A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: Here comes the rain again! - Entry 26 by John Good
As a fan of Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics, I couldn't resist using the title of one of her best known songs as the heading for this entry! Of course, it couldn't last, the drought I mean, and when it finally broke it did so with a vengeance, 80 mm of rain on four days in early October, but now things have settled down to our normal autumn mix of sunshine and showers, with occasional heavier downpours, and of course strong winds, which are the worst thing here as we are so exposed on our hillside near the sea.
Not much to report really, few flowers to show you, and those mostly not alpines. Seeds have been collected, sorted and sent off to the AGS Seed Exchange - JUST in time to meet the deadline, and some seed sown, chiefly things given to me on my travels which are better in the soil than 'mislaid' in a pocket somewhere! And of course I have been planting a few bulbs, mostly common or garden tulips, hyacinths and crocuses for the spring display in the various groups of pots located around the house. Also, I have been taking pots of autumn flowering bulbs in and out of the alpine house as and when they have reached their peaks of flowering, and generally speaking most things have given a pretty good show, especially perhaps, crocuses, and most of all C. goulimyii in its mauve (freeview Flickr image) and 'Mani White' (John Lonsdale crocus collection from the AGS web site) forms. Unfortunately I can't really grow this in the open garden here because of the aforementioned exposure - winds play havoc with the long, delicate floral tubes - but it does well under glass and increases freely. I have seen both forms growing in their thousands in the Peloponnese, although in the case of the albino only in one location near Monemvasia, and not on the Mani peninsula.
I have also seen the Autujmn squill, Scilla autumnalis, in flower in the Peloponnese, shown here growing with Colchicum parlatoris near Monemvasia, and it does fine in a pot here, and might do in the garden, although I have not tried it. Although it is primarily a Mediterannean species it occurs as something of a rarity in Devon and Cornwall, and more commonly in the Channel Isles, especially Guernsey, but I have only seen it in Greece.
Potentilla eriocarpa - or is it P. cuneata?
I have had this plant for over 30 years, having obtained it as P. eriocarpa, but as this species is said to be very similar to P. cuneata, and I do not have that for comparison, I'm not quite sure what it is. Whatever, it is a first rate, true alpine from the Himalayas, which flowers continually here from May almost until Christmas. It is a runner and can become a bit of a nuisance among choice plants as its wiry stolons are not that easy to remove and go fairly deep. But put it on a wall where it can drape itself over the edge and it is excellent and troublefree, and therefore easily overlooked!
Erodium x kolbianum 'Natasha'
The long flowering period of this excellent hybrid between two Spanish species, E. glandulosum x rupestre matches that of the potentilla, and what is more its excellent silvery foliage further recommends it as a relatively non-invasive ground cover in the larger rock garden. It inherits this foliage colour from E. rupestre, a Red Data Book species endemic to Catalonia, but the striking flowers with deep magenta blotches come from the much more widespread E. glandulosum. It is easily propagated by division in spring or autumn and does best in full sun in a very well drained soil.
Convolvulus cneorum always struggles through the wet winters here, looking bedraggled by springtime, then recovering with the warmer, drier days. This long autumn has suited it really well and in its spot planted in a very gritty soil in full sun it is in pretty much full summer fettle now. It is so lovely that it is easy to let it grow beyond its allotted space, but if you want to prune it DON'T do it now, wait until new growth is produced in the spring and cut back to that.
This 'wow' plant might not be considered suitable for the rock garden, but somehow it seems to fit in as long as it is not located among small cushion plants and the like. It is a 75cm high thistle when in flower, and what flowers, 10 cm across and, in the most commonly available form, pale amethyst with a much darker eye - there are selected forms available in various shades from white to quite a dark purplish pink. Out of flower the very spiny rosettes make a fine show, and apparently it is a long-lived perennial, although I have only just acquired it so would not know if it fulfiulls that description in a wet northern garden. It comes from South Africa where it grows in a range of habitats, from quite dry to streamsides, and it seems to be quite hardy. I raised a batch of seedlings from AGS seed this year and although they have only formed single rosettes they are flowering now, which might result in them being monocarpic in this instance rather than long-lived, but I somehow couldn't summon up the resolve to remove the flower spikes! Interestingly, this is the only pink/purple flowered species in this genus of 50 or so, the rest being yellow or cream.
As I'm finishing this entry on Halloween I thought I would post this Flickr freeview photo, hoping that you SLEEP TIGHT, and that the GHOULS DON'T BITE!