Monday, October 23, 2006
Something Different: Tricyrtis X Tojen
On a cold, grey morning, it is almost dizzying going outside; the yard and woods are literally alive with birds, driven south all in a rush by seriously cold temperatures to our north. Hundreds of small birds... warblers, finches, and white-throated sparrows mostly, are whirring through the treetops; scores of robins and juncos are scurrying back and forth across the lawn, while jays, woodpeckers, and cardinals fly back and forth, as if caught up in the excitement. I negotiate my way across the lawn, feeling like a sheepherder, as birds hop this way and that, parting to let me through; in the garden, leaves that were frozen while they were still green by our early cold, are falling to the ground from the trees, almost with a clunk. Yet I am rewarded on this cold morning by finding Tricyrtis x Tojen (also spelled Togen) still in bloom. This tough toadie has one of the most lengthy blooming seasons of all the tricyrtis group. It starts opening its flowers in late August or early September, and continues blooming until finally felled by a really hard freeze in late October... it tolerates light frosts and freezes fairly well, only succumbing to temperatures in the low twenties. Of course this lengthy blooming season means that it opens its flowers gradually, not all at once, so the total effect is not as spectacular as some, but the individual flowers, arising on long stems from the axils, are quite beautiful. It is often called the "orchid toad lily", for the exotic beauty and color of its individual blooms, which are frosty lavender at the base of the petals, deep lavender at the tips, with a yellow throat. The foliage may be the finest of any toad lily, with the largest leaves; they are very broadly lance-shaped, and a lighter, brighter green than most other tricyrtis. The plant has a slightly drooping habit, so I have it planted to good effect on a downhill pathway, where its flowers are easily seen. It is apparently a hybrid of formosana x hirta; some of the formosana group in our climate barely persist (Emperor), and a few have disappeared (Samurai); I'm not sure whether it's our cold winters or our dry summers, or both. Tojen, however, always looks perfect, with no help at all from me.