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.


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