A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 01 July 2007 by John Richards
Northumberland Diary. Entry 40
Its gonna rain and rain and rain and rain and rain
Delighted to listen last night to a wonderful tribute by his daughter Stephanie to one of my all-time heroes, the polio victim Michael Flanders. Best known for his hilarious songs and revues in partnership with Donald Swan, Flanders was a wide-ranging lyricist and dramatist. One of his most performed works is 'Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo'. The song that headlines this piece is sung by God, the only time that I have attained to such an exalted position in the Pantheon (at the 1991 Gateshead Garden Festival, no less!).
It certainly has rained a lot here since I returned from China; the monsoon seems to have shifted 8,000 km to the west! Moderate as ever, climatically, Northumberland has avoided the meteorlogical histrionics suffered by most of the rest of England and Wales over the last week, but we have still received some 10 cm of rain in a week. At the moment we are in a lull that has allowed us to help prepare the University oif Newcastle Botanic Garden for an evening opening for the National Garden Scheme on Wednesday evening (such monstrous weeds!), but we are promised further deluges in the coming week.
None of this has stopped the midsummer flowers. Here is my favourite little tree for this time of year, the Kiwi Hoheria lyallii, purhased from Glendoick in 1991. To give it shelter, I planted it on the north side of an alpine house, to which it lends a little shade in the summer months (it is nearly deciduous). The rivers of large cream flowers are very reliably produced towards the end of June.
The earlier lilies are at their best just now. I grow them in rich raised beds to bring them up the light a bit in this north-sloping garden. First, here are two orange-red hybrids that flower together and create a splash of colour. I think the lower one on the right is 'Harmony' and the taller redder one may be 'Avignon', according to my records.
One of the best introductions from the AGS MESE expeditions to northern Greece is this beautiful shining deep red form of L. martagon that we called 'Naoussa Boutari' after the local wine (Naoussa is the local town, underneath Vermion, and Boutari the shipping company). It took some five years to grow to flowering size here; in fact if I had not planted it out in desperation, it may never have flowered; it seemed to dislike containerisation. It was highly satisfactory to find that the plant was as attractive in the garden as it had been in the wild. It may be a form of L.m. 'Cattaniae', although that plant was described from southern Italy. Surprisingly perhaps, it does not appear under that name in 'The Plant Finder'.
I have been making a modest collection of the South African 'Angels Fishing Rods', which seem perfectly hardy here,and like our sheltered rather humid conditions. Not all of them are in flower yet, but here are two of the earliest, the rather invasive D. igneum that seeds around liberally, and the supposedly white D. pendulum 'Guinevere'. In reality the latter is the palest pink, but it is still very nice.
Before we leave the monocots, here is the familiar Muscari comosum. This common and widespread species from southern Europe is spring flowering in the wild, but waits until June here, and then flowers for a long season. This large and vigorous form was grown from seed collected from sand dunes on the western coast of France many years ago. At least in this form it is completely hardy.
A summer petrocosmea
Not much left to see in the alpine houses now, but after so many winter-flowering petrocosmeas, it is a relief to find that the most familiar, P. kerrii, is summer-flowering and is just coming to its best. It flourishes in the shadier of the alpine houses, but 'under the bench', away from direct sunlight (not that there has been much!).
We wish to announce........
A casual glance across the pond this morning revealed the birth of a dragon. As I mentioned back in the winter when we abandoned the old pond and built several smaller containers, we discovered and moved quite a number of dragonfly nymphs (Aeshna juncea for the initiated) into the new abodes. As we read the Sunday paper, I popped out at regular intervals to record the rapid development of our new form of mosquito control.