Sunday, 11 June 2017

Two Madeiran Geraniums

Geranium maderense and Geranium palmatum.

Last year I decided to sow some geranium seeds and as is my habit acquired several species without really researching their cultivation although I did know that Geranium maderense was half-hardy. First I have to admit that neither of these plants is a well grown specimen, they both suffer from not being grown-on properly during their first year and have not attained the true stature of their species due to a combination of neglect and a degree of ignorance. There are far better specimens pictured on the internet should you wish to view them, but these, I hope, will suffice to illustrate the difference between the two similar and often mistaken species. 

Geranium maderense
 Hailing from Madeira, Geranium maderense is the Goliath amongst geraniums often attaining as much as 4' in both height and width and even larger. The Madeiran Cranes-bill or Giant Herb Robert is normally grown as a biennial but some authors describe it as flowering after three or four years either way it appears to be monocarpic although there are some references of it lasting as a short lived perennial, take your pick! My plant came from seed sown in early spring last year and unfortunately was the only one that the seed produced, probably because the seed was cold sown in the manner of its hardier relatives and would have benefited from a bit of heat. I left it in my poly tunnel over winter and due to the mild winter it survived. The pot it was in was too small which restricted its growth and probably contributed to the flower stems appearing early, I then realised what I had and brought it into the porch for safe keeping. Ideally the plant should be well fed and brought on quickly in its first growing year to establish a large crown supported by the leaf stems which grow downwards and form a support as other than this the whole thing is only supported by a woody tap-root. In my ignorance I cut off the dead leaf stems to "neaten it up" but this is a definite taboo which can result in the crown snapping off with the weight of the canopy.

Geranium palmatum
Hailing from Madeira but also known as the Canary Island Geranium, this species is slightly smaller than Geranium maderense but is often billed as a hardy perennial although I would discount this for my location without giving it winter protection and regard it as more suitable for cultivation in a cold house. This plant is the sole survivor from seven seedlings being the only one that wasn't pricked out early but left in the original pot as the "runt of the litter" all its siblings damped off which I think was related to the difficulty in transplanting due to the thread like tap root, if I was to grow either of these geraniums again I would consider sowing into cells one or two seeds at a time for ease of handling, even though the seed is very small it would be worth the extra effort. 

From the pictures above it can be seen that Geranium maderense has finer foliage than the fleshier leaves of Geranium palmatum.

Geranium maderense
 Although in my ignorance I butchered them you can see how the leaf stems are meant to form a support for the woody tap-root.
Geranium palmatum
In the case of Geranium palmatum, although there is still a central woody tap-root the leaf stems grow almost horizontally.

Geranium maderense

Geranium palmatum
Although they both have typical geranium flowers and are very similar in colour Geranium palmatum has clear spacing between the petals.

I have described how not to grow these plants and hopefully indicated how it should be done, if you have a suitable spot in an area with mild winters, a cold greenhouse or a conservatory both are are worth a go as they do have a long flowering period and properly grown specimens, particularly of Geranium maderense, are spectacular. 

Primula x kewensis
Whilst on the subject of half-hardy plants another plant, from one of my favourite genera, which is best grown in a cold house or alpine house is Primula x kewensis. Raised at Kew from a cross between Primula verticillata and Primula floribunda it is a member of Section Floribundae and flowers during the winter months.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The final spring?

This will probably be the last year for my garden, down-sizing is on the agenda in the near future so without any idea of where exactly I am going my thoughts have turned to taking some plants with me. The house is of a size and in an area which is attractive to young families but the garden is probably not so attractive being described by my neighbour, who has a large family, as "beautiful, but high maintenance". He has large areas of grass and a maintenance contract with the mow and blow boys. Although I am contemplating possibly returning one central bed to grass I don't think I can bring myself to do it.

In the meantime we are back to business as usual after a long break so here are are the usual spring flowering suspect, plus one or two that are less familiar. Firstly the mainstay of early colour the Hellebores: 

Helleborus argutifolius
Everyone knows the Corsican Hellebore, previously known as Helleborus corsicus but still the acid green flowers are a staple of winter and early spring. 

Helleborus foetidus
Another example of winter and spring colour the Stinking Hellebore is a plant which is found growing wild in this country and I remember a story I heard  years ago that there was some controversy, possibly when shown at Chelsea or even when it was put forward for an AGM, over whether or not it could be classified as a garden plant or discarded as a weed! Although often referred to as growing on limestone does just fine in our acid soil.

Helleborus cultivar

Helleborus cultivar

Helleborus cultivar
The few examples above of Helleborus x hybridus just illustrate how useful this genus is.

Another source of early interest are the pulmonarias or lungworts:

Pulmonaria saccharata 'Pink Dawn'
A robust grower, I am not entirely sure that this is actually Pulmonaria saccharata or a form of Pulmonaria officianalis but as the flowers remain pink I am opting for the former.

