Monday, 18 October 2010

Cuttings, Cannas and Carnations

I don't know what the temperature's like where you are but it is definitely getting wintery up on the roof. Nothing has been affected yet, in fact Rhododendron "Saxon Glow" has chucked out another three flowers, but there's a definite nip in the air and I've got young seedlings to consider.

Rhododendron vireya "Saxon Glow": the plant that keeps on giving!

So the sooner my cold frame arrives the better because both Meconopsis betonicifolia and regia are sprouting like cress on a damp paper towel and I don't want them to get stuck at the seed-leaf stage for the next five months as damping off would be a real danger in the wet, often unseasonably warm, winter weather London gets. I could soak them in a systemic fungicide but I'd rather not if I can help it, I already feel bad enough about puffing sulphur all over the arilbred, oncocyclus and juno Irises.

The Calochortus has decided it's time to make a break for the light and Crocus speciosus is looking better by the day, despite getting floppier too. Crocus sativus has well-developed leaves but no sign of any flower buds yet. Hope they don't come up blind because they're brand new stock so ought to be of flowering size.

Crocus sativus (where saffron comes from): plenty of leves but what about a flower or six?

On unzipping the greenhouse this morning I decided to take the Canna indica out to check it over for signs of disease or rot and was amazed to see the poor thing had been trying to flower while cooped up in there! So I've taken it out and hopefully the shoots will straighten up and it can give me a late show.

Poor Canna indica, flowering away in the gloom!

Hopefully these buds will have time to get vertical before blooming!

I've been having a general tidy up, finally chucking the huge tub of Nasturtiums which, while the tendrils were still going strong, had died out in the middle so it was time to extricate it from its neighbours and bin it. In so doing I found a packet of Primula alpicola seeds that had blown away while I was sowing some other stuff, I also lost a packet of P. x bullesiana, which have yet to come to light but with three mature Harlow Carr hybrids, P. japonica (not Miller's Crimson, another variety, can't think... Strawberries and cream or something like that). White flowers with a pink centre basically, and a seed tray full of mixed candelabra species at various stages of infancy, I think I can live without them! Seed collected from the Harlow Carrs should come up with some interesting results anyway. So I've sown the alpicola, in the hope that it's now too cold for germination and they'll wait till spring to make an appearance and won't find themselves in the same limbo as the the meconopsis, mixed candelabras, Delphinium zalil and Digitalis obscura, which are all healthy and at the seed-leaf or slightly older stage but not really ready for winter. Over-enthusiasm and inexperience on my part are the culprits here but that's what this blog is all about, you learn from my expensive mistakes!

I might prick out some of the mixed Primulas with true leaves as they are quite thinly sown and I should be able to do it without causing too much mess and if I move them into nodules they can at least be overwintered in the greenhouse (I've decided to use the cold frame for the oncocylus, arilbred and juno Irises and some of the trickier Frits (I've ordered a load more (don't tell the wife)).

Not the ideal spot for the heated propagator but it has to go somewhere!

Speaking of domestic harmony, I've decided to set up the heated propagator in the living room on top of the decks. We don't use them now in this age of MP3s so it's the lightest, least inconvenient spot I can find. It contains 30 pipings (an age-old method of taking cuttings from carnations that involves pulling a (non-flowering) shoot out from lower down the stem, which provides an instant cutting (you may have to trim off lower leaves and tidy up the base) but it's a largely fail-safe method. So I've got 30 old-fashioned pinks, 15 white and 15 red and white and half a dozen cuttings from Lobelia cardinalis in there which I should get a near 100% success rate from (after my triumph with the Rhododendron I'm strutting around like the cuttung king!)

Carnation (Dianthus carophyllus) pipings
The Lobelias are in a clear pot so I can check on progress without disturbing the cuttings

The Dianthus cuttings pre and post-preparation. Just dip in rooting powder (although it doesn't really need it) and poke into the compost

And hopefully you end up with lots of these!

As part of the tidy up I have to tackle the future of the Gerbera. It so amazed me with it's stunning, architectural leaves and constant stream of flowers (and I HATE the Asteracaea family, and Compositae for that matter) that I have fallen in love with it and feel a deep duty of care. It's too big to bring inside or put in the greenhouse or frame so it's going to have to be the bubble-wrap treatment, keeping it dry but not so dry it dies.

The Gerbera: it was time for a haircut but it still felt more like butchery

Oh, I know what I meant to tell you: ages ago I got a free pack of Clematis integrifolia seeds from the Expensive Garden Centre, perhaps an attempt to offset their ridiculous mark-up on the most mundane of perennials (£8 for a Sysyrinchium?, it's a flippin' weed!) or for spending over a million pounds on pots or something and duly sowed them, tucked them away and forgot all about them. The vermiculite's gone green, they're out of reach but yesterday I thought I'd check them out and one little seedling had emerged. I'm unfamiliar with herbaceous Clematis so will probably give it to one of the Lindas in my life (whoever bids first!) but it's nice when something you'd given up for dead decides to surprise you.

Right, the camera battery should be charged by now so I can add a few pics and then post this blighter.


  1. Me, me me! Please, love Clematis and have lots of places it could grow to its hearts content!!

  2. then it shall be yours, assuming it makes it!