Six on Saturday – 30/1/2021

How time flies when you’re doing jigsaw puzzles. January down. Hopefully this year will go better than last but I’m not holding my breath. At least the days are beginning to lengthen and the temperature’s up a bit, meaning that a bit got done in the garden this week.

One.
Scale insect. I never like to see brown blotches on the leaves of evergreen shrubs; the years I spent fighting sudden oak death on the nursery have made me super cautious. I spotted a leaf on one of my Camellias that I didn’t like the look of so I picked it off before it had a chance to spread and on the underside it was infested with scale. There was plenty of black sooty mould on the tops of the leaves, I knew it was there really but had been pretending otherwise. I spent a happy half hour carefully rubbing them off between finger and thumb. The leaf blotches are not sudden oak death.

Two.
On the subject of pests, I did a bit of tidying up around the garden and was seeing horrifying numbers of slugs. I left fallen leaves where they landed except when they were smothering low plants or on the paths. Now what I’m finding is that the leaves are providing perfect cover for slugs. I’d also collected multiple bags of leaves from another garden, shredded them quite finely and used them as a mulch. Far fewer slugs, but it has made a bit of a mat that the smaller bulbs are struggling with a bit. Next year I’ll shred the leaves and spread it thinner; perhaps bag up some for a top up mulch if needed.

Three.
I am growing on several Camellias for the Mt Edgcumbe National Collection and this one is labelled ‘Optima’, which I know is wrong from the leaf. I’d made a guess as to what it was and was expecting it to have small pink flowers but it’s just opened up and is white, and scented. I can now put a name to it, it’s ‘Ariel’s Song’, a hybrid of C. fraterna and C. tsaii. It’s a lovely variety, I have one in the garden which will flower later on.

Four.
Camellia ‘Adorable’. ‘Ariel’s Song’ is all subtlety and understatement, ‘Adorable’ is such an intense colour it almost hurts your eyes and I cannot get a photo of it that looks right to save my life. Believe it or not, there are others that are even worse to photograph; ‘Jean Claris’ and ‘Anticipation’, to name but two.

Five.
We ventured out yesterday and I came back with three shoots from an apple tree from which I had collected a big bag of windfalls back in about November. I don’t know what it is but reckon it’s too good not to add to my growing family tree. It brings the number of varieties on it to seven, assuming the grafts take.

Six.
Chrysoplenium macrophyllum. This is a repeat of something I put in two weeks back. The flowers are fully open now so you get a better idea of its quality. I have this growing in my bog garden and in summer it is overwhelmed by Impatiens omeiana and Astilbes. It seems to be holding its own pretty well and does its thing when the rest are still below ground.

Looking at the forecast, it’s another jigsaw day. As much as it’s hard to get anything done, there isn’t really very much needs doing. Birdwatch weekend, probably should have done it yesterday when there was a bit of sun but it’s on the agenda for today. And repeat visits to The Propagator for my SoS fix. That’s Sunday sorted.

51 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 30/1/2021

  1. I have often asked myself the question of the size of my leaf mulch because indeed slugs, small snails and certain insects hide underneath during the winter … Not easy to protect and feed the soil without giving these little ones too much luck.
    This camellia is a beauty!
    Nice grafting job. When they have set, will you cut down the big branches next to them or will you leave them to have more varieties on the same tree?

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      1. I’ve read it (and reread it today) and yes it’s the right way to graft apples. I have rootstocks with my old trees but no new varieties of scions. I have to ask the neighboring nurseries if they have any to sell or to give …Thanks

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  2. I must say that fallen leaves don’t seem to add to the slug population here. One corner of the garden seems to be the natural collection point for fallen leaves – due to wind direction and other factors, I imagine. In early winter, this can be 10 – 15cm deep but is settling at this time of the year. It is enough to hide labels and snowdrops etc have to do a little extra pushing to get through but I feel it is good for the soil and the plants and see no slug damage as a result.

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    1. The slugs are only a problem because I want to grow things that are susceptible to them to the point of being destroyed by being eaten as fast as they grow in spring. It was campanula takesimana trying to get going in the leafy picture. Around such plants I need a mulch to protect and improve the soil that doesn’t harbour slugs.

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  3. Are the apple cuttings from another person’s tree or one of the wayside or wild ones which have great tasting fruit? Thanks for posting a good guide to grafting apples.

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    1. The tree was overhanging the boundary of a friend of ours who we visited yesterday to plant some tree whips. So it was an illegal trip and the scions were stolen from her neighbour. Please don’t tell anyone.

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      1. Planting trees is ‘essential work’, and cutting back of trees overhanging your boundary is also permitted. I think everything in Cornwall is permitted so long as there are no tourists in view!

