Sunday, 8 May 2011

Quality Roof, not Quantity Street!

Hello plantlovers, I'm afraid my posts are going to become less frequent for a while as I concentrate on quality over quantity. While there is much to report, I need to get to the bottom of what on earth is going on with my lilies, and it's more than those bloody red beetles (very satisfying when crushed between fingers), and things are getting on top of me. But don't worry, it's all being recorded and keep checking, I won't be neglecting you totally! And to prove it, here's a pic of Lilium Macklinaie, which has flowered over the weekend

Iris "Kermesina" is also in blooming and Lilium pumilum (I have about 5 pots) in the next few days, although from the outside this one looks suspiciouly orange from the outside when it should be a waxy red, and that's red, not, orange, purple or any other variation on red!

Speak soon and don't forget me!

The Plant Boy


  1. Really love your blog. I also live in London and grow rare and sexy plants from seed despite the limitations, and swear like a pirate. Mostly into hardy exotics and woodland foliage plants myself, though the practicality of growinf bulbous things in pots is starting to take over.
    Looking forward to more posts soon


  2. Hi mate, just noticed your comment. Nice to meet a fellow lunatic! With any luck I'm gonna post for the first time in about 2 months after some horrible shit with kids vandalising stuff. Fucking little c*nts!

  3. Lol,London children are horrible little fuckers!

    Yes, I've read your new post and was very taken with the Digitalis bit. This is one of my fave genera and I too have been growing quite a few, including Thapsi, ferrruginea gigantea, lutea, purpurea var heywoodii (superb), purpurea 'foxy' (which are getting fucked over the fence if they even think about cross-pollinating with heywoodii), parviflora 'milk chocolate', obscura and the two Isoplexis canariensis and sceptrum. Incidentally, I have lots of spares of all of these that will be following foxy over the fence if noone wants them so you could have them if you want.

  4. Hey you, glad someone else appreciates a genus made up almost wholly of brown and white spikes! I've added nervosa, stewartii, viridiflora (really cool but yet to flower), the lovely thapsi and ferruginea gigantea from seed this year as well as laevigata, parviflora, ambigua and lutea from the postman. The problem is disappearing labels and they ALL look exactly the same in leaf (as you know) apart from the purpureas and thapsi so identification is a nightmare. Even Google images has botanical garden pix with obvious mistakes. You can't trust the seed, the pigeons to leave the labels alone and supposed authorities so how are mere amateurs to know. I'm sure there are synonyms too. As well as Isoplexis canariensis, I've sown I. isabellina too (which looks exactly the same but was the first one I saw). For some reason the seeds are just sulking while canariensis goes for it. Well, it's not like I've got room for it anyway. As long as obscura makes it through the winter (I sowed them last year and they slowly whittled down to one in the wet). Got round to pricking out the Corydalis sempervirens and Impatiens scabrida tonight as the latter were going yellow, having used up all the nutrients in the pissy little pots I have to use to save room. Oh, one of my Bomareas, caldasii, flowered for the first time today, two tiny little bells that look quite cool if you get the macro lens in close enough! Anyway, take care and keep me updated, Chris

  5. Ooooh, very exciting about the Bomarea. I've sown caldasii and Hirtella (which I've never seen, but adore!), but neither have germinated yet. Bomareas are so special, like sophistocated alstromerias.
    As for the Isoplexises, I'd never heard of I.isabellina before, but I know that canariensis is rumoured to be much more robust than sceptrum, and I've heard the term 'sulk' used somewhere before I'm sure, so maybe isabellina is just a bit tougher also.
    I had ahuge problem with everything going yellow also. I've went completely peat-free for the first time this year (bit of a hippie), but I had no idea how importnat regular feeding is when you don't use peat (it must hold nutrition very well, as it is not nutritious in itself). I wish I'd take before and after pics, becuse I swear, two day after I started feeding you could tell the difference.
    I'm looking up that Impatiens. Love that genus. Do you grow I. Omeiana? (my fave).
    I've just had lachenalia viridiflora germinate in the last few days. Reminded me why we go to all the bother!

