Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
19th May 2013
Spring and early summer seem like a season of optimism but it is also the season of examination and testing. The real optimism happens in the depths of winter. All the plans and hopes
and lunatic ideas for the coming season are formulated, safe in the understanding that nothing can be done about them just yet. Spring comes and the examination begins. Did I do it and did it work?
Fortunately for my sanity I am happy with an occasional success.
It is just my inner obstinacy that wants to grow bearded Iris in the garden. It is too wet and too gloomy
and that isn't going to stop me. Raised beds, artificial compost mixes and the sort of luck that comes from repeating a mistake a thousand times until there is an accidental success
and suddenly I have an unexpected bloom to trumpet about joyfully. I am jesting, but like all the best jokes it is worryingly close to the truth.
When I was young I was intimidated by the endless categories into which bearded Iris are classified. 'Ritz' is a Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris which translates to a flowering stem between
eight and sixteen inches (Iris growers must never be decimalised, ten or more in a group constitutes an assylum for which there are statutory conditions of care). Fortunately the classifications are all hogwash.
Bearded Iris grow from 3 inches tall to about 4 feet depending on variety. There are no meaningful subdivisions.
Last weekend I was described as mad (in jest, I think). It's a little unfortunate that the person in question was technically qualified to make the determination but probably best to sweep
that fact under the carpet. This week I am consorting with Iris growers and after examination I have concluded that I am the sanest person around.
19th May 2013
Tritonia crocata 'Tangerine'
I grow a few Tritonia because they seem like such a good idea. I am convinced that there is horticultural value to be extracted from their tiny russet corms but it has yet to be realised.
I don't think I am alone. There are a number of named selections and hybrids languishing in obscurity because they never quite perform. For the most part they grow leaves through the winter and early spring
and flower in early summer. I have a large sturdy clump of leaves from 'Tangerine' but only a single flower spike. Last year I didn't even have that many. Already the leaves are browning and dying back,
the whole thing looks tatty. Through the summer there will be a pile of dead brown leaves clinging on to the corms. They are really difficult to remove.
Once again I am convinced that if I could only get the conditions right they would be a source of joy and wonder. I might try them planted out in my new Agave House, where there are already so many other
things that I don't think there will be room for any Agaves. Unfortunately, despite the freedom of growth and wonderful colour range the genus doesn't really deliver.
Tritonia crocata comes from the southern Cape. It is generally orange, though there are white and pink forms about. It produces hybrids with some of the other species
and a number of named forms have been selected. It would be a worthwhile project to gather them all together and grow them in a dedicated garden. It would be great kindness.
It would make the Iris growers look good.
19th May 2013
The week of unrealised promise continues with the arrival of the first Geum flowers. Over the last two years I have been picking up a few new cultivars and planting them in the garden.
I like Geum. They are staunch and reliable and early. Many years ago I raised some hybrids of G.rivale and they were all lovely. During the winter I decided that it was a genus that I should pay some attention to,
raise some new hybrids and produce something magnificent.
Yesterday I went to an NCCPG sale and saw dozens of varieties I didn't know. All of them yellowy-creamy-dusky-droopy things and my enthusiasm faltered. All lovely, nothing outstanding.
It was the problem with my G.rivale hybrids. All lovely, nothing worth keeping. Other breeders have clearly not been as ruthless as I was and if you have a taste for
yellowy-creamy-dusky-droopy then all your dreams can be fulfilled (and then some). I am taking a moment to consider where I go from here though I have noted that none of the new cultivars
were from the screaming orange end of the range, and none of them were selling.
'Honeydew' is a sweet name for a sweet little plant. There is enough orange in the colour to keep it from looking unwell. It doesn't shout out from a distance but it makes dense clumps
so eventually its rather subtle voice gets heard. I think it gets heard in a good way, not like a tap dripping in the distant kitchen that finally drives you to insanity. More like the rustle of ripening wheat
on a summers day that draws attention to the silence and freedom from cars. Unfortunately 'Honeydew' got planted near the garden hedge and vibrates in the noise from the traffic beyond
19th May 2013
Lupins are another of those groups of plants that are occasionally wonderful. I enjoy the big herbaceous ones, but not enough to grow them from seed. They do not resist the attentions of rabbits
as successfully as I would like. From time to time I run into other species, grown by enthusiasts trying something new. This one came from Trewidden Nursery a few weeks ago
because I liked the silvery leaves and thought it might do well in the Agave House. In dry conditions with plenty of light I am hoping that it will be a silver wonder next year,
shimmering with soft blue flowers. I am also hoping that it will not be too long lived or I really won't have any room for Agave.
Lupinus lepidus is a prairie species from the north west of the USA. Its range stretches from British Columbia south to California and east to Montana, Colorado and Wyoming.
There are a number of varieties named, varying in the number of florets and the extent of blue and white in the flower. This seedling is too young to attempt further identification.
It is a little etiolated and the flowers are probably paler than they will be once it is established. Lupinus lepidus was the first species to re-colonise the ground
after Mount St.Helens exploded, so it is good to know that the garden is prepared for volcanic activity.
It is growing next to a small Leucadendron argenteum which is extremely unlikely to survive the winter, even in a greenhouse. The lupin is acting as a silvery substitute in waiting.
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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about what is going on, if you are interested.
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