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19th July 2020

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Astra' .
Once again the week has been dominated by overcast weather and the illusion of rain. It feels as though it has rained and a bit of misty moisture has swirled through the air but nothing had actually fallen. The garden is drying out again. Suddenly last night some cloud appeared in the forecast. I emptied a bucket by the back door and in the morning there was 1cm of water in it. If it didn't rain then something very strange has happened.
The Agave house is becoming a little too exuberant and I need to find a day to sort it out. The first job is to remove the weeds but I also have to reduce the number of Agave up there. I planted them with the naive delight of a 'pot grower', assuming that I had a decade or more before there were problems. Unfortunately once their roots got into the ground they accelerated and the space is packed. I have to decide which I really want and which are just along for the ride. I'm not looking forward to either part of the task.
I console myself with the idea that it will all look much better when there is some space for the prickly rosettes to expand into.
While I dwell gloomily on the prospect I have the pink Platycodon grandiflorus 'Astra' to cheer me. I planted them to add some fluffy decoration to the stern beauty of the Agave and it was one of my better whimsical decisions.

19th July 2020

Mahonia gracilipes .
A number of events have combined to shape the year so far. I have had more time in the garden and I have been using it to get on with the big projects, clearing trees, planting things out and knocking down my old workshop. During the winter my old mower finally expired so it hasn't been possible to cut the grass yet. It has been a year for thinking about the big picture rather than the detail.
I was forced to stop planting things out at the end of April when the weather warmed up. I was not convinced that the last few things I planted had much hope of survival. I put them out anyway, I was suffering from a sort of digging frenzy, but I expected some losses. So far I have been lucky, only two things are clearly dead. Magnolia laevifolia is suffering because the deer are using it as a scratching post but I can't blame that on the weather.
I have two plants of Mahonia gracillipes. The big one went out and has lost some leaves but it will pull through. The small one stayed in the greenhouse and has burst into flower. It was the first distinct sign of autumn that I have seen so far. Acis and Cyclamen will follow next time I water/it rains respectively.

19th July 2020

Watsonia hybrids .
I am still struggling to find suitable places for Watsonia in the garden. Perhaps what I really mean is that I have far more Watsonia than I have garden space. It doesn't help the situation that I keep raising more from seed. This group of hybrids are the F2 generation from a cross between W. pillansii and W. 'Stanford Scarlet'. They have all been pale colours and originally I had hoped for some strong reds but I like them. There were a couple that I wanted to sort out from the mix but I think the time has passed. The stronger ones are eliminating the weak and exentually there will only be a handful in there. They may not be the most beautiful, but they will be strong!
Perhaps the time has come to be a little more brutal with the collection and plant them out in the garden wherever there is a touch of sunshine. They don't need baking conditions but they do appreciate some direct sun. As the weather cools perhaps the digging frenzy will overtake me again.

19th July 2020.
Disa (Trata x Watsonii 'Candy').

Although the Disa season will probably extend for another month, the peak has passed. I have performed more pollinations than is rational, I am almost relieved when some of the pods fail to swell. I have prepared for the chaos to come by writing clear labels for them all. It took me most of an evening as I basted in a combination of smugness ("what a clever hybrid") and horror ("aaargh!"). The prospect of pricking out the seedlings is already bothering me and I haven't even harvested the seed yet. Something about counting chickens flashes through my mind but I really can't be doing with chickens at the moment.
One of the pleasures of hybridising is the freedom to indulge a good idea. Commercially I would have to set out some objectives, establish criteria for selection, all the dodgy stuff. I say dodgy because nobody ever quite knows what will happen. If you decide in advance what you want you will waste the opportunity of what actually happens. Tinkering in the greenhouse is much more fun, idling the evenings spinning distant dreams.
I have no idea what I expected to get when I crossed D. Trata with D. Watsonii 'Candy'. Larger, pale hybrids would seem a reasonable expectation. Among the pinks I have a white one and a yellow, which is more than I could have hoped for. They have already been crossed with larger parents. Only time will tell if I made the right choices. In the end I did 61 hybrids this year.
By the time the Mahonia flowers fade I will have seed to sow and the horrifying reality will dawn on me.