Pulmonaria 'Ice Ballet'

Pulmonaria longifolia 'Majesté'

Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'
The three cultivars illustrated above are young plants which are not performing as they should probably because the situation they are in is too dry but serve to illustrate some of the variations in this genus.

Bergenia cordifolia
If you can keep on top of the unsightly leaves, often a symptom of being in a situation which is too dry, this is a rewarding plant which can be used on north facing sites.

Below are a few more pictures from the spring garden.

Camellia japonica 'Adolphe Audusson'

Fritillaria meleagris
Anemone nemorosa

Pulsatilla halleri
A much choicer and more delicate species than Pulsatilla vulgaris, Pulsatilla halleri is generally found on calcareous soils in some European alpine regions. This particular plant was grown from seed.

Rheum palmatum tangutica
The bright red undersides of the emerging leaves of this "rhubarb" can be seen from a distance even on the dullest of days and really come into their own when back-lit by the sun.

Skimmia japonica rubra
Now roughly a metre in height and width this skimmia has really come into its own this year about three years after it was planted. The winter buds were a really deep red and the scent knocks you over. When seen in the nursery in their pots these plants look superb when in flower and everyone rushes to buy however I have always found that they take at least a couple of years before they return to anything like their original display.

Trillium rivale
This little gem illustrates one of the benefits of obtaining society seed when you have little or no idea of what you are getting. Probably listed as a second choice these delightful little trilliums are flowering at the beginning of their third season from sowing, much quicker than some of their fellow species which can take five to seven years. 

Primula farinosa (Section Farinosae)
An easy to grow early spring flowering primula, the Farinosae has many species which, although not too different from one another, offer plants which are easy to grow from seed which flower about twelve months from sowing.

Meconopsis walachii
A rosette of Meconopsis walachii which has come through a very wet few months without damage and is now going to flower before dying.

Meconopsis walachii RIP.
This one didn't make it along with several others within a foot from the one that did giving an exceptional 75% failure rate this winter.

Returning to my favourite subject the RHS have had incidents of herbicide contamination from peat-free composts this year, would you believe it? They are also able to suggest that to avoid this we use their recommended product which incidentally costs roughly three times the price of a standard compost, peat-free or otherwise. 

After my long absence I hope to be contributing more regularly again as the future unfolds.

Monday, 19 September 2016

August lily time.

I am afraid I have let things in the garden get very much out of hand this year, the main reason has been some of the atrocious weather we have been having, we have not experienced a full 7 days of rain-free warm sunshine throughout the whole summer. The other thing is that my 91 year old mother fell and broke her hip and due to complications is still in hospital over 10 weeks later, those of you who have had to do it will know how disruptive long term hospital visiting can be.

Heptacodium miconioides
At the bottom of the back steps Heptacodium miconioides, a relative of the honeysuckle, contrasts well with the dark leaves of the Cotinus.   

Abutilon hybrids.
I quite like these Abutilon hybrids although the flowers are sometimes difficult to view, the leaf shape is interesting and although classed as HHP they are easy to raise from seed as annuals as these were.

Begonia basket
 This is one of two identical containers which was left out last winter, both the begonias and the fuchsia, which has few flowers due to lack of attention, came through the winter and lived to bloom another year.

Main border
A view away from the house down the main border. I am always short of border colour at this time of the year so added a few dahlias with mixed results. They were all started in pots in the porch but probably didn't get enough light which, combined with the poor weather when they were planted out, has caused them to flower very late.

Dahlia 'Café au Lait'
Two things about this dahlia, I had no idea the flowers are so big and secondly until I Googled it after I had bought it I also had no idea that it is currently so popular but I do have to say I quite like it.

 Not Dahlia 'Mel's Orange Marmalade'
Purchased as 'Mel's Orange Marmalade' I don't think this one could be more opposite.

Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker'
Here is a thug being put to good use, Lysimachia ciliata 'Firecracker' can be rampant especially in a damp spot but here it grows slowly in dry shade with the little yellow flowers lighting up a dull corner. Notice the mildew on the berberis it is there every year.

Gentiana tibetica
 Here is one for the bin, the flowers opened just once this year on an exceptionally sunny day and to be quite honest the plant didn't look all that different the flowers being a rather insipid greenish white.
Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa Group'
You see many specimens of Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa Group' in Scotland where it is very popular. Mine has come into its own in the third year from planting after the flowers were hit by frost last year. ideal for a woodland setting but does not like to dry out.  
August was the month for lilies and the healthy ones never fail to please.

August container group.

Lilium 'Anastasia' and Meconopsis walachii.

Looking past 'Anastasia' to Lilium Honeymoon in the background.

Lilium 'Honeymoon' with Lysimachia ephemerum in the foreground.

Chelone obliqua
Chelone obliqua this turtlehead adds some colour to the autumn woodland, the plant is very tough and could become invasive in a spot that really suited it.

