A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 01 October 2006 by John Richards
Northumberland Diary Entry 7
Back from the Loughborough Show, dazzling as always, and particularly impressed by the wonderful cyclamens. Although I have venerable C. hederifolium specimens in the garden which always have plenty of flower, the quanity of flower on the many forms of C. graecum presented by a few expert growers never ceases to amaze. I comfort myself that they mostly live much further south from here, but suspect this is just an excuse. There are some wonderful Scottish growers of cyclamen. Summer baking? Well, they certainly got well baked this year, even in Northumberland! (perhaps especially in Northumberland- we didn't get the thunderstorms during the hot spell). Maybe the quality of winter light has more to do with it. We don't get much, and the sun never gets above our high southern horizon here for two months. I also suspect that selecting the right form, or even parent, is crucial to the development of a good show plant -and-many years patience! I think I may be a little late to start now!
The control of autumn flowering
I love combinations in the garden and here are some of my C. hederifolium, nearly over now, together with Celmisia allanii (main plant) and C. sericophylla (to the left)
Returning to the subject of the autumn Show, the end of September is always a good date for cyclamen, whatever the weather, and autumn cyclamen seem to flower on a 'clock' . This clock definitely has different settings for different plants however. One of my C. graecum always flower five weeks later than the others. Sternbergias also seem to have 'clocks', some set later than others. My S. sicula always flowers on about September 20th, but this year I put it in the garden fridge for 10 days to hold it back, which may be why it looks a little drawn. No, it didn't win!
More autumn bulbs
Crocuses however are much more fickle, and in common with some colchicums, scillas and snowdrops, they do seem to need some cool spells before they flower. There were very few on show at Loughborough, although Robert Rolfe produced the best plant of the Show with his lovely white 'El Torcal' - perhaps he had used a fridge too!
I always find the lovely Sicilian C. longiflorus one of the earliest, and quite reliable although not a quick multiplier here. Its a close relative of some of the Spanish C. serotinus crew, including 'El Torcal'. A number of my other autumn crocus didn't quite make it and have gone back in the fridge!
Cones, not berries
I said that I might show more berries in this contribution, but have settled for cones instead. My Abies koreana was grown from seed, always risky, and grew to two metres without coning. I threatened it with instant removal, and it settled down and has coned well every year since, rather big, but very beautiful.
Finally, another out-of-season flower. The little rhodothamnus from north-eastern Turkey was for many years an almost mythical beast, and many almost doubted its existence. Now that its very remote home has been visited at fruiting time, we are growing it, although I think it remains rare in cultivation. I have it in a pot in the alpine house, with another in a trough outside. So far it has been trouble-free and has flowered in both environments, although it has grown faster under glass. It has a tendency to produce odd flowers at various times of year, rather than a coordinated show, and this flower appeared during the week. As few people have seen it yet, I thought I would post the photo. The plant seems quite like the familiar eastern alpine R. chamaecistus, but much dwarfer although with equally big flowers.