Friday, 15 July 2011

The Last Post? And not the mail (that remains flakey)

It's a hybrid but it's allowed because it's so badly bred the flower stems break if you look at them: Gladiolus albus. It looks even better now, a month after I photographed it. Amazing! The only problem with all my miniature hybrids it that the stems struggle to support the bountiful infloresence, even in the calmest weather. They keep flowering, just at 90 degrees to the stem, making photography tricky and giving the plants a slightly, erm, untidy look. But the individual blooms are killer!
Hello again my dedicated followers (there were over 100 diehards, thanks Cath, Rod, Jo, James and myriad others) and all 18,000 of you who passed by from around the world, from Yemen to Kazakhstan, from Suriname to Egypt (Nice revolution! That's how long since I last posted for very tedious legal reasons).

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...
I can't remember the name of this beauty (I think it might have been in Dutch or German) but it's one of three, out of three bought for a considerable amount of money cos they're so f'ing hard to grow but I flowered all three. One of the hardest in the world, the Oncocyclus Iris "Dardanus" shocked me by coming back from the dead to grow healthy sprays of leaves along the stolons, but not enough chuff to bloom.

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.

The view out the living room window (well, the one of seven I use to access this forbidden space. Bottom left is Lilium tsingtauense, right is hansonii and top right is a good show from pumilum (syn. tenuifolium). The species, form or variety beside it, lancifolium "Flore Pleno", is only flowering now and can be seen later in this posting (this photo was taken June 4. Yes, I have been very busy, largely taking on the Man. 

This caused a real conundrum when it came up (pigeons had been at the label. I don't know what they do with them, I wouldn't sleep on them!) It was fairly obviously from the Liliaceae but tiny. That's a 20p, not a 50! And it didn't match anything I'd ordered. At one point I considered it might be a Nomocharis gone very wrong as I did order three, one of which came all the was from China and arrived in a state you wouldn't want to stand on (it had been in a plastic bag for six weeks, enough to rot me!
See that sheen on the scale at the top of the shot? That's plant pus. Yeah, gross! On receipt of the photo he played a straight bat, with a refund and suggestion I dry it out a bit and plant it anyway, on the off chance, hence my confusion with the pink diamond above. I've also had another Nomocharis from him, formosana I think, with a collection number,  although it's come up blind this year so feeding it up as much as I dare: there comes a point (more than once a fortnight with this proprietary bulb food) where you do more harm than good, risking salt crystals forming and "burning" the roots. There is a Lilium wallichianum just broken the surface (white trumpets, yawn!) and there were two or three just described as Sechuan Lilies (all this on eBay with PayPal so no risk). 

One of his iss well dead and never came up. I had a little poke about in the pot (NAUGHTY!) and it reminded me of when, as kids, we spent what in Scotland are still called the "Tatty holidays", a tatty being a potato, following a tractor that had turned over the soil and filling old washing baskets with the freshly revealed taters. But those of you who grow potatoes will know what happens to the original, from which all the others grow. It rots. And even with Marigolds on, the texture and stench is worse than the bottom of your shoe after a walk through the park in the dark (like I'd EVER do that again, even in a tank).
And at once, mystery solved. This is definitely Lilium lophophorum cos it came from Dr (or is it Prof?) Paul Christian and he knows his bulbs/corms/stolons/rhizomes etc. So what I got first time round was the incredibly unusual pink form that many dispute the very existence of, an event comparable to picking up a dart, facing away from the board, chucking it over my shoulder and getting triple 20! I thought the flowers stayed as above for a few days and then opened out but neither did, they stayed shut so goodness knows what exotic Asian entity does the shagging for them!
I'm just gonna carry on with some of my sparkling successes cos I can't remember what I've shown you. And there are a couple of people in places like Libya and Syria who might have missed them first time round …

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.

Okay, so I keep my gob shut and stop risking prejudicing legal action, here is a series of pictures with neutral captions!

