A North Wales Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: Topsy-turvy April - Entry 31
April this year came in like a lamb and went out like a lion here in North Wales, quite warm and sunny with virtually no rain through the early part of the month, very cloudy, dull and cold toward the end, and carrying on thus into the beginning of May.Because of the uniformly cold, though never freezing weather in February and March many plants came into flower late and lasted a long time, and we are still about a week to ten days behind what is normal for the time of year. Among these lingerers was my ten-year-old plant of the fabulous Adonis vernalis, which excelled itself this year, producing far more flowering shoots than ever before. It is growing in a very coarse, gritty moraine bed, watered underneath by a drain which collects water from the surrounding area.
Dwarf pedicellate trilliums
Also lasting for longer than usual have been the various forms of Trillium rivale - white, white flushed pink and heavily marked with magenta ('Purple Heart seedlings'). They can stand almost full sun here but do better with some shade and their delicate loveliness somehow looks better when they are basked in the filtered sunlight produced by leafless branches of deciduous trees.
Very similar in general appearance is Trillium hibbersonii, for long considered to be a diminitive form of Trillium ovatum, the western equivalent of the more commonly (and easily) grown eastern N. American T. grandiflorum. However, in a detailed and comprehensive study of the whole range and varying characteristics of T. ovatum, Darlene O'Neill from the University of British Columbia concluded that 'compelling evidence supports the raising of Trillium ovatum forma hibbersonii to specific status. Characteristics which support this conclusion are: 1) the limited geographical distribution of Trillium ovatum forma hibbersonii 2) different ecological niche and strong morphological divergence from Trillium ovatum 3) distinct dormancy/germination requirements 4) quantitative differences in the major flavonoid constituents of T. ovatum and T. ovatum forma hibbersonii, which only occurs on Vancouver Island'. If you wish to follow the arguments further it is easy to find the relevant papers by googling either Darlene's name or Trillium hibbersonii, or both. T. hibbersonii has never been common in cultivation and I have found it to be slow to increase in our damp, Welsh climate, but I have maintained it here and in our previous garden for more than 30 years, so I must be doing something right!
Just for comparison here is a photo of Trillium ovatum, growing nearby T. hibbersonii and flowering at the same time.
Also in this same raised sleeper frame in light shade with 'woodsy soil are two form of the delicate (to look at) and delightful Eastern N. American Anomenella thalictroides, a single pink and the popular double pink 'Oscar Schoaf'. Unlike many early woodland plants, which have very fleeting flowers - Jeffersonia dubia and Sanguinaria canadensis come immediately to mind - anemonellas produce a sequence of flowers, each of which lasts for at least 10 days, longer in the case of the doubles, and hence I strongly recommend that you try them in the open ground if you have not already done so.
Pulsatilla halleri subsp. slavica is the earliest pasque flower to bloom here, and very nice it is too, but it is outshone a week or two later by its close kinsman, P. halleri subsp. halleri, which in my case is represented by a seedling given to me by Ron Beeston of P. 'Budapest'. I have written in these pages before about the origin and history in cultivation of this fabled plant, so will not repeat myself, sufficeth to say that all the seedlings I have seen are good, but some are better than others, judge for yourself what you think of mine.
I could show you many more plants that would please you from my April photo gallery but time is getting late, this blog is already overdue, and we leave early in the morning in our caravan for a visit to the Cotswolds. Sadly, on this occasion, we have to combine duty with pleasure, for as well as seeing my family we will be atending the memorial service in Pershore Abbey on the 6th of April for Michael Upward, who sadly died recently. I had known Michael for over 40 years and had often enjoyed his often pithy comments on all matters relating to the AGS and its members, some of which would be libellous if repeated. He served the AGS with distinction in the pre-Pershore days and oversaw the move to our present HQ, he will be sadly missed.
So I will leave you with one of the most astounding examples of one of the most beautiful of all alpines taken during a visit with friends in the Joint Rock garden Plant Committee to Bodnant last week. Growing in the middle of the new alpine garden, which is now developing nicely and becoming really interesting, was the most glorious patch of a trumpet gentian that any of us had ever seen, in the wild or in cultivation - Gentiana occidentalis.