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

29th January 2012

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus
Once again we seem to be having a strange winter. Last week there was a slight suggestion that we might get through into spring without seeing any cold weather. Things are looking a little more realistic this week. A couple of chilly nights and some cold air from the north have dropped temperatures a few degrees. I spent the morning yesterday planting out Hellebore seedlings and there was a brittle chill in every breath until the sun started to warm things. There are probably more important things to be doing. The garden is certainly on the move, and some jobs depend on the plants being dormant. I really need to weed through the Epimedium before they start to grow but I'm not looking forward to it. Scrabbling around on wet ground on my hands and knees has never been a favourite occupation.
Things could be worse. I was chatting to a friend at a local nursery on Thursday and they were having a new poly tunnel erected on monday. The site had been excavated the day before and they were splashing around in the mud trying to get a concrete block foundation laid. It looked like they had four days to do a weeks work. The mud was thick and yellow and they were stuck in a hole and covered with it. They looked just like the Chinese Terracotta Warriors that were excavated in the 1970's. Perhaps the resemblance wasn't exact. Nothing warlike about them. I expect my cheery banter from the side of the mud-pit helped them through the day...
My Epimedium are a pleasant prospect in comparison.
Tecophilaea cyanocrocus is a wonderful thing and it would be impossible to leave it out, but I showed 'Leichtlinii' last week and I have absolutely nothing new to say (I have plunged my hand deep into the barrel of ideas until it scraped the bottom, and come up with nothing but mud).

29th January 2012

Camellia rosiflora 'Rosaeflora Cascade'
A confusing name but I think this is the currently accepted version. The species is unknown from the wild, this clone was introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century, almost certainly from a Chinese nursery. It was lost for many years, but in 1956 it was re-introduced from cultivation in Sri Lanka. It is very closely allied to C.maliflora , C.fraterna and C.dubia and was thought to be a hybrid. Recently, Chinese botanists have upheld the species and given a distribution in the provinces of Jiangsu, Hubei, Zhejiang and Sichuan. Camellia are strange things. By the time the West started to grow and classify them, they had already been in cultivation in China (and more latterly Japan) for millennia. There is a problem identifying plants that were originally 'wild' species after thousands of years of cultivation. Paeony growers experience the same difficulties.
I bought it two years ago when I was having a bit of a 'thing' for Camellia species, which rapidly led me onto tender territory. This one is not said to tolerate frost but last year it survived a really awful year when the temperature in the greenhouse went down to minus 5 degC and it wasn't damaged so this year it is going to go out. It is in a large pot and I am running out of bench space.

29th January 2012

Crocus chrysanthus 'Snow Bunting'
Over the last year or so I have been planting out as much as I can from the greenhouse. There is too much in there and it is all too complicated to maintain so anything that will survive in the garden is going out. Inevitably some things will suffer but others will prosper. One consequence has been that there are far fewer plants in pots producing flowers through the winter. I was worried in the autumn that I would run out of things to show here. The snowdrops were the first indication that the lean times of winter were over, and the first Crocus emphasise the start of a new season. We may yet have a month of frozen weather and enough snow to entomb a sleeping rabbit (chance would be a fine thing) but there will be more flowers poking through it than I can show here. I have hardly included the snowdrops so far, or the Hellebores. I haven't had space for any of the Hamamelis. The greenhouse is full of spring bulbs and I still have Fuchsia hanging on from last year. In winter the garden falls into a placid state. All the huffing and puffing of summer is done with and there is a relaxing simplicity about the place. Brace yourself, it's all starting again.
'Snow Bunting' was raised by E.A.Bowles a century ago and is still one of the standard varieties of the species. Vast quantities of the bulbs are sold every year. Bowles described it as his best white flowered seedling and the RHS awarded it a First Class Certificate in 1925. I have it in a pot because I haven't got around to planting it out yet. The flowers are about a week early as a result but the first Crocus are open outside and just managing to avoid destruction by small birds, which love to peck them off.

29th January 2012

Eranthis hyemalis 'Orange Glow'
If I wasn't so fond of the Ranunculaceae then the tragedy of Eranthis wouldn't bother me. I would love to have carpets of yellow flowers to welcome the new year but I struggle with a combination of misfortune and incompetence. Eranthis hyemalis has a reputation for being difficult to establish, so I know I am not alone but joining a club of Eranthis killers is little consolation. To emphasise my failure, in gardens where the species establishes it becomes almost invasive. The dried tubers that are sold are not the easiest of things. It helps if they are hydrated first before planting. Soaking them in waterovernight allows them to plump up and recover, they were not designed for total dessication. I have failed to establish them under the trees in the woodland walk. I think it is probably too dark for them so I have tried repeatedly to get them to establish among the Hellebores and finally in the last few years I had a tiny clump that was increasing slowly.
They were providing a measure of pleasure that was disproportionate to their size and significance. No act of smugness goes unchallenged. This winter I had to lift all the plants from half of the Hellebore border and cover the ground with landscape fabric. The weed problem that had developed there was out of control and it had reached the point whereI had to write off the Hellebores or do something drastic. Eranthis hyemalis has small black knobbly tubers the size of a marble. I didn't even try to find them as I dug the Hellebores up.
My penance for such wanton destruction was to buy myself a plant of 'Orange Glow' (I have had it for four days now). It would be nice to think it will establish and spread but I am prepared for failure.
'Orange Glow' is a subtle shift of colour from the usual lemon flowers. It would be nice to show both colours side by side but...
It comes true from seed and seems to have been distributed originally by Copenhagen Botanic Garden in the 1980's. Perhaps it isn't surprising that Eranthis are starting to attract the attention of growers. Colour forms can now be found with greenish or white flowers through to not-quite orange in both singles and doubles. As snowdrops become a mainstream obsession I have a feeling that the specialists are moving on to eranthomania and I am afraid that in the next few years I may well demonstrate my ability to kill all colours in all shapes.

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

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