29th August 2021
The weather is constantly distracting, like a naughty puppy seeking attention. If there aren't storm clouds overhead then your slippers have been put in the toilet.
This week, with August bank holiday in view, I might have expected torrential rain but every naughty puppy gets tired eventually and curls up in your lap
in sleepy innocence. The weather has curled around the British Isles, warm high pressure in the middle and wagging clouds all around.
The result has been a week of warm, sunny and stable weather. Heavy dew in the morning has looked a little bit like piddle on the carpet (but it was only a little one). The battery on the mower needed recharging
so I hooked it up overnight and put a bucket over the extension cable, it was enough to keep it dry.
Down in that part of the greenhouse that looks more like a plastic portico this Prospero has opened. It has held on to lank sheaves of leaf since the spring, flopping over the pot
like a committee of exhausted worms. I was not convinced that it was going to flower so the sudden emergence of spikes at the start of August was a cheering sign even if
they are a signal the first falling footsteps of autumn.
It's true identity remains a matter under consideration but it is now clear that it is not a pot of exhausted worms.
29th August 2021
Hedychium gardnerianum BSWJ.2524 .
I have been walking around the garden in the dog days of summer watching things resting. There is a sense that the garden has a slow puncture, the urgent bouncy enthusiasm
of spring has deflated. The Hydrangea are at their best but like a sponge cake with too much icing, they are sagging under the weight of their own flowers.
During spring I was looking forward to this time of relaxing warmth and leisure to tarry idly beneath the trees and watch the sleepy morning clouds evaporate. Spring is for idle
dreamers, August is for frantic clearing before the Colchicum appear. I went to look for C. agrippinum but it wasn't there - still time for some last minute clearance
The new Hedychium garden has impressed me this year. A warm dry spring gave the plants an early start and then torrential rain fed their seemingly limitless desire for water.
I have been noting to myself that they are looking wonderful just as a foliage garden, however I am quite pleased by the number of flower spikes emerging. Hedychium are quite
sparing with their flowers, this section of the garden will never be a blaze of colour, just a scattering of irregular fireworks, but I am happy with that.
This form of H. gardnerianum is fairly typical of the species, the yellow scented flowers shooting out the scarlet columns. I bought it as BSWJ.2524 and have happily called it
that for years, but I can find no trace of it in the Crug Farm collection list. It's a mystery, but the sudden appearance of a flower in the garden marked the start of a new season of wonder
and mended the horticultural puncture.
29th August 2021
Rhodophiala bifida 'Harry Hay' .
I own an alarm clock out of a sense of duty, but I very rarely use it. The best days start as the darkness of night wears threadbare and the allure of breakfast looms. Alarms are
just too sudden to disrupt the smooth revolution of the clock, they should be saved for special events like the house burning down.
Plants look so sleepy as they roll through the year that it comes as a shock when an alarm goes off. Last week Rhodophiala 'Harry Hay' was dormant, this week it is in full
flower. I don't know what set it off, the trigger for these events always seems obscure. It is often assumed that autumn bulbs are set off by autumn rains but this Rhodophiala
has been wet for months, not because it needs summer moisture, but because it grows in a greenhouse with as lot of things that do. It doesn't seem to mind and it still flowers like a sudden scarlet alarm.
Rhodophiala 'Harry Hay' seems to be a form of R. bifida that has been circulated from a collection grown by Harry Hay. His group was reported as containing a range of colours from pale pink to deep red
but the form being distributed now is bright red. It is said to be the product of crossing and selection from wild collected seed.
My plant was disturbed in the winter (catastrophic tumble to the floor) but has forgiven the indignity of hurried repotting and gone on to flower without trouble which emphasises the
improvement of this form over the otherwise fickle wild species.
29th August 2021
Nerine 'Catherine' .
The Nerine house has only been without flower for a couple of months but when it finally slipped into dormancy it did it with complete conviction. The flowers die, I remove the lingering weeds
and the bulbs sit there, row upon row of motionless promise. Week after week nothing changes, time seems to stop. I water in there occasionally to keep the compost from drying out completely
but nothing seems to change.
I have no idea what fires the starting gun for the nerine season but the bulbs all seem to hear it at once. It has been suggested that cold nights or sudden rainfall play a part
but the timing seems fairly consistent year by year regardless of temperature or my erratic watering schedule. The early flowering cultivars produce buds. The mid season cultivars start to show leaf tips
and the late flowering bulbs firm up in preparation. Despite their varying responses, they all seem to set off at once.
'Catherine' started to grow a flower spike two weeks ago, it has rushed straight into flower. I value the very early cultivars because they extend the nerine season by a month. I have been trying to
raise more, but seedlings of 'Catherine' have yet to produce any equally early offspring. 'Janet' however has been unexpectedly obliging. Seed sown in 2013 has produced a very pale pink
plant flowering now. For the first time I have two early clones to cross - perhaps that will be the key to a population of August flowering Nerine.
It is going to take a few years.