Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I have keikis!

From the Hawaian for "baby" or "child", literally "the little one"*.

Normally it's applied to young plantlets that develop on orchids but it's also used for the plantlets that can develop on the spent flower heads of Hedychium greenii.

Have I mentioned that this 2013-14 winter has been very mild?  Mild enough that those of my Hedychiums that would normally be evergreen in warmer climates have overwintered with foliage intact. Rather tatty, I admit, but present.  H.coccineum 'Tara', H. gardnerianum, H.'Pink Hybrid' and H.greenii still have last year's leaves.  Which means they are shooting early - normally it's at the end of May - and that last year's flower heads from H.greenii are developing the adventitious plantlets that, if left to develop and then removed and nurtured, will produce new plants.

Keikis on Hedychium greenii

A first for me.

I've grown H.greenii outside for about fifteen years now.  I thought I'd lost it in the bad winters about ten years back and again three and four years ago but it's tougher than often credited and enough of the rhizomes survived to provide a nucleus for recovery.  Outside in the UK flowering is a bonus, often occurring so late in the year that it risks wipe out by the first frosts.  Container growing helps but even this can be overtaken by events.  Not this winter.  This was mine last November.

Hedychium greenii in flower in November

However attractive, Hedychium flowers are fleeting.  A brief fortnight - sometimes as little as a week - and most of them are done.  No problem if successive stems are developing but in cool wet England it's a once a year opportunity.  But all Hedychiums are attractive in foliage and H.greenii is one of the best.

Pseudostems elongate during the summer to an eventual height of about 4ft / 120cm or more, with broad, glossy, dark green leaves stained dark red on the underside unfurling progressively as the stems lengthen.  They have a definite tropical appearance.  Planted en masse - as with the shot below - they are extremely attractive without ever needing to flower.

Hedychium greenii foliage at Coleton Fishacre, Devon
It helps to have space to develop a substantial clump, warmth and constant moisture - these are subtropical marsh plants in the wild - but even a small group of stems produces a very interesting effect in the summer and autumn garden.  And for colder climates they respond well to pot growing and a frost free winter home.

*Thanks Wikipedia

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day April 2014

Another 15th of the month and a chance to show some of what's flowering in my small Plymouth garden for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

It's been very pleasant recently.  Dry, comparatively warm (this is spring in England!), and generally sunny.  So the plants are responding.  My Fuchsias and French lavender are in bud; Dicentra spectabiis and my Spanish bluebells have just opened their first flowers; Scilla peruviana should open the first flowers in a day or two to produce tight spheres of blue; the camellias, though past their peak, are still in flower; yellow and pink primroses are abundant; even my Magnolia 'Raspberry Ice' still has a few flowers hiding among the emerging foliage.

So, what's looking at it's best?

One feature plant that enjoys a few brief weeks of glory at this time of year is the fastigiate flowering  cherry, Prunus 'Amanogawa'.  It's very difficult to photograph.  At about 30ft / 9m in height it dominates the rear garden and it's hard to get an angle that includes the tree without including all the surroundings.  In the end I put the camera with 28mm lens on the tripod, pointed it up and took this snap of the cherry towering into the sky.

Prunus 'Amanogawa' - looking up into the upright canopy
More conventionally, here's a close-up of the flowers.

Prunus 'Amanogawa' flowers
Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora' in the front garden is the last of my camellias to flower and this year has been no exception.  It only had buds a month ago but has since produced it's delicate double blooms with comparative abundance.  It's small flowered compared to the C. x williamsii hybrids I grow but very attractive.

Camellia japonica 'Magnoliaeflora'
Down at ground level the epimediums are producing their spring growth and beginning to flower.  Most I've illustrated before but Epimedium wushanense 'Caramel' is comparatively new and deserves it's place in the sun.

Epimedium wushanense 'Caramel'
In recent years there has been an influx of Epimediums from China and nearby areas.  I'm gradually acquiring a few (finding space is the biggest problem).  They usually have good foliage, often attractively marked in spring.  E.wushanense 'Caramel', E. franchettii 'Brimstone Butterfly' (in bud), and E.myrianthum (still waiting for emergence) are far superior to my European hybrids.  'Brimstone Butterfly' has particularly attractive red foliage when young while the other two are marbled.  I must get more.

The wood anemones, varieties of Anemone nemorosa in the front garden seem to spring from nowhere to flowering in a few brief days at this time of year.  I've illustrated the species and its varieties before so won't repeat myself but I have finally got a decent shot of the hybrid between A.nemorosa and A.ranunculoides, Anemone x lipsiensis, so I'll use that to illustrate the tribe.

Anemone x lipsiensis
The white variegated evergreen Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver' looks good at any time of year but never better than now, with bright red young growth, white edged old growth, and, after a good summer last year, flowers.  It's slow growing but worth the wait.

