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

15th January 2012

Aspidistra attenuata
A change in the weather has started to suggest winter and although the nights are cold, we haven't had a frost yet so it isn't something to winge about. A couple of sunny days and a stiff breeze have started to dry the ground out. On wednesday we had a supremely beatiful day. Who would have thought to look for paradise in a winter garden? And so to Aspidistra...
This is one of the nice flowering species. In winter the pot bubbles with fat green buds that open into these pink tinged flowers like an octopus orgy. It has long thin leaves, growing to about 1m tall in the greenhouse but they are spaced rather widely along the rhizome so it doesn't make a dense clump. It has prospered in a pot in a cold greenhouse, so it might be just as happy outside and I probably have enough now to risk a piece. It may well prefer the more uniform watering regime it will experience in the ground.
This comes from a Crug Farm collection at Tungpu, a mountain resort in west-central Taiwan at about 1,200m (Collection no.BSWJ377). The Taiwanese Aspidistra are still incompletely understood and there has been some confusion around the naming of them, but I think this is now the right name for the right plant.

15th January 2012

Dendrobium Ellen
Last week was a very snowdroppy week and at this time of the year there is often little else to show but it has been mild and there are surprises wherever I look.
This Dendrobium was in bud when I brought it indoors from the greenhouse in December. I had forgotten it was on the windowsill when I found it had opened. I bought it in 2010 from my local Orchid Society show and assumed it was a form of D.kingianum (I was collecting together forms of the species that year). To be honest, I wasn't quite sure if it was a cultivar called 'Ellen' or if it had been donated to the sales table by Ellen. A quick whizz round the internet didn't provide any answers so I put the plant in the greenhouse and waited for the little pink flowers. These large greenish blooms are a subtle wintery delight. It nearly stayed out in the greenhouse - D.kingianum is fairly cold hardy as long as it is dry and dormant but I lost my nerve, and now I am grateful for my cowardice.
Ellen is a grex name that covers all the first generation hybrids between two Australian species, D.kingianum and D.tetragonum. A number of clones have been selected and named, but I don't think this is one of them. D.tetragonum is found along the eastern coast of Australia as far as the Cape York Peninsula and the northern forms are fairly tropical so the hybrid is not likely to be as tough as the D.kingianum selections, but it is an impressive flower for January.

15th January 2012

Lonicera fragrantissima
Back in the age of the dinosaurs (1970's) I used to grow this in Essex where it was too large for its space and too good in winter to cut down. I was certain it was Lonicera fragrantissima because I ordered it from Hilliers and it came with a label tied to it. They were simpler days, but even then I knew the winter honeysuckles were difficult to identify. It doesn't help that Robert Fortune introduced both Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera standishii from China at the same time in 1845. L.standishii differs in having hairs on the corolla tube (you will need a 10X magnifier to see them). They both produce a scattering of highly fragrant flowers in the depths of winter and would be much loved if they weren't both duds. Bean says that L.fragrantissima is the better species but you can't help feeling he means least bad.
L. x purpusii is they hybrid between the two species and is at last a worthwhile winter flowering plant. In its best form ('Winter Beauty') it is more compact and freer flowering. It probably also has slightly hairy corolla tubes. I have never checked.
I was working in a garden on an estate of bungalows when I got this plant. I am always amused by the term "Landscaping". In this case the landscape extended fifteen feet to the gable wall of the adjoining bungalow. "Dig everything out and lay turf" so I did. I burnt most of it but I kept the honeysuckle. I get an occasional whiff of purfume and the odd chuckle from it.

15th January 2012

Nerine undulata 'Winter Sun'
The Amaryllidaceae are like a room full of children at an orphanage. A family waiting to be wanted. The snowdrops have already been adopted, and Narcissus has grown up and is supporting itself, but most of the members are still waiting around looking charming and needy. There have always been obsessive Nerine growers but it feels like things are looking up. A new wave of enthusiasm for Nerine is coming, and it is being driven by Dutch breeders, growing the bulbs for cut flowers. I haven't been able to trace the raiser of this cultivar yet, but it is larger than the species with longer stems and a later flowering season - all characteristics that the cut flower industry will value. It has been suggested that it is a hybrid between N.undulata and N.bowdenii.
I bought a bulb during the summer and it flowered as soon as it started to grow in the autumn. It has managed a second flower spike in the right season (it is supposed to be the latest flowering of the Nerine cultivars). I was going to pollinate it and see if I got seed but the bulb is still not well established in the pot and it is too cold and windy to mess about even in the greenhouse, basking in the warmth of the pale pink winter sun.

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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