Friday, January 4, 2013

The OTHER ice plants....

Bergeranthus katbergensis
Bazeball may very well have bin bery bery good to Chico Escuela, but Delosperma bin berry berry good to me too. So much so that I fear Mr. Delosperma may be carved on to my tombstone. But there is more to hardy ice plants than merely that wonderful and seemingly bottomless genus of delight and confusion. We have had several dozen genera of Mesembryanthemaceae (or Aizoaceae or whatever they're being lumped into nowadays) make it through our very harsh steppe winters. One genus that gives me no end of delight is Bergeranthus--concentrated heavily in the Southeastern quadrant of South Africa, mostly in the East Cape, this genus seems to be enormously cold hardy considering that much of their range is warm temperate at best. We've had a half dozen or more survive--but the two toughest seem to be B. jamesii below and that stunning gem above. Did I mention that these bloom for months on end? and they are dead easy to propagate from cuttings or seed? Why are they virtually unknown in commerce? Beats me.

Bergeranthus jamesii
I actually found Bergeranthus jamesii growing on harsh pavements in the Tarkastad mountains where some very hospitable South Africans put Jim Archibald and myself up for two nights and showed us all around their property. The huge mounds of Haworthia marumiana growing near this had no seed--and plants could not be legally exported...we still need that one! We looked vainly for Delosperma dyeri that day in 1997 but had to wait another four years till that came into our ken...but the Bergeranthus was worth it! Did I mention that I was just sent a very husky specimen of a pure white flowered form of this plant? From Germany no less. Facebook has produced quite a few goodies for me: the naysayers are missin' out!

 s"Aloinanthus" hybrids
 My good buddy Bill Adams of Sunscapes Nursery pretty much invented x "Aloinanthus" group: although I believe Steve Brack at Mesa Gardens had grown a hybrid between A. spathulata and Nananthus sp. for years beforehand. Bill was the one who started hybridizing and producing some stunning intermediates you can find in his catalog. Do check it out...

 x "Aloinanthus" hybrid
Here is that initial Brack hybrid (above) which you can see is very close to the Aloinopsis spathulata parent (below)
Aloinopsis spathulata
The poor genus Aloinopsis has been tormented a bit--some of the rounder leaved, yellow flowered ones diverted into Deilanthe...there are a dozen or more taxa in this group, one more adorable than the next--they deserve their own Blog...heck, they deserve their own temple! But we must sample a few more delights...

Stomatium sp.
I am remiss not to mention that the first genus of ice plants I actually grew outside was not Delosperma, but Stomatium: a Danish born nurseryman named Alf Jensen, who supplied Denver Botanic Gardens with rock garden plants way back in the 1960's and 1970's propagated a Stomatium which he grew outside in Golden and sold it long before anyone in America had a clue what delospermas of the stalwart volunteers way back then (whose name I forgot--a rather innocent middle aged lady who was not much of a gardener had planted it in her gardens, and assured me that it was hardy: I probably said something like "Listen, ice plants are not hardy outdoors--believe me")...there is a rich irony in this....sic transit gloria mundi...We have probably grown fifteen or more different stomatiums outdoors successfully in Denver. Some are humdingers.

Rabiea albipuncta
There are a bevy of Rabiea that look suspiciously similar to one another you can get from Mesa Gardens. They are all worth it: they probably have the largest flowers of any hardy ice plant. This one bloomed for me last March--although I saw one blooming on January 1, 2012 at Timberline Gardens (don't ask what I was doing sneaking around there on New Year's Day)...

Rhinephyllum ex Cyphe, Richmond
 This is my current nomination for gem of the year: I planted it two years ago this spring--it came through last winter in flying colors, and bloomed pretty much nonstop from April to autumn frost. It is a tiny morsel--perfect for a rock garden. Alas--it does not have a species name. Maybe it's new to science? Time will tell..
Ebracteola wilmaniae
 I have featured this once before on this blog, and tell the whole story: look it up if you care to--it's worth revisiting. My plant back then was much more modest--it has turned into quite the lush thing--and what flowers! It blooms for a long time. Bill Adams found a white sport which he is propagating and will probably sell soon: what wondrous times we live in!
Hereroa calycina
It only blooms at night. but the flowers are quite large--and it makes a wonderful large tuft of rubbery foliage that seems indestructible: This has become one of my very favorite ice plants. Many the moonlit evening I look out over my rock garden and see clumps of it here and there (I've spread it about) with those refulgent shaving brushes wide open to the midsummer moon--glowing glowing in subdued but reverent radiance to Luna....the goddess of lovers, madmen and gardeners. If you made it through that sentence you get a big shiny star!

