A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 29 July 2007 by John Richards
Northumberland Diary. Entry 44.
This diary is rapidly approaching its first anniversary, and plants are already flowering this year that figured in the early entries written at the end of last summer. On the whole I shall try not to repeat myself in a second year, and for less bountiful seasons this may mean shorter or less frequent contributions. The flowering of the hybrid roscoea R. 'Beesiana' this week prompted a visit back to the very first entry in the diary. The photo there is less than wonderful and shows the whole plant. This gives me the chance to feature this lovely and vigorous plant again, but this time in close-up.
Not too many alpines are likely to feature this week, but here are a couple of less than wonderful plants, but nevertheless welcome flowers at this time of year. Daphne alpina is one of the less spectacular members of this beautiful genus, and is not often grown. However it sets its red berries in abundance and is worth growing for this feature alone. It is said to be a relative of D. oleioides, but in that case it certainly keeps its relationship well hidden. It is flowering late this year, perhaps because as a young plant it suffered unduly during the heat of last summer and is only now back to full vigour. Daphnes have the engaging habit of not always minding too much when they decide to flower.
This reminds me to add a photo of Daphne mezereum in fruit taken two weeks ago, if only to say that the bush was stripped immediately, and I expect seedlings to pop up all round the garden. This is unfortunate as I had hoped to save the seed to grow up seedlings for use as scions. Too late! Presumably the berries, very toxic to humans, are harmless to blackbirds.
I posted a nice late summer gentian last week, but there are some indifferent ones as well. Three years ago I was foolish enough to wonder what G. crassicaulis looks like. Well the answer is, rather plain!
One more plant that arguably is 'an alpine'. It is now more than twenty years since we had a midge-ridden family holiday in north-west Scotland one August, and visited the superb gardens at Inverewe. One plant I was really impressed with then was Francoa sonchifolia, and was delighted to see that they were selling seed at the gate. I have grown this trouble-free and long-lived plant ever since (in partial shade) and often send seed off to the exchange. As you can see, hoverflies like it too!
I have already featured several dieramas, but the tallest and most spectacular of all is now in flower. I love the silvery-pink flowers of D. pendulum, and it has enjoyed this wet summer, growing to almost two metres in height. Its almost black-flowered variety is also starting to flower and I may feature this next week.
On the whole I am fortunate enough to be a 'glass half full' type of person, and this cool damp summer has had many advantages, not least an extended season in the garden. By this time last year the garden looked exhausted and there was very little colour. This year, the flowering season of, for instance, lilies has been much more staggered and some have yet to flower. At the moment, the well-known 'Golden Clarion', and the paler 'Golden Jubilee' (released for the Queen's Jubilee in 2002 and patriotically acquired that some summer) are at their best. No, you are right, probably they should not have been planted together.
Much quieter and more to my taste is the gentle species Lilium canadense which flourishes in shelter and quite a lot of shade.
Oh yes! thats Primula florindae beside the lily of course. I shall have to deadhead them soon before they seed everywhere.
For some reason hydrangeas are not a great success here, apart from H. paniculata that is just coming to its best. I am fond of the foliage of H. quercifolia however and struggled to establish it here, losing one expensive plant completely. However, its replacement is finally settling down.