The trellis viewed from the greenhouse side. I got a window box exactly the same width (purely by chance) as the polythene plant killer, sorry these are meant to be neutral, smashing Argos greenhouse. The plastic box has a reservoir for water at the bottom which is great because, while there are only three Lathyrus chloranthus in there, they are greedy and thirsty and get no rain (due to my propagation and purchasing enthusiasm, which means every spare cm is home to a plant. The Bomarea (can't be bothered leaning out the window to check species, they're all the same anyway: big bunches of orange /red/yellow  trumpets, close relative of Tropaeolum) is in a pot so it's not guilty. Mind you, the Clematis nepalensis is in the window box and they like their water. I wouldn't mind if it produced some of its odd, some might say ugly, but not me, flowers.

Lathyrus chloranthus: the flowers start off a real acid green and end up like this, bicoloured and altogether softer. An annual, like most sweet peas, this is incredibly easy to grow but sadly it's an annual so I'm leaving a few pods to ripen. I sowed last autumn (not necessary, just enthusiam) and grow them up a trellis with Clematis nepaulensis, a Bomarea  and an Ipomoea or maybe Mina lobatata (it's a little overwhelmed by its neighbours) to  hide my crappy Argos greenhouse. Speaking of which:

Mina lobata growing up a Lily. The flower is still young: It will double in size and end with creamy petals. Like the one below I've just found! It's a real challenge to grow though, taking up to four days to germinate! It has the distinctive butterfly cotyledons of the Ipomoeas and Convolvulus, twistng its way up the host. A real stunner for no effort. I also scatter things like Tropaeolum peregrinum, the yellow canary creeper, about to fill any gaps.  I've also got Ken Aslet, though the nursery I bought it from didn't deliver so I went to a reputable place instead, cilicium, platyphyllum, incisum  and no luck so far with a whole range of species from seed including lepidum, sessilifolium and brachyceras, apart from one I can't remember the name of but it's called "Spitfire" or something and came up so quickly I think it's just a variety of majus.
Unfortunately I only got four of these to germinate because the pot was upset just after sowingso I've had to spread them around and they haven't hade their presence felt yet but they will, along with all the other annual climbers and tender Tropaeoleums, if they make it. 
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...

When sowing this, Lilium washintonianum (a really unusual one, a little bit like hansonii in the way it holds it very slightly recurved, vaguely pinky white flowers) I took no account of season, temperature, nor bothered to take in the difference between hypo- and epigeal). The came up the same week as kelloggii and humboldtii. I could show you pictures but they are almost identical in form.

Okay, one more. This large pot of what are simply labelled mixed Lily hybrids is now a mass of glossy green as some of the 2-year-olds begin to take shape. But you can see here the variety of forms of seedling. They all start off as a blade of grass and then anything can happen, although it's usually followed by a single proper Lily leaf – no stems yet but bulbs are clearly being formed. The top pic is about two months old. (That's about how long this is taking to write. Bloody brain damage). The one below (taken at a remarkably similar angle considering I was guessing. I'm particularly intrigued by the ones like the grassy one on the right. What's that going to look like when it grows up? Mature, they all have the same basic structure, with many variations, but they're all a stick with leaves on it, arranged in many patterns but none like a Spider Plant, with six-petals per inflorescence. Hmmm. If I didn't have to bulldoze my life I'd find out. As it is, they'll most likely end up in the recycling.

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).

While a fine photograph, this doesn't quite capture the atmosphere of the bubble of the burn at Glendoick and the sheer variety of genera and species or way it closes you in. It is a magical place, botanically beating Heligan, although that does win for sheer "what the..." value.
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!).

Actually, this one catches the texture quite well. Can you feel it? I just want to touch it but it's long gone! Bulbs of others, such as L. wallichianum (a slightly dull creamy stoloniferous species from the usual suspects: Sikkim, India, Nepal and Bhutan, although those trumpets are l-o-n-g!) are making a good cm a day. Seeds of L. leucanthum planted a fortnight ago, when I still held out hope that I could save the garden, are bursting through like green shepherds' crooks already.