Ice plants have indeed "bin beeeeerrrry berry good to Panayoti". Plant more and they'll be good to you too!


  1. Panayoti,

    Following is the reason I have not yet tried Aloinopsis.

    I look through the Alplains seed catalog and I see Aloinopsis spathulata rated at zone 4. I then look at all the other Aloinopsis and see they are rated from zone 7 to 9. I then think ... Oh! The zone 4 rating for Aloinopsis spathulata MUST be a typo or error. Later, I see other reliable nurseries rating the above succulents as cold hardy in my range. Yet, I am still cautious. I have been fooled so many times before.

    Those beautiful and expensive Echinacea all became diseased once planted in the ground. And do not even get me started on the difficulties I've had with Heuchera. Experiences like this leaves buyers cautious about anything new. I think it would be wise for those distributing plants to provide a sample to participating nurseries a year or two before a plant is released. The nursery would only be permitted to plant it in their garden so people could see how it performs (and lust after it). After confidence has been built and interest has been developed, only then should the plant be released to the masses. At that point the feeding frenzy will be unleashed.



  2. I agree with you entirely, James. Some of these mesembs are essentially dryland plants, so moisture is as much an enemy as cold: I would think they will need some very special siting, soils and conditions to thrive in humid climates. But I have seen quite a few in New York and know that there are some growing in the upper Midwest in great microclimates.

    I doubt that we can get nurseries to test, but public gardens ought to be doing more in this arena. I agree about the Echinacea--although a few cultivars seem to be duking it out pretty well.


  3. It is not so much that nurseries should be testing, as displaying plants in a garden setting. I cannot believe how many wonderful plants I have seen sit unsold, eventually placed on the sale rack, then tossed in the trash. Customers cannot understand what they are buying from a small specimen in a pot. All nurseries should have gardens with the plants they sell. It is just good business. People will see healthy plants doing well in the garden and ask for them. They will be willing to buy a smaller plant, which is less happy from being bound in a pot, since they can see how it will perform once it has been planted.

    As for the Echinaceas, I have tried a number of the plants in the following trial and my experience agrees with their results.

    I particularly like 'Pica Bella' and 'Fragrant Angel.' My Mathew Saul (Harvest Moon) is all diseased. My 'Sundown' and 'Twilight' are acceptable, but not as nice as when I purchased them. I like 'Tomato Soup' accept for the fact that only about half the flowers ever fully develop (aster yellow?). Echinacea 'White Swan' has been acceptable too, but I will probably get rid of it. Why grow acceptable, when I can have 'Fragrant Angel' which is exceptional.

    As for the Heucheras, I decided I am fairly safe as long as they have villosa blood. The 'peach flambe' and 'peach melba' with micrantha blood usually do not last long in my region. H. sanguinea apparently grown from seed (lots of variability) is also doing very well in my Chicago area garden.

    That's my two-cents on Echinacea and Heuchera.



  4. What a great post! Aloinanthus is an all time favorite of mine.

    Hey...I think I see a picture of you on the spring cover of "Plants Delights" ?

  5. First of all, James--I think you should be at a botanic garden! Your observations are "spot on" as they say in Britain. Thanks for posting...and thank you, Aaron, for your kind remarks. I have not gotten my current PDN catalog--but have seen the online version: I blush to be included among all those horticultural glitterati (or should we call them "loamarati?"...although I am pleased to be one of the ones who is actually holding a plant!

    Can you grow Aloinopsis in Idaho? Wooo hooo if that's the case! Hope your weather is not too harsh this winter! We're having a mild bout (I missed the worst of our winter so far--fine by me!)Happy New Year!

    1. I thought that was you! You are famous! and Well Liked!

      I have grown Aloinopsis before, but I let it dry out durning the summer. It must need more water in the heat than I gave it. It came from High Country Gardens.

    2. I find that many South African plants need more summer water than one would think--when you see the area Aloinopsis spathulata grows in it look EXACTLY like Southern Idaho--tufted shrubs and scabland. But they must get condensation or something--I'ver rarely seen rain there, but the plants must get the rain somehow...very mysterious!


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