Seeds and cuttings part 2…

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Kalimeris incisa Madiva, Tostat, July 2018

Oh, I am getting impatient- I think that my patience muscle, which has improved since stopping working, what a surprise, is always a bit tested around this time of year.  The enthusiasm of the New Year,  I love that, dissipates a bit in a cold, wet January- and I always start seeds in the house on a window ledge in the sitting room too early, after having told myself I would wait till February.  Which is exactly what I did two weeks ago.  I soaked the seedtray (must get new ones, all a bit collapsible) and since then, have been misting the seeds with slightly tepid water (if I remember).  I have got a good handful of seedlings coming up, albeit reluctantly.  But one whole tray is still in waiting.  I don’t think it’s a disaster, every week there is more daylight and they will wait for the right moment.  It’s just not good for the impatience.

So, this plant Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’ which I bought as 3 small godets two years ago is a fantastically tolerant and well-behaved plant.  Forming good solid clumps, growing to about 1m, never flopping, continuously flowering, not needing extra water- it is the perfect houseguest.  So, I am trying seed of Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’- this is the seed that has yet to budge.

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Kalimeris incisa Blue Star photo credit: http://www.bethchatto.co.uk/nursery-online-store/

Three or four years ago, I got very interested in Eriogonum.  The common name is Buckwheat- and the genus has real potential for the summer-dry garden, because not only are they a food source for many butterflies and moths, but also they tolerate dryness, clay soil and handle tough conditions.  I found small .plants of Eriogonum fasiculatum- I lost two and now have only the one, and while I like it for the creamy flowers- it’s true, it’s not a great looker.  So, finding seed for Eriogonum allenii ‘Little Rascal’, I am giving it a go in the seed tray, and quite a few are already up.  Check it out on the link and you can see why I am bothering- and it’s yellow!  One of my favourite summer colours!

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Eriogonum fasciculatum, Tostat, July 2017
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Eriogonum allennii ‘Little Rascal’ photo credit: http://www.gardenprofessors.com/perennial-funday-eriogonum-allenii-little-rascal-2/

Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’ is a plant that I love- giving you towering, broad flowerheads of a warm mauve, but at 2m high it won’t please everyone.  So, what about a Vernonia that is only 1m high?  Ah, ha.  Vernonia lettermannii is just that thing.  The link takes you to a comprehensive blog post about Vernonia from the Laidback Gardener.  As I read to the end, I notice that he mentions cold-stratifying the seed.  Oops. I haven’t done this, so I may be waiting a very long time.  Patience, patience.

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Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’, Tostat, August 2017
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Vernonia lettermannii photo credit: http://www.northcreeknurseries.com

And the last plant being trialled in the windowsill seedtrays is: Dendranthemum weyrichii.  Completely unknown to me until I found it in the listing of a very good ebay seed seller from Poland- it is a mat-forming, short growing, all-summer flowering sunlover which can apparently easily make a Im wide groundcover, but is not badly behaved.  I love a daisy, and though this insists on being a chrysanthemum, I will forgive it.  If you are interested, I recommend the ebay seed-seller ‘pogoponus’ from the link.

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Dendranthema weyrichii photo credit: http://www.mrnurseries.co.uk

And another seed recommendation from Huntingbrook Gardens on their Facebook feed is this lovely man from Greece.  He is called Liberto Dario, and his seedlist is impossible- stuffed full of fabulous plants and varieties.  You can ask for his lists by PMing him on his Facebook page.  I am, with huge reluctance, only ordering 6 packets.  Must be realistic. Groan.

Gifts from a hot, dry summer…

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Bright, fresh Eryngium eburneum babies, Tostat, September 2017

This week, as we have the sun back but not the warmth, the snow is clearly visible not just on the peaks of the Pyrenees but gliding down the slopes too.  It may well melt as the cold spell passes, we hope, but it is still a signal of an early cool-down that has taken many plants by surprise- with signs of semi-frost activity on tender plants in exposed places.  Today is glorious, warming slowly to maybe 22C with a bright, blue clear sky. Quite different from how it has been.

And as if by magic, literally visible only in the last 10 days, the Eryngium eburneum has not only scattered seed, but that seed has germinated into a fine clutch of baby eryngiums that all look as fit as a fiddle.  They were a little hidden as the cherry tree is shedding leaves already, and so I had missed them until yesterday.  This has only happened maybe once before during and after a hot August in the 13 years we have been living here, so I look on them as a gift from a harsh summer.