This is my Cardiocrinum giganteum. That's a 75L bag of compost it's sitting on and it's just a baby. I DON'T WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY! I thought I was being responsible by growing it in a pot (cos obviously there's plenty of humus-rich topsoil (stop laughing about chick peas David!) but it will probably still make eight feet minimum. Or would if I didn't have to throw it in the bin. Still, it only cost about £25. For those of you unfamiliar with the plant, it's essentially a giant Lily. Incorrectly called Lilium giganteum, it reaches 12ft in its des res: the rich soil of forest edges of the Himalayas. The spike is very much like a Lily and the two are clearly closely related.

The new leaseholders of the cafe upon which the garden lives are distraught to hear of the green eviction. In fact they are determined to campaign for its rescue, as, when the Sun is shining on a Sunday and I'm not terrified of huge pots of three mature Primula "Harlow Carr hybrids" falling on a public head (they are very heavy, it's not gonna happen) they say my flowers "make the Courtyard" (and they can only see 10% of them)  and were a factor in their choosing the site. They were a factor in choosing this amazing piece of confectionary for my beloved's birthday. They are three very talented young cooks/bakers/confectioners/patissieres (or similar made-up French word that makes you think of Danish pastries and custard tarts?)

Not a bad shot for an iPhone! Crap day plantwise, much bushier now. I can touch those Nasturtiums from the ground now and I'm very short. You can't move for Lilium leichtlinii up there now, and the remains of Tiger Woods and his other unfortunate American chums. A mistake and I knew it at the time. I hadn't planned any hybrids but some deal seduced me and they're horrible. The huge, vulgar petals fall everywhere at the slightest drop of rain; they are thin stemmed and top-heavy, gross in the extreme and all the same. White with pink flushes, trying to recreate "Stargazer", a one-off (and close enough to L. speciosum var rubrum to count as an honourary species). The Nasturtiums are no longer all orange; there is a bright red/magenta called "Cherry Jewel" or similar, a beautiful pale cream and pink semi-double called "Caribbean Crush" (six seeds!) and "Whirlybird", as well as many Tropaeolum species yet to flower (and germinate. Yes, that's you lepidum, sessilifolium, brachycerum and polyphyllum). That last sentence sounds familiar, almost as if I've written it twice...

It's not a plant, but I could eat it anyway, and it wouldn't kill me. For 20 years.
Lily (a nomme de plume) created this concoction of magic for my beloved's birthday. I was thinking £30 or such but she wouldn't take a penny. Lovely woman. BUY THEIR STUFF!

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 don't know what this is, other than a short, yellow Lily that I have had for years. Until it flowered this year (for the first time in several years) I had neglected it to the point of leaving it whole summers without water, any remaining nutrition being sucked up by weeds. I had imagined it might be L. pyrenaicum, which my mother grew with consummate ease in lowland Scotland but then, how did it get to London, and why didn't it have small,  yellow plastic-like, downward facing flowers that look a bit silly in proportion to the multitude of leaves. I think this must be a "patio" hybrid, the botanical equivalent of a dog in a handbag, although this one has no pretentions so I might even feed it before its slaughter.

Lilium lancifolium

When every species available during extended trawls through nursery listings and most of the www, almost all seemed to be described as orange with black spots/flecks/fly and while of course I bought them anyway, I did have a vision of a flourescent beacon, detracting totally from all around it. But actually this, L. lancfolium, is utterly removed from the demur L. tsingtsuense  that flowered a month or earlier ago. It was a foot tall; this is a thumping great 4ft or so with blooms so recurved they almost form balls. It is growing right beside a deep red hybrid, "Dark Knight" or something like that (which is a lot redder than the black of the packet but I've been doing this long enough to expect such "printing errors"! 

With them are a mighty Digitalis ferruginea grandis (which I've just cut back to give it a rest after its constant thrusting skyward since March or April and in the hope it will come again next year, by no means guaranteed but so easy from seed I'm not bothered) and a couple of L. rosthornii, which both look a lot healthier than the disease riddled L. primulinum making up the quartet. I have another, pristine, specimen at the other end of the roof (deliberately) for token hygiene purposes, but I can't bring myself to dump it, although that won't be my choice ultimately, despite the fact I bought it and I pay more rent than my mother, a teacher, received in salary ten years ago.

