Saturday, 18 September 2010

A light, bulb moment

After receiving the great news yesterday that I probably can go diving with my broken foot I decided to take it on a test run to the world's most expensive* garden centre in Islington, ostensibly to buy some thrilling pots and mildew killer.

But it was never going to be that simple and, while their plant stock is limited and grossly over-priced (£3.49 for a bog standard pelargonium (the boring bedding kind known the world over as geraniums) I did spot a pinky spotted Tricyrtis called "Hototogisu" which at an educated guess I'd say is a Japanese hybrid because it sounds exactly the sort of thing they'd call their ornamental cherries. 

Tricyrtis "Hototogisu" (© Chris Mackay)

So it fell into my basket, along with the boring stuff (labels - essential for keeping track of what's what and when it was put there - mildew blitzer - I know it's not very green but this was to save His Excellency the Bishop of Landaff so I feel justified) and said pots, both plastic and clay.

 I'm growing a lot of Himalayan species that like that oxymoron medium, water retentive but free-draining and I find things like Mecanopsis and the bog Primulas do better in plastic than clay, presumably because clay is water-permeable, allowing the compost to dry out faster. I'm heading to the sun for a bit later in the month so it's essential everything is given the best chance of surviving 10 days without watering (I'm not putting any faith in the climate to help).

But to get to the pots I had to pass the new influx of spring bulbs. I tried just not looking left but it was hopeless so I now have Galanthus woronowii, a snowdrop with larger leaves than our native nivalis, Gladiolus italicus and a couple of Erythroniums, more commonly known as the Dog's Tooth Violet, the common dens-canis and, I'm guessing, a  yellow and cream Japanese hybrid labelled Condo but the internet seems more ageed on Kondo. 

E. "Kondo" ©Kevock Gardens

So home to pot and repot. The Meconopsis, Primula and Tricyrtis went into a mix of peat based (smacked fingers) compost, rotted bark chippings and vermiculite which should recreate the woodland conditions they thrive in and i replaced the bark with grit for the bulbs. Whether the snowdrops ever come up is a moot point: they hate being dried out and are much better transplanted "in the green", ie with their leaves still on, but I shall report back. 

*As the laws of libel exist in cyberspace too and there's probably only one garden centre in Islington, I should say it's probably not the most expensive garden centre in the world but £8 for a common as muck perennial like a Penstemon and £45 for a common Rhododendron hybrid that can only have been three or four years old is a lot, even in Islington. Fortunately for the owners the locals don't know any better.

Not much else to report, happy gardening!

STOP PRESS!!! Tricyrtis DO come easily from cuttings. I had my doubts, wondering whether it was a monocot, like babmboo, given the way the leaves are held singly on the stem, rather than in pairs, but I gave it a go, remebering from my childhood that Wandering Sailor (Tranescantia ubiquitosa) had a similar structure and rooted in jars of water, cutting below a leaf node and using hormone rooting powder. Gave them that impossible-to-resist tug this afternoon, and one was resolutely not budging. So I eased it out with an old dining fork (one of the most indispensable tools the amateur propagator can have, along with a VERY sharp knife) and low and behold a whole root system had sprung from the node above the cut. Very exciting and very satisfying.

So exciting I had to calm myself down by pricking out 40 Dianthus knappii seedlings which are little more than a pair of cotyledons with roots at the moment but needed doing before I go on holiday. A more repetitive task I have yet to find, except when my mum made us pick soft fruit and potatoes for pocket money at the local farms. Frankly it's a wonder I can even look at a plant now, never mind be all consumed by their amazing diversity and constant ability to shock, delight and bemuse. I have another 40-50 knappii seedlings if anyone wants some!

Oh, and the Verbascum phoenicum hybrids have started to germinate so by the time I'm back they'll be needing the old fork and fiddle treatment too. But they'll have to join the queue behind the Digitalis ferruginea. Oh god, where am I going to put all this shit?

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