10th May 2020
Paeonia peregrina .
Spring has surged through the garden like a wave on the beach and has reached the moment when the roaring enthusiasm ends and it slips away meekly into the sand. Summer is lurking in the shade
with the indolent beauty of an angry teenager. Cloudy mornings have dripped with the soft mists of spring and refreshed a lot of the things I have been planting out.
Cloudy afternoons have been heavy and brooding. Between the cloud the sun has shone, toying with the difference between bright and oppressive.
It has been a week of clearing trees and scrub. I have a vague idea that I want some more open space and room to plant more of the things currently waiting in the greenhouse,
but it is a plan that is only taking shape as the space opens up. At present a shaft of light has torn through the garden like the sun-god driving a bulldozer, it is wonderful.
Paeonia peregrina also seems to have moved the season forward. The peonies of spring are magnificent pink orbs of promise among the chill colours of the early months
but P. peregrina is red. Pure red, ruthless red - any earlier in the season and it would look as though Santa had died on his way home. Among the bright greens
and sparkling blooms of the early herbaceous border the slowly unfolding bud is letting summertime out.
At least it would if it was out there. It's in the Agave house laughing at the spare economy of the steely spikes. It will be dormant by the time the real heat kicks in.
10th May 2020
Dendrobium moniliforme 'Tsukimaru' .
Last year's springtime spree involved cutting down the trees to the east of the greenhouse. I was only vaguely aware of the shade they cast, by the time I got out there in the morning the sun had moved around
to the southeast and the greenhouse was warming in a gentle light. However the trees continued to expand sideways and eventually the benches that hold the orchids were shaded into the afternoon.
There was nothing for it, the trees had to go. This year the advantages have been clear, the greenhouse warms up earlier and the plants look stronger, no longer etiolated and leaning
hopefully towards the light.
Perhaps that is what has made the difference to Dendrobium moniliforme. It is a Japanese species and probably well able to resist cold weather as long as it is of short duration
and the warmth that follows is reliable. I hope that the greenhouse helps to ensure that winter is minimal and summer lasts reliably into October and November. Removing the shading from the trees has
certainly helped with that. I am drawn to Dendrobium moniliforme moth-to-candle style. For several years I was burned reliably but I think I am starting to understand the conditions required.
The plants are looking stronger and the better established ones are going to flower this year. 'Tsukimaru' surprised me with the peachy colour of the flower which combined rather tastefully with
the gentle yellow marginal variegation. I doubt there will be any additions to the collection this year, the major shows are all cancelled, but I am getting some more trees felled
as a consequence.
10th May 2020
Disa uncinata .
There are all sorts of sensible reasons for growing Pleione. They flower in the first rush of spring when the world is full of yellow daffodils and unexpected cold showers. They flower in the greenhouse
where it is warmer, out of the wind and rain. They are entirely dormant through the winter and need no attention through the short days and dark nights. Most importantly they keep going until the first Disa start.
That's how things would be in an ideal world. In reality the Pleione had to be repotted this winter and time was tight. I was still working on it as the first flower buds started to show.
It had to be finished before I moved on to repotting the Disa, and I still haven't finished that. Some will have to wait for another year, or at least until the autumn.
Disa uncinata has opened to mark the start of a new season of excitement in the greenhouse. It is an odd plant, quite unlike the species and hybrids usually grown, however it shares their waterside habitats
in the Cape and seems to have adapted to the same conditions here. I would like to try crossing it with one of the big red hybrids to see if it was equally obliging as a parent. Suitable pollen parents are still
a few weeks from flowering but with luck the flowers of D. uncinata will hold on. It seemed to remain in flower for a very long time last year so there is hope. I'm
not sure what any possible hybrids would prove but it is quite interesting to add another species to the mix.
Most of the fun lies in the speculation and the waiting anyway.
10th May 2020
Puya coerulea var. violacea .
Which is not meant to imply that waiting is always fun. A few years ago (that probably means a decade or more, memory distorts time) I bought a range of Puya seedlings
to enhance the Agave house. At the time it looked like a large empty space with a few tiny suculents scattered among rocks. I put some Puya in the spaces and was left with a few in pots that were
I have been trying to get rid of them ever since. They are in the way, they scratch and spike me as I work on the benches in the greenhouse and they are impossible to repot. This was the last remaining plant,
tolerated because it had wonderful silver leaves. It has languished, the pot is far too small and I have continued to ignore it. Part of me has hoped that it will just quietly die
and solve the problem.
This year it has flowered very suddenly and identified itself as Puya corulea var. violacea. It's a lovely thing and I have to make a space for it in the Agave house. I'm not sure where,
the house has filled a lot in the intervening years, but if I have to I will sacrifice something dull in order to fit it in. Hopefully it will forgive the years of neglect and go on to
produce some offsets for another year. It will probably spike me viciously in the process.
After years of neglect I don't deserve any gratitude and I'm not expecting it so show any.