Friday, 15 October 2010

At the cutting edge

Remember I struck some softwood cuttings of Rhododendron vireya "Saxon Glow" in the summer? Well, they've only gone and rooted! Well three of the five have. I was having a bit of a tidy up yesterday, potting on Penstemon cuttings and chucking out things that obviously hadn't made it when I emptied the pot of Rhodies and, lo and behold, roots! Not very many and they'll need nursing after I potted them up but I struck them far more in hope than expectation.

When I worked at Glendoick nursery (Britian's premier Rhododendron experts who are so good they actually export to places like China) the cuttings were all painstakingly taken by Ken Cox, the boss, who would bend the stems and had a natural feeling for when the time was right for taking semi-ripe cuttings. Us minions were allowed to prepare them before they went into a huge, expensive factory-style greenhouse with misting, bottom heat, insulation and shading. Even then the success rate was about 75%.

And I took five and three have taken. I've potted them up in a loose, peat and vermiculite-based mixture with slow-release feed and will keep them under cover in a humid atmosphere until they are well established because, as you can see from the photo, the roots are minimal to say the least and need looking after.

They're not very big but they're definitely there!

This is the first time I've successfully progagated a Rhododendron by any method (and I've tried them all, seed, cuttings, even layering) and I'm understandably over the moon about it. It just goes to show that if you follow the rules and leave something long enough it might well do what it's supposed to do. It's why I don't throw out pots of seemingly dud seed for at least two years so they  have had at least two hot/cold cycles. If nothing's  germinating after that you can be fairly sure it's not going to!

Still bitten by the Fritillaria bug I went searching for a few more on the web last night and ended up ordering F. persica and verticillata from Beth Chatto Gardens but in order to make the delivery up to their minimum mail order price I had to add Lilium speciosum var. rubrum, L. Hansonii, Gladiolus papilio (which I've been after for a while anyway) and Digitalis parviflora. The Digitalis looks suspiciously like ferruginea or lanata but I'm not complaining, any excuse to waste money on plants!.

The Lilies look nice enough, Hansonii wouldn't have been my first choice but stocks are limited at this time of year so beggars can't be choosers.

L. speciosum rubrum
© Gardeners World

Actually, it is quite unusual in the way it  holds its petals so I'll give it a B+

Digitalis parviflora: a curio rather than a stunner, methinks, but that's what it's all about for me!

Gladiolus papilio, another quirky little thing

I also took the plunge and ordered a professionally made but compact little cold frame from a mail order company called (somewhat pretentiously) Creative Garden Ideas. I was only trying to find someone who'd sell me some grit in a small enough quantity that wouldn't necessitate the use of a crane for delivery but they had this nifty little 50cm x80cm x 50cm coldframe which I can line with bubblewrap and solve my overwintering problems. It will create more room than it takes up by providing a home for all the little odds and ends I keep kicking over by mistake. As long as I keep it well aired I can transfer the fancy Irises into it and leave the roof propped open, keeping the rain off but the air circulating. Not bad for £60.

I really had to stop myself pricking out the mixed Lily seedlings yesterday and it was only when I spotted an new inverted U shaped shoot popping through that I managed to stop myself because there are clearly more to come, probably after the winter cold unlocks their dormancy, so I forced myself to leave well alone. Same with the Iris sibirica hybrids. I reckon it will be spring/summer now before I see any of the Fritillaria or Iris attica seedlings, which is probably for the best, ditto with the Rhododendrons (if I ever see them, he said negatively despite his success with the cuttings!)

Eek, just heard the weather forecast, frost tomorrow night, or is it tonight? (it's still dark outside, I'm a chronic insomniac and have been up since 2.30am. Will have to zip up the polythene greenhouse and leave the rest to get used to a London winter (which is a lot nicer than a Scottish winter, as I know from bitterly cold experience). That said, there's an Opuntia in an unheated greenhouse in Scotland that hasn't been heated or even watered since my mum died four years ago (still can't bring myself to go in there) that is not only alive but has flowered. I suppose it gets very cold in the desert at night so I shouldn't be too shocked. 

Right, I'll upload this now and pop out later when it's light to see if there's anything worth photographing and sharing with you.

Oh, an appeal: if you're a regular reader please take a moment to follow me, you'll find the link hiding among the advertising crap on the right at the top...

No comments:

Post a Comment