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver'
I illustrated Chasmanthe bicolor last month when a potted clump was showing the first flowers.  Things have developed since then and my planted out clumps are also flowering.  The mild, damp winter must have done them a lot of good.  Here's a shot to better show the delicate arching of the flower stem.

Chasmanthe bicolor
Clambering in and over my little shade house (bare at this time of year but soon to be re-occupied with tender shade lovers currently sheltering indoors) is Akebia quinata, the chocolate vine.  A weed species in warmer climates, it's well behaved here.  The larger female and smaller male flowers are carried in a single infloresence to produce a very interesting April effect.

Akebia quinate showing larger female and smaller male flowers
Still small, but well able to scent a good area of the garden is Skimmia japonica 'Rubella', a male variety of this Japanese evergreen.  I haven't had it too long and am still growing it on to eventually occupy a shaded spot under the Prunus.  OK, it's commonplace - but still good value with red buds through the winter and white flowers in March and April.

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'
One new addition I couldn't resist during a recent visit to the Duchy of Cornwall nursery (well worth visiting if you are ever down this way) is a large flowered Hebe.  Hebe macrocarpa var latisepala is a tender, winter and spring flowering New Zealander.  I've previously grown the equally tender, red, large flowered Hebe speciosa 'Simon Delaux' until it succumbed to a hard winter a few years back and I reckon this one is worth a try.  I have a little bit of space in the warm border under my house wall in the rear garden so it should be worth the risk - and Pippa has conveniently dug a hole in exactly the right place.  So many hebes have small flower heads.  These are definite step up.

Hebe macrocarpa var latisepala
As ever, my thanks to May Dreams Gardens for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.  Head over there to see what's flowering in many more gardens round the world. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dicksonia antarctica tree fern growth in the UK - an update

Three years ago I posted an entry on the growth rate of Dicksonia antarctica, the hardiest of the tree ferns.  You'll find the original here but, to summarise, I reported a growth rate of about 32in /  81cm of trunk growth in 9 years from a young, trunkless fern - with a measured rate of about 22 in / 55cm of trunk growth in the 4 years between 2007 and 2011.

Time for an update.

This morning the trunk, from ground level to the level of the growing point, measured 43in / 108cm.  Three seasons more growth have added another 11 in / 27cm in extension.  The trunk itself has thickened, with the beginnings of a broader base at ground level.

Dicksonia antarctica trunk - April 14th 2014
Slightly slower growth than previously reported, but, with four data points, it's given me a better estimate of the rate of growth of these elegant, palm like ferns.  I've revised my estimate down slightly to about 3.5-4in / 8-10cm per year.  Of course this is only based on a sample of a single plant that has spent the latter part of it's life in a fairly exposed, sunny spot.  Plants in moister, more sheltered positions in the Cornish valley gardens must have a faster growth rate.  Even so it's still quite impressive for a plant that is still very commonly advertised as growing less than 1in / 2.5cm per year.

After a few warm days the new season's growth has already started.  Here's a quick grab shot of the new fronds beginning to unroll in the centre of the trunk apex.  Poor quality but it's a bright, sunny day and worming my through the rather prickly old fronds to get a hand held shot imposed certain constraints on composition.  I'll do better when the clouds roll over and I've tidied up the dead old growth from the 2012 season.

Dicksonia antarctica fronds beginning to unroll in mid April
In the previous post I speculated that I might celebrate my 70th birthday under a crown of fronds starting above the 6ft / 180cm level. Seven more growing seasons at the revised growth rate leaves me a little short - but not by much.  I might just have to live a little longer to enjoy it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


For a cool temperate climate - not too cool, mind - there are few more imposing trees than Magnolias.  I grow the Magnolia veitchii x liliiflora hybrid 'Raspberry Ice' in my own small garden and it's slowly making an ever more impressive show for a brief three weeks in late March / early April.  But for sheer spectacle I have to go to one of the great Cornish gardens.  They've had the space and the time to grow these beauties to a stature that cannot fail to impress.  On Friday last I had a few brief hours at Lanhydrock, a National Trust house and garden near Bodmin in Cornwall.  Here's a brief glimpse of what awaits if you visit at the right time.  Click the images to embiggen:

Magnolia campbelli (left) dominates the small stream area at Lanhydrock

Magnolia x veitchii 'Isca' (left) and M.'Iolanthe' (right)

Looking over the herbaceous beds to the giant Magnolia campbellii trees

Magnolias on the borders above the house

Magnolia 'Apollo'

Magnolia campbellii

Pure white flowers of Magnolia 'David Clulow'
Single flower of the Yulan, Magnolia heptapeta (denudata)
Alas, the season is brief.  But, even as it fades, it leaves a legacy.  Falling petals carpet the ground under the trees, at times so thickly as to hide all else.  As they might say down here "Proper Cornish Snow'.

Magnolia campbellii petals carpet the ground at Lanhydrock