29th May 2016
Disa Colette Cywes 'Blush' .
Nothing seems to have changed but everything is different. We have had a week of sunshine and the occasional cloudy interlude so the weather has seemed the same. In the middle of the week I took my socks off
and they haven't been back on since. I like to think that it is symptomatic of the change but perhaps it is the cause. Whatever the reason, suddenly summer has appeared in the garden. The grass is shinier,
the shadows are deeper and the Rhododendron flowers have gone droopy, which is a good or a bad thing depending on your outlook.
In the greenhouse the Disa spikes have started to elongate and the first flowers have opened. 'Blush' is an attractive pale pink and I have made a lot of crosses with it in the hope of producing some more
pale colours. White is too much to hope for in a large flowered hybrid but I would be very happy with a pale peachy pink with compact stems. 'Blush' is too tall, floppy and wayward for my taste.
As ever, the major problems are finding enough space for all the seedlings and finding enough time to prick them out. I cleared an entire bench over winter in preparation but seem to have filled it again
with a lot of other stuff. Once I get it sorted out, it will be colourful.
29th May 2016
Paeonia daurica ssp. wittmanniana .
A magnificent herbaceous peony from the Caucasus with tough leathery foliage on tall stems. It is a close relation to the over-written and under-pronounced P. mlokosewitschii , now P. daurica ssp.
mlokosewitschii with fleeting
yellow flowers. P. d. wittmanniana seems to be tougher, and lasts in flower a little longer. This one opened on Tuesday and the petals fell this morning (Sunday)
when I went to admire it.
Typically the subspecies is white flowered but my plant has a distinct pink tinge and hairy carpels which may mean it sits more comfortably in the taxon P. daurica ssp. tomentosa
but I am reluctant to discard the "wittmanniana" label.
I bought it as a seedling in 2012 and it seems to be prospering in the border, flowering for the first time this year, but producing three of them.
29th May 2016
Paeonia obovata var. willmottiae .
Paeonies are a terrible distraction. It would be very easy to go over the top and plant a small space with nothing else, but my garden is wet and shady while peonies like it sunny and dry. Every year I tell myself
that it is a mistake to pay much attention to them, and yet every year I seem to acquire another one or two. So far this year just P. lithophila sheltering in the greenhouse, but I nearly had a moment of weakness
among some grafted P. suffruticosa during the week.
In 2014 I was given some sprouting seed and I have been amazed at the speed with which they have grown. In the first year they produced decent sized leaves, the second year saw some short stems, and this year
the first have flowered. At present they are smaller in stature and flower than the parent plant but still quite astounding. I thought I would be waiting for a decade or more to see flowers.
Fortunately the glaucous green foliage is also magnificent from the moment the reddish shoots break the surface in spring until the waxy leaves soften like yellow moonlight and fall to the ground in autumn.
I could live with it joyfully if it never flowered (but let's not test it).
29th May 2016
Cantua buxifolia .
Peonies are slow things, they make solid reliable clumps that expand slowly and delightfully. Cantua buxifolia is exactly the opposite, an easy growing fast rooting twiggy thing. Not entirely hardy
but just as unique and startling when it flowers in spring.
Things don't always follow expectations. Peony seedlings that flower in their third year are a joy but I had started to despair over my Cantua. This is the first time it has flowered and the distinctive magenta
and orange flowers demonstrate that it is the usual clone grown in the UK. In the high valleys of Peru and Bolivia there are a range of other variations on the red-orange-magenta theme as well as pink, white and yellow.
I would love to grow a whole host of them, but it has taken me a while to get it settled.
It started in 1982 when the lovely Hillier Nursery sent me a parcel on the train, to be collected at my local railway station. Even back then it was an echo of an age long past. The box was tied with baler twine,
stuffed with straw and right at the heart of it was Cantua buxifolia. For me it was a wonder, something close to magic, that a rare plant I had wanted for a very long time should be available. I didn't discover
for years that Hilliers bought their stock from a nursery ten miles down the road from me and were perfectly happy to send it back to Cornwall having multiplied the price tenfold. Innocence is bliss, as is Cantua.
I have never minded, it was something close to magic.
Cantua buxifolia however was not so impressed by me. Thirty four years later I have my first flower. Everybody else I know who grows it flowers it easily every spring. Last year the magic was wearing a little thin. I dumped
it in the Agave house, waved a metaphorical goodbye, and left it to its own devices. I wish I had thought of that sooner.
Perhaps that explains why I feel so triumphant about my lovely peonies!