Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
13th May 2012
Billbergia 'Santa Barbara Sport'
Weatherman looks down at feet and shuffles a bit. Well, actually it's not a drought any more. It seems that the wettest April on record has sunk in.
The garden is deceptively warm. Wind and mist make it look chilly but if I work out there for more than 10 minutes I need a T-shirt and shorts. During the week weeds have stopped being a job to be done
and become a problem to be solved. A quick play on the lawnmower before lunch marked out the boundary between lawn and weeds. Snowdrop leaves are dying down and Hellebore
seed is ripening so in a few more weeks I can cut it all back ready for next year.
Billbergia 'Santa Barbara' is an American hybrid of unknown parentage, although B.nutans and B.disticha are thought to have played a part. Initially it looks like B.nutans
but selfed flowers produce some very strange offspring with spotted leaves so there is something else in there. It is a fairly stable variegation, I have never seen a green reversion, but from time to time it produces
a pup with yellow leaves and they grow strongly enough to survive on their own. It isn't a thing of great beauty but I am very fond of it. I am sure that somebody somewhere must have named it,
but I haven't managed to track it down. The flowers are paler than 'Santa Barbara' and the bracts are less pink. It should be a tasteful blend of pale pastel colours. Perhaps there are still people innocent of
alcohol who can see it in that light. For the rest of us, it is just a hangover in a pot.
13th May 2012
Rhododendron 'Loderi King George'
I have a pink Rhododendron in my front garden. It was there when I moved in and it has proved to be very resilient. In recent years I have become strangely fond of it.
When the first flowers opened last week I managed to convince myself it was as good as one of the 'Loderi' group but it is just wishful thinking. This morning I walked up the garden to find this big pink surprise.
The Loderi Group are hybrids between R.fortunei and R.griffithianum. I don't grow either of the parents but I would be prepared to find space for them because the hybrid
is magnificent. The flowers are just a bit bigger than they need to be to astonish. The scent is just a bit stronger than it needs to be to waft in an alluring fashion round the garden.
I don't have a lot of time for Rhododendrons in general. They put me in mind of the stands at a flower show. A superficial display held together for a few days with old milk crates and rolled up newspaper
covered with mulch to conceal the deception. It is rare for me to forgive a cluster of tatty old stems for just a couple of weeks of flowers. Eventually (there is a long wait) the tatty old stems become stately trunks
and Rhododendron 'Loderi King George' rises beyond criticism.
13th May 2012
Roscoea cautleyoides (mauve)
It has been a year spent planting things out in the garden, and at the end of last summer I got around to the Roscoea. Almost all of them went out, and the remainder got put under the bench in the greenhouse
ready to plant out in the spring. They would be even more ready to plant out if I remembered to water them but the days are too short and the garden too demanding. They will grow and be planted or they will be
on the compost heap by autumn.
Those that did get planted made the most of a long autumn last year and were looking strong by the time they died down. The bed has been weeded and there should be strong little noses poking through the soil
over the next few weeks. Cold weather in April has probably slowed them down a bit. I would expect to see the first R.cautleyoides in mid April and I have had them before the end of March
but there is no rush. If they come up, I will be happy.
This is an early mauve form of the species and it has emerged very rapidly. Last week it was little more than a spot of green poking through the soil. There should be a mass of yellow forms to follow,
all with different names. It will be interesting to see if they are any more distinguishable in the garden than they were in pots.
13th May 2012
Pleione x barbarae
The Pleione have been a wonder this year. Perhaps the mild winter suited them, but I like to think improved management has played a part. Last summer I realised that I had been treating them rather harshly when in growth.
They were too dry and not fed sufficiently. Last year I moved to a moister compost and added a lot more fertiliser. I seem to have much bigger bulbs and more flowers as a consequence.
Pleione grow new bulbs every year at the base of the leaf and they have to be given as much food and water as they will take while they are growing, to get the bulbs to expand. Once the leaf dies off
in autumn they are allowed to dry off completely. The new flowers in spring are supported entirely from stores in the bulb and then the new growths start to form and the process repeats. They are typical monsoon plants,
all of their growing is crammed into the wet season and then they become completely dormant in the dry season. Cymbidium behave in the same way. If you manage to get enough growth in summer, they will flower in winter.
It is no accident that my Pleione and Cymbidium are now in the same greenhouse.
P.x barbarae is a natural hybrid between P.grandiflora and P.bulbocodioides. They can be rather variable in flower and I am very pleased with this one. It has large flowers on long stems.
Good shape. Good colour. This one has green pseudobulbs but I have another with purple bulbs that has yet to flower. With unknown seedlings the excitement mounts to fever pitch as they prepare to disappoint.
In future years I may well praise its fascinating purple pseudobulbs, which is making the best of it.
Graham Stuart Thomas once said there is no such thing as an ugly Hellebore. I am sure it is true of Pleione as well, though from time to time you find one most notable for its lovely pleated leaves.
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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