Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
24th March 2013
If there are sprites of the north, dressed in fog and snowflakes, then they have been gathering all week. A few bright hours have been spiced up in the easterly wind. Spring
has been lying in the beds, keeping its head under the covers. On the sunny days the greenhouse is a warm as a ski jacket and stepping outside is like being naked.
Fortunately the Pleione are all in the greenhouse. I spent some time in the autumn blocking up gaps and sealing holes so that it would warm up easily and it seems to be working.
When that corner of the greenhouse held the Disa it was perfect because they love ventilation and aren't too fussed about high temperatures but they have been moved to a new greenhouse,
so I can pander to the whims of the Pleione.
The Eiger grex of Pleione covers the hybrids between P.formosana and P.humilis. The former parent is vigorous and easy in cultivation and it passes those
attributes on to its seedlings. Pleione humilis is very early flowering, the labellum strikingly marked with scarlet and yellow. It is traditionally cultivated with very sharp drainage
and doesn't increase with much enthusiasm, though recently this has been blamed on virus infection which could also be true. Is it too cynical to suggest that growers
are fastest to blame virus infection when they would otherwise have to accept personal responsibility?
This is the first to flower this year. The blooms are rather poorly displayed on short stems so they are left dangling over the edge of the pot. There are taller clones
and better shaped flowers, but not in my greenhouse in March.
24th March 2013
Epimedium x versicolor 'Versicolor'
My laundry basket has been filling up this week at a rate that reflects the rain that has fallen. Ten days ago things were getting dry enough to skip around the garden in slippers
without a care. Now when I come inside I have to check that I still have both wellingtons and haven't left one in a glutinous quagmire. I spoke to a gardening friend in the week
and the first thing she said was that I must be pleased to garden on a hill. She was right. She has a garden in the banks of an idyllic river and in a dry year I am envious for about
six weeks in late summer when the swallows flit and the gnats are too full of holidaymakers blood to be troublesome. For the rest of the year she sits indoors sheltering from the rain
as the water rises through the garden and the dread mounts. All I have to worry about is a laundry basket full of trousers with wet knees, becausae I have been weeding the Epimedium.
It is a job I should have tackled months ago. The plants are growing and the deciduous forms have soil-coloured new growth pushing up. In a careless moment I was yanking up
some rather tough wiry growths and cursing the tenacity of an unidentified weedy stem when I realised I was pulling off a handful of flower spikes. Serves me right for not paying attention
but who wants to pay attention to it? Weeding is like knitting, it's a way of looking busy while you daydream.
Epimedium x versicolor is the hybrid between E.grandiflorum and E.pinnatum colchicum. It was first raised by Andre Donckelaar at Ghent sometime in the 1840's. He distributed
'Versicolor' and the better known 'Sulphureum'. This one shows more influence of the Japanese parent (E.grandiflorum) . It has reddish sepals and is more or less deciduous, more so when I am daydreaming.
24th March 2013
My favourite sport for this spring has been 'spot the Erythronium leaves'. I planted a lot of new bulbs last summer and in the middle of winter it is easy to believe they have all been eaten by the worms.
It doesn't help that my established clumps sprung from the ground with unseasonal enthusiasm while the snowdrops were still filled with trepidation. Fortunately the new ones started to appear a few weeks later
and they are increasing day by day. I spent a few hours planting them and my mind started to wander. Evidently my hands did as well because they are coming up in unexpected places.
E.tuolumnense was a bit easier to find. I only had a single bulb and it was planted among the Ranunculus ficaria forms on the principle that they would not interfere with eachother
and they would both be gone in time to clean up the bed before winter.
It is a vigorous species with small chrome yellow flowers and is less often seen in cultivation than its hybrid seedling 'Pagoda'. It has a limited distribution on the western side of the USA, growing
from 1,500 to 5,000m in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Tuolumne County, California. I am looking for a moist and reasonably open part of the garden to establish a small colony and when I have solved the location problem,
I will start saving.
This flower got caught in a chill spell as it was opening and the petals haven't yet reflexed fully.
24th March 2013
There are more species of Muscari than an efficient economist would allow and I find them a pleasing reminder that there is more to life than money and politics. It has been said that in the event
of a nuclear holocaust only the cockroaches would survive. I suggest that it will be the cockroaches and the Muscari. Some of them add to their tenacity a world dominating enthusiasm for reproduction
but this is not one of them.
I grow it in the greenhouse because it is one of those Turkish species that prefer to be warm and dry in spring. The flowers are variable in colour - mine is greyish with a hint of camouflage
but there are forms that approach blue without quite enough confidence to step out of the grey shadows. The colour is a matter of little significance because the perfume is overwhelming. It has a heavy sweet quality
that remains delightful even once the volume is turned up to eleven on the dial. Turkish ladies are said to have included the flowers in their love letters. One of those charming suggestions
that conjures up delightful images capable of concealing hogwash.
The buds hardly change in shape as they open but one day the greenhouse smells of damp compost (like cupboards under the stairs)
and the next day it smells of all the things that cosmetics counters aspire to.
It is a perfume to taunt an efficient economist with the observation that the Muscari in their garden will survive them.
To find particular groups of plants I grow, click on the genus name in the table above. Click on the "Index" box at the top of the page for the full list.
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