|Some member of the Klan from the Deep South on a well respected forum laughed his head off when I asked for advice on growing Arils in the southern UK. So I used my skill and judgment instead. I think you'll agree I made a decent stab...|
Very, very regrettably, the garden on the roof, where arilbred Irises stunned, yellow AND pink Lilium lophophorum set a puzzle solved only when the other bloomed (sort of) and where I learned that most bulbs, especially Gladioli species - the fragile, almost grass-like ones with flowers so dainty yet tough: you have to be when you live among the skeletons of Namibia or cling precariously to a ravine on the slopes of Table Mountain, germinate like cress, looks to be coming to an end. I got too greedy, the headmistress at the school next door doesn't appreciate Clematis towers and so, while the neighbours love it, the cafe owners are distraught at the thought of it going and I heard two old ladies the other night saying: "It looks just like a painting! The colours are so vibrant!". I hope she didn't means Sunflowers by old One Ear.
|Gladiolus brevifolius. It's maybe 10in tall and look like a bit of grass but once a year…|
I have had an absolute blast researching (I love you internet!), sowing, planting and planning - to the best of my ability - and, one again, creating and, were it not for its power over the levels of cortisol, norepipherine, adrenaline, serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine and many other pituitary treats and killers, who knows where I'd be.
|Also from the "Nanus" series of miniature (and therefore only a little bit vulgar) Gladioli hybrids is "Nathalie" here. The daubing on the lower petals is very common in the group, coming straight from parent G. cardinalis.|
According to expert and enthusiast Irina Antipina Nanus Hybrids were introduced in 1855 from Gladiolus cardinalis and venustus (both relatively robust and easy species from seed (I have one-year-olds of both and they do look just like blades of grass). Nanus hybrids are decorative and early-flowering but for some reason the red and daubing of G. cardinalis (below, top) is evident but there is little sign of the magenta, yellow and grey of G. venustus (below, middle). At the very bottom is "Nymph", where the markings from cardinalis parentage are obvious, albeit in a different colour, but any resemblance to venustus must make itself known in the foliage or structure and as my seedlings are about 5cm tall at the moment, I don't feel qualified to comment on its mature structure!
They come in white, pink, salmon and some varieties are nearly red, have narrow leaves, and have two to four flower stalks with many side shoots. They also seem to like things on my roof because the ivory G. albus has been blooming for six weeks and still doesn't look tired or messy (the old petals seem to disappear into a green hole). Others, however, such as "Nathalie" and "Nymph" produce such an abundance of flowers that the lightest breeze or alien object thrown at it by a schoolboy will cause flowering stems to not break but sag, meaning you still get the display but it points at the ground. Although the exact parentage of these hybrids is mostly lost, we know that they are the result of crossing the summer and winter blooming species together. In fact, virtually all of them are actually first generation hybrids.
|This is of course an Aquilegia, or "Grannies bonnet" as my late mum called them. I wouldn't normally bother with a run of the mill perennial but the flourescent red and yellow with a hint of green of "Tequila Sunrise" raced out of it's seed coat.|
To return home from work and get out the window (there is no door, as you all know, and when I was alone, tasting that mix of anticipation, excitement and fear of what shite had been thrown at the vintage pot with the South African bulb nurtured for eight years) would be better than any horribly addictive benzodiazepine (although I never found them very effective anyway. Not when you compare it to finding something that had been hidden under Tropaeolum majus (OK, Nasturtium, I'm taking one of my last chances to show off) such as Hippeastrum sonatini "Viridi Rascal"):
is in fact cf "Alaska". I ordered "Orange Rascal" and the above from Bloms (that's a photo from their catalogue because what I got is below (the big one). (I'm showing off again, cf. before the name means "a bit like", something they didn't see fit to teach me in Latin, although I still remember Canis est in horto latrat. Fortunately I don't have a canis, smelly things, and if the law is an ass, I won't have a horto either. I also, having forgotten what I'd done, ordered the same from someone else, possibly even Bloms again. Only two of the four were given the chance to flower, the other two, including "Orange Rascal" (below) also from this series, were perfectly healthy but were attacked as the buds formed. They are just hardy so they might get another chance and they will be fully protected next time instead of being so irresponsibly placed on the windowsill. But calm down, Chris! Sub judice is Latin I am very familiar with, being a hack.
