A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: April 2017 - 'Whan that Aprill, with his shoures s
Well, we didn't have many showers this April - probably the driest in the last decade - but what we did have was a lot of cold drying wind from northerly directions which did much to exacerbate a developing soil water deficit, thankfully now overcome by recent frequent showers. The temperature rarely rose above 12C and often fell to near zero at night, but an amazing stroke of luck resulted in the two afternoons when our garden was open to local garden groups (including AGS North Wales, of course) being the warmest and sunniest of the month. A few photos of the AGS visit, mostly taken by Gemma Hayes, to whom many thanks, follow:
Rhododendron primulaeflorum 'Doker La'
Rhododendron cinnabarinum 'Peace'
Rhododendron (Menziesia) banhallii 'Ylva'
Cypripedium formosanum (recently divided and repla
Paeonia wigrammiana hybrid
Arisaema sikokianumn (three years in situ, still o
Paeonia ruprechtiana (syn P. daurica subsp. corii
Despite the ravages of peony blight (Botrytis paeonia) referred to in earlier months, most species are doing well this season. Of the early ones other than those shown above, perhaps the rarest, though not you might think the most beautiful, although the coppery young foliage is notable, is P. ruprechtiana, which starts into growth in February and flowers at the end of March-beginning of April. Its status as a species distinct from P. daurica subsp. coriifolia is doubtful, although it may merit recognition as a subspecies; apparently it was selected at Tbilisi Botanic Garden.
Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii
Although generally grown as P. mlokosewitschii this is probably also a subspecies of P. daurica, one obvious distinguishing feature being that in its case the flowers are yellow, or sometimes cream. Like P. ruprechtiana it comes from the Caucasus, the home of so many outstanding herbaceous peony species.
All these peonies are easy to grow in good fertile but well drained soil, preferably in full sun, although some are woodland edge plants so you need to check. The snag is that many of them are wrongly (or at least confusingly!) named, so if you grow them from seed (the best, sometimes the only way) or buy plans out of flower, be prepared to get something different than you bargained for. On the other hand, all peonies are beautiful so whatever you get you will not have wasted your money and/or time.
Partly inspired by Kit Grey-Wilson's excellent 2014 monograph, 'Pasque Flowers - the Genus Pulsatilla', I have been raising a range of less commonly grown pulsatillas from seed (including the AGS seed exchange) for several years, trying to acquire a good range of some of the more unusual species, or so-called species in some cases, for many are misnamed both in plant and seed lists and in online sources of information. Among the ones that I am sure about are pink and white forms of P. ambigua kindly given to me by Peter Erskine. The pink form of the latter was among the most admired plants at our garden open day already described. According to Grey-Wilson this splendid plant is found growing wild in rocky mountains, meadows and steppes, and forest margins, in northern Russia (icluding the Altai Mountains), eastwards to China (N. Gansu, Heilonjiang, Nei Mongolia, Ningxia, N. Quinghai, N. Xinjiang) and Mongolia at elevations from 2000-3400m. As it is reported to hybnridise freely it is a good idea to keep a couple of seed plants in pots well separated from other species.
Pulsatilla ambigua white
P. albana and P. georgica
These species are placed by Grey-Wilson in the same Central Asian group as P. ambigua, along with P. campanella, which I have but which has not yet flowered, and several others that I have yet to obtain. I have a form of P. albana which I obtained as subspecies flavescens, but this is in fact only a local colour form of P. albana. Whatever the correct name it is a nice plant which produces a profusion of small but enchanting grey-backed, creamy-yellow flowers towards the end of April and into May.
A rarity that does seem to match the description in Grey-Wilson, and which certainly originated from the correct area, is P. georgica, kindly given to me by William Purvis, which has very pale, almost white flowers. The picture here shows the first flowering but hopefully it will be more impressive as the plants develop into stronger clumps.
This species, which suffers from the disadvantage of generally having drooping flowers that do not open fully, is widespread in central and eastern Europe and European Russia, also in Scandinavia and the Baltic states, so not surprisingly it is very variable and a number of sub-species and varieties have been delimited, which can be confusing....I have grown a number of species over the years including P. pratensis subsp. nigricans, which is probably the most commonly seen form in cultivation, having as the name suggests, very dark purple flowers. Latterly I have grown several so-called species, e.g. P. ucrainica (apologies for the poor photo), which in fact is a sub-species (P. pratensis subsp. ucrainica) , P. zimmermannii which is supposed to be a form of P. pratensis subsp. hungarica but in my case is much more like P. armena - oh dear!
P. zimmermannii ?
I hesitate to show this picture of a plant with only two good flowers open, but it is 12 years old and only 10 cm across and rarely produces more than a few blooms. It is growing in the semi-shade of a vertical rock in a raised bed in well drained, stony, acidic soil, and boy is it slow to increase! But a close look at the exquisite snow-white flowers is sufficient to encourage every effort to grow this circum-Boreal beauty. In Britain Diapensia is only found in the wild at a single site near Glenfinnan, its most southerly location in Europe. Here it occurs on acidic soil among stones on a summit ridge at 760-780m asl. Thankfully, monitoring since 1980 has not detected any change in this population, but neither has it been found elsewhere in Scotland, so it is vulnerable.
Although there are many other plants clamouring for inclusion in this month's posting I don't really feel I can follow Diapensia, and in any case I have shown most of them to you before.