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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 13 March 2008 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 66.

Snowdrop hotspot

Two weeks ago I went for a local walk (for new readers I live in Hexham, Northumberland, UK), to an area which I shall not reveal for reasons that will become obvious. It was at the time when the flowering of local snowdrops was at its height. I had not taken my camera, but what I found was so interesting that I returned a week later on a sunny day.

Many of the snowdrops around here are 'double' (multipetalled), and in this particular area nearly all are. My suspicion that 'something was going on' was first aroused by this plant.

Snowdrop hotspot

As you can see, it is a double snowdrop in which the green parts of the flower are variably yellow, very like the well-known 'Lady Elphinstone'. However, without giving too much away, the nature of the location was such that it was very unlikely to be a garden escape or throw-out

Smaller plants nearby were more reliably yellow. As will be known, Northumberland is famous for its 'yellow' snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis 'Sandersii'). However these are single-flowered, and the region in which they are found starts nearly 50 miles to the north. Over  the nearly 40 years I have lived here I have never before seen a wild yellow in this district.

Half a mile further on, things became even more interesting, when I found first one, and then in the immediate vicinity a number (in total about 10) 'Spikies'. In 'Spikies', there are a large number of very narrow perianth segments ('Snowdrops, p. 122 seq.). A number of distinct clones have been found before, and at least one location in South Humberside, several different ones have occurred near one another, as appears to be the case in the Hexham locality. The largest and most conspicuous plant I have named 'John's Spiky'. In case this seems immodest, it is in my view completely hideous, although fascinating!

Here are two more, 'Spiky Two' and 'Spiky Five'.

As will be seen, they all seem distinct. Even more interesting was a tiny, neat little plant with upstanding tightly ruffed flowers. This is really charming, and I have given it the rather regrettable name of 'Mini Muffin'.

Back to the garden!
Corydalis are good at the moment. By far the most vigorous here is a tall pink C. solida that I think is 'Beth Evans'. In the second photo, the much less vigorous bright red plant is 'Firecracker'.

Back to the garden!

Behold, I tell you a mystery..........

Last year I posted a picture of the interesting Ypsilandra tibetica, lifted for a show (March 4th 2007). It was white flowered. After winning nothing whatever, it was put back in the ground, and is now in flower again.

Behold, I tell you a mystery..........

Thats right, its now a deep pink!

It is now nearly a decade since the Alpine Garden Society MESE expedition collected seed of the 'bog crocus'  C. pelistericus from sopping wet peat on Kajmaktcalan on the Greece-Macedonian border. Most of us have not found it very easy, but grown in a cool wet position in very wet conditions it will survive. It seems to have liked last years miserable conditions and I have had five flowers this year, not, unfortunately, all at the same time. The leaves are very narrow and four-angled, rather like a reticulata iris.

Primula sessilis
One of the least known of the petiolarid primulas is the western Himalayan P. sessilis. This differs from the better known P. gracilipes by lacking meal, and in the non-toothed, pointed petals, of which there are often only four. It grows at quite low elevations, for instance near Simla, and is not very hardy, although it survived -10C here last winter, under a frame-light. I have Henry and Margaret Taylor to thank for this interesting plant.

Primula sessilis

Finally, one of my favourite 'Kabschia' Saxifrages, the late Winton Harding's excellent cross between S. cinerea and 'Winifred', and named for his wife 'Nancye'. As shown it is only just starting, but as I write it is in full fig.

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