Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Fit Brit Frits hit sunny bit, no shit! To wit...

Who cares if it's still January, it's Spring!
Just when you thought those Fritillaria bulbs you planted a few months ago had been eaten by a particularly agile mouse that had squeezed through the drainage holes, they start to come through, probably after the spell of mild weather since the turn of the year. The real stunners are still hiding but the more common ones such as camschatensis, uva-vulpis and the rare F. michaelovskyi multiflorus are up. There is also stunning news from the bulb frame that almost made me wet myself (well, I'd had four mugs of tea and going to the toilet involes climbing in a window so I was hanging on already (makes it really difficult to focus the trusty old SLR). Iris stolonifera, on which I'd given up, has sprung into life in a big might-even-flower way! This helped to off-set the horrible disappointment of the two Lilium amoenum bulbs I've been waiting months for from China arrived looing (and smelling) like a hospital sprout. So beware "canbeijing" on eBay, unless you like your bulbs slimy and dead. I'd make some dreadful pun about "can'tbeijing" but I'd get the sack from thee newspaper if they saw it.

First up was F. camschatcensis, a brown/purple belled wonder from the eponymous peninsula in Siberia. So it's hardy then.
This is larger than actual size but the final plant should be approaching half a metre in height

Fritillaria pyrenica. I note the label says "Easiest of the Fritillarias" Just ignore it

Fritillaria uva-vulpis. I'm sure I didn't plant that many ...
F. michaelovskvyi multiflorus, an odd little thing with clusters of flowers like its senior cousin (which hadn't come up yet and I've never had any luck with, despite it adorning garden centre displays each spring screaming "Only a moron couldn't get me to look like the ones on the packet!")

It should look like this

The bad news is I think I've  lost two of my arilbred Iris hybrids to drips in my rubbish bulb frame from "Creative Garden Ideas". It cost almost £70 and I could have knocked up something much better for a tenner. Anyway, I just hope I got them out of there before the rot spreads, literally. Certainly the junos are doing splendidly with all of them up, cycloglossa being the last one to poke through.

Iris Zenidae might not flower this year, I fear the two spikes mean there are two bulbs down there building strength but that will only mean double bloom delight next year

As a last-ditch attempt to cure the Arils, I've decided to expose them to the elements. It's crazy, it's dangerous but it might just work. Oh well, I could do with the pot anyway

But this disappointment was cast into the bin by the discovery of a lighting move to titillate my pleasure zones by Iris stolonifera - a regalia and thus technically more difficult to grow than the above "Aquilifer". Last week it was doing nothing, today  I noticed this:
Three spikes from the three-bumped stolon I planted last November. It's especially delightful because I really had/ve no idea what I'm doing! I didn't even know which way round to plant it as a horizontal stick doesn't really have a top. I hope each spike will produce heaven-sent brown and blue bearded blooms like the ones below
There's no-one to credit but great photo! Next year I should have some of my own!
Another sign of the mild weather is that two genera sown THIS year have germinated.

I thought these leaves of Anthyllis vulneraria var coccinea were algae until I took the freezer bag off. I also decided to do the same with the other 50 or 60 pots because every time it rained water just gathered on top of the pot so anything dicotyledonous would be squashed before life began.
Oh, it will look like this by the way. Only in container.  Not amazing but would be good in paving with alpines such as Dianthus and Thyme...
Maybe I just grew up with too much broom and gorse...
Lupinus versicolor: what a great pair of cots!
Why did I buy this?

I took delivery yesterday of another small consignment from Paul Christian, including Dactylorhiza fuchsii, a plant that used to, and I assume still does, grow with no human intervention near and in wild drifts in my old garden in Scotland; from pumice on a Beeching victim to my artificial wild flower meadow, it just popped up and spread. So it's a bit ironic that I had to bung PC £13.50 for one admittedly superb looking specimen!

Actually, I'm beginning to wonder whether it was fuchsii in the garden because it became necessary to move one due to idiot local farmer who thinks  anything, plant or animal, alive that isn't wheat must die so my mother (she's dead now so you can't prosecute her under some Cites law, although I'm an accessory) and I carefully lifted a single specimen out of the way of his bulldozer while he just looked us from his cab as if we were mad. I was. She wasn't. Much. Anyway, the tuber on that was of the testicular varitety. Hence Orchis, Greek for testicle. But What I just planted was more of the Hitler variety, if you catch my drift. Perhaps it hasn't reached puberty yet...
Which reminds me: huge disappointment to receive 2 Lilium amoenum bulbs from China bought on eBay from a guy with good rep but both felt and smelled like something gross and as I picked them up scales started sliding off and disintegrating so it's not even as if I could have tried to rescue something that way. I've planted what remains but if anything green appears it's more likely to be ectoplasm than plant tissue. To be fair to the guy he refunded my money on receipt of the photos right away.
See how shiny the scale is? That's not water, it's the stuff that lives under that really painful molar that squirts all over the dentist when the drill hits it
It could have been so beautiful...

