Saturday, 27 November 2010

Plants have sex too you know!

Good Lord, it's freezing out there! All the unprotected pots are frozen solid, which is just as well as I kept knocking them over as I slid about on the ice rink that is the roof. Had a look in the zip-up greenhouse and amazingly it is obviously several degrees warmer in there; I got a phyteuma scheuchzeri in the post yesterday and it was in moist compost and, not knowing how tender it is, I put it in overnight and this morning the compost was untouched by Jack Frost, which bodes well for getting my Pelargonium species through the winter. I've decided to leave it zipped up during the current cold snap but I'm aware that as soon as the sun shines on it I need to get it open and aired to prevent the evil Botrytis and his mates getting a hold because it is overstuffed and needs plenty of air circulation.

Phyteuma scheuchzeri. It was about a quid on eBay so I couldn't help myself
I won't bore you much longer with Lilies but I got a few things in the post this morning (at 8am! It usually comes about 11), including a very valuable delivery from Paul Christian Rare Plants. It was three amazing Lilies from the Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia area and while they all look similar, the difference in bulb size was amazing! L. ciliatum was HUGE! Bigger than a cricket ball. Despite the inclement weather I had to get them potted so ciliatum was first, in an old clematis pot (I've run out of decorative pots and it's all about the flower anyway!). I'll have to re-pot next year in a wider pot to allow it to produce off-sets (hopefully).  Look at that colouring, it's like a Turk's cap L. nepalese!

Next in order of size was Lilium majoense:
Says Paul: "A superb plant with slender, yet robust, growths clothed in disease resistant waxy foliage below large, broad white bells with a large blackcurrant-purple zone in the centre. The white is sprinkled with imperial-purple. August. A very beautiful species.
Likes a sunny spot with only a little shade,but a well drained, humus rich soil where it can root down." Yes, It does look a bit like the above but I don't care, it's not sodding "Stargazer" or regale!

Also in the package was L. fargesii, a teeny-weeny bulb but what a gem!

So, three green Lilies with varying degrees of marking but  a few months ago I din't even know these plants existed. They also came as bulbs which meant a bill around £50 but gives me something to look at when I'm faffing about with seed of other species and genera  (which I actually enjoy but with Lilies there are so many kinds of germination - epigeal, hypogeal, delayed epigeal etc (I won't explain what they are because if you need to know you know already and I'm not sure I fully grasp it myself).  Oh, also in the package, because it wasn't green enough and I'd overpaid the postage were two Fritillaria acmopetala var. wendelboi:

It was getting hard to write the labels by now due to the loss of feeling in my fingers but I had two more jobs: sow L. martagon (dark form) and L. Szovitsianum, I'm guessing a Russian species, hang on let me check...  Hmmm, it's known as the Caucasian Lily and I've just seen a really nice photograph by a guy with an unmistakably Georgian surname so let's say former Soviet states. Just read this germination info: "The following specie lilies are delayed hypogeal germination. They will sprout their first true leaf only after a 3 month cold period. The true leaf will be put up within a three week period from the time the bulblet is planted out. It is well worth watching these seeds on a regular basis as some may germinate as immediate hypogeal and the very odd one as immediate epigeal. The species with this type of germination which I have grown will germinate as follows: Lilium szovitsianum - 50 to 80 days. The odd seed will germinate as immediate hypogeal. 

EH? Does that mean that if I do what I'd naturally do anyway: stick them outside for the winter and expect some germination action in the spring, I'll eventually get some of these?

I like the backdrop almost as much as the Lily!
So it has gone outside basically until something happens (a surprisingly effective germination method with most seeds, honest. If you have patience, they will be exposed to everything in nature and one of them will be the thing it has been waiting for (no, not the squirrels eating them). As have L.martagon which requires the same treatment but seems much less of a palaver: sow, put outside to stratify, wait, admire seedlings.

And speaking of seedlings, I've been taking an awful lot of seed deliveries lately and thought I'd share them with you.  (don't worry, no more Lilies). These are from my chums at Chilterns, if you haven't already, check out their on-line catalogue. It's partially illustrated and you can always Google image stuff. Let the show begin!

