A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 14 July 2008 by John Richards
Northumberland Diary. Entry 82.
Back from another short sojourn in the south. We had a family gathering at Waterperry Gardens, east of Oxford, which I used to visit regularly in the 1960's when Valerie Finnis was on the staff. I am ashamed to say that I had not returned there for nearly 40 years, but was delighted to find the garden in excellent shape. Really, this is a garden of superb, extensive borders, and we could not have chosen a better date. However, Valerie's influence was still visible in collections of old troughs, raised beds etc. These were cunningly concentrated into particular areas, secreted away from the main gardens. Here is an example of how alpine plantings could be glimpsed from one of the main walks.
Here is one of the raised beds with Lilium formosanum var. pricei. The following photo is of a young Daphne tangutica 'Retusa Group' still flowering.
Fritillaries in summer.....
While we were in the south, I chose a reasonable afternoon (thank you David (Hoare), I could see my intercession had been successful and it had rained!) to visit one of my childhood haunts, Pamber Forest, near Roman Silchester. Thankfully, the great golden fritillaries were gliding through the sunlit glades just as they did half a century ago. (What is is talking about; has he gone mad?). Well of course these are not bulbs, but butterflies, that share the name from the latin fritillus, a dice, because both the flower and the butterfly are freckled with dots. Also, in this garden anyway, the acquisition of any fritillary is a real gamble, I can't speak for the butterfly (no, no, thats a joke!). Anyway, here are the Silver-washed Fritillaries, male first, then the female.
Back in the north, I took photos of the self-sown Dierama hybrids that I mentioned last week. First is the invasive D. igneum, almost certainly mother to the cross, with its conspicuous long rusty bracts and rather brownish-red flowers with an almost transparent pale 'window' at the base. Second, the rather small and not very free-flowering form of D. pulchellum that I have grown for many years. Finally, two photos of self-sown seedlings, with the 'window' of D. igneum, but with pretty pink flowers and small bracts, like D. pulchellum. The first of these presumptive hybrids is particularly attractive, and I may select it and bulk it up vegetatively.
Incidentally, as a health warning, I should state that these are the names I acquired these plants as, and I have not checked them out, as neither occur in the Drakensberg for which I have books. However, having attempted to key out other species in the Drakensberg, I know this is a particularly tricky genus taxonomically.
Here is another Dierama, the lovely D. pendulum variety 'Guinevere', that has come into flower during our absence.
Since I posted Primula alpicola last week, I have realised that several of the later species are also still at their best. Here are P. wilsonii and its relative P. poissonii, followed on a freakish out-of-season spike on what had become quite an impressive clump of P. obtusifolia.
Quite a collection for mid-July! Shows what a slow season it has been.
There are not so many 'real' alpines that are there best in July, but I am finishing with a couple that might have graced the Pershore Show. The marjorams are currently at their best, and here is O. amanum, together with O. tournefortii my favourite. Unlike most origanums, this is indeed an alpine, coming from limestone slopes in the Turkish Amanus above 1500 m, and it is bone-hardy, but here needs to be grown under glass as it dislikes winter wet.
The final choice this week could not be more different. Pimelea oreophila is, I believe, scarce in cultivation. Indeed few of these quietly attractive Kiwi relatives of daphnes are grown much, although the much more brazen Australian P. ferruginea is seen more often. Thus, I was delighted to find a rooted cutting at a AGS Show members sale table two or three years ago. Planted in a fishbox trough it has grown steadily and is now in flower.