10th May 2015
Tulipa 'Mistress' .
The week has continued to oscillate between winter and summer. I'm not sure which causes me most concern, cold and wet or hot and dry. For some people the grass is always greener on the other side
but I am a happy pessimist. Whatever the weather I am always convinced the alternative would be worse. I have plodded through the week, wet, dry, wet and finally dry again, pleased at how well
it has all worked out. Tuesday evening was the only blip in my good cheer when after a couple of hours moving wet soil with a wheelbarrow the skies opened and I was soaked through. I retreated
to the bathroom and spent a happy hour lying in a warm bath and swearing through the window at the falling rain.
I adore flaming scarlet tulips. They do something to me that nothing else can match, like hot chocolate and the sound of ravens. I have had a perfect moment with 'Appeldoorn', sparkling in the sun
in front of the house. However as Spalding Grey advised, there is no point trying to repeat a perfect moment, it can never be recaptured.
It was time to try something new and in this case it was 'Mistress'. I bought them just before Christmas three years ago when the retailer was trying to clear space for chocolate Santas and for
a while it was a toss-up which I would carrying home, but the tulips were very cheap. In the event it was a good choice, the tulips have been fresh and magnificent every spring since.
Santa would have been stale by now.
10th May 2015
Sarracenia flava .
The Sarracenia are a great delight through the summer, from the opening of the first pale pitchers in May until the final purple velvet leaves of autumn start to shrivel and brown.
However there are a few weeks in May before the pitchers appear when the flowers open. It is a secret season, overlooked by the carnivorous purist, but for me it is the best part of the year.
I know several growers who cut the flower buds off to ensure earlier and larger pitchers. Poor fools, blinded by blood lust and pitcher envy. Men can be so insecure.
Sarracenia flava is the first species to hit a peak. The beds are yellow with the hanging flowers, uniform and subtly variable. It was a warm sunny day yesterday when I took this picture
and the scent of the massed flowers rolled down towards me like a wave in a sea of treacle. I admit it smells like treacle that a fox has pissed in, but treacle for all that.
Plants outside produce less impressive pitchers but they seem to flower more freely. I am thinking of building a big bed for them in the sun to give me flowers into June. They would be pretty
good with Iris sibirica as well.
10th May 2015
Arisaema grapsospadix BSWJ.7000 .
Arisaema is a fun genus. They all produce strange flowers in spring and they fill collectors with peculiar passions. We have all chanced our arm at some point on an unlikely
Arisaema and most of us have learned the hard way that they are not as simple to please as the first year results might indicate. Fresh tubers bought in spring will
sprout and flower in a matter of weeks and everything seems to go well. Getting those same tubers through the winter is another matter. Giant starchy blobs of tissue, they
seem to rot at the first chance they get. The best results seem to come by growing them from seed, though it is a long slow business.
I strumbled across the Anomala section of the genus quite by accident. A Chinese list included some species I had never heard of, so I looked them up. Rather ordinary in flower,
but not tuberous and not dormant in winter. Fortunately one of these wonders was available from Crug Farm Plants, collected in Taiwan. I bought it in 2009 and have been slowly trying to encourage
the single leaf to form a clump. In recent years it has spent the summer in the greenhouse and the winter in the conservatory, protected from frost but not much warmer.
I noticed the flower spike forming about five weeks ago and since then I have been swimming in happiness. A strange little green flower with a white patch on the back.A fat rhizome
at the surface and long-lasting leathey leaves.
10th May 2015
Pinguicula grandiflora f. chionopetra .
Arisaema are not the only flower. The wonderful Pinguicula grandiflora studs the damp turf of the French Alps (and beyond) with buttons of pure purple during May (low altitudes)
and June (up high). There is a pink form in the mountains around Grenoble that I visited years ago to marvel. I have also admired the variety of forms that occur in the Pyrenees but the white one
was just a whispered rumour.
The first example was discovered growing in a population of purple plants in the Burren in Ireland in 1956. It was rediscovered at that location in 1989. Then, in 2000 a French botanist discovered
a white flowered form growing in the Pyrenees and sent a division to J. J. Labat who has been able to propagate and distribute it.
Last year I was given a small plant by a friend and it has grown slowly. I had no great expectations of flowers this year but it has delighted me. This is the first time I have seen it in flower
'in the flesh' and I am insufferably smug that it should happen in my own greenhouse.