The other day, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, walking near Tostat, this plant stopped me in my tracks. A friend took a photograph which we analysed when we got home, all having decided that the leaves were anemone-like. Which they are, as it is a rare cottage garden favourite from Southern France, Anemone fulgens x Multipetala. I had never seen it before, and there it was, flowering in some longish couchgrass outside a gate, and yes, it really is this colour. Postbox red, with these fantastic fringed flowers, almost like a Japanese chrysanthemum, it sat there humbly at a modest 30ms or so high.
Searching through obscure internet references, it seems as if this fabulous plant was once a cottage garden favourite in the Southern half of France, although some sites mention that it is a bulb that enjoys winter damp, which is not what you might imagine. There are very few nurseries that appear to stock it, and of course, now is not the time to buy it, as it is in full flower. It’s dormancy period will be July onwards before the bulb starts to gear up for flowering in March and April.
So, the hunt is on. Starting with going back to where I saw it, and enquiring if I can collect some seed later on. It may well be that the house owners have no idea of what is sitting just outside their garden gate. The great Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers fame, does give it a mention in his plant encyclopedia, and he seems pretty taken with it, too. Reliably super-hardy and early to flower, with such an arresting colour, it’s a treat not to be missed.
This January I joined the Hardy Plant Society. Really quickly, they sent me a couple of journals and special issues magazines, and then, about a month later, I received packets of seed through the post with a very kind note saying that as I joined at the beginning of the year, I had missed the seed catalogue, and so they had made a selection for me and were enclosing them. I was really surprised and very delighted.
I had decided to join pretty much once I had made my mind up that I was not going to let the automatic renewal for the RHS go through again in the summer. To be honest, although I am sure the readership is immensely complex to serve, I find the magazine irritating and oldfashioned, and as I am here and not in the UK, the other obvious ‘gardens open’ opportunities don’t really work for me. And the HPS is a very modest £17- so there’s more dosh to put towards plants! So, this year, my Seed Central is half filled with the HPS seeds that they sent me.
Seed Central is located in our open barn, along with the cars, the gubbins for the swimming pool, and masses of junk. It is open at one end so sometimes the seedlings do a lot of leaning, but it is a good place, cool, gets the sun in the morning, and the only downside is that if we have a West wind, it tends to whistle through the door from the back garden over the seed trays. So, you need to pick calm days for seed sowing.
An old shutter tastefully mounted on concrete blocks holds the seedlings to the right, and an nearly-dead table was revived to form the seed germination side to the left. So, though it might not meet the most exacting requirements, it works fine for me. So, front right, you can see Lychnis chalcedonica ‘Salmonea’ or Salmonella, as the great Bob Brown (good piece by Sarah Raven introducing him) of Cotswold Garden Flowers calls it. I haven’t grown this before, and it is a risk as it is clearly salmon-y ( not always my favourite) but HPS sent me the seed and so I am trying it. Here is a photo from HPS of this Lychnis.
It is salmon-y but not too much and sounds like a ‘doer’ as long as butchered.
Further in, front right, are the fingery seedlings of Calandrinia umbellata ‘Ruby Tuesday’, a Californian purslane, that I am trying. I saw a calandrinia on Annies’s Annuals a while back, and then found this variety available as seed, and it has all germinated and made good happy plantlets. It is a small, romping groundcover for hot, dry spots, and is usually treated as an annual because it may not make it through a damp winter, but I have so many that I will try it outside and also keep a few in pots indoors. it looks fabulous, tough and shocking pink…The link above takes you to Chiltern Seeds, where I bought mine, a great seed catalogue and a splendid winter read. Here is how I hope it will look…
And what you can’t see, because they are tiny, are nearly 80 seedlings of Panicum virgatum ‘Emerald Chief’. Great success to have succesfully got 80 thus far, but that success masks a not-so-good picture. I am growing them because I ripped out a long lavender hedge, yes, I know, it was lovely but I had failed to prune it properly and it was in a sorry state. So, I will have a modernist tall standing row of Panicum, which I can’t possibly mess up, instead of my lavender. Cruel, but practical. And I think it will look great, if no scent. Great seed once again from Seedaholic.