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2nd November 2014

2nd November 2014

Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon'
We have stumbled into November without any suggestion of cold weather. Soon I will have to start the process of bringing tender plants back under cover. Despite my well intentioned efforts to keep all the tender things in one place they tend to get scattered through the summer and for a couple of weeks I will continue to find things in strange places that I had forgotten about. I will also be heard wailing with futility from time to time as I try to find space in the greenhouse where none exists. This is all quite normal for November.
I remain convinced that it has been good year for autumn colour but I have been photographing the change in this Liquidambar since mid-september and it hasn't managed an overwhelming spectacle. The picture I took this morning is the last gasp - a stiff wind could rip the last of the leaves from the branches anytime now.
I could have waited for a week to include a picture of the bare branches to complete this sequence, but I have made the page quite wide enough. I imagine it is already overflowing the edges of most screens and it will mess up the appearance of the page for a week but who cares, let's live dangerously!

2nd November 2014

Galanthus 'Remember Remember'
The autumn snowdrops have cheered the last few weeks and seem to have extracted the maximum snowdrop value from the fewest flowers. On a cold day at the end of January I was wandering around a snowdrop sale (Myddleton House) when I saw 'Remember Remember'. With the studied nonchalence of those who attend such events I picked it up calmly (but hastily), brandished a handful of cash and stashed it safely in my bag. It didn't have the usual impulse appeal of snowdrops in pots - the flower had fallen from the stem months earlier but that was part of the charm. When Galanthus are gathered together on tables at a sale they attract their own rather special species of locust that devours even the smallest green shoot, leaving the tables bare of all vegetation. Naturally the flowers go first. I think that is the only reason this one remained. I had stood back for a moment to allow the horde to surge forward. Locusts have large mouths and bite indiscriminately.
'Remember Remember' has large flowers for an autumn snowdrop. It is probably a seedling from G. elwesii Hiemalis Group though it was found by John Morley among seedlings of G. reginae-olgae in his garden.
I think there will be a snowdrop gap now, until the earliest of the spring blooms arrive. 'Rev. Hailstone' has just appeared above ground, although I think flowers are still a month or more away, and 'Moccas' isn't even showing. Next years snowdrop events are looming in the distance and I think my task will be to fill the December gap.

2nd November 2014

Nerine 'Jenny Wren'
A quick trip 'up-country' to visit the Nerine Society (lovely people) AGM. It demonstrated that there was still plenty of colour to come. Some minor transport difficulties have left me a little tired and breathless this morning but I have a small box of new treasures. The Nerine Society are working on a register of Nerine cultivars and it was clear from the glint of determination in the registrar's eye that he had information to impart. In contrast, I find that I am still mostly clueless.
'Jenny Wren' is a small growing plant that produces abundant stems from the small bulbs (I am promised - mine has only one). Last year it was a shocking magenta pink, this year it seems to have drifted closer to red with some purple overtones but retained the intensity of colour. I have been told that it is a hybrid derived from N.sarniensis and N. undulata. It certainly produced smallish flowers at the end of the season. Beyond that I am struggling to find much information. It was listed by Tony Norris in his 1979 'Nerine Nurseries' catalogue but I don't think it was one of his own hybrids - he wouldn't have used names starting with a 'J' until 1981.
Last year I pollinated it in the hope of obtaining some bright, late flowering plants and I got nothing. This year I will try back crossing to N. undulata and see if that produces any seed.

2nd November 2014

Titanotrichum oldhamii
I grew up in a world where the Gesneriaceae consisted almost entirely of African Violets, with an occasional gloxinia thrown in at the end of summer to demonstrate the speed with which a soft tropical plant could rot if given a chance. Post puberty I had a quick fumble in the greenhouse with Columnea, Episcia and Aeschynanthus but I was still convinced that the entire family was tropical. Finding Ramonda myconii growing on bare rock faces in the Pyrenees came as a surprise. I still had trouble believing they didn't take them in for winter.
Eventually I accepted that it was hardy, along with Haberlea, but surely these were just hardy freaks among the rainforest exotica? The arrival of a range of hardy gesneriads from China is slowly changing my opinion. Many of them are less hardy than Ramonda but still tough enough to grow without additional heat.
Titanotrichum oldhamii has been introduced from China though it also occurs in Taiwan and the Ryukyu islands of Japan. Although usually listed as sub-tropical, it seems to have tolerated very low temperatures in cultivation while dormant. It propagates most easily from tiny scales produced on the flowering stem, and if I get any they will be planted in a heated propagator to protect them through the winter. The main plant will have to stay in the greenhouse. Spring will reveal how tough it actually is.
There is nowhere else to put it.