  6. Hi you, look after the Lachenalia, I had a few viridiflora come up last spring and got all boastful about it but they either made a little bulblet very quickly and went to sleep, or died. I suspect the latter. Still, I have another generous packet of 5 seeds from some supplier that always gives the most bizarre free gifts, like Lovage or Okra seeds when I've just ordered a load of Moraeas and velthemias! I do have Omeiana although it was very young when a lovely girl near Kilmarnock sent me a baby after I moaned when she said she'd sold out (I'd just bought a shitload of lilies from her) so hasn't flowered. In fact I'd forgotten about it until I found it under some "heritage" sweet peas (lovely orange variety, can't remember the name).
    Interesting about the peat: I did try some of the early coir composts and they were awful, sowing and pricking out were a nightmare because of the fibres but I tend to use well rotted bark, perlite for drainage and moisture and nutrient retention, and about 20% peat (I know, but it just does the job so well!) The pH level will have radically altered if you've expunged the peat completely which would account for acid lovers yellowing. But you're right, peat is as nutritious as Haribos so feed away, although don't go mad, you can have too much of a good thing, especially in containers where any more often than fortnightly will cause salts to build up and burn the roots/bulbs/tubers etc. But you knew that.
    My other Bomarea, labelled "multiflora" which is annoyingly a synonym for Caldasii, although this one's much bigger so there should be more than 2 flowers in the bunch, is about to flower. Hope it varies in shade or shape from the other one, they are very variable so fingers crossed. And look after that Lachenalia, I want an offset in about 10 years!

  7. We’ll have to see how the lachenalias go. I got a packet of all of 10 seeds when I was buying three seeds of Aloe polyphylla for about £10, and knowing that the Aloe is unlikely to do anything, I wanted someting a little easier (this may be an awful generalisation, and you should know, but I often find monocots, for their inability to propagate asexually, to germinate quite easily; you don’t need to be too bothered about germination if you have roots like a willowherb). Anyways jade coloured flowers are completely irresistible, and as I can’t accommodate a jade vine, and Ixia viridiflora hasn’t germinated yet (are there any other jade flowers), I wanted the lachhenalia. I want to separate the group of 5 seedlings so far into three overwintered indoors and two with which I test hardiness in a cold frame or something. As for the peat thing, I don’t know, it works so well, but I grew up near bogland in Ireland and honestly I think they are the most magical places on earth; all the peat in the world would never enable me to create anything even a fraction as beautiful in my meer garden. I was worried about germination without peat, but this doesn’t seem to be too much a problem. Reputedly tricky things like Michauxias and previously mentioned Isoplexis Sceptrum seem to be ok with it, so I feel like mother nature has rewarded me for my abstinence. Anyway I’m a scientist so I want to understand what it is about peat, and how I can mimic it; very interesting about the bark, I’m a big believer in sterilized soil myself. Don’t you just love those free gifts. I always order from plant world seeds where possible as they send the seed pronto and always with a funny free gift. Huge packet of potentilla recta sulphurea last time, they know me so well! Actually, question: I’m obsessed with umbellifers, esp angelicas, but I find it really important that the seed is FRESH (A. Gigas, for example simply does not germinate unless the seed is fresh). Do you know of any company that’s good for fresh seed requests?

  8. Annoyingly, I got a bit of action from a Michauxia (can't remember species now, it was from Mikhail at but the pot was sitting on a non-draining surface and those few mm of water collected there kept the pot soaking and they didn't so much damp off as swim away. And no sign from the Ixias either. Funny, I live in Columbia Rd in London where they've had a flower market (cut and alive) for over 100 years and one guy has a stall, merchandise is kept in a big, artificially lit, shop unit in my block and it's all borderline exotics, lots of climbers like mimulus aurantiacus and some red trumpet thing with the shiniest leaves. And Banan plants. Anyway, I suddenly spotted a mature Isoplexis in perfect bloom, three spikes of bronze beauty, unblemished from top to bottom of each 8in flower. The guy saw me looking at it (I was trying to see a species but it just said Isoplexis) and started telling me what it was etc and £20 was a bargain (!) so he was well shocked when I said I knew, I was growing two species from seed. admittedly one hasn't germinated but canariensis has gone mad! There must be 75-100 in there and it's only a 9cm pot. I only need one! Fuckin hate pricking out, definitely my least favourite job (the beauty of container gardening is ver y few weeds and they're mostly last year's Tropaeolums.
    I actually hate umbellifers! It's cos I hate Lovage and Caraway and our wild garden would get infested with cow parseley. And I hate anything aniseedy. And Achilleas. But if you must, I would try (they often sell out of stuff and you can get them to email you when it comes in and they ship inside a week (free stuff too!). Chilterns are in the right country and will deliver in three days usually. I suppose it depends on when the seed ripens. Failing that you could try a seed swap forum (I'm sure such a thing exists). With you being a scientist, I shall stop patronising you about pH levels and how nitrogen makes leaves!

