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

15th July 2012

Hemerocallis 'Black Magic'
It has been a cold wet summer and it would be easy to be disheartened, but it is in the nature of gardens that wonderful things happen and I have been enjoying them. I was away overnight and on the way home I stopped in a motorway service station for a truly horrifying vegetarian lasagne with chips. I say chips, it was late and they had been waiting to be wanted for a long time. They were shards. I sat behind a glass wall in a plastic coated cafe looking out over the motorway as the sun dipped below the low cloud cover. It was like being pressure washed with honey. The most astonishing glowing luminescence cleansed the world of all cynicism. I have been rained on a few times, but it has been a summer of good stuff.
And a little bit of 'Black Magic' does no harm. It is a very curious colour, and recent daylily breeding seems to have concentrated on curious colours. This one was 1949's most striking contribution to the ranks of daylily weirdness (and things have gone a lot further since). It remains popular because it is a tidy grower and performs reliably. I have been less than kind to it on occasion but I would miss it if it wasn't there.

15th July 2012

Berkheya multijuga
Berkheya is a genus of rather thistly perennials from South Africa. A decade ago (or so) B.purpurea was introduced with a great fanfare. It was sold as a reliable perennial that would produce big lilac thistles all through the summer. It has been more or less successful. It benefits from rather drier soil than most border perennials and needs full sun to flower well. It's quite jolly, and you will see it around quite commonly. It is commoner in garden centres (easily produced from seed) than gardens, but it is about.
Following its success, producers looked around for any other species with potential. Berhkeya multijuga produces equally large yellow flowers and a more magnificent rosette of foliage. It is endemic to the Sani Pass, connecting South Africa to Lesotho and like B.purpurea grows on rocky slopes at around 2,800m. It has not yet been tested very widely under UK conditions, but it is thought to be less hardy than B.purpurea. I bought it in spring last year and it formed a magnificent rosette on top of the taproot. We didn't have a very testing winter, and it sailed through undamaged (it looked a bit less than perfect for a while but grew away quickly in spring). I was very excited when the flower head started to appear and was enjoying a plant I have never grown (or seen in flower) before. I was all ready to crow about it a fortnight ago (when it opened) and then I started seeing it in every garden I visited. It seems that lots of us planted them last spring!
There are about 70 members in the genus, and if this one survives a normal winter then we will be seeing a lot more of them.

15th July 2012

Aconitum 'Bressingham Spire'
I have a deep seated mistrust of Aconitum, along with deadly nightshade and a few other toxic plants. It is irrational. I know you have to eat a fair bit to do serious harm but there is something about poisonous plants that puts me off. I like to think I could frolic naked round the garden and not worry what I rolled in. I have no intention of ever doing it, but I like to think I could. The idea that it might all be poisonous casts a dark shadow over the garden. It isn't rational because I continue to plant thistles with glee, and take delight in anything with long thorns and they are equally unforgiving to naked dancers.
Whatever my irrational fears, I overcame them with 'Bressingham Spire' which had survived for decades in an abandoned corner, and has recently been rescued for the herbaceous border.
It grows good stout clumps and produces long spikes of nearly blue (really purple) flowers that have so far been untouched by slugs or rabbits. I can't do delphiniums and this is as close as I will get. I was pleased enough to plant a couple more this spring and I have taken to noting down the names of those I like in gardens and they may also be added in time. Perhaps in time I will start to enjoy the poisonous aspect as well, and build a little toxic border with a big bloodthirsty sign saying "Enter at your Peril!". I have certainly considered a thorny garden with a warning that trespassers will be impaled.

15th July 2012

Pleurothallis lindenii
While I was away it was my intention to look at a collection of Nepenthes, but I got a little distracted by tropical ferns and tiny orchids. These things happen. I was enjoying some Pleurothallis (the tiny orchids end of the visit) and enjoying playing with my camera.
A few weeks ago my old and much loved compact camera finally gave in to decay and mistreatment and I bought another. I spent a couple of days swearing at it under my breath because I couldn't work out how to make it take pictures (which is a fundamental deficiency in a camera). Eventually I got to grips with a new system, and it has been a pleasure to use. I have even grudgingly admitted that it is performing better than the old one. It was a lucky chance that I was able to take some pictures of Pleurothallis while I was away. The new camera only has autofocus and you have to be quite devious at times to get it to target the tiny orchid flowers. If it gets the slightest excuse, it will focus on the background.
So I had a fun day away and when I got back I discovered that my own P. lindenii was flowering for the first time. I hadn't even noticed the buds developing (but they are tiny buds). The species grows in the Andes from 1500 to 3500m altitude. Venezuela through to northern Peru. There is no chance of it being hardy but I am happy to find a warmish corner indoors for it, as long as it is forgiving. The Pleurothallis that are working out for me all tolerate a dry dormancy through winter and then produce a strong flush of new growth in spring. An interesting translucent flower, I took four pictures and the camera focussed on the flower in all four. Not a single picture of the bench in the background. At the risk of sounding as though I am in touch with popular culture - Result!

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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