13th December 2015
Clivia gardenii Maxima Group .
Rainfall has dominated the news all week, the garden has been wet, the village has been wet but we have been lucky. The worst of it hit further north causing flooding in Cumbria. Actually,
I'm going to say the word. It caused flooding in Cockermouth. All week news reporters have been stifling sniggers as they say it, surrounded by flood water and wet villagers. Floods happen and people do their best to
get through it but there are a few smug journalists would have been punched this week if I lived there. I salute the residents of Cockermouth for their good manners under stress.
It wouldn't be reasonable under the circumstances to bleat about the drop of rain that did hit us, so I am going to fly away in my greenhouse to the warmth of South Africa and its delightful
autumn Clivia and leave it all behind for a moment.
The words "Clivia" , "gardenii" and "maxima" have been put together on a number of occasions to refer to a number of different plants and some confusion has arisen. I have numbered myself among
the befuddled and have probably made comments in the past that haven't helped, so I will try to explain my current understanding. I first became aware of the epithet "maxima" when it was applied to
the Swamp Clivia, more commonly referred to as Clivia gardenii var. robusta, now accepted as a species, Clivia robusta. This picture does not show Clivia robusta
or even the form C. robusta 'Maxima'!
Fred Van Niekerk found a few populations of C. gardenii in the Umtentu River Valley (Transkei) that were larger than the typical form. He called them "maxima" and collected a few plants,
and this one was grown from seed collected from them. The plants have not been described botanically, so I am treating them as a cultivar group.
There are reports that the original populations have now been destroyed by collectors of medicinal herbs.
I have three plants and I might not have noticed the size difference, but they are certainly more vigorous than my other C. gardenii.
13th December 2015
Dendrobium Ellen .
While I am travelling, a short splash of rain as I cross into the other greenhouse and then off to Australia for some Dendrobium action.
Dendrobium ia a large genus of tropical orchids. For the most part they have adapted to climates with strong seasonal variation. Warm wet growing seasons where they produce a mass of
new growth followed by a dry season when they become completely dormant, initiate flowers and then bloom at the onset of rain. I am quite convinced that among their number I will find
a few species that will tolerate life here if they can be kept warm enough in summer. Dendrobium kingianum is the only one I have found so far, and its winter hardiness is uncertain at best
but I have a small collection of forms, and most of them have survived here for several years. It comes from a section of the genus that has been transferred to the new genus Thelychiton
however orchid growers are fairly conservative and only time will tell if the new genus catches on.
Ellen is a grex raised by hybridising D. kingianum and D. tetragonum. I bought this one a few years ago because I didn't know it and I'm a sucker for anything different.
Both D. kingianum and D. tetragonum are found along the east coast of Australia though D. tetragonum grows further north (and therefore warmer) than D. kingianum.
If I see a plant about then I will try D. tetragonum it in the greenhouse as well.
13th December 2015
Ficaria verna ssp. ficariiformis .
The garden is slowly emptying. As the leaves fall and the undergrowth dies back it becomes bright and tidy. I love all the little things that thrust up through the spring and summer
but suddenly they are all gone and there is an enormous sense of calm and relief about the place. Every year I enjoy it. I get the same feeling at the end of summer when I use a herbicide to clear the ground over the snowdrops.
It gives the same sense of clarity. It is probably not wise to dwell for too long on the pleasure of killing everything with a herbicide, it might lead in the wrong direction.
At this time of the year I go out with a camera quite convinced that there is nothing happening but the new season springs into action long before the old season is done. There are new blue heads on the Hydrangea,
some defiant dangling from the Fuchsia and beneath them the first celandine flower. The collection has had a few years to run riot through the undergrowth and the time has come
to sort them out again so that the named varieties aren't lost. It is a springtime job that I am looking forward to but I am determined that I am not going to start until I have cleared some bench space for them.
A clutter of new pots crammed in amongst other things will do nothing to help the situation.
13th December 2015
Narcissus romieuxii 'Atlas Gold' .
Back in 1962, Jim Archibald tavelled to the Middle Atlas Mountains and collected seed of Narcissus romieuxii from a large and variable population growing in mixed cedar and oak woodland above 1700m.
The collection number, JCA 805 has been the most significant representative of the species seen in cultivation ever since.
Over the years a number of cultivars have been selected from the variety of seedlings that appeared but the seed collection has been so dominant in cultivation that I suspect any unidentified
clone of N. romieuxii you run into is probably derived from this source.
The first clone to be named was 'Julia Jane', selected by Jim himself for its wide, flat corona and named after his daughter. 'Joy Bishop' followed and has distinct lobes on the corona
(though I am a little dubious about my stock). 'Treble Chance' was selected by Bob Potterton in the 1970's and named for the three crosses he had marked on the original label.
The final plant is 'Atlas Gold' (though I am sure others will be named). Another seedling from Bob Potterton that he had marked "Y" on the label. Certainly the yellowest form introduced to date, distributed
as JCA 805Y and now named
'Atlas Gold'. Last week I had a single bud showing and was worried that it did not appreciate a large pot of heavy loam based compost but this week it is looking good
and clearly increasing.
I wheezed my way back up to the house thinking about the conventions of mapping. There is no question about it, Morocco, South Africa and Australia are all downhill from here!