Six on Saturday – 20/11/2021

There was a time I might have played “Late November” half a dozen times back to back; that’s Sandy Denny for you youngsters. 1971, on vinyl, which I still have. Where the hell did that go! The time, not the record. Her song, “Who knows where the time goes?” is even older, 1969. Unhalfbricking, great album. Still got that too.
I digress; things have moved on, there are computers, mobile phones, tablets, the internet, global warming and a pandemic. And six on saturday, the thinking person’s antidote to all of the aforementioned. So, six things in the garden, like, happening now. What would my 18 year old self have made of it?

Salvia corrugata. A lot of salvias leave it very late in the year to flower, I’d almost given up on this. We need to take cuttings earlier, overwinter larger plants under cover and maybe get flowers a bit earlier than November. It’s good when it finally makes it.

Tucked away behind a rapidly collapsing Begonia grandis is this Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’. Looking it up on this new fangled internetty thing I find it described as an indoor house plant, a variegated bar-room plant, a variegated cast-iron plant and so on. It was terribly old fashioned when I was listening to Sandy Denny so it’s probably the coolest kid in town now. Who knows, who cares? And what is a “bar-room plant”? It’s grown a bit while hiding behind the begonia. An improver, perhaps.

Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’. Somehow I’d got it into my head that this grew about three to four feet, so I planted it at the front of the border by the path. It’s over six feet and I’m always a little cautious pushing past it because grass blades are called that for a reason. Anyhow, it’s had a good year, it’s even flowering, but I’m planning to move it back a couple of feet, so next year may not be quite so good.

Penstemon ‘Blackbird’. In the past we’ve grown Penstemons quite a lot, but maybe just got bored with them. This year we put a few back in and especially in early summer, before the Dahlias and annuals really got going, they were great, not that they let up after that either. This is not the only one still flowering but it is the best.

I make no apology for repeating last week’s Camellia sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’. Lots more flowers are now out, the Campanula and Geranium at its feet are having a last flutter and when the windows of the conservatory aren’t obscured by rain on the outside and condensation on the inside, it does just what it was meant to do which is to make me happy without going outside.

Whether or not I’ve saved the best till last depends on your taste in plants. I can tell you that Keith Rushforth had brought along a big pot of it to impress the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group meeting three weeks ago. I was feeling smug because I’d had a plant of it since the Tregrehan Plant Fair in 2020. It was collected in North Vietnam, probably on an expedition in which both Rushforth and Tom Hudson were members. In the garden I would expect it to be hardy but herbaceous and given that it’s only just started flowering, if it had to start from ground level each year I think all I’d get would be leaves. Oh, the name, Impatiens balansae.

That was pretty shameless name dropping but there’s a serious side to it too. The extreme northern tip of North Vietnam is one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots and it’s getting systematically trashed to grow cardamoms as a high value cash crop. Ex situ conservation isn’t really enough because it can’t conserve sufficient genetic diversity to save a species in the long term but who are we to be telling impoverished people that they shouldn’t be trying to improve their lot? Good outcomes look very thin on the ground. And perish the thought that the North Vietnamese might be suspicious of our motives if they think we’re trying to tell them how to behave; the Vietnam war still had a few years to go when I was listening to Sandy Denny.
Having reminded myself, I just played “A Sailor’s Life” for the first time in years. Wallowing in nostalgia. Talking of which, I discovered they’d remastered Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album. “A Case of You” didn’t need improving, but they did it anyway.

That was a good rant and I feel better for it. If you’ve reached this far and don’t know already, there are multiple links to other sixes to be found in the comments of Jon the Propagator’s post. Most will keep to the subject too.

28 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 20/11/2021

  1. The leaf texture of the Salvia is attractive, and so too are the blue flowers. Lovely indeed! The Impatiens is really pretty too, and I have been enlightened about the dwindling biodiversity in Vietnam. I will have to do more reading on it. What a great pity they do not try and preserve the dwindling ecosystems. I recently read about the dwindling native sandalwood populations in Western Australia, which is another topic I had no idea about. I also did not know it grows on Acacia species. I definitely need to do m ore reading! Have a lovely week!


