15th March 2015
Lachenalia pallida .
It has all been a very satisfying week. All the plants that were in the greenhouse for winter have been moved outside. All the plants that came into the conservatory
have gone back into the greenhouse. For the moment, everything seems to fit though I won't be quite as smug about it when I start repotting.
The weather has made a great effort to co-operate. A little lapse in communication left me dripping on Monday but after that it shone on me when I was outside
and rained through the night.
The Lachenalia have sailed through another mild winter. In a cold year the leaves get damaged but a fleece cover protected them and they are growing strongly.
They get a little too dry while the flower spikes are developing but once they are uncovered they get watered and rush up to flower.
Lachenalia pallida comes from the Western Cape in South Africa and is quite variable. Mine is an attractive pale blue but white, yellow and pink forms
are also found. It has struggled with me for a few years but seems to appreciate being repotted into a loam compost last year. It has several strong flower spikes
15th March 2015
Helleborus x hybridus Sue's Favourite Group .
The Hellebore border suffers a certain amount of abuse through the year. It is impossible to weed it thoroughly so as summer progresses the perennial weeds slowly
take over. It doesn't matter because the top of the garden is mostly filled with spring bulbs. In the autumn I mow it all down and wait for the new season's flowers.
Last year I cut it at the start of September which left the ground clear for a few Colchicum flowers to appear but I worried I had cut the Hellebore leaves
off too soon. The early show of flowers was underwhelming but the plants have started to fill out and it is making a reasonable show now. It would probably help if
I fed it more enthusiastically, the ground under deciduous trees can become quite starved.
Three or four years ago a bought a few plants of Sue's Favourite group of Helleborus x hybridus, selected by Robin and Sue White at Blackthorn Nursery. I liked the
small, neat, double flowers and the pale pink margins. They were young divisions of proven plants and it has taken a while for them to settle down
but they are flowering well this year and I will be pollinating them in the hope of raising some more seedlings. More white flowers would be perfect for the Hellebore bed
which is currently a bit full of muddy pinks.
15th March 2015
Fuchsia 'Tarra Valley' .
I have a particular affection for those Fuchsia that flower in spring from the old wood. Many of them have brown or green flowers that appeal to my sense
of the unusual. 'Tarra Valley' is a lovely thing producing brown flowers from the old wood in spring and greenish flowers from the new growth in summer.
It was raised by Rina Felix in the Netherlands and introduced in 1987. It is part of a curious group of hybrids between the winter flowering species from New Zealand
and the summer flowering South American species. In this case the New Zealander was F. colensoi crossed with the South American F. splendens. Both of
the parents are hardy here but I get problems with 'Tarra Valley' because it is slow growing and takes a long time to recover from setbacks. I am hoping that as it
gets larger it will get stronger.
It isn't the sort of Fuchsia that wins prizes at shows but when I carried it out of the greenhouse (it doesn't like to be too warm either) and saw it had flowers
on the stems I was delighted.
15th March 2015
Protea burchellii .
A week of mounting excitement has been topped with the first flower from Protea burchellii. Its natural habitat takes us back to the Western Cape where it
grows at low altitudes in a range of soils. I have had an interest in Protea for forty years (on and off), and this is the first one I have flowered
so this is a happy week. Forty years ago I was growing seedlings in a warm greenhouse and running into trouble as soon as they needed space. More recently I
have been looking at the few species it may be possible to grow outside here. There are not many of them and they are not reliable but I will be giving it a go.
This plant is the result of the fortunate co-operation of time and place. I bought it as a seedling last year from (the lovely people at) Plantbase. They had grown them
hoping it would be one of the hardiest species. People have a great talent for developing theories to predict the hardiness of Protea species and I listen
to them all with interest. Pick the wet-tolerant ones, the phosphate-tolerant ones, the highest alpines, the most vigorous, I have listened to them all. My own theory,
for what it is worth, is that you just can't tell until you try them.
This one was planted in the Agave house to keep it dry in winter and warm it up in summer. It settled in quickly, grew vigorously and has flowered with
haste and enthusiasm. Not really typical Protea behaviour.
I may be encouraged to try some more.