Friday, 16 December 2011

Fantastic Fuchsia!

Fuchsia are very much a matter of taste - I see some that make my stomach churn (these tend to be the showy ones, and/or ones in what I think are a naff mix of colour). But there can be little to match (in my opinion) the beauty of the simple Fuchsia.
I grow a few, and the triphylla group of Fuchsia offer some of the best. The waxy flowers of Thallia offer a fantastic show when it gets going.................
One of the best things about Thallia is that it seems to bloom well deeper into autumn than most of my others do. Frost tender

F.magellanica on the other hand is fully hardy. This to my eyes is the classic shape of the Fuchsia..........
................the white variety, Hawkshead.
...................and David, a dwarf variety.

The variety "Blacky" is rather a showy one for me, but I love the darkness of the petals. Tender, but grows rapidly so I treat it as an annual.
Blacky is a good choice for hanging baskets.

Another tender annual that I grow is a variety called Satellite. It is what I would call the wrong colour for a Fuchsia, but the unusual petals make it a must have . It will grow up to a metre high in a summer.

Saving the best till last, F.perscandens is my favourite! One of the native New Zealand Fuchsias, it has a truly messy growth habit, but the unusual colour of the blooms with the blue pollen more than make up for that.
It blooms heavily twice a year, late spring and early autumn, only putting out the occasional bloom through the summer months.
The blooms are small (as are the leaves) and a little "shy" in the way that they hide on the underside of the plant. Unusually for a Fuchsia, the flowers do not only emerge from new growth. It is borderline hardy here in the UK, but well worth the effort!

Fuchsias will thrive in light shade. They also like to be kept moist - this is why I tend to grow mine in pots.

Friday, 25 November 2011

My Best New Plants of 2011 (part two)

Part one  of this blog took us up to May, but when I was selecting the photos for the second part I was reminded of just how early my next plant did actually bloom. Lathyrus sativus azureus burst onto the scene late April.
The garden twine in the photo helps to give a sense of scale, but the vivid blue colour ensures that these small sweet pea blooms make a big impact.

I was so pleased to flower Hymenocallis festallis finally that it got its own blog post.

In June we took a short break in Cornwall. The south west of Britain is a hot bed of independent nurseries, and one that was very much on our list to check out was Hill House Nursery in Devon. Just five minutes off of one of the main routes to the south west, this place is a delight! Choosing plants was easy - the difficult bit is deciding which plants you cannot to buy! Amongst the treasures that I left with were the following two plants.
Lobelia laxiflora was the plant that bought this nursery to my attention................
When grown in the ground in full sun this will form an impressive clump (there is a lovely example at Oxfords botanic gardens). Pot grown as I have done it makes a stunning specimen that is easy to give winter protection to (as with all Lobelia, its hardiness is borderline).

The second plant that I left with was Salvia discolor.....................
One of its common names is Blackcurrant sage as the leaves and stems smell of just that - Blackcurrant. Tender again, but well worth a place in any collection.
(I must point out that I am in no way associated with Hill House Nursery, just a very satisfied customer)

I grow Datura metel as an annual, but this year I found seeds to Datura wrightii. Seeds were sown in January and the plant was blooming by mid July. What a revelation this was! Despite the rather thin trunk, the blooms on this are HUGE! Each bloom was over 20cm across, and as fragrant as its far more glamorous cousin the Brugmansia.
As if this wasn't already my Datura of choice from now on, when I emptied the pot at the end of the season I discovered that it has a large tuber. A little research suggests that stored as you would a Dahlia tuber it will be a perennial!

For some reason I have never grown Eucomis before. Which is hard to understand when you look at this close up of E.bicolor.....................

Probably my biggest plant "event" this year was the Bat Flower. This has its own blog here.

Plumbago capensis is another that got its own blog post.

Scadoxus multiflorus is also known as the Fireball or Blood Lily. The tubers of this Amarylis relative were planted up in April, yet it sat there for most of the summer doing absolutely nothing. Then in the space of just seven days, this emerged!
The bloom lasts for a week or so, and is then replaced by the foliage which is best described as looking like a mini palm.

My final favourite of 2011 is Bessera elegans. Of the ten bulbs purchased, seven came through with just four of these producing a flower stem.
 I'm unsure as to where I went wrong, although I suspect that some of it may have been down to the cool summer. I'll try again next year and keep them in the greenhouse maybe.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

In Praise of Plumbago

This year I’ve grown Plumbago (capensis) for the first time, and to say that I’m pleased with them is an understatement!
I’ve always liked this plant and finally got some seeds over the Christmas break. Sown in January and in bloom by August!
Now that I have my own plants I like it even more – the clusters of simple flowers in the most perfect shade of sky blue are maybe as perfect as it gets.

I’ve kept two plants for myself, keeping one in the conservatory and one outdoors. The extra heat of the conservatory means that this one is a month or so ahead of the poor outdoor plant.
So as well as being easy to grow, it’s also pest free! How much better can it get – still need convincing?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tacca chantrieri

I have tried several times to grow Tacca chantrieri (Bat Flower) from seed without success. I was seriously considering ordering a small plant when I found a mature plant for sale in the last nursery that I would have thought of looking in for this plant.
The plant was in fact large enough to have flowered already. Plants of this size are expensive over here in the UK - I have seen them for sale at up to £50! This particular plant had been on sale at £30, but as the flower was  spent it was reduced to £15! So I bought it.

