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

23rd June 2013

Iris 'Nibelungen'
The longest day has passed and the season has become undecided. Alternate days this week have been warm and dry or cold and wet. I have just come home from a visit to a friend whose log burning stove has been alight since last August with no immediate prospect of it being allowed to go out. If I can corrupt a phrase, "...missing it already"!
A small party in the garden yesterday enjoyed the gentle tinkling of June rain, and though it became a quagmire I haven't yet heard that anybody got trench foot.
There are a number of large genera that I have tended to ignore over the years. Iris and roses both belong in the mud of June. I am still waiting for the flash of blinding light that converts me to the joys of growing roses. My views over the years have been coloured by promising rose gardens that are more promise than rose garden. Flag iris behave in a very similar way. The new foliage is wonderful as the blue-grey fans emerge, then the plump buds on the scape like roasting chickens on a spit and suddenly the wonder as the flowers open in astonishing silken colours. They deserve to be grown in masses. Not in pools of colour, or trickles or streams, but great thundering torrents in threatening dark colours to overwhelm the June garden. Unfortunately, as anyone who knows their onions will tell you, the moment they finish flowering they start to look wretched. Onions have the decency to die away completely but the flag iris persist in manky decrepitude for months like the partly scavanged corpse of a great whale washed up on the shoreline. The traditional solution is to grow them in a dedicated iris garden, and simply stop visiting them after June. Unfortunately I don't have the luxury. A few small clumps have appeared in the garden and are prospering. They bring me a well hidden flush of exuberant joy but their number will be controlled until I can afford an iris garden to hide them in. I am not interested in the challenge of designing around a dead whale in my own garden (though I would accept a suitable commission).

23rd June 2013

Watsonia humilis hybrid
The Watsonia have been sitting around in the background for a few years now. A string a cold winters led to series of poor flowering seasons and the plants looked gloomy. I did some hybridising a few years ago when the mood took me, particularly with the idea of producing tall spikes of pale pink flowers. At the time I had large clumps of W.pillansii and 'Stanford Scarlet'. There didn't seem to be much point in growing any more orange or scarlet hybrids. As part of the process I pollinated W.humilis with a range of tall flowering forms. Usually I would take great care with pollination and record exactly what I had done (with a detail and precision that borders on pathological). As I recall the W.humilis flowered rather late in the season when I was starting to suffer from pollination fatique (done too many, dreamt too much). I had a wild half hour with a paintbrush forcing the attention of some tall gaudy monsters on poor little W.humilis. The seedlings have been sitting in the greenhouse, the first flowered last year and this year they have all come into bloom.
The flowers look very like the seed parent, the white tepal lobes expanding from a pale pink tube. At first sight I thought they were just selfed seedlings and that my afternoon frenzy had been wasted but they are taller than they should be. The largest of them is tall enough to fall over inelegantly under its own weight. The flower spikes also branch more freely than I was expecting which hasn't helped with the stability issue. One of them is significantly paler than the others and I was thinking I would keep it and lose the rest. Then I had a little party in the garden and half of the people who came approached me to ask what the wonderful white flowers were. They will be kept for another season and I will try a second generation to see if I get anything better.

23rd June 2013

Dahlia merckii
Out in the herbaceous border Dahlia merckii was magnificent last year. A cold damp summer didn't seem to slow it at all. I was so impressed that I was hoping to raise a series of hybrids from it to extend the colour range in reliably hardy Dahlias. Unfortunately I then discovered that it had a different chromosome count to the rest of the genus and hybrids were extremely unlikely. Let's just say that the plan is moving forwards rather slowly at present while I consider the available options.
Last year the flowering season was ended in December by the first frost. The pitiful winter flowers that remained were already stunted by rain and low light levels and when the leaves were blackened as well their year was over. They left behind a great pile of bleached stems that remained in place until the new growth appeared. The cold weather in March delayed their emergence and I was overjoyed to see them in May. The new stems have shot up and I really must take some cuttings before there are too many flowers getting in the way. Version two of the great Dahlia plan involves growing a couple of clones in the greenhouse to get cross pollinated seed and then starting on a process of selection. The plants in the border were all seed grown from a couple of different strains so there should be some variability available, I just have to get it into the greenhouse where I can be confident of sufficiently dry conditions to ripen seed.
There is a white flowered form available that I have grown through a couple of summers and killed in a couple of winters that might add something interesting to the mix if I can locate another.

23rd June 2013

Fuchsia 'Whiteknights Pearl'
I have a fascination for Fuchsias. I think it derives from the delight I had as a small child in popping the fat buds. I have always been greatly disappointed by the wonderfully plump and promisingly named 'Mrs Popple'. She is hardy and reliable a beautiful in every way but her multiple frilled skirts let her down at the crucial moment. The buds are so full of petals that they don't burst open with a satisfyingly crisp pop but simply split open along the seams like a rather tired sofa finally succumbing to a bouncing child.
The fascination remained even when the popping phase ended. I can't think why I stopped, it was very satisfying. Fuchsias will generally flower after six to seven weeks of growth so the majority of the hybrids will start flowering in June. At first sight this pale and elegant cultivar is behaving perfectly normally. It is one of John Wright's hybrids, dating from his time at the University of Reading (he operated out of an office on the Whiteknights campus, hence the prefix of all his hybrids from that time). He had incorporated F.excorticata into his breeding program and it played a part in the parentage of all of the large hardy shrubby cultivars he raised and named in the 1980's. It flowers in the earliest days of spring, the bude emerging directly from the bare stems. The hybrids often inherit this strange behaviour, at least in part. 'Whiteknight's Pearl' produced buds as the first leaves emerged in March. They were promptly destroyed by the weather but every pair of leaves that has expanded since has carried with it a couple of buds which are finally developing fully.
I grow 'Whiteknights Pearl' and 'Whiteknights Blush'. They are very similar and it only took me a few years to confuse them. I think that this is the former, and it is the paler of the two but I would be delighted to be corrected if I am wrong.
We have passed the longest day, the weather has turned cold and wet and the Fuchsia are flowering. I think this might be autumn.

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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