Six on Saturday – 21/12/2019

The output from my solar panels gives me a check on how much we’ve seen of the sun this month and it’s not a lot. It’s still already higher than for the whole of December last year though. The total for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week wouldn’t have brewed a cup of tea. In theory it improves from tomorrow. As befits an on the cusp date, I have gone for three more overlooked things and three harbingers of better things to come.

Eucryphia lucida ‘Gilt Edge’. My researches for this took me to the website of Trees and Shrubs online, a truly great trove of information. Eucryphia lucida is one of the two Tasmanian species, the other being milliganii, which I also have. It is the source of 70% of Tasmanian honey, so vital to their apicultural industry. Ken Gillanders, a Tasmanian nurseryman, engaged the services of beekeepers taking their hives out into the areas where Eucryphia grows, to look out for any interesting forms, like variegated leaves or pink flowers, which he then collected and introduced. According to Trees and Shrubs online, ‘Gilt Edge’ is distinguished from other variegated forms by having trifoliate leaves, which is at odds with the species and may be a mutation. Mine mostly has simple leaves but there are some trifoliate ones as well. My plant is now as tall as me but still hasn’t flowered.

Phormium tenax ‘Platt’s Black’. I dug out Phormium ‘Bronze Baby’ when its leaves were six feet high and the flower stems half as much again and resolved never to plant another Phormium. Sue turned up with this one day and I bit my tongue hard and it kicked around in its pot for a couple of years before I planted it. So far it has stayed small, about two feet, but I still don’t trust it. I don’t much like it either, dull thing.

Lophomyrtus bullata ‘Kathryn’. Or Myrtus if you prefer, there being nothing very significant to distinguish the two New Zealand species of Lophomyrtus. We planted this in the garden many years ago and it has survived but scarcely thrived. This plant is in a pot and is happier. It has occasionally produced typical myrtle flowers, small white pom-poms of stamens backed by white petals.

The items above I’ve had for years and never included, this one by contrast is a new addition for me this year. The Early Show at Rosemoor in March included a daffodil competition and I greatly admired pans of miniature daffodils and resolved to try to grow some myself. It’ll be a few years before this pot of Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Julia Jane’ fills out to be a show contender. I suppose I could have remortgaged the house and bought ten times as many bulbs. If they’re gonna make a habit of flowering in December they’re not going to be much good for a March show.

Camellia ‘Quintessence’. The Camellia species lutchuensis is a parent in a number of varieties that I grow and what it brings with it is fragrance. ‘Quintessence’ doesn’t seem to me to be quite hardy enough to thrive outdoors so I’ve kept it in a pot and it has grown slowly and with a low spreading habit. Like my other lutchuensis hybrids it flowers very early, though it would be later if growing outdoors. It was raised in New Zealand.

Clematis new growth. I am always slightly wrongfooted by how early Clematis start to make new growth. They are going to get cut down in February and that will remove all the buds that have started into growth so the plant has to start again from dormant buds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the growth get badly frosted so I’m left wondering what would happen if they were pruned in November so that the new shoots when they come could grow unimpeded. If left unpruned the shoots growing now would be the ones that would flower, and probably earlier than if it got cut back in February. I’d be interested to hear any views on the subject.

Goody, more rain. Another Met Office warning today and tomorrow. More armchair gardening, mostly in the form of blog reading. Links as ever at The Propagator. Have a good Christmas everyone.

28 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 21/12/2019

  1. Hi Fred, I love the Phormium tenax ‘Platt’s Black’. 🙂 It’s colour surely must brighten up winter greys? Mine never grew well and was always susptible to the white furry bugs that lived in the crown.

    Feliz Natal 🙂


    1. The Platt’s Black isn’t really colourful and doesn’t brighten anything really. I tend to think the only place for nearly black foliage in a garden is in association with something contrasting, as in yellow leaved. In their own right they’re just gloomy.