Digitalis trojana as grown from seed. All species of the genus have germinated within days for me, even the closest one to an exotic, D. obscura. 

A word of advice: when growing more than one species of this genus, be as anal with your labelling as possible because the leaves fall into two groups, each containg identical foliage and you will NOT be able to tell the difference until it flowers (and often not then). They are either smooth and ridged in a rosette (as above although the typical leaves are lower down) or fluffy, not ridged and just like the traditional Foxglove. The only exception I have come across is obscura, which is like type A but with thinner leaves and less of a rosette form.  (This year I went a bit mad and have mature speciments of the above, parviflora, laevigata, ambigua,  and the purpurea form "Pam's Choice" (she has very good taste). There are also adolescent specimens of D. nervosa, viridiflora, stewartii, thapsi (I'm really keen to keep this somehow, it has flowers not unlike purpurea but more pendant and paler, and a definite bush shape, rather than the phallic form of most Digitalis). I'm down to one D. obscura after a very wet winter and spring but it has finally started to show some vigour and as if it wants to be there. I've also seed of grandiflora, a yellow purpurea, basically, davisiana, which is either the thinnest, tallest, most erect (with those over-prevelant brown/white flowers) of all, or it's a much more attractive, yellow flowered, multi-stemmed, altogether more laid-back stunna. We'll probably never know. I've also got seed of a couple of species of Isoplexis, which pops in and out of the Digitalis genus much as Belamcanda and Dietes are Irises when the taxonomists feel like it. (Must show you those two genera next time, although Belamcanda hasn't quite flowered but I can feel it coming!

Digitalis parviflorum, almost as pencil thin and ugly but lovely as davisiana (which, like so much in this blog in particular, is confusing me as I've never seen one and the seeds don't give much away. Neither does the Web: it's as happy to show and tell me it's an extremely thin, erect freak ( as it is a lovely, bushy, yellow-flowered border perennial (, who we use and trust at work). I'm glad it's not just me who has label issues. If it's not the pigeons it's the sun bleaching the "permanent" ink. Pencil is no better because the moment you rub the compost off you smear the writing beyond legibility. The only safe bet is those metal ones where you scratch the name but of course they are expensive and single-use. 

A hairy big close-up of "Pam's Choice". Well chosen Pam. I reckon it was Pam Ferris, out of Rosemary and Thyme with Felicity Kendall. Now there's a programme where they came up with a decent title and only then realised they had to bulk it out with some synopses. Well, two. Hence a retired police sergeant (Pam) and professional planthead (Felicity) teaming up to landscape some stately home and ending up solving botany related crimes that almost, actually, always involve Digitalis or Yew poisoning or a fatal rash or anaphylaxis from Rue or Hogweed. Anyway, a cracking foxglove for those of us too snooty to plant purpurea.

Isoplexis Isabellina. Maybe one day I'll have somewhere to grow this (wonder how long the seeds remain viable?) UPDATE: they began germinating yesterday. Shit! Where the hell am I going to put them? I. canariensis is staying in the envelope till spring.

In the last few days I have also noticed another couple of the same type (bearing in mind they had those other Lilies, Mina lobata, the stunning Lathyrus sativus aureus and beautiful deep red Tropaeolum majus to battle through. I can't even find what they're planted in because all this tangle is actually quite prone to snapping and I dont want to have to extract dead, brown foliage for fear of creating more. The flower buds are plumping up well so hopefully they'll be out before the axe falls, just so I can identify them, if nothing else. I think they are probably L. rosthornii, a very choice orange with a black centre and, instead of those bloody spots, odd raised ridges of little bumps of petal material (that's not the botanical term) along the outside edges of the flowers. Plenty of fat buds but, as I say, I daren't put my hand in that tangle below (now MUCH more of a jungle, in fact I'll stick in a different perspective, remember that the mystery pots are out of shot on the left, behind EVERYTHING. It's amazing they get any water at all, even with my sexy new hose fitting, which is considerably more use than my shower, which I'm not allowed to use in case the water gets through all the crap workmanship and floods the cafe. For a fourth time.) to find the labels for fear of snapping a stem or 12, something that has been happening with suspicious regularity, and it can only be coincidence that primary school children's paraphernalia is usually lying close by.