As you can see, it was a large plant (in a small pot). Having repotted it I put it in my conservatory and set about caring for it until it flowered the following year.
So you can imagine my delight when about six weeks later this emerged...................

Better still, it was closely followed by a second flower stalk!
After what seemed like an age, the first bract started to open..............
A week later it really was blooming as the flowers opened..........
It continued to get more dramatic as the "whiskers" lengthened.............
Three weeks after the first bract opened I had two stems blooming!

One tip that I did find that may or may not have helped me to get flowers was to make sure that the leaf axils got filled with water. Other than that, I kept the free draining compost moist. Once every couple of weeks I let it stand in a bucket of lukewarm water that has a liquid feed in for an hour or so.

Have I cheated by buying a plant. Maybe. But I did at least manage to flower it myself, and I'm more than happy with that!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

My Best New Plants of 2011 (part one)

2011 has been a hectic year! Too hectic to post on a regular basis, but I have found the time to try new plants.
So for my first blog in a while I'm going to feature my favourite newbies of the year.

The first delight bloomed in March; Pleione formosana. Depending upon your source they can have a reputation for being a bit tricky - not so! Grown in equal parts of multi-purpose compost, orchid bark, sphag moss and perlite they came up very quickly. The only special care that they got was to come indoors overnight.
After flowering, the solitary leaf emerges. Placed in a shady spot in the garden for the summer each pseudobulb produced four viable offsets for next year - this is important as the pseudobulbs tend to flower just the once.

The next gem of the year for me arrived in April; Hermodactylus tuberosus. After the hard winter of 2010/11 I had my doubts as to whether these tubers would survive. I need not have worried............
This outstanding Iris relative is already in leaf again, so hopefully should bloom earlier next spring.

Uvularia grandiflora flowered at pretty much the same time. I grew this on in a pot placed in a coldframe before planting out in March in a sheltered and shady spot.

Salvia "Wendys Wish" has bloomed prolifically since late May. Discovered growing in the garden of an Australian Salvia enthusiast it has been protected by the dreaded plant breeders rights. I this instance though I'm happy to live with this as the profits go to the Make a Wish Foundation. Unsure as to the hardiness at the moment though.........

Towards the end of May, the rare plant fair visited our area. I could have spent an absolute fortune! However, I limited myself to three plants.
The first was a replacement for one that I lost over the winter (Diplarrena morea)
The other two plants were Roscoea scillifolia.........
.........and Arisaema costatum.
I had already bought a tuber for this the previous autumn, but at this point it was a no show and I assumed that I had lost it. I ended up with two!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

If at first you don't succeed.........

...........blame the bulbs and buy better ones next time!

Four times I've tried to grow Hymenocallis festalis in the past and four times I've failed!
So when I saw some bulbs in the covered market in Oxford I almost said sod that. But they were much larger than the ones that I'd bought in the past, a good 70/80mm in size, so I grabbed a couple.

And now the first one has bloomed!

This bulb only put out the one shoot, the second bulb has put out twelve! Admittedly, only one looks likely to yield flowers, but it should mean plenty of young bulbs too.

So, if at first you fail blame the bulbs!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Spring Arrives (part one)

After what at one point seemed to be eternal winter, spring has truly arrived. In fact we now have something else to moan about - no rain! The garden is so dry.
My first blooms of spring came several weeks ago in the shape of Fritillaria meleagris. They were a bit of a shock to be honest - at the end of last summer when I was sorting my pots out I stuck some of the baby offset bulbs in fresh soil and sat it on the bench in the shed. Fast forward to early February when I spotted flower heads on these "babies".
Also known as Snakes Head Fritillary, the ones in the garden faired less well, with a lot of losses and few flowers on the survivors.

Next to burst into life was the Dwarf Iris reticulata "Katherine Hodgkin" which was added to my garden last autumn........
......which was closely followed by Scilla siberica..........

For some reason, since I moved house a couple of years ago my Daffs only just beat my Tulips into bloom. So I had to wait until the end of March for my first (and only) Daffodils to bloom. I've had these for years and have forgotten the name of them.

The next two are again new plants for me this year.
Erythronium "Kondo" despite its sheltered spot did not enjoy the winter with only one of the five tubers planted surviving. Such a little gem though, so I'll buy more and hope for the best..........

The second new plant is the star of the year for me and faired better over the winter months - Hermodactylus tuberosus..........
It thrives in full sun and chalky soil, so I planted mine in partial shade and neutral soil! However, four of the five tubers got through the freezing temperatures, so there they will stay.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque flower) was an impulse buy from the bargain bin last summer, and to be honest I had completely forgotten about it until the blooms poked through!

One of the surprising survivors was Eccromocarpus scaber (Chilean Glory Flower), which according to the text books here in the UK is a tender perennial. No way! This remained green all winter, and despite being "summer" flowering (according to the same text books) it was back in bloom at the start of April!

Tulips always confirm the arrival of spring, and I now have three varieties in bloom.
"Little Beauty" is a dwarf variety.......

A rogue bloom next.......
Followed by my favourite - "Queen of the Night". The colour appears a little washed out on them this year, but it's still a great Tulip........

The downside to spring is discovering what has been lost to the cold weather, and losses this year have been particularly heavy - all my Lobelia "Queen Victoria", Penstemon "Electric Blue", Tricyrtis hirta and a climbing Aconitum being the most notable and keenly felt.

Thanks for looking!