1st May 2016
Erythronium 'Harvington Wild Salmon' .
Last weekend the chill winds from the Arctic descended and they have stayed the week. A little drop of rain fell, enough to remind me that things were drying out. Standing
in a car park on a cold but gloriously sunny day enough hail stones fell to leave my ears stinging so that I had to hide in the car. It has been a changeable week.
Changeable with cold gusts.
The Erythronium continue to get better. I have just read a recommendation to put them in and leave them alone for four or five years which seems like good sense.
My bulbs of E. 'Pagoda' have been in for that long now and are looking like established clumps. I added some more to the group two years ago and they still look
a bit spotty, poked in here and there across the ground. I was going to lift the old clumps and spread them around a bit more but they look so good that I think I will
just buy some more bulbs.
'Pagoda' is cheap enough to buy by the hundred, 'Harvington Wild Salmon' is not unfortunately. It is a selection of E. revolutum made by Hugh Nunn of Harvington Hellebore fame.
This year it looks settled, in a couple of years I will be wishing I could buy a dozen of them. The species comes easily from seed, and perhaps that is the way
to move forward.
1st May 2016
Arisaema thunbergii ssp. urashima .
I have a small collection of Arisaema growing in pots that move around the place rather frequently. I do not find them very reliable, and it is difficult to know why.
They tend to rot off in winter and so I keep them very dry, but timing the watering in spring is crucial. Too early when they are still dormant and they struggle to get away,
once the shoots appear it is a bit too late, they are already stunted by drought. The Japanese species seem to be the most reliable, more tolerant of winter wet perhaps, but my
latest theory is that they want much hotter summers than we can provide to build good strong tubers. As a consequence I have a plan to build a little plastic greenhouse
that will push the summer temperatures up high and use it just for the Arisaema and the Crinum, which suffer from similar problems.
In the meantime, A. tunbergii ssp. urashima grows well enough to flower, though it only increases very slowly.
The subspecies A. t. urashima comes from woodlands in eastern coastal Japan. Flower colour varies as does the length of the spadix appendage. Some forms have been selected
in cultivation in Japan but I am not aware of any named varieties appearing in the UK. Mine is the commonest commercial form, increasing freely enough under suitable
conditions to be a single clone rather than a seed raised strain. The outside of the spadix is off-white, more "Mushroom" than "Magnolia" though in the modern paint manufacturers parlance
this would be "Hint of Costa Rica". The long dark spadix tip dangles in a very appealing way. I haven't worked out why it is appealing, I think it is a kitten-like attraction to a ball of wool,
but it dangles apealingly. It is impossible to photograph, and this year I haven't even tried!
1st May 2016
Clivia miniata .
Brief pause while the "Hint of Costa Rica" sends me scurrying to put the kettle on.
Clivia are satisfying. I could stop there really, because that is the point. They ask very little. Moderate feeding, moderate watering and shade from the hottest summer sun but
people still insist they grow best under the greenhouse bench, never fed, barely watered. The poor plants get the blame for failing to perform. I thought there was an oxymoron in
there somewhere, but when I looked it was just a regular one. Given decent conditions they are satisfying. They don't even need flowers. The Chinese grow them for the leaves,
broad and shiny with a texture like hammered copper.
Every succeeding season is my favourite. The new flush of leaves in summer, larger than before, new divisions around the base. The dormant perfection of winter when the leaf fans are finally
mature and then the plump buds of spring filled with promises of the unexpected but leading inevitably to big orange flowers. I have lots of seedlings growing on, and this year many of
them are flowering for the first time. This one was supposedly 'Vico Yellow' x self and it should be yellow, but some naughty little pollinator got there before I did. I knew it as soon as it germinated.
The seedling had some dark purple staining at the base of the first leaf, the yellow seedlings are always pure green. I grew it on anyway, I find it very difficult to reject any of them.
In the end it is a good rich colour with deep yellow running through the base of the petal and it has a good shape. Very satisfying.
1st May 2016
Magnolia laevifolia .
Changes to plant names are an inevitable part of the process of taxonomic accuracy. I am always pleased to see a new name as the consequence of a more complete understandimg. It is a lovely thing.
As I get older, however, the poor old brain struggles to adapt. Like a mental dinosaur I wrestle with the changing situation. So it is that Michelia yunnanensis became
Magnolia dianica (it was shown that all the Michelia should be included in Magnolia, the distinctions were not significant and it couldn't become Magnolia yunnanensis,
there was already one of those). I was briefly happy with Michelia dianica but it wasn't to last. Michelia laevifolia represents the most recent taxonomic opinion (2007). I am making
a determined effort to remember it. I will struggle and fail, like a dinosaur in a tar pit. The brain simply isn't big enough to cope.
As a consequence I have been passing the flowers for a fortnight now, almost afraid to enjoy their heavy perfume because I know the label on it is wrong and I can't remember what it should be.
This note records its beauty and its season, if not the magnificent scent. More importantly, it forces me to go and look it up again.
Forgetfulness is inevitable, but repetition is the basis of memory. Did I already say that last time I wrote about it?