But back to the much more reliable Sir Paul Christian...
Also in there was one of the few Lily species I don't have potted, sown or on order, lancifolium. It's nothing special but short of heading of to Asia with a spade and a lot of Yuan it's the best I can do just now. It's awfully familiar but  I'm sure there will be subtle differences when the time comes.

One more Gladiolus for my potentially disastrous collection, this one's flanaganni or "Suicide Lily" due to its scarcity and propensity for growing in remote, moist cracks and the lengths to which collectors would go to get at it.

The so-called "Suicide Lily" or Gladiolus flanaganii was highly prized by Victorian collectors who weren't put off by its habit of growing in the most inaccessible places such as cracks in rock faces where water would trickle down and by waterfalls and on sheer cliff-faces in the high Drakensberg

Finally, and this seems mundane in comparison when it's actually a highly-prized rarity,  Erythronium dens-canis niveum, a totally white variety from the tiny former Yugoslavian state of Montenegro (where spookily I've been - although I didn't see any Erythroniums but quite a lot of armed police and some nice mountains and lakes).

There's a lot happening outside on the roof all of a sudden with not just the Frits and junos coming through but the various Reticulatas coming through: "Natascha" such a pale blue it counts as white; "Halkis", originally discovered by Norman Stevens on Mount Halkis in Turkey.
 The flowers are a lovely rich blue with much deeper blades of almost navy blue, the whole set off with a vivid yellow crest.

Danfordiae, that odd yellow honorary member of the the group, is bursting out of the gravel. It will be interesting to see if it does its usual trick of flpwering and then disappearing next year. There are various theories for this, the most popular being that the main bulb dies leaving lots if little "rice" grains but surely they would send up a little leaflet? Well, I've tried not to over crowd them so I can tip one out after the leaves die back to have a good rummage around and see what's what.

These are variously known as Galanthus woronowii ikariae, G. woronowii or just G. ikariae. Sod it, they're just Snowdrops (apologies to Galanthophiles everywhere who would doubtless find 50-odd blue irises a bit samey.

There are also a couple of Calochortus, one outside, one at the bottom of the stairs which is frost free but very dark so I have to bring it up to the living room each day. I need to find out when I scan start hardening it off; I don't want to make the mistake I made with Oxalis deppei which I had down there too and immediatelt put outside when one if the three corms broke through (the other two are biding their time but they have plenty of time to catch up.

Calochortus venustus, not sure of its hardiness - can anybody help me?
"Cupido" is a very pale pink I just grabbed off the peg at a garden centre (although that's not the way to buy bulbs, always go to a specialist like van Meuwen or Parkers for your bulk buys and someone like Paul Christian or Jacques Amand for your treats.

Oh, and the tulips planted under the violas are making good progress, and that's also helped me to identify a pot that was squirreled but which is clearly red flowering dwarf "botanical - surely it's all botanical?" Tulips with red markings on the leaves. I don't think there will be any flowers due to overcrowding so once they've completed the cycle I'll find a nicer pot and spread them out. All my pots of bulbs have been totally neglected until this year, I even have one that I think might be Chionodoxa but as it has never flowered I can't say for sure. And there's a lovely old clay put I want to use for something stunning like Lilium Lophophorum that seems to have some old Narcissus coming u in it. I'll feed them fortnightly, let them die down and then find a more boring pot for them.

Definitely miniature Tulips. Akela, give it a survival badge, there must have been five max originally
They're not Tulips, Narcissus or any kind of Iridacae. They were pampered when I got them  but when they came up blind in their first year I lost interest. Unless one flowers next year after a good feed its bin time. I haven't exactly got the luxury of space up here. Especially after pricking out 29 Lewisias yesterday and taking two deliveries today, news of which I'll save  in case nothing else happens in the next few days

I've become obsessed with Gladioli species and other South African plants but equally confused by the seasons. All are ecxquisite but some flower in summer, some autumn and some winter. Apparently rain is the key. Only as the seasons are caused by the tilting of the planet and we're a lot higher up than Cape Town, it's not our summer, winter etc. And there is the added complication of a necessary dry period. I have bought six bulbs and countless seeds (I'm not including the European one's like Italicus or Papilio, beautiful as they are but I think I've mastered them) and I've had to do a lot of research on them and even then most of it is written by Americans which doesn't help much. The same applies to Moraeas (they look too much like Irises for me to ignore). Does anyone have any success with Gladioli species in the UK? I have limited glass cover (juno and regalia Irises) and an unheated polythene thing masquerading as a greenhouse. I am in central London's microclimate but if winters like the one just passed(ing) are to become the norm I will surely fail. Any advice would be great, even when to plant them is a mystery to me...

Till we meet again, put a spring in your step for me

The Plantboy

PS Fritillaria whittallii is germinating. This excites me more than David Beckham with his shirt off. The label has blown away but by a process of elimination I have identified it as such (F. whittalli, not topless footballer". Will confirm in 3-4 years. Of course, not trusting my own brilliance, I bought a mature corm, although it's still sleeping.

1 comment:

  1. Some very pretty ones in there. I've been to Dubrovnik was very beautiful the whole region, but all before the war.

    David Beckham pretty boyish for me I prefer slightly rough edges :P

    (btw its Jo Barnes :))