26th June 2016
Iris ensata 'Oriental Eyes'
Last week the garden was being teased by the light rain, this week we have seen enough to moisten the soil to a decent depth. The whole garden is looking fresher
and the grass is growing with restored enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the mower is cutting with reduced efficiency so I can feel a stand-off developing. Fortunately
it is summer, and if I put my fingers in my ears and sing la-la-la very loudly it might go away by itself. That is going to be my first course of action anyway.
Hot weather and abundant moisture have raised the Japanese Iris from their slumbers. They are exquisitely detailed, but I am starting to appreciate them more from a distance.
The greenhouse is getting rather too hot in the sun, so yesterday I pinned a single layer of horticultural fleece under the roof. It waved and rippled delicately in the light breeze
through the vents. Iris ensata does the same at a distance, but up close the fine lines were drawn by a small child with fat fingers and a purple crayon.
Bludgeoningly delicate. Like being coshed with an Art Deco figurine.
26th June 2016
Pogonia japonica it truly fragile. The slender flower spikes grow upright, but as the flowers expand and open they wooble and - oops, can't stand up straight any more, over we go then.
This one is Pogonia japonica by name, from Japan, Korea and China but it differs from my stock of Pogonia ophioglossoides in only one respect - it flowers!
The North American P. ophioglossoides is growing vigorously, almost inconveniently so, but it is years since I saw a flower. I have a plan. I have a number of
Iris ensata forms sitting around in pots waiting for a suitable space to appear in the garden. If the rain holds off this afternoon I am going to erect a bench and stand them all in trays of water.
P. ophioglossoides will go out there with them and perhaps some bright light and air movement will scare it into flowering next spring.
In the Flora of China, P. japonica is described as growing in grasslands on hilltops and forests along valleys, but I think this is probably an error of observation or translation. It likes wet places.
Very very wet places. In the greenhouse it grows in a water tray, an inch or two above the surface. It has the thinnest rhizomes imaginable and would dessicate in an instant if the tray ran dry.
26th June 2016
Billbergia sp. 8387
If a plant fails to perform, it never hurts to threaten it. It doesn't do any good either, but it puts you in a stronger frame of mind. It is still doesn't perform, then it has had a fair warning.
If it improves, it clearly just needed some more motivation. This Billbergia got very close to a sharp spanking with a garden spade. Green leaved Billbergia are strange and exotic,
but after a while the attraction of clumps of dull green leaves fades and they get a stern talking to. I have half a dozen supposedly different forms occupying space and I can't think why.
Decades ago I bought a number from a local nursery who had got them from a collector who had got fed up with them!
This one came from a different source as Aechmea sp. 8387. It was fairly obviously a Billbergia, but it has never been quite flowery enough to attempt an identification. This year
I had decided it was next on the list to go when I needed more space, and it has flowered. The young spike was distinctly B. pyramidalis-like, but as it matured it has become pendulous.
Perhaps B. nutans has played a part as well. Whatever the parentage, a good flower at the right time has saved it, for now anyway.
26th June 2016
I get lost in Disa the way I get lost in hot chocolate or a warm bath. I avoid the Disa bench when there are things that need doing, because they won't be done. Partly it
is the Disa themselves. Bright red, pink and orange are hypnotically attractive. Most Disa species have close relastionships with their insect pollinators. In the case of
D. uniflora (the species behind all modern Disa hybrids) it is with Aeropetes tulbaghia, the Mountain Pride butterfly. I can imagine it flapping languidly across the
tops of Table Mountain, dipping from time to time for nectar from the scarlet blooms, smiling (insofar as a butterfly's mouthparts will permit a smile), its butterfly mind filled with nebulous dreams.
I can't be certain about the Mountain Pride butterfly, but it is a fair description of my mental state among the Disa.
In that dreamy state, I feel the presence of hybridists before me. Someone was trying to produce large yellow flowered Disa without resorting Disa uniflora in its famously feeble yellow flowered form.
D. (aurata x Kewensis) might do the job. In the event, it got as far as orange, but it was a good idea.
This year I am going to try back crossing to D. aurata and see what happens.
Sometimes in a warm bath, or over hot chocolate late at night, I actually fall asleep. It would be nice to see if a big yellow Disa could do it as well.