Six on Saturday – 22/5/2021

Nearly the end of May and we’ve yet to have a spell of really good growing weather this year. The forecasts have often suggested that things might be getting better only for it not to materialise, so I’m trying to attenuate my hopes for the coming week. Gales are particularly unwelcome and all you can do is batten down the hatches and hope for minimal damage. We desperately need a growth spurt, we have a garden club visiting on June 9th. At least there should be some understanding and sympathy from them if they’re gardeners themselves.

Still, I braved the wind and rain yesterday to get some pictures of what’s going on out there. Six things, the main requirement being that they stay still long enough to photograph. Apologies for any blurred pictures. I suspect there will be quite a few when you follow the Piper, aka the Propagator, down his garden path.

One.
Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule ‘Emily Moody’. Last week one of my six was Maianthemum racemosum. It should have been Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule. There are two subspecies of M. racemosum recognized; M. racemosum subsp. racemosum, which grows in the eastern United States and M. racemosum subsp. amplexicaule, which grows in the west. Both of the forms I have appear to belong to the western form, which because it is generally bigger and more ornamental, is the form usually encountered in cultivation. ‘Emily Moody’ appears to be a selection of the western form but I can find no information about its origins. Crûg Farm Nursery list a form that was selected by Dan Hinckley and has the collection number BSWJ1358 (odd that Hinckley doesn’t feature in the collection number) and it looks very similar.

My plant of ‘Emily Moody’ is just short of 3 feet tall, against 2 feet for the other form, and has bigger, broader leaves. The flower panicles are larger and strongly scented like lily of the valley. To my nose it is a stronger and sweeter scent than the other form. It is just as undemanding as the shorter form but has spread much more slowly. I think it’s a fabulous plant and would definitely say it’s worth trying to get hold of in preference to the more widely available shorter form. The RHS online plantfinder lists 7 suppliers for ‘Emily Moody’, 59 for M. racemosum and 3 for M. racemosum subsp. amplexicaule. M. racemosum subsp. racemosum has no suppliers listed. Make of that what you will.

It produces fruits which are greenish brown and eventually are said to turn red, which I am not sure I’ve seen. Even so, I have collected, sown and germinated seeds from it. Seeds sown in late September 2019 have germinated well this spring, with just a few germinating last year which I left untouched.

Maianthemum racemosum subsp. amplexicaule ‘Emily Moody’

Two.
Polygonatum mengzense tonkinensis HWJ573. This was a Barracott Plants purchase though its collection number shows it was a Dan Hinckley/Blethyn Wynn-Jones (Crûg) collection. Their description says it was collected on Vietnam’s highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, in 1999. In my garden it is evergreen, the new shoots emerging in April-May, the leaves a rich purplish brown colour and the stems striated the same against a green ground. The flowers open as the stems grow up, small, green and inconspicuous but followed by berries which finally turn red as the following year’s flowers open. The stems are 2 feet long but arching out in all directions meaning it hasn’t made a dense clump though the stems are close at ground level. I have raised several seedlings which have been very slow and none have had such strong colouring.

Three.
Polystichum setiferum ‘Ray Smith’. Like a lot of P. setiferum forms this produces tiny plantlets on its fronds, from which it can be propagated. Looking at the beautiful unfurling fronds yesterday it occurred to me that (a) it is one of my favourite ferns and (b) if I lose it I will probably struggle to find another and therefore should plant another somewhere. All of its progeny have been sold or given away, which is a form of insurance only of you know where they’ve gone. Its fronds get to nearly three feet in length but no more than 3 inches wide.

Polystichum setiferum ‘Ray Smith’

Four.
A week or two ago we went to Plants Galore in Plymouth where I fell for the lurid pot, big picture label and Proven Winners branding on Deutzia ‘Yuki Cherry Blossom’. I’m not falling for the official name of Deutzia x rosea Yuki Cherry Blossom = ‘Ncdx2’. I had just the spot for it so I hope it lives up to the hype. I’ve always liked Deutzias, they’re generally quite refined but floriferous and robust. Most are quite big though and big shrubs with short flowering seasons are not what you want in a small garden unless they something else going for them like berries or autumn colour. This Deutzia is claimed to have good autumn colour but we don’t often get the conditions to produce it in Cornwall.

