Six on Saturday – 27/2/2021

The pace is picking up. The sun is shining, the flowery stuff is really starting to kick off. I’ve sowed more seeds, taken the first Fuchsia cuttings and finished chopping down all of last years dead herbaceous growth. In the autumn I sowed lettuce and potted them up in the greenhouse; we’ve had a couple of pickings, not bad in February and a first for me. I have tomatoes and cucumbers germinated and potted up, plus seedlings of onions, leeks and a few other bits. Lot’s happening, just have to narrow it down a bit.
That said, horticultural highlight of the week without a doubt goes to the Hampshire Plant Heritage group Zoom meeting on Thursday with Dan Hinkley, talking direct from Windcliff in Puget Sound. He has a website, it looks to have good things on it, I shall be returning.
In the meantime, to business, six things in the garden now this minute:

Cyclamen. The garden centres are full of these things in the autumn and there’s a lack of information around how hardy they might be. In autumn 2019 we bought several and planted them in the garden amongst species cyclamen. Big mistake, they looked hideous. (IMHO) Fortunately, it seems that only one survived to come up again in autumn 2020 and I quickly dug it up and potted it. It’s done fantastically well in the cold conservatory and would have looked hopelessly out of place if it had been half as good in the garden. We planted six in a big pot out the front and they’re alive but have no flowers and don’t look happy. Not an outdoor plant is my conclusion.

Several years ago I selected the three best of a bunch of seedling Camellia reticulatas and gave them names just so I would know which I was taking pictures of or whatever. One I named after Sue. That is to say I called it Sue _ _ _ _, and now it doesn’t seem quite right to be bandying her full name about on the big bad w.w.w. The buds were beginning to show colour before last weeks cold weather and it’s done a little damage but even so, it’s really not bad. The blooms get to 5 inches across then drop off and are a pretty fierce pink.

Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii. When you see the range of colours of primroses grown in gardens it’s a wonder the wild populations of our native primrose haven’t been polluted beyond recognition. It’s not unusual to see the odd pink one but they’re mercifully uncommon. Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii is a subspecies occurring sporadically east of Greece in which yellow is the rare form, it usually being pink to purplish-red. I grew this from seed in 2018 and it has been slow to get established, not least because the plants were infested with vine weevils in the autumn when I planted them. It looks less robust than our primrose, with smaller, softer leaves and my few plants all have these small, pale lilac, somewhat translucent flowers. They’re going to get overtaken by Dicentra shortly, but hopefully will be happy in the shade it will provide. I Googled it, seeking more information, and found it in abundance in the blog of one John Grimshaw, John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary: Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii , who is also lined up as a zoom speaker by Hampshire Plant Heritage on 14 March.

Erythronium ‘Susannah’. Last spring this was swamped by Geranium palmatum and I feared that it might have suffered a setback as a result. It obviously hasn’t, in that it has double the number of shoots coming up, now I’m worried that it won’t be happy in full exposure. I notice when I was checking on its progress that there was a large chrysalis right beside it, seemingly alive, as far as I can judge. It is presumably an elephant hawkmoth larva, so I moved it into leaf litter under our biggest fuchsia, that being what the caterpillars feed on. I will keep an eye on it, it would be a treat to see the adult moth, I don’t think I ever have. ‘Susannah’ is described by Paul Christian on Rare Plants as the best yellow hybrid raised to date. I ain’t arguing with that but at £18.50 a bulb I’m not planning on buying any more just yet.

Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ (?). These were unexpected, in that the pot had Persicaria runcinata spilling out of it all last summer and I’d completely forgotten it had ever had anything in it earlier. I think the Persicaria is dead, so something else will fill it for this summer, the daffs may as well stay.

Which brings me to number six. Number six is always the tricky one, a choice between several or scraping the bottom of the barrel when you really ran out at four. In this case it’s a choice between four Camellias and the winner is: ‘Annette Carol’. Probably my favourite still, after many years. On the RHS website it says last listed 2014, which would be the year I finished working. The two things are not unconnected.

There’s double the level of anticipation in looking forward to spring and summer this year and it seems like the weather has perked up to coincide with early positive noises around the vaccine program. Πολλὰ μεταξὺ πέλει κύλικος καὶ χείλεος ἄκρου, or as Wikipedia paraphrases it, “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip”, so there will be setbacks, but it’s nice to indulge in a bit of optimism that doesn’t feel delusional.
Optimistically, I’m confident that optimism is going to be a recurrent theme in everyone’s sixes this week. Spring is in the air and in the case of The Propagator, in his step too.

29 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 27/2/2021

  1. I agree about the Cyclamen persicum cultivars not being properly hardy. I garden I work in has a few that struggle on year after year in a particularly sheltered spot, but they don’t look particularly inspiring. I took some seeds from them out of interest and they’ve germinated really well. We’ll see what happens!

    The chrysalis is a nice find – probably quite easy to miss I should think. I must admit to spending inordinate amounts of money on single bulbs from Rare Plants. Ditto for Janis Ruksans’ nursery, although he is winding down now and ordering from the EU is more difficult these days anyway.


  2. Some pretty additions, but you can guess my favourite this week is Primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii,. Many thanks also for the links to John Grimshaw, and I shall go over and queue up for the talk too. My persicaria from seed sent by you, also has the top growth well and truly brown, but the roots look really healthy so I am keeping my hopes up that it will revive, or that it may self seed itself. Both the camelias are wondreful..I think Sue’s Wonderful is my favourite with its lovely tall shapely outline.


