What's In Bloom

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Sources for "What's in Bloom: Bloom Highlights" listings include the Chicago Botanic Garden's staff and database, as well as the publications and records of other botanic gardens, institutions, and the scientific community.

Blue Trumpet Vine

Thunbergia grandiflora, commonly known as the blue trumpet vine, is native to northern India. Like other climbing vines, it needs space to attain mature size and habit. Hard pruning to control the size significantly reduces flower production. Flowers are more lavender than blue.

This genus was named in honor of Dr. Carl Peter Thunberg, who traveled and collected extensively in Java and Japan at a time when both of those countries were not friendly to outsiders.

Coral Aloe

Coral aloe (Aloe striata) is a succulent native to South Africa. Succulents originated in climates where rain is not regular or predictable, and many are therefore drought tolerant—their leaves and stems can store water to tide them over during dry spells. Coral aloe's smooth, fleshy leaves form a tight rosette at the base of the plant, and can reach 18 inches long before tapering to a point. The tubular, coral-orange flowers bloom on erect stems held 2 feet above the foliage, and the nodding, dense inflorescences provide a colorful contrast to the leaves below.

Coral aloe is one of the easiest aloe species to grow. It isn't fussy about where it is sited, but it likes well-drained soil and handles all but hot sun or significant shade. As with most aloes, the flowers provide nectar to hummingbirds when grown outdoors in USDA Zones 9a-11.

Nun's Orchid

Phaius tankervilliae is a terrestrial orchid producing multiple flower spikes of white flowers accentuated by rosy pink cups. Like many terrestrial (ground living) orchids, it can tolerate partial shade but requires well-drained soils that remain moist—a challenging combination to maintain for most home gardeners. It's native to high,  cool, but not cold, environments from the Himalayas down through Indonesia. In the native range, a number of variations of flower color can be found. It's nicknamed the Nun orchid because of the hooded flowers.

The orchid family consists of a large number of genera, each with its own unique characteristics. A common characteristic, however, is the basic form of the flower, which consists of three petals surrounded by three sepals—often in dramatic and contrasting colors and in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although some orchids are native to temperate zones, most orchids tend to prefer a semitropical or tropical environment (USDA Zones 9-11) and have epiphytic roots—meaning they derive moisture and nutrients from the air and support from another plant; few orchids grow in soil. Orchids usually prefer a diurnal temperature fluctuation—meaning warmer days and cooler nights—though the absolute temperature range (cool, intermediate or warm) varies by genus and is consistent with their natural habitat. While requiring adequate sunlight for a stunning bloom display, most orchids will not tolerate sustained direct sun.

Many varieties have pseudobulbs, a portion of the stem between leaf nodes that stores water to help sustain the plant through dry periods. Other varieties are monopodial, meaning upward growth is from a single growing point.

There is an exception to almost every general statement one can make about orchids. The family continues to challenge taxonomists.

Queen Victoria's Dendrobium Orchid
This Filipino native hails from the high mountainous regions of several Philippine islands; growing alongside tropical rhododendrons, azaleas and myrtles. The pendulous pseudobulbs elongate into cane like stems that host clusters of deep lilac-blue flowers from late February thru March. Relatively warm day temperatures and cool nights plus high humidity and a distinct dormancy are all characteristics associated with successful care for this species.
Sunset Angel's Trumpet
Sunset brugmansia, also sold as Maya brugmansia, matures around five feet in height - relatively short for brugmansias.  The large leaves are splotched in green, light green and creamy white. The double flowers start out light lemon yellow and age to pale apricot in hanging clusters - a plant in full bloom is a sight to see. The mature height of this cultivar makes it adapted to use in containers, particularly those that can be moved indoors to a brightly lighted, warm location during the cold Chicago winters.