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Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.

11th September 2011

Gladiolus carmineus
Autmn came suddenly last week and there was still hope that we would get a last touch of summer heat but it hasn't materialised. Mists and rain most days with occasional burst of sunshine to make everything clammy. I haven't had much time in the garden but what I have has been sweaty and slimy in equal measure. My bath (which is my habitual retreat after exposure to cold and wet) has been working overtime!
I have had even less time in the greenhouse, but I am in the process of moving all the tender bulbs from one bench to another, so I did manage a couple of hours one evening. From time to time it helps to go through an entire bench weeding and sorting and spacing things out properly and among the grassy things (some of which are Gladiolus leaves and some of which are just grass) I came across a pot with a green stick growing out of it. It was the flower spike of Gladiolus carmineus, which emerges and flowers in autumn, before the leaves grow. The pot looked very strange with just a green stick, and it doesn't look a lot more natural now the stick has flowered.
It hasn't been particularly fast to flower. I sowed the seed in April 2007 and don't remember much more about it, which means it has produced enough grassy leaves to save the pot from being thrown out but not done anything to attract attention. Bulbs are often like that. When they do attract attention they don't mess about!
The species grows on coastal cliffs in a single small location in the Western Cape, South Africa. I can't claim that I have done anything particularly inspired in terms of cultivation. It gets rather neglected and has to put up with drying out occasionally but it seems to have worked.

11th September 2011

Hedychium gardnerianum
Autumn may have reached me, but Penzance is a few miles down the road and it certainly hasn't made it that far. I had (a delightful) lunch there yesterday outside a small cafe and it was only the flowers that indicated a change of season. I said to one of my companions that this would be the last good day of the season and they looked at me as though I was mad. Winter doesn't come to Penzance.
We were surrounded by the perfume of Hedychium gardnerianum. There is a form in gardens in the west of the county that seems smaller than is typical. It may be a selection, it may just be that it is more manageable when grown outside in full sun. It doesn't seem to have been hit by the winter that affected the rest of us. Growing in dense clumps, every cane was topped with a giant head of perfumed yellow flowers. I was in ... well, Penzance, I've already told you that!
Back at home it was in flower in the greenhouse. This is probably the same clone, it came from a local nursery and it is certainly shorter than some forms. In the shade in the greenhouse it can reach about 2m tall. I wish I could think of a sunny corner outside where I could give it a try. It would be a feeble imitation of its success down the road, but it would be my feeble imitation!

11th September 2011

Impatiens stenantha
There are hundreds of species of Impatiens and fortunately there is a dedicated band of enthusiasts committed to trying them all out. It must be soul destroying work because the majority are either too tender to survive or to dull to want. In between the two categories, there are a tiny number of species that are both hardy and attractive. I. omeiana has been the most significant discovery of recent years, and I.stenantha has been rather overlooked among the succulence of big and tender (and generally pink) species.
I grew it in a pot in the shade outside my back door for a season, and it has seeded gently and survived the three coldest winters for many years. The flowers aren't spectacular, but it started producing them in May, and it is still going strong. It grows in the company of I.cymbifera, which is still producing leafy growth, and will continue until October, when it will flower in a single flush and drop dead at the first frost. It is impressive, but there is a lot of waiting around for a week or two of colour. I think I.stenantha is a plant with good prospects. Now we wait and see how long it takes for variations to appear.

11th September 2011

Musa basjoo
It was a terrible winter etc etc (heard it all before) and I have certainly been planting a bit more cautiously than before. I have not been as exotic as usual (if you can imagine such a thing) but one or two things have been pleasantly lush. It took me years to pluck up the courage to plant out the bananas. I waited until they could no longer fit in the greenhouse before I took the risk. In theory it should be hardy without problems locally but I don't actually know any in gardens, so I was a bit wary. That's not entirely true - I know some small ones, and I know a single large one in the village, tucked right up against a south facing house wall, but we should be forested with them. Thousands have been sold through nurseries locally, and yet I'm still not seeing them. So, I have been a bit cautious.
The first two I planted out had 2m stems and were cut to the ground in their first winter, but they have sprouted again. As a consequence I planted three more behind the herbaceous border and they have done better (the soil is richer and moister). The tallest of them has reached about 2m this year and is looking suitably exotic and surprisingly undamaged by wind.
If the winters are reasonably kind they will grow together into a large clump and I will start to think about suitable exotics to grow in front of them.
If the winters are reasonably kind.

Acorus Alocasia Anemone Arisaema Arum Asarum Aspidistra Begonia Bromeliads Camellia
Carnivorous Cautleya Chirita Chlorophytum Clivia Colocasia Crocosmia Dionaea Drosera Epimedium
Eucomis Fuchsia Galanthus Hedychium Helleborus Hemerocallis Hepatica Hosta Impatiens Iris
Liriope Ophiopogon Pinguicula Polygonatum Ranunculus ficaria Rhodohypoxis Rohdea Roscoea Sansevieria Sarracenia
Scilla Sempervivum Tricyrtis Tulbaghia Utricularia Viola odorata Watsonia

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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