23rd July 2017
Acis autumnalis .
Cyclamen in the garden last week made me think of autumn. Dahlias have started to flower and we have had a series of chilly nights. For the first time in months I was pulling the duvet
up around me and not pushing it down. It's a subtle change. The garden has paused. The hectic rush through spring has performed, peaked and perished. I was eying up a magnificent spade
in my local hardware shop, steel handle and a blade like an elephant dagger. I turned around and they had started to stack pallets of coal against the wall.
I may have to brave the silhouette of winter on the wall and go back for the spade.
Last week I watered the Nerine to soothe their sleep and flooded the empty Acis pots, knowing they would be waiting. Up came the spikes and now I have flowers.
This was once Acis autumnalis var. oporanthum. I was never very clear about how it differed from the typical variety. I trusted that a botanist with time and enthusiasm
would find more than I could see through the lense of my camera. It seems to have become simple Acis autumnalis on two counts. Botanist now agree that there is no significant difference
between A. a. var. oporanthum from the Rif Mountains in North Africa and A. a. var. autumnalis from the Iberian peninsula and the varieties have been lumped
On the second count, I grow a number of different accessions of the species in pots side by side. I think the seedlings have long since merged into a single taxomonic blob.
Acis autumnalis is the pragmatic outcome.
23rd July 2017
Aristolochia fimbriata .
I sowed a lot of seed in the spring and some of it has germinated. I could wait another year to see what else came up, but who has time and space for that sort of nonsense? I will go through the
pots and throw out those I have lost faith in. Holding on to optimism is fine but pots of horticultural futility are just a waste of space and energy.
Last year I sowed Aristolochia fimbriata and was amazed by its growth rate. I had flowers in the first summer and demonstrated that it was worth growing as an annual
if nothing else.
It comes from the southern half of South America, Brazil, Paraguay, Uraguay, Argentina and Bolivia. I had a thought that it might be hardy enough to survive in a cold greenhouse
(having seen it in a similar situation in Paignton). The devil is always in the detail. Where exactly in those countries does it grow? Information is exceedingly hard to come by.
It disappeared for winter and I was told that it has a tuber like a potato but I didn't look. It regrew in the first warmth of spring and has flowered early enough in the year for me to hope for seed
this time. Aristolochia are addictive and small successes like this pave a slippery path. I have bought three new species this year and its only July.
23rd July 2017
Gentiana septemfida .
Somehow the garden is pale, dissolving almost in the heat. The straw from the crescendo of spring is scattered around with a horticultural hangover. Brave new growth is collapsing, tall stems leaning for support
that never comes. Beneath it there is a new wave of growth. Sturdy shoots whose destination is the autumn spectacular. Dahlias have started to flower, Michaelmas Daisies are bubbling with buds
and dressed in mildew. The stage is set and off to the side a ghostly figure emerges.Gentiana septemfida is unexpected. I have a long history of failing to grow gentians at all. They have a life expectancy here of weeks rather than months. It doesn't stop me trying
every time I get a new bright idea but to date they have all failed. My hydroponic alpine house has been the latest clever idea, an attempt to combine perfect drainage with constant moisture.
I have tried a wide range of plants to see if any of my previous failures might find a home and this gentian is the first big surprise. I planted it a year ago, and now I have a flower.
It is a weak and feeble flower from a not very strong plant but it is at least eleven months more alive than any previous attempt. I am heartened to continue trying.
23rd July 2017
Petunia exserta .
Even in the recent rain, July deserves to bask in bright colours. One of my favourite new plants of last year was Petunia exserta. I planted it in a tub outside my front door
with Pelargonium australe in a wild spin on the theme of petunias and geraniums. Both had a chance of being perennial but only the Pelargonium survived.
I had saved seed of the Petunia and a great potful remains where it germinated in the greenhouse. It was good outside but it is better under cover. Like the Aristolochia,
the time has come to put it in a big tub and let it get on with it.
A big splash of red is exactly what the week has needed, something hot and sunny to liven the pale spectre of autumn appearing. It is another plant from southern Brazil where the tiny
remaining population grows in the cracks in sandstone towers (cliffs). In habitat it is threatened by unregulated sex with Petunia axillaris, producing fertile hybrids.
I want to keep the pure species so for a couple of years I have resisted the petunia whims that strike me from time to time but I caught myself in a diy store this afternoon
dribbling in front of a display of black petunias with pink stripes.
I am delighted by all this rain but a part of me, let's call it my inner petunia, has had enough.