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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 24 May 2013 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 245.

The glories of late spring

What lovely things there are in the garden now! This cool very late spring has certainly suited many of the Chinese subjects well, which are flowering almost as late as they do in the wild. This may be the secret of their success, and the reason that many do so well in the Highlands of Scotland, or in northern Norway.

Lets start with a couple of Meconopsis. M. pseudointegrifolia was raised from seed last spring. I potted the seedlings up as soon as I dared, kept them in a cool shaded place, gave them regular liquid feeds, so that they were ready to go into the garden by mid July. No doubt last years cool rainy summer helped them along, but they were not very big when they went down. At the end of October they were covered with a large frame light, which was removed earlier than usual, in the first week of March. They appeared above ground as tiny plants in mid April, but just look at them now! This is the first time I have grown M. pseudointegrifolia, really a yellow M. grandis, rather than the very different, but also yellow, M. integrifolia.

The glories of late spring

Meconopsis quintuplinervia 'Farrer's Variety' has a similar background, but it is a year older. Several seedlings were put in the garden, two years ago, and most failed, although I think two will flower shortly (they only had one flower each last year). However, a plant kept in a large plastic pot has unexpectedly thrived, and I took it to the Southport Show last week where it was greatly admired by the public and predictably ignored by the judges! It too spent the winter under a framelight. I think the success of this one individual is just chance, probably a very fit genotype.

I think I featured some of this group of Primula chionantha last year. grown from seed labelled P. macrophylla, I think it is the same as the plant originally christened P. sinonivalis by Forrest, collected from near the Myanmar frontier. This is their third year, also spending the winter planted out under a framelight. I lifted part of the group for the Southport Show. They are now back in the ground, perfectly happy.

I have been pleased with a couple of P. handeliana, raised from seed labelled P. szechuanica (to which it is undoubtedly related: see 'Primulaworld' website to learn the differences). These too were raised from seed last spring, to be wintered outside under a cloche. In the wild, this group often seem to grow in damp places right under rhodos, and I have tried to copy this habitat when placing them in the garden.

I love Primula grandis, that unexpectedly close relative of the primrose from the Caucasus. Because of its wierd, unshowy, flowers it was often classified in another genus, Sredinskaya, but the DNA showed its true relationship. This too was raised from seed last spring. It should grow much bigger in subsequent years and I was pleased it flowered so soon.

The Chinese Cortusoides species Primula polyneura is good. I have grown this plant in a pot for several years. This is a particularly good flower form; most of those I saw on the Zhongdian Plateau two years ago weher a washy pale pink.

Oh yes! Rhododendron campylogynum in the last photo!

Now for a couple of alpine house stunners. My Daphne petraea 'Grandiflora' was good at the Southport Show. Sadly it came up against the Farrer plant, Cyril Lafong's Daphne calcicola.

The Turkish Dianthus brevicaulis did not flower for Southport but it is good now, ready for a garden visit by a Scottish group tomorrow morning.

On to a couple of dwarf yellow rhodos, my two favourites I suppose. First that great Rh. ludlowii hybrid 'Chikor', perhaps the hybrid raised by the Coxes which is closest to its illustrious parent. This is 40 years old! and was one of my first plants.

And the Japanese islander Rh. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy', companion in the wild of the famous Rh yakushimanum. What a location to have two such fabulous plants! I grow this in a half barrel.

Andromeda polifolia is flowering well. It is a native round here, growing in very wet bogs. It never forms plants like this!

Celmisia walkeri, growing in a fishbox, is better than ever. I think celmisias have liked the miserable weather too. Just like home!

Until this year we had three mature Clematis alpina, and two C. macropetala. One of the alpinas and one of the macropetalas have both unaccountably died during the winter leaving large dead 'birdsnests'. But the others, like 'Willy' here, are fine! I think they do this sometimes, I seem to remember a macropetala of my mother's died suddenly after many years of health. So do we all!

To finish with, two views down the front path. The first one features a large Salix lanata, an Acer palmatum, and Malus 'Profusion'.

The second one, further to the right, has a large clump of Doronicum, species unknown. It has a fantastic impact now!

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