26th February 2017
Corydalis solida 'George Baker'
A week of murky mist has felt decidedly wintery, though temperatures have remained high. The garden is hard work when there is as much sludge in the air as on the ground.
Fortunately Friday dawned clear and bright, the sun shone all day and there were enough birds singing to make it unlikely they had all gone insane. It was a fine spring day.
In the greenhouse, these Corydalis appeared about three weeks ago. At first just a flash of scarlet at ground level, but as they disentangled themselves from the compost
the stems unfolded and displayed the flowers properly. A touch of sunlight and they have started to stretch upwards. Before long they will become leggy and flop over
but for now they are perfect. A group in a tub outside are about two weeks behind them, still flashes of scarlet peeping through the grit mulch.
'George Baker' is probably a selection from the Prasil Strain of Corydalis solida, all of them strong reds, collected in the Transylvanian Alps in 1972
by Joseph Kupec and Milan Prasil. It is a genus full of fascinating tuberous species that produce flimsy stems of flower at the first sign of spring and
disappear again as soom as the warmth turns to heat. I am tentatively growing one or two with a view to cheering up the Alpine House in the last chilly days of winter.
26th February 2017
I went out looking for snowdrops and realised that the perfect moment had passed. I like to think that they go on until the end of March, and there are many that will,
but the collection has started to look tired. It is like a popular library book that has been read too often. It is still there and it still does the job, but it will
never be crisp again. The snowdrops are also going brown at the edges, odd petals folded back. I want them to set seed or I would take the old flowers off
and leave the stage clear for the latecomers. I'm not sure why I want the seed, but it feels like a good idea. For three of four years I have spread the old capsules over the ground
to leave them to germinate, but so far I haven't seen a single seedling. Capsules that were planted in a tub produced a crop of seedlings, the first of them flowering now,
so it isn't the seed at fault.
This year I want to see if I can germinate the seed reliably in tubs. If it comes up then it might be worth the effort of some deliberate hybridising to raise something new.
This year I have been spreading pollen from the yellow forms around but I'm not taking it very seriously. Perhaps in the next generation I might get an odd yellow seedling or two
but I have to get a first generation first.
If the sun shines sometime next week I might try pollinating 'Poculiformis' with one of the yellows. A yellow 'Poculiformis' would be a sensation (briefly) and it would be nice to have
at least one batch of seedlings with a purpose.
26th February 2017
Primula allionii 'Tranquility'
The seasons turn like a cogged wheel, advancing in tiny steps. Last time I looked at the Primula allionii they looked folorn as though winter had finally overwhelmed them.
After a long struggle to be cheerful they had finally encountered the last straw and they were cowering in their pots, all spirit extinguished. It isn't a good sight
and although I should have done some remedial weeding while they were at their lowest ebb, I didn't have the heart for it.
I went back to look this week, and things have changed. Tiny rounded pink buds are clustered in the leaf axils and the rosettes have perked up. 'Tranquility' has even managed to flower.
I'm not sure why I want to grow Primula allionii. Perhaps years of failure have finally brought me to breaking point but I have dug my heels in and intend to keep trying
until it works. I am certainly having more success now, though there are still issues. I haven't got the feeding regime right yet and I'm sure the plants could look stronger, but
I think I am on the right path. Primula auricula has not been so successful. I might have to rethink my treatment and perhaps build a dedicated bench space somewhere for them.
26th February 2017
I think building a bench was what helped me turn the corner with Cymbidium. I don't grow many but they were always too dry and squeezed into odd corners. In the end I built a shaded bench for them outside
and they spend eight or nine months of the year being rained on, which they seem to like. Last years pseudobulbs were the best I have ever had, and two thirds of the plants have produced flower spikes
(compared with none in the bad years). Regular water and feeding seems to be the answer, and not listening too much to the orchid people, who seem to delight in making simple things difficult.
I have had my plant of C. wilsonii since 2010 and am finally in a position to say that it not the real thing. A large number of Cymbidium have come from China in the last two decades
and although they are generally labelled as species, many of them seem to be hybrids. This one has something of C. iridoides about it, but it is probably futile to speculate. True C. wilsonii
has large flowers, green tepals and a buff labellum.
This one would have had a spike of half a dozen flowers but I brought it inside for the winter to protect it, and almost immediately snapped off
the end of the spike bending down to fill the washing machine.
If I had put it in a warmer room, I might have had flowers before Christmas but time goes more slowly with only a washing machine for company.