Five.
Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’. On April 15th I wrote a post about how I was going to get rid of this Acer, which has suffered quite a lot of dieback in the last few years. Something stayed my hand and I instead gave it a generous feed of Yara Mila Complex and a thorough watering. By the 25th it was leafing out vigorously and looking like a plant that was determined to live. I took off a couple of big dead branches and allowed myself to believe it could survive after all. The cut ends have various brown stains which I was reading like tea leaves, which may have meant more. Since then we’ve had three serious gales and the poor tree looks wretched. It’s like one of those death row situations where some poor sod keeps appealing against their fate and it drags on year after year. The tree has lost its latest appeal, the execution is on for some indeterminate date, will it come back at me with yet another appeal or is this the end of the road for the third or forth time?

Six.
Azalea japonica ‘Madame Knutz’. The RHS website says this was last listed in the RHS Plantfinder in 2007. I feel obliged to try to keep it going because it is irreplaceable, but I don’t really like it very much. It would likely be happier and perform better in partial shade, perhaps I should move it. This might be the best it’s ever looked, it’s never had a really good year. A good azalea should be solid flower, not a leaf showing.

Oh dear, I’ve been particularly verbose this week. That’s what comes of being pinned down by the weather. It’s still raining too, with more forecast for tomorrow, along with strong winds. Hey ho. Soon be midsummer. Have a good week.

35 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 22/5/2021

  1. The Maianthemum and Polygonatum are both new to me, so it was interesting to read about both. I can see why Polystichum is a firm favourite of yours! I like the contrasting colour of the midrib and the green. The Deutzia is pretty too!!

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  2. Too bad about the Japanese maple – I have a thing about old trees and shrubs, something to do with battle scars adding character. But that’s me. The fern is quite gorgeous, especially in spring I imagine, with the fresh green fronds unfurling…

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    1. Physical damage on a tree can be characterful, there are incredible windswept specimens around here, but disease damage is just depressing. It is a very fine fern and almost evergreen; as you say, best with new growth.

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  3. Well, with the exception of the acer, your other plants are new to me. (I must have said this numerous times.) Is that the whole acer removed, or just a couple of large branches?Very interesting Six-on-Saturday, again.

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    1. I keep lopping branches off the tree but it’s still hanging in there. It leafed out lush and looked for a bit like it was making a strong comeback but wind and new growth are a bad mix.

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  4. I find the plants you trial interesting, and hope to ‘follow’ them in future posts. Also interesting is realising that most gardeners have the shall I keep it or not feeling: sadly plants which were once quite wonderful start their decline, and one has to be brave to get rid of them.

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    1. The SoS meme has been great for getting feedback about new and newish plants, though things that succeed for one person don’t always do so for someone else. I’m pretty ruthless about getting rid of declining or underperforming plants, there are so many more still to try.

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      1. With postal costs etc I wouldn’t impose on you, Jim. I’ll have a look at Crug Farm and see what’s listed there. As an aside, I spotted a white Cypripedium in a garden centre today and have it planted in the garden now!

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      2. I bought three crowns of Gisela from Avon Bulbs in 2019. One died, the other two look miserable. One has produced a bloom and I’m trying desperately not to be disappointed by it. I’d been wanting one for so long and it’s clear I’m not giving it what it wants. Reading up on its needs in my orchid book might be a good start, I’ll go get it now. I could cut a piece off the Polygonatum when it’s dormant and send it bare-rooted, it couldn’t cost very much surely.

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      3. It would be very welcome and received with great gratitude if I could reciprocate. I have one Cypripedium – Kentucky Pink Blush with over 25 flowers at present so I was encouraged to try another.

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      4. I will look back through your posts and see if I can narrow down the things I’ve coveted to one of a sensible size. I’ll lift a bit of the Polygonatum in autumn and be in touch before I send it. What conditions is your growing orchid in?