Dhalia "Bishop of Landaff"
(Good photo eh?, one of mine). Don't know how true it will come but worth a pop.
Lathyrus Aureus. A clump-forming, bushy perennial with upright stems, dark green leaves divided into leaflets, and racemes of yellow-orange flowers in late spring to early summer. Not a climber like that other famous Lathyrus, the Sweet Pea, but the flowers caught my eye.
Crocus Kotschyanus. An autumn flowerer, and not a favourite with the Pacific Bulb Society! "... is a somewhat weedy species usually flowering in October. It has a bad reputation not only because it is a rampant self-seeder, but also because many forms have flowers that are woefully undersized. There is a form in commerce that appears to be badly infected with a virus, as the flowers are not just small, but seriously deformed. A good form of Crocus kotschyanus with flowers of reasonable size is worth having, however. In some lights the flower color approaches a delicate pink, and one can forgive a self-seeder of such beauty." Well, mine will be from seed so the virus issue is not a problem and as I have no garden soil into which it can self seed, I'm looking forward to it!

Primula Parryi
Primula flaccida
Papaver pilosum (what was I thinking?)
Erythronium Revolutum

Lupinus versicolor. Why the hell did I order this?

Conanthera Bifolia. A Chilean bulbous plant with small panicles of blue, purple or white flowers in the Tecophilaeaceae family. They are not fully hardy in the UK and if grown outdoors should be planted in sandy soil in a warm sunny border and protected during winter from excessive rains and frost, or grown in a frame in colder climates. Propagate by offsets or seed for insurance! They prefer light (sandy) and medium (loamy) well-drained soil. They should be kept well watered during growth and then be allowed to dry off. 

Gladiolus Palustris. Nice enough I suppose. Not sure why I bought it. Perhaps I had a crazy plan to cross it with G. tritis and make beautiful babies. You never know...

NEVER has a plant looked more like an Iris without being one.  'tis Moraea Huttonii, A South African bulb that blooms in summer and hails from the Drakensbderg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, where it grows in clumps by the banks of mountain streams. It flowers at about 80cm but the leaves can reach 1.5m. Not fully hardy so best grown in a container or at least overwinter in a sheltered spot (garage or shed are fine) ans save some seed!!!

I like a nice Corydalis now that I've got over my fear of C. lutea, a pernicious weed in my part of Scotland second only to the dreaded Mare's Tail, and as these are seeds of a named variety there should be a little variation in the progeny, which I always like!
And my final packet from Chilterns: Delphinium, Unknown Variety. They must know what pushes my buttons!

Now, from elsewhere (not much longer now!):

Ferraria ferrariola or the Spider Iris/Lily. I'm getting this in my South African batch but its such a stunner , a bit of back-up is always handy, even if it is just five measly seeds.
Dietes iriodes: A very close relative of the Iris (duh!) that is hardy down to -5C. Should flower in its second season fro m seed

This is rather exciting, I didn't know there was a red Delphinium. Just think what I can do with my yellow D. Zalil and a cotton bud - an orange Delphinium! There's probably a chromosome mis-match or something otherwise I'm sure it would have been done by now but red will do just fine.

It's like a cross between an Iris and a Lily! Can I contain myself? Well,  I'll have to bacause it takes two years to flower . The flowers are hermaphrodites (I don't really know what that means botanically). Apparently each of those orchid-like blooms only lasts a day and the plant itself needs  regular division and moving to reinvigorate it

And here' the coconut-scented, Orchid-like Nemesia "Shooting Stars" ,my plan for the windowsill pots once the Tulips and Violas have passed.Well, one of my plans ...

Well, wrap up yourself, wrap up your plants, don't water in the greenhouse unless it's heated, and keep specimens in the alpine and bulb houses and cold frame on the dry side, unless you fancy a Saxifrage in your G&T. Happy gardening, my US and Aussie reaaders, and Brits, start at those parsnips with a pick axe now and they might be ready for the oven come Christmas!

The Plantboy x

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