    1. I collected a bit of seed from the Persicaria, so I have them to fall back on if the plants don’t come back. I must try to get some from the Primula too this year. Looking forward to John Grimshaw, I’ve not heard him talk before.


  3. I watched Dan Hinkley also on Thursday but left at 7.55 to join a local club’s Zoom talk – on garden photography. As you say, it was a very interesting talk. I have his book on Windcliff, an enjoyable read.


  4. Still a very nice choice of camellias… I do like the shape of the first tree in pink and the flowers of the second one.
    Regarding the cyclamens, I’m starting for the first time the sowing…and it works !


  5. As usual, the camellias take the prize for bright colours and glossy foliage. The cyclamen is pretty bright as well. As you say, we are trying not to be too optimistic, but we have risked booking a few days at Carlyon Bay in the summer, I hope we won’t be disappointed. What is happening with your Open Garden scheme? I assume it is going ahead but starting in late June.


    1. We got an email today about the garden opening, which looks set to go ahead in some fashion. NGS are going to publish their own roadmap for garden opening, with updates to coincide with the government milestone dates. It all looks quite complicated so I’d better read it carefully.


  6. Common florists’ cyclamen, which I believe to be hybrids of Cyclamen persicum, were my first, and really only cyclamen. I met them when I was about a freshman in high school, and kept them groomed under a blue spruce where I lived at the time. They were a collection of only eight or so common potted plants that had been acquired over the years. To me, they were tough perennials, rather than annual bedding plants. That is why I dislike them so much as bedding plants now. To me, they should be retained as perennials, not discarded as they go dormant. In the Santa Clara Valley, they regenerate in autumn, bloom all winter, and then go dormant as the weather warms in spring. I figured that if deciduous plants that go dormant through winter are okay, than these summer deciduous perennials should be also. Of course, no one else seems to agree with me nowadays. On the rare occasion that we use a few of them at work, I put them out on the edge of the forest in spring. They regenerate for autumn, but are unfortunately a bit too garish for the edge of the forest. I keep them separated in colonies of white or red, so they do not look so unnatural as they would if mixed. Eventually, I will start putting them outside my home garden. I still like them, especially the white. Now that I met Cyclamen hederifolium, I am very pleased that they are more tolerable as perennials. They are also more subdued, so do not look so silly in our landscapes. I only need to confine their use to places where they will not be invasive.


    1. I don’t entirely trust my memory these days but way way back I encountered a cultivated plant of the wild form of C. persicum and have this recollection of an exceptionally elegant, beautifully perfumed plant in my head. It doesn’t seem to be especially popular among the Cyclamen cognoscenti over here, it’s not hardy and would have to be grown under protection, but it seems its association with the florists hybrids has cast a bit of a shadow over it, which seems a little unjust. I doubt whether most people could distinguish it from C. hederifolium, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. I tend to prefer the taller flowered species like hederifolium to the short and dumpy ones like coum but they’re all nice.

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      1. Cyclamen coum is short and dumpy? I could not quite identify why I prefer Cyclamen hederifolium, but I do believe that the foliage is a bit more elegant. I do not want to collect various species. I just want to find one and stick with it. Since Cyclamen hederifolium does well here, and I happen to like it, that (and recycled Cyclamen persicum) will be what I stick with for now.


      2. Thank you, but there is a bit of it here that must be removed from one the the residential gardens. I will not put it out in the forest or even one the unrefined gardens, so will keep it confined to my own garden for now. I want to determine the potential for invasiveness.


      3. Those that I am getting get around the garden they started in, but do not seem to get far enough to be a problem. They happen to end up in situations where they are nice additions. After several years, they just happen to be a bit too abundant.


      4. In that they largely do their thing when other things don’t, they generally fit in pretty well. I assume populations of things like cyclamen increase exponentially, slowly for many years, then up like a rocket – well, some rockets.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. For some situations, I would not mind. There are situations even in some of our landscapes that they could not escape from because all of the area around is covered with pavement or English ivy, or is too shady.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve found that cyclamens do better for me outside and in a pot! I guess that’s because the light value inside the house is not that great for them? I bought a tiny C. Hederifolio a while ago and have potted it up and left it on the patio to grow up and flower. I do love Cyclamen! I’m not much of Camellias, but the last one you feature is lovely!


    1. When you can just shove something in the ground and it just grows and spreads without any fuss, you learn absolutely nothing about why other people struggle with the same thing. Lack of light or possibly too warm inside, they’re fully hardy even when the corms are right on the surface.

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  8. I’m with Noelle on the primula vulgaris subsp. sibthorpii. I am ruthlessly trying to keep to only the regular vulgaris but I have one or two white ones that have come through this year that I am allowing to stay. The one you feature looks so delicate.


    1. I suspect that like bluebells, wild primroses are fairly robust when it comes to contamination with alien genes. I am always surprised when I see great drifts of primroses that they are usually completely free from coloured forms. I don’t think there’s a big risk of my coloured forms escaping into the wild and in the garden they throw up such a range of colours it’s just intriguing to see what there is each year. The really vivid garden centre colours seem to get diluted pretty quickly and the plants themselves don’t seem to last. Var sibthorpii doesn’t look robust, hopefully it’s tougher than it looks and will stick around.


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