  2. Nothing wrong with getting a little off topic! I believe Aspidistras are very much the rage at the moment, as part of the houseplant fashion that seems to have taken over ‘Millennials’.

    Beautiful Salvia – a good blue colour is always a delight, no matter the time of year. I do rather like Penstemons, I often find myself recommending to them clients who want reliable and long lasting colour as they grow so well round here and are very easy to propagate.


    1. There you go, Aspidistra back in fashion. You just have to stay in the same place and it all comes round again. Works for fashion, works for broken clocks. I do like a good blue, as must anyone who grows Corydalis.


  3. Spooky or what? I left reading your 6 on Saturday until 2.45 and what had I been listening to on Spotify? Sandy Denny, although for my money Listen, listen is the better track, I love the harmonies. I haven’t heard her sing for years. Did you know there is a programme on Alan Hull ex Lindisfarne on Friday BBC 4?


    1. Spooky. So many great songs, Fotheringay, Meet on the Ledge, the Music Weaver, What is True, Banks of the Nile and many more. I’ve transcribed some vinyl LP’s onto the computer but not most of her stuff for some reason.


  4. I grew the salvia and that was stunning for a couple of years, but as Derry Watkins said at the talk on border hardy plants today, a plant gone is an opportunity to try something new. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty of this Salvia and why I had been so enchanted. I linked into your music, which was when I was still at school, and I think my husband across the room is rather impressed by the music. Two people in one room to appreciate your post this week Jim.


    1. An uncharitable bit of me is thinking that since Derry Watkins hopes to be the person supplying something new, she would say that. She’s absolutely right though. Nice to hear the music went down well.


  5. With all the English gardens in the East, and the Chinese and Japanese gardens here in the West, there really should be at least one Vietnamese garden in California, particularly in San Jose. I suspect that such a garden has not yet been developed because the Vietnamese assimilated so readily to American Culture.


      1. Ah, Vietnamese cuisine is why I wanted to find Canna edulis, which is commonly known as achira. What is sold as such is not the real thing. Although it is not Vietnamese, it was sometimes incorporated int the Vietnamese cuisine that I remember from when I was a kid in the region of San Jose, perhaps because it was easier to obtain than what was more authentic.


      2. Canna edulis is a synonym of Canna indica, which makes sense as my book about plant collecting in North Vietnam has a picture showing C. indica being grown as a starch rich crop for eating.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, . . . but Canna edulis is documented as a separate species in other publications. I remember the huge rhizomes in the 1980s, but have not seen them since. I really do not care if it a separate species or merely a variety. I just want to grow those fat rhizomes. They are easier to peel and process than narrower rhizomes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting to have a dip into your music archives as well as a look at an aspidistra which I have always thought of as a house-plant. Your ‘Blackbird’ is a fab colour, I still have my coral pink penstemon flowering away, though the ‘Garnet’ has finished. They are excellent plants in providing colour for months on end and the S&S leave them alone too!


  7. Sandy was before my time (though not by much) but I’ve just read your post while listening to her singing Late November and I’m feeling very mellow now. The Miscanthus looks very healthy and I hope it proves easy to move. The Penstemon is a gorgeous deep purple.


  8. Sandy Denny is a much more recent discovery for me, but has quickly become a favorite. I have a Salvia Black and Blue that keeps coming back, but weakly. Took a cutting this fall, but might have left it too late, as the poor thing doesn’t look too promising. Miscanthus morning light is indeed an imposing presence. I can relate to the difficulties of planting tall plants at the front of borders, prickly/sharp leaved plants by walkways, and low growing specimens in the center of beds where they are forever lost to sight. As you said, transplanting is always possible, and it seems to me that there are few gardeners who do not edit their plantings with some regularity.


    1. I cut one of our Salvias down then realised we had no youngsters so shoved a bunch into a vase, hoping they’d sprout roots. They haven’t yet! I have a lot of editing planned for this winter but at the current rate of progress it won’t be done by next winter.


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