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December 2003

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Psoralea pinnata, Alpine Magician, greenhouse clean-up and seed-sowing

Instant gardening has been all the rage now for some years. I sometimes get impatient too, waiting for a much desired plant to show its best. This year I was well rewarded when two shrubs in the garden finally came up trumps with brilliant displays. The most long sought after was the strangely named Psoralea pinnata whose intense blue and white pea flowers contrast well with the elegant bright evergreen foliage during May, June and into July. It is a south African shrub with an unwarranted reputation for being tender on account of which I grow it on a south-facing wall. For several cold winters it has been unaffected by frost here. When in flower it is a plant with a real ‘wow' factor. I had been familiar with psoralea from a few other gardens for some time before I finally found one for sale and I am surprised it is so rarely offered because propagation by cuttings is very easy.

In contrast to psoralea, I only knew Deutzia purpurascens  ‘Alpine Magician' by reputation. For its first year in the garden it was a disappointment with few flowers and somewhat scraggy form. This year it proved itself to be a plant of real quality and when in bloom was really striking, covered with purple-on-white flowers. My plant is still quite small. Later I will grow some kind of climber over it to cover its awkward shape. The name refers to the fact that the original plant was raised from seed sent to the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin from Burma by Reginald Farrer, the ‘alpine magician' himself .

In contrast to psoralea, I only knew Deutzia purpurascens  ‘Alpine Magician' by reputation

This is a good time of year to catch up on the tasks that are left aside during the rush of the growing season. I've just cleared out the greenhouse, which had become something of a lodging house for odds and ends. With the glass cleaned of its summer shading and the rubbish removed the appearance is vastly improved and hopefully the pest population has been reduced in the process.

No extensions to the beds are contemplated this winter. Instead I'm concentrating on dividing and rearranging some of the large clumps in the borders. The grass border needs considerable work again. With fewer varieties of herbaceous plants and grasses I'm hoping the effect will be
more unified. Moving the grasses is postponed until spring. They really resent moving at any other time. The first seeds from my seed exchanges arrive in December and I sow the alpines immediately. Alternating cold and warm weather helps germination and a good frost is all the better. Other seeds I store in the fridge until more clement weather arrives.

 

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