A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: Early May 2017 - Entry 58
We are off to the Picos de Europa for a week on Tuesday so I thought I would bring you up to date with what is happening in the garden in this best loved of all times of the year. At last we have had some sunny and reasonably warm weather, though never above 15C, but nice enough to enjoy the flowers queuing up for attention, yet cool enough to make working in the sun a pleasure rather than being hard toil.
There are still quite a few of the later peonies, all so welcome during their short, sumptuous display. One of the very best here is P. coriacea, of which I grow several forms, all similar with greyish leaves and rich pink flowers. A distinguishing feature of this species, which occurs in S. Spain and N. Africa (chiefly Morocco), on stony, usually limestone soil between 100 -1800 m elevation, is its hairy, usually bilocular seed pod; that of its Spanish fellow, P. broteroi, usually has three or more locules. And of course, there is the exquisite P. obovata 'Alba', which I have shown you several times before and which is in any case not a happy bunny recently, being the most susceptible species of all here to Peony wilt.
Who can have too many daphnes, not me that's for sure. I have (or in some cases had and lost) a few forms of D. x hendersonii (D. petraea x D. cneorum), a naturally occurring hybrid discovered in the Lake Garda region of N. Italy in 1930 by Henderson and Hill. In addition to a number of selections made in the wild, including 'Jeanette Brickell', 'Apple Blossom 'and 'Ernst Hauser', only the last of which has done well for me, I have some of the garden hybrids raised by Robin White at Blackthorn Nursery, notably 'Kath Dryden', which has flowered well for the first time this year, and the attractive albino, 'Marion White'. 'Fritz Kummert' (raised by its eponymous creator) has grown into a very attractive congested plant in a tight rock crevice but has not flowered as well as the others.
I do not have any decent plants of D. petraea at present, although I used to grow quite good specimens of 'Grandiflora' in pots - they never took to the open ground with any enthusiasm - but I do have a couple of forms of the other parent, the old and probably superseded, but still worth growing if you can accept its sprawling habit, D. cneorum 'Eximia', and similarly sprawling D. cneorum 'Album'. I had a good plant of the very desirable congested albino form for many years, but alas it is no more...
D. x hendersonii 'Kath Dryden'
D. x hendersonii 'Marion White'
D. cneorum 'Eximia'
D. cneorum 'Album'
Of the other daphnes I grow, two are worth showing at present, the rather unusual, yellow flowered evergreen D. albowiana (syn. D. pontica subsp. haematocarpa) primarily found in damp woodland and on rocky slopes, including those adjacent to the Black Sea, and thus suitable for a more shady spot than most daphnes, although it will grow perfectly well in full sun (at least in Wales). It is very free flowering and the scent is very sweet, noticeably more so in the evening. The other is D. caucasica, which I have grown for many years, and of which I always have a stock of young plants grown from seed, which is very freely set in the plentiful bright orange fruits. As its name suggests, it comes from the same geographical region as D. albowiana and is also chiefly found growing in woodland, though usually in less densely shaded areas. It is quite different in general appearance, being deciduous, with nice grey foliage with clusters of small but numerous flowers, that are scented, but not as strongly as those of many daphnes.
I am running out of time now as it is 23.50 hr and I have to leave home to travel to the ferry from Portsmouth tomorrow morning, so this will have to do for now. Hopefully I shall have some nice pictures of the Picos in my next offering.