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July 2008

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Orange-berried disporum, anticipating heloniopsis and exotic cautleya

What a strange year it has been. The easterly winds went on for a long time in late May and early June. They tore branches and leaves off trees and severely stressed some of the woodland perennials. However that did not stop me adding woodland plants. I went to Wales in May and came home laden with treasures. Next spring I look forward to the flowers of Disporum smithii, and as the plants had some creamy-white bells when I planted I am hoping for the promised  large orange berries any time now.

I also acquired Disporum flavens which promises blue-black berries after long pendant yellow flowers. I have one plant of heloniopsis - I am not sure which form it is but I can now compare it with the four varieties I've added to the garden. These beauties are rosette-forming from which rise nodding, mostly white fading to pink, flowers. They require full shade and don't like excess water in the rosette. I have a novel but so far successful way of keeping them dry, I let hosta leaves grow over them after they have finished flowering. Heloniopsis tubiflora ‘Temple Blue' with its promise of blue-purple flowers makes me hardly able to wait for next May. Isn't the excitement of anticipation wonderful? It never occurs to me that I might be disappointed. These are not easy plants to make happy but I'll give them my best shot.

Next spring I look forward to the flowers of Disporum smithii, and as the plants had some creamy-white bells when I planted I am hoping for the promised  large orange berries any time now.

I already grow Cautleya spicata, a member of the ginger family that always attracts interest when friends call. If you don't know it, it has reddish stems and yellow flowers enclosed in red bracts. Because the bracts keep their colour, the display lasts from August to the first frosts. On my Welsh trip I couldn't resist Cautleya spicata ‘Arun Flame' and Cautleya spicata ‘Crug Canary'. The former was collected in Eastern Nepal in 2002 by the explorers Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones and Dan Hinkley and the latter by the Wynn Joneses in Northern India. They assure me they are both hardy - with a mulch in winter to be on the safe side. I planted these out in the garden on the day that Munster did the business in the Heineken Cup, and being from Munster that was one of my great days. The flowers on these two are forming as I write. More excitement!

Lest you think its all highs in my garden, let me disabuse you of that notion. I'm still struggling to rid myself of alstroemeria and Japanese anemone, both good if you can give them an acre each. The winds of late May made a muck of my well-staked and cosseted delphiniums. I decided to cut them down, feed them and I should have flowers in September. And so to the grass, I told you that my better half decided to have verdant lawns, after having ‘just grass' for 30 years. I think this regime is coming to an end. He scarified the lawn in late March. Because of the cold dry weather it didn't recover until late June. It looked a fright for so long, I suspect we are back to just cutting the grass.




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