Thats enough introduction - on with the plants!
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... out in the garden.
18th August 2013
Aristolochia x kewensis
For the first time in many years we have had a summer that merited the name. The rainless spell wasn't long enough to trigger headlines about catastrophic droughts but it helped to compensate for a long cold spring.
'Tropical' plants are showing what they can do when conditions suit them.
Aristolochia x kewensis has flowered reliably in a pots of increasing dimensions for a number of years and decisions have to be made. I have always overwintered the main plant indoors but it is getting too big.
Young plants have survived winters in the greenhouse, though they have been slow to grow away again. In spring I finally faced the fact that if it didn't survive planted in the ground in the greenhouse,
then it wasn't going to survive. Climbers are hard enough to keep in pots, and tender climbers are a lot of trouble. Therefore I planted it out in May and I am enjoying the burst of lush growth and curious brown flowers.
I am also hoping to enjoy it next year but now it is out, it is staying out. (I might root some cuttings...)
There is universal concensus that the hybrid was raised at Kew, but the taxonomy is a muddle. I can't find evidence of the name A. x kewensis being published. When I originally looked into it
it was listed as a hybrid between A.brasiliensis and A.trilobata but the available information changes. A.brasiliensis is now treated as a synonym of A.labiata and the A.trilobata
used was not the perfectly valid species A.trilobata that Linnaeus described in 1753, but "A.trilobata" described by Lindley in 1831. The latter is now treated as a synonym of A.macroura.
All of which is very fascinating but meant that I started to look more closely at the plant, and I can't see any significant signs that it is a hybrid. It looks exactly like A.macroura to me.
A.labiata has a large white expanded limb on the corolla like a flake of dinosaur dandruff, heavily veined with red. I don't see any hint of that in this dangling rats tail.
When in doubt, wait and see. It may be dead by next spring and someone else can do the painstaking archeological excavation through years of stratified nonsense.
18th August 2013
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Brunette'
A few years ago I started to revisit Hydrangea following a visit to a garden in Falmouth where they glowed radioactive blue under a dense canopy of trees. The few I gathered together have all been interesting.
Some were blue, some were less blue and some were odd. I rather like things that are odd and the intention to plant only the best of the blue cultivars has been rather sidelined.
'Brunette' came from Stephen Mules at Lower Kenneggy Nursery in the period of about a year when I was convinced I was looking for blue flowered cultivars, but actually buying
the strange ones. I liked the deep purple of this one when it was growing in a pot, but wasn't convinced it would keep the colour in the ground. Fortunately my concerns were misplaced. It has darkish stems
and a little touch of purple in the foliage but the purple flowers are just odd. Not really beautiful and they don't glow in the shade. It isn't what I set out to achieve, but isn't that life.
Jenny Joseph wrote the lovely poem "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple". In the strange accident of life I went away yesterday to look at a collection of Sarracenia and ended up walking in the shade
under some wonderful oak species. Shiny leaves and corrugated leaves, short brown tassels of dessicated flowers. Little green acorns pregnant on the stems with little pointy navels poking out.
When I am old I shall grow oaks and underneath them I shall plant Hydrangea 'Brunette'. People will laugh at me to conceal their envy.
18th August 2013
Roscoea purpurea Purple leaf
There is also something satisfyingly disreputable about this magnificent form of R.purpurea. It was raised by Paul Bygrave at Forde Abbey Nursery from R.purpurea f. rubra 'Red Gurkha'.
I don't know if he crossed it with a purple leaved selection deliberately or just raised the seed that was set, but it is a wonder. When I got it the stems were tall and sturdy,
unlike the rather short stature of 'Red Gurkha'. After a year in the ground it has come up a bit shorter, but I am hoping for a return to size once it is properly established.
It might be just an accident of time and place, but everyone seems to be planting borders of purple and blue this year. Striking borders, beautiful controlled and modulated borders
with accents of silver and white. Enough pink to hint of ancient women's needlework. Tapestries of mythical beasts that have started to smell of mythical stables. Blue and purple
borders that speak of ruthlessness and spare cash maintained by decorative gardeners with historically authentic hand tools.
Not the sort of border I have in mind.
The flowers of this are purple with strong undertones of red streaking through the labellum. With the light shining through it I want to dance and whistle tunelessly (which I will save for my dotage).
18th August 2013
Hemerocallis 'Honey Redhead'
There is an element within horticulture that splits things up into groups and categories. It is very helpful in the chaos of planting to have a system to lean on. Unfortunately it is a life-jacket with a puncture.
It will bring you to the surface and keep you from drowning. Then, as the air bubbles slowly escape, it will saturate and ruthlessly drag you back under. I meet a few people
who have quiety drowned in their own classification and from time to time I find myself getting a little short of air.
There is a modern trend towards odd shaped Hemerocallis, all twisted and spidery or double or frilly and I find it hard to like them. I had got as far as deciding that I disliked
the whole category, but then 'Honey Redhead' flowered (and I think this is she, though the label is now illegible). There is something rather casual about the way she abandons the lily form
of the flower. It reminds me of the strain of long-finned koi carp that have lost the crisp precision of form of the original, but still retain their grandeur.
In 2005 I wrote that it has "the grace of a man falling off a barge into a canal". I find that I can't improve on that.
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