Roscoea

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Kelaidis
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Joined: 2010-02-03
Roscoea

When I first visited China in the late nineteen nineties, I don't think any of the marvels I saw amazed me as much as Roscoea: the high valley at the east base of the Jade Dragon mountains had untold millions of them in bloom in late May: pale yellow, almost white, pink, lavender, purple--you name the color it was there, it seemed. Most were very tiny in stature, although the flowers were sizeable. They grew in the fields, among rhododendrons, they grew in the woods. They were enchanting! How Ms. Cowley was able to disentangle them and turn them into that wonderful Timber press monograph is beyond me...

We've grown quite a few over the years in Denver, mostly the squinny flowered miniatures like R. tibetica or R. alpina, thinking they were the most apt to be hardy. Then one day we managed to grow Roscoea cautleioides from seed: it lasted quite a few years and made a great statement in the Rock Alpine Garden. These two individuals are growing in Plantasia, and they are making a fabulous spectacle in June. They even set quite a bit of seed this year.

Good rich soil that suits primulas is best, and regular irrigation through the summer months. I think they can go quite dry in the winter. Worth every effort to grow these!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I have a love/hate relationship with this plant. Over the course of nine years growing it, I've been tempted more than a few times to toss it out.  Yes, it makes a pleasant show of orchid-like blooms in late spring, but afterwards the stiff stems and leafage elongate to 24-30", the tatty flopping mass an eyesore persisting all season long.  And then unfailingly each fall, amid the unsightly heap of foliage and collapsed stems, sprout forth a second flower display, the smaller blooms looking pathetic as they squeeze out near the base of the ugly remnants of the spring growth.

But year after year it remains reliable, always flowering, the number of stems increasing annually, and finally after approaching a decade of growth, the June 2009 display was better than pleasant, it was spectacular, the plant is somewhat redeemed.  Most seed pods abort but some succeed; scratching in seed around the parent plant has resulted in lots of young plants, but I'm not sure I want them ;)  This year I planted a couple more Roscoea species to see if they are as beautful and ugly as cautleyoides.

Regarding spelling of the species, I see it listed two ways on IPNI.org, as Roscoea cautleoides when listed as part of a variety (var. pubescens (Z.Y.Zhu) T.L.Wu), but most often spelled Roscoea cautleyoides Gagnep.  Which version should be used?

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Kelaidis
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Joined: 2010-02-03

I stand corrected! By the way...I would be HAPPY to relieve you of some of those excess, annoying things cluttering up your garden! I daresay I could arrange an exchange of hostages...

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Kelaidis wrote:

I stand corrected! By the way...I would be HAPPY to relieve you of some of those excess, annoying things cluttering up your garden! I daresay I could arrange an exchange of hostages...

We can work towards an exchange :D  I think my challenge is to find a way to grow them with companion plants, to better support/conceal the ragged flowering aftermath.

At least when the cornstalks of Juno Iris get done with their spring display, they have the decency to go dormant and shut down for the year.

The one I want to try is R. purpurea 'Red Gurkha', take a look:
http://www.plantsforshade.co.uk/acatalog/Roscoea.html
http://desirableplants.com/Roscoea%20purpurea%20'Red%20Gurkha'.jpg

If you really want a feast for the eyes, check out John Jearrard's pages on Roscoea (don't miss the bottom link, it'll knock your socks off).  And R. wardii looks fabulous too.
http://www.johnjearrard.co.uk/plants/roscoea/roscoea.html
http://www.johnjearrard.co.uk/plants/roscoea/roscoeapurpurearedgurkha/ro...

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Kelaidis
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Title: Member
Joined: 2010-02-03

I've seen Red Gurkha at Wisley last year, and I believe I saw it at Kew before that: it is even nicer in real life. Don't know a US source, however...

Do you have Cowley's terrific monograph? Fascinating to see the range of these little gingers. It is especially strange that in the wild they seem to be extremely dwarf (from a distance they looked like crocuses, almost, or bits of tissue paper on the ground)--at least in the Yulongshan, but in cultivation they all get comparatively monstrous.

For every minion of the peaks there are a dozen steppe children growing in the dry Continental heart of all hemispheres still unknown to horticulture.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Kelaidis wrote:

I've seen Red Gurkha at Wisley last year, and I believe I saw it at Kew before that: it is even nicer in real life. Don't know a US source, however...
Do you have Cowley's terrific monograph? Fascinating to see the range of these little gingers. It is especially strange that in the wild they seem to be extremely dwarf (from a distance they looked like crocuses, almost, or bits of tissue paper on the ground)--at least in the Yulongshan, but in cultivation they all get comparatively monstrous.

No, I don't have the monograph.  However, looking at John Jearrard's extensive studied list of Roscoea (see link above), where he is attempting to vet and correctly identify the many species and cultivars (where confusion reigns), is an invaluable resource for those interested in the genus.  Seems too, that a large number of cultivars got named that aren't very different than the type species.  One year, Russell Stafford at Odessey Bulbs had a number of these Roscoea forms, but apparently they weren't overly popular.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Boland
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Joined: 2009-09-25

I've tried this species and alpinum from seed and all ended up that miserable species R. scilloides....and it now self-seeding all over!

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Boland wrote:

I've tried this species and alpinum from seed and all ended up that miserable species R. scilloides....and it now self-seeding all over!

There isn't a R. scilloides, although that spelling can be found all over the web and plant forums, but there is a R. scillifolia.  It is the one that has been confused with R. alpina.  If you go through the John Jearrard link (above), enumerating a list of Roscoea species and cultivars, one can find some good looking species and cultvars, and some not so good overly-leafy things.  The list contains some notes on common confusion or misidentified species.  While I'm no expert on these plants, my guess is that they would prefer a milder, more moist climate such as yours, than in a drier climate.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Can anyone show us just how miserable and squinny is R. scillifolia?  My inarguable logic tells me that if any Roscoea is remotely capable of survival here, it could only possibly be this least-desirable one...  Hey, I might settle for it!  ;D

(NB.  I did try Roscoea purpurea one year... poor doomed thing.)

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Skulski wrote:

Can anyone show us just how miserable and squinny is R. scillifolia?  My inarguable logic tells me that if any Roscoea is remotely capable of survival here, it could only possibly be this least-desirable one...  Hey, I might settle for it!

(NB.  I did try Roscoea purpurea one year... poor doomed thing.)

Russell Stafford of Odessey Bulbs mentioned to me that the numerous R. purpurea forms are not as hardy as some other species, and the only one he considers tried and true hardy is R. cautleyoides.  Russell gardens about 20 miles from me in Massachusetts, USDA Zone 5.  Since most of the history of cultivation of these things is based in the UK, we'll still need to learn about their adaptability (by trial and error) to colder climates of North America.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Boland
Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

Here is my scillifolia....the blooms are maybe an inch in size.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

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