My seven weeks in Oz is now, sadly, a fast receding memory. On my last day I did a bit of gardening. The Strelitzia nicolae was getting very tall and leaning against the neighbour’s fence. It suckers freely so it’s a case of taking out one or two of the tallest stems each year. Sadly a bloom had just opened on the tallest stem. A few seeds came home with me; it’d probably be for the best if they failed to grow.
My first impression on Tuesday, when I took a first spin round the garden here, was how little had changed while I’d been away. A Pittosporum is listing badly and some bamboo stems have come down: it’s been windy. Fuchsia microphylla is still in leaf and flowering: it hasn’t been particularly cold. The lid had blown off the dustbin, which was nearly full of water: it’s been very wet.
Six things from my own garden this week then, for my contribution to The Propagator’s six on Saturday thing. It’s great to see new people joining in.
How the weeds have grown! Pathetic that the most obvious difference after two months away is the weeds. Speedwell and bittercress mostly, both of which are flowering and will seed everywhere unless removed expeditiously. I’m not keen to get out there, it feels bloody cold. Contrast: Chopping Strelitzia at 35°C against weeding on hands and knees at 6°C.
Hakonechloa macra ‘Mediovariegata’. I think I may have mentioned before that I am a Hakonechloa enthusiast. This one seems to be the most resilient in winter conditions and while it’s now getting a bit scruffy, it’s still the brightest patch of colour in the garden except for one early camellia. It will get cut to the ground in a week or two. H. macra ‘Albostriata’ is probably the same thing and may well be the correct name.
The aforementioned Camellia is this one. I grew it from seed of Camellia reticulata ‘Mary Williams’, a single pink that is basically the wild form of the species. It’s a free flowering semi-double in a vivid shade of pink and I hope it will produce even larger blooms once it’s properly established.
Camellia ‘Minato-no-akebono’. That translates as ‘Harbour at Dawn’. This is a Japanese raised hybrid between C. japonica ‘Kantô-tsukimiguruma’ and C. lutchuensis that was released in 1981. For me it starts flowering very early, in December or January, and carries on until March. The flowers are sweetly scented, very different from the autumn flowering sasanquas, and drop before they fade. The new growth also starts very early and is reddish.
Cyclamen coum. I’ve planted several of these in different places over the last couple of years. Some have failed, some have lived and flowered and this one has produced a rash of seedlings. I wish I knew what the secret of success was, they’re all in similar conditions.
Polygonatum mengzense F. tonkinensis HWJ567. The number at the end tells a story. H is Dan Hinkley, plant hunter, writer and nurseryman; WJ is Bleddyn Wynn-Jones of Crûg Farm Plants. Crûg had a stand at the rare plant fair held at Tregrehan last year. I bought it because I already had a different form, HWJ573, which I bought from Barracott Plants a couple of years earlier and which I like very much. Both were collected as seed from the highest mountain in Vietnam, in 1999.
HWJ573 had loads of berries last year which ripened bright red and stayed for months. I collected some and sowed the seeds, which germinated very well. This year it has far fewer berries and they’re still green, whereas those on HW567 are bright red. I’ll collect some and sow the seed, but later.
The berries are only part of the appeal; this is a plant that I will be featuring again. One thing you will notice though, is that unlike most Polygonatums, it is evergreen.
On the whole it’s good to be back. I enjoy visiting Australia but I wouldn’t really want to live there. I’ve been gardening here too long, I’d have to learn it all over again out there. And there’s a lot to be said for our comparatively benign climate.