9th May 2021
Clivia miniata citrina
Change in the garden is usually a slow process. There is a creeping sensation that things aren't quite as they were, for better or worse, but it can be difficult to pin it down. What has changed, when did it change?
Not so this week. I think the season, and the whole character of the garden have turned a sharp corner and spring has become summer. It started a week ago with the first rain for a couple of months. A light
showering that refreshed growth and softened the surface of the baked ground. It was followed by a full day of rain yesterday. The ground is wet and spongy, plants look fresh and the weeds have started to look vigorous.
A fortnight ago I found a Red Campion wilting in one of the borders. It is still wilting because I pulled it out and put it on the compost. In its place are countless thousands of its followers, now raising their heads
to the sky and preparing to flower. The season has changed. The bare bones of winter have filled out.
I went and hid in the greenhouse, my refuge from things that I don't like; cold, rain, weeding, admin. After several years of neglect I have been taking care of the Clivia again and they are responding by flowering.
This yellow seedling is lovely with a compact head and good rich colour but I am disappointed. It was raised from a cross between 'Nakamura Yellow', which it resembles, and 'Dr Hirao', one of the best of the green flowered forms.
I was hoping that it would be green. If not, I was hoping for greenish. At the very least I was hoping for a tinge of green in the throat. Rich yellow is a disappointment but I'm not one to lose heart.
On a warm evening last week I crossed some of the Clivia and will spend another decade quivering with the thrill of anticipted disappointment. Growing the seedlings is like saving a penny each week
so that I can play the lottery in a few years time. It's a slow process.
9th May 2021
Aciphylla glaucescens .
Through the spring there has been a feeling that things can't go on like this much longer. The garden has been cold. Every week that passes should have made it warmer, but didn't seem to.
The ground has been dry, gardening has been easy and the sunshine has been delightful. A list of jobs develops. The things that have to be done when it is dry, easy jobs that will be difficult once it is warmer.
Weeding is one of them.
I have a row of tubs that line the path to the greenhouse. Generous tubs where I grow things that might need attention or which deserve highlighting. Eryngium pandanifolium was
possibly a mistake, the serrated leaves hang over and obstruct the path, but the young plant established well and I can move it "later".
A small group of Aciphylla glaucescens grow beside it. It is a drought loving New-Zealander that would have died in the open ground. Elevated in a tub, it has prospered.
Walking past the row of tubs at the end of the day, I had a sudden urge to weed them while it was still dry. It was an easy job, I'm glad that I did it on an impulse. Once the tubs had been soaked
the weeds would have put up a fight.
In the process I discovered that the Aciphylla was flowering. A significant tuft of grass had obscured it. I managed to remove the tuft without getting skewered on the rigid leaves and felt very pleased with myself.
The Aciphylla is a moderate joy, its appearance here a testament to smugness.
9th May 2021
Paeonia x smouthii .
Red Campion and bluebells have spread through the garden with a natural enthusiasm that can be tiresome but which always looks appropriate. Peonies on the other had have arrived in the garden like a cow in a hang-glider.
I have a damp, shady garden, peonies like warm, sunny conditions. There is a mis-match that only a fool (and I am that fool) would struggle with.
It started in the first herbaceous border, an experimental space where I let recklessness run riot. I planted a couple of common P. lactiflora cultivars because you never know. You might guess, but you never know.
They were an unexpected success in the sense that they didn't die. By the time I realised that not dying was the limit of their aspirations I had planted a couple of other species and flowering looked a distinct possibility.
From there it has been uphill all the way. More species were planted in the Agave house. Why accept the local conditions when you can change them? It might be peony-fever but perhaps all gardening
glitters with the sherds of insanity breaking through. If I can grow peony species, why not grow more of them. This is the consequence.
I bought this as P. tenuifolia but it is clear that it isn't. This is probably its hybrid with P. lactiflora. Planted in the Agave house it has spent the last decade providing fleeting moments
of astonishment in late spring. Just outside the Agave house I have built a new herbaceous border, full of broken rock and basking in the Cornish sun. All of the undead P. lactiflora cultivars have been replanted there.
A couple of P. tenuifolia seedlings have gone in, I think that the hybrid can join them this winter if I can chip out a large enough hole in the rock.
9th May 2021
Dendrobium kingianum pale pink .
Back in the greenhouse the spring Dendrobium are starting to flower. Things came through the winter better than I had anticipated and I have learnt some interesting things. Mostly I have learned
not to fuss too much. I have also been reminded that things grow better if I remember to feed them through the season. The Dendrobium would be a carpet of flowers if I had remembered that last year.
It doesn't really matter, the air is filled with the honeyed scent of D. kingianum at present. I was enjoying the relaxed sensation of pottering in the evening perfume when I got an overwhelming
urge to pollinate. I don't know if I will get seed pods, I don't know what I will do with them and I don't know if I can germinate seed. Perhaps I will travel along a steep learning curve or maybe crash
into the brick wall of ignorance, the thrills and spills of garderning.
I am fond of D. kingianum. It persists despite my failings. I still look at it with disbelief, a cold-hardy Dendrobium seems so unlikely. However given the warm summer that can be ensured
in the greenhouse it will forgive the freezing indignity of winter. There are flocks of Australian hybrids that inherit some (I hope) of its toughness. I am giving them a try.
I spent a few years collecting together forms of the species. This one was a delightful pale pink when I bought it. I haven't had pale flowers since then. I have another half dozen clones,
all just about distinguishable, none really distinguished. I wonder why I keep them all, there are much better named clones available now. The problem is always which ones to reject,
they are equally worth growing and equally worth throwing out. If I manage to raise any hybrids space will have to be found, decisions will have to be made.
But for the moment, with spring raining into summer, I am not counting any chickens. Glittering insanity.