN!   Please tell Cook to bring up my dinner on a tray." 

 

"Yessum," and then, just audible to Myra as Bulbine humphs away, "Spoiled brat.")

 

bulbine-frutescens-640

 

Already in full bloom in April, bulbine is.  (You go girl!)  Which is all the more striking because this is a working greenhouse not a conservatory for the display of perfect specimens.  The plants are crammed in check-by-jowl, elbow-to-groin, and held through the long Winter as dormant as possible, with nights as cool as possible (and therefore, as economically as possible): 50 degrees. 

 

Last October, many were pruned way back just to squeeze them; actual grooming doesn't start until March and April, to get the plants ready for their public months in the garden from June into October.  Wait until you see how lovely a tidy pot of bulbine is, blooming its head off in the warm sun of July!

 

Meanwhile, I can't ignore any longer that some other pots of bulbine don't look at all as happy.  No, not the forest of dead bloom stalks from last Summer; I'll prune those off in the weeks to come.  I'm looking at the foliage itself: an unattractive purple-brown.   

 

bulbine-hallmark-overall-64

 

Bulbines are South African succulents, and in a 50-degree greenhouse they'd be dormant, and hence unwatered for months.  So it can't be that the purple-brown bulbines have rotted.  Was it the endless Winter nights of—shiver—a comparatively chilly 50 degrees?

 

A closer look: The leaves are firm, and the purple-brown is more of a blush, not a mortal condition.  They're still green underneath. 

 

bulbine-hallmark-foliage-64

 

Looking further:  A single flower stalk resolves the mystery:  It has light orange flowers, not yellow.  This is one of the pots of the cultivar 'Hallmark', which I'd never overwintered before.

 

bulbine-hallmark-flower-640

 

In cool weather, clearly, Hallmark's foliage bronzes completely.  While I always knew that Hallmark is less heat-tolerant than the species (at least if you're considering using bulbine as a groundcover in Arizona), no one warned that it's less chill-tolerant, too.  

 

Which reminds me of that joke about the Microsoft operating system, which had caused the computer screen to freeze-to-black yet again.  Said Bill Gates, unfazed, "Black is a feature of Microsoft."

 

Purple-brown Winter foliage, then, is a feature of Hallmark bulbine.  And I must admit, if I had a Winter conservatory instead of just a greenhouse, and the plants were primped and pruned to perfection year-round, Hallmark's burgundy Winter foliage could be a terrific partner to its light-orange flowers.  Except—oh, right, I forgot—the flowers don't really get going until it's warmer.  When the foliage will have turned back to green.

 

But at least the Hallmarks are as alive as the species bulbines.  All that matters is that they look great in the garden, not the greenhouse.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow Bulbine:

 

Latin Name

Bulbine frutescens

Common Name

Bulbine

Family

Liliaceae, the (yes!) lily family

What kind of plant is it?

Clumping succulent evergreen perennial

Hardiness

Zones 8 - 10

Habit

Thick-growing low grassy succulent perennial with cylindrical leaves reminiscent of chives, but larger and brighter green.  Small starry flowers, yellow, orange, or white, on thin stalks a foot and more above the foliage.

Rate of Growth

Fast

Size in ten years

Foliage to 1.5 feet tall, 4 - 5 feet wide.

Texture

Grassy, with airy stalks of flowers floating above.

Grown for

Groundcover as well as the flowers

Flowering season

Spring through Fall

Culture

Easy!  Well-drained soil in sun or, in the hottest climates, part or even full shade. 

How to handle it

Works as a groundcover or a specimen.  Everblooming in warm weather.  Blooms when still in the nursery pot (and when young), so can also be used as an annual.  Happy in containers too (which can then be moved into a cool window or greenhouse for overwintering).

Downsides

None

Variants

'Hallmark' has orange flowers and (now we both know) foliage that bronzes over a cool Winter.

Availability

Garden centers as well as on-line.

Propagation

Division in Spring

Native habitat

South Africa

 
 
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