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Plants in the Garden: Summer 2013

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Started by: Tim Ingram

Go to latest contribution by Tim Ingram, 16 September 2013, 16:57. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Tim Ingram 27 July 2013, 17:42top / bottom of page

So, some examples. The first photo shows Triteliea and Narsissus panizzianus setting seed. It doesn't take long to tidy up this area after any seed has been collected. Other seedheads, like Allium christophii, here with poppies and the leaves of a Bearded Iris, are actually very ornamental in there own right and if left very quickly seed around as they do naturally in the environment.

Aquilegia bertolonii is probably the best of all small alpine species, and although we grow others on the sand bed, we have never had hybrids from this plant, an added reason to grow it. In fact, unlike some of the others it doesn't seed itself on the bed significantly, but freshly sown seed germinates well. Also on this bed are several forms of Androsace studiosorum and A. sarmentosa. I have never looked closely before to see if they set seed, assuming that they don't. But a number of the capsules on A. studiosorum 'Doksa' do seem full, and it would be fascinating to see the progeny that this plant could produce. Onosma echioides always produces plenty of seed, though most capsules are empty and the seed is not easy to clean.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 27 July 2013, 18:02top / bottom of page

Pulsatillas can be similar in having many undeveloped 'seed', and the other problem that often arises is cold wet weather after they have flowered, which readily causes fungal attack of the seeding stems. This small species, P. albana, is less susceptible. In general though plenty of seed is available from many species of this lovely genus, and sown fresh can often germinate very quickly in the summer. There is little problem getting seed of ramondas in quantity, the problem being in sowing it and growing on the tiny seedlings successfully. The best approach is to follow the regimen for fern spores and choice ericaceous species. This is one of three plants of Ramonda nathaliae, grown from seed from Jim Archibald, each of which differs in colour. This variation from seed, which I haven't commented on, is actually one of its most important aspects in the environment, even though as gardeners we often select on more visible aspects of the plants.

For the gardener, and certainly the nurseryman, the most marvellous part of growing from seed is the opportunity to grow so many unusual and different plants - and in particular wild species. These two, Scabiosa cretica and Berkheya purpurea, are good examples. The former, given to us by friend's in our Group, is sub-shrubby, and flowers and sets seed over a long period. Berkheya purpurea is an extremely striking South African species which will seed around gently, and also spread from the roots. This particular plant, which self-seeded by the house, has found just the right spot (i.e: it is contained and very poor soil). Like many composites only a few of the flowers are fertilised and produce seed, and if you look closely at the second picture you will see just a few of the 'seeds' which are swelling and look to be developing properly.

Seed is THE way of perpetuating so many plants and Alstroemeria ligtu (hybrid) is a good example. Clarence Elliott was amongst the earliest nurserymen to travel and collect seed of this plant from the wild, and at the time it must have been a wonderful new introduction. In his Broadwell catalogue, Joe Elliott, also made a big feature of this plant and sold plants and seed. For many gardeners it might be superseded by the numerous hybrids available now (some of which have lost all the charm of their wild progenitors, even if having larger and longer lasting flowers). I like the fact that these plants in our garden originate from Joe Elliott's nursery.

Umbellifers often produce large amounts of seed which contribute to their fecundity in the natural landscape (i.e: the billowing masses of cow parsley along road verges in the spring). Many species flower and set seed early in the year and die down in summer allowing other plants to predominate (in the case of road verges often hogweed and nettles!). Amongst the family though are many very interesting species for the plantsman, such as Thapsia maxima from south-west Europe, which is very striking in both foliage and flower. The third picture is of the rather wonderful developing seedhead of wild carrot, which characteristically folds inwards like a 'birds nest'.

Given an open steppe-like garden (which probably few of us have!) eremurus can make a stunning feature and flowering plants can be grown from seed in a relatively short period. Many are as dramatic in their way as the choice dryland irises that grow with them, but few species have ever been grown successfully in gardens for many years. This is one of the smaller hybrids readily available from bulb merchants and more adaptable to the garden, but a stand of E. robustus in full flower takes the breath away.

Contribution from Tim Ingram 27 July 2013, 18:44top / bottom of page

The final three plants, very contrasting in form and seed, show how fascinating is this aspect of plants in the garden. The smaller western American lupins are often short lived, but very striking plants for their foliage and flowers. Many legumes self-fertilise well and there is no shortage of seed on this L. chamissonis. Although seedlings appear periodically in the garden, they greatly resent transplanting, and it is a lot better to collect and sow seed in the late spring or summer. Delphinium requienii is a curious biennial which can sow itself like mustard and cress, and grow nearly head high. In this case once you have it in the garden, there is hardly any need to do any more except thin it out. And finally one of the finest and long lived of garden plants, Daphne retusa. This always worth collecting seed from, cleaning and sowing fresh in the autumn. This particular plant was a gift from another member of our Group and differs in habit from the form we have always grown. From a gardening perspective it is always good to keep this natural variation from seed, even though the tendency can be to select for specific varieties and hybrids with larger and more showy flowers. Naturally adapted plants maintain a genetic diversity which is important in the long term.

Contribution from Jon Evans 04 September 2013, 11:36top / bottom of page
Pictures from May and early June

I'm catching up after a busy summer. This year I hosted my local group garden party at the beginning of June, so here are some pictures of the garden in May and June, while it was looking tidy.

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