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

11th March 2012

Epimedium pinnatum colchicum L321
I think the quiet season is over. I always assume there is a quiet time in winter when I will be able to get on with those structural jobs in the garden that are essential but not urgent. Taking down trees and levelling ground. The sort of jobs that require brute force and no distractions. I have done a few of them but I still need to clear the lower branches from the windbreak around the garden to give me space to plant a new generation of windbreak shrubs. It hasn't happened, and I think the quiet season is over.
I did get around to weeding the Epimedium border. I have been putting it off because it hasn't seemed urgent, but then I noticed these flowers and realised I had to get it done. In the process I rediscovered Narcissus eystettensis and I am happy about that. I moved it last year and I couldn't quite remember where I moved it to. Very satisfying to have two flower buds forming. I discovered N.hispanicus at the same time. I remember planting it there and it came up exactly as expected, but it took a bit longer to remember exactly what it was. Woolly is a good attribute if you keep sheep but less helpful if you keep records.
This Epimedium has returned to form. It has always been the first into flower but missed it's cue last year and appeared in the middle of the season which was perplexing. It is an introduction by Roy Lancaster and is smaller and 'wilder' than the form usually grown. I am currently running on 'energy saving mode' when it comes to the naming of the yellow evergreen species and accepting the principle that you tell the difference between them by reading what it says on the label. It isn't entirely satisfactory but you do what you can to preserve your mental health.

11th March 2012

Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'
There are still a few flowers to be found on the snowdrops (Galanthus plicatus 'Warham' is coming to a peak) but the snowdrop season has ended and with it, the focus has moved round the garden. I was photographing Hellebores up by the snowdrops and it felt like old news despite the fact that they are just hitting their best. Down in the herbaceous border the garden is filled with the promise of things to come and though I hardly took any pictures I was filled with the warmth of optimism. If that is replaced by the warmth of spring, I will switch the heaters off in the house but I don't think we are there yet.
I have an affection for Pulmonaria that has never quite reached as far as growing them. They don't do well in the longer term in containers and the herbacous border is only just coming under control. This one was a gift, and a perfect way to start again with the genus. A good modern cultivar, voted the best blue by the HPS Pulmonaria group and a distinct improvement on P.angustifolia 'Azurea' (which I will plant again for the sake of nostalgia rather than for its flowers). There are cultivars available in pink and red, and the ever fashionable white but why would you bother? Blue is a rare and precious colour in the garden. It has inspired a junk yard of blue garden furniture and fences (and some blue painted trees - guilty as charged). A blue as pure as this makes the idea of white Pulmonaria slightly deranged and the pink's are just an offense against reason. That doesn't mean I won't grow them, but a pink Pulmonaria is setting the bar pretty low.

11th March 2012

Pleione Eiger 'Pinchbeck Diamond'
I get very confused between beautiful things and Taiwanese things and modern politics has done nothing to clarify the link. I shall explain, and then you can be confused as well. Taiwan was previously Formosa (political change of name, the communist revolution in China etc) and Formosa comes from the latin for beautiful (formosus). Hence Taiwan is the beautiful Island, and Sturt's Desrt Pea, Swainsona formosa (previously Clianthus) is the beautiful pea. When you have a beautiful island it is inevitable that people will want to collect plants there. Even today it remains a treasure trove of little known plants, many of which are beautiful and may well be named "formosa" but all of which came from Taiwan and could be named "formosana" or "coming from Taiwan (the beautiful island)". That one tiny extra syllable makes all the difference to the meaning and more often than not I put it in where it doesn't belong (beautiful but not Taiwanese) or leave it out where it is needed (Taiwanese but not beautiful). They say a problem shared is a problem halved but I think confusion shared is confusion doubled.
The parents of the Eiger grex of Pleione are P.humilis from Nepal and Sikkim, and P.formosana from Taiwan. It may also be beautiful, but that is incidental.
'Pinchbeck Diamond' is a selected clone and unfortunately there is also a P.albiflora 'Pinchbeck Diamond' to confuse it with. Different things. The P.albiflora form is larger flowered and less vigorous.
This is the first of the Pleione to flower here this year. On Friday I saw the first Pleione flowers at a local show and over the weekend mine has opened. There are plenty of buds coming up in the corner of the greenhouse reserved for Pleione and it could well be a bumper year.

11th March 2012

Cypripedium formosanum
At the same time in the same greenhouse, Cypripedium formosanum has flowered. In this case originating in Taiwan is a great asset. This is the most warm tolerant of the Cypripedium. Most of the genus require a reliable cold winter chill to vernalise the shoots before they will grow the next year, and this possibly explains why they are so popular in Germany and so feeble in the UK. I struggle with a few species, but this is the only one that prospers. I finally worked up the courage to split it this winter and I don't have as many flowers as I had last year but if all of the divisions survive I will be happy.
I should keep an eye open for hybrids involving C.formosanum in the hope that they would be a little more tolerant of my conditions, but I'm not really that organised at this time of the year. Everything is happening at once. The quiet season is definitely over.

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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