Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
7th February 2016
Camellia 'Fairy Blush'
I woke up yesterday, opened the back door and marvelled at the flood of water streaming past me. An inch of water was rushing down the hill (I only do metric when I'm calm) and not for the first
time this winter, I felt sorry for the people in the village below. For me it was an amazing shimmering carpet across the grass but I imagine it had consequences lower down.
This morning the sun was shining through the windows and I seriously considered working in the garden. I dressed up for it and everything. One footstep on the grass and I knew that wasn't going to happen.
I walked down to the greenhouse to make sure it was all there, and it was. Not that there was anything I could have done about it after yesterday's storm, but it saves me sitting indoors wondering about it.
The new plan is to sit around all day indoors drinking hot chocolate and eating cheesecake. After all, it is good for the lawn.
Camellia 'Fairy Blush' is a pretty new hybrid raised by Mark Jury in New Zealand, an open pollinated seedling from C. lutchuensis, he thinks the pollen parent may be
C. pitardii. At present it is in the greenhouse while it grows large enough to resist rabbit attack, I expect it will be happier outside. The pale pink flowers are produced in abundance, and are shed
before they go brown, so in theory the plant always looks clean. In practice the dense twiggy growth catches the fallen blooms and it needs a good shake from time to time but it is a vast improvement
on the fat double hybrids and their vestments of decay.
7th February 2016
Cyrtanthus mackenii cooperi
Cyrtanthus mackenii is a white flowered species from KwaZulu-Natal, becoming yellow in the southern part of its distribution in the Eastern Cape in the guise of C. m. var. cooperi.
I find them both easy in a cold greenhouse, though flowering is unpredicatble. They flower for most of the year if they have some moisture, with or without leaves, and the flower spikes resist frost.
There are a wide range of colours available in Cyrtanthus seedlings, either by selection of as a result of hybridisation with one of the orange species. A few of them have been named
but so far I haven't seen anything that I would describe as a significant breakthrough. They all look more or less like this, with different colours. 'Sunrise' impressed me years ago, but died out
and 'Himalayan Pink' is an unexpected pale pink, but "mixed" seed is available that produces the full range of colours.
I have known a couple of people who were convinced that Cyrtanthus were going to be the next big thing, but somehow the flowers have never been quite large enough, or the stems quite long enough
to make it as cut flowers and the bulbs are small, clumpy and underground rather than fat and exposed.
7th February 2016
I grow a number of Freesia because they are easy from seed and poorly documented. F. viridis is one of the most distinctive, and I do not recall seeing hybrids of it. The green colour would
be an interesting novelty in a larger flower. It starts to grow in autumn, and flowers as soon as the leaves are fully expanded. By April there will be nothing to see except the
bursting pods of mahogany brown seeds. I try to guide them back into the mother pot, to keep it from becoming a weed, but from time to time it escapes.
Freesia laxa has been banished from the greenhouse because I couldn't control it, only the lilac-blue form is allowed and that has been well behaved (so far). I have half-a-dozen other names
that produce white flowers with slight variation in spring. In an optimistic frame of mind I have a lovely collection, for most of the time I have a lot of trivial variation in Freesia alba.
One day I will sit down with the monograph and sort out what I am growing. All I need is a nice stormy weekend with nothing else to do. I could make time today, but
hot chocolate and cheesecake seem like a better idea.
7th February 2016
A few years ago I noticed that the snowdrop collection was getting a little out of hand, rows and rows of nodding white flowers dominate their corner of the garden in spring. I'm not
about to reduce their number, or even slow the rate at which I acquire new ones. My solution was to plant a few other things among them as a sort of camouflage. Small daffodils have
been a favourite choice.
A wise man would buy them by the dozen from the bulb catalogues in autumn, but I don't. I buy them as single bulbs in flower from the spring shows. I get great pleasure from the idea
that I am not obsessed with snowdrops. Just look at the lovely things I can buy to help hide the snowdrops!
I find that the smaller the Narcissus is, the more I like it. N. cyclamineus is a favourite, and one that is best bought in full growth. It prospers in a damp soil and
the bulbs don't really appreciate being dried out. Among the snowdrops it is bulking up in a very satisfying way, my single bulb is now a little clump. The heads poised like Chinese dragons
with long necks, their ears streaming behind them, bringing good luck for the New Year.
7th February 2016
From time to time the seasons conspire to fill me with excitement and having nowhere else to put it, it spills onto these pages in the form of a reckless fifth picture
from the week. It is entirely normal for an adult human to be obsessed with Watsonia in my opinion, and in the last year or two my ability to moderate that obsession has again crumbled.
I have rescued all the old plants from "round the back" and returned them to centre stage while I work out where they are going to be planted. As I went through them, I was repeatedly
saddened by the lack of Watsonia hysterantha which is so odd I had to grow it in the greenhouse. I planted seed in 2005 and the seedlings followed their strange growth pattern for several years
before I lost track of them. It is a species that flowers from the bare ground in autumn and then produces winter leaves a few weeks later. I was so sad not to have it, I went out and bought
W. coccinea to console myself.
Thrashing around among the "resting" pots in the greenhouse I found a sheaf of unrecognised leaves, and suddenly there was W. hysteranthera almost glowing with overlooked glory.
I felt an overwhelming flood of joy, the only sort I need. A few grey green leaves may not seem like a great wonder
but one day you will have to face your own Watsonia obsession and you will understand.
Ten years cultivation doesn't seem unreasonable. It has magnificent spikes of scarlet or orange flowers in autumn. The most magnificent chromatic clash with the Nerine like a tempest in a paint box.
It is the most astonishing thing in flower.
I've been told.
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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