A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 25 March 2009 by John Richards
Northumberland Diary. Entry 109.
Round the garden
Lots of progress in the garden! The first of the planters of tulips are now in full flower. These are kaufmannianas from last year. Lifted, dried and replanted in November they have lasted quite well, saving money! I think the darker one is 'Shakespeare' (not sure of the spelling, but then neither was he!) and the paler one 'Johann Strauss'.
Looking the other way, the alpine terrace stretches fully 30 m. In a sense this is the main axis of the garden, which is unconventional as it runs parallel to, rather than away from, the house. This is necessary in what is roughly a square, isodiametric site with the house in the middle.
Focusing down a bit, one of the troughs now has a small form of Primula marginata ('Beatrice Lascario' I think) and the old hybrid 'Hyacinthia' in flower. This trough was constructed out of paving slabs, bolted together internally using angle brackets and holes cut with a stone drill fixed with screws and plugs.
In another trough nearby, Primula spectabilis is in full flower. The four 'Arthritica' species have a poor reputation for flowering, and this is mostly deserved. Just occasionally a clone comes along which flowers well over many years. P. clusiana 'Murray Lyon' was one such. It seems that this plant, grown from seed I collected on the Nota Pass, north of the Valle di Bondo, west of Lake Garda, is another. Unfortunately, it is yet to set seed, perhaps because its brethren rarely flower.
The various forms of Saxifraga oppositifolia and its relatives and hybrids are in full flower now. Here is one of the first I ever grew, more than 35 years ago, 'Latina', still a good plant although much neglected here. The white flowered 'Corrie Fee' is nearly my favourite, and flowers well in a trough.
Corydalis from seed
Last week I featured pink selections of corydalis. Here are some plants I raised from seed of C. cava collected in the French Maritime Alps a few years ago. They flowered in only two years from germination. The colour range more or less matches that found in the wild there. It is important to sow the seed fresh; it only has a short viability. (Note, I first posted this as C. solida and then noticed that the bracts were entire!).
Before we step inside, a couple of shrubs making an impact at the moment. First is Corylopsis spicata. I only acquired this as a young twig four years ago, but it has grown well. Importantly at this time of year, the flowers are frost hardy.
Not so those of this rhododendron 'Snow Lady', rather obviously a Rh. leucaspis cross, but a good deal easier to grow, at least here. Apparently I bought this in the autumn of 2004, so it has taken a little time to settle down.
Time to go into the alpine house. In the section where plants are planted out, rather than grown in pots, Narcissus panizzianus is filling the house with scent. We visited the Ronda area in the spring of 2002 and found this ancestor of the 'paperwhites' in flower, and with some old seed from the previous year still in capsules around the base. It flowered after five years, but made little impact in a pot, being too leaf-heavy. It is flowering better and looks more in character planted out in pure sand under glass.
Another plant planted out with the narcissus and also grown from wild seed is Primula kialensis. This little cliff-dwelling Chinese subject in section Yunnanensis is becoming better known as it grows in Wolong, the 'panda valley'. We found it in flower in 2007, together with a little old seed once again. I also have in a trough outside, but that plant has scarcely started to move as yet. A photo of the plant here is followed by one taken in the wild.
Androsace lehmanniana is giving me a deal of pleasure at the moment, not least for its wonderful marzipan fragrance. This is the north American form of A. chamaejasme. At times the flowers can be almost as yellow as A. busulca v. aurata. These are grown from seed sent by Pam Eveleigh from populations growing i n the Rockies near her home (Calgary). Unfortunately, the yellow one is also the leggier!
Saving seed of your own good plants is the key to success on the Show bench! I am not that good at it, but here is a 'mother and child' shot of a Draba cappadocica, grown from AGS seed, and one of its offspring.
Finally, my favourite of the white primula hybrids so popular amongst exhibitors today. Rather later than some, here is 'Aire Mist' just coming to its best.