It's a reference of course to Amorphophallus titanum, just one of the many wonders I encountered on my trip to the world-famous RHS Kew Gardens this afternoon. And the sun came out just in time too, it looked like rain when I set off but as I had nothing else worth writing about I made up my mind to cross right to the other side of London. I live in the east, near where the Olympic site is taking shape, and Kew is almost as far west as Heathrow airport. In fact there is a constant, like one every two minutes, stream of jets flying over so low you can easily make out the livery and wink at the captain. Well, maybe not the last bit.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself in order to excuse my use of the naughty word in the title. Although the roof is barely ticking along, that means there is still the occasional good news and those of you who read the update to my previous post will be aware that my Rhododendron griersonianum seeds, planted with floccigerum, yunnanense and hyperthrum, more in hope than expectation, had all decided, as if responding to some mysterious call of nature (no, not that kind of call of nature, this post is smutty enough as it is) had germinated. There must be almost 100 tiny pairs of leaves above the vermiculite at exactly the same stage and they weren't there a few days ago because I check everything regularly, even the seemingly hopeless cases.
|They're a little hard to see among the vermiculite but they're there and one day should look something like this, although hopefully there'll be lots of variety in the seedlings, ranging from dark pink to scarlet|
I am absolutely delighted by this, never having succeeded in germinating Rhodies before. Now I just have to hope the others do the same, perhaps after the winter stratification?
And this morning's check-over revealed something almost as exciting: four or five pairs of fleshy seed leaves of Lewisia cotyledon "Sunset Strain". I have germinated a Lewisia before but purely by accident: the seedling appeared in the sand between the pots in my old alpine house. I had to go back to university before I could deal with it properly so I've no idea whether it was L. columbiana rupicola, nevadensis or one of the other species whose names escape me, or even a hybrid.
But that was then and these are now! I've already got two mature plants, one which is as healthy as can be but refuses to flower and another that has decided it wasn't going to be as easy to grow as L. cotyledon is meant to be and started to shed rotting leaves at an alarming rate. I've stopped the rot, literally and metaphorically, by removing all the affected foliage, dusting with sulphur and placing it on its side in the greenhouse. Anyway, here's one of the seedlings:
|Note the fleshiness of the seed leaves, it's already preparing itself for a life short on water|
Also on the way were a few more traditional winter warmers such as Viburnum x bodnantense, a shrub that, if it flowered in July, no one would care that much about. But at this time of year its powerfully scented little pink (occasionally white) clusters of tubular flowers are very welcome.
Also invaluable (before the birds eat them all) are berries and here's an example that held up my progress to the alpine house and all its exquisite bulbs.
|Skimmia japonica var.reevesiana|
|Cyclamen cilicium looking great, has seeded itself around and there are various shades of pink through to white|
|Nerine undulata, one of several of the genus sprinkled around the gardens|
|Another Cyclamen, cyprium from Cyprus, growing in a little crevice, looking for all the world like the seed was dropped there by a bird|
|You'd really have to know your stuff not to mistake this for our native yellow flag, Iris pseudacorus. Except that grows by ponds in Constable paintings and this brightens up the Cape of Africa|
Right, we're there. Here it is, completed in 2005, the new alpine house provides a sustainable, energy-efficient growing environment. The glasshouse is conceived of two back-to-back arches which create a stack effect to draw warm air out. Below ground level, air is pushed into a concrete labyrinth for cooling and then recirculated around the perimeter of the house via a series of displacement pipes. Further environmental control is provided by a unique shading solution based on a fan-like form similar to a peacock's tail.
|Cyclamen africanum looking flawless|
|Androcymbium gramineum, so rare even Google has almost nothing to say on the matter except that it's from Africa|
|Arisarum vulgare, a plant from Mediterranean areas such as Malta. And there's nothing vulgar about it!|
|Daubenya marginata, a bizarre little bulb from South Africa|
|Trollius chinensis, a bog lover from, er, China|