Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
1st December 2013
There is a world of difference between 'we haven't had a frost yet' and 'we had a light frost in the week'. Last week I hadn't had a frost
although gardens to the south of mine had been hit. I was insufferably smug. This week I have watched the garden let go of the last scraps
of summer as the frost arrives. It hasn't been a delightful frost, leaf margins bejewelled with sparkling crystal. It has been a brown frost,
soft, drooping and rather smelly. Tender summer growth has been eaten by the frost monster and voided at the other end.
It would have marked a temporary end to my smugness but I have a greenhouse. I retreated to it.
Bouvardia ternifolia has been flowering for months. It is native to the south-west USA and Mexico. It is very tolerant of drought and heat
but not so good with cold. Several years ago Bob Brown introduced this selection from high altitude in Mexico and it is fairly tough - in the
last five years I have only killed it once.
The flora of Mexico is like an internet porn site for gardeners. Oozing with exotic promise, sooner or later we all visit either bashfully
or full of bravado. At present the greenhouse is part seasonal refuge, part orgy.
The Americans rate it as a zone 9 plant which carries the subtext 'red hot action'.
1st December 2013
The Bomarea scramble through the undergrowth of Central and South America. Many of the species favour hilly and mountainous habitat
and many are hardy, nearly hardy or suitable for growers with warm delusions. >B.edulis seems to be the best of the species
grown so far. It has been undamaged by cold, though I think it appreciates the warm dry conditions of the greenhouse to really get going in spring.
This year I planted it out from a pot into the ground (still in the greenhouse) and it has grown vigorously. I don't have the great bulging
heads of flowers that it can produce but this year there are eight in the cluster (my previous record was six). Next year I am sure it will produce
new growths like steel cables that can barely suport the football sized heads. It doesn't grow as far north a Mexico so perhaps I should expect it
to be demure.
We are reaching the time of year when a damaging frost could happen even in the greenhouse. I have sorted out great piles of fleece and black plastic
but they are still sitting rather uselessly in the shed. During the week it must be carried up to the greenhouse in case a sudden hard freeze is forecast.
It is one of those jobs that is no fun to do by torchlight with the temperature dropping perilously.
1st December 2013
The bulbs in the greenhouse are well ahead of the season. It is like a big plastic time machine, showing how things will be in a couple of months.
The first Acis of autumn bloomed down there in July, when summer was still arriving in the rest of the garden. The last Nerine are currently
ending the autumn season, but the focus of interest has shifted to the promise of spring. The most exciting thing for me are the rows and rows of pots
all showing the first tips of growth at the surface. Fortunately I am still sufficiently in touch with the rest of humanity to recognise that
a series of pictures on unidentifiable shoots has limited general appeal.
Ipheion uniflorum has produced great clumps of leaves, and the flowers will appear early in the new year. They are completely hardy, but those in
the garden won't be putting in an appearance until March, by which time I will be yearning for summer.
I.hirtellum is one of a range of almost indistinguishable species that start flowering in Autumn and continue until spring. Last year I tried to hybridise
it with the blue forms when they overlapped but I didn't get any seed. It was a rather half-hearted attempt, I might take it more seriously this year.
Another South American, from Argentina and Uraguay, I try not to dry it out too much through the summer when it is dormant but it is a vague intention
and things can be a little hit and miss. It would survive complete dessication in a pot, but I doubt it would increase.
Pretty much all of the Ipheion have recently been moved into Nothoscordum which is sensible, but I haven't changed my labels yet
and once that is done it will take the flabby old mind a year or two to adapt. In the meantime Ipheion is like a dog shagging your leg,
1st December 2013
I have a plant of the white form of Dahlia merckii in the greenhouse where the frost has yet to reach. I have killed it outside twice previously
and I am getting tired of replacing it. I seem to end up buying them in August and I'm not sure they have enough time to develop decent tubers before the
cold gets them. This time it is staying indoors and if it survives I will root some cuttings next year to go outside. I had been hoping to collect seed
from it this year but I only had a single flower, and a slug got to that before it opened fully.
Outside the typical form has acted as a frost indicator. Last week it was lush and green, the new growth starting to yellow a little in the cold, but still
cheerful. This week it is a carpet of brown. Curiously the last flowers have survived so it wasn't a hard frost.
Buds are swelling on the Camelllia, snowdrop noses are poking through the soil. The old year isn't quite finished yet, but the new one is ready to go.
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