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

23rd December 2012

Helleborus argutifolius
The brief spell of cold weather we experienced last week has moved on and been replaced by more wet. It has caused some flooding locally. I sit on the hillside a little smugly when I hear about it but my complacency was rocked slightly by a video clip of landslides on the Dorset cliffs. I don't have any cliffs, but there are a couple of places where the hill is held back by crumbling retaining walls. If they were under pressure they would have gone by now, so I didn't lose any sleep over it. That was also my approach to the rain that fell in the night. By the time I woke up it was all over.
Increasing temperatures are getting things moving in the garden. The first flower on Helleborus argutifolius spent weeks as a fat bud waiting to burst and as a result the outer tepals were spotted with damage. Now the new buds are erupting in a matter of days and open clean and fresh. The species grows naturally in Corsica and Sardinia and I have always been surprised that it makes such a good garden plant. I have it growing in a moist soil in half shade, and I am sure it would be better in a drier and sunnier location but dry and sunny are not easily achieved in this garden, and the Hellebore seems to manage. It has only been in place for a year or so and individual plants only live a few years so I will have to remember to save some seed. In a more domesticated garden it would self-sow but here it is hemmed in with mulch. It doesn't seem to slow the bluebells up but I think it will be too much for the Hellebores.

23rd December 2012

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow'
Last week I was cowering from the icy cold (we very nearly got down to freezing) and the Hamamelis provided some consolation. I was looking at the stems loaded with fat little flower buds thinking that a bit of light chilling (which was the reality) might be enough to start them off. 'Ruby Glow' has been the first of them to respond, but I don't think the others are far behind. The stems are decorated with the twisty red petals like a Christmas Tree covered in strange vegetable tinsel. I planted them because they attract my attention. The flowers have a strange fascination about them that makes me search for them as soon as the winter weather starts to bite the fingers. I have been to gardens where the fragrance rolls across the lawns and bowls you over. Hasn't happened here yet.
This year the flowers are a good rich red. Last year they were rather pale and 'Ruby Glow' seemed a little optimistic. I have no idea why there was a difference, but last year I wasn't sure I needed it, and this year I am. It was raised by Antoine Kort at the Arboretum Kalmthout in Belgium and introduced in 1935.
Last year I was inspired to add one of the newer cultivars to the garden and planted 'Foxy Lady' on the promise of "unique" flower colour. When the grafted stick arrived it turns out the vendor meant red. Unfortunately it struggled to establish this year and I think it has joined the Dodo, but I am happy that 'Ruby Glow' was the better plant anyway.

23rd December 2012

Tristagma sessile
Just when you think it is safe to go back in the... better not finish that sentence until the floods are forgotten. Just when you think the tides of nomenclature have swept the shores of Ipheion clear of confusion, along comes a tsunami. Ipheion has been swept away in its entirety and almost all of the wreckage has landed in Tristagma. Only I. dialystemon is missing and it was washed up on the beaches of Nothoscordum. Ipheion has been a problem genus for a long time and a reconsideration was long overdue. So far I have only heard a brief summary of the changes but it implied that the other yellow flowered species had all been absorbed into Tristagma, which would be a nonsense. The yellow species (dialystemon, hirtellum, felipponei and some others) are practically indistinguishable. It may be that they have all been lumped together and the problems of differentiation have been resolved.
Tristagma sessile flowers in the winter and it is rather slow for me. I have no doubt that in the coming month or two I will see great potfuls of abundant flower either at Wisley or one of the AGS shows. I get an occasional flower here and there and am grateful for them. Clearly I am doing something wrong but I have a spectacular talent for blindness in that respect. The plant smells quite strongly of onions, even when the foliage hasn't been touched. The flowers smell quite strongly of flowers and I can't pin it down any more accurately than that. I have tried but after ten minutes of snorting gusts of flowery air through my nose I was sufficiently light headed to appreciate the full piquancy of my own ridiculousness. I had the sense to stagger back indoors to wallow in hot coffee and insight.

23rd December 2012

Pleurothallis restrepioides 'Dragonstone'
No new snowdrops this week, though they are dangling with promise. I get a certain satisfaction from my moderate and measured response to snowdrops. I like to think I have avoided the lunacy that has been called Galanthomania. I had a brief episode when I was young, and I got over it. When I come to assess the collection in brutally practical terms I suspect there is a measure of self-delusion going on. The collection continues to expand.
I like to think that I have been brutally practical about the tender orchids as well. I don't have a heated greenhouse, it is a stupid group to continue with and I have let them all go. Except for the ones I haven't. Not for the first time in my life, intention and behaviour have diverged. There are a few selected orchids that will grow happily through the summer, and then tolerate almost any indignity for a couple of months in winter. It makes them growable (just) and gives me an excuse to try. It's like scratching chicken pox (I just about remember). It isn't a good idea, but it is immensely satisfying.
I can excuse some of the Pleurothallis because they are tiny and fit into a little growing case in the conservatory until March. This one came indoors a fortnight ago with the flower spikes developing and now they have opened. The species comes from Ecuador at altitudes of 1400 - 3000m and has also been reported from Peru. Many growers have found that it responds well to significant chilling in autumn and winter which always makes me wonder if it would survive in the greenhouse. It produces plenty of plantlets from the base of the leaves so I have left one under the bench and we will see if I still have it in spring. It is beautiful and it opens a door to a world of reckless insanity that I should slam shut. Intention and behaviour may continue to diverge.

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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