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

12th February 2012

Galanthus rizehensis
Winter is quietly dominating the garden at the moment. We have had a few cold nights now, those things that are going to be cut to the ground by frost have gone (Bananas and Gingers mostly). It could easily remain warm until the end of the month or we could have a fortnight trapped in a block of ice. I would prefer the former outcome but there is still time for a big freeze.
We are in the middle of the snowdrop season and it would be impossible to pass this week without showing one. G.rizehensis comes from the coastal lowlands at the east end of the Black Sea and this is a plant of the form typically seen in cultivation. It probably derived from collections made in the 1930's and distributed by Sir Frederick Stern from Highdown. In more recent times the species has been discovered over a greater range than originally known, varying slightly in flower size and in the height of the plants. A couple of cultivars have been named.
I first grew it in 1981 and it prospered in a large pot outside for a couple of decades but the danger of large pots is that things become familiar enough to be overlooked. When I finally went to plant it out in the garden it had declined beyond the point of recovery. It had been early and easy and delightful which are as valuable among snowdrops as they would be in a dinner date, so in 2010 I bought another (and whispered an apology for taking it for granted).

12th February 2012

Helleborus torquatus
I have just come back from a snowdrop event that bounced me out of winter complacency and made it clear that the season for visiting and ogling had arrived again. I came back with a couple of new cultivars for the garden, in line with expectation. I avoided spending any great sums of money and I am in good shape to face next weeks snowdrop events. All in all the snowdrop week has gone very well. And then I visited a nursery on the way home and blew all the spare cash on some Hellebores.
It's an easy mistake to make. Mostly the caulescent species and their hybrids, which are poorly represented in the garden at the moment. A lot of new breeding work has been done and it is about time I tried some of it.
None of which is of any significance to this plant, which has been in the border for years. Last autumn I moved it to make a group with a couple of other H.torquatus plants and to make it easier to pollinate.
Politics has a way of making botany more difficult. I have only seen this species in the wild once and back then it grew in Yugoslavia (I stabbed one through the heart with a tent peg trying to erect a tent in the dark). Simple. In modern times it is found in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro though it's distribution hasn't changed. The distinction between this species and H.multifidus remains poorly defined. Flower colour varies from green to purple and this plant comes from Robin White's 'Stripey Form' (green with purple stripes). This seedling decided to do without the stripes as an economy measure.
Among the new Hellebores I overspent on yesterday was a strain of H.x hybridus called 'Jade Star' - green with purple stripes.

12th February 2012

Pieris formosa forrestii
I have a row of assorted Pieris along the path that leads to the greenhouse. Decades ago they outgrew pots and I planted them out in a rush in the first convenient location. I meant to move them to somewhere more appropriate when I had a moment, but the moment passed.
I moved a few of them but the really big ones defeated me at the time. Now I am older and if not wiser, at least more experienced. I think I can get them up with a bit of determination, several cups of tea and some swearing. Best to get the big ones out if I can or I might have to fell them, there really isn't enough space where they are.
Since autumn last year they have been plastered with strings of little hard buds like wrinkled balloons waiting to be inflated. In sheltered corners they could open an occasional flower any time after Christmas but these are the first to make it this year.
Originally collected by George Forrest in Yunnan in 1904-6 on an expedition financed by A.K.Bulley (Bees Seeds), the clone usually seen is 'Wakehurst' (a bit further along the row) this one is paler red in its new growth than that clone, but both probably derive from the original seed.
It is a lovely plant, I wish I could think of something revolutionary to say that would rock it to it's roots. Might make it a bit easier to dig up.

12th February 2012

Crocus 'Prins Claus'
Spring is happening in the garden and having to deal with the weather at the same time. I was in the Garden House yesterday hoping for a burst of afternoon sunshine so that the Crocus tomasinianus lawn would burst into purple glory. It didn't happen. The Crocus buds clustered in tightly closed clumps, at erratic angles like iron filings around a magnet. No 'wow' factor, but it was interesting. People were talking about it kindly.
I went to find my plants this morning and they were also in full inconspicuous bud and it looks as though they will stay that way until they wilt. I have grand dreams of purple carpets of Crocus resting under the trees and perhaps that is the best place for dreams.
Spring in the greenhouse is a different matter. Blooms are protected from rain and mist and if the sun comes out it even starts to warm up. I have a few pots of bulbs down there that would grow more happily outside but they wouldn't flower with the sort of zesty joviality that restores circulation to the colder extremities.
I have two pots labelled 'Prins Claus', both white flowers with a purple feathered reverse. I think this is the real thing with very round flowers textured like a sneeze in a silk handkerchief. The streaks and splashes of purple on the reverse show through to the top face. The other is brusque and upright, not open yet and almost certainly 'Ladykiller'.

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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