|Was I disappointed? Did I fire off a furious email to the nursery? No. It's beautiful and will even fit in my cardboard box when I'm evicted.|
|I know the double white is sexy but I really do want what I ordered too. Which would mean buying two new ones and if the garden is being wound down, what's the point? Just more disappointment.|
|Quite a few Iris douglasiana hybrid seedlings! (Someone else made the crosses; that's my next ambition).|
The big pull recently had been my Lilies. A lot of the more obscure are shot with viruses but I've also managed to germinate clean seedlings of L. humboldtii, kelloggii, washingtonianum and several others (it's dark, I cannae see!) but a few more of that group of North American species. Iris-wise I've got a pot of Pacific Coast hybrids and a huge bucket of douglasiana hybrids which I've left too long to prick out, they're getting very yellow (the leaves, not the flowers, which will be subtly different combinations of blue, white and purple. Also I've nowhere to put more than 100 7cm pots of Iris. Oh, and Iris prismatica. Basically, YOU can germinate any Iris species. Or Lily...
Here are some pointless but beautiful shots of Lilium Mackliniae, taken indoors not because I think that's where they live but it was very windy that day. I didn't raise them from seed, I bought them from that superb purveyor of all things Himalayan, Glendoick nursery in Perthshire. They grow tens of thousands of Rhododendrons, mostly in open fields, and pick out your one and put a little label on it with your name etc, sending them out bare root when the time is just right. I used to work there for about 6 weeks. They have an utterly stunning dell with a burn (brook) running down it, where native Beeches and the like shelter Cardiocrinums, every Rhody ever found, almost, Kalmias, Meconopsis, Primulas, particularly candelabras which have hybridised over the years into a big bag of rainbow coloured sweets (that's candy, to our American friends).
|The first Lily! And surprisingly it's the relatively obscure and tricky Lilium Mackliniae. The pics are a bit grey as it was blowin' a gale outside!|
Next up was Lilium pumilum (syn tenuifolium). It's hard to describe the waxy texture of the petals but they are almost like plastic. A classic, get rid of those awful things with dinner-plate flowers and get some of the following naturally perfect bulbs (well, stolons actually in this case!).
|It's not a plant, but I could eat it anyway, and it wouldn't kill me. For 20 years.|
The premises, hilariously called "Lily Vanilli" after quite a few things, all of which work, (and they do make their own wares) are run by three lovely young kids (patronising dad mode): Lily (not real name) who seems to do the cakes/flapjacks/delicious chocolatey stuff; David, not sure what his speciality is – being very tall is one – but he creates the loveliest smells to waft up through our floorboards and Martin, the master baker. Very different from the bacon butties of a few months ago, especially for a vegetarian.
Right, more Lilies:
|L. flore pleno, captured in a remarkable moment of not swinging about everywhere in the wind.|
I'm afraid this one's a victim of the pigeons and their label tricks. But I think It's L. medeoloides (SINCE CONFIRMED), a Japanese species that translates (roughly) as "Wheel Lily". The slightly recurved petals have that almost plastic texture of pumilum (which is very red and rarely spotted so I'm not suggesting it's that, I'm just trying to give those of you unlucky enough not to have felt the texture I'm struggling to put into words an idea of what it's like). But without a DNA testing kit...
And here we have the aforementioned L. tsingtauense.
I'm not going to waste keystrokes telling you where it's from but it's a petite little thing with leaves held in whorls around the stem, which ends in a single, almost flat, orange bloom that looks like it has been seasoned with a grinding of black pepper. It won't take your breath away but at least it bothered to flower, unlike superbum, pardalinumx3, wallichianum (although there is finally action and fresh green shoots in the two pots of that, one all the way from China. I thought I was going to overwhelmed by pardalinums, they just kept arriving, but all but two have gone. The good news is that, so far, is that speciosum "Rubrum" (the organic version of "Stargazer") has come to no harm, despite being right under the window, and sports 5 fat flower buds. I don't know what happened to auratum, the Rubrum's only rival for the "Fuck me that's gorgeous!" award. One day it had a nice healthy ... of course. It went sub judice, giving it no chance to build up energy for next year and, I don't have the receipt to hand and the bedroom's 10 ft away, but sending about £15 down the plughole. Gosh, it's all adding up!