Eryngium eburneum is a fabulous plant.  It likes hot, dry, poor soil, free-draining and stony is ideal.  It grows to a very stately clump of fine, saw-toothed leaves, creating a grand presence. And then, in May or June, up shoot the flower spikes, on thin, slender, but tough stems, each carrying a bunch of pale-green fuzzily dimpled acorn-shaped flowerbuds.  These last for a very long time, usually right through to the autumn, but this year, as you can see below, they have been brown and shrivelled- though still standing- for weeks.

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Eryngium eburneum flowering in June, Tostat, June 2017

For sure, it is not the most colourful plant in the garden, but I really prize it for the statuesque elegance it brings, and the fact that, with me, it does remain mostly green throughout the winter, if looking a little faded by Spring.  So it is an incredibly tough, undemanding plant with it’s own pale charm- and lots of presence.  It was also one of my first plants that I grew from seed back in the day- and knowing what I know now about how rarely the seed germinates, I was one lucky novice gardener back then.   Beth Chatto adores this plant, and she is a great hero, so that is another tick in the box for me.  Last week, her nursery was named as one of the top 10 online nurseries in the UK.  Follow the link to see why.

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Aunt not parent, as seen today, Eryngium eburneum, Tostat, September 2017

Like Alys….me and euphorbia

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Euphorbia myrsinites, Tostat, March 2016

I always enjoy Alys Fowler’s gardening column in ‘The Guardian’, though I am sure that she writes less frequently than before, and all of the articles are refreshed much less often than a few years back.  I am by no means such a veggie as she is, but I keep vowing to try harder.  But this week, her column concerned the ‘Euphorbia’- which was just a tiny bit spooky as I had already taken the photographs for this blog a couple of days before.

I have loved- and hated the Euphorbia over the years.  In fact, I am back in a loving moment with them right now.  This is really their best season, when the lime-green bracts sing out against bare ground and a few, brave bulbs.  The Big Daddy of them all is Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii– which was a huge delight to me when we moved from Scotland.  Willing to put itself almost anywhere in our stony, dry areas, growing like a rocket, self-seeding and being generally gorgeous in early Spring, for all these reasons I loved it.  But these were also the reasons that I came to hate it, pulling handfuls of babies out when critical mass had long been surpassed.

But, what I have come to understand is, that it does what it does and I have to maintain the population balance that I want.  It won’t do it for me, and no amount of me cursing is worth the time and effort.  I just have to roll with the punches and keep a beady eye on it.  One  of the reasons that I am back in love with it, is that it will literally put itself anywhere.

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Euphobia characias subsp.wulfenii, Tostat, March 2016

And here it has self-seeded right on a tricky, rocky corner of the New Garden, and leaning out from the wall, it catches the sunlight and is brilliantly luminous. I would never have put it there, but it looks great.  Across from it, in the dry, hot New Garden, it is verging on a takeover, but right now, makes a great repeating pattern of lime-green and yellow, when everything else is only just waking up.  I will yank some out in a few weeks before the seeds start exploding round the garden, but now they have my blessing.

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Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, Tostat, March 2016

At the top of the article is a small, but dogged Euphorbia, Euphorbia myrsinites, which creeps along the ground, in the hottest, driest spots, holding up its rosette-shaped heads just a little above the ground. I adore it.  It is so cheerful.  It needs the sun and sharply drained poor soil, but then it is as happy as Larry.  This one does not spread itself about prolifically.  I wish it did.  So you need to be careful where you step, as once broken, it takes a long time to repair itself.

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Euphorbia seguieriana, Tostat, March 2016

Euphorbia seguieriana is a modest player.  With an almost fern-like foliage, and pinky new growth, it flowers later than the big beast, wulfenii, but it slowly bulks up to about 0.60 x 0.60m. It will take the driest, sunniest spot you can give it.  I got this one very small from Beth Chatto’s nursery three years ago, and it only limped along for the first two years. So, give it time.

And my last entrant in the ‘Lovable Euphorbia’ competition would be the Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.  In my semi-shaded damper part of the garden, it is sprinkling itself around with modest abandon at this time of year, just creeping about under the tree peonies and hydrangea.   The gorgeous copper-coloured new growth catches the sun and makes a stunning statement, while later in the year, it just blends in with whatever else is happening. This is it’s time.

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Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’, Tostat, April 2015