    Good luck, lemme know on progress, Chris

  9. Oh, michauxia wouldn’t like that! Actually, I had a slightly similar experience a few weeks ago when it rained; I’d bought loads of little plastic pots for pricking out (actually one of my favourite jobs, when you see big healthy root systems and all), and potted up without realising that some of the pots had thin plastic membranes in the drainage holes. Easily fixed and all, but a few trhigs were swimming for several hours too. You know I wonder would the sight of those Isoplexis in that shop put me off them forever? I hate seeing great plants being bastardised by homebase or florists or somewhere. I’d every intention of buying loads of plants at Hampton court this year, and I saw loads of great plants being sold dirt cheap, but I think it almost put me off them. Perhaps I’m a snob! I dare say that, though there’s a great overlap in your and my taste in plants, there are also fundamental differences. For instance, you seem to be most interested in the vagina of the plant, it’s the foliage that usually attracts me to plants, and I love things like asarums, aralias and angelicas (or perhaps it’s just an ‘A’ thing). Often the bigger and uglier a plant, the better. I’m growing Angelica pubescens at the moment and it’s hideous, I love it! And I love cow parsley, and plantagos (I have lots of spares of plantago nivalis if you want some) and recently I found a ‘sport’ mutant of the common bramble with really divided leaves like a rugged Japanese maple, growing wild in Wormwood scrubs. I took cuttings. Gladiolus and Irises, for the most part, are a little too pretty for me. I feel the same way about roses, tulips, camellias and anything that could be described as bedding ( was impressed to hear you hate bedding plants too). As for lilies, I think we have similar taste in that the flashy hybrids are awful (I used to love them), but the species are fantastic. They’re also very practical for a pot-bound gardener (and there’s another great name for a blog!). Do you like Arisaemas? I’ve grown this genus for the first time this year, as I never had anywhere suitable for them in my Irish garden, and they’re happy in a pot in a dark, gloomy corner. I’ve just been so impressed by the way that both costatum and ciliatum, both bought as small dry ‘bulbs’ during summer, emerged and flowered within week! Very special plants indeed. I’ve ordered from both Rare plants de and Chiltern before. You might be right about rare plants, as they sent double-packs of the apicaceas the last time (I ordered in May) and warned me that I was unlikely to get good germination. They were right!

  10. Hello! in case you don't get the email for some reason, I forwarded you a missive from Special Plants Seeds I got overnight listing a load of fresh seed they have just picked and it includes many an umbellifer like Angelica and pink Cow Parsley etc (just skimmed it).

    It's interesting you should say i'm into plants' fannies as the only human one I have been anywhere near was my late mother's in the mid 70s (she was still alive then, they didn't have to use the pliers, no, forceps, to get me out, which would have explained a lot). Actually, I think it's my photopgraphy that gives that impression: it's a lot easier to take a good close-up than compose a scene when there are tools, hoses and tatty plants all around! I much prefer the beardless irises such as lacustris or innominata but I wanted to prove to myself I could do the Arils and Junos. The common or garden beardies were just there because you can see them from the road whereas something like graminea would look like grass! I do have some truly hideous pelargonium species (none look anything like something you'd find in Homebase) with swollen stems like a Boabab and such attractive features, although most never recovered from being thrown at me by my boyfriend (they'd been blown off the windowsill being so light due to their non-watering regime) and when I got home from work I was quite keen to rescue them and the cool zinc pots they were in. And the things they'd fallen on. He seemed to think this meant I cared more about them than him. I couldn't possibly comment. His five-day drink and drug binges cause considerable mood swings. I'm bipolar but I'd never throw a plant anywhere!

    I do like pricking out bulb seedlings like Lilies cos you can get a hold of them and check out what's been going on for the last year or two underground but a packed pot of dicots like Mimulus or Isoplexis canariensis (there is nothing but green now, must be 90%+ germination) but they're staying squat so I don't have to worry about legginess yet but I'm going to have tackle them soon, even though I have nowere to put them. I will have to be ruthless and just take the strongest 8-10 but I hate chucking perfectly good plants, especially if they are unflowered hybrids. I've a pot of about a dozen lily hybrids (seed from Chilterns) that all have such variable foliage I have to flower them. They're 18 months old and one already had a proper stem about 8in tall! That's the sort of thing that excites me: planting seed and not knowing what's going to appear. I almost never buy plants now. The Glads im raising from seed are a mile away from the corms in Unwins catalogue. MOst have very odd flowers (brown and yellow anyone?), like half the digitalis.
    Arisaemas I find fascinating but never imagined growing, for price reasons more than. anything but you never know. Sounds like you'd have loved some of the Podophyllums we saw in Tibet. Isn't Aralia what used to be called Fatsia?
    Anyway, got to get that pH kit before 2pm so hope you find something in that list and catch a few grey squirrels in the Arisaemas. C