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      5. The first planted is in shade, not quite shoved in under a rhododendron but under its canopy and it is a damp part of the garden. It’s a reasonably sheltered spot also.

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  5. Emily Moody is delightful. I still haven’t found a source for this around here, though I believe it’s native to these parts. You mentioned successful propagation by seed? Very interesting. I am fascinated by the fernlets that emerge on the fronds of polystichum. I was not aware that ferns could be propagated in this way. I have a kangaroo paw fern (indoors), which seems to be sprouting white rootlets along its “feet.” I have been thinking about trying to propagate one of these, but have been unable to find any confirmation in my online research that this is a realistic possibility.

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    1. I think the Maianthemum is going to be a long term prospect from seed so a plant is probably your best bet if you get hold of one. I simply cannot find out the origins of ‘Emily Moody’ but logically it should have been an American selection, that being where it comes from. On the other hand it may be that someone over here has had a good form with no name and has given it one. I would have thought the fern would be easy if it is producing rootlets along the stem, especially if you go back to a bit that has properly rooted. Keep it cool and moist until it starts to grow. I have an outdoor fern, Araiostegia, that grows in the same way, but in the ground you don’t get to see it at all. I need a cool damp rock face to grow it on.

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  6. Verticillium wilt is the first disease that I think of in regard to dieback of Japanese maples, but the staining should have that distinctive pizza slice shape.

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    1. I didn’t think the staining matched pictures of verticillium very well. I was looking at how there appeared to new growth outside of the stain on one section and wondering whether it was grounds for a tiny bit of optimism.

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      1. With the staining that irregular, it is difficult to identify where extends. I mean, the growth may seem to be outside of where a stain is, but probably isn’t. It is hard to say. Of course, some of the staining seems to be only within the wood within, but not extending to the cambium. Weird.

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      2. Within the lower left quadrant of the second picture of the staining, fresh unstained wood formed outside of the stain, as if the cambium remained active after the staining, or somehow remained resistance to the infection.

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      3. Nothing has wilted since it came into leaf, the branches removed were already dead, and the new growth flush was good, notwithstanding what has happened since, three gales in as many weeks. I’m too curious to see what happens next to be thinking of removing it any time soon. I will irrigate it if we get another prolonged dry spell, keep the stress level down- for the tree, if not for me.

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      4. Well, one of the big Japanese maple trees I condemned for removal in San Jose because of verticillium wilt (the real thing) several years ago is still going. I can not explain how it it so healthy. I suspect that it will eventually collapse as the necrotic portions decay. For now, it looks quite happy.

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  7. I very much like the leaf colour on the Polygonatum. Very nice looking thing.

    Crûg Farm are such a fascinating source of plants. I don’t look through their catalogue to often as my bank balance can’t take it. We’re on holiday in the area (regulations permitting) in the summer, so perhaps we’ll pop in for a visit.

    Deutzias are a firm favourite of mine. I remember getting a twig from J Parkers with a bulb order when I was a teenager. I grew it on in a pot for a bit and ended up planting it in a customer’s garden. I no longer work there now and often wonder how it’s getting on!

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    1. Crûg have been at the last two or three Tregrehan Plant Fairs and will bring things with them if contacted in advance. It’s a sore temptation. I’ve never been there, it’s a long haul from here. My favourite memory of Deutzia was putting a group of Deutzia calycosa ‘Dali’ into a Chelsea stand I was involved with, knowing that Roy Lancaster was working with Channel Four; then being there when he saw it. It was one of his collections.

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  8. No worries about the gardening club having something to enjoy, there’s so much on offer they will be spoilt for choice. I’ve enjoyed the last two week’s posts and have a few plants to add to the wish list. I also wandered off to Crug Farm Nursery. It sounds like a magical place to visit…one day. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Two weeks tomorrow till we get visitors, could really do with a fine fortnight. Crûg will be at Tregrehan sunday week, maybe I should see if they have anything I want that they could bring down with them. Then again, it’s probably safer not to look.

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