9th October 2016
Nerine 'Zeal Giant'
Cold weather is blowing around the garden huffily. I'm sitting in my office with a chill on my shoulders. I really should close the back door now, summer is over. I put my coffee into the microwave
for a second to re-energise it and discovered that I had already closed the back door. This really is the chill of winter. Time to get the chimney swept.
This week should really be about the outrageous colour among the Nerine. They are doing their job and ensuring that the days of autumn are filled with unspeakable wonder. Looking at a soft pink
Aster yesterday a friend said "I don't really get on with those shocking colours". Nerine 'Zeal Giant' is a big pink monster. The plant is large, but the pink is enormous. Look away now.
Raised by the late Terry Jones in Devon in his attempt to combine the hardiness of N. bowdenii with the shocking colour of N. sarniensis. It is so large that when it was shown to the Scientific Committee
of the RHS in 1987 they asked for confirmation that it wasn't a hybrid x Amarine. It isn't of course. This is almost leafless through winter which helps its hardiness. The x Amarine generally
have well developed leaves through the worst weather. It was given an Award of Merit in 1991.
Terry raised it using pollen from 'Hera' on a good form of N. bowdenii.
9th October 2016
Although I should be showing nothing this week except vibrant Nerine this is another of those times of year when things are happening that seem significant. The Nerine are at
a peak now but will still be flowering in March (just about). The Snowdrops have just about started flowering, but will be at a peak in March. Somehow this little white speck
signifies the start of a long season of flower.
Galanthus peshmeni has a very resticted distribution in the province of Antalya in Turkey and the nearby Greek islant of Kastellorhizo, where it grows on north facing cliffs. It was only described in 1994
but has rapidly become one of the best autumn snowdrops in cultivation. For me it is very easy in a cold greenhouse. Outside in the garden it survives, but doesn't flower freely.
I have two plants that have grown side by side for several years. The first came from the AGS show in South Wales in 2009, the second was a pot of seedlings from a Cyclamen Society show in 2010. One of
them always flowers a fortnight before the other, and last year I finally got around to labelling them 'early' and 'late' to distinguish them. This year 'late' is early and 'early' is late so
perhaps there is something else going on. I can't imagine I have mixed the labels up in a sleep-anarchy moment (and I'm a bit obsessive about labels - they go into the pot just so - so nobody else has been at them).
Perhaps the species bahaviour is erratic. Fancy that from an autumn snowdrop of all things.
9th October 2016
Hedychium coccineum Yellow
I like the label to be in the right place in the pot (so I know where to find it without scrabbling around). I like it to face inwards (so I can read it without having to pull it out) and I like it to be pushed
in just below the rim of the pot (so it doesn't get snapped in half if the plastic gets brittle). Is that unreasonable?
Plants are the same. I like to have the Hedychium all together so that I know where to look if I want something. There is nothing more frustrating than offering someone a spare division and
then spending an hour looking for it.
It might not be recognisable, but that is all about the yellow form of H. coccineum. Not that it is a form of H. coccineum, but that was what it was labelled and it seemed stupid to
change it when there was nothing better on offer. Whatever it is there is no doubt that it is rather special, so when it suffered one winter, I took to protecting it through the worst months. It came up to the house and
stood in the conservatory. Every spring it would go back out. Its space would have been occupied by something else, so I just put it down somewhere.
During the summer I was told by a friend that it was actually the real H. tengchongense. At last I was able to correct the label, which has been bothering me (in a gentle way) for the best part of a decade.
Could I find the plant? Not the slightest glimpse of it. I have walked around since June hoping to trip over it, or at least some slight memory of what I did with it.
This flower is amazing, it is bold and scented, it is a thing of outstanding beauty and it can't be overlooked. I have found it, and in one (almost frantically hurried) step I have both located the plant
and found a home for the label I had prepared. Result!
It will have to come in again shortly.
9th October 2016
Looking across the pots of Nerine sparkling in the spectrum of intemperance I wanted to express something about the heart of the spectacle. I am an odd grower, which is to say that if it is odd, I will grow it.
I have had Nerine growing in the greenhouse for longer than I have had to shave in the morning, but it wasn't until I bought a purple flowered one that I went a bit potty. I do love those purples.
And the whites. Scarlets of course, and all those wonderful pinks and salmon colours. Orange is striking colour, but it is perfectly normal, at least among Nerine sarniensis (and on 'Strictly Come Dancing').
I have a lot of orange cultivars. They are inevitable if you grow the species, but this one with its small flower head and short stem is special. this one may be the original species, the heart of all that colour.
The species was introduced from the remoter parts of the South-west Cape some time around 1630. Today it is still to be found on rocky slopes from Clanwilliam to Caledon. I was told that this one was the wild species,
and it may be, but I would be even happier if I could get a plant with the original collection data. Something that still had a sense of the wild wind blowing through the perfect ecological poise of its
My plant may be the real thing. I cling to the hope that it is a small representation of a distant country, a bit like Google-earth in a pot. Sadly it may also be a rather dismal modern seedling from a vendor who
saw me coming. It doesn't do to let the romance of distant lands sparkle too brightly in your eyes.