Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
28th October 2012
Colchicum autumnale 'Alboplenum'
It's getting cold and I'm beginning to feel it. It's a season of change and that means moving things around and getting things ready for winter. I haven't
been caught up in the full madness of it yet but I keep finding things that look a bit cold and need to be somewhere warmer for winter. I wonder if I could put them all
in a van, drive to southern Spain and just park it for a few months?
Wellingtons are lovely. I can stomp around the garden convincing myself that I am immune from the dank clutches of the season of dreary dread. There will be frost and
wind and christmas to deal with. It's easier to be cheerful about it when your feet are warm and dry.
And there is a little cheer about. This Colchicum has veen visited by a slug but distracted me from the problems of the Hellebores. The beds are shaded by a couple of large Ash trees.
I would like to pollard them, to bring them back to a controllable level. It will make them easier to remove if the threatened Ash dieback disease takes hold (warnings of new
trees diseases are like long range weather forecasts, a mixture of terror and hogwash). The Hellebores are about to start growing and if I'm going to do it then I need to act now.
Ooh look, pretty Colchicum!
In a moment of stylish enthusiasm that I have started to regret, I planted a number of bulbs of C. 'Waterlily' among the Hellebores. I thought they would give me some
colour in autumn without geting in the way. Unfortunately they are tatty, even if you discount the effect of slug damage. The flowers have an hour or two of perfection
and then fall over like discarded clothes on a bedroom floor. C.autumnale 'Alboplenum' would have been a better choice, the flower stems are stronger and they stand up for longer.
Unfortunately, one of those things you only learn by trying it.
28th October 2012
Fom Autumn Crocus to autumn Crocus. It's a surprisingly big leap, but some of the problems remain the same. The large flowers are (not) supported on incredibly thin
corolla tubes and over they go. I have never seen it growing in the wild, but I assume it flops all over the place there as well. If it had a smaller flower it would be wonderful.
I have never managed to find a place in the garden where it is happy. The corms are very cheap so I could replant them every year but it feels like cheating. In a pot in the greenhouse it
survives for a few years - if I gave it mix with a bit more body I am sure it would do better - and from time to time I replace them. It isn't cheating in a pot, it's opportunism!
I have a plan to grow it among the Nerine eventually, but they all need repotting and it has become clear that I'm not going to get there this season. The species comes from Greece
and northern Turkey and like the holidaymakers who visit the same places, it likes a warm summer rest. There are a number of selections available but names and descriptions
are exceedingly hard to reconcile.
28th October 2012
Fascicularia bicolor ssp canaliculata
The Fascicularia have all done well this year and there is no danger of the pure blue flowers falling over. The mature rosettes of leaves have been flushing red for several weeks
and making a good show, but the flowers themselves only last for a day or two. Last year I started planting them in raised beds and it has worked well, so I will continue. I have a small
collection of hardy bromeliads that will one day be housed behind the pile of timber and tools that is slowly becoming an Agave shelter. I have at least started work on that one!
The species comes from the coastal forests of Chile. There are two subspecies, and this is the better. F.b. ssp bicolor has much shorter and broader leaves, it isn't as frost tolerant
and only a small proportion of the rosettes will flower. Rather like the numbers on locomotives, it is significant to collectors.
28th October 2012
Orchids are everywhere. I have just spent an enjoyable hour or two at an orchid show and came away determined to grow a few more from the wealth of species available. The problem is
that for all their taxonomic variety, orchids divide into two simple groups. 'Yes' (I can grow it) and 'No' (I can't). They often have large pseudobulbs of stored reserves that will
keep them alive for a long time and it is disheartening when something that looks like a 'Yes' slowly reveals that it is a 'No'. Orchid shows are filled with the pained faces of people
who are fighting that slow realisation.
Years of attrition have clarified the boundary, unfortunately there are genera like Dendrobium that continue to attract me. A few are 'Yes', the majority are decidedly 'No'.
Cymbidium straddle the same divide. A few of the more terrestrial Chinese and Japanese species are 'Yes' (given a decent growing season) as are some of the hybrids
and I enjoy the occasional success. I have been advised to put them all outside for the summer, but they seem to do better in the greenhouse where there is at least the chance of some warmth
in the growing season. The trick seems to be to get as much growth as possible before the cold weather returns. A couple of my plants flower in the autumn, most produce flower spikes in winter
and are likely to lose them in the cold.
C.kanran comes from Japan, Taiwan and south west China. In the warmer parts of its distribution it is a mountain plant and seems tolerant of low temperatures. The species has been
cultivated as an ornamental for centuries and a number of named forms are known. I stay away from them because I worry that they will slip across the boundary into ungrowable. There were a couple of plants available at the Orchid show
but curiously plant prices also divide on a simple system, and these were clearly 'No'.
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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