29th July 2018
Hydrangea macrophylla 'Youmefive' TOGETHER.
We are living through an information technology revolution that has changed the world however there is so much going on that it is difficult to guess what the key points of our age will be.
My guess is that archaeologists of the future will refer to this as the "plastic age". There will be a thin layer in the soil horizon filled with fragments of plastic. They will marvel that
we dug the oil out of the ground, converted it into plastic and then buried it again. Artifacts will be dated based on whether they were discovered above or below the discarded crisp packet.
Back in the 1980's, before the IT age took hold, I bought half a dozen cases of black plastic gravel trays. I stood pots in them to catch every drop of water available. Perhaps I just remember 1976
- I am a "drought-survivor" - but at the time I felt that spending £100 per year on black plastic stuff was a sound investment. This year I have been dragging it all out from under the benches
and frantically standing pots in plastic containers. It makes a huge difference.
Last night they all filled to the brim.
In the garden the Hydrangea had started to look sad. Florets were wilting and leaves were hanging down. At last they are revived to give a decent display through the height of summer.
This deep blue flowered double has been nameless since I bought it. A local supermarket was selling flowering plants in 7cm pots in pink, blue and white. I had one of each assumimg that the name would be easy to
trace later. It wasn't, the diversity of colour confused the issue. I couldn't remember what I did with the white and the pink one, but this is the blue. It celebrates the fact that I finished
weeding the herbaceous border on Friday while it was still dry. When the plant was revealed I discovered that I had planted all three in a group and they have all turned blue. It's a good outcome,
and makes the name easier to guess.
29th July 2018
Disa cardinalis .
In June I suspected that the dry summer would end in a crash of thunder. The air was heavy and stagnant. It was weather for drinking whisky and talking irritably in a southern drawl.
Then the month changed and we were mistified. That is to say, we had a couple of spells where the mist rolled in, looked like rain but didn't seem to reach the ground. Summer was ending with a whimper.
We did have a clap of thunder last night. Just the one, rather foolishly like an excitable listener who applauds before the last notes of a concert. A clap, an awkward silence, a distant titter.
The rain fell. I looked out of the front door a couple of times before I went to bed just to reassure myself that it was still falling. I slept through the rest, it was very comforting.
Down in the greenhouse the Disa already look happier. There was enough rain to flush out their water tanks and remove the sludge and algae that builds up. It is fresh and aerated, colours seem brighter,
birds are singing, I could almost ... steady on poppet, it was only rain.
Disa cardinalis is "the other" red Disa, found in a very limited habitat in the Western Cape of South Africa. It grows in the streams that flow down the dry northern slopes of the Langeberg Mountains.
Fortunately it adapts well to cultivation, even forgiving the sludge and algae build-up of summer in the greenhouse. It is one of the first species that I grew. I germinated a single seedling
that survived for a year or so before I killed it with good intentions (it takes a while to get past the ridiculous orchid-lore surrounding Disa). This one came from Hildegard Crous (noted Disa breeder)
in South Africa. One of five seedlings I bought to replace (after a very long interval) the dead one. To pacify my own obsession I will note that this is Clone.3.
Have I learnt anything in the intervening years, does the Pope eat Peperami?
So many questions are essentially pointless.
29th July 2018
Utricularia praelonga .
The flood of water through the benches has refreshed everything. I didn't start to worry about Utricularia praelonga until I went to look for it. Over the last couple of years it has spread out
from the water-lily basket that is nominally its home into a dense mat. It doesn't quite dam the flow, but I was worried that it might have formed an obstruction. The beds are quite shallow, it wouldn't take much
to raise the water level over the edge so that it flooded onto the floor instead of filling the tanks. Everything was fine, the Utricularia dipped its foliage beneath the surge and waited for
the flood to subside. I will keep it from blocking the channel in future. I enjoy its enthusiasm and hadn't even considered that it might block the flow.
It comes from northern Argentina and the southern tip of Brazil where it grows terrestrially, in the sense that it roots into the substrate and probably survives occasional drying out. It likes to be wet.
If you find yourself wandering around in northern Argentina or the southern tip of Brazil looking for U. praelonga then you would do well to look for the splashy bits and not the crumbly parts.
It is surprisingly hardy. Mention of Brazil always raises the image of tropical forests but the south of the country is much cooler and dominated by dry grassland.
There are hundreds of species in the genus and very slowly the carnivorous plant enthusiasts are sifting through them to find the few that are suitable for cultivation. Unfortunately the majority
inspire wide eyed wonder at the complex conditions required to enable temporary cultivation. Only a very few persist.
29th July 2018
The week has ended, the weather cooled and although it is an illusion, for a while at least all seems right with the world. The cloud has passed and the sun come out again. I doubt it will be the
merciless beating sun we had known before, with luck this will be the pleasant sunshine of summer, interspersed with rain. Time will tell, predictions are inaccurate and my predictions doubly so.
The Watsonia have been good this year, though the flowers have been fleeting. I have a group of new seedlings flowering for the first time and they have been distracting my attention.
At first sight there was nothing among them that interested me, but as I have looked more closely I am more and more inclined to keep them all. That is how it goes with seedlings, the Disa
are just the same. Last year I rejected dozens as they flowered for the first time, they had nothing that improved on the parents and they were all moved onto another bench. This year several have crept back
into the Disa greenhouse for further consideration.
The Watsonia seedlings are a long awaited second generation cross from a hybrid I did decades ago. W. "pillansii pink" (it's no such thing) x W. 'Stanford Scarlet'.
The first generation were attractive, pale salmon pink. I only have one of them left, it has filled a 50litre pot. I broke a large chisel trying to remove some corms for a friend recently, it is packed.
This is one of the self-pollinated progeny. I was hoping for a dwarf scarlet among them and I was disappointed, however on reflection this one is almost white and put on a good show. There is another that is
chemical-pink that also tried hard to impress. They are all growing in a bed and they will all survive, because I am too lazy to dig them out but I might move the selected ones, so that I know which they were
for next year.
August is coming, the schools have broken up and the rain has started. I will be amused if, after the recent dry weather, this develops into the wettest summer on record. It is still possible.
29th July 2018
Cyclamen hederifolium .
What did I tell you! A touch of rain and the buggers are up out of the ground like the undead. I have just been up to the top of the garden (to plant some Erythronium) and the first cyclamen flower is
open, not even twelve hours after the rain stopped. Shocking, it's autumn.