Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rolling The Dice

I admit to occasionally liking to roll the dice on a little plant of dubious hardiness, on the off chance it might survive in our inclement climate. I normally am fairly sensible about choosing what to try (I actually do a little research, so I'm a little more sophisticated than just throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks). However, I'll admit that with this little bulb I've probably thrown the dice off the table and out the window. It's Cyrtanthus breviflorus, a small amaryllid that grows in the uplands of South Africa. Ten inches or so tall, with cute little yellow flowers and grass-like foliage. Garden writers in (to us) balmy England say it's probably not hardy there, and gardeners in this country rate it as zone 8 or so. I took a chance on it because Ellen Hornig of Seneca Hills Perennials in Oswego, New York says it has survived at least one winter outdoors there (but she gets ten feet of snow... we currently have two inches of crunchy ice). However, she also mentions a gardener in Kansas for whom this Cyrtanthus has proved hardy, and they certainly get very little snow (though he's probably zone 6, and for all I know is growing it next to a south-facing wall where the ground never freezes).
It might or might not return here; who knows. I am an eternal garden optimist... but I've not made a label for it yet.
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What a delicate blossom. I wish you luck with that bulb, however, usually the winter turns out particularly hard when you have something to lose. ;)

Being a foreigner, I still haven't fully understood this concept of zones yet that all American gardening blogs seem to be referring to. Is there an overview somewhere on the web?
Corinna... I suspect you're right, I'll not see this little plant again; we're having a brutal winter already.
The most sophisticated map is that from the U.S. Arboretum:
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