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A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: March 2016, still going slow! Entry 42

Although we have had less rain and wind in March than February it has remained generally sunless and cold, so most plants are only really now (28th Marcn) beginning to wake up and show what they can do. The snowdrop season is now drawing to a close and the highlight has been my gradually increasing clump of G. nivalis 'Howick Yellow', kindly given to me by my Northumbrian counterpart many years ago. Although like all yellows it is naturally slow to increase the constant request for swops from other snowdrop nuts does not help, but perhaps in the case of snowdrops more than any other of the plants I grow, swopping is a sine qua non for developing a respectable collection........or an EXCEEDINGLY fat wallet; I'll leave you to guess which in my case! A couple of others that are among the latest here are my lovely broad-leaved, large-flowered, strongly-marked  form of G. ikariae subsp. ikariae, and a plant which turned up among a bed of the early-flowering  G. elwesii forms 'Merlin' and 'Little John'. It looks very similar to what is generaly grown as G; elwesii var. monostictus, which also generally flowers quite late, but has rather stronger green markings on the corona. Anyway, I have called it 'Bod Hyfryd' after our garden, but not because I think it is particularly fine or interesting, but because it is ours!

Galanthus nivalis 'Howick Yellow'

Galanthus ikariae subsp. ikariae

Galanthus ikariae subsp. ikariae

Galanthus elwesii 'Bod Hyfryd'

Galanthus elwesii 'Bod Hyfryd'

Galanthus gracilis

Finally, as far as snowdrops are concerned for this year, just going over under the dshade of a large old camellia is G. gracilis, which increases very slowly for me but is one of my favourites because while small in every way it is in proportion and the flowers are nicely held and open well even in shade.

Galanthus gracilis

So what else is there to show you at the end of this dreary winter. Well, a few saxifrages and primulas are beginning to flower, including two of my favourite kabschias, S. 'Peter Burrow', and S. 'Allendale Elf'. I only grow these cushion saxifrages in troughs and pans, and crevice gardens, where they do not get overrun by more expansionary neighbours. The very pale pink cushion flowering with 'Allendale Elf' is S. 'Cumulus', another very reliable variety which often wins prizes on the show benches.

Saxifraga 'Peter Burrow'

Saxifraga 'Peter Burrow'

SS. 'Allendale Elf' and 'Cumulus'

Saxifraga 'Allendale Elf' and S. 'Cumulus'

Primula clusiana 'Murray Lyon'

I was given this plant over thirty years ago by the late Molly Harbord when she showed me round Maj-Gen. Murray-Lyon's wonderful garden in Pitlochry shortly after his death. I kept it for many years but eventually lost it; now to my great delight I have it again as a result of a kind present of a rooted cutting a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I have forgotten who the generous donor was!, so if you are reading this, please leave a comment so that I can contact and thank you. Anyway, its a smashing plant, as much for the bright vibrancy of its flowers as their size, although this is such as to suggest that it might have some hybrid blood. I have it growing in a part-shaded crevice where it seems to be thriving. As soon as it can spare a cutting or two I shall take them to avoid loosing it again.

Primula clusiana 'Murray-Lyon'

Trillium kurabayashi

This is always the first of the larger trilliums to flower here and is about on time this year. The plant shown is nearly a metere across after 15 years of growth and spawns numerous seedlings around its periphery which are easy to grow on if lifted and potted in a leafy mix, or the stronger ones can be moved straight to their new quarters., watering often until established.I wish I could say that I am as successful with the peerless (to me) Trillium nivale, which survives and produces a few flowers, but never thrives, unlike T. rivale, which is easy here in several forms.

Trillium kurabayashi

Trillium rivale, white

Trillium rivale, white

Rhododendron virgatum

A few rhododendrons are beginning to flower and most of the others are well budded, so April/May should produce quite a show. R. virgatum is special to me because it was a present from that late, great plant hunter, gardener, and character, George Smith. It is a lovely plant with an informal habit and plentiful trusses of flowers along the semi-pendent shoots.

Rhododendron virgatum
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