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

10th March 2013

Crocus vernus
It seems inevitable that those in the public eye will slip slowly into pessimism like a toy boat with a leak. Weather forecasters in particular have cultivated the art of smiling cheerfully while warning of the carnage to come. A series of high profile mistakes have reduced them to predicting the worst so that people are happy when they get it wrong. Icy winds from the east and slowly sinking temperatures are promised for today and tomorrow. I have scattered a bit of fleece around, time will tell.
It has been an unexpectedly sunny week and the garden has been graced by unexpected Crocus. It has been a few years since I sentenced any Crocus to inevitable death under the trees so the survival of this little clump is very welcome. As you can see the rabbits tried a little taste of the shoots as they pushed through the soil - the leaves and the tips of the flowers have been trimmed back. Mice and squirrels are notorious Crocus gourmets but I hadn't realised that rabbits would eat them as well. It is possible that with a little more protection (or fewer rabbits) they might survive in greater numbers.

10th March 2013

Galanthus 'Ronald Mackenzie'
For many years I stayed away from yellow snowdrops. They were very expensive and had a reputation for rather feeble growth. In the last few years I have acquired a number on temporary loan and they have been very satisfying.
'Ronald Mackenzie' is named after its discoverer who found it growing in a wood in Gloucestershire. It is thought to be a hybrid of Galanthus gracilis and has a large mark at the top of the inner segment, making it one of the yellowest of yellow snowdrops. It has produced four flowers this year but the first three were damaged by wind and slugs before I could get pictures. Slugs have a talent for locating the most precious plants and they have chewed a little from the inner segments here, but this is as good as it is going to get.
When I planted it out I knew nothing about it, just that it was a large new yellow. I put it in the ground and waited to see what happened. Since then I have discovered that it has a reputation for dying that would have given me a few sleepless nights. Ignorance has protected me, like a warm duvet.

10th March 2013

Corydalis solida
Corydalis solida is part of the ephemeral fluff that brightens the woodland in spring and then disappears before you can say "waist deep in undergrowth". I have a plan to develop a carpet of them in the woodland, flowering after the carpet of snowdrops and before the carpet of Erythronium. The carpet of snowdrops is looking possible (given another ten years). I am cheating with the carpet of Erythronium - I put in 500 more bulbs last year and am waiting to see if they come up. The carpet of Corydalis ? So far I have seven. I have been promised that they spread reliably by seed but I am a little concerned that they will all be these lilac and purple shades. The best phrase is subtle, I think.
The species grows in woodlands in northern and central Europe from Sweden to the Urals and down as far as Greece. It exploits the damp ground under decidous trees in the brief period between the end of winter and the start of leaf growth. The fragile leaves and flowers appear for a few weeks and then retreat to a tuber for the rest of the year. I have tried them in pots but for most of the year there is nothing to see. They look as though the slightest puff of wind would blow them away but in the right habitat they are remarkably strong.
There are a number of bright red flowered forms (mostly from populations in Romania) and dark purple selections have recently become popular. I am on the lookout for some white and pale pink seedlings to liven up the colour mix a little.

10th March 2013

Tulipa sogdiana
Gigantic scarlet tulips are my favourite. Red enough to make a strawberry trifle look dull and to warm you up for the summer. Unfortunately big red tulips are slipping out of fashion. Even the cut flower industry has moved to pastel colours and small blooms that are easier to bunch. Tulipa sogdiana has a botanical beauty that I find entrancing but it inspired me to break off and light the fire. Possibly the weather forecasters are right about chill winds from the east.
The species was described in 1852 from Uzbekistan where it grows in sandy semi-desert conditions. It probably also grows in the brief moist period between the end of winter and the arrival of the summer heat. I have had it for a few years now in a pot in the greenhouse where it continues but doesn't really prosper. I have seen reports of it being grown successfully outside in a lightly shaded position. If it ever divides, I might try one in the garden.

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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