I have a pristine specimen of poilanei at the other end of the roof (deliberately) for token hygiene purposes, but I can't bring myself to dump the diseased specimen. I'll douse it in fungicide and hopefully the bulbs will reward me for the good meals and lovely substrate I've given them. UPDATE: I was out yesterday every second the kids weren't (about half an hour then) trying to tidy up, take stock and clean up the layer of compost that has naturally built up before it blocks the main sewer and my world falls apart. Again. Poilanei is looking great if fragile, a nice, single bud developing (so it should at £30 for a bulb no bigger than a gooseberry). I just have to he incredibly careful with it and flower the thing, having managed, with the help of my young, scholarly neighbours, to deflower both my L. primulinums. Such species are the kind where the colour of your fingers are rigorously tested. I refuse to be found lacking!

Above and below show the far end, away from those Lilium leichtlinii, the other jungle area (hey, I didn't know they were going to get bigger in time!). The now confirmed L. rosthornii  are somewhere to the right, behind all the deep red and lancifoliums. Nice Gladiolus, that's "Nymph", I think, still going yesterday and this was taken on July 3. In the very background (but before the Victorian workhouse) is a huge pile of resting spring bulbs. I can't keep them all dry, just the Aril Irises and a few Fritillarias. The rest, whose labels will doubtless have fallen out, have probably been a tasty meal for something anyway. The bill would top £1,000 if they'd had coffee.

This is the area a month or so ago, with the revelation that has been Lathyrus sativus azureus,  which flushed pink with age before neatly shedding the petals and growing a seed pod, some of which I will permit to remain to save myself £3 in the late autumn, assuming I have somewhere to sow it. Note also the Mina lobata leaves and tendrils, which are now a foot taller than the tallest Lily, which is five foot. Oxalis deppii adds to the combo when the sun comes out.

Oxalis deppii, a stunning Oxalis from Mexico. I'd never have thought to buy such a species until I came across and which sell viable seed of hardy (and tropical) species that you would  struggle to find if you went to the Atacama yourself. 

Oxalis squamata, a Chilean native, was a piece of piddle to raise from seed. In fact, in some countries it is  becoming invasive; their version of, perhaps not Japanese Knotweed but maybe Himalayan Balsam or Rhododendron ponticum. But not here. This, the ones I've given to friends and the specimen at Kew are probably the only plants in London, possibly the UK.

This hybrid came was bought off the shelf in The World's Most Expensive Garden Centre and it's no surprise that only one of the four came up. Don't buy those dried things if you can help it, far better to order when the bulbs are in growth and potted. I can't remember the exact name of this but it was something like "Dark Knight" and the photo made it look a shade darker than the darkest purple. It's red! Dark red but definitely red. But it's probably the healthiest I've got. Typical.
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!

Now, this is just what I mean. The healthy, virus-free, not-falling-over, unmolested by Columbia Road School pupils orange is Lilium medeleoides (I had to do a lot of clambering a minute ago to read that label, mercifully undoved). But I don't even know if it's the same plant shown earlier. I only have one of the species, but I also have an L. davidii that looks like it flowered. I was so depressed (the medical kind, not the "my boyfriend's dumped me" type) that I didn't think I'd ever get to do one of these ever again. So I may not have bothered to photograph it. It is, however, quite possibly the one on the windowsill. Or not. ah fuck it, they're all the same anyway! (Oh, it's another pumilum in the background). I mean look:
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):

