Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
8th July 2012
Hippeastrum 'Santa Fe'
Regular readers may have realised that my weekly comments do not arise as a consequence of a plan, they are the haphazard ramblings of a man who has just spent an hour in the garden
with a camera and is now sitting with a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate (depends on the time of day) while enoying the comforts of a warm/dry/wind free office (depending in the prevailing weather outside).
The absence of a plan has never struck me as a serious obstacle to overcome. I treat it as a welcome break from omnipotence. From time to time I get the urge to respond to the 'big picture' but I get distracted very easily.
This week I have been weeding in the herbaceous border in the gaps between the plants and the showers and it has been very satisfying. All this week I have been convinced that I was going to focus on the
border when the time came to take photographs. So much for plans. There are some lovely things out there, but you should see the greenhouse!
The Clivia and Hippeastrum have been evicted from the conservatory into the greenhouse where they spend the winter cowering under the benches. The greenhouse is sheltered by a row of leyland cypress that
shed their needles in spring all over the roof. If we get a decent few days it will dry out enough to get up there and remove it but balancing on a wet roof sweeping conifer needles is a mistake. I tried it, and recognised the error
while the issue of descent was still volitional.
So, cold and shady but Hippeastrum 'Santa Fe' is still able to make a show of it. If I were growing it for Christmas decoration or to scare an interior designer then this modest flower might be a
disappontment, but in the greenhouse on a cloudy July day it is magnificent. It has an elusive perfume, like a warm wooden greenhouse but sweeter.
8th July 2012
Orchids in the greenhouse are a constant worry. I don't have anywhere warm enough to grow cool house ochids reliably, but that doesn't stop me trying. Some plants will tolerate temperatures through the winter that
are lower than ideal as long as they are completely dormant. The only way to find out which plants work is to try them and watch the failures die a slow leathery dead. Dendrobium kingiaum is fairly cold hardy,
though I don't think it would grow outside. Dendrobium moniliforme from Japan should be good (but hasn't yet managed it). Some of the Cymbidium are quite tough (but I lost all the developing flower
spikes in the winter). Plants that die right back to a pseudobulb in winter seem to stand the best chance, so when I was offered some old back-bulbs of a Lycaste I thought it was worth a try.
The species come from the cloud forests of central America, from Mexico south as far as Brazil. They are mostly deciduous and will tolerate low temperatures through the winter, though they probably need a
bit of warmth in summer too push them along. I got these dormant bulbs in March and they have only just started into growth. The big problem now will be keeping them growing for long enough to get new bulbs of a decent size
(the flowers may have to come off shortly to push growth along a bit). If I can get a decent crop of new bulbs then they will stand a good chance of overwintering. As a last resort, they would survive being left in
the botrtom of a cupboard for the winter and not taken out until the greenhouse felt warm again.
Lycaste luminosa is from Costa Rica at altitudes of 1000 - 2000m. A higher altitude species from Mexico might be a better choice, but this will tell me if I have a chance or if I'm barking up the wrong tree.
8th July 2012
This was a delightful thing to find in flower this morning. The buds have been swelling for a couple of weeks and after a few days of checking every morning I got bored and put it to the back of my mind.
This morning it bounced back to the front again.
It is a slightly shrubby species of Cineraria from the Canary Isles - I think this stock originated in the laurel forests of Tenerife, but I was given it as a seedling last year
and misplaced the details. It grew astonishingly slowly last year and was still tiny when it came into the conservatory for winter. There is a chance that it will tolerate a bit of frost
but it was certainly too small last year. Hopefully it will produce some seed and I can try a little one in the greenhouse. It might even root from cuttings.
I have been keeping it well ventilated, and on the dry side because I think it would probably rot off given half a chance but perhaps I am being too cautious. It might have grown a lot faster if I hadn't been starving it.
8th July 2012
There is an architectural beauty about Agave that can draw you into obsession. I am easily drawn and have spent time in that particular room in the assylum, but Agave like warm dry winters and warmewr summers
so they don't do very well in the UK. The search continues for a mountain species that will perform reliably in cold wet gardens. In the meantime the genus Manfreda has become popular. Close relatives of Agave
and hybridising with it in the form of x Mangave the super-spiky super-hero, they are less impressive in leaf. M.elongata has done well in a pot here in the cold greenhouse and I am sure it would do well outside
with a bit of rain protection, but the tiny 15cm rosette is hardly architectural.
I was quite excited when I saw it producing a flower spike but the main rosette will probably die as a result. I have my fingers crossed that if I give it a slightly larger pot it will manage an offset or two before it expires.
I don't know it it is self fertile or not - some seed would be nice. If I can find anybodty with open Agave flowers, I will try hybridising it as well. It isn't a breeding program, just casual sex.
Agave have sweetly scented flowers with some complex earthy notes that also turn up in Tequila but this Manfreda has more of the Tequila worm about it. It is the smelliest flower I have grown in a long time
(and I have some pretty smelly aroids). There was a slightly sweet and rotting pungence about it, and then the gagging reflex cut in and I had to leave.
(I bought it as M.elongata, the leaves say M.elongata, but the flowers suggest M.maculata.)
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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