20th August 2017
Snatches of August heat have seen me sitting by the beach for half an hour between weather systems, watching the bonfire yesterday and hoping it burnt out before it was extinguished,
and mowing the meadow in the gap between the dew lifting and the rain falling. The next major development for the county is rumoured to be a six lane motorway along the coast
from Hayle to Bude so that on rainy days the holidaymakers can get into their cars and spend the day on the coast caught in stationary traffic.
Nerine 'Catherine' is reliably early, flowering before most of the N. sarniensis forms have started to grow. Last year I self-pollinated it in to hope of raising
some seedlings that would flower equally early. It is possible that they will do that in three or four years but more likely in six or seven - conditions are not perfect for seedlings in the greenhouse.
With luck there will be some variability among them and perhaps a hint at the parentage that makes 'Catherine' so precocious. This year I have a flower spike on 'Ophelia' that should open in the next week and might
supply some pollen. I would like to have a selection of Nerine in August, just as I would like to have a few more that lasted until February.
20th August 2017
x Amarygia parkeri 'Alba'
From early Nerine to late Amaryllis. The flower is not late in the season, it is just late.
This is a very familiar plant to me, I first bought it in the early 1980's when it was still called Amaryllis belladonna 'Parkeri Alba' and my abiding image of it is a
brown bulb sitting up to its shoulders in compost and looking deeply unhappy. It produces leaves of course but they look unwilling. Eventually it became clear that my plant was heavily infected with virus
and I burnt it. This is a replacement bought in 2009 once the memory had softened. To my mind the pale trumpets aren't loud enough. This should be a fanfare that causes bleeding from the ears, I have waited
thirty-something years for a flower. It is very late indeed. The pleasure of the moment is slightly clouded by the years that have passed. Triumphant ageing.
It is now known to be a hybrid raised in the 1930's between Amaryllis belladonna and Brunsvigia josephinae. Neither of the parents are particularly keen to flower,
but the hybrid is supposed to be easier. Modern strains of Amaryllis raised from seed generally have some Brunsvigia sap in their stems which is said to make them easier to grow and more floriferous.
I have a pot of seedlings raised from Japanese seed that are three years old now and it will either be a few more years or a few more decades before I can comment.
20th August 2017
Lycoris x houdyshellii
I have become grammatically confused. I don't grow quite a lot of Lycoris. I think that is what I mean. Not that there are quite a lot of Lycoris and I don't grow them.
What I mean is that I have quite a lot of Lycoris and they don't grow. It has been my experience over many years. There is a some consolation from knowing that I am not alone,
though as those caught in stationary traffic on motorways can tell you, the consolation is limited.
Lycoris do not respond in the way we are used to for bulbs. My current theory (I have had several over the years) is that they require heat and water through the summer. The only time I had really good growth
was when I gave up in disgust one year and allowed the tray they were standing in to fill up with water. I didn't get flowers, but the leaves were amazing. I need to modify the greenhouse to test the theory.
The exception is this single plant of L. x houdyshellii. I got a small bulb from China under the number T211 and it flowers every year. I assume it is just more tolerant than any of the others, it receives the
same treatment. The yellow flowers have a flush of pink, stronger in some years than others. The spidery blooms look like a Nerine but the two genera are not particularly close. Last year I attempted to
pollinate it with every Amaryllid that flowered without so much as a slightly swollen seed pod. This year I have self pollinated it and perhaps that will lead somewhere.
20th August 2017
Iris x norrisii
I had abandoned myself to the idea of trumpets in the greenhouse when I discovered Iris x norrisii in flower. It is spectacularly wrong in all respects. The shape and colour are both wrong.
No Iris should be scarlet or have six petals, it just isn't done. That accounts for the complicated taxonomic history.
Belemcanda chinensis is the parent that introduced the orange colour and the six petal-like perianth segments to the mix. It seems to need summer heat, I have never seen it prospering in a garden.
It has previously been taken for an orchid species, identified as both Epidendrum domesticum and Vanilla domestica, so it is seriously weird.
Pardanthopsis dichotoma is a blue flowered iris-like plant that tends to behave as a biennial. The two were combined (by a power crazed psychopath I imagine) to produce the hybrid
x Pardacanda norrisii which turns out to be unexpectedly fertile, producing seedlings in shades from red through yellow to blue. My plant is very close to the Belemcanda parent
and so last year I sowed seed, hoping for variability. No news yet, though the youngsters are getting bigger.
The fecund fertility of the hybrid threw a metaphorical spanner in the taxonomic machinery. In the last decade or so the whole lot have been transferred into Iris which has absorbed them
like a modern kitchen roll, wiping away everything except the confusion.
Hopefully it will clear up now. I have the rest of the grasss to mow.