Strobilanthes wallichii
Strobilanthes wallichii sometimes known as the Kashmir acanthus is a very hardy Himalayan plant which adds late colour to the garden.

Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima'

 Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima' may be a "thug" but it does light up a corner of the woodland, and as you have probably noticed most of the plants I grow have to be tough.

Rosa omeiensis pteracantha
Here's one you don't see every day, Rosa omeiensis pteracantha, sometimes known as the Barbed Wire Rose, is a Chinese import from Himalayan conditions this wild rose carries these exceptional, brightly coloured thorns on the new growth.
Front view.
Growing Cannas for the fist time I am quite pleased with the results, these are not tall growing varieties and have achieved what I wanted. The Surfinas also have done surprisingly well. 
Canna 'Cannova' F1

It would seem that I have been describing and suffering from too many pests and diseases this year.

Lily virus
Time for the bin.
The pictures above show Lily virus, it could be Lily symptomless virus, mosaic virus or even Tulip breaking virus take your pick, all of which are spread by aphids. There could even be a touch of Botrytis in there! Solution bin or burn.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

July - emerging from the gloom.

What a disaster until a week or so ago, blooms rotting off before they open and standing water in July. This post is a compilation of what seems to be the best of a bad job as we have at last been treated to some sun now.

Primula florindae and Iris ensata along with Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff also a Polygonum showing colour. 

What I like about geraniums is that some have the ability to weave in and out of other plants without being detrimental yet adding splashes of colour. Geranium × oxonianum 'Wargrave Pink' is doing just that.

The delightful little Astilbe from the background in the above picture. its name is lost in the mists of time but I think Astilbes are wonderful plants, providing colour at just the right time.

The Japanese Water Iris (Iris ensata), Polygonum, Primula florindae, a white campanula and  Spiraea japonica 'Golden Princess' are adding a touch of colour.

Two groups of containers with some lilies just breaking bud. Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' is so useful for pots but the foliage does not age too well.  

Lamium maculatum 'Beacon Silver' partnered with Sedum Jose Aubergine

The second group is fronted by Geranium oxonianum 'Katherine Adele'. Campanula 'Sarastro' is next to it but has finished flowering and will be replaced.

Campanula 'Sarastro' note the tiny flowers of Geranium pyrenaicum alba, these charming plants seed themselves into everything and come back year after year.

Another view with the Cotinus coggygria 'Grace' growing away in rampant fashion to dominate the area, I sometimes have to cut it back mid-season.

The Front Garden

There are not many pictures on the site of my front garden other than those of problems, more later.

I seem to be acquiring a love of hardy geraniums here we have the super award winning Geranium 'Rozanne', maybe not everyone's choice for the situation but 'Rozanne' being sterile just keeps on flowering. 

Front garden view includes Polygonum microcephalum 'Red Dragon ', unknown Verbena courtesy of Roger and several others including alliums and Rudbeckia hirta.

View up the path to the front door I used to put loads of containers down the path but because of poor summers stopped, this year I have gone overboard and used Cannas and bedding plants such as petunias to put on a bit of a show.

Unknown Canna cultivar.

A mishmash of mainly Geraniums but remarkably a self sown group of Sisyrinchium striatum from a clump that died out because of encroaching shade two years ago.

Okay its common but Lysimachia vulgaris (Yellow Loosestrife)is a great reliable plant which will thrive in adverse conditions, here it sits next to Digitalis purpurea yet another common native in shade, I enjoy growing those plants which can be described as "difficult" but at the end of the day you just have to love native plants.

Creeping around in deep shade Geranium wallichianum set off by the falling needles.

Cedrus atlantica glauca needle drop.
This is the bad news, needle drop is caused by a fungus which is triggered by temperature. The cold spring seems to have played a part, when the temperatures rose very quickly earlier this year, albeit for a short time, it created the worst attack I have seen leading to massive needle drop.   

At first a sort of attractive pinkish colouration appears.

Followed by a massive needle drop, all the brown areas are now denuded and much worse.
Good stuff

After the doom and gloom here are a few plants which inspire:

Francoa sonchifolia 'Pink Giant' Reliable hardy perennial, soft green scalloped foliage sets off the pink spires of flower. (Plant World Seeds)

Dregea sinensis, Chinese climber known as the hardy Hoya or Wax-flower, Hoyas were once a popular house plant. Grown from seed this rather exotic climber proves easy to grow even with me.
The pure simplicity of a specie rose, Rosa glauca.
The "Meconopsis Bed"

Things are moving, as the big blue poppies are finishing Meconopsis walichii is coming into flower amongst the lilies and Ligularia przewalskii.

 Meconopsis bed pictures, note the Rodgersia leaves 
After a terrible spring which has seen the failure of many a plant things seem to be getting back to normal.