12th October 2014
Hedychium 'Tresco No.1'
Walking through the garden it has been strange to see all of the signs of autumn without actually feeling its presence. Some of the leaves have started to colour
(or just fallen off), the autumn flowers are all showing, rain is finally penetrating to soil leaving it dark and smelling of silver polish but the garden remained summery.
This week the gales have passed through, the mornings and evenings are cold and hot drinks are as much hand warmers as sustenance. Autumn hasn't arrived, it has been here for weeks
but summer has left.
The Hedychium continue to smile benignly at the passing season from the relative security of the Hedychium house. At present is is still warm enough in there
for the new flower spikes to develop. 'Tresco No.1' is part of the whole 'Devon Cream' conundrum, a group of very similar pale yellow hybrids that flower reliably
and are strongly scented. I spent a foolish five minutes this morning rooting around the trunk of Acer campestre 'Pulverulentum' searching for the source of the
spicy scent I had walked into before realising that I was downwind of the door to the Hedychium house which was pumping out the perfume.
H. 'Tresco No.1' has a more pyramidal flower head than 'Tresco No.2' or the original (David Constantine) clone of 'Devon Cream' which are both rather 'blobby' in flower
(even at this early stage with the first blooms just open). They all flower well if they get enough light - don't believe the stories that they need shade - and grow to about 1.2m tall.
There is a bigger clone about, confusingly also called 'Devon Cream' that flowers at around 2m which is infuriatingly above nose height. Then it falls over
in an accessible and thoroughly inconvenient way.
12th October 2014
I spent the day yesterday with the Nerine Society, touring the collections in the south-west. I felt very comfortable in the company of some hard-core collectors of bulbs.
I do it myself and it is nice to spend time among the scarlets and pinks without having to explain why more is better. We ate a lot of cake as well, it's a deeply engrained idea.
Pelargonium are a contrast (in all respects except colour). There are collectors about but I'm not among them. The few species I grow are here because their hardiness
makes them a reasonable long term prospect given the protection of a greenhouse. I could plant them out in spring and watch them die in winter, but what's the point?
Pelargonium fulgidum is an exception. It is here because it was a gift from a friend. It was planted in the greenhouse and I had every intention of smiling and shrugging
with resignation when it collapsed into brown mush in the first wintery spell. It seemed like a perfectly good plan, requiring little more than the arrival of a wintery spell.
I'm not going to lament the absence of a winter last year, I am going to enjoy a second year of Pelargonium fulgidum. I am going to smile with astonishment and find a new
use for the shrug I had already prepared.
The species grows in the winter rains of the coastal strip of the Western Cape. I have some vague idea that tolerance of winter wet might improve its chances of survival but
I don't hold out much hope.
12th October 2014
I have an affection for bulbs with big shouty flowers but it hasn't deafened me to the appeal of some of the smaller species. I bought Scilla lingulata from
an Alpine Garden Society show because I didn't know it and it has been one of the easiest and most charming autumn flowering bulbs I grow. The pale blue flowers appear
after a long dormant season, late enough to mark the autumn but early enough to reassure that it hasn't died. It has never shown any indication of wanting to die,
but it comes up before I start to worry. It has been vigorous enough to repot this year into a large tub and although it looks a bit thin at present, it will fill up the spaces
rapidly. It doesn't seem to care if it is dry through the summer or moist.
The genus Scilla continues its fragmentation into blue taxonomic confetti but the reverse process will inevitably follow. All the little blue pieces will be collected together
and glued into a mass - for the sake of argument let's call it Scilla again, and we can relax until the next taxonomic technology comes along to disturb it. I have been expecting
this to slip quietly back into Scilla for a couple of years but I find myself still waiting, so it is probably as well to record that it is currently interpreted
as Hyacinthoides lingulata and is therefore an autumn bluebell.
12th October 2014
Nerine purple and orange seedling
For a couple of years I went wild with the Nerine sarniensis forms, pollinating anything that looked good, collecting plenty of seed and keeping inadequate records.
The consequence has been that I have a number of pots of mixed Nerine seedlings and no idea what to expect until they flower. Last year I finally organised myself and
concentrated on a colour per year. It was a good idea, and it would have worked very well but last year I was pollinating white Nerine and almost no seed was set.
I ended up collecting together all the seed I could find at the last moment and sowing it in a big pot. Back to square one.
This year I am trying again, concentrating on purple Nerine, coppers, bicolours and those with obvious purple shades in them. Time will tell if I succeed or not.
This purple and orange bicolour was being very impressive until I went looking at Nerine collections yesterday and saw some truly startling things. This looks a bit
subtle in comparison, but I have already pollinated it with my darkest purple ('Dingaan') so hopefully there will be some seedlings and at least a few of them will be purple.
If it works I might try white again next year, although I have some pale orange cultivars that I would also like to mess with. Plenty of time to decide when I see what happens this year.