Crinums

Crinums are wonderful plants for warm-climate gardeners. Blooming in late summer, graceful flowers on tall stems fill the air with a honey-like scent.

Crinum bloomLooking very much like the amaryllis to which they are related, crinums grow from sturdy bulbs and have wide, strap-like leaves. They will not refuse a good garden soil but will grow just as easily in junkyards, if that is where you happen to garden. Like your friend who refuses to pick a restaurant for dinner, crinums are indifferent to their surroundings: sun, shade, wet, dry–oh, whatever. Just plant them up to their necks someplace and leave them alone. The only thing they fuss about is cold–they’re not reliably hardy north of Zone 7. But mine came through the polar vortex without complaint.

I never feed them. Sometimes they get mulched with shredded leaves if I need to empty my shredder bag nearby. Pinching off the spent blossoms keeps them going.

If you insist on moving one, be sure to get as much soil around the bulb as possible and don’t sever the bulb. Understand before you attempt this extraction that bulbs can grow to be absolutely enormous, basketball size (29 inches or 75 cm in circumference) or larger. Brush soil off the top of the bulb until you can discern its width, give it five inches on either side, and dig straight down. But really, if you’re the uncertain type, better plant it in a nice, large container, and move the container instead.

Crinum sources:

Dear Friend and Gardener: August 8, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener,

I’m trying a technique often used in the vegetable garden in my landscape: cover cropping. I’m sowing buckwheat in bare areas in my landscape in hopes of suppressing weeds in the areas I’ve cleared. I just recently learned that buckwheat is not a grass, but is related to sorrel, which I grow and love. I’m hopeful that its long taproots will help break up my thick clay and bring some nutrients up from the subsoil. I have no idea if I’ll be able to harvest any buckwheat seed or not–that will be a little adventure to look forward to as the weather cools.

Wet processing seeds decanting tomato seedsMy vegetable seed-saving is in full swing. It’s a great way to make use of those Principe Borghese tomatoes whose skins split wide open before I can harvest and process them. I’ve also got a fine batch saved from my ‘Contender’ bush beans, and I know I’ll have more ‘Cossack Pineapple’ ground cherries than I’ll know what to do with. I’m donating packets to the Digging Durham Seed Library. I’m still refining my pickle recipe, and hoping to score a second-hand boiling water bath canner from my in-laws’ house so I can take my food processing adventures even further.

My landscape looks tired, but the promises of fall are already visible. The berries on my ‘Issei’ callicarpa are beginning to turn, and buds are forming on the chrysanthemums I cut back in June. My crinums started blooming today–such elegant things. Crinums are supposed to be wonderful passalong plants, but I have to wonder how that passing gets accomplished. From all I’ve read, they, like the amaryllis to which they are related, like to pull their bulbs down into the soil for a few years before they bloom, and don’t care to be moved after that. And we know that the bulbs grow to be the size of basketballs. Who could share one without use of a backhoe?

chrysanthemum budsI’m thinking about building another raised bed before the fall, where I can grow some veg that will be harvested through the winter. I’m planning to order shallots and garlic–I missed the shallots last fall–and I’ve got a long list of spring-blooming bulbs that will need to be ordered soon. The gardening to-do list never ends! What a shame it would be if it did.

Best,

Amy

Garden log, 6.27.13

Another busy work week, with little time spent in the garden.

I knew that I had a busy week ahead when I stopped by Big Bloomers Flower Farm on my way home from a trip last weekend. That did not stop me from buying 3 cardboard flats full of perennials, plus a few annuals that were on sale.  I have planted exactly one flat’s worth.

That’s okay, because nothing has died yet and I think this weekend I’ll make good progress on a new garden bed I’m starting. No name for it yet, but it will run along my neighbor’s fence, between the fence and the back of the rain garden. In my mind it looks fantastic.

The crinums are blooming, probably because of all the rain. I don’t remember them ever blooming this early. I cut back the rose campion to keep it from dropping seed everywhere–I have enough of it–and planted nicotiana and portulaca from Big Bloomers.The Monarda I acquired from a gardening friend earlier this year has bloomed, and instead of red, it’s wine-colored. It’s beautiful, but because of its color, it’s in the wrong place. I think it will look excellent in the blue slope, though, so that’s where I’m moving it. And in the process, I found some lily bulbs that haven’t ever done anything. I dug those up and am potting them, little scale chips and all, into a flat to see if I can propagate them.

Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Royal’ and ‘Ferris Wheel’ have recovered from the deer visit a week ago. I haven’t been able to apply the Plantskydd, though, because it needs 24 hours to be rainproof and we haven’t had a guarantee of 24 hours without rain since the visit. I’m too stingy with the stuff to risk it. All things in time, I suppose.