Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
26th June 2011
Iris ensata 'Jocasta'
Summer is getting into it's stride, sunshine and showers. I was painting window frames on Friday night and as I put the paint brush down for the evening,
the rain started. It's as well to ignore what the forecast says. If I followed my own advice to it's logical conclusion, I would only start to paint when
rain was imminent. In the garden here the water is starting to have an effect, but there hadn't been much sign of drought anyway. In Wisley yesterday I
was looking at the rhubarb collection ('Ways to spend a happy half hour part 26: Looking at Rhubarb') and the effect was much more pronounced. The fresh
spring growth had collapsed into a ring of tired leaves on the ground, and in the middle the crowns were producing tiny tufts of green regrowth.
Not much in the way of a succulent supper there.
In the garden, Iris ensata is reminding me not to be so feeble and timid about everything. I was worried that the herbaceous border would be too
dry for them so I only planted a couple out, which are thriving. Those I left in pots for another year are being feeble and timid, so they will have to go out
while there is still some space. There are occasional days when I envy those with the foresight and style to plan borders for their effect, mine always
seem to be driven by a hasty desperation to get things planted. I always assume that I will 'finesse' them at a later date. Paroxysm of laughter.
'Jocasta' is one of the highly bred forms of the species, and has a finesse of it's own, regardless of the randon nature of its position. The wild form is
still available, rather dismissively called var.spontanea. If I ever raise a seedling worth naming I should probably call it 'Later Date'.
26th June 2011
At the other end of the Iris spectrum comes Iris foetidissima. It grows well in gardens, but its real claim to fame is that it will tolerate dry shade.
Tolerate is an unfortunate word, with a simultanous implication of scorn and inaction, but in this case it is appropriate. In dry shade it will continue,
shunning both beauty and death and fully deserve any derision it attracts. Many years ago I had a grand plan that involved underplanting the shade of a large
purple leaved elderberry with variegated Iris foetidissima. Cut leaf shadows from the elderberry falling on the scimitar leaves, you probably know the
sort of nonsense I mean. It didn't work. In a profoundly mean, dry, shrivelled, scorched earth and dead leaves way it didn't work and for as long time that was
my opinion of Iris foetidissima.
I was converted to its charms by a colony growing in a deserted garden flowering in June in every gentle shade of yellow and brown and lilac, making bold green clumps
wherever they could. I brought divisions of my favourite colours home with me, and if they colonise under the trees and in the hedges I will be content.
Unfortunately, I can't help picking out my favourites as they flower and selecting the best of them. Leave well alone, John (but I know I won't). This charming
brown and yellow version will get a little label by its side saying 'brown and yellow - select'.
26th June 2011
Aconitum 'Bressingham Spire'
Plants acquire a strange personal history. It is part of their charm. I have never called these 'Monkshoods', I suppose I don't spend enough time with monks
for it to be meaningful. I have always called them 'Wolfsbane' which is curious, because I have spent even less time poisoning wolves. It is also said that
the sight or smell will deter werewolves. They aren't a big problem in my herbaceous border, but perhaps I can put that down to the Wolfsbane.
I view Aconitum with intense suspicion. There are a few genera that I am wary of, Brugmansia is another. If I touch the leaves of a Brugmansia
I can feel the numbing effects spreading into my hand as absorb the toxin through my skin. It is worth pointing out that Aconitum is very toxic and that
even the sap from a cut leaf absorbed through bare skin can cause symptoms, so I tend to stay away from them. It is easy enough to enjoy their beauty
in other gardens, where I won't have to sweep up the bodies of wolves, werewolves and visitors every morning.
'Bressingham Spire' arrived thirty years ago in a 'job-lot' I bought at a nursery closing down sale (still a common feature of the industry unfortunately).
I planted a row of five in a nursery bed in the hope of selling them on again later, and nobody ever took them. Trees grew up around them, and I took to mowing the bed
once a month to control the weeks. The decades passed, and finally last autumn I took pity on the stragling shoots that continued to appear, and dug them up
before I did the final cut of the season. I really did intend to replant them, and if I didn't get around to it until April, that's just unfortunate.
It doesn't seem to have bothered them. They are beautiful, they are clearly tolerant of abuse and well suited to a garden of sporadic neglect.
I continue to view them with intense supsicion, and I have so many pesky rabbits, the last thing I want to do is deter wolves.
26th June 2011
The Rhodohypoxis are another group that have been neglected of late. I needed space in the greenhouse a couple of years ago so I put them all outside
for the summer. It is always a mistake to put small things on the ground, they are always quite literally overlooked.
I grow them in solid trays so that they can stand in a little water through the summer. It is amazing the number of South African bulbs that like to be
drowned in water through the growing season. Unfortunately they remained drowned through the winter, and it was a very cold year, so I was expecting
some losses (which is the currently accepted term for an outright massacre expressed through clenched teeth and a pained grimace that we will tactfully
interpret as a smile).
They have proved me wrong, I have hardly lost anything, and I have moved them back up to bench height where they can be pink beyond by ability to overlook.
In recent years there has be a new wave of cultivar names appearing, and we already had a name for every conceivable shade of pink. The very limited market
for dwarf pink summer flowering bulbs (with a reputation for tenderness) is oversupplied. The appearance of double flowered forms recently has given breeders
something new to play with. Initially I thought they were rather ugly, though it didn't stop me collecting them. From time to time I can see an attraction
in them. Expect a hundred new names and shades of pink in the next decade.
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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about what is going on, if you are interested.
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