|Lilium davidii. One of many orange, spotty species. Let's just leave it there.|
We'll just clear up another possible area of confusion (why didn't I take notes?) by getting the rest of the yellows out of the way, except the dinner-plate hybrid which just clogs up the drain with its massive petals. First, the aforementioned Lilium leitchtlinii (goes to look up spelling), from which there were a few to choose (after a quick L. citronella):
I could understand a viola or Pulsatilla even that might have drifted in on the wind. But a plant from as far away as it's possible to be and that I almost obsessively wanted, turns up as a tuber at the bottom of an otherwise empty pot (I was reading last night that they like to manoeuvre their tubers to their favoured, considerable, depth, probably to regulate the temperature in the Andean/Patagonian wonderland from where they come, where the air temperature must fluctuate from sun-baked to snow-covered. There are a great many bulbous (we'll use that as a catch-all term for plants with underground storage means) genera that use their roots to pull themselves up or down to the desired depth.
If I ever visit a Republican state, remind me to take a Wollemi pine!
|Lilium hansonii. I love the texture of the petals, like Clematis tangutica.|
Right, I think that's all the yellows and hopefully oranges because I'm happily snapping away before the sun goes down or the single bloom wilts and the notion of writing down its name fails to occur. I'm just so arrogant I assume I'll be able to identify it later. I'm dreading the pinks because my martagon efforts have been a disgrace. The only one that even bloomed was a yellow (don't worry, it's sort of coral). I also had a great performance from L.cernuum and cernuum album, which is actually peachy). But first, the winner by a mile this year: Sold as a yellow form of L.martagon, it is a gorgeous pale orange, the structure of the flowers and plant leaving me in no doubt that there's a lot of martagon blood in there. It has a varietal name but to get to that would involve hacking through a jungle of leichtliniis and various subtle Dahlias, intended to provide colour once the yellow rain finally ends. I'll try to remember to tell you if roof remains green after the school holidays.
|Lilium cernuum, a real success, same sort of form, vigour and no-nonsense approach as pumilum.|
|Lilium lankongense, an easy, generous species that will reward an annual feed after flowering (as with all Lilies, chop off the spent flower heads but leave the leaves to die down naturally, allowing them to recharge the bulbs).|
|And the similar but darker and slightly smaller flowered L. duchartrei|
STOP PRESS! I found Lilium henryi, struggling to push a stem of nascent blooms through a tangle of Nasturtiums, the never-ending L. leichtlinii, Bomarea caldasii (or possibly salsilla, both of which I have along with a third, hirtella, I reckon.) This one had retained its plastic wraparound label so I did read it but I was more interested in getting to the Lily, checking its flower head and reading its label without damaging anything. At the moment it's a poor specimen with rusty leaves and weak flowers. I thought there were only four petals on the only fully open one but it's just that two are hiding behind others. But at least it solves the question of where the sodding thing went!
Oh, and my Lilium speciosum rubrum, actually labelled auratum, took advantage of the downpour that was the weekend to open: as L. speciosum rubrum. I don't mind, it's a fantastic deep red, almost a pleasant (use your imagination) magenta with the requisite white edging. I don't know how any of these things survive in the wild: these flowers are eye-catching but of modest proportions compared to the blousy hybrids, yet were quite happy growing at an angle of 10 degrees above horizontal! Have rectified the situation by cunningly propping them up with a piece of steel wire I've installed to prevent anything falling on anyone in the lovely weather. So God knows what happened to auratum...
And, finally, L. sargentiae, which has two flowers, a virus or some pathogen (and a backbone, fortunately) has opened overnight, which is a bit unusual, unless it's pollinated by bats or moths, although the bat population in East London is sadly not what it could be, unlike the incredibly isolated family home in Scotland where you are guaranteed to see, or at least hear, dozens just as dusk is ending and the moths come out to look for lights to hang around, smoking, drinking cheap cider and taking the piss out of old people. I think the bats sleep in an old air-raid shelter and one-time shed, there's certainly enough crap in there for them to hang from although I might suggest my dad hangs an old bit of cloth, like a curtain, with folds for extra warmth and security to encourage them. Although that said, it was only a few miles, literally 2 or 3, away that a man running a sanctuary got rabies from one and sadly died. Rabies? In Angus? Fortunately it was when mum was still alive so at least five years ago so the chances of a real-life repeat of "The Mad Death", the terrifying (if you're 10) 1980s drama about a rabid cat or fox (or some furry quadruped, it was a wee while ago) sparking a hydrophobic epidemic. "Threads" was scarier anyway, especially when the woman wet herself as the mushroom cloud formed on the horizon. Anyway, this is the ramblingest stop press ever written so bye, have a nice Monday!