Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cardiocrinum giganteum - The slumbering giant.

We are in the middle of another cold snap just now, for the last week or so temperatures have hovered around freezing day and night, there have been one or two sprinklings of snow and, apart from a couple of sunny days, it has been overcast. Walking round the garden on the hard ground one can spot the stirrings of many bulbs and herbaceous perennials but non inspire more than the sight of some heavy duty crowns of Cardiocrinum giganteum emerging with the promise of flowers in late June. Last year was the first time in the last seven when no flowers emerged as the offshoot bulbs had not attained flowering size, the flowering bulbs having died after they have done their work.

Cardiocrinum giganteum (syn. Lilium giganteum)
  A member of the Liliaceae Family probably deriving its name from the Greek cardio = heart from the shape of the leaves and crinum - lily. A heavy feeder, this giant Himalayan lily thrives in the semi shade at the edge of woodland. The leaves are very susceptible to slug damage and now of course the ubiquitous lily beetle which I either poison or crush. The gloriously powerful scent can be detected from a distance especially on a warm evening of which we seem to have had so few in recent years.

Propagation can be from autumn sown seed the plants taking around six years to flower. Offsets can be removed from the side of the flowering crown which dies in October and grown on or left to develop in situ giving an element of naturalisation. 

In this month's RHS magazine I was interested to read about the new temperature guide to RHS hardiness ratings, all very interesting. The article made it clear that the RHS were going all out for the retailers to publicise the guide to the general public to encourage better understanding. Good luck with that then!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The First Signs.

Early flowering Rhododendron cultivar with the blooms damaged by cold.

Rhododendron cultivar showing indumentum.

I was given this rhododendron many years ago and have forgotten its name, if anyone recognises it please let me know. The picture above shows that the underside of the leaves are coated with indumentum.  Rhododendrons are members of the Ericaceae Family and are, for the most part, a genus of evergreen flowering shrubs some require a sheltered spot to protect early flower buds and many prefer some shade. The genus also includes Azaleas which are both evergreen and deciduous. There are several methods of propagation available to the gardener, try cold sowing in late winter or spring, there may well be some variations from type and germination can be very erratic. Tip cuttings can be taken from some of the azalea types but wounding, 'layering' or even aerial layering of the larger shrubs can be quite successful.

Early primrose type Primula 'True Blue' is showing flower
  As I walk round the garden several other species are beginning to show flower, early primroses, snowdrops and hellebore hybrids are amongst the true harbingers of spring. The subject of Primulas is extensive and the Primulaceae Family probably contains more of my favourite plants than any other. They are indispensable, mainly spring flowering plants, far too big a genus to go into here but the Asiatic branch of the family suit my growing conditions almost perfectly. Propagation of hardy species is from fresh seed, sown on the surface or covered very lightly with grit, some are best sown green. Division after flowering for primroses etc. or even from root cuttings as with Primula denticulata.
Helleborus cultivar.
A member of the Ranunculaceae Family and originating from Europe and the East Mediterranean region, hellebores are popular early spring flowering plants which prefer moist but well drained leafy soil in light shade. There are hundreds of variations now available as much hybridisation has been carried out. The best method of propagation is from fresh seed, however for named varieties division is possible in the late summer although they are sometimes slow to re-establish.

If cold sowing was not done in the late autumn this is the best time of the year to start when there is still plenty of frost around to chill the seed and the temperatures are low enough to discourage premature germination. I am sowing mainly primulas, meconopsis and aquilegia all of which is home collected and has been stored in a refrigerator in a sealed container. For more information go to the Propagation Page.