  2. I didn’t know the Lophomyrtus. A kind of plants you don’t see around here.
    About clematis, mine also had new buds in november but I already cut 2 of them 40cm from the ground 2 weeks ago. So that they have time to redo new buds in spring. I left 2 others shorter without buds until spring


  3. The Myrtus is lovely, I like the red-purple-bronze foliage. There are so many of these New Zealand shrubs that grow particularly well down here in Cornwall that I get very confused. Your daffs are pretty. Not one I grow, though I have planted several dwarf species this year. A nice bit of sunshine in this dull weather. I see a glimmer of blue sky now, just before it gets dark!! And the camellia is gorgeous.


    1. The glimmer of blue sky didn’t make it up this far before dark. You’re right about the New Zealand shrubs, I grow Pittosporum, Coprosma, Muehlenbeckia, Leptospermum, Ozothamnus, Lophomyrtus, Fuchsia; all a bit borderline hardy. Where are my Hebes, Pseudowintera, Corokia?

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  4. I was looking at some December photos from last year and there was definitely sunshine in many of them . Your camellia is beautiful and so healthy looking. I think mine may benefit from being planted out into the flowerbed. Have a good Christmas and roll on spring!


    1. I should pretend that you’re right about that Camellia being healthy but it’s actually in a bit of a state. It was smothered in scale insects, I’ve squashed most but there are still some; it’s desperately hungry and pot bound too. I look at it with equal measures of guilt and pleasure.


  5. Eucryphia – I think that is also known as leatherwood? A beekeeping friend of mine told me that Tasmanian honey is quite a delicacy. Apparently the leatherwood grows wild but only in the middle of inaccessible old forests so the bees and bee keepers have to camp out in the middle of summer for a few weeks to gather the nectar. The key to getting these ‘mono floral’ honeys is to make sure that the bees only have access to one type of forage so you need to be right in the heart of it when it blossoms. Goodness knows what is going to happen to that habitat in generations to come given the precarious state of woodland in Australia just now…


    1. I could write reams in response but the reality is that everyone who is not deliberately shutting their eyes and ears is aware of what is happening, why, and broadly what needs to be done about it. We need leadership, but there’s nothing in it for leaders to try to take their countries forward if the rest don’t follow. I’m not optimistic.


  6. I had Lophomyrtus x ralphii ‘Black Pearl for some time when it was very happy in its pot…then gave up when planted in the garden. Is that similar? I wonder whether you could keep the daff bulbs in the fridge and plant them late and start them x days before the show? I am sure exhibitors employ lots of clever ways to achieve the required show bench perfection. Your Narcissi are always a winner as far as I am concerned.


    1. I think some of the borderline hardy things like Lophomyrtus and Coprosma can be grown harder in pots, toughened up by having low nutrients and not quite enough water, then you put them in the garden and they grow softer and get trashed by a frost they’d have shrugged off in the pot. Also, if you get really harsh weather you can move them somewhere more protected, even if it’s just pushed under and evergreen bush in the garden.


  7. Interesting thoughts on clematis pruning. I should get out and look at mine. I have got into the habit of a Feb prune but at as you say sometimes it seems to have romped away well before then. I find myself wondering how many plants you have in your garden. There is always something new and often completely unknown to me. A miniature botanical garden. Also interested by your solar panels – worth the outlay? Or should I be thinking of the bigger picture?


    1. My Clematis have now been pruned. I shall report on apparent success or failure in due course. There’s a tab on my blog with a list of the plants I grow. It’ll be out of date, in fact you’ve prodded me into thinking about updating it. Solar panels: quite hard to say whether in financial terms they’re worth it. I keep note of how much they generate but some of that we use and some is surplus to what we need at the time. You’d need to have a very good idea of what you were using in the years before they were installed, what you are using with them plus the figures for feed in tariff. We have tried to change our usage to make best use of our own power, doing the washing in the middle of the day for example. I’m pretty certain it must reach a break even point somewhere towards the ten year mark, after that it’s probably down to how trouble free it is thereafter. A new inverter wouldn’t come cheap.


  8. That narcissus is rad. It really looks unique and different from the familiar. (I am not often a fan of the strange.)
    Behind the Phormium, I couldn’t help but notice the palm.


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