Monday, 20 September 2010

Considering the lilies

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Lily seedlings. I feel a bit like that bloke on the news yesterday who'd discovered Tigers  living above the treeline in Bhutan!

Oh blimey, yippee, unmitigated excitement as a casual glace at the open-air pot containing seeds of "Lily World" mixed hybrids revealed three shepherd's crook shaped cotyledons (sorry, seed leaves) all apparently deciding to go for it within 12 hours of each other cos  I'm sure they weren't there last night. So much for "These seeds may germinate irregularly  over a long period but exposure to cold (5C) should be effective. We would suggest sowing at about 18C for 6-8 weeks before transferring to cold for a similar period." I was relying on nature to do this, having already usurped as much of the fridge as I dared for Paeonia Mlokosowichii (or something like that, you know, the beautiful single-flowered yellow one). Of course there were a lot more than three seeds in the packet so Chilterns sage advice may yet prove to be spot on.

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Inspired I also sowed Meconopsis betonicifolia "Hensol Violet" (not really sure why I didn't just plump for the true species (although I now have a living, transpiring specimen of that from my chums at Slack Top Nursery) or x sheldonii). Although the Chiltern Seeds catalogue is so well written with passion, wit and  knowledge I often take it to bed with me and their entry for Hensol Violet is quite seductive: "Coming largely true from seed is this much admired form with purple-violet flowers. Perhaps rather surprisingly, these blend in well  when grown with the type species which make the blue of the latter even bluer!"
Oh yeah!  I see what they mean.
 ©Wild Ginger Farm nursery, who look well worth checking out for future purchases

Also sowed M. regia and once again I hope Chilterns won't mind me plagiarising (Heaven knows, they've made enough money out me!): "If this superb plant from Nepal never flowered it would still be well worthy of cultivation in any garden for the beautiful and magnificent rosettes, up to 3ft across, of leaves densely covered with silvery or golden, silken hair. However, the branching stems of yellow flowers, up to 5ins across, are also worthy of the description "royal" 3-5ft".

I've grown it before in north-east Scotland though it's fair to say the climate there, while only a few metres above sea-level, is more akin to its natural habitat than a pot on a sometimes baking, always windy, London rooftop. Most of this branch of the Meconopsis dynasty with the rosettes (napaulensis, grandis etc), are monocarpic, ie, they die after flowering but they take a few years to bloom so if you sow every year you have flowers every year.

Which reminds me, I've ordered a Cardiocrinum giganteum from Glendoick in Perthshire, due to arrive early next month. For those unfamiliar with the genus, it is a truly stunning, gigantic lily-like plant which spends a few years charging its batteries before thrusting a huge spike, hanging with enormous lily flowers, very much like L. longiflorum or formosanum but on a different scale altogether, 12 feet into the air. How on earth am I going to keep that shaded and out of the wind? The ones at Glendoick grow in their stunning woodland garden, in medium shade and surrounded by Rhododendrons (everything at Glendoick is surrounded by Rhododendrons). I think they leave offsets but don't quote me on that. In fact, I have to show you a picture of it.

If there was a person in the picture they would come about half-way up
©UBC Botanical Garden has over 15,000 light bulbs and accessories available online.
On a more mundane note, the Verbasucum phoenicum hybrids are racing each other to produce true leaves, as is Digitalis ferruginea var. gigantea but I'm going to leave them until I get back from my holiday before pricking out as I think I was a bit over-eager with the Dianthus. They're fine but are a bit dwarfed by their 2in pots and there is a bizarre phenomenon were you can transplant a young plant into too big a pot and kill it, which sounds wrong but apparently it's the result of too much moisture and too few roots to absorb it.

I'm also experimenting with a Chamaedorea elegans (that's parlour palm to you and me) that got too floppy for the house and was replaced by the more upright Howea kentia. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the former so I manoeuvered it out the window and it while the older leaves have browned in the wind it began to produce a load of very green and healthy shoots from the crown so I've snuggled it up with bubble wrap and left it to face the elements of the British winter. As long as I keep it dry I'm quite optimistic. I think the greatest threat is the wind blowing it into the school playground and killing a small child and the drier it is the more top heavy it is so I might lay it on its side to avoid any accidental infanticide.

Howea kentia, altogether more upright than its predecessor which used to tickle you as you watched the TV

Apologies for poor quality photo, couldn't be bothered getting the  SLR gear out so used my iPhone...  Note  proximity to school playground. Behind is the clematis tower/wire sculpture which this time next year should be a mass of green with red, yellow and possibly "Nelly Moser" flowers

What else? Oh yes, there are definitely candelabra Primula seedlings coming through although I think the first one was a rogue, it looks far too healthy to be one of mine, but there are a few more now. The problem with buying a packet of mixed species of the same genus is they are more than likely going to come up at different times and you have no way of knowing what's what until they flower, so pricking out becomes something of a minefield as you may well be upsetting viable seed of a later germinating species when pricking out the early ones. But it's a nice problem to have!

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