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!