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  4. I love the contrast between the two Camellias. You’re right – couldn’t be more different! Also, thanks for the update on the Chrysoplenium – looking even better than last time.

    Enjoy your jigsaws! I think I’m going to save my trip to the allotment for another day. As you say – there’s always SoS to keep us entertained.

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    1. As much as I like both Camellias, all those I’ve planted in recent years have been inclined toward the ‘Ariel’s Song’ end of the spectrum. I don’t think it’s just me, people are looking for a more natural look and good scent is a big bonus with some of the Camellias. of that sort.

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  5. Ariel’s song is lovely, it’s more to my taste than Adorable! Interesting to see how you do grafts on apple trees – so does that mean you get two kinds of apple growing on the same tree? I also leave leaves on the beds, luckily the song thrush and blackbirds hunt for slugs.

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      1. That’s amazing, seven varieties on one tree. Thanks for the link. We have a largely unproductive very old Cox tree, I wonder if it would work, you may have encouraged me to try it. Does it need to be done at this time of year?

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  6. I love everything (I know) about Ariel’s Dream, such a beautiful flower and name. You are forever reminding me of plants I once knew and loved, this week’s is the chrysoplenium. Happy jigsawing, I’ll send you my Great Wave if I ever finish it!

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  7. I’m fascinated by scale insects but am fortunate only to get them on my houseplants – never outdoors. I guess it’s mild where you are. I learned recently that once they have found I spot they like they stay put, hence why you can rub them off, but that tiny tiny baby crawlers will still be present. I took a photo with my phone and zoomed in and sure enough there were the little babies. It makes it so much harder to break the cycle! I loved your beautiful camellias as ever.

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    1. As far as I know, outdoor scales release crawlers around April-May, they’re mobile for a few weeks then they settle down and stay put. It’s when they’re most vulnerable to insecticides, not that I ever bother. Indoors they’ll be breeding and having young all year.

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  8. I was not aware that Sudden Oak Death Syndrome was a serious problem there. It put us out of business for a year, and in the end, we got blamed for spreading it. It killed hundreds of oaks at the farm, and quite a few here as well. One of the dead tanoaks that had been standing and rotting for years recently fell during a storm. I see the brown tips on several tanoaks, but none of them actually die nowadays. However, I just yesterday noticed that one of the coast live oaks that had been surviving with it for a few years is now deceased.

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    1. It turned out not to be a threat to our oaks but has run riot through wild rhododendron ponticum. A bad infection in Rhododendron can spread into adjacent beech and kill them. The other thing it took out was larch, which is grown here on a small scale for forestry. Most has now been felled. The disease had been here 20 years before it started to affect larch, which was odd. In the nursery it affected a lot of things, especially Camellias and Rhododendrons.

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  9. I appreciate you sharing a plant problem and what you did to address it. I also left a rather thick blanket of dead leaves to insulate my plants over winter, but, like you, am considering chopping them up a bit next year. In general, I’m not a huge fan of camellias, but the Ariel’s Song is lovely, with its bashful bell-shaped flowers. And scented too?! I may have to reconsider.

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    1. It’s a risky business, deciding you don’t like a whole genus of plants. There’s nearly always some rare little gem waiting in the wings to snare you in its charms. I thought when I chopped the leaves that they’d get worked in to the soil quite quickly, but that hasn’t happened. Maybe as the weather warms it’ll get taken down.

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      1. Yes, I know that prejudices where plants are concerned are hard to defend. Fortunately, there are so many plants that I approve of wholeheartedly that I will never find room for all of them in my garden. Yes, the leaves in my garden have not noticably diminished in size. Of late, I find myself scraping hopefully around the base of plants in search of growth. I figure, if the leaves aren’t fully decayed by spring, I will move them into my pile of future leaf mold and take a gander before blanketing again with a mulch of straw.

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      2. I’ve been going along with the notion that nature doesn’t remove fallen leaves and other plant debris off site, compost it down for a year then bring it back. We do that, for tidiness and general convenience, but presumably the soil misses out on what should be happening in that early phase of organic breakdown. A garden, especially a vegetable garden, is not really very close to a natural system anyway. In a woodland leaves would fall on top of last year’s leaves and all the right fungi and bacteria would be ready to pounce on the new stuff. Maybe.

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  10. Ariel’s song is a beauty. And the grafting looks magnificent. Glad you dealt with scale insect, I ignored a house plant for at least a year that was dropping sap over the wooden floor. It spent the summer outside waiting for my good intentions to materialise but I never got round to soap spraying it. Eventually it went in the green bin. Enjoy the puzzles, we actually have dry weather here today…

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    1. When I get started on a puzzle I have great difficulty dragging myself away to do other things. I came across a Youtube video about spraying scale with a mix of water, baby oil and a couple of drops of washing up liquid. I may try it sometime.

