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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 19 November 2006 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 14.

Blue heaven

To the Botanics (RBG Edinburgh) yesterday for the Meconopsis Group meeting. Delighted I had gone, despite a very icy road over the border, to hear two excellent lectures from our Editor, Chris Grey-Wilson. The first was on the large evergreen monocarpics, and the second on the mostly blue prickly monocarpics (i.e. the horridula alliance). This is my second favourite genus, and together with my third favourite (Saxifraga) has its own Society. Its a shame, perhaps, that these Societies are not allianced in some way to the AGS, but then again the majority of mec. group members are Scottish, and they might well not agree!

Chris has done a great deal of painstaking, expert, even inspired work on Meconopsis recently, and the results are a revelation. For instance, he has shown that the true M. napaulensis is a mostly cream-flowered quite delicate relative of M. dhowjii and is restricted to the Gosainkund district of central Nepal, not at all what most of us grow. The robust, red-flowered plant from the Kali Gandhaki region south of Annapurna is now corectly M. staintonii, while Chinese plants in this alliance are M. wilsonii. M. paniculata is always yellowed-flowered, robust and widespread. The western, Indian, species is M. robusta. Of course, the conclusion that many of the plants still in gardens are hybrids is still valid, but now we understand the taxonomy of the group so much better, there are sound arguments for trying to keep wild-sourced strains pure by isolating them in cultivation.

The first picture today is of one of the troughs. Flowers are hard to come by now, but the seed grown pair of the Kiwi Geum cockayniana and Pirin-sourced Saxifraga ferdinandi-coburgii make an attractive picture.

Blue heaven

Cyclamens

Did you spot the Gentiana hexaphylla seedling in the bottom right-hand corner of the last picture? (from Vojtech Holubec seed). Cross fingers!

Here are three cyclamens that are still giving pleasure. C. africanum (top) has nearly finished flowering; it started back in August but this form only produces a few flowers at a time. The plant below, C. cyprium is a typical mid-winter flower and sometimes produces a few flowers into the spring. Together with Crocus laevigatus and a few narcissi and primulas, it is one of the very few genuine mid-winter plants here, as opposed to 'late winter' (i.e. early spring!).

I am also showing a picture of the superb foliage cyclamen C. hederifolium 'Silver Cloud'. Much better when it finishes flowering!

Cyclamens

And a conifer
The weather (wind and frost) is stripping the garden down to its bare bones, and for the next five months the bones themselves will become all important. Conifers are so structural and being evergreen are vital in this context. I much prefer dwarf species to the mutants, although I do have a few of those too. Here is a genuine dwarf; Pinus mugo from the mountains of central Europe. After 13 years it is about a metre in height.

And a conifer

So long for now; see you soon.

AS THE GARDEN SHUTS DOWN, SO YOUR DIARIST IS TAKING A REST. WE HOPE TO BE WITH YOU AGAIN IN MID DECEMBER!

I apologise for this last picture as it is almost a repeat from last week. But the Acer griseum has been so wonderful for so long I couldn't resist another snap!

So long for now; see you soon.
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