Lewisia Cotyledon: Bloomerang?

I’ve loved this particular plant for many years and for many reasons, but blooming in October is a first. Lewisia cotyledon is one of the most variable species in the small Genus Lewisia (about 19 species).  It hybridizes readily with most of the others in the genus.

Lewisia cotyledon blooming on October 19th

Lewisia cotyledon blooming on October 19th, 2013

Based on the tight, compact rosette and the lack of serration of the leaf margins, I would say this plant is closely related to L. cotyledon var. purdyi, which is native to the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon, particularly the upper reaches of the Illinois River Basin.

Cotyledon is the species of Lewisia that enabled the plethora of colors and strains of Lewisia seen widely in the nursery trade today. In his Timber Press book on Lewisia, published in 2000, B. Leroy Davidson noted this success:

“A vast range of cultivated variants are now convened [named] merely as cotyledon hybrids (that is to say, hybrids involving L. cotyledon)… Indeed, L. cotyledon has been made so amenable to commercial cultivation and so showy that garden centers now feature big displays of plants in gallon containers, bursting with flowers of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, orange, lemon and lime.”

L. cotyledon2The plant blooming now is one of many of my clones;  vegetative propagation is easy from offsets of small rosettes that form off the caudex of the existing plants. I purchased the mother plant in the 1980s from Herb Dickson’s Chehalis Rare Plant Nursery. While not as flashy or spectacular of color as those aforementioned hybrids, it still is a fine specimen.

This cultivar is always a repeat bloomer through the summer.  The trick is to keep the conditions as spring like as possible. Most of my plants are in pots and it’s easy to keep them cool and fairly wet after the initial spring blooming by moving them into shade.  Pulling off the spent flower stalks also encourages multiple rounds of blooming, but never as late (until now) as mid October.

I’ve propagated my collection — currently about 100 plants — from seeds I purchased from Ashwood Nursery in England, offsets, and from natural crosses that occurred between plants on my sand plunge bench.

Lewisia Bench

Lewisia Bench

After blooming, the spent flower stalks scattered seeds both in their pots and the surrounding sand. This year it was easy to pluck these random “bench crosses” out for potting up.

L. cotyledon seedlings

2013 Lewisia cotyledon crosses potted up for growing on

I doubt if I’ll see much bloom this coming spring, but some of the seedlings do seem more robust than others and variation in the leaves is already apparent.

Seedling close upSince about a third of the plants were the “Ashwood” strain from England, which rivals any strain for stunning color, I’m anticipating these crosses may yield some worthy cultivars.

Perhaps the most striking Lewisia is Lewisia tweedyi, which is now taxonomically named Lewisiopsis tweedyi, the sole plant in the new Genus Lewisiopsis and the reason why the Genus Lewisia now numbers nineteen, rather than twenty. Read more about Lewisia tweedyi in this post.

Frank Tweedy

Frank Tweedy is probably best known among alpine plant enthusiasts for the species that bears his name Lewisia tweedyii (now residing in its own genus Lewisiopsis).

Tweedys Bitterroot

Tweedy’s Bitteroot

Frank was working for the U.S Government as a railway surveyor on Mt Stuart in the Cascade Mountains near Wenatchee, WA when in 1882 he “discovered” this beauty. Bloom color ranges from stunning deep and pastel pinks with yellowish orange highlights to specimens that have “earned” the epithet rosea, presumably for the deeper red highlights.

Lewisia tweedyii 'rosea'

Lewisia tweedyii ‘rosea’

Two other northwest native species are named for Frank, Calamagrostis tweedyi (Cascade Reedgrass) and Salix tweedyi (Tweedy’s Willow).

In 1886 Frank self published (in conjunction with the Library of the New York Botanical Garden) his “Flora of the Yellowstone National Park,” which I was able to download to my Nook (free of charge) courtesy of Barnes & Noble. You can also view a digitized addition right now courtesy of BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library).

Frank was apparently quite a modest guy, beginning his preface in a rather self-deprecating tone:

“In the following general notes on the flora of the Yellowstone National Park but little has been attempted beyond an enumeration of the Flowering Plants (Phsenogamia) and Vascular Cryptogams (Pteridophyta).”

Hardly “but little,” since Frank goes on to write that his book is “a collection of 605 species made by the author in the Yellowstone National Park during August and September, 1884; and June, July, August and September, 1885.”

I’ve only just begun delving into the book, but it’s clear Frank was a serious plantsman, naturalist and a keen observer of habitat. He begins his treatise with a description of the various parts of the park.  Here’s a sample:

In the northwest rises the Gallatin Range, culminating in
Electric Peak, 11,000 feet above sea level. On the estern border lie the rigged volcanic peaks of the Absaroka or Yellowstone Range, reaching elevations of 10,800 feet on the north east, and over 11,00 feet on the southeast.

Absaroka is the Indian name of the Crow Nation, whose reservation is on the eastern slope of this range of mountains….

…Yellowstone Lake (7,740 feet), the largest lake at great elevation in North America, has a length and breadth of respectively twenty and fifteen miles, a depth of 300 feet, and an area of 150 square miles.  The shore line, indented by several large bays, is over 100 miles.

The beautiful curves of the sandy beaches and crystal purity of its waters, make it an object of unusual interest. With the exception of the Yellowstone Range, rising from its easter shore, it is surrounded by a generally low, heavily timbered country.

While searching for more information on Frank, I serendipitously stumbled on this lovely post by Julie Ardery, creator of the fabulous blog The Human Flower Project.  Julie, a descendent of Frank,  discovered her botanist  ancestor shortly before a family reunion in 2010. Check it out:  The Botanist Gene.

For more on the plant, see this post: Tweedy’s Bitteroot

Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid’

This little hybrid (Campanula portenschlagiana x poscharskyana) makes a fine trough, rock garden or pot specimen.  If your patient, it may reward you by tumbling over a rock wall.  When it first blooms in mid spring the purple flowers profusely cover the plant.

For the impatient gardener, one of its parents, either C. portenshlagiana or C. poscharskyana would probably be a bit more vigorous at cascading over a rock wall.

Campanula 'Birch Hybrid reblooming in early August

Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid re-blooming in early August

I’m not sure its news, but — like many herbaceous spring blooming perennials — shearing or deadheading the spent blooms after the initial spring flush often guarantees more blooms later in the summer (though usually not as dense and floriferous as the first round).

Here in Puget Sound near Seattle, this trough, containing Sedums, the Birch Hybrid and alpine Dianthus required daily or even twice daily watering during the hot, unusually rain-free month of July.

Alpine Trough Sedums, Campanula, Dianthus and Sempervivums

Alpine Trough newly planted with Sedums, Campanula, Dianthus and Sempervivums

Unlike the Dianthus or the Sedums — which don’t seem to rebloom —  the Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid started re-blooming about a week ago. My little specimen, from Mt Tahoma Nursery in Graham WA, probably was propagated by division, and at most is a two year old division.

This European alpine hybrid is credited to, and named for, the Birch Farm Nursery in England.  According to this video from Garden Splendor®, which apparently distributes plants to selected retail nurseries in the northeastern United States, Birch Hybrid makes a fine garden plant.  Check it out on You Tube: