Six on Saturday – 15/5/2021

When I was writing this yesterday evening it was very obvious that another bout of rain was not far off. Increasingly heavy cloud was streaming in from the west, the Met Office radar showed it to be approaching fast and the forecast was for rain most of the night. Showers are forecast for the rest of the weekend. Right now the sun is shining but ten minutes ago it was sluicing it down. I’ve been getting stuff planted both in the garden and on the allotment and apart from having to be careful to avoid compaction, it’s pretty good weather for it. Slugs have reappeared since the dryness of April, but not in sufficient numbers to cause big problems. My night-time forays and our resident hedgehog are keeping on top of things.

It’s still fairly cool and there has been no explosion of growth, but every week it all looks a bit greener than the week before. I just caught the weather forecast on the telly and much of Europe has below normal temperatures for the time of year. Spring is when many woodland floor plants perform, grabbing the improving light before the tree canopy gets really dense and while there’s still moisture available in the soil. Some, like wood anemones and Erythroniums, are quick to die down, others, such as Polygonatum and Disporum, get their growing and flowering in early then sit there getting slowly nibbled away, until the autumn. Most of my six this week are from my one tree woodland and, as is so often the case with woodlanders, their charms are subtle, understated, subdued.

One.
Convallaria majalis ‘Hofheim’. I bought this from Barracott Plants a few years back and it has done very well, spreading to create a decent sized if somewhat open patch. It has a somewhat inconspicuous narrow cream margin to the leaves; just enough to make it distinctive without being at all vulgar.

Two.
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Purple Stem’. This species has an enormous range from England into Asia and there are quite a few forms available, of which this is arguably one of the less remarkable. This also came from Barracott but while the RHS lists a P. odoratum ‘Red Stem’, they don’t have ‘Purple Stem’, so it may be something diiferent or I may have the wrong name for it. It’s about 2 feet tall and spreading slowly in rather deep shade under a Camellia.

Three.
Maianthemum racemosum. I moved this during the winter, it having been marooned in a sunny spot by my felling of a big conifer. It is very obviously much happier where it is now. The only downside of its new location is that it is just a few feet away from a selected form called ‘Emily Moody’ which is simply bigger and better in all departments except for its rate of spread. Like last week’s Disporum, it’s going to be fighting it out with the white Dicentra; for the moment it is in a clear space left by my removing Camellia ‘Nuccio’s Pearl’.

Four.
Uvularia perfoliata. This has stuck around for quite a number of years without increasing in size significantly. One day I will obtain its bigger and bolder cousin, U. grandiflora but apart from size they are all but indistinguishable. Get closer to this one and it’s just as good.

Five.
Oops. It is generally my practice to look up the things I post on here to make sure they are correctly named. I have this labelled as Polygonatum falcatum ‘Variegatum’ but Mr Hinkley says that while that is what it is frequently and incorrectly sold as, it is in fact Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’. He drives home the point with a picture of what is clearly the same plant I am growing. I like it very much, it is light and airy in its demeanour, spreading steadily rather than threateningly, with the variegation making it ornamental even out of flower.

Six.
Astelia chathamica. I don’t have this growing in shade but it is one of the very few silvery leaved plants that will do so and in colder areas it would provide a degree of frost protection. This plant has only suffered significantly from winter cold once in the many years it has been where it is; much of the top was killed but it grew again from the roots. For my money it is a much better plant than Phormium in that it doesn’t get much taller than 3 feet, spreading slowly, and it doesn’t get duller as it gets bigger, as do many Phormium varieties. You pays your money….. Actually, the reason I included it this week is because it is at the height of its flower display. Yep, that’s it.

Something of a study in shades of green, are woodland plants. White flowers have green tips, yellows are greenish yellows; presumably there is no advantage in expending energy on bright colours that are barely discernible. It makes for a pleasing contrast with the ambience of the sunnier, more open parts of the garden and variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

Lots of showers expected today, so I don’t know how much gardening will get done. I still have quite a bit of planting to do so I’ll probably be in and out all day, so plenty of time to check out links to other sixes, courtesy of Jon the Propagator.

38 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 15/5/2021

  1. The dark stems of your version of the Solomon’s Seal are quite dramatic. My bog standard ones are doing really well again, enjoying the dull, shaded flowerbed. As always, some unusual plants and an interesting Six-on-Saturday.

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  2. Good idea for the Astelia chathamica: I didn’t know, it’s an interesting compromise. The Lily of the Valley is at the same stage here… late compared to last year though

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  3. I love the astelia – foliage color and peculiar flowers. Polygonatum is a wonderful plant, and the red/purple stems certainly highlight its graceful arch. We have a native false Solomon’s seal here that I am eager to get my hands on.

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    1. My Maianthemum racemosum that I featured is your native false Solomon’s Seal and a fine plant, but somewhat outshone by the selected form ‘Emily Moody’ which I shall include next week. The Polygonatum, at least in its green stemmed form, is native here, though I’ve never seen it growing wild.

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    1. Didn’t think that burning sensation could have been the sun. Saying farewell to gardens as well as people at Marwood, I suppose they do have gardens in Wales?

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  4. So, Solomon’s seal and false Solomon’s seal live in the same garden; and the false Solomon’s seal looks like it has always been there. It got moved while it was foliated?

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    1. It was dormant when I moved it, back in the autumn. A few shoots have come up where it was, whether bits left behind or growth from very deep roots I don’t know. We have one native Maianthemum species, M. bifolia, goes under the name May Lily, which really flatters it. It’s vanishingly rare as a wild plant but is spreading alarmingly in my garden.

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      1. Oh, I did not consider that yours was native. I thought that ours was the only one. (I thought I conversed with you about relocating ours, and how difficult it is to find the rhizomes intact [or more accurately, not ruined by getting dug] while dormant.)

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      2. I think I’ve muddied the waters here. The thing I moved was your native Maianthemum racemosum, but since it was growing in the garden finding it when dormant wasn’t an issue. Our native Maianthemum is a diminutive thing less than six inches high with flowers to match. I still quite like it though.

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      3. I try digging it when dormant also, but because it is so deep (in the wild), It gets mutilated in the process. I must dig a big hole around it, and then dig closer to it to find it.

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      4. I’m surprised you’re permitted to dig things like that from the wild, it would be illegal here. Is it available in nurseries and are there selected forms about, or just the species.

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      5. It would be illegal in national, state or county parks, but this is on private property. Most of the property here at work is undeveloped. Likewise, the flora that lives on my properties is in the wild, since only very small areas of the properties are cultivated.

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      6. All so different. All the land in our National Parks is privately owned and there isn’t really any truly undisturbed wildness left, hasn’t been in thousands of years.

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      7. Privately owned national parks? That is weird. No entity should own parks that are open to the public.
        Most of the area here has been disturbed in some way, even if it has since gone wild, and does not seem to be disturbed. Big Basin Park to the north of here was one of the only places from which no timber was harvested, because it was designated as a park before it became accessible to harvest. However, exotic species have migrated into the region, and the area burned in a manner that was somewhat unnatural to it because of the disturbance of the region around it. So, the forests between here and the Santa Clara Valley are wild lands, but not completely undisturbed.

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      8. Here is an article about the ownership and stewardship of our National Parks, if you can be bothered to read it. It contains a table showing who owns how much of each of them. All the land in this country was taken into private ownership a thousand years or more ago. Much has changed hands as kings and invaders have grabbed bits or given bits they didn’t own in the first place to people whose favour they wanted to secure. “Buy land, they’ve stopped making it” was the old maxim. https://whoownsengland.org/2019/06/24/are-landed-interests-over-represented-on-englands-national-park-authorities/

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      9. I get the impression that I would not want to live in England. The lack of space seems so restrictive. Those allotments that so many have there are such an odd concept. I know about limited space, because the region that is my home has become some of the most expensive real estate in America. I can not afford to live where my parents lived (because it was so affordable for them at the time). However, there are other places where I could purchase significant area. Los Angeles is the second most populous city in America, but is very near to some of the most sparsely populated area in America (except for Alaska). Land in Northern Los Angeles County is very cheap, and was even cheaper not too long ago.

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      10. England is densely populated, but very large areas are relatively thinly populated while others are endless urban sprawl. People complain about lack of access to open country but most don’t take advantage of the access they have and from a wildlife perspective the less access there is the better. Cornwall is a relatively remote and rural county but there is huge demand for housing here, massively boosted by the pandemic creating the impression that it is safer to live in the countryside than big cities combined with the realisation that many jobs can be done from home. Yet wages are low and housing hard to afford for local people. Alongside all that, my allotment doesn’t seem odd at all.

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      11. The United Kingdom has less area than California, but more of a population. I can scarcely imagine a city with more people than there are in San Jose. Yet San Diego has a greater population, and Los Angeles is twice as populous as San Jose and San Diego combined! All three are in California! California seems to be SO crowded. I really can not imagine what the United Kingdom and London must be like! I think that remote and rural areas there would be very different from what they are here. I suspect that this region, just a few miles from San Jose, would be considered to be rural by Cornish standards.

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      12. I remember coming back from the first holiday we took on the Isles of Scilly, where the biggest island is only a mile or so across, and being struck by how big Cornwall was, how far you could drive without getting anywhere. Yet come back to Cornwall from Australia and it seems tiny and everything is on top of everything else. ‘Normal’ is entirely relative and we quickly adjust to almost anything. You’d get a good idea of what this place is like from Google Maps & Streetview.

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    1. So often there seems to be no rhyme or reason why things grow in one garden and not in another; I wouldn’t say my Uvularia thrives on neglect but it holds its own on neglect, gets no special treatment at all. U. grandiflora comes from central Michigan and they get a lot of snow in winter so perhaps it’s winter sogginess that they don’t like over here. My U. perfoliata is quite close to a big Ligustrum which gives it some overhead protection and takes up some water in winter.

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      1. My Uvularia grandiflora is in a dry sunny spot under a lilac. It sat sulking for several years but has suddenly become quite a big clump. Who knows…?

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      2. It often seems to make no sense when things put on a big spurt out of the blue. Perhaps it takes two or three things to come right together, moist soil, warm soil and air temperature: who knows indeed?

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  5. Some really pretty plants for the shade, and not just the normal versions, but some specials. I would expect nothing less Jim.

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    1. If I had to choose between a totally shady garden and a totally sunny one I’d go demented. So many good plants that demand one or the other and nourish a completely different part of the brain.

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  6. Goodness Jim – you’ve introduced me to some choice new plants there. I’ll definitely be seeking out the mainanthemum. Meanwhile your uvularia has reminded me that I planted one last autumn and it hasn’t appeared. Yours look so beautiful I’m tempted to try again.

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    1. Pauline, two comments back, was also having trouble with Uvularia. I have an especially fine Maianthemum racemosum form which I will include next week, called ‘Emily Moody’, which I’m pleased to see the RHS online plant finder lists seven suppliers for.

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  7. A beautiful selection of very desirable plants, Jim, though I must confess to hating the astelia. It is simply a big thug here which doesn’t accommodate any neighbours. I have it on its own against the side of a playhouse, out of the way.

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    1. We inherited a brick retaining wall across the garden which I suspect was backfilled with stones and subsoil and into which we unknowingly planted Astelia chatamica at one end and Euphorbia mellifera at the other. It has proved to be perfect for both, keeping them comparatively hard and mean and curtailing their thuggishness. Almost everything we have planted between them has struggled then given up.

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  8. Very nice woodland selection. I’m trying to get Lily of the Valley established in some dry shade where I know nothing else will grow (well ivy will obviously). It’s just the plain green one though. I’ve read about Uvularia but it’s the first time I’ve seen it on Six on Saturday. It looks good.

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    1. ‘Hofheim’ has grown more vigorously than my plain green Lily of the Valley, but that may be location rather than variety. Uvularia grandiflora is supposed to be a good deal more showy than my U. perfoliata but it sounds like I should be grateful it grows at all, other people have struggled with it.

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  9. A great selection of plants. all prompting thoughts here. I’ve noted your comments of the Lilly of the Vally and maybe I should be trying ‘Hofheim’ here – all previous attempts to get a colony of LofV going have failed. Ironic that we are all getting excited about dry shade when, as you say, it was sluicing it down all weekend.

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    1. I think Lotv has something of a reputation for being fickle. I have a friend nearby who has it growing in a gravel path next to her leaky pond. Give it decent woodsy soil and it turns its nose up.

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