31st May 2015
Magnolia tripetala .
It has seemed like a very strange year so far. March and April were warm and dry, and May has been cool. It has felt as though we have had plenty of rain in the last few weeks
but in fact the ground is still quite dry. I was pottering about this afternoon looking at things when I saw that the Sarracenia benches were about to dry out. We always reach
this point in early summer but I was surprised it had happened so soon. I checked back over the last few years records and to discover that it usually happened in the last week of May.
Perhaps not such a strange year after all.
At the top of the garden the burst of spring flowers has ended but Magnolia tripetala has opened among the fresh leaves. It isn't one of the brightest species but I am
constantly amazed at how tolerant it is of the wind. I planted it in 2008 in a gap in the windbreak where a large Leyland Cypress was blown over. I had already decided I wanted more tree
Magnolia up there and it seemed like the right time to make a reckless and probably futile gesture. In the event it has prospered and the dull green and brown tinged flowers
are delightful. I have been told that they smell of goats, and if the wind ever drops I might have to hold my breath (but I'm not holding my breath).
31st May 2015
Billbergia nutans var. schimperiana .
There are some magnificent new Billbergia hybrids being introduced at the moment which is distracting attention from all the old ones. All of those dull old green leaved things
with narrow pink bracts and greenish flowers. In fact every Billbergia I grow has been superseded by better things. Fortunately Billbergia nutans is fairly hardy here
so I planted them all at the south end of the Agave house and am letting them get on with it.
I have been told that B. nutans var. nutans has fine hairs on the outside of the petals. I have never noticed them so I thought it was time I had a close look and I
can report that I still haven't found them. It may seem unimportant but unfortunately it is the feature that distinguishes the two varieties. The long and the short of it is, this is a dull
little Billbergia, I can't work out if it is what it claims to be, there are much better plants available and after a mild winter I have never seen it looking lovelier.
31st May 2015
Crusea coccinea .
Life produces some unexpected delights. I was offered a coffee while waiting for an appointment in the week, and I declined. I have one cup a week these days, and I choose the time when
I will enjoy it most, not just as a filler while hanging around. It was followed by the comment "no, I don't drink this coffee either!" A quizzical moment. "I like the cheapest, blandest
own brand instant coffee I can get. I can't abide all the fuss!" There have been times in my life when I have been in the mood for falling in love (though not for many years).
That would have been enough.
And from coffee to Crusea coccinea (they are both in the Rubiaceae). I last grew Crusea coccinea 'Crug Cardinal' in 2011, and that was the winter that killed it. As luck
would have it I was immediately given a rooted cutting (which may
or may not be the same clone). I planted it in the Agave house (with all the other Mexicans) and watched as it rambled about, loose, untidy and flowerless. Suddenly it has burst into flower
and filled me with the same straightforward delight as bland coffee (and newly repaired teeth). Everywhere the stems have touched the ground it has rooted. I was approaching the point
of disinterest in its ordinary, leafy mats but I am refreshed. Naturally it is pollinated by hummingbirds. I may get a paintbrush and amuse away a half hour.
I don't need the seed but I do like pretending.
31st May 2015
Roscoea 'Harvington Royale' .
Late in the year, the first Roscoea has flowered. I had hoped to have R. cautleyoides in April but they haven't appeared. A couple of years ago I planted the whole lot outside
(I needed space in the greenhouse) but I am missing the intimacy that comes from having them to hand in pots. Slowly they are creeping back - or to be more accurate, as I buy new cultivars
they are being potted up rather than planted out. I need to put some space aside for them. They are pretty enough outside, but they were wonderful on the greenhouse bench!
'Harvington Royale' is one of the new names raised by Hugh Nunn at Twelve Nunns nursery. Large dark purple flowers at the top of short stems. There have been a great many "new" Roscoea
introduced in recent years that have been received with something a degree or two warmer than complete apathy but hopefully these large flowered selections will generate some greater enthusiasm.
Easily grown without any fuss, simple and deeply satisfying, they are the cheapest generic coffee you could hope for.