13th May 2018
Paeonia x smouthii .
I have given up on the weather. It's always one sort of nonsense or another. I had got used to the idea that periods of stable weather would be interrupted by period of unpredictability,
or to put it another way, will it ever stop raining? I don't have anything in the way of lawns that I worry about but if I did someone would have to implant a new head of hair for me
so that I could tear it out again.
Peonies are very calming, and they have come into flower in a steady stream to match the weather. There isn't much audible space between the screech of frustration and the sigh of wonder
but it contains a yawning conceptual chasm.
Paeonia x smouthii has been reliable in the Agave house. I'm sure it would grow outside but I am less sure that it would flower. It is a hybrid between P. tenuifolia and
P. lactiflora first made in France in 1845. My plant doesn't quite match the typical form seen which has brighter scarlet flowers, but the hybrid has been repeated several times
and this may be one of the results. P. tenuifolia is a plant of the hot dry steppes of southern Russia and Kazakhstan and although I have some seedlings in the greenhouse I
wouldn't expect them to flower here, although it does very well on the Rock Garden at Kew. P. lactiflora has not been reliable for me, although it is grown locally in
sunny places. I am happy to settle for hybrid flowers in the agave house - it doesn't rain much in there either.
13th May 2018
Luzuriaga parviflora .
Many people grow one genus after another, gently exploring the plant families as they go, but it isn't the only way. The more philosophical may simply sit back and wait as the plants they
already grow explore the various families. Taxonomists are to be thanked for their open mindedness.
Back in the days when spring was filled with cuckoos and cow-parsley I drove down to the Ingwersen Nursery in West Sussex and bought a few small bits and pieces, among them
Luzuriaga radicans. I later discovered that it was a member of the Philesiaceae, along with Lapageria and Philesia, two genera that I am still very fond of.
The Luzuriaga prospered and I grew a couple of other collections from South America that appear to be very similar. I was overjoyed to be offered New Zealand's member of the genus
on a visit to County Park Nursery. L. parviflora grows well in the shade, it would grow better if it was moister but it flowers well enough.
By the time I got it the genus had wandered out of the Philesiaceae and set up a family of their own, the Luzuriagaceae. That was in 1998 but once a genus starts exploring the plant families
it rarely stays anywhere for long. In 2009 the Luzuriagaceae were absorbed into the Alstroemeriaceae where Luzuriaga now sits a little uncomfortably with Alstroemeria and Bomarea.
Those with a philosophical approach should prepare themselves for adventures to come.
13th May 2018
Fritillaria camschatcensis Alaskan Form .
I wish I could convince myself not to take any notice of other people. To be fair I give it a good try, but I'm not always successful. I seem to be going through a phase
of growing things in strange ways. My local cactus society view my hydroponic cactus bench with deep suspicion. I keep the plants standing in water through the winter
and they are looking for ways for the plants to be dead without actually showing it. Part of me does it for the amusement but the other part of me does it because I listened to other people when I was young
and never quite got past their misconceptions. Time to take a stand for personal experience.
So I grow this fritillary. I grew up being told about the difficulty of all those Mediterranean and Eurasian species that could only ever be grown in a greenhouse in pots of dry mud
and although it seemed unlikely I was prepared to believe.
It was the strange black flowers of F. camschatcensis that first inspired me to try the impossible, and I was amazed that it flowered. Unfortunately I was convinced it would die
and eventually I managed to convince the plant as well. I had it in a pot when it would have been perfectly happy in the ground but we live and learn. Many years and shattered misconceptions
later this plant, representing the species as it appears in Alaska, has been ridiculously easy in a pot in the alpine house and increases every year.
I will have to split it soon but for now the stems of clustered flowers are the dullest and most exhilarating thing in the garden.
13th May 2018
Rhododendron 'Loderi King George'.
I can't really blame anybody else for Rhododendron. I have never really taken to the genus, I grew up gardening on a thick yellow clay (they dug it up to make pots) and
Rhododendron hated it. There were one or two in the garden, sad blobs of chlorosis that lacked all delight and without delight what would be the point of Turkey and all its
By the time I had a garden of my own the genus had delivered as much disappointment as I was prepared to take. Very (very) slowly, a few real gems have come to my attention
and I should probably throw away my preconceptions. I can't see it happening.
I first encountered 'Loderi King George' as an unexpected shower of perfume. I was walking through a garden (Wisley as it happens) and suddenly I was captivated. It took me a few minutes to look
up and discover the source was a magnificent pink flowered Rhododendron over my head. I went out and bought one straight away and I have planted more since. This is the first flower to open this year.
The plant will become more magnificent every day for a couple of weeks. Usually the heat and sunshine of June bring the flowering to a close, but perhaps this year it will keep going until Christmas.
Every cloud has a pink perfumed lining.