Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2001 16:16:28 -0800
From: John MacGregor <jonivy@EARTHLINK.NET>
Reply-To: BB for Hummingbirds and Gardening for them in the Southeast
Subject: [HUMNET-L] Christmas Cheer


I have just sent two e-mails to Hummingbirdgarden-pix with photos of one of
the best winter hummingbird plants I know for mild climates. Kniphofia
'Christmas Cheer' is a hybrid of the South African species K. rooperi (the
other parent is unknown). It was named and introduced in the 1970s by the
Huntington Botanical Gardens. Here in Southern California it blooms nonstop
from October through April or mid-May (if not badly frosted). Even after a
freeze into the mid-20s F. it will come back into bloom when the weather
warms up in spring. The hummers love it, and it practically drips with
nectar.In bloom, the plant is about 5-6 feet tall, and the long, very broad (for a Kniphofia) leaves extend an established clump to 8-10 feet wide. Be careful not to plant any small things within this diameter because they will be smothered. (Notice the leaves are trimmed back half way in the photo. I
did this in October of last year as an experiment in an attempt to keep from
having to move surrounding plants. It work out just fine. Each plant has
so much foliage that it didn't seem to affect the flowering). Cut the old
spikes out to the base as soon as they become unsightly to keep it blooming.
Once the clump quits flowering in late spring, I pull out (by hand, one by
one) all the old leaves. This is also the time to divide it, which should
be done at least every third or fourth year. It is also possible to remove
part of the clump and leave a portion in place to avoid having to start over
from scratch.

John MacGregor
South Pasadena, CA 91030


Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001 12:03:33 -0800
From: John MacGregor <jonivy@EARTHLINK.NET>
Reply-To: BB for Hummingbirds and Gardening for them in the Southeast
Subject: [HUMNET-L] More about 'Christmas Cheer'

Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer is indeed the king of all red hot pokers--and I
grow many varieties. None of the others blooms in winter, although when
they ARE in bloom, the hummers frequent them. For good winter bloom,
Christmas cheer require planting in all-day full sun. It is not at all
choosy about soil; any good garden soil with good drainage will do. It
should be fertilized moderately in early fall for best winter bloom. It is
reputedly somewhat drought-tolerant, but I grow it with regular water all
year, so it should do just fine in the Southeast in spite of summer rains.
Suncrest says it is root-hardy to below 15 degrees F, so most people in the
Carolinas, Florida, and the Gulf Coast should be able to keep it alive. The
limiting factor will be long periods of temperatures above freezing during
the late-October-through-April blooming season. Obviously, it is a
short-day bloomer, and if temperatures are too low during this period, it is
not worth growing. All you get in the summer is a lot of very unruly.

It is in the retail trade in California, but I know of no mail-order
sources. Two large wholesale-only nurseries grow it: San Marcos Growers of
Santa Barbara and Suncrest Nurseries in Watsonville. Both have web sites.
In the Los Angeles area, Gary Hammer's Desert to Jungle Nursery (retail and
wholesale, but no mail-order or web site) in Montebello also grows it and
sells it in containers during the blooming season.

It is a very fast multiplier, and I have to divide or pare off at least one
of several clumps every year, so, if asked, I would be willing to provide
starter stock to a good mail order nursery in the Southeast (like Yucca-Do
or Woodlanders).

John MacGregor
South Pasadena, CA 91030