Perhaps if I wasn't so overwhelmed by them I would be more apprecitive: they have, after all, justified my use of the pretentious nonsense "Lily theme" or, as I actually say: "Shedloads of Lilies". (Short break to clear massive overflow in the gutter pictured below as I would doubtless get the blame, or rather Tiger Woods, the unfortunately named white and pink US dinner plate hybrid probably would, even though I don't live in the 2nd floor flat overflowing and the blockage was 99.9% likely to have come from a local school, who are often slightly awry with their spacial awareness. I  have a disproportionately large amount of  drainage crock to prove it. The whole job would have been a lot easier if some arsehole hadn't chained the Courtyard ladders together, meaning I can't be responsible for maintaining my gutter or anyone else's and live in a fire trap. We ended up using a bit of hose, OWNED by me, to clear the blockage, to which the owners remain oblivious. Still, at least the rent's gone up by £333.33 a month.
I have no idea how I ended up with so many L. lietchlinii; there must be 20-30 bulbs here, all arriving in groups of three or five. I can see me ordering five but even with my compromised frontal lobe, I'm sure I'd remember ordering something so difficult to spell. The canes, ties, hoops and steel wire out of site tying the whole lot to the greenhouse are purely for the safety of the public below on a sunday when they get to come in and leave litter everywhere. There are countless Tropaeolums, from the humble majus to the sexy pentaphyllum and many a peregrinum (Canary Creeper), as well as three varieties of "heritage" sweet peas and Ipomoeas including one called luteola, all of which is intended to decorate things once the Courtyard is knee-deep in yellow petals.

Ipomoea luteola, germinated in three days, well over 90%, possibly 100! I just hope it grows and flowers with similar enthusiasm!
This is Ipomoea luteola 48 hours after sowing. Within a week, the grit was totally invisible and the seedlings 10cm high. Note the distinctive "butterfly" cotyledons of many annual climbers of the same mixture of similar but distinct species listed in the previous caption! Makes identification of most impossible until flowering, except the Tropaeolums, which have subtle but distinct differences.
Which brings me to the mystery of the Tropaeolum incisum that I own but didn't buy. I had one but it was planted and very definitely died months ago, a good five metres from the flimsy plastic pot in which I found a pinkish tuber, about 7cm long and 2-3cm in diameter stuck to the bottom by pure friction.

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.

Just one of the many clever tricks evolution has given us over thousands of millennia (sorry, a non-specific creator managed in 6,000 years, as I believe it is actually legal to teach in "faith schools". So much of science may remain largely theoretical but so long as gravity and respiration continue to work, I'm with Newton and Darwin. That's the beauty of it: so far, with a few overthusiastic exceptions (and stuff that only Ben Miller understands) none of us has fallen off the planet, space missions return to Cape Canaveral or Kazakhstan and everything that happens every day adds to the body of evidence that creationism is pish and you might as well teach Harry Potter in physics rather than English. It all started a very large quantity of billions of years ago, and I've never seen anything that contradicts that – and like you, I've seen the most beautiful flowers in the world; structures, ways of feeding, breeding and seeding that only millions of years of evolution could chance upon. And there are days even I go "... Nah!".
If I ever visit a Republican state, remind me to take a Wollemi pine!

Lilium monadelphum (although quite a spotty example) but I have no reason to doubt my supplier.

Why did I buy these? It must have been a three varieties for a fortune deal. Anyway, it's called "Pearl Jennifer" and there is nothing remotely remarkable about it. Except durability. Quite how it ever made it through the registration process when there are so many yellows already I know not. Maybe it travels in time or something.
And, finally for the true yellows, although we did take quite a circuitous route, Lilium Parryi. It's a squat little thing (well, mine are) with pleasantly shaped petals and just a few brownish spots in the centre. One of my faves so far, probably because  it didn't need any cossetting.
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.

Now, this is confusing, as, I'm fast discovering, are most things botanical. My usual approach is to ignore the rules and, to be fair, it generally works. This is meant to be cernuum album. That, if you missed out on classics at school, means white, although L. cernuum album is known for being a bit off-white, creamy and peachy even. But this is just too much. Answers on a postcard or, preferably, pass comment at the bottom of the post.
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
Well, I'm just gonna post this thing. So much more to show and tell. Thanks for reading and welcome back, I love you Cx

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!

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