26th April 2015
Paeonia x smouthii .
A busy week as the pace of spring runs up against the promise of rain. As the temperature has risen this month the ground has become dry. Water tanks are running low and as the
primroses go over they have started to look folorn. Those devils at the Meterological Office offered the prospect of rain, and it arrived. I got a wet hat yesterday afternoon working outside,
but it was dry again before I finished. Rain through the night would have been the second most magnificent pleasure possible (sleeping through it is the first). Sadly the bonfire
was still smoking this morning.
This peony came to me as P. tenuifolia, usually bright red, occasionally pale pink but never cerise. To be honest, I didn't have to wait for the flower, the leaves are all wrong.
This seems to be the hybrid P. tenuifolia x P. lactiflora (though the second parent could be almost anything). It was planted in the Agave House to keep it warm and dry
but it would probably be better outside. I have a small area in the sun to the south of the greenhouse that might suit it well. A surprising number of plants from the Agave House
will have to go outside this year. They have grown too big and if it continues it will become a shade house, which was not the idea.
26th April 2015
Tulbaghia montana .
Three weeks ago I was looking at the pots of Tulbaghia rather unkindly. I needed space and the pots looked large and empty. This week they are filled with grey-green leaves
and the first of the flowers have opened. T. montana is a high altitude species from the Drakensberg (the eastern side of the central South African plateau). It is hardy in
a cold greenhouse but probably not tolerant of winter wet. It makes a small tuft of growth on the same scale as chives and with a similar smell if the leaves are brushed. Oniony but not
pungent or leaving you in floods of tears.
Last year I decided I needed a small corner of the greenhouse just for the Tulbaghia. This year I need the space (for Nerine) so perhaps a little Tulbaghia greenhouse would be a
justifiable luxury. I haven't worked out where it would go yet but it would be nice to have some space around them. One of the consequences of growing them all together is that
I seem to have hundreds of seedlings coming up in the pots. When it comes to sex, Tulbaghia aren't especially choosy so they will all be hybrids and all worth growing on
in case there is something good among them. All of which will require some space. I quite like the idea of an Onion House.
26th April 2015
Dendrobium kingianum pale pink .
Dendrobium kingianum is another of those 'almost hardy' species that seem to fill the greenhouse. I haven't tried it outside yet but there is no good reason for that, I have plenty.
It needs a good summer to grow nice fat canes that will flower the following spring. I find it does better with a decent amount of ordinary compost mixed in with the orchid bark. It keeps it
moister for longer while the plant is in growth. On the other hand, the best plant I have ever seen was grown in a pot of cobble stones. I have a theory that the rounded stones
acted as a surface for the condensation of water vapour at night, keeping the plants growing but I haven't tried it yet. It is said to be a lithophyte in habitat in Australia (growing on rock)
and it would be an interesting way to do things.
I collect slight colour variations as I see them, and when I bought this one I marked it 'light pink'. In retrospect I think it was probably grown in a warmer greenhouse than mine
and was paler as a result. With me it is fairly typical in colour. I have a handful of clones that are very similar (if I lost the labels I wouldn't know them apart). I keep dividing them
because they are easy but the plan this year is to consolidate into a few specimen plants and clear the space currently occupied by duplicates. It has been the plan for several years now
so I am not convinced it will happen. So far it is the only Dendrobium I have succeeded with but I am on the lookout for others. It is a very large genus there must be a few more
that would tolerate a cold greenhouse in Cornwall?
26th April 2015
Primula auricula 'Shaun' .
There is a strange fascination in the repulsive and you can take my word for it, Brussels Sprouts are repulsive. Repulsive but fascinating. I like to have one with a roast dinner.
Just the one mind you there's no point in spoiling a good meal, but it is nice to have one. I would miss the repulsive little cabbage if it wasn't there. For many years I have had
a similar relationship with Primula auricula. I didn't grow up with them so they aren't part of the mist of innocence that has (thankfully) obscured my childhood. When I first
met them they were cobwebby old Primroses grown by cobwebby old people, but I like to have one. If it dies it is not lamented, just replaced.
The years pass by and I have become cobwebby. Primula auricula has crept up on me. It started three years ago when I repotted 'it' and it prospered. I bought a couple more
in the way you absent mindedly scratch nettle-rash. Last year I went to an auricula event and bought another four which were pleasant enough.
'Shaun' was one of them. A buff coloured flower held on a short (and therefore not floppy) stem. A kind person might call it apricot. The double flowers are not quite double enough
to be astonishing. A recent selection that has been mass produced and looks almost sprouty.
This year I bought another five cultivars at the RHS Spring show. I am trying so hard to find them repulsive.