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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 24 September 2006 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary Entry 6

Perhaps I should have made it clear when I started this diary that all the photos have been taken in my garden in the week preceding the entry. Whether I shall be able to keep to this maxim in the future remains to be seen, but if not I shall say where and when the photo was taken.

I am starting todays diary with a photo of the brilliant red form of Hesperantha (Schizostylis) coccinea that dominates in the garden at present. This beautiful plant is almost too vigorous and invasive, which is curious because I have failed completely with the other, pink and white, forms that are often offered.

Seeds and Shows

It is, I suppose, axiomatic that garden tasks follow a seasonal litany. Gathering leaves in November, seed sowing in January, pricking out in May, repotting bulbs in July, hedges in August. Late September brings the seed harvest, or, more accurately the packing as I have been saving seeds in large packets, cleaning them when I have time and storing them in the garden fridge, ever since May. However, the date for the last seed donations to the AGS (October 11th) is looming, so last week I unearthed the seed and repacketed it into small buff paypackets with the names neatly written on. For some reason I don't get on with cellophane packets as can be purchased for the AGS. For me they are too fiddly and the seed gets stuck in the gum, but most people find them fine and they are a lot cheaper and less leaky than the pay packets.

The seed is divided into three lots, one for me to sow for next year goes back into the fridge. Particularly abundant and desirable seed is multi-packeted as gifts or swapsies. The remaining bulk (of almost all the items) has now gone to the AGS.

Of course, it is someones law that a few things mature their seed the day after I have posted the seed to the Seed Scheme recipient as designated by your surname (see the June Bulletin and/or special leaflet; if you've lost them, email or phone Pershore). In my case this was true  amongst other things of Habranthus texensis. I ordered this from Rannweig Wallis In July, it arrived in the first week of August, produced its curous brownish-orange flowers two weeks later, and set ripe seed within a month.

On the subject of bulbs, this is the time of the nerines. I love the slender Nerine masonorum that I have grown for more than 10 years in a pot in an unheated greenhouse. I repot it as rarely as possible, probably every four years or so, as flowering tends to be poorer after a repot (as this year).

Seeds and Shows

Shows

Another seasonal reminder; the autumn Show season is almost upon us. Yippee! I shall be going to Loughborough next weekend, and then to the Newcastle Show in Ponteland a fortnight later. I have been sorting out this years seedlings so that I can offer some, double ticketed, for sale. In this way the AGS and local Group makes money, and I get something back for all the compost and pots I have purchased!

In all I have pricked out about 400 seedlings of about 65 items during the spring and summer, and most grew on well despite the drought. Many have gone into the garden, troughs or alpine house already, but I was able to recover about 120 which I thought were saleable. Labelling is the biggest chore, and I found a local source for 1000 white plastic labels at 1p each on which is it easy to write with a soft graphite pencil. Whether any prospective purchasers can read my writing is quite another matter!

Its also the time of autumn cyclamen, and time I showed one I suppose. Here is the form of C. mirabile I grow, perhaps my favourite of the autumn species. I daren't try it outside here, but C. cilicium does alright outside, so I may be a little craven.

Shows

Berries
I adore rowans, and the berries are a major feature in the garden at present. I may write more about these next week, but as a taster (no, don't try, they'll make you sick!) here is the lovely S. fruticosa. This is now 15 years old. When it is bowed with berries, it is less than 2 m in height, so although it takes up a bit of space it is quite suitable for the smaller garden.

Berries
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