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  11. Ok, I’m all excited because you’re showing plants I’ve not seen before. C. ‘Ariel’s Song’ is lovely in itself, but that is also my daughter’s name. I’ve never seen it listed for sale in our area but know now to seek it out. I adore white Camellias, but know what you mean about how much patience it requires to get a good photo. Something about the finish on their petals reflects the light in odd ways.
    The Chrysoplenium is new to me, too. Lovely- reminds me a bit of Helleborus except for the form of the flowers. Anything that blooms so beautifully in January has my attention. Thank you for your follow on ‘Our Forest Garden.’ I look forward to enjoying more of your posts. -WG

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    1. Your homepage just had too many triggers for me to resist. The headings, the visible topics on the list and the notion of Forest Community. I have some reading to do. I hope you manage to find ‘Ariel’s Song’ and that it’s hardy enough for wherever you are, it’s one of my favourites.

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      1. Hi Jim,

        I feel that way about your page! Too many interesting topics. It looks like you are in the UK. I’m in Williamsburg, VA. We are technically in Zone 7b, but most years its more like 8A. I’m not familiar with either parent species of ‘Ariel’s Song,’ but the leaf looks as though it may be deciduous? I searched for it online and it looks as though the retailers are all in the UK or down under.
        It may not be available here in North America, but I will certainly continue to search for it. I also collect Camellias and just get so excited when they bloom.
        A gardening friend gave me seeds of C. sinensis this fall, and I’m holding my breath hoping for successful germination. I have a few seedlings of a C. sasanqua that are about 2″ tall now, and they are great fun to watch develop. This is my first time to grow Camellias from seed. I’ll continue looking in at your pages. Thank you for all of the excellent information. -WG

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      2. Best not to get me started on Camellias, that’s mainly on my other blog https://jimscamellias.com/ ‘Ariel’s Song’ is evergreen, as are all Camellias, but has relatively thin leaves. I have grown quite a few Camellias from seed but you really have no idea what you’re going to get with the hybrids. Species seem to come fairly true and I have a few on the go from a sowing last year which I think probably came from Camellia Forest Nursery, NC, via the seed distribution of the RHS Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group, of which I am a member. All they seem to have on offer at the moment is sinensis and oleifera, what I have is parvilimba, yunnanensis, fraterna (one parent of ‘Ariel’s Song’) and forrestii, so they may offer a wider range sometimes. One of the seedlings of C. parvilimba has really beautiful red new leaves so I’m pretty excited about that, even though I have no idea what it’s flower are like or how hardy it is.

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      3. They are such fascinating, beautiful and tough plants to grow. I had at least four different C. sasanqua shrubs in bloom when this mother shrub was fertilized, so I’m quite excited to eventually see the flowers once they bloom. There were two of the same variety in close proximity, but even so, I know that the new shrubs may have quit different flowers. So nice you have a great source of interesting varieties via the RHS group and the seed they offer. I’m sure there is wider access to additional species through the Camellia society in our area, but I’ve not ventured into that pond, yet. You’re inspiring me to venture a bit further and search out some of these other Camellias.

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      4. That pond is deep and wide. I managed to pick up a signed and good as new copy of ‘Beyond the Camellia Belt’ by William L. Ackerman for next to nothing on Amazon and it is basically a scholarly manual on growing sasanquas from seed. Too bad they hardly ever set seed here, but I did get seed from one of his hybrids and have a potful of seedlings needing potting up.

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      5. Thanks very much for the tip, Jim. I just ordered a copy. I’ve been nosing around your Camellia blog, too. I have a couple of shrubs that have been in bloom since October and still have new buds opening. I can’t remember them ever having such a long season of bloom. Our mild fall and early winter brought C. sasanquas and C. japonicas in bloom at the same time this year. Thank you for sharing such a wealth of great information for us novices. -WG

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      1. I don’t think so. Baby oil is an inert mineral oil, rather different from olive oil. Growers use spraying oil for pests like scale and mealy bug and I should think it is an emulsified version of the same sort of oil.

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  12. Oh those grafts are fascinating! I bought a grafted, multi-variety cherry tree when the garden stores opened up last spring – it had never occurred to me you could graft things on to existing trees. Now I’m intrigued….

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    1. Apples are ridiculously easy to graft given a sharp knife and a bit of practice on some spare twigs. I’ve seen family apple trees for sale but they always have a couple of varieties on them that you want and one you don’t. DIY means you get what you want if you can get the scion wood. Cherries I’ve not encountered as a multi variety tree but why not? They mostly grow pretty big and many are self fertile so the appeal of a family apple in a small garden angle doesn’t apply in the same way.

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