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

31st March 2013

Lachenalia bifolia
April Fools day falling on Easter Monday and British Summertime beginning. There is almost too much happening at once. I have been looking around for the really funny jokes because there is enormous potential for a wicked wit to sneak a laugh in under the camouflage of Easter. So far the most laughable thing I have seen has been the start of summertime , the prefix "British" acting as dire warning. As Jack Nicholson says in the film of the same title, 'What if this is "As Good As It Gets"?
Stiff upper lip and all that. It's April and we haven't had any snow yet. The reality is that we have had a couple of magnificent spring days during the week and a cold wind that made lighting the bonfire a delight. Warmer weather is on its way and the time has come to use up all the old winter moaning to make space for it.
It is also time to use a picture of this Lachenalia, which has been flowering since the start of January. It appreciates the mildness of the winter - in a bad year it has only just expanded a new set of leaves when the frost burns them off. Unfortunately with Lachenalia you only get one set of leaves each year, once they are gone they are gone. It isn't like the many shrubs that will lose their first leaves to a frost and then grow more. All of the species have come through without damage and I hope that will mean larger bulbs and better flowers next year. If I moved them all into the same house as the Clivia they would be a bit better protected and there would be even less space in there. It's a dilemma.
This plant comes from seed collected near George on the south coast of the Cape. When I first started growing the species it was known as L.pendula and I was just getting used to calling it L.bulbifera when Graham Duncan published his magnificent monograph 'Lachenalia' and I find the name has been corrected to L.bifolia. Am I just being a Luddite to hope that there are no more significant publications on the genus for a year or two?
That wasn't a moan, just a wintery spell.

31st March 2013

Ranunculus ficaria 'Lambrook Variegated'
The celandines are long suffering. They grew in pots until they were so tired and exhausted that it was an act of compassion as much as anything else to plant them out. I had delayed releasing them into the soil because I know how freely they spread. Every little bulblet grows and every seed germinates. I knew that once they were out it would become difficult to tell the cultivars apart and already it is starting to happen. However if a cultivar is indistinct perhaps it is no great loss. There seem to be plenty of new ones to take the place of those that fall by the wayside (where they immediately take root and prosper).
When they first went out they were all defoliated immediately. I was inclined to blame the burgeoning population of rabbits and built a rabbit fence of Australian proportions to keep them out. They are still losing all their leaves and now I think the problem is pigeons which I hardly ever see though they leave me little messages. I could build little wire hats to protect the plants but I don't think it's going to happen.
'Lambrook Variegated' came from East Lambrook Manor. The cream margined leaves are rather fetchingly adorned with large cream flowers. I am pleased to see it again because I accidentally sliced all its leaves off last year while weeding. It's a good thing they are tough.

31st March 2013

Narcissus 'White Lady'
All around the village fields are glowing with golden daffodils in bold commercial rows. It is worth stopping from time to time to look over the hedge and be overwhelmed by a rippling tide of yellow custard. It is the reason that I haven't grown many daffodils in the garden, but like all reaonable plans it is crumbling at the edges. A couple of years ago I realised that I could grow some of the delightful miniature daffodils among the celandines. Every spring I have added one or two. 'Elka' and 'Toto' have been my favourites for this spring, although at my current rate of progress it will be at least two years before they appear on pages of their own on the site.
Unfortunately daffodil bulbs appear in the autumn when the yearning is strong and the will is weak and one or two others have crept in. The big yellow daffodils in the fields are a wonder, but they are matched in beauty by the ones that appear in the hedgerows. Mostly old cultivars (historical, heritage, weedy, take your pick) that have been discarded, each one seems to be different and they act as a very effective traffic calming measure as I drive slowly along the lanes in rapture.
Trapped somewhere between traffic calming and the daffodil-yearning of autumn I stumbled innocently onto bulbs of 'White Lady' (pre 1898) in a Garden Centre and home they came. I put them in a pot and was quite determined that they would stay in a pot. Far too big to plant with the celandines and I already have more daffodils in the meadow than it needs. Wandering around the garden I saw a space where I could have a great swathe of them that would come and go without the summer planting being affected. Still thinking about that. They are easy enough to plant but very hard work to dig out if it is wrong.

31st March 2013

Primula allionii 'Eureka'
In my vainer moments, when self-righteousness takes hold, I convince myself that I grow sensible plants for the garden. Things that look after themselves without undue worry. Over the years I have grown and discarded a wealth of fickle vegetation that was delightful to try but not really worth the effort involved. The truth is I am happy to try almost anything and those things that remain have been prepared to tolerate my rather lackadaisical approach to the term 'cultivated'.
When I had a tiny garden and a tiny greenhouse there was time to spare for tiny plants. I even had time to travel to the border between France and Italy to see the riverside caves where Primula allionii perches on shady walls and cliffs in a habitat that would be impossible to replicate. I have avoided them because I no longer have the time to fuss and primp and preen (and with deteriorating eyesight I no longer have the inclination). But they are lovely, I do enjoy them at the shows and from time to time common sense is overwhelmed by self confidence and egotism. 'Eureka'!
I had a sudden flash of insight that if I grew it hydroponically I might be able to cultivate Primula allionii and I was prepared to spend 2.50 at an Alpine Garden Society show to test the current state of my self-delusion.
'Eureka' is a seedling raised by Ken Wooster when he was breeding for flower size, but which passed to Kath Dryden before blooming. A large, vigorous pure white seedling often described as easy to grow. It has fulfilled its promise here and has grown without trouble. I have just remembered that it will like to be fed occasionally, and I have twice tended to it in a rather neurotic way with a pair of tweezers, removing dead leaves from the rosettes. Other than that it has fitted in well and when I see it I am chuffed fit to chuckle.

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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