3rd May 2015
Echium wildpretii .
The long dry wait for rain came to an end at the start of the week with a touch of dampness. We haven't had a downpour yet or even a sustained drizzle but we have been touched by dampness.
I am changing the shape of a terrace in the garden. When I started digging the soil was crumbling like dry sand. By the end of Saturday I was cutting it out of the ground in firm blocks.
This morning I was leaving muddy footprints across the grass. Water tanks haven't filled yet but there is a reassuring dripping coming from the gutters.
In the Agave house the long anticipated Echium wildpretii has come to a dismal crescendo. When I got the seedling I was told that it had flowered at the same time as a number of
other species in the greenhouse and that it could be a hybrid. That is how it has turned out. In the middle of winter the rosette started to elongate in the centre and I knew it was
going to flower this year. It has continued upwards for months and I was hoping for a dense head of brick red flowers. That isn't what has happened. I'm guessing that E. pininiana
has played a part in this one so I am grateful that it is flowering at five feet instead of twelve.
On the plus side, the plant was slowly engulfing my little Protea burchelii which is far more precious to me. Now I can yank the Echium out when I get bored with it, I don't
have to wait for it to seed.
3rd May 2015
Tritonia crocata 'Tangerine' .
It was fairly obvious that the Echium was dodgy as soon as it flowered. This Tritonia presents a different sort of problem. I have had it for several years and I have a number of other
orange Tritonia that are very similar. They carry a number of interesting sounding names but I am not convinced. This one is pale orange, so 'Tangerine' is a good enough name.
I don't think it is a form of T. crocata, that species has bright orange or scarlet flowers with distinctive translucent 'windows' at the base of the petals. It could be one
of the many hybrids that have been produced but I think it is more likely to be one of the duller South African species. I am inclined towards T. parvula but I don't have a key to the genus
to check (so my identification is "it looks a bit like...").
All of which leads to the real problem. I'm not sure I actually like it. It produces a great tangle of floppy leaves and occasional pale flowers in spring. Not pale and interesting, just pale.
If I could think of a good excuse it would be thrown out.
3rd May 2015
Tulbaghia acutiloba .
It is strange that the move from one dull South African bulb to another should see such a change in enthusiasm. Tritonia are dull but Tulbaghia are fabulous. There are
an awful lot of pink (by which I mean lilac) and purple (by which I also mean lilac) forms about, and there are new seedlings being named all the time. Some of them have darker markings
in the centre of the flower. Excitement knows no bounds.
Fortunately it is a genus that goes a little potty at the margins and that is where my fascination currently resides. T. acutiloba has tiny green flowers (that can be brown) and an orange corona
(that can also be brown). It's a lovely little thing. Generally the genus is evergreen, looking a bit tatty in winter but remaining visible. T. acutiloba disappears completely
and the first time it did it I assumed it had died but it persists. Confusion over naming runs through the genus like a streaker at a cricket match but I am fairly sure this is the real thing.
There are a lot of seedlings coming up around the edges of the pot and they could be almost anything. I am keeping them and hoping for big green flowers scented of roses. It isn't impossible.
3rd May 2015
Magnolia laevifolia .
Some names are born confused and others have confusion thrust upon them. This is a lovely plant with white scented flowers in spring and wonderful ginger furry buds. It started life as
Michelia yunnanensis and as it comes from Yunnan, that was very simple. Too simple as it turns out. A few years ago the genus Michelia was sunk into Magnolia, the
supposed differences between the two being trivial. Unfortunately at the same time Michelia was absorbed into Magnolia the genus Parakmeria was as well and there was
also a Parakmeria yunnanensis, a large glossy leaved tree used as a street tree in Yunnan. To cut a long story short, the first one to be given the name "yunnanensis" gets to keep it
and poor old Michelia yunnanensis became (briefly) Magnolia dianica before settling as M. laevifolia. Thus it comes to pass that there are several names in circulation
and just the one plant. Although it is sometimes called Magnolia yunnanensis the real holder of that name is not common in cultivation and watches our confusion from the streets of Yunnan
with bemusement (and long shiny hairless leaves).
Whatever the name, my young plant has spent too long in the greenhouse and needs a place in the garden if it is ever going to mature into a moderate sized shrub. Rain in the autumn will help in