10th January 2016
Sarracenia leucophylla L-15-MK .
Every day in every way Spring is getting better and better. I am muttering it through clenched teeth on occasion and there is a part of me that is shouting it as a challenge to the black sky, but I
am happy with it. Of the many meterological half-truths that can be wrung from the dripping clouds, it is the one that makes it easiest to smile in the face of the storm.
I have evidence as well, this isn't just the wild optimism of someone hiding from the blast in his office with a mug of hot coffee and a packet of biscuits. When I wrote these notes last week
there had only been one brief spell of sunshine. I had spent the entire week in the greenhouse cleaning up the Sarracenia for the year. The sun came out, I grabbed a camera, took some pictures
and then the rain returned. This week we had some sun on Tuesday, I took some pictures and spent the week repairing the greenhouse and listening to the gutters drip. Suddenly on Friday the sun came out again.
Twice in one week - a distinct improvement.
The best part of the whole wet-in-the-greenhouse saga is that the Sarracenia are done for the year. A few late leaves on S. leucophylla still looking good, but all the rest have been cut to the ground
and I have a gigantic pile of old leaves behind the greenhouse to set fire to if there is ever a still dry day.
L-15-MK was raised from seed collected near Citronelle in Mobile County, Alabama and seems to perform reasonably well in the cooler summers of Cornwall. I would like to close the greenhouse up a bit more
to raise summer temperatures. I worked on it for a few hours in the sun, but ran out of nails and had to go and get more some more. By the time I got back the rain had blown in again.
10th January 2016
Helleborus x hybridus Picotee .
Sunshine may not have been the dominant weather pattern for the week but the short spells we got were worth celebrating. I have a small group of these picotee Hellebores growing underneath a Eucalyptus.
They went in on a cold winters day a few years ago. I put the seedlings in a wheelbarrow, started pushing them up the hill and this is as far as I got. Laziness plays a great part in the design of this garden
(and I suspect, of many others). Quite by chance the winter sun illuminates them so that they shine in the undergrowth. As you can see, I didn't get there fast enough to catch it.
The seedlings were surprisingly vigorous, the first of them flowered after two years. The pale flowers would help solve some problems in the Hellebore border where my fascination with
sombre and unlikely colours has robbed the border of sparkle. If this small group produces seed without my help then I will grow some more on to add some zing. I could go out and pollinate them in a dry spell
but it wouldn't feel right. Somehow it is the laziness than makes them special.
10th January 2016
Primula auricula 'Kath Dryden' .
For a couple of weeks I have had a small hole in the exhaust of my car (it has just been fixed). It made a bit of noise and stuttered as it got going. This auricula is Spring with a small hole in it.
The main display will appear in a month or two when the weather warms up, both events being
eagerly anticipated. At present the plants are looking distinctly sleepy. The old leaves are yellowing and the newest leaves are small, mean and trapped on top of the crowns like wind blown litter.
The curse of Vine Weevil led me to abandon auriculas for many years but a few years ago I tried growing a few hydroponically and so far they seem to be surviving. Vine Weevil grubs like to snuggle up
in a cosy bed of peat compost and nibble away at the auricula roots between short naps. I don't think they get such a comfortable time of it wedged between clay granules and standing in cold water. I'm
sure they have a valuable ecological role to play, but ha ha ha!
It was convenient that the pots could stand in the same water trays as the Sarracenia, and it worked very well as a trial but as the collection has grown and the time came to take it a bit more seriously.
At the same time the Darlingtonia finally outgrew the ad hoc facilities I had made for them so the job for last summer was to build a new pair of benches, one for the Darlingtonia and
the other for the Primula. Hopefully they will both enjoy the same shade in summer and I can at last feed the Auricula's properly without compromising the Sarracenia.
In short, all the problems are solved and everything is perfect. Now I am waiting to see if the plants agree with me.
10th January 2016
Camellia transnokoensis .
All Camellia have a charm about them. For many of the modern cultivars it is the charm of the Sumo wrestler perhaps with a splash of Jackson Pollock to bludgeon you into appreciation,
but it is charm. There are also a number of Camellia species with a more conventional grace. Almost invariably white flowered, the differences between them are not always clear.
I have a few, and they are slowly escaping from the greenhouse and being tried in the garden.
Camellia transnokoensis came from Trehane Nurseries a few years ago - I bought it in a 9cm pot at the RHS Early Spring Show (which has lately become a festival of Potatoes - honestly).
Unusually for me, I planted it in the garden immediately and it took off without a hitch. It is now about 5 feet tall and for the first time I can reasonably describe it as covered in bloom.
Of the half a dozen other species I grow that also have small white flowers in spring on moderate sized evergreen bushes, this one stands out.
Camellia transnokoensis comes from the mountains of Taiwan, I have no experience of its natural habitat but it has adapted to my wind blown hilltop. Primula auricula however I have seen in the Alps
growing high in the mountains and blooming in late spring in the rock crevices where the melt water from the snows above channels down. I thought of that as I splashed up the garden during a lull,
the twinkling water cascading down the path towards me. It's a spring of sorts.